Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worst Galactica ever

I don't know what it is about Battlestar Galactica, but the series really seems to have gotten off its game since the whole "New Caprica" story arc. I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the series and story decisions because of chronic inattention to details, so maybe that's why I haven't soured on it as much as others have in season three. Still, if they have many more stinkers like tonight's "Woman King," I'm outta here.

What was so bad about it? I missed the first minute or so, but apparently one of the ships of the fleet carrying refugees from the Saggitaron colony broke down, and the Galactica had to take them on. The Saggitarons, conveniently enough, are religious types who disavow modern medicine, so naturally they come down with a contageous and deadly disease. The civilian doctor assigned to treat them secretly hates Saggitarons, and begins covertly killing them. Helo, assigned to manage the refugees, figures this out early on, but none of his superiors believe him.

Geeze. Where to begin? This episode fails on several fundamental levels. Battlestar Galactica, at its best, succeeds for the same reasons the original Star Trek holds up so well today--it functions as an effective allegory of complex moral issues facing contemporary society. The moral quandaries set up often have no "good" resolution, merely outcomes of varying degrees of lesser evil. When it became clear the overcrowded refugees were being killed by the doctor, I perked up. It looked, however briefly, that the show was going to tackle the hopeless situation that developed in the hospitals of New Orleans a year ago during Hurricane Katrina. Several doctors and nurses--apparently believing help wasn't coming (it wasn't) and that many of their patients were terminal and suffering (deep moral conundrum there) began administering lethal doses of medication. Other physicians knew this was happening and refused to participate--but at the same time didn't intervene to stop it.

Only that's not what Galactica did tonight. No, the physician was killing them because he was racist, and other, "better" Colonists deserved the medicines and resources these Saggitarons were consuming. This is a message which is both puerile and nonsensical. "Ooh! Racism bad!" is as inane and ham-fisted as any message can be in this day and age, but the cardinal sin here is that they weren't even dealing with racism. It was clearly shown--several times, in fact--that the Saggitarons are a multiracial people, with black and white members of their society, and presumably others. What binds them together and gives them social identity isn't race, but rather cultural beliefs. "Culturism" itself could've been a very interesting avenue to pursue, but the writers chose not to explore that aspect of the scenario.

Not that it mattered, since the framework of the plot fell into a timeworn web of Hollywood cliches. Cast Helo as the lone, outcast scientist in any disaster movie and you see where I'm going with this. The officer placed in charge comes up with serious concerns, and suddenly everyone from Colonel Tigh and Admiral Adama to the janitor are questioning his competence and defending this civilian doctor. A civilian doctor the viewers have never seen before, but we're assured time again that he's "a stand-up guy" who "patched up Tigh's eye" on New Caprica. In short, he's a borderline "Mary Sue" character, cut from whole cloth and thrust upon the viewer. The story only functions as it does because it is an idiot plot, in that the narrative would cease as soon as Adama, Tigh or any other authority figure would stop acting like idiots and simply check the facts. In fact, the episode would end almost as soon as it began if the idiot Saggitaron refugees would explain why they fear this particular doctor, rather than scurry off muttering "I've said too much already."

And really, people. Enough with the cigarettes already. If the Galactica's struggling so hard just to produce enough food for the people in the fleet, scarce resources aren't going to be allocated grow tobacco. I don't care how prevalent of a black market you have, what little tobacco someone manages to sprout under illicit grow-lights in an unused broom closet on hangar deck B is going to be a mighty rare and expensive thing. No more smoke-wreathed card games and bars, please!

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  1. Chris Gerrib10:54 AM

    Yeah, this was terribly disappointing. Here's my problem - Helo has done no end of things to defy Adama, including (in the "bonus" scene at the end of the broadcast) killing the plague-infected Cylons. Why is he still in a position of authority?

    In a real military, somebody would bust his ass down to private and he'd be swabbing a deck somewhere.

  2. i don't think you understand the show. they are making the show relevant according to what is happening in the world today. after i realized that, the show started making more sense.

    last night the show was about hate. killing something you hate for no good reason, except the hate.

    Helo had to wrestle with his morals when he decided he couldn't allow genocide. I think they are bringing up a debate we have been having. Should we torture, do our enemies have rights and should we treat them like we want to be treated?

    Finally, is hate valid? The fundamentalists might be wrong and stupid. But, is hate and death the right course? I think we are finding out through a little show, how hate, war, torture and every possible conflict under the sun, relate to our lives in the real world. At first, I wanted the fantasy to be the furthest from reality it could be, then when I realized what they were doing, I appreciated it much more. The boxing episode didn't do much for the story arc. But it made me think about love and attraction. Do or can Cylons love? Can they go crazy? Can they have mental problems? Why is Six seeing Baltar in her head? Are cyclons okay to kill because they are not human? Is it okay to wipe out their whole culture and life? Do they cyclons have similar thoughts?


  3. Nah, Battlestar Galactica has got the ghey.

  4. "last night the show was about hate. killing something you hate for no good reason, except the hate."

    If so, then Battlestar's far more hopeless than I'd initially thought. What next? An episode about badness? To drive home the point that being bad for badness' sake is bad?

    No, my friend, I'm afraid the "Woman King" episode (and talk about irrelevant titles!) was about racism and genocide. The way they approached it might've been relevant in 1942, but sort of falls into the "no shit" category these days. They weren't even gutsy enough to take it into Rwanda or Darfur territory. Instead they resort to a two-dimensional bad guy in order to wrap things up in a nice, neat bow inside of 60 minutes.

    Battlestar Galactica should never have a nice, neat anything.

  5. racism and genocide do appear to be part of the show in many episodes.

    an episode about badness? wasn't that how it all started?pank1