Battlestar Galactica #40: Litmus

"Somewhere in this is truth. Care to take me to it?"
SO SAY WE ALL: An investigation into a suicide bombing makes news of humanish Cylons spread across the fleet.

REVIEW: Though it will turn into Star Trek Next Gen's The Drumhead, Litmus is really more steeped in the day's politics. A terrorist act. Neighbor turning against neighbor because there's really no way to tell citizen from terrorist on sight. Patriot Act business leading to a witch hunt. These are recognizable post-9/11 matters, and they've been with us ever since. When a second Doral Cylon manages to get that close to Galactica's top two officers before detonating, questions have to be asked, culprits found. And since the Cylons have a religious agenda and the literal ability to send their souls to a new life, it's hard to miss the obvious parallels with radical Islam. Not that the Colonials sport a good look either. Nice to see the master of arms get more to do, even if this proves to be Hadrian's swan song. It's just two appearances, but BSG has proven extremely efficient at introducing characters and making you notice them. Even if their arcs are short, they mattered. Socinus who takes the fall is likewise a small character, but we recognize from the background.

Obviously, Boomer is the one who allowed Doral access to the ship, but it's murky because her more overt crime is fraternizing with Tyrol. He's starting to suspect, however - he knows too much not to - but in any case, he puts an end to the relationship because it just cost one of his "kids" his career and freedom. He hasn't exactly been running a tight ship on his end, what with Boomer, the moonshine still, etc., but that might change. Adama can't afford to throw HIM under the bus, not when he's the only notable engineer in the fleet, so it's always going to be his crew that suffers. Great, great confrontation between Tyrol and the commander. The scene also marks the first instance of Adama working on his sailing ship model. Worth mentioning.

And speaking of Adama, we learn here that his father was a civil liberties lawyer, something that will figure in the Caprica sequel, and that gives him an interesting background for a military man. He's being his pragmatic self when he gives Hadrian as much power as he does, but that pragmatism only goes so far. He's not trying to protect himself when he dismisses the tribunal from the Galactica, though it might be interpreted that way. He's evoking his father, and the protection of rights. He stopping a witch trial that is about to go out of control. Or perhaps it really is dosed with pragmatism. If Tyrol falls - if any key personnel falls - then Galactica becomes unmanageable, and lives could be lost. "I'm a soft touch", indeed. The whole situation is replete with ambiguity and irony, right down to Tyrol being asked if he met a Cylon agent that night, which he totally did, if unknowingly. Unless he does know and his heart won't allow him to admit it.

Meanwhile, we get a Baltar/Kara scene that speaks to the idea of an attraction between them, a wrinkle the original series never could have hit on. Starbuck puts a nasty thought in his head - what if Doral was trying to blow up his litmus test research? It's enough to send him back into a paranoid fugue, and that's when Six is always most present. If she's an independent creature, why does she force Baltar to complete the project on threat of hulking out (that's a weird reference to make). Where do her allegiances really lie? And meanwhile, on Caprica... Helo falls for the Cylons' trap, and whether it's out of love or duty, he rescues Sharon. It's not entirely exciting since we know they're letting him do it. If I were a Centurion, I'd be like, screw this. Unless their programming is also sent to a new body?

CAPRICANADA: Not Jill Teed's first appearance as Master-at-Arms Hadrian, but I waited until this more substantial appearance before mentioning she was a Canadian actress who has been on many other Canadian-based productions like The X-Files, iZombie, Supernatural, Continuum, and Arrow. The rooftop stuff on Caprica occurs at the now-torn down Woodwards Building on West Hastings Street, Vancouver. During Helo's escape, there's a distinctive mural painting that can still be found on Cambie Street.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: With the original series, I made a point, at least early on, to call out the show's similarities with Star Wars, the mega-hit it was actively trying to emulate. This may be a good time to start talking about similarities with Star Trek, especially since showrunner Rob Moore had a big hand in crafting Deep Space Nine. In this case, TNG's The Drumhead also involves a witch hunt aboard ship, a lower decks kind of character taking the fall, and the commander stopping the proceedings with the calmest of demeanors.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: The suicide bombing killed 3 people, 4 with Doral, whom we must count as part of the fleet's population. We should now be at 47,942.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include Billy answering the press' questions on supply cues and income tax, his first press conference, followed by a Roslin warning him that it only went well because he's in a honeymoon period; triage in medbay; more of Tyrol's comments on his crew's still; and Crashdown teasing Boomer about the possibility of Cylons aboard.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Powerful acting trumps any kind of over-familiarity with the material.


LiamKav said...

This is where the show's "make it up as we go along" ethos both helps and hurts it... Is there any reason (and bearing in mind I've only seen up to the Boxing episode) why the Cylons don't try this again, maybe with a model the crew don't (yet) know? Was their aim just to sow paranoia?


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