Sunday, March 20, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Unfinished Business (S3/E9)

by JASmius

Rating: *1/2 (out of four)

Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed By: Robert Young

Top Rank Boxing meets Friends? I dunno, lords of Kobol, I just dunno.

I’m not a big fan of “shippering,” the romantic pairing of regular cast members on any television series that isn’t really about that sort of thing. It seems to me to just get in the way of the stories that the show should be telling, a titillating distraction from truly compelling drama (and, yes, action – without the quotation marks). Take your pick – Worf and Deanna Troi on TNG, Kira and Odo on DS9, Paris and Torres on Voyager, Tucker and T'Pol on Enterprise. They never took such short cuts on the original Trek; it’s like the writers think fans expect, even demand it now-a-days. How I wish they could see how wrong they are.

Which is not to say that I’m blanketly against it. If it makes sense in the context of the series story arc, go for it, I say. Case in point: Worf and Jadzia Dax, with Dax formerly being Curzon Dax, the crusty old Federation diplomat who became almost an honorary Klingon and thus understood Worf better than any non-Klingon woman ever could.

Returning to the BG universe, I just don’t happen to believe that coupling Apollo and Starbuck makes any sense whatsoever. The only reason for doing so there can possibly be is that in this remake they made Starbuck a woman instead of a man. Although, now that I reflect upon it, that itself may be a blessing, as the only thing I’d want to see on my Battlestar Galactica less than gratuitous fornication is gratuitous sodomy. Or maybe they’re saving that for the next remake.

At any rate, all this comes dribbling across the small screen as a series of flashbacks to the early days of the New Caprica colony that are prompted by a below-decks slugfest sold as a Colonial fleet tradition for blowing off steam and settling scores and grudges.

The hour begins with Helo beating the crap out of Apollo. Which was kind of strange since I wasn’t aware that these two had any issues with each other. But Starbuck, fresh from using and discarding her estranged hubby Sam Anders, definitely has issues with the ex-Pegasus CO and starts cruelly and relentlessly taunting him until he accepts her challenge to a fight.

In the mean time, Lee and Kara aren’t the only ones who were awash in memories. The elder Adama, for example, was off on another guilt trip.

We saw in last season’s finale “Lay Down Your Burdens” that when the Cylons arrived a year after the New Caprica colony’s founding, Galactica and Pegasus were manned by skeleton crews consisting of the handful of duty officers and enlisted personnel who for whatever reason hadn’t mustered out and relocated to the surface. In the admiral’s flashback we saw the story of Chief and Mrs. Tyrol’s tussle with the question of staying aboard Galactica out of loyalty to Adama or leaving and starting a new life on the ground. The catalyst proves to be their (at the time) unborn son, whom Cally doesn’t want to raise on an orbiting warship.

The admiral at first denies the Chief’s request for a discharge. Tyrol is too important a member of his crew of which to let go; the flight deck simply wouldn’t function effectively or efficiently without him. But after going down to the planet himself, seeing the budding colony, and spending some tender, intimate (though blessedly platonic, at least on-screen) moments with former President Roslin talking about the possibilities for a bright future and what they each wanted to do with and in it, Adama softens. Laying down one’s burdens can be infectious and irresistible when everybody else is doing it as well. And besides, the Cylons were gone, right? Against what was Adama maintaining eternal vigilance? Maybe it was time to loosen up and let people move on with their lives. Maybe the war and the crisis were over.

So Adama relents and lets the Tyrols depart with his blessing. And, of course, eight months later the Cylons returned and we know what happened thence.

Evidently in Adama’s mind the Chief came to symbolize what he now sees as his disastrous mistake in letting down his people’s military guard, never mind that that is precisely what the people themselves voted for in the recent presidential election. If Galactica and Pegasus had been at full strength it wouldn’t have made any difference; the Adamas would still have had to flee, and the New Caprica colony would still have been conquered.

But no matter, Adama apparently is hardwired to internalize everything. So, back in the present, when Roslin asks Adama if he had thrown his dogtags into the box, after initially demurring he changes his mind when he sees Tyrol at ringside. A series of Starbuckian taunts – and a sucker punch – gets the hardcore fisticuffs going.

Naturally, Tyrol beats the crap out of the admiral, as the latter knew would happen. But this wasn’t about scapegoating the Chief and trying to punish him; rather, it was meant by Adama as a bloody illustration, a pugilistic parable, as he explains after the fight: the Human diaspora let down its guard once, with calamitous results; he, William Adama, will personally see that it never happens again. And, by implication, everybody else is to follow his lead.

I hope Roslin was listening between the lines, because it looks to me like the Adama that was a respecter of the law and Kobolian civic institutions and civilian authority is deader than the eight thousand souls that perished on New Caprica. The new Adama wouldn’t have hesitated to let Roslin steal the presidential election from Baltar, and wouldn’t think twice about doing whatever is necessary to ensure Humanity’s survival. A reluctant Napoleon, perhaps, but a potential one nevertheless.

Thus ends the substantive portion of this review. Now we have to return for the, um, sloppy seconds.

At around the same time as Adama was releasing the Tyrols, there was a party at which there was a lot of drinking at which Apollo and Starbuck proved to be more adept than their respective lovers, Dualla and Anders. Adama the younger and Miss Thrace catch each other’s eyes, and they stagger off together, and it’s been two and a half seasons and it’s time to finally once and for frakking all get it over with, and they “do it.” Loudly. Moistly. Violently.

And, to Starbuck’s chagrin, not without an intrusion of unwanted romance, as after the deed is done Lee stands up in all his pasty nakedness and bellows his love for Kara to the heavens and anybody who isn’t too distant and too hammered to be listening. And she kinda sorta reciprocates, though even then you can tell that the emotional intimacy is just creeping her out.

Next morning Apollo awakens to find Kara long gone. Upon returning to the settlement he discovers that she married Anders earlier that morning.

Poor Lee. All these years he’s kept his distance from Starbuck, perhaps without ever fully realizing why. Now he knew: she’s a ball-busting cunt. But only as a cover for her deep-seeded fear of both true intimacy and her genuine affection for Lee, a fear that she perhaps doesn’t fully understand herself. But rather than deal with it, she runs away, as she ran away from Apollo and used Anders as a door to slam in Lee’s face.

If he intuited any of this, or might have, it got swept away in the searing pain and humiliation of rejection. So what does Lee do? Run right off and marry Dualla. Matrimony as revenge in retaliation for matrimony as deflector shield. Man, but the institution of marriage took a beating in this episode. That wasn’t New Caprica, it was Hollywood.

That was the underlying irony of the final scene. As Apollo and Starbuck beat each other senseless in an empty gym, the true casualties were the two remaining spectators: Dualla and Anders, who saw the evidence of how badly they had both been used right in front of them. Doesn’t do much for any of these four characters, does it?

What should happen is that Lee stays with Dualla and moves on, which would finally compel Kara to deal with her anti-intimacy phobia now that it had cost her the man she truly loved. Heck, that might even motivate her to reconcile with Anders.

But no. The writers will keep pushing this crapola, and it’ll sooner or later endanger an important mission. Mark my words.

Next: Starvation; only one, deadly, way out of it; and a “cat” uses up her ninth life.

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