Battlestar Galactica, we love you. Battlestar Pegasus; well, my mind’s not entirely made up, to be honest. Since the off, Galactica has been the plucky little underdog, overpowered by its enemies. It has also had a fair share of politicking, which keeps things interesting. So what did Pegasus ever have?
That’s what this look back at life aboard the ship is supposed to deal with. But it also has added problem that as this story fits into a universe we have already seen, we know that there aren’t going to be big fat surprises. We know who is going to die. Even characters who we have barely met before, like the Number Six we have previously seen held prisoner in series two, we can quickly fill in the blanks with our fan-brains as soon as they appear on screen (Cain’s a lesbian; Six is the ‘easy like Sunday morning’ model; Cain hates the Six by the time she turned up in series two. Go figure.)
By all rights, that should mean that all that is left is the barest dot-to-dot work. And that does prove to be the case at times. There are several plots at work, including the rather guffy young Adama back story (covered in the webisodes we talked about yesterday), and young Cain, which was downright unnecessary.
The two main stories follow Pegasus as it escapes the Cylons’ first strike and try to attack the Cylon fleet; and simultaneously traces the rise and fall of Cain’s underling Shaw as Pegasus is painfully forced to fit into the rest of the fleet, circa series two.
Confused? You should be. The risk is that the story that has to be built up independently of Galactica collapses under its own unintelligibility, such as Shaw’s last mission to trip off to a basestar to rescue a science team.
This special was instead on its best form when it was up to new tricks. Michelle Forbes does a cracking job of building up an alternative leadership style to Adama, and watching her escalate from compassionate boss to one-woman junta is fascinating. The cowardly Fisk, assuming XO-status over his freshly-shot comrade, also fleshes out a passing character from the past. Shaw is far less charismatic, and much less of a balance to Starbuck, than she was probably intended to be. But that was probably the only case of casting to copy what has gone before it.
So the casting was all good, but they frankly had nowhere to go. In the absence of being able to spin their own ending, what we already know (or didn’t need to know) was dressed up with gee-whizz space effects. That covers not just the destruction of the Scorpion space docks, but also several battles that seem to happen apropos of nothing. It hits the height of fanwankery right before the young Adama flashbacks, when we encounter old-school Cylons for the first time in the reimagined series, and Baltar, Sharon and the virtual Six are all dragged out for their token appearances. It’s too much to take in for little end result.
Still, I should stress that this is judging Battlestar by its own ridiculously high standards. So much of what it has brought to the screen, like slow-burning plots and straight-talking dialogue is still alive and well. Plus it is good to see Pegasus pensioned off properly (although, watching the ship one last time, was I the only one confused by the unlogic behind the CIC’s doors? That’s not going to be very helpful in a power failure, is it?)
In sum, the whole of Razor is indeed little more than the sum of its parts, but they are pretty nifty parts to begin with. There was the potential for it to have turned out far worse than it did. Fingers crossed that the same goes for series four in a few months time.