Episode 1: Saga of a Star World, Part 2 (of 3)

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I’m choosing a slightly different break point than would have been broadcast, because I think it makes a clean transition between story lines, so that makes this middle piece a little shorter and the finale of the pilot a little longer. Digging in with what I expect will be the traditional

Overly Long Synopsis

Fade into a shuttle heading for freighter Gemini, we catch up with Starbuck and Boomer doing a damage survey, and run into their CO Apollo who’s looking for solium leaks. They get a quick dressing down by Apollo for not being terribly cooperative, and Starbuck observes that they “May as well live for today. We might not have many left.”

The freighter is stuff with people, poorly fed, sick and injured. The desperation is palpable and people reach out to the warriors with every step, asking questions Apollo and crew have no direct answers for. Enter an old couple speaking in a foreign language no one seems to understand, but a convenient “Socialator” helps translate and all three are added to the wounded going to the Galactica. We hear about the Rising Star where there is apparently a surplus of everything. Calling in to find out what’s going on, the team receives only a vague acknowledgement and no real info.

Well, the Rising Star has lots of stuff, let’s go there and see.

During the trip, Starbuck and Cassiopia keep chatting, and we find out that the woman who didn’t like her belongs to a a weird sect that only allows physical contact between genders once every seven years and that’s why they don’t like Socialators, which we still don’t get an explanation of, but we’re meant to assume sex is involved.

Initial inspection on the Rising Star shows some signs of pluton poisoning, which breaks down the structure of food. (Bwa-ha-ha!) And we start to move on to higher levels.

A quick interlude on the Cylon base star where a centurion reports to the local Imperious Leader, telling of ships fleeing with the Battlestar Galactica. It’s told to deliver a message to Baltar: deliver the battlestar or deliver his head.

Back on the Rising star, Serina grabs him to go visit Boxey and Apollo gets him to cheer up a bit. Poor kid is still broken up about his lost dog daggit, and Apollo convinces him he’s going to be a fighter pilot some day. Since there are no daggits right now, Boxey will get the first one that comes along, but only if he’s good, does as he’s told, and eats his vegetables primaries. Clearly, with the looks passing between Apollo and Serina, we’ve got the beginning of a love story here.

But for now, we move on up to elite class in time to see Boomer draw his weapon on a security guard so the team can gain access to a private party and Apollo can and threaten to arrest Sire Uri. Instead they just confiscate most of the food from the greedy bastard’s party for redistribution. We also find out that Uri’s wife was “not in time to make the voyage”. Apollo makes an enemy here, but he’s done what he feels to be right, and doesn’t care that Uri is a newly elected member of the Council of 12.

Back at the ranch, Cassiopeia’s arm is healed by some kind of technological magic and CGI and she’s deliriously happy, even more so to find Starbuck waiting outside for her. A little gentle flirting and he offers to find her a bunk on the Galactica. Of course, she more or less tells him she would have taken him to bed so she could stay on board.

The Council of Twelve (a much pastier, whiter, older version than the original) likes the results of the long range patrols, that there’s no sign of pursuit, and Uri wants them to go to Boralis to resupply, which is surely a trap in Adama’s view. Apollo interrupts the council, suggests a new approach to Carelon – clearing a path for the fleet through the minefield with a couple of fighters, and he’ll do it practically blindfolded with laser torpedoes. The council loves the idea and outvotes Adama to make it happen. Without actually voting. Starbuck and Boomer don’t escape fast enough to avoid volunteering.

A little later, Apollo and Adama fight a little. Uri used to be a good guy, but those days are gone and now he’s a self-serving jerk. Apollo shakes up his dad a bit, trying to get him to refocus on the present, but he’s tired and worn out.

Another Boxey scene – let’s go visit Dr. Wilker and get a new mechanical daggit (I feel sorry for the guy in the daggit suit), Muffit 2, and the mechanical pet is an instant hit. And yes, romance is in the air, Apollo and Serina are very close already, nearly kissing in this scene.

Adama’s other surviving child comes to visit him. While Athena is much gentler than Apollo was, Adama is also much more depressed talking to her. He tells her about basically handing out lottery tickets to get on the ship, upset at what he’s seen and had to do, and he actually admits he’s ready to give up responsibility for the fleet. Having given everyone hope in the previous episode, he’s lost his own.

Meanwhile, Starbuck and Cassiopeia are hanging out, enjoying each other’s company, and shortly adjourn to a private launch tube to enjoy each other’s company. Of course, everywhere on Galactica has cameras and Athena almost accidentally tracks them down, providing them a steam bath for her amusement. It seems a bit vindictive considering she told him to go away at the end of part one.

Mission time!

The Nova Madigon, thoroughly mined by the Cylons, is a  super bright and hot star field. They’ll seal the cockpits and fly by instruments, clear with turbo lasers and some technological help from the Galactica! Must be a red alert, the lighting is all red.

Pew! Pew! With a little CGI mixed in and repeated while the cockpits get hotter and hotter as the star field slowly melts through the canopy shields of their fighters and the clearing a path “a hundred maxims wide”. In the background on the bridge, we get temperature readings and occasional medical readouts on the pilots. Well, heart rates, anyway.

And they make it through to Carelon! Everyone is happy, and maybe Adama isn’t so ready to give up and retire, sharing a firm Roman handshake with Tigh as they move into orbit.

Captain’s log… or Commander Adama’s personal journal, or something like that. Having made it through the mine field, he’s feeling better about their overall situation and sending ships down to mine and gather supplies. He doesn’t quite smile, but seems like he might think maybe there might be hope after all. Maybe.

Time for another Cylon interlude, with Baltar being brought before the Imperious Leader, Baltar is told he’s a screw up. No, you won’t get to be a despot over the remains of humanity and no we didn’t spare your colony. I now alter the bargain. (This is several years pre-Empire Strikes Back, so BSG did it first). So long as one human remains alive, the alliance remains threatened. (Wait. Alliance?) We thank you for your help, Baltar, but your  time is at an end.

But, in a clear, and not very subtle, edit (because in the cinematic release, Baltar dies here and now), as the centurion draws its sword, the leader stops it from beheading the traitor, deciding there will be a public execution.

Baltar before the almost execution.
Baltar after the almost execution.

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I used the same image twice. But in fairness, so did they.

And while it’s earlier than the TV experience would end part 2 at 1:15:26 into the story, this stopping point represents a much better break in the storyline.

Story and Characters

I feel like the writing is a little weaker in this second section of the super-long pilot episode. Not bad, exactly, though it has its moments. We’re ratcheting up the cute aspect with a little too much Boxey time and adding in the mechanical dog, but this is mostly an excuse to give the series’ main hero a love interest in Boxey’s mom, and Jayne Seymour is completely believable. Maybe they were trying to attract kids to the show, as if killer robots and space ships hadn’t been enough.

Once they knew it would go as a series and not just have to stand alone, the decision to not kill Baltar, a traitor brilliantly played by John Colicos, would give the series an ongoing big bad. I have the sneaking suspicion we’ll get to see him chew the scenery some more.

Sire Uri is a well-acted (by Ray Milland) slimy politician and poor excuse for a human being and tries to steal the scenes from Richard Hatch with some success, and oozes the fake charm.

I’m also not keen on the flying blind through the mine field and shooting only when the computer tells you to. Sure, it’s supposed to create a tension filled scene, but other than a few cuts back and forth from sweating pilots and tense faces on Galactica’s bridge, but it’s mostly just images of the same three CGI mines blowing up over and over. Perhaps I’m just spoiled.

 

 

The potential food shortage and not seeing to the wounded fast enough are both nice touches. With the remnants of the human race just struggling to stay ahead of the Cylons, both of these are reasonable. I would like to have seen the food shortage played up a little more. The human factor here would have gotten a lot more dramatic tension than the mine field.

Language

Since it is 1970s television, we start to slip a little more into the cheesy version of science fiction language now, not just with the odd alien name for something or a made up planet to talk about, but dropping more “Colonial” terms into things. These folks are human, but they’re not from Earth, so they should have their own terms for things, right? In the past half hour, though, we’ve had some silly ones. For a couple of egregious examples, we have Solium (something dangerous but present on all space ships) that can leak from something else, Pluton (a kind of poison that destroys food), and Maxims, a unit of distance. Large, but unspecified distance.

And it’s 1978, so we can’t swear at all on TV, so we have a substitute for all expressions of fecal disapproval: Felgarcarb! I loved this as a kid, along with Frack, which I don’t think we’ve heard yet, and it still amuses me once in a while. Use it in a sentence and there’s no question of what you mean.

What a pile of felgarcarb.

Who left this felgarcarb here?

Cut through the felgarcarb and get to what’s important. Which is more or less how Starbuck used it for an introduction, naturally and believably.

The Ships

The big addition to the standard ships is the boxy, but somehow still cool-looking shuttlecraft. It’s a neat looking ship, and I’m sure we’ll see the same looped footage of it taking off or landing from the regular landing bay as well as coasting along through space on its way somewhere. Reminds me a little of a box fish.

 

 

 

The Tech

Some of the tech could maybe be filed under 1970s SF TV language as well, stuff to sound cool without actually meaning anything. The reference laser torpedoes, which become turbo lasers just a little later in the episode, by Apollo during his speech to the Council springs to mind.

But there are a couple of other tidbits that spring to mind. While the displays and buttons we’ve seen so far are mostly to make things seem somewhat realistic or have the late 70s look of very basic pixelated graphics (which were rather expensive to produce at the time, and so were recycled many, many times), there are two things that are really interesting, technology-wise, in this part of the pilot, and both of them happen in the scene just before the story break point when Adama is doing his version of the Captain’s Log trope.

First, the thing he’s speaking into during the “log entry”.

The future is now

Right now, the idea of a cordless microphone is old and unexciting, so old and unexciting, a microphone with a cable attached is going to raise eyebrows instead of the other way around. But in 1978, there had probably only been a few on high-end game shows or maybe as a novelty at a rock concert or two. Adama is casually talking into a recording device that isn’t attached to anything. The future is here, at least for the colonials.

 

 

Even bigger, there seems to be a computer built into the top of his desk.

It’s a nice tea set, too.

It’s not a big computer and it’s not a busy computer, but the just the presence of it is impressive. The idea of a PC existed by then, but not as a consumer thing to be marketed for people’s homes, although that was only a couple of years away. In 1978, Adama having one in his personal quarters would have been huge for anyone who noticed it. A big signal of status and technology. Five years later, thousands of us would have computers in our homes and offices that would do a lot more, and ten years later, I’d be required to have one to go into undergraduate engineering, but that was still in the future, which meant BSG was giving us a glimpse of the shape of things to come in at least one way.

There’s also a lovely portrait of the Galactica, lit as if in an art gallery, in the background of this scene, and others in his quarters/office, but that doesn’t qualify as technology so much as décor, and that décor fits right in with Adama’s personality and the overall aesthetic of the show.

Final Notes

So while this middle piece of the crazy long pilot episode doesn’t have nearly so much action and story building in it, there is a lot of character building, particularly for the first family of the fleet. Adama, Apollo, and Athena all have major moments and emotional scenes. Athena a little less this time out, but one hopes that will change. We’ve already seen she can be both mature and petty. Maybe she’s more complex and realistic still. I’m sure we’ll find out more about her. Right now, we know Adama is feeling the weight of being a survivor and being in charge of the remnants of humanity, we know Apollo’s every action is to live up to the incredibly high standards he sets for himself, and we know Athena is competent but young.

We also know Starbuck is a live-in-the-moment kind of guy, Boomer is smart and capable, and they’re both at least as good at the piloting and warrior gig as their CO. Tigh is a Veteran with tremendous experience. Do we have other main characters yet? Not sure, but there’s still an hour of show left to finish with this episode.

Be well, everyone.

And try not to step in any felgarcarb.

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Lance
Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than two dozen stories published or on the way. 2019 is the year he dives into independent publishing, starting with "Thorvald's Wyrd", "Skip To My Luu", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.

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