Battlestar Galactica season 4 episode 11 highlights and impressions

Battlestar Galactica soars back onto our screens, Daniel checks out the first episode of BSG's final run...

Galactica's back for the final act.

Battlestar is more than just a soap opera set in space, in fact so far removed is it from its camp disco-era predecessor that someone should invent that flashy thing from Men in Black just so that the original should be forever wiped from our collective brains. You see, whilst it may be set in space and follow mankind’s epic voyage across the galaxy in search of Earth and refuge from their Cylon aggressors; Battlestar Galactica offers one of the most realistic examinations of real life humanity on television today. We’ve had biological weapons, political backstabbing, even suicide bombers and now on the fleet’s discovery of an irradiated planet Earth, the writers seem to have captured the sombre mood that currently grips the world (although I expect this wasn’t deliberately planned).

The show’s return after an all too lengthy absence does not come with the crash and bang of epic space battles or hand to hand combat with rogue toasters that you might expect. Instead it bleakly creeps its way back onto screens, assaulting our psyche at every opportunity. If episode 10 was a bleak reminder that we should never have even encouraged the notion of a happy ending, then episode 11 gradually eats away at any and all remaining hope that we may have had left. It was a beautifully depressing instalment, which Louis has already given a recap for elsewhere on the site, so I thought I would pick out some of my personal highlights and look at some of the ‘what the frak?’ revelations:

Do not adjust your set… Honest to gods, at one point during the episode I had to check my TV was working properly because I thought the picture had gone to black and white. So drained of colour and bleached of life was each and every frame that it became impossible to do anything but enter into a state of near depressive empathy with the Galactica crew and if it wasn’t for the colourful jowls of a Churchill advert I might just have thrown myself out of the nearest airlock.

DeeIs one of my constants. Alongside Dr Cottle and Mr Gaeter, her presence in Galactica command steadies the ship, offering reassurance no matter how many dradis contacts. Imagine my horror then as she breaks down, going on one final date with her ex husband, kissing him goodnight before nostalgically humming as she takes off her jewellery before suddenly and quite savagely blowing her brains out. It was a brutal attack on the audience’s psyche as we were drawn into a moment of hope before it is quite literally blown away. It was a genuine WTF moment which left me honestly knocked back topping off the previous emotional turmoil expressed by President Roslin, Adama and even the Cylons themselves.

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Adama’s long tracking shotDee’s death and the heartbreak it brings sets up one of the most powerful shots of the episode, and for my rations pack, the entire show to date. As Adama, overcome by grief, despair and whiskey takes a sidearm and staggers his way to Saul’s quarters for a suicidal showdown. The agonising journey lasts no longer than a minute, but felt like an hour for a viewer who, like the crew of the Galactica, were reeling from the impact of Earth’s discovery. Kudos to the director for picking such a bold approach to a crucial moment in this season premiere.

Cylons, Starbuck and the final fiveUltimately, the show is about revelations and crucially we find out that Earth was inhabited solely by Cylons meaning that somewhere along the line the final five have lost 2000 years of their lives…how careless, Starbuck did indeed die when her Viper disappeared and Saul’s wife is the final Cylon. Being such monumental reveals, you’d expect them to be blasted at the viewer with all the subtlety of plywood. Yet, at times I had to doubletake as the revelations were gently leaked out. Starbuck’s discovery of her own body and the questions it raises was particularly well handled with a haunting sequence of her building a funeral pyre for her own remains. Again, beautifully shot and supremely acted this is another example of what makes BSG such a pleasure to watch and why I’m constantly impressed by a show, which just shouldn’t be as good as it actually is.

Roll on episode 12…

20 January 2009