Battlestar Galactica #5: The Long Patrol

"A hot pilot doesn't need all that electronic felgercarb."
SO SAY WE ALL: After losing an experimental Viper to a smuggler, Starbuck is imprisoned with sinful brewmasters.

REVIEW: The Galactica with a cool smokey asteroid dust effect opens this episode and it's all downhill from there, I'm afraid. It's not unamusing at times, but the script was written on the proverbial cocktail napkin. And I don't just mean because the show doesn't know the difference between a star system and a galaxy - that's par for the course in space operas of a certain age. Nor is it because Boxey has a fair part, hangs out on the bridge and such. I could do without him, but truth be told, Lorne Green's Adama is really very sweet with him, and that's nice to see.

Probably the biggest sin the show DOES commit is to repeat the same story we just saw. Episode 4 had Apollo land on a western planet and get tangled up in events there, and Starbuck does the same in THIS one. Audiences would be right to wonder if this is all Battlestar is able to do as a weekly series, planet of the week plots starring one of its two pilot heroes. The western planet wasn't entirely believable, but Proteus takes the cake. This is a lost penal colony where prisoners' descendants are also imprisoned, their names the sins they were jailed for (Robber, Assault, Adultery--!!!!), who spend all their time making ambrosa, the Colonies' favorite drink. When the war started 700 years ago, they lost contact with the Colonies, but kept going, their history becoming a muddle, and their society some crazy dystopia. Don't ask how the economy works, how anyone gets fed, where the escaped Robber sells the ambrosa he smuggles, who built the town he and his family live in (essentially the western town half-torn down)... None of that is addressed. It's nonsense.

Starbuck puts in a poor performance, letting himself get knocked over the head and such, real naive. But then, his mission is nonsense too. After establishing in the TV movies that Viper pilots have wingmen, they keep sending these guys out without back-up. Ok, here they're testing a recon Viper that has a sexy A.I. called CORA who flirts with Starbuck and can fly the ship by herself. She's the back-up, and also the plot device that allows Robber to take her out for a spin so Starbuck can get captured. CORA is ridiculous for a couple of reasons, though I guess her voice box might have inspired Knight Rider's. So kudos for that. First, the bit wasn't funny when Star Trek did it in Tomorrow Is Yesterday, and it's not funny here. Worse, I think, is that it's not in character for the Colonials. We've never seen them use voice-equipped computers before nor will we after (despite proving very useful here, the recon Viper is never seen again). And as a people on the run from machine servants who got too big for their britches, I would think there would be resistance to this kind of technology. So it doesn't feel right and no one thought it did based on what happens later.

I guess thematically this gave Starbuck a third girlfriend, the opening scenes rather concerned with a bedroom farce in which Athena crashes his secret date with Cassiopeia. The maitre'd on the Rising Star calls it "very pre-war", but since he wasn't around 700 years ago, I guess he means pre-genocide, which leads me to believe perhaps the Colonials were getting a bit decadent, and were thus caught with their pants down. I'm happy to see more of Cass, but I wish these girls had other ambitions that fighting over this twit of a Viper jockey. At least they're played differently. Athena thinks it's a proper relationship, while Cass is obviously more casual. She laughs it off, but doesn't necessarily appreciate Athena's jealousy. When we see them at the commander's dinner table later, they're both invited - he's really playing with fire, or else Adama is trolling him - which is where another humdinger is revealed: There was a prisoner on Proteus at some point that drew Earth's solar system on the wall. Starbuck has a good memory for murals and corrects Boxey's drawing assignment... It's all a bit out of nowhere, not properly set up (especially in the broadcast edit, see Versions), and no one think to sneak back to take a look. I guess it all went up with the flammable ambrosa when the Cylons attacked. Anyway, how could an Earthman get there, we don't have the technology!

And yeah, Baltar is back and in charge and the last time we saw him, he was burried below a pyramid. No explanation, which makes me think some of these episodes were aired out of order. We'll see. It's jarring here. But like a lot of what's going on, it feels rushed. No time to explain anything, and a lot of things happen because the script requires them too. Need to figure out the code Robber uses? Call Cass to the bridge where she would never normally be and she can glimpse it and recognize it on a screen (BECAUSE NO COLONIAL OFFICER HAS EVER SEEN A MERCHANT CODE?!). That's what happens when you put all your computing power on an experimental Viper, I guess. I gotta stop before I fall into more plot holes, forgive me.

SPACE DISCO: Starbuck's sitcom blues are right out of Three's Company.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Natives of Aries in this episode seem to speak in an Irish accent. In the new series, natives of Aerilon (same colony, different name) speak with an accent that sounds kind of Irish.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Robber and his family join the fleet, and possibly other survivors from the penal colony. It's not clear how many would have died or lived in the Cylon raid.

VERSIONS: A deleted scene shows Adama telling Boxey about Earth, which leads better into the final scene. In another, Cassiopeia disrupts bridge operations because the boys can't keep it in their pants (the word "medtech" replaces "socialiator" in the final broadcast as well, as if her new role had been forgotten or abandoned). An alternate take has Starbuck confront Robber in daylight, with the latter's ship too damaged to later be used as per the final story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's super dumb, but that doesn't make it completely unlikable.


Anonymous said...

Very dim memories of BSG airing in my youth ... the episodes on Kobol aired after this episode, I think. I remember that Adama teaming up with Baltar was a big deal, presumably because I'd seen Baltar as an enemy on at least a couple episodes before the Kobol shenanigans. Dim dim memories!

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Ah. I remember this episode well and wondered at the time if we were going to get more CORA. As a kid just learning how to program in BASIC the thought of an AI was fascinating and blinded me to the weaknesses of the episode.


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