Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“I didn’t know we were picking sides”

33, Water and Bastille Day

33 and Water always have been my absolute favourite episodes. That may change on second viewing of seasons 4 and 4.5 (Oh, the tension! Oh, the dramatic reveals! Oh, the sweet high definition!), but I think for now I am safe to say that these episodes hold a place in my heart as the hook that grabbed me into the BSG universe.

Yes, that’s right, 33 and Water were the hooks. Yes, the Mini-Series is excellent, yes, it grabs you hard and doesn't let go, but 33 and Water, sweet Water; they just squeeze...

Let’s compare. The Mini-Series is given the freedom of introducing you quickly (well, as quickly as a three hour long pilot needs to be forced) to a lot of characters and giving them tiny, teasing back-stories that you know may or may not be fleshed out later. It has to tell a lot of story in a limited time frame, and not just the event as it happens, but a brief history of this universe needs to be told for context. The Mini-Series is given the liberty of using dramatic effect to draw you in, just as much as it uses the story and characters. There is drama, suspense, action, excitement, story, and character, but the character part, by fault of the amount of story being crammed into three hours, is the part that slacks, if any part can be considered lacking. But BSG is a character-driven show, so 33 and Water are when you really start to fall in love.

The reveal of Sharon as a Cylon at the end of the Mini-Series is drawn out to perfection in Water, especially in relation to Head Six's comment about sleeper agents not even knowing they are Cylons, and yet acting out programming. Grace Park's performance as Boomer is phenomenal, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Boomer's character arc's consistency is what makes her one of my favourite characters in the show. I especially loved her tension in the Raptor when she and Crashdown find water - the twitch of her thumb on the detonator speaks volumes about her internal conflict of human/Cylon loyalties.

The story with Sharon and Helo on Caprica brings a different depth to both iterations of Boomer. Knowing that this Sharon is a Cylon and knowing that she knows that she is Cylon but is playing at being Boomer, and that Helo doesn't know that she is a Cylon or even that Cylons look like people (did you follow all that?) is dramatic irony at its finest. But the questions of her plans and motives are tantalizingly unknown, plus it leads us to wonder if Sharon on Galactica will act with the same assurance in her true identity as her counterpart does. Or, conversely, if Sharon on Caprica will have the same conflicting loyalties that Boomer has shown on Galactica.

(I must interject here to say that I am a huge fan of Tamoh Penikett’s Helo, and have been right from the start. Apparently the writers wanted to drop his storyline, with the implication that he died on Caprica, but viewers wanted to know what happened to him. Phew!)

Jeff has never been Starbuck’s biggest fan, much to my chagrin, because I have always found her deep and fascinating, not to mention a wonderful exercise in opposites – strong and yet adolescent, self-assured and yet fearful, beautiful and yet masculine. Now, knowing her entire storyline (just a tease, no real spoilers…) Jeff is feeling more like he can appreciate her character – flaws, irritations and all. I love the scenes when she and Lee approach the Olympic Carrier. She is delighted to send a warning shot across their bow, but balks with horror at actually shooting the ship down. But when push comes to shove, she is an officer, and obedient to her superior officers, and to the Old Man.

Bastille Day has never been my favourite episode; while I acknowledge the weight and importance of Tom Zarek to the arc of the series, it doesn’t mean I have to like him! It was interesting to note the reactions of those who had not seen the show; they thought Bastille Day was the best of the night. I can concede its importance to furthering the show’s deep and involved storyline. It introduces a number of ethical questions, and speaks to some realistic challenges that the fleet is going to face. They do need elections, they are a society, and they do need consistent and responsible politics. Not to mention the questions of food and water for 50,000 people. I think as a long-time fan of BSG I had taken for granted that the show asks the hard questions, and it was refreshing to be reminded that it is rare programming that isn’t afraid to challenge itself again and again.

I also really love the quiet and emotional introductions of the Memorial Hallway, and of President Roslin’s borderline obsession with updating the population count, both being constant touchstones of life in the fleet.

Overall, a gripping start!

Toaster Ratings:



Bastille Day:


  1. Great idea to track your re-watch, I'm super-jealous of all those first-timers you have watching the show with you. It's totally like that junkie chasing that first perfect high he got on the floor of that Gastown McDonald's. You'll remember it and search for it for the rest of your track-ridden days, but it just never will be the same. I remember sitting around my parent's place with absolutely nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon and throwing the mini-series in the deck because it beat another three-hour session of Mario Kart with my little sister. Mini-series was pretty sweet, enough to make me regret poo-poohing it for a good two years ("Starbuck has a vagina, man! What`s up with that?!" Which in hindsight is so very wrong because there are exactly zero redeeming qualities to the original Mormon-tested Dirty 70's Swinger-approved BSG. Unless you count that it was indirectly responsible for the death of a pretty stupid child...) and definitely wanting another taste. Then, hay-presto! '33' drops and without engaging in any hyperbole, it's like being sucked off by an angel, man. The rest of the weekend is shot and by 4 am Sunday morning I'm rifling through the sofa cushions on the off chance somebody dropped some season 2 on dvd between the cracks. So, uh, yeah. Savour it, new guys. Socio-politico space opera don't come better than this. Always goes down smooth. And make sure to savour BECAUSE IT WILL NEVER BE THIS GOOD EVER AGAIN.

    Love Helo. The Helo-on-the-run 'B' story really makes the first season, I don't think it would have nearly the depth if you don't have those cuts to Caprica popping up in every episode and showing that sliver of life on the colonies post-fall. If Lee is BSG's conscience and Starbuck it's passion, Helo has to be Galactica's soul and that really shine through in the first couple of seasons. You're pretty much bang-on about Grace Park and the smooth consistency of her character arc, but I'd add one wrinkle: she's actually not that great at the beginning, but by the end of the season she's knocking it out of the park on a regular basis and proving that at it's core, this is a show about couples.

  2. I have to agree about Grace Park. I almost cringed at some of her delivery in the mini-series. Perhaps knowing how fantastic she becomes lets me give her the benefit of the doubt in the beginning.

    Love your conscience/passion/soul analogy.

  3. Now that I think about it...I didn't like her at all in the beginning! I perceived her as little more as an exotic AZN piece of cheesecake for the pasty nerds populating the coastal metropolises of the U.S. than a character that warranted any kind of interest on my part. Then the acting lessons kicked in (I have no idea if there was an equivalent bump in her 'Edgemont' performances. Aside: guess who was the heart-throb lead on that show? JAMMER!) and the amazing character arc drops and she becomes one of my favourite characters. Go fig.