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''Battlestar Galactica'': The great escape

On ”Battlestar Galactica,” the humans escape from New Caprica: Apollo saves Galactica while Saul Tigh and Kara Thrace settle scores on the ground

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Jamie Bamber, Battlestar Galactica
Jamie Bamber: Patrick Hoelck

”Battlestar Galactica”: The great escape

A friend of mine once said to me that she longs for the day when a female character will be able to do more than either serve as the damsel in distress or be the rudder that keeps her man on course. While that’s a valid statement — one that Battlestar Galactica has gone a great way toward addressing — there’s still something to be said for a character who is the voice of reason. I can recall listening to one of BSG executive producer Ron Moore’s commentary-track-style podcasts (which are easily shunted into iTunes from the scifi.com website and are highly recommended) where he said that Dualla had a special place in the hearts of the Viper pilots because hers was the voice they heard in the cockpit. It was she who relayed Adama’s orders, who kept their heads in the game, and who called them home. And so it’s kind of appropriate for her to be the one to remind Lee who he is and what his duty is.

So what if he doesn’t listen to her.

And then there’s Ellen Tigh. Just when you’re ready to hate her, to unleash some full-blown loathe over what she did, the stupid producers make her sympathetic. ”I got him to notice me the way men notice me,” she tells her husband. ”I slept with him. I felt like puking every time he put his filthy hands on me…but I smiled and I faked it to save you, Saul.” When she puts it like that, you can’t help feeling for her, and understanding. (And watching Michael Hogan’s one eye bug out like it does — masterful piece of ocular acting, that.) Of course, you also understand why Saul has to poison her.

I suppose that when you build robots that gain the capacity for self-awareness they will also, eventually, have an understanding of self-image. Now, I don’t quite buy the idea, as one of the D’Annas suggests, that the whole occupation was an initiative to win the hearts and minds of humanity so that we wouldn’t pass the legacy of vengeance down through the generations. (As I remember, the Colonial fleet was running away.) I believe that the Cylons do Have a Plan, as the credits tell us. I just don’t believe this is it. They’re too tricky for this. But what, exactly, is it? Where has the rest of the Cylon fleet been?

(And can I just say how much I love James Callis? Look at his face when Boomer walks in and says that Adama’s back. He was wallowing in pity that his New Caprica was being blown to rubble, and then, in a heartbeat, he’s deathly afraid of being rescued.)

I’m sure there are sci-fi wonks who will debate the feasibility of a battlestar jumping into the atmosphere and back out again. (I recall from some Star Trek novel or another that there were some adverse effects when the Enterprise engaged its warp drive in the atmosphere — something about destroying the planet. Yes, I, too, am a geek.) But damn if that wasn’t badass.

It’s tempting to watch a show like this the way I watched The West Wing. While I was always held by the drama, there was still an undercurrent of wish fulfillment. Josiah Bartlet was the kind of man you wanted to be leading the country, even if you know it would never happen. When Adama sees that he’s facing a total of four basestars and not the two he planned on, and that his FTL drive is busted, and that he’s staring death in the face, he sets his jaw. That’s the kind of leader we all wish we had in our lives, somewhere. Either at work, or at home, or in ourselves.

From here on out the episode just became, how do you say, coital. The consummation of everything we’ve been waiting for. Lee riding in to the rescue, remembering what it feels like to be a warrior. Gaeta standing up for himself. Pegasus going out in a blaze of glory. Kara killing Leoben one more time for good measure. And the heartbreaking truth of who Casey really is.

So now we’re back in a one-battlestar world and humanity is once again on the run from the Cylons. Amen.

Till next week, some questions for you all: Why did Baltar hand over baby Hera? To secure himself a seat on the Cylon escape ship? How exactly is Tigh supposed to get on with his life back on Galactica? (I sense a rather harrowing veteran story line coming up, where we see just how much some people had to pay to earn their freedom, while others, like the Adamas, never had to pick up that bill but are treated like conquering heroes anyway.) And what’s gonna happen to people like Jammer and Gaeta, who were seen as collaborators?