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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Battlestar Galactica’ blogging: “Escape Velocity”

(lots of spoilers! assumes you’ve seen the episode!)

(previous: “The Ties That Bind”)

1) Tory tells Tyrol they’re perfect because they’re Cylons.

2) Tory inflicts pain on Baltar, for his own good, in order to convince him that he’s perfect (even though he’s not a Cylon).

3) Six inflicts pain on Tighe, for his own good, because she believes he is not a Cylon, then regrets it.

4) Baltar accepts his perfection, and tells his followers they’re perfect, too.
So: All we all Cylons? Are we only Cylons if we’re perfect? Are we only perfect if we’re Cylons? Are we none of us perfect, and hence none of us Cylons?

I have a sudden sneaking suspicion that the one Cylon who is still hidden is going to be revealed to be… all of us. As in, like, Hey, guess who the final Cylon is? And then a mirror is held up and we’re all looking into it at ourselves. Of course such a thing can’t be done technically, but wouldn’t it be a mindfrak if it could?

I dunno what last night episode means, except that Battlestar Galactica has some twisted people behind it.

The Chief’s rant against Cally was, um, interesting. That whole bar scene, with everyone just hanging out and shooting the shit and acting like everything’s normal suddenly made me think, Man, half the people there have got to be so traumatized they can barely move, and the other half are merely pretending they aren’t, what with billions dead and civilization gone and the last few poor damned souls of humanity clinging to the inside of a couple of rickety old tin cans in space on a desperate and probably foolhardy search that will likely see them all killed for a mythical planet that doesn’t even exist. I mean, sure, it seems as if the show has set up things so that Earth is real, but if you were one of those 36,000 survivors, wouldn’t you be thinking, What the frak are we doing? Everybody must be feeling the way the Chief does, right? Of course, we’re not seeing all the many human stories happening in the fleet — but people must be severely depressed, suicidal even, just barely hanging onto their sanity.

Maybe they’re all already dead, and they just don’t know it yet. Like they’re in purgatory or something. Like we used to think was the case with Lost. (I find it fascinating that these two very different shows have been converging, thematically, more and more in recent seasons — there’s something frakked up in our zeitgeist at the moment that’s prompting that, Im sure, though I’ll have to think on it some more before I can even begin to figure out what it is).

Anyway, I wonder whether the Chief went ballistic on the Admiral out of a deliberate desire to get himself removed from the flight deck so that he can’t do anyone else any more harm, or whether he just lost it and didn’t realize what he was doing. Looks like, from the coming attractions for next week, that he shaved his head. I hope that doesn’t mean he’s not gonna start wearing robes with Baltar’s crazy groupies…

(next: “The Road Less Traveled”)

(Watch full episodes and get recaps at Sci Fi’s official site for the show.)



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  • Spencer

    I loved every second of this episode.

    So much to say… I guess first to respond to your blog points: Honestly, I would see a “the final Cylon is all of us!” approach as a pitiful ending. But that’s just me.

    Chief’s rant was very intriguing– I’ve always thought that Tyrol was a teddy bear on the outside with a VERY dark inside. I’m thinking his Cylon programming is to bring this side out. Given his reaction after the fact, I think that he was carried away by his Hyde side rather than premeditation.

    This is the perfect thread for Baltar’s story to take: messianic megalomaniac. I took the perfect talk by him and others as meaning “perfect as is,” sort of like perfectly imperfect. I think it would be a great ending for him to be martyred and then deified… or maybe he is the final Cylon (I still think this is the case) and he will resurrect, thus completing his Christ cycle.

    I love watching this show.

  • Mike Brady

    Baltar is definitely not the final Cylon; that much was confirmed by the Last Supper promo. (Roslin, both Adamas, Starbuck, and Helo are out too.) My money is still on Gaeta – it would complete the irony that the New Caprican Resistance was led by Cylons.

    I agree, Spencer, that Baltar’s statement was that “you’re groovy just the way you are.” The rhetoric was excellent, although I can’t figure out why Tory was giving him such a big goofy grin in the background. Has she really fallen for him? Creep out!

    Tory, by the way, has turned into a very dark character. Listen to the poison she spews to Tyrol about shutting off emotions – I expect her to continue to be very dangerous in upcoming episodes. She’s interpreting her Cylon identity as a rationale for being cold and mechanical, even as she apparently is losing herself to Baltar. She’s becoming very volatile.

    Pretty good episode. Looks like the next one will focus on Starbuck, but I’m anxious to know what’s happening in the Cylon fleet!

  • Nathan

    i think the “we are all perfect” thing is just the writer’s way of portraying a pseudo-Christianity. a mystic union with God or an “I and the Father are one” kinda deal that you see in Christian mysticism or Islamic Sufism. Baltar’s attack on the temple was a play on Jesus’ assault on the money-changers and one of the council members mentioned a cult of Mithras during their meeting… on Earth this was a religion based around another son of God that was popular with Roman soldiers around the time of Christ.

    so basically they’re portraying the rise of monotheism within a pagan culture. how this will play out as far as the plot goes, i have no idea. if Baltar is some kind of messiah, though, i expect him not to be the final Cylon… their was one Christ and twelve disciples, after all.

  • StrangeAgent

    Twisted is pretty much the right word. Poor old Chief. His leaving the vacuum tube-looking gizmo out of the Raptor, causing it’s malfunction, was probably a product of grief and exhaustion; but he probably was thinking that his secret Cylon “programming” was kicking in, making him capable of sabotage. So, yeah, I think his tirade directed to the Admiral was a conscious effort to be placed in a situation where he could do no more harm. Tory seems to be enjoying being a Cylon (and she’ll probably end up being the biggest danger to the fleet). Anders-as-a-Cylon is still rather an unknown quality, but let’s face it; due to his position on the Demetrius, he poses the greatest threat to the search for Earth. He’s in a position to frak up Starbuck in any number of ways. And dear, pathetic old Tigh…don’t even get me started…

  • Spencer

    I had actually never seen that promo before. If that’s the case that all who are pictured are not the final Cylon, then that would seriously blow. To me, the ONLY satisfactory way to end the speculation and the series is to make someone important and high-profile the final Cylon. Tory’s revelation was pushing it as is at the end of S3. I must simply hope that the statement given was a red herring.

    Incidentally, if I can be allowed a bit of special pleading and take Moore at his word re: Chief in this promo, then this seems to be in favor of my Chief/Hyde theory.

    I hope the next ep will focus on the Starbuck and Cylon civil war stories. I much prefer eps like this past one that narrow their focus in order to properly tell a story, rather than try to hit all bases at once.

  • MaryAnn

    I took the perfect talk by him and others as meaning “perfect as is,” sort of like perfectly imperfect.

    Well, yes, I think that’s obvious, just as clearly the Cylons do not really believe they are “perfect,” either — it’s the mirroring in the language that is intriguing.

    i think the “we are all perfect” thing is just the writer’s way of portraying a pseudo-Christianity.

    But Baltar’s message is exactly the opposite of Christianity’s — I was particularly struck by that while watching this episode. Christianity emphatically does NOT say we are perfect: it says we are flawed, we are born sinners. The Christian God may love us anyway, or so the mythology goes, but he loves us in spite of the fact that we are most definitely and inescapably sinners and NOT perfect.

  • Nathan

    yeah, i’ll concede that… so maybe it’s Baltar as anti-Christ instead of pseudo-Christ.

    i think the feeling of perfection, though, has been a part of hardcore mystical experiences down through the ages, but maybe the writers aren’t digging that deep.

    in any case, because of the mention of the cult of Mithras which was around about the same time as the initial spread of Christianity, i think they are definitely drawing some kind of historical parallel. i think they’ll eventually get around to some kind of esoteric theory of cyclical history — all of this has happened before and will happen again, Six said.

  • Kathy A

    Listening to Baltar preach made me think that they’re basing his belief system at least partially on the Christian Gnostics from early centuries of the Christian movement. Gnosticism is (put simply) the belief that we all have the potential to be God, and in fact we are all from that tier of heaven originally, but being made mortal, we lost that knowledge (gnosis) of our potential divinity and perfection. Those that acquire that knowledge have elevated themselves to a level approaching Christ.

    Very reminiscent of Baltar’s take on perfection.

    “But Baltar’s message is exactly the opposite of Christianity’s — I was particularly struck by that while watching this episode. Christianity emphatically does NOT say we are perfect: it says we are flawed, we are born sinners. The Christian God may love us anyway, or so the mythology goes, but he loves us in spite of the fact that we are most definitely and inescapably sinners and NOT perfect.”

    This was the philosophy of the proto-orthodox Christians, those that won out among all the competing strands of Christianity in the Roman era. I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book about that period of history called “Lost Christianities” by Bart Ehrman, the author of “Misquoting Jesus.” Highly recommended!

  • buoy

    I think Tori was showing off a goofy grin at the end of baltar’s speech because that was her own philosophy, which she bestowed on him and he was simply admitting it and embracing it to the wider audience. the fact that head six was next to her with a cheeky smirk was because (i think) she was the real instrument of which baltar learned this, whereas Tori was perhaps more of a provocational character only, yet Tori has no idea of the existence of head six so she believes the entire scene unfolding around her is her doing.

  • MaryAnn

    This was the philosophy of the proto-orthodox Christians

    Okay, sure. Be cool if BSG introduced to some viewers the idea that Christianity as it is understood today has not come down to us unchanged over 2000 years.

  • Ryan H

    I think that is it more of a direct mash up than an obscure reference.

    The traditional Christian values are being assigned to the polytheistic faith. Devotion and respect. The whole ‘I’m not worthy’ and ancient scripture. Most Christian values map more closely to the mainstream religion, pantheon of gods or no.

    At the same time, the monotheistic religion is being pushed in a direction that actually quite opposite. No original sin. No sin at all for that matter. Made perfect. Inherently worthy.

    It’s kind of a cute juxtaposition. Especially if you see the scenes like Baltar’s raid on the worship service as nods to Christian mythology.

  • MaryAnne, I’d ask you a favor please. At the top of your post, change “assumes you’ve seen the episode” to “assumes you’ve seen the episode and the preview of next week’s episode”. Some of us don’t do that second part, and even mild spoilers are irksome when a show is this amazing.

    BSG reveals are always better when they happen on their own terms. I close my eyes during the drum-beat spoiler sequence at the end of the opening credits every week too, in case you wondered.

    I don’t mind avoiding reading an article that has a spoiler warning, and the tiny tidbit you did give away up there doesn’t seem like that big a deal — I just want to be sure in the future I know what I’m reading before it’s too late :)

    Your loyal fan,
    Newbs

  • I actually love that rapid-fire opening-credits spoiler sequence thing. Can’t quite put my finger on why though.

  • Spencer

    You’re right MaryAnn that Christianity does postulate a state of original sin for humanity. However, does it not also postulate that the death/resurrection of Christ imputes his righteousness to believers? Justification is the term here. From this angle, Baltar might eventually take the tack that perfection is found through him– remember, he was giving a sermon at the time to his followers (yes, there were stragglers in the background, but the sermon was not directed to them).

    I’m inclined to think I’m stretching here, though. I think it’s more likely that the writers are attempting an intentional juxtaposition and quasi-send-up of traditional Christian doctrines by putting their polar opposites in a mouthpiece who resembles their namesake.

    Re: the Gnostic approach. But isn’t it also a tenet of Gnostic philosophy/theology that the flesh is evil/wicked/sinful, etc.? Isn’t that where Docetism/Sabellianism came in during the proto-Christian phase? From this vantage point, it is hard to imagine Baltar as a Gnostic parallel when he is telling embodied (i.e., imprisoned) souls that they are perfect, corrupting effects of physicalness be damned. But I like your thinking!

  • MaryAnn

    At the top of your post, change “assumes you’ve seen the episode” to “assumes you’ve seen the episode and the preview of next week’s episode”.

    Is that not implied?

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