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
The story with
(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!