SCI-FI HD - 13th February 2009 - 10.00pm


OK. Deep breath. You have to be prepared for this. It's a bit of a mind-scrambler and leaves you rather wide-eyed and muttering, 'What the frak?'. And pay attention at the back, because if you haven't been following this series closely you might need to have a sit down and a moment to try and piece all this together. Your mantra for the day is “All this has happened before. And it will happen again.” of the most revelatory episodes so far this season
Before even I attempt to do the same, firstly let's welcome back Ellen Tigh. The episode flashes back 18 months and shows Ellen's death on New Caprica and then we see her resurrected on Cavil's ship. Naturally, we didn't know at the time that she was one of the Final Five. Judging by the vast amounts of info dump in this one maybe that should be 'one of the First Five'? Writer Ryan Mottesheard makes this one of the most revelatory episodes so far this season and splits the narrative between the events post-coup on the Galactica and a series of flash forwards on Cavil's base-star. This structure quite neatly knits together much of what we were already aware of - the destruction of the resurrection hub and the journey to Earth - with vast amounts of back story courtesy of Ellen Tigh, Cavil and Anders. Anders has a bullet lodged in his brain and very conveniently it's started to release a flood of memories that had obviously been blocked from him. Add to this the follow up from Tyrol's discovery that Galactica is actually falling apart and Roslin and Lee picking up the pieces after the mass murder of the quorum with her offer of the Presidency to him and suggestions of a new order leading the fleet.

...he'll probably write off the ship
Adama is told that Cylon technology is the solution to stopping the old ship falling apart. Strangely he hesitates and rather vehemently opposes the idea. Is that a rascist streak we are now seeing in the Admiral? After requesting Tyrol return to the post of Chief, he orders the repairs to be undertaken by human crews. Did he not understand why he took the Galactica back in the first place? Surely, it was to effect the collaboration between the fleet and the Cylons? Off he goes to wash some pills down with a pint of whiskey and ease his conscience. I found his prevarication hard to understand after all he'd been through. Yes, all are treading on eggshells around each other and he has to be sensitive to how the fleet would view the use of Cylons and their tech. Also note the bit of foreshadowing when Tyrol tells Adama not to use the FTL drive for a while. We just know he's going to have to and he'll probably write off the ship.
...he's playing Mr. Exposition wearing a bandage on his head in most of his scenes
Meanwhile, the meat of the episode deals with Ellen and Cavil debating the origins of the First/Final Five and the intricacies of what it means to be a human machine. The episode pretty much belongs to Dean Stockwell and Kate Vernon. They are simply brilliant to watch as they bat the arguments to each other about machine intelligence and perfection versus human frailty, compassion and creativity. In the middle of their heated debate stands Cavil's pet 8, Boomer/Sharon, or whatever you want to call her. At first, she appears to side with Cavil, or John as Ellen refers to him, but gradually you can see that she's starting to appreciate Ellen's argument. Ellen is revealed to be one of five scientists who discovered resurrection technology and Cavil wants her to recreate that facility now the hub has been destroyed and he's happy to open up her brain to get the information. Meanwhile, Anders starts to recall the lives of the First/Final Five back on Earth and relates this to Tigh, Tory, Tyrol and Starbuck. Michael Trucco is excellent and conveys this back story very well considering he's playing Mr. Exposition wearing a bandage on his head in most of his scenes.

It' Biblical, isn't it!
So what do we learn? Ready for this? Let's go back to Kobol. It is the home of the 13 tribes but after a war, possibly over religious beliefs or over the creation of Cylons or both, 12 tribes leave and form the colonies (e.g. Caprica et al) and the 13th tribe, which could have been Cylon, head for Earth. On their journey they stopped at the Algae planet and built the Temple of Hopes and were guided to Earth. With me so far? The 13th colonise Earth, learn to procreate and abandon resurrection technology. There is a war and aware that this an inevitability the Final Five, all scientists, - Anders, Tyrol, Tigh, Ellen and Tory - recreate resurrection technology. As the warheads hit the Earth they all download themselves to new bodies on an orbiting ship.

They decide to head to the 12 (human) colonies to warn them about creating artificial intelligences, but they don't have FTL technology so it takes them 2000 years to arrive at the colonies only to find that the first Cylon war is happening. The mechanical Cylons, having found religion, are seeking to recreate themselves in human form. The Final Five agree to help on the understanding that they cease the war against the humans. This is where the original pilot picks up the story where after 40 years of armistice the Cylons return and destroy the colonies. The Final Five and the mechanical Cylons create the first human Cylon, John Cavil. Cavil helps them build the other models: Leoben, D'Anna, Simon, Doral, Six, Daniel and Sharon. Cavil does not want to be human, but instead wants to be the best machine he possibly could be and out of rage and jealousy he destroys the Daniel model (#7), poisoning the copies so he could not resurrect. The secret of the resurrection technology remains with the Five, Cavil rebels against them, wipes their memories and dumps them in the colonies, forcing them to see how terrible being a human must be. He then takes the Cylons to war and attacks the colonies. The survivors form the fleet with the Galactica and head for Earth. It' Biblical, isn't it!
The episode ends with more questions than ever...

The episode is also very much a discussion between creators and created, parents and childen, particularly as the Cylon origin story is explored. Cavil despises his human form and is determined to return the Cylons to their machine state and he forced the Final Five to live among humans to repent for their own humanisation of the Cylons. Some really stunning stuff as Ellen, now seen as the Cylon motherfigure, tells John, her son, that he's not a mistake, that she loves him because she created him and offers him forgiveness. Once again we run the gamut from fanaticism to the tenets of mercy and grace. By the conclusion Boomer is clearly convinced that it would be wrong for Cavil to seize the resurrection secret from Ellen's brain and flies her away from the base star. The episode ends with more questions than ever - is Anders ever going to recover from his surgery, what the hell is Starbuck, will Ellen return to Galactica and how will she react to the Tigh and Six relationship, is the Galactica doomed, will Lee make a good President, will they go back to Earth?

The danger is that, with only five episodes to go, we'll get more episodes like this where the producers and writers hurriedly wrap up the entire story and instead of drip feeding us we'll get whacking great bits of exposition wedged into the episodes at the expense of decent plot and characterisation. They just about managed to balance that here but I don't think five more episodes along similar lines will be beneficial to the series conclusion. Not long to go now.

Previous reviews:
Blood On The Scales
The Oath
A Disquiet Follows My Soul
Sometimes A Great Notion
The Hub
Sine Qua Non
Guess What's Coming To Dinner?
The Road Less Traveled
Escape Velocity
The Ties That Bind
He That Believeth In Me & Six Of One

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