BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - 'The Oath'



SCI-FI HD - 30th January 2009 - 10.00pm

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR UK VIEWERS

Visceral, punchy, punctuated with hints of black humour...I'm beginning to sound like Masterchef's Gregg Wallace as he ploughs yet another heaped spoon of pudding into his fat little face...but that was an episode to really stir the emotions.

...no wonder Gaeta and Zarek are able to manipulate the crew.
All the powder-keg frustrations of the Colonials, about their leader and President, the quorum, the rebel Cylons, their four year battle to survive, seriously overheated and, like boiling hot milk swamping across the stove, blind anger was the result. Written by long-term scribe Mark Verheiden with a focus on the mutiny's effects on the lower ranks, I cheered as director John Dahl's name came up. The director of The Last Seduction and Red Rock West, two of the very best noir films of recent years, helms this Battlestar Galactica with much meticulous panache and attention to editing and cross-cutting between various groups and individuals. He brilliantly built up the tension as that snake Gaeta orchestrated the mutiny on the Galactica and various crew members dragged out their festering scores for a final settling. We are reminded of many of the incidents from the episodes on the Pegasus and it is to Verheiden's credit that he is able to reach back with ease and drop these little flavourings into the stew. Add to this the resentment over Lee and the Baltar trial, from Ander's girlfriend and the unanswered questions about Starbuck's suspicious resurrection...and no wonder Gaeta and Zarek are able to manipulate the crew.
...sharing the Cylon tech might be the worst thing you could do


This has repercussions of course. Starbuck gets trigger happy and has no regret gunning down a number of colleagues, Lee (in a masterstroke from Verheiden) is stuck in the middle and actually offers that perhaps Gaeta and Zarek do have a point about the those in the upper echelons leading the fleet on a wild goose-chase that now ends with their proposed Cylon alliance. Quite rightly, all are suspicious about the alliance and see it as the tactics of a command structure way out of touch with all the lower ranks and civilians in the fleet. However, as the episode shows, the methodology of the mutiny is questionable. It's like swapping a liberalist agenda for a neo-con fascism and it it's far from a bloodless coup. Lots of people are getting killed by both sides in the argument. Gaeta and Zarek are also bringing personal issues to bear with Gaeta's own suffering and morally suspect motivations eating away at him and Zarek's lust for power just waiting for an opportunity such as this. What an unholy alliance! But then we've discovered that the President's conviction about Earth has gone up in a puff of smoke and it has so shaken her to the core that initially she backs away from the mutiny. Adama's argument that sharing Cylon tech is under military jurisdiction won't hold water. No one will trust Cylons that easily and with Cavill likely to turn up on the doorstep sharing the Cylon tech might be the worst thing you could do.
...this tectonic collision between two factions who think they're both right


What this does is present the audience with conflict where, as a viewer, you're really not comfortable cheering on Starbuck as she mows down people, or Adama and Tigh as they overcome their captors and hold out in the hangar deck and get the President off the ship, and you're presented with an argument from the mutineers that you actually empathise with and throws our 'heroes' actions into doubt. It is this tectonic collision between two factions who think they're both right that ratchets up the tension but also shows you a rather bleak side to our Galactica favourites. Even so, one of the downsides to this is that much of the personal stuff either happens off camera (e.g. in the webisodes) or is left on the editing room floor. The webisodes apparently provide more background to Gaeta's traitorous actions or that phone call from Baltar, and then Roslin's sudden about face in her attitude towards the fight suggests a scene that didn't make it to the final cut. Perhaps also the Baltar and his harem stuff doesn't quite sit right in this either - even though it was rather funny - and when Roslin uses his personal radio to broadcast her message to the fleet how come Gaeta suddenly knows how to turn it off? Turn it off and he doesn't have any followers, yes? Gaeta seems to find the off switch rather conveniently, if you ask me. The Roslin/Baltar relationship also seems to have returned to swiping at each other sarcastically which seems to undermine the events of The Hub. Still, it added a bit of humour to decidedly dark proceedings.

It all ends on a shudderingly breathless cliffhanger - Adama and Tigh facing off the mutineers in the storage bay and Athena's Viper about to be knocked out of the sky. Cracking stuff.

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