November 18, 2006

Battlestar Galactica 3-8

Last night's episode of "Battlestar Galactica" may be the most pivotal offering to date of the reimagined series. "Hero" features the return of "Bulldog" -- a black ops agent who Adama sent on a secret mission across the Human-Cylon armistice line three years before the genocidal Cylon attack on the 12 Colonies. In a scene seemingly direct from Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Defector," Bulldog's hijacked Cylon raider is pursued by two other raiders and is fired upon, but Starbuck learns later that the pursuing raiders let Bulldog escape. (She reviews the video of the incident much like Geordi and Data did with the escaping Romulan defector and realize that the pursuing Romulans allowed the defector to get away.) Adama cannot believe that Bulldog is alive. He greets him in the landing bay, and then we learn quite a bit of what is now BSG canon.

First, Adama has only been commander of the Galactica for a bit over three years! He was given the helm of the old ship as a way to "gracefully retire" after the botched black ops mission. He had been chief of the Battlestar Valkyrie. Second -- and this is key -- it's hinted that the Admiralty of the 12 Colonies wanted a war with the Cylons, hence Adama's secret mission. It's not entirely clear, but in a discussion with son Lee, Adama notes that the Admiralty was fearful that the Cylons were building up their war machine and that is the reason they sent Adama on that secret mission -- to test the Cylon defenses and to gather any info on what the robots may be up to. Yet again, the writers do their excellent job of "muddying the waters" by not making anything clear cut enough to establish anything! Once again, we can speculate on the motivations of the humans and the Cylons, but we still don't know just what happened to trigger the Man-Cylon war 40 years previous. But that's going to change in March 2007 -- Dynamite Entertainment is publishing two BSG comicbook series, one dedicated to the original series, and one covering the remake, and regarding the latter March will see "The Cylon Wars" which will detail just what happened between man and their creations. It notes that what will be published will be considered canonical backstory to the TV series.

Needless to say, there are many questions (without the upcoming comics backstory, that is). First, if Adama's botched black ops mission was supposed to have "set off" the Cylon attack (because the Cylons feared an upcoming human attack), how does that explain the annual absence of a Cylon representative at that armistice satellite? For forty years, only the human representative showed up -- save for the last meeting when the Cylons began their genocidal attack. Second, this fact alone would explain why the 12 Colonies' Admiralty would be deadly suspicious about Cylon intentions, hence their desire to gain information a la the Adama/Bulldog/Valkyrie mission three years before the massive Cylon attack. Third, are we to believe that the Cylons had infiltrated human society and organized their prodigious "attack to end all attacks" in a mere three years? That Adama's secret mission across the armistice line was the reason for them to wipe out humanity? C'mon. Remember, as we're reminded at the beginning of each and every episode of BSG: the Cylons "have a plan."

In addition, Bulldog's reaction to Adama having had him shot down during the secret mission is just plain stupid. Adama sent Bulldog across the armistice line in a stealth ship to gather information. When a couple of Cylon raiders appeared to investigate, and Bulldog's ship was crippled, Adama could not let the Cylons capture the ship as evidence of a treaty breach -- so he ordered the Valkyrie to destroy Bulldog's ship. However, Bulldog ejected before the missile hit, and he was captured by the Cylons. After his escape from the Cylon base ship, and upon hearing what Adama did, he proceeds to beat the living crap out of Adama. My reaction: HUH?? Thankfully, Tigh appears and screams some common sense at Bulldog (echoing my thoughts) -- that Bulldog knew what was expected, and that he was expected to sacrifice his life for the mission. That Bulldog reacted as he did either indicates that he is not nearly the soldier everyone thought he was, or a weakness among the BSG writing staff.

If what Adama stated in the episode is true -- that humans may have wanted a war to end the Cylon threat, I am reminded of the truly excellent "Animatrix" from 2003 -- the animated (duh!) backstory to the "Matrix" trilogy. It establishes a similar yarn to the Man-Cylon situation, but even here we see that humans allowed -- initially, at least -- their now self-aware robotic creations to live among them on earth. However, when it becomes clear that the robot "nation" is becoming way too economically powerful, humanity realizes they need to do something about the ever-increasing robot threat. Yep, they attempt to wipe out the robots. (They do it by "seeding the atmosphere" so that a perpetual cloud cover will negate the solar energy the robots need to power themselves; but, hey -- like, won't a perpetual cloud cover likewise destroy the human ecosystem?? Didn't make sense, but oh well...) Of course, if you've seen "The Matrix," you know what happened ultimately -- the robots were victorious, but they let their human creators "live" in a computer-generated environment all the while feeding off their neural energy.

Also, the fact that one of BSG's main writers in Mark Verheiden may have a lot to do with why there is so much back-and-forth intrigue, and base human emotions and desires play such a prominent role in not only the Cylon backstory but the entire series. Verheiden wrote the absolutely sensational "Aliens: Book One" comics graphic novel (by Dark Horse) back in 1989 as a direct sequel to the 1986 movie "Aliens." It's in black and white, but the story is completely enthralling (and long) and ultimately totally depressing. As you're probably aware, in all of entertainment there is no monster more terrifyingly scary than H.R. Geiger's creation, the Alien. In Verheiden's graphic novel, a ship appears in earth orbit with a pilot sporting a "face-hugger" -- the "crab-like" creature that bursts from an Alien egg. The pilot is taken into custody by operatives of the "Company" for research purposes and, of course, as a possible money-making enterprise for weapons development. The pilot "gives birth" to an Alien queen, which promptly begins laying thousands of eggs. The Company can't control the Alien, and its scourge gets loose onto an unsuspecting planet earth -- Alien infestations sprout up all over the globe and the insect-like creatures take over our world. Only the military and various scientists manage to escape to other planets. Y'see? Capitalist and military greed lead to the destruction of humanity!

The military-industrial complex is also the theme behind Joe Haldeman's awesome Forever War. Earth battles the Taurans -- enigmatic aliens who humans believe are responsible for the disappearance of various human vessels -- in a "relativistic" war that takes place over thousands of years (due to time dilation from spaceships traveling through small black holes). It's ultimately revealed that the military really didn't know whether the Taurans were responsible for the missing human ships or not -- but they "needed" a war, however, to spur on the mightily depressed earth economy. They got a lot more than they could handle, however, and we only learn the truth a couple of thousand years later.

Posted by Hube at November 18, 2006 08:38 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Yes - but did you like it?

I think the key sentence in your review is: "That Bulldog reacted as he did either indicates that he is not nearly the soldier everyone thought he was, or a weakness among the BSG writing staff."

My wife and watched this episode, and after it was over my wife said: Boy, that was a weak episode. It should have been a lot better, but it wasn't. It seemed like the creators were more interested in making certain salient points and moving along character arcs at the expense of plot and characterization.

My response was: The cylon subplot better start making some sense, because I'm not getting any sense "they" have a plan. Instead, it seems like they keep doing things at random and on a whim.

Posted by: Ivan Wolfe at November 18, 2006 01:09 PM

i know it's fiction BUT...

can you imagine that a man who had been a prisoner of war for three years would be out of the sick bay and into the general population of a combat vessel within hours of his escape?

Adama is 67? and survives a beating with a metal pipe and is standing at a podium hours latter?

Finaly the XO is an Alcoholic... would his CO and Friend sit down and drink with him?

Posted by: steamboat willy at November 18, 2006 02:08 PM

Ivan: I too wonder if the writers have scrapped what they initially intended to do in order to make some "points," all the while saying to themselves "We'll come back to what we intended sooner or later."

BTW -- is it ee-VAHN or EYE-van?

Posted by: Hube at November 18, 2006 03:01 PM

It's EYE - vuhn. The American pronunciation.

I once had a friend named "Ivan" from Bulgaria, and his name was pronounced ee - Vahn.

And I'm still curious if you liked it. Your review can either be read as praising it while noticing it's faults, or tearing it apart while still admiring it. I'm just curious as to which one it is.

Posted by: Ivan Wolfe at November 18, 2006 05:57 PM

Ivan: I am liking the show less and less because of the maddening lack of coherent continuity and/or subplots. For me, it's kind of like how "X Files" got for me -- I could never connect what was supposed to be going on .... the alien colonization plot, then the movie with the "Alien"-esque subplot, the black oil .... it became ridiculous. I began only watching the show when they had a "stand alone" episode about a friggin' ghost or something!

Posted by: Hube at November 19, 2006 07:28 AM

Jonah Goldberg had little good to say about the episode or the direction the series is taking as a whole.

Posted by: Paul Smith at November 21, 2006 11:07 AM

Paul -- I saw that. I was going to blog it later on.

Posted by: Hube at November 21, 2006 12:08 PM