Battlestar Galactica #55: Final Cut

"I came to Galactica to tell a story..."
SO SAY WE ALL: Reporter D'Anna Biers is given full access to make a documentary about the people serving on Galactica.

REVIEW: Many shows have done an episode that does what Final Cut proposes to do (M*A*S*H and China Beach stand out as close examples), which is to turn the show into a documentary where the characters can talk to the camera, something that's meant to evoke similar footage and interviews by real embedded journalists in combat zones. The twist, and perhaps it's because BSG's camera work was already handheld docu-style, is that the whole episode isn't the documentary. We see both the making of and the thing itself, and one informs the other, as we get to material the diagetic cameras can't capture. The piece's portrait of the crew isn't a very flattering one, as we're starting to see people crack under the extreme pressure of consistently being under threat, even as you're probably still dealing with the loss of most everyone you ever knew. I found Kat abusing stims and freaking out the most affecting, but most of the interviews and subplots have something interesting to say (in addition to a number of characters' full names). Helo's is pretty bland and feels less like him than it does any given person in the military, though his text is meant to contrast his feelings for Sharon. Racetrack too, but she's at least colorful, as is Starbuck. Dualla is a favorite, resilient and composed, but barely hiding her vulnerability and the pain of things left unsaid and undone. Gaeta lets his hair down, and like a lot of early-life overachievers, is starting to live life less responsibly. Lee keeps it professional, demands respect for his pilots who have the hardest job in the fleet. The reporters try to trap Tigh by handing him a drink, since the feature is being made in the shadow of what they're calling the Gideon Massacre (from Resistance), which at least some are laying at Tigh's feet. Indeed, the plot of the episode, as it were, concerns one of the Marines present making and almost carrying out death threats against him. Some people crack up more completely than others. The resident crack-up, Baltar, never gets his interview, which is amusing.

The other twist is that the reporter, D'Anna Biers, is a Cylon, something revealed at the very end, and which puts everything that went before in a new perspective. On the face of it, going in, we're stoked to see Lucy Lawless in what must surely be a guest-starring role. D'Anna is a no-nonsense, roguish journo who gets into everyone's face, and sometimes plays dirty, but ultimately creates something Adama says he's proud of - the human face of Galactica, warts and all (characteristically, Tigh doesn't like it). She even puts her subjectivity to work, cracking the case of Tigh's death threats and bringing help in the nick of time. Who ISN'T kind of ferklempt by her rousing use of the Colonial Anthem over a montage of the crew's best moments? She's a journalistic heroine, right? As it turns out, she's finagles her way into sickbay just as Sharon is giving birth, and hides a copy of the footage so Adama can't confiscate it. And yet, it's never used because she kept it to be sent to Caprica along with other messages, which is the whole reason a couple of raiders showed up. (Which begs all sorts of questions about whether or not the Cylons know the location of the fleet and just what is the plan? Was she trying to push for access so she could check if Sharon and the baby had survived? Is it just blind luck?) D'Anna as one of the Cylon models means Lawless is here to stay, and we couldn't be happier. One should also wonder if Sharon will see the documentary - it went fleet-wide - and identify her.

From Adama et al.'s point of view, giving D'Anna an almost-all-access pass is a clear 180-degree turn from the police state in effect for most of the season. He and Roslin forgave each other in the previous episode, and now they're looking to get everyone's forgiveness with a healthy dose of transparency. Adama knows where the line is though, and while there's accountability, he can't spare a man, so wrongdoers may well continue in their posts, their only punishment having to live with what they've done. And in a way, not making the WHOLE episode a documentary helps tell a story that's bigger than what Biers could have shown. The narrative conceit still allows for some interesting naturalistic moments, most impressively a Viper-Raider fight told from C.I.C.'s point of view. It's fun to show this old standard in a different way.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Starts at 47,853 and no one dies. I do wonder if Sharon's half-human baby will be included in a future count.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include Roslin watching Deana's show and having the idea to let her do a documentary piece; Roslin plugging the title; Tyrell fixing his boiler suit with a stapler; and more of Helo's interview.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Rousing and touching (it got to me), with lots of insight into side characters, and a whopper of a final twist.

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