Saturday, January 24, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: "The Disquiet That Follows My Soul"

SPOILERS BELOW, watch out:

So, this is how they're going to wrap it up in these last few episodes? They're going to create a violent conflict between Adm. Adama and Tom Zarek with Felix Gaeta joining up with Zarek near the end of this episode.

Of all the dormant storylines one might have left dangling, Tom Zarek's would have been one I would have left behind. For the most part his character's conflicts had seemed resolved once he had a voice in government, yet Bear McCreary's blog says that this conflict is the essential one to go forward.

I'm not so sure about that. There is a clue there when Bear quoted Ron Moore as having said that Moore "found him [Hatch] incredibly professional and prepared on the set." This storyline might be based on the fact that they discovered that Richard Hatch had more acting chops than they had expected and they wanted to use them better. Alas, this takes us farther from the questions I wanted to see answered, the mysteries that I think cry to be resolved.

I want to know how the four new Cylons are getting along with the old Cylons. I want to know that they are trying to solve the mystery of why five Cylons were there in the fleet, with repressed memories from 2,000 years ago, in the first place. If they weren't sent by the original Cylons or whatever computer intelligence instructs them, then how did they get there?

Early in the series I had assumed there was some monstrously intelligent mainframe kind of Cylon computer, or something like "Skynet" from "The Terminator," that had genetically engineered the human-like flesh puppets to do its bidding. These humanoid Cylons might have felt like they had free will but deep down their very psyches would have been designed as weapons of war in ways they couldn't understand or anticipate, as exemplified by Boomer when she was compelled to shoot Adm. Adama. I'm still not sure that isn't true, but ever since those four new Cylons were activated they've never been given a destructive mission, most of them, except for Tory, have done a lot to help the fleet.

Now, if they were not designed by some Cylon mainframe then where do they come from? Why are they different?

In the last episode we were told something astonishing: Earth was inhabited by humanoid and centurion Cylons 2,000 years ago. Tigh, Tory, Tyrol and Anders have memories from 2,000 or so years ago and those couldn't have come from a computer less than a hundred years old. It contradicts our expectations provided by the first history of the Cylons we were given. During the opening of the show each week we were told that the Cylons were "created by man" and that they "evolved." We were even told, I thought, that humans made the chrome plated robots, the centurions, less than a hundred years ago and that Saul Tigh served in the first Cylon War 40 years ago when there were no human-like Cylons known.

Tyrol and Tigh should be asking the old Cylons, "What do you know about us? Who told you we were here? What other intelligences in Cylon civilization know about us, what triggered us? What do you know and how do you know it?" And our old Cylons should be asking of the new group, "What kind of memories have you had? What can you tell us?"

Did something get skipped over or done behind our backs?

Nothing was added to answer those questions in this episode, except maybe the fact that Tigh and the Six have a baby, and Cylons aren't supposed to breed except with humans. Instead, those questions are swept under the rug while the writers cook up what, to me, looks like an unnecessary conflict that intelligent and rational people should be able to resolve through voting and debates instead of mutiny.

If they wanted to show growing tensions between human and Cylons why not show us that instead of just dropping in a few clues? I can imagine Tory hanging around almost exclusively with Cylons now. She might have a little orgy with three or more Leobens. She could be having interesting and revealing problems adjusting to life as a Cylon. Would she be finding life on a Basestar a bit sterile and boring and want to go over to that bar on Galactica only to find herself rejected there, facing fear and bigotry, and in her case partly deserving it? If the Cylons socialize with humans I'd expect them to show up at Baltar's religious services (Baltar's God is supposed to be the Cylon God). Doesn't at least a Six or two believe in that God Baltar preaches about? Couldn't she tell him more and confuse him by being too much like his head-Six vision? Wouldn't she be asking questions about Baltar's relationship with God? Does Caprica Six even listen to Baltar on the radio now?

I don't think the writers have quite got a grip on what it means to be a Cylon and they avoid the problems as much as they can. Instead of showing us the Cylon side of this tension we are only shown the human side. We see Gaeta reacting to Tigh and the Six watching their baby on some sonogram-like device and he resents how they are being so accepted now, so does a nurse. We see Gaeta argue with Starbuck, they share insults and it becomes very clear that Gaeta doesn't trust the Cylons -- why would he? One of them shot him in the leg and he lost it. He probably hasn't been informed on some recent developments. Starbuck really shouldn't be insulting him back, she should be trying to explain and save the insults for when he turns out to be too dense to get the explanation.

There's been some decision about Cylons giving the fleet their jump drive technology in exchange for full citizenship in the fleet, but we were not let in on the full explanation of this deal. It happened behind our backs.

The problem with the deal is that many people in the fleet aren’t happy with extending their alliance with the Cylons. Zarek gives a speech to the Quorum, convincing them it’s a bad idea to accept the Cylon technology. They vote to give each ship’s captain permission to refuse Cylons to board their ship. The new rule is soon tested by an uprising on the fuel processing ship. When Athena tries to board the ship, Zarek gives them the go ahead to jump away, they do, leaving the fleet without fuel.

Zarek is arrested and Adm. Adama bluffs him into, apparently, giving him the jump location for the runaway ship so they can find it. Great scene that, but they had plenty of conflicts to deal with without cooking up new angles on mostly old, and I thought resolved, conflict. I thought Zarek had turned a corner once he got his position as vice president and that he had the power he sought. Instead of violence he used debate and votes. Why turn back to an active rebellion now?

Well, it seems Adm. Adama and Apollo are being ignorant and authoritarian pricks. They are not telling people everything they know. Apollo had told the Quorum that they had reason to believe the 5th Cylon was dead, he referred to her as she, and the Quorum erupted with questions that Apollo and Adm. Adama refused to answer.

Big mistake, hinting at an even bigger mistake. If the citizens of the fleet don't know about those 2,000 year old Cylon memories they probably still think Cylons are nothing but weapons of war.

I can see why Zarek and Gaeta would be suspicious of the Cylons, I would be too, but it's not rational of them to be cooking up a violent rebellion at this point since they would most likely loose more than they gain. What are they afraid of at this moment? Do they fear that the Cylons will turn on them after some goal is achieved, like getting the Cylon jump drives installed on all the fleet's ships? Do they fear that if the jump drives are installed then the Cylons (or a crazy hybrid living in a tub of goo) will be able to control where they jump? Do Zarek and Gaeta even know much about hybrids?

Isn't this a problem that could be resolved with a bit of public education, a press conference, on the matter? If all their jumps are going to be controlled by a hybrid I'd be saying "no!" too, but that shouldn't be the case. And if it is the case that would make Adm. Adama worse than Baltar. Baltar didn't know that Caprica Six was a Cylon when he gave her codes he shouldn't have, but Adama knows full well he's installing Cylon technology without proper precautions. Adm. Adama and Apollo shouldn't be keeping secrets about why they know the 5th Cylon is probably a dead female. How much else have the citizens of the fleet not been told? Have they not been told the biggest revelation yet, that the 4 new Cylons have 2,000 year old memories of Earth? Do most people in the fleet still think the Cylons are just weapons of war?

Zarek apparently wants power for power's sake and he is exploiting the fear and bigotry of people like Gaeta, but the president and the Adamas are stupidly setting things up so that the people will side with Zarek. They are keeping secrets that it would be better off if people knew about.

There was a lot more going on this episode, but that's the big problem I have with it. I may do a part 2 for this review to cover those things later, but this post is long enough.


I've added part 2 now.

Check out the Battlestar Galactica Blog Carnival, "So say we all" to get other opinions.


spurge said...

I fear they are leaving huge gaping holes to be filled on their prequel show Caprica.

If they tell us everything during BSG about the Cylons what story will they have to tell?

I am prepared for disappointment.

normdoering said...

spurge wrote:
"I am prepared for disappointment."

After this last episode, so am I. There is no way they can spend the time it would take to fill in the holes and still deal with the mutiny promised by this episode and next weeks previews.

spurge said...

Plus they did not deal with the whole WTF is Starbuck if not a Cylon.

normdoering said...

If Starbuck isn't a Cylon then whatever she is will feel like some kind of deus ex machina. We've been shown no other force but Cylon technology that could make her.

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