SCI-FI HD - 27th February 2009 - 10.00pm
A Thompson/Weddle script that on the surface feels as if it's treading water, where you start screaming at the telly because the producers seem to be dragging their arses in getting to the big smackdown of a conclusion in only four more episodes. But then you're forced into silence as the writers pull the rug from under your feet and you're left gasping for air as the end credits roll. The way that this uses music as a major plot motif and allows plot lines to combine whilst also giving the composer enough space to add in episode specific music is a superb exercise in construction from script to screen.
Boomer ups the stakes for all concerned
I loved the construction of this. It's very clever and subtle. It focuses on Starbuck, particularly her 'daddy issues', but also craftily pulls a number of threads together - the kidnap of Hera, Anders bizarre brain activity, a Six signing up to the new council, Roslin's failing health - to make it all add up to something quite special. You feel the content of this isn't going to add up to much when it starts but by the end you're riding on an overwhelming sense that there has been progression towards that long awaited conclusion. As Starbuck confides in the mysterious piano player - a vision of her father, perhaps, conjured from her head just like Baltar has Six to talk to? - Chief Tyrol moves closer and closer to Boomer, totally seduced into a false sense of security. What you think is a moment of joy for Tyrol, seeing the fantasy home that they both dreamed about complete with fantasy daughter, tugging at our emotions, is simply a huge con. And he's hooked to the point where he's possibly committed murder of an 8 (we don't know if she's dead) and substituted her for Boomer in Galactica's cells. All that love, that obsession is then completely ripped away by the scheming Boomer, who subdues Athena (they're like alter egos of each other), seduces Helo and then kidnaps Hera. It's a very dramatic punch in the guts for such an unassuming episode. Acting under Cavil's orders, Boomer ups the stakes for all concerned and hints at the intention of the forthcoming drama.
...their playing and Hera's drawings of stars collide
The emphasis on Starbuck is also quite intense. There's that superb montage of her dull routine, the multi-tracked voice over of her speech to the CAG that gives us a very good picture of how bored, frustrated and anxious she is. Where did the spontaneous Kara Thrace go, we ask ourselves. She's reduced to repetitive speeches and dull routines. It's fascinating that she uses the piano player as confidante and she obviously sees something in him and his music that then allows her to deal with the abandonment issues that may well be the scar on her personality. The music in this episode is also a major character and composer Bear McCreary sticks to very simple piano motifs that weave in and out of scenes, as if the entire ship is bathed in these sounds rather than it being just a one-to-one exchange between Thrace and this father figure. It's brilliant and evocative music, it always has been as an ever present plot motivation, and it's genuine chills down the spine when after much coaxing Starbuck and the piano player start playing and the music explodes into a mad rendition of that familiar motif based on 'All Along The Watchtower' as their playing and Hera's drawings of stars collide. It always pops up when something seismic happens in the Battlestar universe and this was no exception. Oh, and if you were paying attention you'll have also heard some of Stu Phillips music for the Cylons from the original Battlestar series in the early scene with the piano player. Spooky.
...can you see what it is yet?
So, both Tyrol and Starbuck spend a great deal of time raking over the past and both end up immersed in the desperate events precipitated by Boomer. It's one of a set of narrative recurrences in the show. The humans and Cylons are recycling through a number of tropes here - for Baltar's trial for treason by the humans, read Boomer's trial by the rebel Cylons, for the Cylon mutiny we see the equivalent human mutiny on Galactica. It very much fits in with the show's 'it's all happened before' notion. A connection is formed between the two groups through repetitive narrative cycles that build one upon the other. And now with that cold blooded kidnap of Hera are we headed towards a final revelation about that ruddy opera house? I hope so because in the middle of that kidnap, Roslin mumbles 'Hera' and then collapses to the floor. Is she dead or has something overwhelmed her that's linked to the Cylons destiny, Athena stumbles into the room, the Final Five hear 'that' music and then Boomer puts a big dent in the Galactica. In the words of Rolf Harris, can you see what it is yet?
Fabulous playing from Grace Park as Boomer, equally good stuff from Katie Sackhoff and Aaron Douglas and very tightly directed by Michael Nankin. For me, though, it's McCreary's music that seals the deal on an episode that sneaks up on you and literally allows the scales to fall from your eyes.
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