The Battlestar Galactica review has slowed down lately, thanks in part to a wedding and all its accompanying visitors and houseguests.
But it’s also because I knew this episode was coming. Tight Me Up, Tigh Me Down is by far the worst episode of the first season, and one of the worst episodes of the entire series. While Galactica is seldom perfect, this is one of the few episodes that is outright bad.
Let’s start with the title. I love puns, but the title of a generally serious TV show is neither the time nor the place. This is the title of a 1970s sitcom that’s full of wacky shenanigans and double entendres, not a show about paranoia, conspiracy, and genocide.
Is Ellen Tigh a Cylon? That’s obviously – and I do mean obviously – the primary question of this episode. She reappears suddenly and mysteriously, with no satisfying explanation as to where she’s been. Adama brings her aboard Galactica anyway, because even if she is a Cylon, it’s not like she’d be around weapons or classified information or anything. If Ellen is so suspicious that she needs to be the first person in the entire fleet to be tested – ahead of the president or any number of senior officers – then maybe you should keep her the hell away from Galactica? Possibly in a prison cell?
It’s a painfully obvious attempt at directing the audience. It’s hard to care about anything when the writers are trying so hard to point in one direction. Galactica was usually very effective when it came to subverting expectations about who was a Cylon and who wasn’t. Just look at the miniseries: Doral obviously wasn’t a Cylon, but he looked like a good scapegoat for Baltar; but then, surprise, he really was a Cylon. And then, BAM, twenty seconds later, Boomer’s a Cylon, too.
Maybe Ellen Tigh is a Cylon and maybe she isn’t, but it’s all presented in the most ham-handed and least interesting fashion possible. I don’t care if she’s a Cylon; I just want her to go away.
On the other hand, maybe Ellen’s just a really awful person. She’s a drunk, she drags Tigh off his already precarious wagon, she flirts with other men in front of him, she’s a pathological liar, and she’s generally obnoxious. Later on, she turns into Lady Macbeth, plotting and pushing her husband to take the power she thinks he deserves. And through all of it, there’s not a single redeeming quality or element of her personality that would make her interesting or sympathetic.
Well, not until New Caprica, anyway. That’s a long time to wait.
The worst thing is that the Ellen Tigh storyline drags down followup to Leoben’s “revelation” that Adama is a Cylon. Granted, that was also a too-obvious bit of misdirection, but it also wasn’t the sort of thing Roslin could simply ignore. Leoben was probably lying, but what if he wasn’t? Even if Roslin is reasonable enough to expect a Cylon to lie to her, she’s still human, with all the fears and paranoia that entails.
And hey, her suspicion of Adama dovetails neatly with the arrival of Ellen! Adama acts oddly while he’s trying to find out more about Ellen and figure out whether or not she might be a Cylon, which raises Roslin’s suspicions.
Then it turns into Three’s Company In Outer Space. Baltar’s Cylon Detector is finally working – Baltar says it is, anyway – which should be a big deal. But instead, Roslin and Adama have him alternating between test subjects. Test Adama! No, test Ellen! No, test Adama! And so on.
And so Roslin and Adama waste the Cylon detector, which is already cumbersome and time-consuming, making both of them look rather stupid. And it’s all performed to a soundtrack that suggests they’re squabbling about Roslin’s mother coming to visit.
A lighter episode of Battlestar Galactica might have been an interesting thing, but Tigh Me Up suffers from an egregious inconsistency of tone. It’s hard to believe anyone associated with the show thought any of this was a good idea.