Battlestar Galactica #35: 33

"We'll sleep when we're dead."
SO SAY WE ALL: The Cylons are finding the fleet 33 minutes after every jump.

REVIEW: And to think if I skipped The Second Coming and done the Miniseries in one go, I could have had an article entitled #33:33. Oh well...

33 is a bold first episode, airing a little over a year since the Miniseries, but (hyper)jumping into the action straight away without reintroducing anything. It's been no more than 5 days since the previous installment, BSG-time, and no one has been able to sleep since then. Somehow, the Cylons have been tracking the fleet's jumps and showing up 33 minutes after every jump. We're on jump #237. FTL drives and people are breaking down. So in medias res, relentless tension, people flying off the handle or making mistakes, the journey could be over before it starts. One effect the episode had at the time was to impart the feeling that the Galacticans hadn't slept in a year. "Oh crap! This is what's been going on all this time!" Not quite as extreme when you marathon the series, I'm sure.

But while the ticking clock adds suspense, it's really the personal stories that take place in the 33-minute respite that are the core of the episode. I especially love President Roslin, wearily updating the headcount on her white board (something that will become part of the opening credits eventually) before asking what the next crisis is, and her quite moment of victory when Billy tells her she can add one, a birth, to the total. Starbuck challenges Apollo on his slack leadership as the squadron's new CAG, amusingly ordering herself to take the stims she's been refusing to show him how to do it. Dualla walks through a 9/11-evoking memorial, one of the desperate to find out if anyone she knows made it out of the Colonies alive, but no one has time to process anyone's requests right now. Boomer hates on her new partner, Crashdown (surely, an ominous call sign), still in grief over Helo's death.

But Helo's NOT dead. In a twist reversal, Tahmoh Penikett made such a good impression on the production team that they decided to save his character. In the process, we're given something we never had on the original series - a chance to see what happens on Caprica after the Cylons have landed. Well, it's a bit radioactive at the moment, and Helo is barely hanging on with meds as fallout rains down on him, chased by rad CG Centurions. There's a nice Terminator bit where a partial Cylon scrabbles towards him. But he's then captured by a Six (are they ALL serial kissers?!) whose function is really to die so a Boomer model can rescue him and gain his trust. An intriguing turn of events.

Speaking of the Cylons, it comes to light that they've infiltrated a civilian transport, the Olympic Carrier, which is how they've been tracking the fleet. It's all wrapped up in a discussion Baltar has with Six (who may still be his conscience, we don't know) about a possible whistle-blower aboard the ship who could implicate him in the attack on the Colonies. Baltar's anxiety reaches a crescendo that is almost comical - given what happens in his "mind palace", I imagine him having a near-constant boner as he interrupts the President and advises her to blow up the Carrier - and we can't be sure the Carrier isn't sacrificed in part because the finger-pointer is aboard. If Six is real, then she's communicating with the Cylons in some way. Why else pull the Carrier off the line and allow suspicion to fall upon it? In the end, they lose more than they win by letting it be destroyed (Galactica can take nuke hits, so even if the gambit had worked). Or do they? It's rather mysterious, though perhaps more cut and dried for us than for the Galacticans who take no chances and destroy one of their civilian ships rather than risk its infiltration. They're not sure when they pull the trigger, leading to some hand-wringing from the leads, but in the end, it seems to have been the right move no matter how many innocents died. Of course, that's just what the Cylons want the Colonials to think. They have infiltrators all over the fleet. On that score, I do find jokes about Boomer feeling less tired because she's a Cylon too on the nose, but even though it hadn't been decided yet, look who else seems to be standing up better than others, and later reveals  make sense.

CAPRICANADA: Baltar's home has been moved to 140, Tidewater Way, Lions Bay, in British Columbia. It's all in his mind, so maybe he had his eye on that property for years. Caprica's rainy forest is played by Lynn Canyon Park.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The Rising Star, a luxury liner seen frequently on the original BSG, is once more part of the fleet. The opener shows a montage of images culled from the episode about to air, just like the original series did. At first, I bristled at this television anachronism, and fearing spoilage, reached for the Fast Forward button. But then I realized the images were so brief, and played so well over the drum beats of the opening theme, that it was okay, and even enjoyable.

Finally a headcount on what's left of humanity. At the start of the episode, there are 49,998 people in a fleet of 60 ships (down by 300 from the previous count due to injuries and miscounts, though we're now back 60 ships after dropping to 40 in the miniseries, oops!). 5251 of these are apparently from Sagittaron. After the loss of the Olympic Carrier (1345 souls), the count drops to 47,972, and up to 47,973 when a boy is born on the Rising Star.

VERSIONS: When the episode first aired on SyFy, the title appeared on a black screen at the top of the show. The more important deleted scenes would have shown Starbuck ask for a transfer, Roslin getting a copy of the picture we see the Viper pilots superstitiously touching, a ship wanting to break away from the fleet and Adama preventing it, and Apollo telling his pilots he's proud of them. In one take, Olmos ad-libbed the mention of 10 suicides among the last attack's casualties. The production wanted to use it, but ultimately, it was deemed too dark for the first episode of the show.

REWATCHABILITY: High - The series proper is off to a great start, on the ground running at a breakneck pace, yet still finding quiet moments of desperate poignancy that make 33 resonate emotionally.


LiamKav said...

I watched this the day after watching the Miniseries, and wondered going in if the transition from miniseries to regular series would lower the tension. If anything this episode is even more tense.


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