Battlestar Galactica season 1 episode 3 review: Bastille Day

Simon continues his adventure through Battlestar Galactica from scratch, and finds the pace slips slightly...

3. Bastille Day

Probably the weakest episode I’ve encountered this far, Bastille Day sees the crew of Battlestar Galactica in the aftermath of the discovery of water. The problem? The pure water required is found in ice, that’s going to need to be melted down in conditions that could best be described as ‘hazardous;.

It’s quickly determined that it’s going to take around 1000 men to tackle the work, and thus attention switches to the prison ship, the Astral Queen. Billy, Apollo, Dualla and Cally are thus sent to the ship to ask for the prisoners’ help in return for freedom credits.

There’s no Cylon attack to worry about this episode, with the only overt appearance of them being the one in Baltar’s head (who’s switched to a natty new outfit, and manages to persuade Baltar to ask for a nuclear warhead), and the Cylons that are watching Helo and the Caprica version of Boomer (she’s doing well, they note). Instead, this is an episode more about the conflicts within humanity itself.

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That manifests itself in the shape of prisoner Tom Zarek, played by Richard Hatch. I’m no expert on the first BSG, but even I know he played Apollo in the original series, and it’s good to have him in the new show. Zarek is a radical, who has been imprisoned, and it’s fair to say he’s not happy about it. He refuses, effectively on behalf of the prisoners, Apollo’s offer for freedom credits in exchange for the work extracting the water. Apollo shows himself to be sympathetic to Zarek’s thinking, having even read his book, but that is quickly put to one side when the prisoners take control of the Astral Queen.

I found that part unconvincing, to be honest. I couldn’t really see how it was so simple for them to take charge, but as it happened, it was over in a flash. Then you had a run through one or two prison clichés, not least the intimidation of Cally.

Commander Adama orders the inevitable storming of the ship, and things eventually come to a head when Apollo saves Zarek from Starbuck’s sniper bullet. This then all leads to an ending where Apollo commits to holding elections at the end of President Roslin’s term of office in seven months. Roslin ultimately confides in him that she has cancer, and won’t be living that long anyway.

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The main thrust of the narrative of the episode was fine, but after the sheer intensity of 33 and Water, it did feel like the foot was taken off the proverbial gas a little. That said, there were still some nice little side moments here.

BSG Boomer is still fretting about the missing explosives being linked back to her, but it’s the scenes with Starbuck and Tigh that are the most fun. Their relationship is far from cordial, and to the credit of the show, you can clearly understand why.

Apollo, meanwhile, is conflicted. As Commander Adama puts it, he simply hasn’t chosen his sides yet. He’s advising President Roslin on the military, but still sees his place as part of the fleet.

I’m interested to see anyway how often the character of Zarek will pop back up – the episode clearly has planted a seed there, and already, I’m wondering just how things will pan out.

Next? It’s Act Of Contrition. And just a handful of episodes in, I’m really kicking myself for not having tackled Battlestar before…

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