Battlestar Galactica #3: Lost Planet of the Gods, Part II

"You can't even stand." "The Viper is flown from the seated position, sir."
SO SAY WE ALL: The Galactica finds Kobol, humanity's original planet, in an otherwise the starless void.

REVIEW: First, to resolve the dangling plot threads left from Part I, it seems the cure for the sick pilots really was on that planetoid. And cut up into two parts, the story turns into a cliffhanger followed by an anti-climax. No doctors sweating over lab equipment or anything, it's just cured all of a sudden. Recovery isn't immediate, at least, so we get to keep the female Vipers for the rest of episode, and it does give Boomer a good scene, trying to get back into the cockpit even though he can't stand straight. Meanwhile, the Cylons are bearing down and the fleet enters the void on Adama's say-so.

This all leads to the discovery of Kobol, humanity's cradle, out there in the dark, orbiting a dying star. It's a dead world, played by Egypt's ruins (with local stand-ins walking around it, doesn't look like the cast got to go on a trip), and you can't help but get a mystical feeling from it. Adama and Baltar both deduce its existence from scripture, its placement is unusual (and dubious - how did they think of going to other stars when none would ever be visible, or is this a recent change in local space?), and the way the tomb of their forebears is opened prefigures Indiana Jones. BSG here suggests its variant on space opera has a spiritual component, if not a magical one. Not only is this in line with the pop culture concerns of the day, but was also inspired by Star Wars' Force-based faith. And it will be part of the new BSG as well.

The character that most benefits from this episode is Baltar. My memories did not have him this ambiguous, but like his modern counterpart, it's hard to say on what side he actually is. Maybe this will go away with time, but here, he sometimes seems to be playing the Cylons, and is betrayed by Lucifer and abandoned by Adama (he'll survive somehow though). That's what happens when no one trusts you. Seeing Baltar and Adama literally at each other's throats in this setting puts one in mind of Cain and Abel, though in the great scheme of things, they are Moses and Ramses, possibly? Either way, Baltar is said to have enough charisma to be a dangerous opinion maker even among the Galactica crew, if only because he freed Starbuck. So is he on our side, or is this just a chess move? It might help if we understood the Cylon agenda better, but they keep blasting at humans even if their leader purports to be looking for peace. But Starbuck's own actions aren't particularly logical, putting himself in danger for no real reason once he's hijacked Serina's mission to fly one last time with his bro Apollo. And since he's released almost immediately, it's just a bit of padding. Still, it gets us that scene where an insolent Starbuck strikes a match on a Cylon, so there's that. And there's just enough crossover action that Baltar now knows about Earth, and Starbuck about Lucifer (who is quite clear about his own ambitious and working his way to being a delightful foil for Baltar).

I talked at some length about the dated gender politics of Part I, and they're here too, mostly played for comedy. The girls are all about Viper fighting and so the boys amuse themselves gabbing about home decor. It's meant to be cute. But at least they're over it, just as the audience should be, should chauvinist science fiction fans still be watching. Female pilots get shot out of the sky. Deitra racks up the kills (and will be seen again, excellent). There's in fact every chance the squadron is going co-ed. Not as lucky, Serina is unceremoniously killed by a Cylon so that Jane Seymour might be released from the cast. She leaves, but not before securing a father for her son, marrying Apollo with some pomp and circumstance earlier in the episode (did she know?). She lingers on long enough to say her goodbyes, at least, and Boxey's glycerin tears shall never be wiped away. Real world concerns crash into the plot unartfully, the wedding more an "everything you thought you knew about lighting candles aboard a spacecraft is wrong" moment than foreshadowing, and the death less than meaningful. For Boxey's detractors, it seems a missed opportunity not to send him to a kind aunt or something. We lose Jane Seymour (who has been excellent in her role), but keep the child actor (who hasn't).

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The new series will also find and visit Kobol under strange circumstances. A lost and returned Starbuck is also part of the tapestry, though much more mysterious. Kobol looks exactly like Ancient Egypt, though one imagines other places on the planet have different cultures (was the 13th tribe an patchwork of different Kobol peoples?). Like our own pyramids, theirs seem to be booby trapped AND potentially cursed. The capital city is called Eden.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Two female Viper pilots are killed (one was named Jamie) in battle with the Cylons, plus Serina, who is shot in the back by one.

VERSIONS: As previously mentioned, episodes 2 and 3 were meant to be a full-length TV movie, which is why the title only seems to fit this second part.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Important events and Baltar's pleasant ambiguity take the sting out of losing Serina.


Anonymous said...

Not incredibly relevant to this episode, but pretty relevant to this blog: Star Trek vs BSG. The happy ending I would have liked to have seen, not just because it involves the Defiant:

snell said...

Whatever its flaws, I will say the death of Serina was quite influential and traumatic for young snell. This was the first time I experienced a continuing TV series killing off an apparently main character, which was something pretty rare for a prime-time network show back in those days. Are they even allowed to do that, I thought?? This was far enough along (as broadcast) to be past the "death in an origin/pilot" story, so it came as a complete surprise, which would no doubt be impossible these days. So, aside from tears (I had such a crush on Serina), it opened my mind to new storytelling possibilities.

Siskoid said...

The last time I saw it done might have been in Angel, but I haven't dug deep into my television memories.

Brendoon said...

In your countries did these TV movies appear in theatres?
In New Zealand BSG had the appearance of being a pair of movies with a spinoff series.

How little we knew! I went to numerous holiday programs where somebody had a copy of the first movie on actual film, made a real show of it for us. Was a great way to see it!
Still got the ol' novelisation sitting in pride of place, like a movie tie in novel rather than a bantam books storification...

Brendoon said...

...AND it DID do a stint in theatres here, great big picture ads in the back of the newspapers just as grandiose as Star Wars.

Siskoid said...

It did have a theatrical run in Canada. I was too young to go see it or be aware of it.

Brendoon said...

My awareness of the theatre stint came from making papier mache at school with last year's news... I found the ad and took it home for my scrapbook. Might even still have it...?

LiamKav said...

Transformers: Prime did an interesting thing... We knew who the main 5 Autobots were gonna be and saw their looks and toys as per normal. They made a big deal that the original voice of Optimus Prime would be doing him in a cartoon for the first time since the 80s. It also highlighted how they'd gotten The Rock to voice Cliffjumper.

And then ten minutes in to the first episode Cliffjumper gets killed. Permanently. Other characters talk about him a fair bit, but he's never resurrected.

I don't know how successfully it was kept secret, but I was caught unaware. Cliffjumper was on all the promo art, so they definitely went all-in on the deception.


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