Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Battlestar Galactica 4.5 Review: Ep 3 The Oath


Let us look through a glass darkly and imagine a world where this could happen.

You’re in a pressure cooker with disaster staring you in the face, your dreams dashed, no future, social meltdown. The foreigners in your midst who were once your friends, partners, workmates are now the enemy and have to be destroyed. It’s us or them.

Yup, that’s either us on Planet Earth 2009 or the 39,643 survivors of the human race in the Battlestar Galactica fleet who have started killing each other.

Just as a new era of brother and sisterhood promises to dawn rosily, wouldn’t you know it, fear-fuelled bigotry feeds the demagogues and triggers an uprising that may end in auto-extinction of the species. The four crew who have recently discovered they are the Final Cylons — Colonel Saul Tigh, Chief Galen Tyrol, Lt Sharon “Athena” Agathon, and Ensign Samuel Anders — find themselves personae non grata, and prevented from boarding the fleet’s ships without permission.

This is inconvenient as, with trillium fuel running out, Six has promised the fleet valuable FDL drives. The Quorum parliament is told to toe the line by Admiral Adama’s military leadership desperate for the superior Cylon technology.

Vice President Tom Zarek turns into Dennis Kearney and whips up anti-Cylon hatred into a militant uprising by the civilians and sections of the military led by Lt Felix Gaeta against the interlopers. He uses the “Will of the People” to justify murder and a power grab with the help of Gaeta, bitter about the loss of his leg, effectively rendered by CGI.

All before the opening credits.

In The Oath, Episode 3 of the final series, the pressure is piled on relentlessly as terror of Cylon sabotage become self-fulfilling. You can't miss the irony of the fact that the great destruction they seek to avoid is actually coming from themselves, rotting them from within as the humans lose their humanity and the Cylons gain theirs. Old ties are broken, lovers betrayed. Even ex-girlfriends can’t be trusted. Sam Anders is captured by Diana and her team of kidnappers, bashed up and thrown in the brig.

Athena and her daughter are seized and her human husband, Helo, brutally beaten. One mutineer tells Helo, “You backed the skin-job against your own kind” and threatens to rape his “sweet toaster wife”. For the next few minutes I was transfixed by the image of his big-brain stuck in my four-slice. Driving home that this is an assault on all that is precious and even The Family isn't safe, they are jailed along with Sam and Six.

A former comrade tells Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, "No-one knows what you are any more". Hey, I told you I identified with Starbuck.

On the Colonial One ship, civilians are tooling up. The old lefty call to arms “whose side are you on?” is now a reactionary rallying cry. Lee Adama, still in the civilian government, is isolated and concerned for his father. Zarek tells Lee, “Honour thy father and be true to your oath” can no longer work when stakes and passions are this high. They fear, not without reason, that Adama’s experiment in democracy is about to end, but the means by which they are challenging his rule is about to result in the fascism they are desperate to avoid.

Kara saves Lee Adama from a murderous rebel crew. But all five Cylons are now in danger.

Back in the brig, Six, pregnant with Tigh’s baby, observes that “the thought that the Cylon race can survive through natural procreation terrifies them”. Their world is so frakked that making love is making war.

On the Galactica, Gaeta’s rebel troops kill Adama’s staff on the bridge. Justifying his actions to a horrified Adama, Gaeta asks why has he worked so faithfully all these years only to take orders from a Cylon.

The fleet tears itself apart. Headless chickens come home to roost and run around shooting each other. Metaphors are mangled, that's how bad it gets. Who’ll retain their integrity? Who’ll panic? Who will abandon their humanity and give in to base instincts? Almost everyone who isn’t a Cylon or already in power, that's who. Is this what the makers of the series envisage? That faced with economic meltdown, environmental disaster on a shrinking planet, and everything else that comes with it, this is how we will respond? It's a gloomy warning we could do with heeding. But why change that habit of a couple of million years?

Gaius Baltar’s base instinct is to leave his adoring harem and run for cover. President Laura Roslin appeals to Baltar’s sense of self-preservation and gets his wireless communication. They both know they are frauds and this is their chance to atone. Bursts of music transmitted deep into the psyches of the entire crew, the same that heralded the revelation to the Final Five Cylons of their true identity, hold out the promise that everyone might eventually recognise their common humanity and stop frakking around. Huh! That'll be the day.

President Roslin broadcasts an appeal: Reject those traitors who would use your fear of the Cylons. She’s cut off before she can finish. Baltar calls Gaeta and reminds him of “our little secret” hidden away. Having forgotten what this is, I can only imagine Gaius has Felix's leg stowed away as some sort of pervy memento.

Tigh and Adama have overpowered their captors and joined forces with Kara and Tyrol. Tyrol arranges an escape craft, but escape to where? Claustrophobia mounts, danger closes in. Will President Roslin, Baltar, Lee, and Kara escape in the Raptor? Gaeta, fully aware of who’s likely to be on the craft, orders it to be destroyed. Tigh and Adama — Cylon and human — stay to fight side by side to the bitter end.

And there we must leave it until next week's exciting instalment of "It's Us, Really!"

BSG Season 4.5 Episode 1 review
BSG Season 4.5 Episode 6 review


Rabbi Lars Shalom said...

read here, for end of world 2003

Phil BC said...

An excellent episode. Loving it much.

Still can't see how they're going to sort all this mess out!