Sunday, February 21, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Collaborators (S3/E5)

by JASmius

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

Written by: Mark Verheiden
Directed By: Michael Rymer

We had the occupation/insurgency episode in “Occupational Precipice”; we got the “dramatic rescue against all odds” episode in “Exodus”; now we get the “score-settling with collaborators” episode in “Collaborators”.

Sorry if I’m leaving the impression that season three of Battlestar Galactica is coming off like Ron Moore & Co are ticking down a checklist, but that’s what they’re doing. I find myself siding with Jammer that the web-based “Resistance” vignettes....

....should have been expanded into a half-season or longer story arc just to flesh out the full experience of living under enemy occupation. Trying to cram the whole thing into four hours only left room for surface cliches. Unfortunately they overflowed into this epilogueal installment as well.

It’s three days after the events of “Exodus.” A six-member secret tribunal is trying (the fictional) Jammer, who joined the Cylon-administered New Caprica Police during the occupation, for treason and “crimes against humanity.” The tribunal consists of former resistance leaders like Saul Tigh, Galen Tyrol, and Sam Anders.

Jammer wasn’t really a traitor; he was just weak and took the easy way out. Not unlike President Baltar, really. But tribunals like this one do not seek justice so much as revenge, and are not forgiving of weakness or those who fall prey to it.

So, having unanimously found him guilty, the tribunal takes Jammer, bound, gagged, and blindfolded, to one of Galactica’s launch tubes, and blows his ass into space.

One starts to wonder at this point whether anybody else knows about this. In (now demoted back to Major) Lee Adama’s cameo in this ep, which was mostly about his dad making wisecracks about his battle of the bulge, Apollo brings to the Admiral’s (Say, why wasn't he busted back to Commander?  He's only in command of one ship again, right?) attention that thirteen people have “disappeared” without a trace. So the powers that be know something is going on, but have no way at present of finding out how or why.

That’s an imprecise phrase, I guess. “Power that be” would be more appropriate, since the Kobolian leadership situation is in something of a state of flux.

As I alluded to a week ago, Tom Zarek wasn’t just Gaius Baltar’s campaign manager in the recent presidential election, he was also Baltar’s running mate. So, with Baltar now missing and presumed dead, Zarek has realized his ultimate dream: he is the leader of all humanity. Or, rather, what’s left of it.

However, whatever else Zarek might be, terrorist or freedom fighter or just plain liberal Democrat, he’s also a pragmatist. At least enough of one to realize that no president can govern in a state of permanent emergency like the one the human diaspora has been in since their civilization’s destruction without the support of the military. Which is a circuitous way of saying that Zarek knows Adama hates his guts.

So President Zarek pow-wows with his new best bud, former President Laura Roslin. They hatch a plan whereby he nominates her to succeed him as vice president, followed by his resignation, allowing her to resume her presidency, on the proviso that she then reappoint him vice president.

If you ask me – and if you’re reading this review you may as well, because I’m going to tell you anyway – this is as stinky a deal as Roslin’s abortive attempt to steal the recent election. Would the Quorum of the Twelve really go along with this corrupt reshuffling? I can see where there’d be no public resistance to Roslin’s restoration, since the Baltar administration is the one that led the fleet into the New Caprica disaster, but her then turning around and reinstating Baltar’s veep? Come on. Looks like Tigh & Co. were diddling around with guppies while the big fish were getting away scot-free.

At least one member of the secret tribunal, meanwhile, is starting to have second thoughts about the direction in which things are going.

I mentioned recently that Sam Anders – Mr. Starbuck – went in the space of a few days from being a resistance fighter on Old Caprica to being a resistance fighter on New Caprica. After all those months of resistance fighting, it is eminently plausible to suppose that Anders might have had his fill of resistance fighting. But settling scores with collaborators after the resistance fighting has ended proves to be his breaking point. Thus, when the next defendant up for trial is Felix Gaeta, whose only “crime” was having been President Baltar’s chief of staff, Anders balks and then quits.

Chief Tyrol also starts having second thoughts about what his fellow insurgent leaders are doing. When they executed Jammer, Tyrol didn’t appear to derive the embittered satisfaction that coursed through Tigh and the others. Perhaps that was because the chief didn’t lose any loved ones, like his wife Cally and son Nicholas, as Tigh did his own wife, Ellen. Nor did he suffer mutilation and disfigurement as the colonel also did. The human soul can only endure so much suffering before pieces of it start to break away and disintegrate; resistance to that comes only through heroic faith, and that is the thing above all else that Saul Tigh appears to have most sorely lost.

His soul mate in that spiritual purgatory is the individual chosen to replace Anders on the tribunal: Starbuck – Mrs. Anders – who endured her own version of hell on New Caprica in the form of psychological rape from the Cylonoid model Leobin Conoy. She is recruited after a confrontation with the already ostracized Gaeta in the mess hall. Once on the panel and briefed on Gaeta’s case, Kara doesn’t waste any time in voting to convict him.

It is during the deliberations on Gaeta’s guilt or innocence that it comes to light that this tribunal, while secret, is far from informal or ad hoc; it has, instead, been appointed by presidential Executive Order – from Tom Zarek. Knowing that he wasn’t going to occupy Colonial One for but a very short time, Zarek resolved to make hay while the sun shone, and he knew just the people to whom to go to grease the wheels of retribution.

When this finally filters up to Adama and Roslin, the confrontation with Zarek makes for the best scene of the hour.

It starts with Adama, in his quiet, dignified, but blunt fashion, declaring Zarek’s presidency a “joke” and summarily “terminated”.  The fleeting prez fires back that he is simply doing the “dirty work” for Roslin so that her hands will be clean when she resumes power. Roslin isn’t buying that Zarek has done her any favors, to which Zarek replies by asking her if she really wants to put all the collaborators through civilian courts and turn her restored presidency into a divisive public circus guaranteed to fragment the fleet, combust public morale, and turn her into a glorified executioner.

Zarek was right, of course. A process of revenge could never be masqueraded as one of justice. It would go on indefinitely, turn the human survivors all against each other, and pretty much do the Cylon’s job for them.

So Roslin did not do so. In a revival of the canny political operator that hadn’t been seen since her brush with death in “Epiphanies”, upon taking the oath of office for a second time, she announces a general amnesty and pardon. She accepts Zarek’s secret orgy of retribution as symbolic debt paid for all and turns the page on the whole miserable experience and moves on. I can’t believe that was a very popular decision, but under the circumstances it was the right thing to do – for her people as well as herself.

It doesn’t come in time to save Gaeta. But, as you might have expected in a “by the numbers” sense, it didn’t have to.

Gaeta is kidnapped while strolling down a Galactica corridor by the tribunal and taken down to the launch tube to meet his doom. The implacable tribunalists ask him if he has anything to say for himself. Demoralized by the hostility he’s encountered and disgusted by the way he’s been treated by his accusers, he remains silent.

The others walk away to vent him into space, but Starbuck remains. She starts taunting him, daring him to tell the rest what he’d told her earlier in the mess hall about how he’d helped the resistance by passing it inside information from Baltar’s office. When she gets to the part about the dog dish, Tyrol turns around, thunderstruck, and releases Gaeta’s restraints.

Tigh demands to know what Tyrol is doing. The chief responds that Gaeta is the unknown contact; had to be, since the dog dish was the signal when there was information waiting in that little desk/mail box/whatever it was. Nobody else knew about that except for Tyrol and whoever the contact was. So Gaeta by definition cannot be guilty of treason, but was doing what he could to help his people.

So the day is saved, right? Well, Gaeta’s life is spared. But he doesn’t appear to be very happy about it. He just gets up and disconsolately walks out. Tigh and the others don’t appear to be all that repentant or shaken at having almost taken the life of an innocent man. I appreciated that lack of instant cloture; these are wounds that would have to linger, and hopefully we’ll continue to see their effects manifested as the season unfolds.

As for Baltar, who was invited to join the Cylons at the end of “Exodus,” he wakes up to find himself (1) naked and (2) aboard a Cylon base ship where the seven known Cylonoid models are voting on whether to keep him alive. The vote deadlocks at three for, three against, and one abstention: Number Six.

I’m not sure where that story track is going to go, but since there wasn’t much more the writers could have done with him aboard Galactica, I appreciate their charting out a bold new direction, one that will hopefully provide a wealth of long-awaited insights into who and what the Cylons were and have become, as well as what the rest of their “plan” holds in store.

Still, I bet Gaius wished he could have gotten it up for Six that one last time. It may just prove the difference between life and death.

And not just for Gaius.

Next: Is the road to Earth to be paved with Cylon blood?

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