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October 29, 2006

Battlestar Galactica - Collaborators

Click for larger imageI had to sleep on this episode before writing because, as always, the BSG writers have layered the episode with so many questions that first blush doesn't grasp what one later recalls.

We now find the remnants of humanity three days out from their exodus off New Caprica. But don't think that all is status quo from their last season. When an initial crisis is past and a moment of calm is achieved, human condition is to immediately look at who to blame and who to punish.

And we don't always get it right.

The episode opens in the most chilling manner with Jammer, a peripheral character from last season who has figured more prominently in the summer webcasts and in the opening episodes of this season, on his knees in the launch tube. He is surrounded by six grim-faced people, including Anders, Tyrol and Tigh, solemnly pronoucing judgment on him as a traitor. Certainly, what we have known of Jammer is he is not evil, but has been more idealistic and naive. However, he is being held by the six as quilty for participating in a cylon-backed raid that killed women and children and even his freeing of Cally at the gravel pit was too little, too late. He is still begging at the window when the outter doors of the launch tube are open and he is sucked out into space.

When Anders - disallusioned by his participation on the Jury of Six - confronts Kara who has been recruited to replace him, she has a small speech that encapsulates not only this episode but the internal logic of the BSG writers. Kara tells her husband that the last four months have changed her, changed everything, as if the world were painted in different colors.

Things change in BSG, not for the sake of change, but by how people are forced to change, either rising to occassions or falling to them.

One of my old-time faves, a big-screen, gaudy, over-the-top Hollywood movie is The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses. Even as the Jews flee from Egyptian slavery, they squabble amongst themselves. Dathan, who had been an overseer, consistently gnaws at their morale "is it not better to be slaves in Egypt then to die in the desert?" In another scene, with Moses gone, the Jews fall to making idols, quarreling and generally acting like fools. It is a movie that illustrates humanities tendency to want to follow the easiest path, its refusal to face the hard questions, its willingness not to think beyond the now.

BSG presents the same kind of universality. Tom Zarek, like Baltar, presented the face of the opportunist to the audience. A man who seemed to wear his commitment to ideals like a campaign jacket. He had been a constant thorn to Adama and Roslin. Yet, we find out this season he had refused to cooperate with Baltar and the Cylons and spent the four months as hostage. We are whipsawed this episode alone, first admiring his realization that he cannot remain as President without Adama's cooperation, then realizing he's behind the vigilante group Jury of Six, and then, in the final confrontation with Roslin, Zarek is fully correct in his assessment of the situation.

In a particularly masterful scene, Roslin is appalled at actions Zarek has taken, but Zarek seems to have a better grasp of humanity than she does. He challenges her, saying that the alternative she proposed, of open-ended trials would turn neighbor on neighbor, of false charges of "collaboration" leveled to settle personal scores, of an all consuming factional bloodbath that would tear the fragile coalition of remaining humans apart. Roslin's face changes from righteous anger to dawning comprehension. Zarek is right. He's not trying to "hold power" but was attempting to weed out the worst of the worst collaborators, take care of them, and then take full reponsibility for it upon himself ... to turn over the government to Roslin with no blood on her hands. Roslin cannot help but realize that Zarek is just as committed to seeing humanity survive as she is, and she knows she herself has done things less than principled for the same goal.

The episode ends with Roslin sworn in as President and in seeking a general reconciliation with the people anounces a general amnesty.

Yet, we know the dark blood borne of the Cylon occupation is not over. Tigh is just this side of insane and Kara is pregnant with a black hole of twisted despair.

I'm sure we'll witness yet more changes as we continue along with these tribes of humans wandering across the desert of space.

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Posted by Darleen at October 29, 2006 08:06 AM


I feel that the producers' ability to understand human nature is the main reason the show is so good. You are correct that people change because they are forced to change by circumstance.

I was explaining to my 14-year old that reprisals are the natural consequence of an occupation, using the example of France in 1944. Lo and behold, there is Jamie Bamber saying the same thing.

This show is hard to predict because it relies on insights into human nature, which itself, while identifiable, varies not only from individual to individual, but from moment to moment for an individual.

Posted by: Chris at October 30, 2006 07:59 AM


Re: 1944 France.

You're absolutely right. I kept thinking about the American occupation of France right after WWII ... lots of French citizens turned on their neighbors. I can remember seeing film clips and pics of them dragging women out into the street and shaving their heads.

America came under heavy criticism from the French later because we suspended French currency, employed some ex-Vichy members and suspended French civilian courts for a time. But France had factional elements that would have gone into civil war if we hadn't.

Posted by: Darleen at October 30, 2006 08:36 AM

- That socialism thing has worked out really well for the French. Apparently they're also just entering an election cycle, and the people in a show of solidarity with the government, are sacrificing to save on the cost of paper ballots by simply burning their apartments. This comes on the heels of last years efforts to save the government on the high costs of oil , another sacrifice to cut down on driving by burning their cars. Isn't Socialism wonderful?

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at October 30, 2006 08:57 AM