BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - 'The Road Less Traveled'

(Gratuitous shot of Tamoh Penikett for all us gaylords...hurrah!)


SkyHD - 6th May 2008 - 9.00pm

Somewhat worthy and mediocre, this week's episode spent rather a looooonnnnnnnnggggggg time gazing at various navels. Obviously, the sub-plots are going to pay off eventually but why are they taking so damn long doing it. Don't they know this is the last season, for frak's sake. Get moving!

The really frustrating thing about this season is that whilst it's pacing is almost stationary (someone's removed the Galactica's spark plugs, I'm convinced) the actors are getting their teeth into some very dramatic stuff. I'm pleased for them because many of them are extremely good at this existential sort of thing.

'The Road Less Traveled' focuses mainly on the Shit Ship (no other way to describe the Demetrius), an extremely strung out Kara Thrace (she'll definitely need two bottles when she gets in the shower with her mucky hair) and her grumpy crew. There is mutiny in the sweaty air as no signs of Earth have yet shown up. Kara's getting incredibly frenzied in her painting and decorating and is determined to be proved right. Whilst out scouting, the wreck of a Cylon raider pops up and inside is that wonderful psychopath Leoben. The game this week is to try and work out if Leoben is telling the truth about his vision of a convergence of Cylons and humans or whether he's leading them all into a trap. One of the crew is wasted whilst exploring the wreck of the raider and Thrace becomes even more paranoid as the crew decide enough is enough. Katee Sackhoff is excellent at this wits end performance, and her interplay with Callum Keith Rennie is suitably creepy and violent. But when it comes down to jumping to meet the crippled Cylon base stars, the crew bail out and refuse to go. And we are also left wondering if Leoben recognises Anders as one of the Final Five...

Once more the series explores the inadequacies of Kara actually measuring up to the iconic figure that people think she is. She finds it hard to think of herself as any good at all with this searching for Earth business and obviously is getting quite upset about it. Another one who is crying into his dinner is poor old Chief Tyrol. He just can't take being a Cylon and a further sign of his deterioration is a trip to the barbers and a number zero with the clippers. As Baltar preaches his monotheism schtik over the airwaves, Tyrol reaches the bottom when it looks like he's prepared to shoot himself after an abortive attempt to strangle Baltar. I know, I know, Baltar could at least put a few records on in between babbling about the one true God. Never had this problem with Tony Blackburn.

Aaron Douglas is again terrific and so intense in that scene where he throttles Baltar. He's really superb with his eyes too and conveys a great deal of the meaning of the scene with very small movements of his face. It was however a bit predictable that as soon as Baltar held out his hand to Tyrol, only for it to be rejected initially, that the conclusion of the episode would lead to a reconciliation of sorts and a gentlemanly handshake between the two.

And that sanctimonious old Baltar, wheedling his way into Tyrol's mind like that. All in a day's brainwashing for the one-god movement. He's got Tyrol on board and that naughty Tory too, so his little fringe meetings are starting to become quite influential. And you get a decent bit of grub too. Again, James Callis really makes these scenes fly. Tory has turned into this horrid Cylon tart with a murderous agenda and no sensitivity at all. She massages Tyrol's ego in the very spot that she sent his wife spacewards. And Tyrol will find out about that, I'm very sure. You could see he felt something was odd about Tory. And God help us when he does discover the truth.

Back on the Demetrius, as the mutiny progresses, the episode does at least show us the road that some characters have fully traveled down. Gaeta, for example, has turned into an officer who really doesn't give a toss and would quite happily mutiny over Kara's strung out theories. And he was such a nice man back in Season One. Poor old Anders doesn't know if he's coming or going and Leoben's presence certainly starts him thinking about his own destiny and the meaning of his life. Helo is perhaps the one you think Kara will be able to depend upon but even he, in the end, gets a bit fed up and decides to refuse orders. And Leoben perfectly sums up the Cylon and human situation, both on the base stars and on Galactica: “Battle lines have been drawn between those who embrace their nature and those who fear it.” The four hidden away in the fleet are going through rapid changes - some for the good and some for the bad - and the fate of all is now the centre of the series. It's a battle for free will.

It's filmed beautifully, played superbly and the effects and music are nothing short of wondrous. But...it plods. Oh, my. It plods like a plodding thing from the planet Plodding. Sure, the philosophical and religious questions are very interesting but this episode is quietly drowning us in them. There is absolutely no light and shade here (and no sign at all of Roslin, Six, Adama and Apollo who more often than not provide it) and that can make for very off-putting viewing. The Demetrious sub-plot must be drawn to a close soon or it will get very irritating indeed and Baltar's careerist drive needs to move up a few gears too.


Previous reviews:
Escape Velocity
The Ties That Bind
He That Believeth In Me & Six Of One

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