Battlestar Galactica season 1 episode 6 review: Litmus

Unrest and rumours, the return of Doral and time to break news of the Cylons. We continue our adventures with Battlestar Galactica...

6. Litmus

The law of the recap suggests that if a character appears in it whom we haven’t seen do much for a few episodes, that we know it’s going to be their turn in the limelight. And so it turns out in Litmus, as tour guide Aaron Doral reappears on Galactica amongst a group of civilians. It’s a copy of Doral, of course, who we found out in the pilot was a Cylon, and he manages, conveniently, to get into the small arms locker, take out a Marine and load himself up with explosives. Tigh notices something suspicious, but by then, it’s too late: as he and Adama close in on the Doral clone, it detonates the explosives on his person.

This is, of course, a consequence of the decision to keep the rumours that Cylons can take human form unconfirmed from the rest of the fleet. Forced into a corner on the matter, both Adama and President Roslin conclude that the time has, indeed, come. The news inevitably has an unnerving effect, but not one that’s really explored in this episode.

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Instead, the main thrust of the episode is an investigation by Sergeant Hadrian into the breach of security that led to the bombing, and she’s given the necessary authority to follow things up as she chooses. Her investigation starts gradually, as Chief Tyrol’s crew all cover for him, coming up with different stories to explain his whereabouts. Tyrol, at the time, was getting, ahem, ‘friendly’ with Boomer, as part of their relationship that appears to be the worst kept secret on Galactica. In spite of being ordered by Tigh to stop, the two keep going.

And the pair prove to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The leaving open of a hatchway was crucial in allowing Doral to execute his plan, and it turns out that Boomer had used it. You don’t have to work hard to piece things together there.

Hadrian, therefore, is soon on the Chief’s case, and he continues to insist that he was in bed at the time of the explosion. He ultimately invokes the 23rd article of colonisation, which basically amounts to his right to silence. Instead, one of his men, Socinus, ends up taking the fall for him, and by the time Tyrol steps up and confesses to Adama what’s going on, Socinus is banged up in the brig. Adama, interestingly, refuses to overturn the decision, insisting that Socinus pays the price for his lying to the investigation. Tyrol’s price, he adds, is his conscience realising that it’s his actions that have put Socinus there. You see? That’s quality writing and thinking right there, and as usual, BSG is all the better for it.

The best part of all of this for me was when Adama stepped in front of the tribunal and told them to leave his ship. Not for the first time, Battlestar Galactica has a point to make here, and Adama declares that their investigation is a witch hunt, pure and simple. But it gets its result, as President Roslin releases Socinus’ name to the press.

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On the surface of Caprica, things get a little more intriguing, too. The three Cylons, including Boomer, spend much of the time monitoring Helo, and wondering just what he’s going to do next. Has Boomer done her job well enough, and made him fall for her? Eventually, it’s seen that she has, although exactly what they have in store for Helo isn’t yet clear.

The need for political scapegoating has clearly had an influence on the writing here, and for a show that I thought would consistently be about dealing with an alien threat, it once again turns the spotlight on the humans themselves. Granted, there’s a decent amount of Cylon presence in the episode, but you’d be hard pressed to conclude they were the major foe here, which appears to be an ongoing theme.

Next? Dr Baltar steps into the spotlight in Six Degrees Of Separation