Posts Tagged ‘Act of Contrition’

Dear Jane,

Well, here we are one disc into the weekly series of the new Battlestar Galactica and I actually beginning to see just why you rate this series so highly. Usually with this sort of undertaking I pick out selected landmark or highlight episodes and just mention everything else in passing, but the thing about New BSG, like quite a few modern shows I expect, is that they all sort of run together in terms of plot and so on.

Anyway. The first episode of this bunch, 33, is one that I’d actually seen fifteen minutes-ish of before when it first showed up on British TV in 2006. There was clearly no point in my committing to another big TV show despite a characteristically hearty recommendation from Rusty Davis, as I was flying off to Japan for a year very shortly, but in an case I found the thing completely discombobulating and rather inaccessible. (Bear in mind the mini wasn’t shown prior to the weekly series.) The low-key nature of the whole thing threw me, as did the plotting with the multiple Boomers, and I bailed out fairly rapidly.

Where exactly is this business with Agathon and the Boomer-copy on ‘Cylon-occupied Caprica’ going, anyway? (Not very heavily occupied from the look of things, by the way.) At the moment all it seems to be achieving is providing a timescale for the rest of the series (’12th day on Caprica’ and so on). Don’t answer that, by the way.

On the other hand the plotline with the other Boomer taking a very long time to admit to herself she’s probably a Cylon doesn’t seem to be doing much either. Presumably it is Boomer-1 who blew up the water tanks on the Galactica, although as usual the series is taking a very long time to answer any of the questions it poses.

I sort of like this, I may be baffled and lacking in any sense of closure, but at least I feel like an adult whose intelligence is respected who is baffled and lacking in any sense of closure. For example, all that business in 33 with the apparent link between the Cylons and the Rising Star – had the ship really been infiltrated? Were there actually nukes on board? Why were the Cylon attacks so closely linked with the ship’s presence?

I know, Jane, that you said the Iraq/post-9/11 stuff really gets going in later seasons, but it seems very obvious to me that this show is the product of a nation which believes itself to be threatened by war. Every time the characters are forced into a tough, morally questionable decision like blowing up a civilian ship which may have been infiltrated, the programme is surely being an apologist for every suspect choice and misstep made by the Bush administration in the name of homeland security.

Of course, the look of the show is really helped by the presence of Mary McDonnell as a thoroughly sympathetic president. She’s very good, and I can’t help but wonder if she was on some level a model for Doctor Who‘s unexpectedly-elevated Prime Minister in the 2005 and 2006 series. In the circumstances, McDonnell’s resemblance to Elisabeth Sladen is troubling, but that’s no-one’s fault.

I was going to do a long thing here about the whole way in which the characters from the original series have been reimagined and recast, probably at the same time as talking about the appearance of Richard Hatch in Bastille Day. But that is going to be a long thing and I am aware that this update has gone on a bit already. So I will save that for a more auspicious moment and instead comment more on Act of Contrition, which for me was the outstanding episode of this batch.


Perhaps this was because it is much more of a standalone than the others (for all that it turns out to end with a big TO BE CONTINUED caption), with less of a presence of some of the peripheral characters who I find slightly annoying. On the other hand, the complex structure of the thing (I counted four layers of flashbacks going off in close succession at one point) made it a little difficult to follow: it took me a while to figure out that the accident on the hangar deck was actually happening ‘now’ rather than being a flashback to Zak Adama’s death. In the end I was impressed with how it worked, simply as a piece of character drama.

I know you like Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, and I agree that she has tremendous screen presence – but I can’t help but find the whole wisecracking-tough-but-vulnerable characterisation to be a bit obvious and maybe even cliched. But here I was surprised to find myself genuinely caring about the central characters (Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck) and their relationships, which never really happened with Disco Galactica. (For what it’s worth, at this point my favourite character is probably Apollo, mainly on the strength of his stand at the end of Bastille Day: he’s not afraid to be a bit of a tool in the service of a good cause, something I always find very admirable.) I’m not sure to what extent it honestly qualifies as true SF (I don’t really think that just being set on a spaceship is enough), but this episode had some riveting moments of human drama, and I hope I’ll always be happy to watch that. Especially if there’s a spaceship involved.


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