On ''Battlestar Galactica,'' Lee has to babysit Baltar's court-appointed attorney, who becomes the target of assassination attempts

By Marc Bernardin
Updated March 12, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jamie Bamber, Battlestar Galactica
Credit: Jamie Bamber: Patrick Hoelck

”Battlestar Galactica”: Lawyers and love

So, yeah. Kara Thrace is dead.

Her name’s not in the credits. The survivor count is one lower than it was last week. The admiral is crying like a baby. Anders is drinking to excess and snapping limbs. And Lee’s putting her picture on the Mausoleum Wall. It would be easy to say that Starbuck’s death hovered over this episode, except that it didn’t, really. Where was her funeral? For a show that devotes so much screen time to the formalities of ritual — personal, military, political — to skip something as crucial to a main character’s death as a funeral ceremony? More fuel to the idea that maybe she’s not dead-dead after all (and maybe that survivor-count decrease was due to Baltar’s detonated lawyer).

But the new lawyer — him I like. Could be the accent — foreign makes it exotic, Irish makes it down-to-earth — could be the sunglasses (more on those later), could just be that a new character, one of substance, is a breath of fresh air on this show. The Galactica company is a great one, but it’s so hermetically sealed. When we get a new face, he or she is usually a pilot we’ve never seen before, a miner, or just some nameless red shirt who’s not gonna matter a bit to the story at hand. But this guy, this Romo Lampkin, he’s slimy, he’s hungry, and he’s smart. (Mark Sheppard, who plays Lampkin, has done his time in genre TV, having guested on Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Firefly, Medium, and 24.) And he’s a petty thief, which is a great trait for a lawyer looking to steal a trial.

Didn’t, however, buy the whole saboteur-assassin thing. The plot thread didn’t pay off in any real way, other than to show that no one but the Colonial brass likes the idea of a Baltar trial. Oh, and to have Lampkin get injured by that keypad blast. But wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Lampkin had planted that bomb himself as a ploy to gain sympathy from a hostile tribunal? As it was, those moments played like cheap dramatic tools to build suspense. And it didn’t really add much of anything that Kelly was the perp; he’s a sideline character we’re completely not invested in.

Back to Lampkin, and the sunglasses. Shades have been used for years as a dramatic tool. The comic-book writer and Internet godhead Warren Ellis has a theory, one he came up with after watching this YouTube compilation of CSI: Miami teasers, in which the Carusobot almost always dons his shades before dispensing the One Liner of Justice. Ellis feels that the sunglasses are used to conceal emotion, to hide the inner workings of a heartless machine. ”To don the shades at the beginning of a story is the equivalent of Superman changing into costume.” For Lampkin, however, the shades serve a different purpose. When he’s wearing the shades, he’s telling the truth. When he takes them off, when we can see his eyes, he’s lying. (The omnipresent trench coat, however, just makes ol’ Romo look like a bit of a tool.) When he lays on the Gaius-misses-you goop to Caprica Six, you can see the lie doing its job, making her believe in her own lie, the one she continues to tell herself: that Baltar still loves her. That exchange was some of the best Galactica writing I’ve seen all season.

In fact, it feels like the producers have settled on Lampkin as a totem upon which to hang some of their finest dialogue to date. Learning about the kind of man Joseph Adama was not only helped us understand the complicated relationship between Lee and Joe and Lee and Bill, but more about Bill and Joe. Every father is someone’s son. We all exist in someone else’s shadow and spend our lives trying to get out from under it. And it only gets that much harder if the shadow is both long and cast by someone you can’t respect.

So, where do we go from here? Will Baltar get a fair trial? Should he get a fair trial? How far will Lee go to escape from his father’s shadow? Will we ever see Starbuck again? If yes, when and how?

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