Thursday, April 10, 2008

Galactica Log: He That Believeth In Me

Season four is up and running. It doesn’t start with a bang. Instead, it takes up where the season three finale ended and provides a conclusion to that episode. Beginning with the epic battle everyone was scrambling to take part in. It looks like BSG’s CGI department worked overtime to make it memorable, adding little extras, like bug guts on Viper windows, but being the show it is, the episode’s primary interest lay, not with its SFX, but with its characters.

First, the newly revealed Cylons begin to absorb what happened to them. For viewers this all happened more than a year ago, but in their timeline the revelation just happened. Tory Foster and Chief Tyrol respond by trying to go about their jobs as normally as possible. Tigh and Anders do the same, but Tigh can’t help but imagine himself shooting Adama, just as Boomer had. Her protestations that she didn’t know she was a Cylon until after she shot him must be giving him nightmares. Anders kept repeating to himself every bit of autobiographical information he could remember. The other pilots put it down to a first timer’s fear, but once he got into the battle something happened that no one anticipated. A Raider scanned him and recognized him as a Cylon. All the Cylon’s immediately retreated. They now know the Four, and presumably all Five, are with the human fleet.

The second plotline followed Baltar and the cult of nubile young women that have grown up around him. It’s not unusual for criminal defendants to gain notoriety and attract the romantic interests of strange women, and, to be completely fair, the former president had become the center of a more broadly political dissident movement while he was on trial, and frankly it looked like we were in for more of crazy Gaius leavening the show’s intensity with his humorous antics. But we weren’t. In spite of the fawning women – and men – this storyline provided some of the episodes best moments. It looks like Baltar may have honestly found religion, even if it took being the object of worship to make it happen.

The third, and perhaps most important, is the return of Kara Thrace. She was lost two months ago, and many light years away. Now she shows up, in a brand new, albeit old school, Viper, believing she has only been gone a few hours. She hops out and tells them, I know the way to Earth! Naturally, she’s immediately taken into custody as a suspected Cylon. That question leads to some interesting heart searching by Lee: does it really matter if she is a Cylon? Isn’t she still the Kara they’ve always known? The obvious answer is, obviously, yes, it matters, but I think we’re getting some hints as to the future direction of human-Cylon relations in season four. The question was even more poignant coming from her husband, who told her that it wouldn’t matter to him. She replies by telling him that if he were a Cylon, which he is, she would kill him. No hesitation. Kara seems to understand their fears, but she doesn’t understand why they don’t believe her and why they won’t follow her to Earth. She insists that she took pictures, but her navigational records have been erased. Her frustrations lead her to take a desperate measure. One that closes off the episode.

If the episode is any indicator of the season’s direction, the primary focus will be on the Cylons. Even the opening credits, which usually carry a synopsis of the show’s premise, were changed to read: ‘Seven Are Known. Four Live In Secret. One will be revealed.’ Kara’s return has everyone on Galactica wondering who is a Cylon. The Four, of course, are now personalizing that question. Putting a human face on it, if you will. Even Baltar’s new cult has within it a nod to the Cylons. Like them, it is monotheistic. There is precedent for human monotheism within the BSG universe. The temple found in season three was for the five priests who worshipped the one. It looks like the revelation of the Four could lead to a great deal of factionalism – and not just on Galactica. Following the confrontation between Anders and the Raider, the Cylons now know about the Four. Their immediate reaction was to break off an attack they were clearly winning. Now what will they do? When it comes to chewing over the show, the first place I go to is the Battlestar Galactica Discussion Thread at Newsarama. There a poster named Adrian, who calls himself Carlos Xavier, raised the idea of an uprising by the mechanical Cylons against the humanoid ones. It was a Raider who made the identification of Anders. Was it the Raiders who called off the fight? It’s an interesting idea. It plays well into the This-has-all-happened-before-and-will-all-happen-again theme. Cylons rise up against humans, mechanical Cylons rise up against humanoid Cylons. And the ad for the next episode seems to lend some credence to the idea.

If the show does center on factionalism amongst humans and Cylons, however, it will put a great deal of stress on the storylines. There are already so many plot elements to resolve and only nineteen episodes left in which to resolve them. If the shattering of the human-Cylon dichotomy comes to dominate the show, we may be in for a lot more episodes like this one. The plot will move forward, but there won’t be time to bring much closure.

Ratings-wise the show seems to have done well. Over two million tuned in. That is described as the best ratings in two years, though I hope they mean two seasons, as there wasn’t any BSG during the past year at all. The numbers indicate that the premier brought back a lot of old viewers who had left the show, but not many new ones. The ratings were a return to earlier strengths. They didn’t set a new record. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The show is far too continuity heavy at this time to count on new people tuning in.

On other matters, I have noticed a lot of others have chosen to use the BSG seal for their reviews of the show. Fair enough. I didn’t create it, after all. And it does seem a natural choice. Among the more interesting links this week was this one by Nivair Gabriel and Stephanie Fox. It details the shifting population figures of the survivors. The image above comes from another source, but I don’t remember which! Another link that might interest the braver readers is this one: it lists the episode synopses for the remainder of the first ten episodes. They aren’t that detailed, but I am sure you can infer a lot. Finally, Paul Marzagalli, my fellow PBR columnist, writes up his own thoughts on this episode in his Random Comment column.

Tomorrow: Six Of One. See you next week!


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