Battlestar Galactica #37: Bastille Day

"Freedom is earned."
SO SAY WE ALL: Apollo is caught in a prison ship insurrection and must negotiate with terrorist Tom Zarek.

REVIEW: An immediate sequel to "Water", showing that nothing is as simple as it seems in the Galactica universe, it's not enough to find water on a planet, it has to be "mined" (or melted down) for the fleet's purposes. But as we just saw, everything comes in short supply, including manpower. A plan is hatched (pun not intended) to get 1000 convicts who were being transported to parole hearings (that sounds... inefficient) to do the work, but no one counted on famous terrorist/prisoner of principle/freedom fighter Tom Zarek to stage an insurrection. And with Richard Hatch in the role, it becomes Apollo vs. Apollo when Lee Adama is the one sent to recruit volunteers on the prison ship. Hatch's participation is important because a lot of old-school fans rallied behind his vision of the show as a continuation rather than a reboot, and this was him saying the new BSG was valid. (I shudder to think what kind of GalatiGate would have resulted anyway in today's social media landscape.) And while he's playing a different character, I can't shake the feeling Zarek is just a hop and a skip away from the older, battle-hardened Apollo of Hatch's proposed revival. He's not fighting for humanity against the Cylons, but for the people of Sagittaron who, it seems, are (or have until recently been) virtual slaves to the other Colonies. We discover the Colonies have labor camps. That they ban books. That there is severe inequity in their way of living. And the fight continues because Colonial jails are repressive environments whose conditions have only become worse in the fugitive fleet. So though we can't agree with hostage-taking, nor Zarek's impulse to martyr himself and take many others with him, we DO have to admit he makes some good points, in particular about President Roslin's legitimacy (no matter how much we like her). What he didn't count on was Lee Adama agreeing with him.

Which brings me to the other Apollo, a character I don't generally have a great fondness for, but this may be one of his best ever episodes. Tom Zarek may be a charismatic, but some of his brothers in arms deserved incarceration, and he loses control of the situation when one of them assaults Cally. Defiant throughout, the diminutive engineer fights back, but is almost killed, which makes Apollo take charge. The antagonists more or less create the diversion that does them in, and in that quick action moment, Lee is very cool indeed. But more than that, he's righteous. He follows up by saving Zarek from a sniper's bullet. He agrees with Tom that humanity's values - like democracy - must carry on lest something be lost. He makes promises that will cause problems for Adama and Roslin, but they're the right thing to do. And yet tempers them with compromise. Elections to be held when the current term is over (only months from now), and he WILL vote for Roslin, given the chance (she's less sure he will be able to, given her health concerns - she is so touching). Everybody in this episode is asking him to take a side, but he refuses to even look at issues in those terms. And he's correct. Factions within the human community can only lower their chances of survival. Back on Caprica, Cylons 5 and 6 discuss how parents have to die so children can come into their own. It's a justification for their wholesale slaughter of their creator race, but thematically, it relates back to Lee and his denial of parental authority, forging his own way and perhaps representing the new "Galactican" human, unburdened by old grudges and attitudes, and focused on the only important goal - survival. (Man, this speaks to us more now than it did in 2005.)

Colonel Tigh is still rationing his booze, but judging by his two morning shots, he's headed for personal crisis. We see that he's actually drunk on duty, tipsy and giddy during meetings, and with diminished control over his temper. His contention that his behavior is a PERSONAL problem, and not a professional one may well get a fry laugh from Starbuck, because people ARE snickering behind his back. Is he a hypocrite or overcompensating due to self-loathing when he screams at Boomer to end her relationship with Tyrol? Does Starbuck's jokey and easy manner as CAG sting him because it feels like a reversal of his own leadership style? Tigh is quickly becoming THE ancillary character to watch. Starbuck herself doesn't fare so well. She's initially strapped to Boxey, a character that's just hanging around for no reason (though his insolence makes him more interesting than the original space cadet), and is then turned into a super sniper just so a name character can go on the marines' mission to stop the prison insurrection. This is all very clunky, but just about the episode's only wrong turn.

Meanwhile, Adama is finally losing patience with Baltar and his lack of progress with Cylon detection methods. I love how Adama is quietly threatening throughout the scene, how grounded he is, a clear contrast to Baltar's anxiety. Six pushing him to come up with solutions is still pleasantly ambiguous too. Nuclear material WOULD be useful knowing what we know of Cylon radiation sickness, but if Six isn't his own mind, then putting a nuke in Baltar's hands is dangerous indeed.

CAPRICANADA: When Helo and Sharon get to a city, it is clearly Vancouver, as evidenced by the distinctive Vancouver Public Library building.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The original series' The Gun on Ice Planet Zero also involved asking prisoners (including known terrorists) to go on a mission to an ice planet, though that story was a Dirty Dozen/Guns of Navarone riff.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL:
No deaths in this one, but...

VERSIONS: ...Cally was scheduled to die at the hands of that rapist in the initial drafts of the episode!

REWATCHABILITY: High - A very smart episode that puts a welcome spotlight on Apollo and introduces many elements that will pay off later.

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