Battlestar Galactica season 2 episode 9 review: Flight Of The Phoenix

Cabin fever abounds aboard Battlestar Galactica: but The Chief has got a plan...

2.9 Flight Of The Phoenix

A nice little episode this, and one that once more highlights the sheer level of cabin fever that’s affecting the crew of the Galactica. Flight Of The Phoenix starts off with tensions aplenty, with a fight kicking off in the hangar bay, and it’s perfectly clear that the mood on board is not good. It’s unsurprising, given how long the crew have been fighting what must appear to be a hopeless cause, and with nothing but the ongoing routine to focus on, Battlestar Galactica takes an episode to really investigate just what that’s doing to morale. Not a lot, as you might guess.

But then there’s The Chief. He, to be fair, has had more reason than most to be fed up, what with his constant shenanigans with Sharon before she was revealed to be a Cylon, and before he met the current version, who’s carrying Helo’s baby. There’s a Jerry Springer show full of emotions there, but Chief Tyrol rarely comes across as an overtly emotional man.

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He thus focuses his energies on a project, which starts out as something quickly dismissed by his crew around him. But basically, he decides to build a new fighter. There’s a degree of leap of faith to this, I thought, given how scarce resources are, and the show does ask you to buy that most of the parts he needs could easily be salvaged from other wrecks, and such like. It’s not that it’s implausible, just a bigger ask then I’m used to getting from BSG.

Anyway, this fighter is sneered at by Tigh, ignored by most, and even Adama sees it as little more than a hopeless cause, albeit one that could focus the energies of the crew. Gradually though, throughout the episode, more and more come aboard the project, until it seems most of the main characters have a hand in it somewhere.

That said, there’s another major problem, and it’s an overspill from Tigh’s decision earlier in the season to network the ship’s computers. A Cylon virus infected the system at that point, although it’s been revealed to have laid dormant until now. That’s unsurprising, given that it’s a heuristic virus, one that’s been learning all the ship’s systems, protocols and nooks and crannies. This is the bit where it finally gets properly switched on.

This manifests itself with systems starting to malfunction, the still-festering Starbuck and Apollo nearly suffocating, and it soon becomes clear that the destruction of the fleet is but hours away. Baltar and Gaeta are on the case to try and fix it, by deleting everything and starting again – the Galactica equivalent of switch it off and on! – appears to be the best tactic.

Interestingly, Adama recruits in extra help, as he orders Sharon/Boomer from the brig. The mechanic here continues to mature, as it’s just a few episodes ago that the Commander tried to kill her. Here, he realises that he’s got no choice but to bring in her help. It’s she that explains the virus, and it’s ultimately her that beats it. She does thus by plugging herself into the computer – which struck me as a little daft, but again, not implausible – and sending a virus back to the massive Cylon fleet that is currently advancing in formation. This renders the Cylons powerless, and the Viper pilots take great glee in blasting the helpless foes out of the sky. There’s no mercy here, that’s for sure.

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Furthermore, there’s a further thread ready for a future episode, as Adama at least seems to have some respect for Sharon now, given that she’s killed hundreds of her own people. I’m still taken by the words of Number 6 in describing her, though, when she said that she always achieves her goal. What’s the long game for Sharon here, and where will her baby fit in?

The episode, more self-contained than usual, ends on a touching note, as Tyrol’s ship is eventually complete, courtesy of some last minute help from converted cynic Helo. He suggests a carbon composite skin for the ship, and all of a sudden, Galactica has itself a stealth fighter.

That fighter is duly named Laura, in honour of the president, and this reminded me that I’d not really talked about Mary McDonnell yet. There are plenty of standout performances in BSG, but hers is surely one of the finest. A measured, often-still but very considered performance, the fact that she’s dying seems never far from her face, but she puts across the character of a slightly flawed but well-intentioned leader exceptionally well.

Next? It’s Pegasus. Who knows just what fit will hit the shan there…. 

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