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The Galactica Fleet, having escaped the Holocaust and having unknowingly destroyed the Cylon Imperious Leader at the battle of Carillon, continues to explore deep space far away from their war-ravaged homeworlds. The new Cylon leader spares the disheveled human traitor Baltar and sends him after the rebel fleet with a Basestar, entirely under the human's command. Baltar is escorted to his new assignment by Lucifer, a Cylon android who seems to have more in common with the Imperious Leader than with the crude, robotic Centurions.
On the Galactica, Apollo announces his engagement to Serina. At this point, Serina is still in civilian dress. But later, Apollo visits Serina in her quarters to discover she is wearing a cadet's uniform; the Colonial journalist wishes to become a shuttle pilot. While Apollo first objects, his fiancee assures him she will serve her new role well.
Apollo joins Starbuck on a Viper reconnaissance mission beyond the Fleet's tracking range. The two "buddies" discover a great black void , which inhibits all forms of tracking, navigation and communication. After nearly getting lost in this void, the two turn return to the Galactica to report their discovery. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Boomer and Flight Sergeant Jolly probe another direction with their Vipers. The two discover a Cylon outpost built into a rockface on an asteroid. They leave the area, not suspecting the Cylons are tracking them.
On returning to the Galactica, Boomer and Jolly sneak past decontamination procedures to join Apollo's bachelor party. Both collapse and reveal a strange plague which incapacitates and could kill everyone in the Fleet. Doctor Salik orders a quarantine of all personnel (exclusively male personnel of the Galactica's bridge crew and pilot roster) who came in contact with Boomer and Jolly. One by one, all of those affected are stricken. Salik insists he will have to journey to the asteroid to discover what caused this disease. With so many Viper pilots incapacitated, Adama must recruit shuttle pilots, apparently all female, to train for Viper simulation. Apollo and Starbuck ultimately lead a reconstituted Blue Squadron, including Serina, to escort Doctor Salik's shuttlecraft to the asteroid.
Baltar and Lucifer spar over what to do about capturing the Galactica and her fleet. Baltar insists on no aggressive action or revelation of his Basestar. Both seem concerned about how to handle the rogue Battlestar, and content to bicker about it.
Apollo and Starbuck seem to have their hands full just keeping their squadron in formation. They catch the outpost by surprise. The Cylons get several fighters launched, but Apollo starts destroying them before more can do so. Starbuck and Athena lead the rest of the squadron in picking off the Cylons. It seems everyone got the hang of flying and fighting. Blue Squadron reports their mission was a success.
Both Lucifer and Baltar are bewildered by the attack on the outpost. What could the Colonists have gained by this incursion? Even more puzzling are the reports of erratic flying of the attacking Vipers. Baltar tires of bickering with Lucifer and orders the capture of one of the Galactica patrols.
A Second Look
Baltar seems to get way too familiar with Lucifer in a hurry, doesn't he? For a man who was nearly executed at the hands of the Cylons, he seems all too confident to tell Lucifer "Don't fence with me, my friend." And why does Lucifer often visit Baltar with an armed guard in tow? Fear of assassination, perhaps?
The scene where Apollo announces his engagement to Serina in Adama's dining room seems very stilted. The starched dialogue seems dated, even for the 1970's. This kind of thing makes the whole story look half-baked.
Why would Boomer and Jolly assume they had not been detected by the Cylons on a Cylon-held asteroid? Shouldn't an evasive procedure be in place in the event these probes make such a discovery?
Obviously, the sickness which incapacitates these pilots is a device which the entire story's sense of jeopardy rests on. But that still doesn't explain why they got away with skipping their decontamination process. (Looks like it wouldn't have mattered, since both men were already afflicted.)
There are presumably enough capable folks throughout the fleet who were not at that party that would make better Viper pilot candidates than a trainee who's never even flown a shuttle before! It's one thing to recruit shuttle pilots to fly Vipers, another to recruit cadets who've never flown a shuttle. One would think Serina could've said something about having flying hours back on Caprica, but this is yet another missed opportunity that makes the show look half-finished.
Some fans grouse about seeing stars in the abyss. This really wasn't a problem. The blackness was sufficient to get the message across, while those few stars showed the edges of the abyss.
The Cylon outpost looked like a miniature. It would've been different if they would've superimposed the images of tiny Cylon warriors guarding the encampment's periphery on foot, a la Gamoray.
Some may not buy into Lucifer's appearance, but this is one Cylon effect that looked perfect for the show. It may scream "disco robot" and the use of Jonathan Harris' voice makes one think of Lucifer as a descendant of Robot from LOST IN SPACE. Still, Lucifer is a shining example of something this show did perfectly the first time. This is the most alien character in the entire series, outside of the being of light seen in "War of the Gods." Sadly, one is left with the impression the all there is to a Cylon Basestar is computerization, launch bays, and a big throne room. If the Cylons are supposed to be part of the story, they should be treated as characters. Does Baltar do nothing but sit on his throne and run his back massager while he passes gas all day? What a waste. If the Basestar is under his command, why not show him in a planning room with Lucifer, studying a star chart? If the show's makers can suit up a Centurion to be on hand, why not show the Centurion interacting with them?
This episode recycles internal footage of the Cylon Basestar over Carillon from "Saga of a Star World, Pt. 3". It shows Cylons standing next to a wall of electronic equipment, apparently monitoring Colonial activity and responding to it. It looks like they just took a hunk of the Galactica's bridge and posed some Cylons in front of it. Cheap, and campy looking. At least for "The Hand of God", the Cylons had their own bridge.
There was one nice computer graphics shot used: when Apollo is being dogged by a Cylon fighter, we see an attack computer display showing a nicely done graphical representation of a Viper approaching with a Cylon behind. Very nice, especially for 1978.
He said, she said
Much has been made of how this episode looks dated, how it underscores a male chauvinist attitude in late 1970's television. There are some interesting passages throughout the episode.
The scene between Apollo and Serina in her quarters was nice, but not substantial enough to do either character justice. Again, like the dining room scene, the conversation seems stilted and awkward, over-simplifying the characters' dilemma. Apollo has the nerve to ask his fiancee, "Are you any good?" instead of a more caring and diplomatic "How good was your score?" This scene seems to have been shot to show off Jane Seymour in a tight uniform. (How often do we see so obvious an exhibition of "the Jordache look" in hour-long primetime dramatic fare today? With the exception of STAR TREK: VOYAGER's Seven of Nine, not very often.)
Then there's the scene with the ladies in the crew bunkroom wearing slinky "G-suits", which would make men look ridiculous as well. (Funny, but how often do we see Richard Hatch or Dirk Benedict wearing these same suits? For that matter, wouldn't it have been wiser to avoid this kind of nonsense by designing a flightsuit-and-helmet combination that doubles as a spacesuit? Hindsight being 20/20, guess nobody ever thought of that.) Just what we need to see is Apollo and Starbuck lecturing a bunch of giggling "girls". Somebody should've been soooooo fired for that scene, they should OWE their Hollywierd employers money for it!
Athena is shown piloting a Viper, both in simulation and in battle. She was previously portrayed as a bridge officer. Despite the accusation that Athena's poor piloting carried a sexist message with it, it seems more logical that the show's makers threw Maren Jensen's character into a cockpit because they didn't have a female pilot character readied from "Saga of a Star World." Athena's amateurish flying can be considered understandable if the bulk of her experience is in other areas. If the show would've been better showing her as a pilot, then that's something which should've been addressed earlier. Barring that, Apollo and Starbuck's attitudes are understandable.
Perhaps the biggest embarrassment about this episode is the unprofessional conduct of almost all the Galactica personnel. Is this a cruise ship, or a military vessel? Apollo's pilot friends may celebrate, but all at once? After what's happened to their people? Not only is this "party" an affront to military ideals and readiness, it also serves to make the Galactica look more like MCHALE'S NAVY or a cruise ship, not a carrier on the run escorting refugees. Glen Larson and company seem not to take the nature of their characters or the dangers of their war seriously enough. To the credit of the giggling female pilots, at least they seemed to take their duties more seriously once they got into their cockpits.
Isn't it neat how everyone in the restocked Blue Squadron is a lieutenant? Conveniently, none of these ladies outrank Apollo and Starbuck. Still, if some of these ladies are green, you'd expect to see an ensign. (It's never made clear if Athena's lieutenant rank is air or naval-based. As a Bridge officer, her rank would likely be naval, which would at least put her as equal to Starbuck, if not Apollo. This would also explain the way these characters address each other, personal familiarity aside.)
IF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA WERE BRAND-NEW TODAY...
They would've had to better develop this episode. It was obviously not thought through as well as it should've been. The disease still could've incapacitated several pilots, but the whole business of throwing inexperienced pilots into space would be avoided. Serina piloting a Viper did nothing for the character or the story. Baltar seemed over-eager to do the Imperious Leader's bidding to start with; his life depended on it. So why was he shown lounging in his throne room? What is he doing in there? Daydreaming? Baltar and Lucifer would have to be more than just cardboard standups, ordering Cylon maneuvers. And the discovery of the Cylon outpost should've been handled more cleverly, as with the discovery of the Basestar in "The Hand of God."
The show did not take its military/war aspect seriously enough. Had the show more clearly defined the military culture of the characters and the hardship it imposed on them, it would've been a double-edged sword. It would've made drama easier for the writers and the actors to portray, and it would've given the characters and their situations more substance.
The show's dogfights would have to be more three-dimensional. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA did a surprisingly good job of showing there's no "up" or "down" in space, but even today's sci fi can do a better job.
And maybe instead of showing a Cylon airstrip on a vulnerable asteroid's surface, we could see a new type of Cylon space station or mini-Basestar in orbit.
Isn't there enough canonical evidence that not all refugees and warriors from the Colonies are Earth-type homo sapiens? There are Nomen and many others. So why are they not seen on the Galactica's bridge or in her Vipers' cockpits? All of the characters in this episode are either human or Cylon. Break out the weird makeup! Put a squid on the bridge next to Sara Rush! Put an octopus in that Viper!
TIDBITS & NITPICKS
This episode clearly underscores that both Colonial and Cylon fightercraft are capable of at least lightspeed. (Probably shuttles, too.) There is the loose implication that the Cylons at the outpost dispatched fighters to Baltar's Basestar, rather than revealing the discovery of Boomer and Jolly's intrusion over an open comm-link. There is also the loose implication that Baltar was ordering Cylon fighter patrols to "hang back" and not reveal themselves to the hunted Fleet. Lucifer indicates that accelerating to lightspeed would allow the Basestar to intercept the Galactica in a short period of time. This means that the Cylon patrols trailing the Fleet must be capable of at least lightspeed to have caught up with the Fleet's periphery, and still be able to report back while apparently maintaining radio silence.
They had to give the most beautiful line in the whole episode to one of the bad guys:
"Isn't he wonderfully devious?" -Lucifer
It would seem readily evident that a significant period of time passed between the aftermath of Carillon and the events in this episode. That is the only way to explain the new routines, Baltar's familiarity with Lucifer, and Apollo's engagement to Serina. So, why not say so?
Funny, but if this "G-suit" technology is supposed to protect the human body from tremendous G-forces a Viper will face in flight, why doesn't this suit cover a pilot's hands? Maybe human hands are immune to hypergravity?
And what is an enlisted man (Flight Sergeant Jolly) doing piloting a fighter? Shouldn't that kind of thing be left to warrant officers and commissioned officers?