Battlestar Galactica #57: Pegasus

"Makes you feel Galactica's a relic." "Galactica is not a relic, it's a classic. And I for one happen to appreciate the classics."
SO SAY WE ALL: The Fleet happily discovers that the Battlestar Pegasus has survived the destruction of the Colonies, only to have Admiral Cain take command of Galactica and enforce her own hardcore military doctrine on the Fleet.

REVIEW: A classic story from the original BSG given a very dark spin indeed, "Pegasus" introduces the reimagined version of that eponymous ship (and it looks like a monster) and to Admiral Cain (also, potentially, a monster) played by Michelle Forbes, who I've loved from Ensign Ro on up. Great casting. She's younger and more ambitious than Adama, but more importantly, she outranks him and is a harsher disciplinarian. In fact, while she says she takes no pleasure in taking command of the fleet, her smug smile when Adama disagrees with her decisions later shows she does, and the one thing Cain cannot abide (and this is her tragic flaw) is someone challenging her authority. There's the story of the XO who disobeyed an order and was shot in the head in front of the crew, something her current XO blabs about while drunk and immediately turns into a joke, but that Tigh believes. There's the integration of the crews, specifically done to break the usual rebels like Lee and Kara, or to put her people in key positions on the Galactica (Laird replacing Tyrol, for example). And there's her mistrust of anyone who's had contact with Boomer or Sharon, not surprisingly leading to the swift court-martial of Tyrol and Helo which leads to Adama's badass mutiny at the end (one of those ARRRRRGH cliffhanger moments a reviewer such as myself love-hates because I can't just press play on the next episode until I've written about this one).

The ending there stands in stark contrast to the beginning, where we see veritable elation in the crew of the Galactica. The gifts sent over from the more modern ship. For the viewer, the reveal of Michelle Forbes as the Admiral, making Cain a hard-ass, but emotional in this moment. The large uptick in the fleet's population. And yet. And yet. The Pegasus theme is probably the first piece of music on the show that I actively dislike, and perhaps I'm meant to. There's something wrong here. I love the micro-reactions between Roslin and Cain, both seeing a risk that their position will be weakened (Roslin turns out to be right). Adama hopes Cain will read his logs in the full context, and she evidently does, but filters everything to her warrior's world view, and certainly not from that of every human life being precious at this point. At first, she's not evil or unreasonable. I love that Adama has to comfort Laura that he is at peace with following orders, and the changes Cain makes (like breaking up the family) are meant to fix problems. Lee and Kara are our heroes, so we don't like the attempt to humiliate them, and rejoice at their mutinous behavior, but objectively, the decision makes sense.

It all comes to a stop when we see how they treat their Cylon prisoners.

The Six in their possession has been abused and tortured and is in a catatonic state. Baltar gets to see her and try the carrot rather than the stick, his scenes with her (and the horrified Six in his head) are heartbreaking. Trying to get her to eat, he tells her about the other Six, and how he loves her. There's no reason to believe he's not sincere, and this is the most humane, empathetic and heroic we've seen him. But wait, did I say "prisoners" plural? Yes, because once Cain decides Galactica is also under her jurisdiction, she sends her interrogators over to rough up Sharon. It gets dark. First we have some of her men (her crew seems all-male aside from her, am I wrong?) getting drunk on Galactica moonshine and bragging about what would seem to be the gang rape of their captive Six. The word "abused" in the prior scene takes an even uglier bent. In Sharon's cell, the unthinkable happens (even Sharon goes "what the frak?!"), and the Pegasus interrogator Thorne starts to rape her. Tyrol and Helo, tipped off by the idiots mentioned above, are already racing over, and stop Thorne, but Tyrol accidentally kills him. Cue Cain's swift justice. So the question is: Does Cain know her men are doing this? Is it a case of "at any price/ends justify the means"? Or Cylons not being people so no rules apply? What kind of outfit is she running? From elation to downright revulsion in the span of an hour, and at the center of it, the savage mistreatment of female prisoners. It's a harrowing moment that cannot leave the audience cold, and some would be in their rights to turn the TV set off at that point. As aired, it doesn't get a chance to happen. In the extended cut (see Versions), it's more ambiguous and almost unbearable.

CAPRICANADA: Of the named Pegasus crew, several are played by Canadians. There's engineer Peter Laird played by Vincent Gale who has won awards for Canadian productions such as Last Wedding and Major Crime. The Pegasus CAG Captain Cole "Stinger" Taylor is played by Sebastian Spence, who's from Newfoundland, but worked out of Vancouver. Fulvio Cecere (Thorne) is also a Canadian actor, who you might have seen in many, many small parts in genre shows since the 90s. One of the drunk braggarts, Gage (Mike Dopud), is from Montreal and played Viktor and might be recognizable to Arrow fans where he played a villain called Viktor, Captain of the Solntsevskaya Bratva.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: This episode and the two that follow were inspired by the original series two-parter "The Living Legend", which also introduced the Pegasus and Cain (Lloyd Bridges). While there was a contrast of styles between Cain and Adama, the two were both Commanders, and Cain was far more genial and admired by the Galactica crew. One might look to the Star Trek: Voyager story "Equinox" for a closer analog, where a similarly lost Starfleet ship is encountered that has had more success by being unethical.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Showing the Pegasus before the credits allows the head count to jump to 49,605, which would mean the ship has 1,752 crew members (they would not count the Six aboard, just like Sharon isn't being counted). We learn that Pegasus' crew is normally half that of the older model, but that it lost 700 people just in the initial attack. If we believe Fisk's story about Cain killing her XO, that's one later casualty and there are probably others given all the military action the she has seen, including a number killed by a boarding party led by their prisoner. The Pegasus' interrogator Thorne is killed, dropping the population to 49,604.

VERSIONS: The Season 2.0 boxed set contains the episode as it aired; the Season 2.5 boxed set features an extended cut that accounts for an entire act that had to be edited out for length. I have reviewed the Extended Cut (and always will, when available), but it's worth mentioning what WASN'T in the broadcast episode - Starbuck's rescue mission briefing; the walk to the hangar showing people excited and Adama describing Cain; Baltar and Cain's visit to Sharon's cell; Tyrol and Gaeta getting gifts from Pegasus; most of the exchange that allows Baltar to bring food to the captive Six; why Cain doesn't have chairs in her office; Adama's cautionary warning to Lee and Kara; Laird coming in to replace Tyrol; Pegasus crewmen bragging about how they gang raped their Cylon prisoner; Thorne has more time to rape Sharon, so that he doesn't seem to be stopped right before it happens (it's at least ambiguous); and several lines and small moments throughout. During the show's first airing on the Sci-Fi Channel, Act 3 started with a "Viewer Discretion Is Advised" card, warning of "mature subject matter" and content.

REWATCHABILITY: High - One of the dramatic high points of the series.


Devin Clancy said...

"I can't just press play on the next episode until I've written about this one"

Wikipedia claims this and the next episode originally aired three months apart (in the U.S.) but it sure felt like much longer!


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