Saturday, January 17, 2009
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 : “Sometimes a Great Notion”
The hiatus is over and the last we saw of our intrepid Galacticans was many months ago during the mid-season finale of Battlestar Galactica called "Revelations." The fleet, together with the Cylon rebels, had finally reached Earth and discovered that it was a radioactive wasteland. I swear I could hear Charlton Heston off in the distance screaming, "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!"
The new episode picked up right where we left off. Everybody is wandering aimlessly around on the desolated planet they call "Earth" and looking devastated and depressed. In fact, for the most part, this episode is all about despair and it's the darkest, most grim and foreboding episode of Galactica yet. We're informed that the low-level radiation permeates everything and it suggests that the Earth was nuked about 2,000 years ago. Other reports come in finding no human life on the planet, but there's obviously plant life.
The interesting plot developments in this episode are, first, the flashbacks that the four new Cylons have started having. Tyrol found a wall with a shadow burned onto it and when he is drawn to lean over and touch it, he has a vision of walking through a crowded produce market and as he picks up a piece of fruit, a nuclear blast goes off. He later informs the other Cylons that the burned in shadow is himself.
Sam Anders had a similar experience after picking up a guitar fretboard out of the sand. He positions his fingers on the fretboard as if ready to play a chord and semi-sings a line from All Along the Watchtower, "...because the hour is getting late." He then joins up with Tyrol and Tory and they start to remember things, they knew each other, Sam Anders is some kind of reincarnated Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix who played for them all. They used to live on Earth 2,000 years ago.
Anders asks the obvious question; how did they live on Earth 2,000 years ago and die in a nuclear holocaust and then come back to be in the human colonies? Why did they think they were human?
This is both a why and a how question. The how I can speculate on and feel confident about having a reasonable chance of getting it right, like the other Cylons, the memories of the four new Cylons were downloaded during the nuclear blasts and stored until someone or something that controlled the technology uploaded them into new bodies, buried their memories and placed them in the human colonies with cover memories.
It's not the only how answer available, another how answer could be some unexplainable supernatural/spiritual phenomena involving souls and actual reincarnation but that would dictate that the motive is the motive of gods or God and thus they would have created a god who is as cruel and sadistic as a Battlestar Galactica writer is with fictional characters. After all, the writers are the gods in these fictional worlds.
For example, if real gods wrote the prophesies that led the colonials to Earth, then those gods led them to a nuked Cylon world that crushed their hopes. That was a rather cruel joke. If the final five Cylons aren't a product of technological reincarnation like the other Cylons then some gods/God put them in among the colonials and buried their memories until they arrived on "Earth."
The why part of the question, why would anyone or anything want to store their memories and plant the Cylons among the colonies, is not a question I can even speculate on with any assurance of getting it right. All I could do is play Galactica writer myself and invent my own motive. For example, it was their own choice to buy into some resurrection technology available to the Cylons of "Earth" and that technology saved their memories and, trying to interpret their wishes as best it could, inserted them into the human colonies with their memories buried.
Secondly there is a related how and why mystery involving Starbuck and Leoben finding Starbuck's old Viper and her corpse. Starbuck and Leoben followed the Colonial signal that lead them to Earth and find some pieces of a Viper, including a panel that contains the same number as Starbuck’s Viper. Leoben becomes very uncomfortable. They find the viper cockpit and Leoben tries to stop Starbuck from going over to it. Does he know what she’s going to find, her dead body sitting in the Viper. Starbuck rips off the dog tags from the body and her name "K. Thrace," is on them.
As soon as Leoben sees it, he backs away. Starbuck remembers the Hybrid who called her the "harbinger of death," and then she asks, "If that’s me lying there, then what am I?" Good question. I would think that makes Starbuck some kind of Cylon since Cylons can do that sort of thing. Starbuck rolls her dead body up in a shroud and burns it on a funeral pyre.
The last clue in this Cylon mystery is when Saul Tigh, near the end, starts remembering his life on Earth. He is in a different, civilian, suit and picking through some rubble, either in a ruined bank or post-office, and he finds his wife, Ellen. As she dies she promises Tigh that they will be reborn together. Is Ellen Tigh really the fifth and final Cylon as Tigh thinks? Here though is one clue as to why it was the choice of the new Cylons to be reborn.
Another important clue in this mystery was when D'Anna and Number Six dug up some seemingly human bones and found a Centurion head. The head is not one of their models, it's a different model, looking more like one of the Cylons from the original series. Later Baltar reports that the seemingly human bones are also Cylon. What!? The 13th colony was a Cylon colony?
There are more questions I can't really answer: Is it "our" Earth that was devastated and our music? Who nuked it? How did Starbuck's Viper and body get from the Maelstrom to Earth? What is Starbuck now? A Cylon? Was she made from the surgery on The Baby Farm on Old Caprica? How, when and why did the final five Cylons get recreated? Were they born in the 12 Colonies or were they inserted secretly?
As I noted before, the rest of the episode is about the despair of the humans. Dualla commits suicide, President Roslin doesn't show up for her cancer treatment but instead hides in her room and starts burning the book of Pythian prophecies. Admiral Adama can't cheer her up he starts to drink and then tries to provoke Tigh into killing him:
I'm not going to bother to recap much beyond that. The darkness of this episode is one of the bravest things I've seen on television and it's conveyed far too subtly to do it justice with a summary. You'll have to watch to get it. They had been chasing a dream of Earth for years, relying too much on religious prophecy, and now they've discovered Earth is a nuclear wasteland. The dream of Earth is shattered. Lee Adama made an uplifting speech, saying they're now free to chase a new home (like New Caprica?) "we can see this as either a catastrophe or an opportunity," he told Dualla before she killed herself. "We are free of the prophisies of Pythia." However, the crushing blow is too much and many people are not going to rebound, Dualla being only the first I imagine.
Whatever "gods" handed them the prophecy didn't give them a land of milk and honey on a silver platter (thank the gods, because that would have been so lame from an artistic viewpoint). And now, with their faith in those old prophesies crumbling I think we should logically expect Baltar's religion to pick up some real steam and for Baltar to become a much more powerful character.