Battlestar Galactica #45: Colonial Day

"You miss the limelight, don't you Gaius?"
SO SAY WE ALL: Tom Zarek stands for the post of vice-president, but neither Roslin nor Adama can allow him to win.

REVIEW:
Having President Roslin in the cast opens up an extra dimension to the world of Galactica, and that's the ability to do political episodes, or at least, political thrillers. Even if the episode hadn't gone the way of "24" (complete with threats that spit in the face of due process - not sure what that makes us think of Lee and Kara), Colonial Day would be an engaging piece of realpolitik. I might even have preferred it that way, because it's the thriller elements that get it in trouble. See, the thing about Tom Zarek being named to the restored Quorum of 12 and then running for VP, is that his existence and growing popularity is radicalizing. The scene of a man packing a gun while he listens to a Fox news show hits way too close to home, more than it did when the show aired. It would have been far more terrifying if Valance had no connection to Zarek. Just a guy who listened to the rhetoric, heard the dog whistle and decided to act. The rabble-rouser who also supports Zarek, Grimes, is also revealed to be connected. I don't think that's necessary at all. It's enough that the goodies PERCEIVE a threat from Zarek's candidacy, that as VP, he would be tempted to stage the assassination of Laura Roslin so he could ascend to the presidency. Because that puts the good guys in a strange position, that of an authoritarian military regime, while Zarek makes some exceedingly good points. Take away any overt villainy, and we have a man who is quite probably RIGHT. Roslin and Adama represent the old ways and class structures, exposed visually by the Cloud Nine setting, so luxurious that Lee and Kara can waste water in a garden hose fight. Zarek pushes for a post-currency economy. He wants better checks and balances. Or, because he's shown to be a villain, he claims to. That weakens the episode's ambiguities.

Roslin wins the day, in the end, by propping up Baltar as VP. He's more dangerous than Zarek is, so she'll likely regret it, but his participation - press-ganged into the Quorum as he is - does provide some humor. He finds it all very boring but, pushed along by Six, it does mean more power. Given that he's stuck in a lab all day, boredom is inescapable, perhaps, but as his affair with a journalist shows, politics has more perks. Roslin has to play hardball to get this "win", however, and she shows just how ruthless she can be. This is good in a "punch the air" kind of way. We expect our heroes to win, sometimes by whatever means necessary, and when they go too far, it's interesting to see them struggle with guilt. Pushing a trusted aide (that we've never seen before, uncharacteristic for BSG) aside is met with an odd response that perhaps raises the emotional stakes unjustifiably. Wally didn't want the job originally, so what's he so sore about? But there's also the suggestion that Roslin had Valance killed to push her agenda forward. I don't think this was ever explained, was it? Well, I can't see how Valance's death actually helps Roslin, no matter how noncommittally she smiles at the accusation. My guess is that Ellen Tigh is the leak, further making us suspect her of being a Cylon agent. Absent any hard evidence, Roslin must turn to a political solution, which puts Baltar in a position the Cylons could exploit.

The summit is also set on and around Colonial Day, a holiday that, together with the lavish Cloud Nine setting, allows for some celebrations. Lee and Kara, having done their duty and provided a bit of action, are teased as a possible couple. She wears an amazing dress, one that makes him swallow hard, and hey, maybe you were 'shipping them already. Adama and Roslin also get a dance. Isolated at the highest level of power, they may be each other's only possible match, not that either of them is looking for a relationship (her illness and his integrity are major obstacles). Hey, it's a ball, you gotta dance with someone. Stop reading so much into things. Back on Caprica, there IS a romance, but it's on shaky ground as Helo starts to figure out that the Cylons look like us now. Or rather, that they can clone people, but he's close. And then his Sharon shoots another Sharon and he quite prudently runs away. It all hits him at once. She's one of them! Finally some movement from that strand of the story.

CAPRICANADA: Cloud Nine is played by the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (and its rose garden), both in terms of interiors and exteriors, on the University of British Columbia campus.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Unfortunately. But seriously folks... Note the reintroduction of the Quorum of Twelve, which was the civilian government in the original Battlestar Galactica.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Valance is assassinated by persons unknown. Later, Roslin's white board shows a head count of 47,898, a net loss of 7 since the previous episode.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Making Zarek an obvious villain does a disservice to the story, but there are still LOADS of great moments in the episode, many of which echo some of the most disturbing events of recent Western history.

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