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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Battlestar Galactica’ blogging: “The Ties That Bind”

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

(previous: “Six of One”)

See, here is the damnedest thing about Battlestar Galactica: When a secret Cylon skinjob commits coldblooded murder, you just can’t tell whether that means that all the secret skinjobs really are soulless evil machines after all (even after they finish telling you that they’re not), or whether Tory would have killed Cally by flushing her out the airlock anyway to protect herself even if Tory were actually 100-percent old-fashioned flesh-and-blood unprogrammed human being, and not a secret Cylon skinjob at all. The show has simply never been so black-and-white that you could say “Cylon = coldblooded murderer” and “human = not.”
Cuz Tory didn’t kill Cally’s baby, right? And she could have. Or was saving the baby just more ruthless machine-style calcuation, to ensure that it seemed like Cally committed suicide (though a suicidal woman certainly might have killed even her own baby as well, right?) So maybe Tory’s just a bad, merciless person, whether she’s human or Cylon. On the other hand, she did tell Tyrol that she’s “being flooded with new sensations, new feelings” and that “in some ways I don’t hate this,” this being the whole discovering she’s a Cylon thing.

And then we also have the resurrected Cavil telling the resurrected Boomer — as they massacre a whole ton of Cylon Sixes and Eights (maybe even wiping out their capability to resurrect? I think that’s what we’re supposed to take from that bit) — that while the Sixes and Eights have their god to take care of their immortal souls, they — Cavil and Boomer — are just “machines, we don’t have souls.” Ah, so not all the Cylons share Six’s religion. So has this whole civil war thing been brewing since long before the Cylons even nuked the colonies?

Geez, it’s bad enough I can barely keep up with all the layers of culture and religion and politics happening among the humans and the Cylons today — now I gotta rethink everything that’s already happened?

Cuz it’s happening — the falling apart, the schisms, the mistrust — in the human fleet, too. Why does Tom Zarek look like he’s sizing up Lee like a slavering wolverine ready to eat him up? Is it obvious to everyone except Lee that he’s being used by Zarek and maybe even by Roslin… and that poor Lee is going to be ripped to shreds in the end? Has Starbuck finally gone round the bend, painting murals (of Earth?) on the bulkheads of her garbage ship and insulting poor Sam as foreplay? What the frak?

There maybe some folks actually still alive and physically breathing by the time they all find Earth, but their shrink bills later are gonna be enormous…

Random thoughts on “The Ties That Bind”:

• For a population of less than 40,000, the percentage of people who are journalists seems to be extraordinarily high.

• Starbuck is using paper maps and compasses (the mathematical kind, not the find-magnetic-north kind) — I think I saw a slide rule there too — on her quest to find Earth. That cannot be a good indication that the outcome of this quest will be positive.

• Centurions doing housekeeping? Only if you ask nicely, I guess, and say “please.”

• The secret skinjobs meet in weapons locker “1701D,” which was the registration number of the new Enterprise. Coincidence? Or are the Cylons actually the life’s work of Dr. Noonien Soong?

(next: “Escape Velocity”)

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



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  • Re-watching the miniseries will remind you why there’s so damn many journalists. They were all covering the decommissioning ceremony.

    This was a devastating episode. But what else can you expect when a decision to end the show has already been reached. I fully expect (with trepidation) to lose some major players over the next few months.

    However, the scene from Cally’s viewpoint as she shot out through the viper tube was exquisitely horrifying, and second only in technical brilliance to her last interactions with her poor husband.

  • Spencer

    I’m so happy right now. Season 3 was a big disappointment for me in its stand-alone episodic format (the overall storyline episodes were great, though), and in general I have seen the series as drifting dangerously toward Matrix-sequel-style-we’re-aware-of-how-cool-we-are hubris. This episode, single-handedly, has restored my faith.

    So is Tory in love (in a Cylon way) with Tyrol? Is she merely protecting Nicholas and Callie is collateral damage? Or is she something a good deal more sinister? My suspicion is a dash of all three.

    The Cylon civil war storyline is chock-a-block full of delicious potential, and I love the way it’s played out so far! This gives the Cylons something to do that is not 1) what they’ve done over the first two seasons which can wear thin (i.e., chase, escape, chase, escape); or 2) dull and pretentious like in season 3 (i.e., overlap edit blurred bright shots, insert pompous religiousity, insert threesome scene, more shots of Baltar paranoid, etc.)

    My only complaint so far is this new Starbuck they started in Season 3 and are continuing in Season 4 post-resurrection. Vintage Starbuck was cocky, rash, sharp as a razor, and active. “New Starbuck” is neurotic, hateful, hurtful, and (until recently) mostly flounces around her rack drunk off her ass and inactive. The main problems I have with this characterization are simply that it’s 1) stagnant: I don’t see any significant character development in this phase; and 2) shallow: I can’t perceive much to her beyond a pissed-off and resentful shell of her former self. An unpleasant character can still be rendered interesting by depth: witness Daniel Plainview or Hannibal Lecter. And really, the causes for her change are left largely unexplored: we know that she experienced psychological trauma on New Caprica, and has been caught in a soul-crushing marriage to Anders. But rarely have the lingering effects of Leoben been explored, and there are enough hints thrown out there that Kara still cares for Anders despite her posturing that one is almost– ALMOST– tempted to place some blame at her doorstep for the continued pain of her marriage.

    All in all, though, a wonderful episode and I look forward very much to the next one!

  • Ryan

    I have to say, what Tori did was murder…yes. However, one way of looking at it, is that before Tori showed up, Cally was going to KILL HERSELF AND HER BABY. Tori saved the baby from death, and from a woman who was unstable at best. She also, very true to pre-cylon Tori, got rid of an inconvenient problem in the most expeditious way.

    Tori seems like the final four who is becoming the most comfortable with her cylon-icity.

    A little too much Cally in this episode for me, but I’m sure the writers et al. figured she should get a good portion of the episode if they were going to kill her off. Still, I was frustrated by how little ‘Lee Adama, man of the senate’ and ‘Starbuck, crazy-ass lost chick’ story line we got.

    Finally, is it just me or did they send a disproportionate amount of their senior military leaders on Starbuck’s mission??? Helo, Athena, Racetrack, AND Gaeta? What the frack? At least it explains why Cally found the viper bay to be deserted…Adama senior must be getting a little lonely though =P

  • Spencer

    Yeah, I wondered that too. However, it does make sense to a certain extent in that they are on their own without support, so they should have the best pilots and commanders available out there.

    Your point is what I meant by “is Tory protecting Nicholas by killing Callie?” A Cylon could make the argument that while she was serendipitously able to thwart the event today, there is no guarantee she will be able to later; as well, there is a high probability that such an event will be repeated.

    However, the force with which she knocked Callie out and the look she gave her right before she opened the airlock says there’s something more at work here. And you’re right, Tory is the most at peace with being a Cylon. So what is her function/purpose? She’s shaping up to be Brother Cavil right now.

  • Ryan

    I took the force with which she hit Cally to mean that she is gaining access to her Cylon abilities (such as super strength) Somehow her interactions with Baltar seem to have ‘unlocked’ her potential. As to what her function is? I really have no clue at the moment…part of why I like this show so much =)

    (note: We now have two Cylon babies, one male and one female…one conceived by a final four with a human female…and once conceived by a first seven with a human male. Adam and Eve?)

  • Patrick R

    RE: “And then we also have the resurrected Cavil telling the resurrected Boomer — as they massacre a whole ton of Cylon Sixes and Eights (maybe even wiping out their capability to resurrect? I think that’s what we’re supposed to take from that bit)…”

    In that sequence, right after the basestars translated to the meeting place, a Sharon tells the 6 standing by her that the resurrection ship that was supposed to accompany them did not appear. It is their first clue that they have been set up. Without the resurrection ship, there was no place for them to download, so those particular models truly did die.

  • Spencer

    Ryan, I know where you’re coming from. I postulated that same theory (i.e., Adam and Eve) commenting on last week’s episode, and I was only partially being tongue-in-cheek. The intriguing thing about BSG is that the story could go ABSOLUTELY anywhere. Personally, I’m still a little reserved as to whether or not that’s an entirely good thing: unpredictability is great; complete uncertainty might be too much of a good thing.

    All I know is, I never saw Callie’s death coming, and after it happened I loved that it did (artistically, that is– I’m sorry to see such a character go on a personal level).

  • MaryAnn

    Re-watching the miniseries will remind you why there’s so damn many journalists. They were all covering the decommissioning ceremony.

    Yeah, I know. I was being snarky.

  • Alan

    What if the four discover they are really not cylons? That it was all a trick?

    After all, why would Cylons torture fellow Cylons (Tigh)? That makes no sense.

  • Nathan

    they didn’t know that Tigh was a Cylon… i’m guessing that’s why Xena Warrior Princess said “I’m so sorry” when the final Cylons were revealed to her.

    and it looks to me like the creators went out of their way to tell viewers that the four were in fact Cylons when that Raider scanned Anders and called off the attack.

    plus you have whatsherface knocking Cally off her feet with a backhand.

    and here’s a random thought: the Galactica doesn’t have cameras in secure areas like weapons lockers and Viper bays? Faster Than Light propulsion but they never got around to installing security cameras?

  • Phil Urich

    Re: Lack of video cameras.
    Actually I think it’s been outright established before that video cameras are nearly non-existant on the Galactica, and for the same reason as that all the phones are landlines and vid-less; everything is only as technological on the Galactica as it can safely be, and nothing high-tech is networked together. A network of surveillance cameras would be an ironically bad idea security-wise.

    They’ve shown before that the Pegasus has security cams, whereas in the same situations the Galactica has never shown any.

    Personally it’s a favourite style of setting of mine, the post-high-tech backdrop. My favourite fictional universe worked wonders with it. ‘Twas a European-made RPG, the premise being that humanity had terraformed the solar system but then “things went wrong” and that level of technology was untrustworthy now, basically we couldn’t use computers anymore. It’s a brilliant conceit because it strips any danger of both technobabble and the “umm, why can’t they just use Technology X here?” problem and the inevitability of it seeming contrived if every time they can’t, you know, the old Star Trek “something’s interfering, we can’t get a transporter lock.” And yet in that kind of setting if you really need the technology you can write it in, and there’s a kind of tragic wonder to it, the broken dream. Always geekily cool stuff, at the same time as making sure things are toned down to the level of making people matter again, and BSG has used the conceit fairly well in my opinion.

  • David

    In response to that observation that there are a Great Many journalists on board; wasn’t there a large press team on board when the Cylons attacked and the Galactica was forced to jump initially? I think that might go a ways toward explaining why all those pesky reporters are there…though I wonder just how many outlets for their news there are in the fleet.

  • I’m more curious as to how a reporter makes a living in the Fleet. Is anyone actually paying them, or do they all just work for free and have their food and shelter provided by some generous soul?

  • MaryAnn

    Exactly. There should be more than even work keeping everyone alive to keep the number of reporters down to a bare minimum.

  • Patrick R

    RE: “Exactly. There should be more than even work keeping everyone alive to keep the number of reporters down to a bare minimum.”

    Although never wrapped up in a tidy bow, these issues have frequently been addressed in the series. I am not willing or able to site specific references (as my OCD tendencies are now tempered by blessed medication), but the monetary situation has definitely been dwelled upon, and episodes have both directly and indirectly referred to the class differences / issues between those that must do manual labor as opposed to those that do other types of work as well as those that do no work at all. I cannot think of another science fiction series that has dwelled more on such issues. B5 did here and there, but never as organically as BSG. As this is only part of the tapestry of the show, and not the main thrust of the storyline, has it not been addressed enough? I am really asking. For me, the degree to which these issues have been addressed is more than satisfactory. I wonder about it a little, but feel comfortable with the amount of attention (both direct and indirect) this subject has received.

  • The economy of the Fleet, such as it is, has to be a less-than-zero-sum game: The only material inputs are whatever supplies they happen to mine from any planet they happen to visit, and that’s all just food and water and air and perhaps a few mineral deposits… and all of that is collected by the military or their agents, not by any private business concern. Meanwhile, entropy dictates that even with recycling, material stocks of food, water, and fuel will continue to be consumed, and there is no way for anyone beyond the government/military to get access to raw materials to create new products.

    It’s hard to see how any individual could amass any wealth (i.e., whatever wealth you had back on Caprica is meaningless now), and I imagine any larger assets (such as a starship) have likely been claimed as government/military property through eminent domain. The only feasible way I can see for a person to improve their economic situation in such a scenario is to display some sort of cleverness that benefits everyone (e.g., rejiggering the recyclers to be more efficient), and even that assumes that someone is willing to pay for that work.

    When you boil it all down, the Fleet must be very communistic in nature: Everyone gets fed and clothed and air to breathe, and you can earn yourself a few small luxuries like ambrosia, but beyond that your access to stuff is limited mostly by your rank/position.

    Babylon 5, for what it’s worth, had a fairly well-thought out model of interstellar capitalism. There were haves and have nots, merchants, consumers, etc. But then again, B5 employed a different scenario than BSG.

  • MaryAnn

    As this is only part of the tapestry of the show, and not the main thrust of the storyline, has it not been addressed enough? I am really asking.

    I think my snarky comment has been treated with way more seriousness that it was intended to prompt.

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