Battlestar Galactica #36: Water

"There's a reason why you separate military and the police. One fights the enemy of the state. The other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."
SO SAY WE ALL: Galactica's water reserved are sabotaged.

REVIEW: One of the things I love about the BSG franchise is that it is a survival story, and so seeing just how 45,000+ people have to adapt to living in a space fleet on the run is deeply interesting to me. This episode is really about rationing, not just because the Cylons have sabotaged the fleet's water reserves, but the concept comes up again and again throughout. The alcoholic Colonel Tigh tries to figure out how long the booze will last. After winning a card game against a humiliated Starbuck, he gifts her with a cigar that might be the last of its kind. President Roslin is getting tired of her only three outfits and marvels at Adama's library, as she's only brought one (apparently trashy) book with her. And this all makes sense. There was no time to save the Colonies' great works, or your wardrobe, or a stock of necessities or luxuries. All you have is what you brought on the voyage, and one wonders, given Baltar's estimates of what is needed to feed 45,000 people, how many of the ships in the fleet ferried crucial supplies and how even those reserves will last. Absolutely everything is in short supply.

Water, at least, can last a long time thanks to Galactica's 100% reclamation process (so only losing what they lend to the fleet). Except they've just lost 60% of what they had thanks to a terrorist attack. And this brings us to Boomer. We've known she was a Cylon sleeper agent since the mini-series, but what was not yet apparent was that she wasn't consciously a villain. Boomer struggles with missing time, waking up all wet with a bomb in her satchel, and in her panic, she fails to immediately report it, and bombs go off. She may even be emotionally programmed to fear capture, her irrationality in that moment serving Cylon purposes. Later, than same programming screws with her perceptions, and she can't see the water planet that's showing up on scanners. And yet, there's the good, guiltless Boomer we want her to be in there, and she fights to see through the perception filter, overcomes her Cylon self that's ready to destroy the Raptor if she betrays her secret mission. Meanwhile, there's another Boomer (we'll call her Sharon) on Caprica with Helo, but those few scenes just keep them in play without adding all that much to the story. It's raining and she's wet too, so visually, it's all of a piece.

Other subplots include Billy cluelessly courting Dualla, their one night of passion probably just a one-off thing for her but not for him. Baltar is still hiding the fact that his screening process is a lie, and trying desperately to shake Gaeta who's been assigned to help him. And Lee is struggling with the destruction of the Olympic Carrier, the weight of the potential innocents lost on his shoulders. But the more engaging story is the evolving partnership between Adama and Roslin, both making gestures for the other's benefit, not realizing they are more alike than one would presume. But there's a real willingness to work together from both parties. They may get into hot water with Roslin's request to put the military in charge of policing the fleet despite her assurances, but it's great that Adama warns against it. He isn't some hard-nosed control freak who would invoke martial law to consolidate power (think of Razor's Admiral Cain in this situation); he's a warrior-philosopher who understands the role of the military in society. I think they have a fine relationship, and I'm not even sure seconding Lee to the role of military adviser to the President is even necessary. It's still a good place for him to be, as he's been Roslin's ally since the beginning, and it opens the doors to stories the original series would never have attempted with Apollo.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The very first episode of the original series mentioned water and food shortages creating strife in the fleet.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: The President's whiteboard has the current count at 47,958, 15 down from the previous episode's at attrition and/or recounts continue. According to Baltar's study, the strictly civilian population is 45,265, meaning the military accounts for 2493 people.

VERSIONS: In a deleted scene, Boxey catches Boomer hiding her sabotage equipment, but he doesn't know what he's looking at. Various trims help make sense of the scene, crucial evidence being a reddish residue that appears a number of times. In a later scene, Boxey is selling black market ambrosia. Warning him about it, Tyrol sees Boomer's dirty towel in the kid's possesion. Initially afraid it might implicate Boomer, he soon realizes Boxey doesn't suspect anything. Yet another deleted scene shows Baltar explain how the explosion caused so much damage.  

REWATCHABILITY: High - How will humanity survive? Water asks the question and proposes some solutions, while also pulling Boomer's story in an unusual, and very interesting, direction. Great character building exercise for all involved.


LiamKav said...

I'm curious why more people aren't posting comments on these, since BSG was such a popular request after you finished B5 (a show where your commentators couldn't shut up). I wonder if it's the messy nature of the series itself. It's not like B5 with it's "Show a flash forward in season 1 that's explained in season 3" so there's less opportunity for us to go "ahhh, forshadowing". Instead we've got messy people making mistakes and being complicated.

To be honest, I enjoy the show but find it hard to watch. I've just got up to the boxing episode and was trying to find out whether to watch the extended version, partly hoping I didn't have to because BSG can be raw. And with all the shit going on in the world at the moment (the UK self destructing in one week!) I find given a choice between this or putting in DS9, my anxiety goes for the more hopeful choice.

All that said, I'm glad that no-one is spoiling the series. 😀

And on the episode itself, I do love the addressing of all the things Voyager didn't. I don't think this beats 33 for shear tension, but it's still pretty good.

Siskoid said...

UK pushed the self-destruct to June, no? Same difference.

I am enjoying revisiting the show, though it doesn't make for easy reviews. There's so much texture I want to talk about that it takes me forever. Still, it's a LOT easier to take in our climate at a weekly pace than it would have been at a daily one, like in the old days. As the next episode will show, it's actually become more relevant over time, not less, so it's not exactly an "escape".

Ryan Blake said...

Hey the UK has self destructed loads over it's history :) I do think this is a more evolved humanity as many from our earth would have fallen on each other for scarce water and food much earlier


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