We Love the City

The monologue is my preferred method of discourse.

Battlestar Galactica 1-3: Bastille Day

Richard Hatch in the Old FutureHey, look! It’s Richard Hatch!

(no, not that one)

Battlestar Galactica is a remake, as we all know. It’s natural to want to pay homage to the original, but that sort of thing runs the risk of getting silly. Using the original theme music during a newscast was wonderful, but cameos from the “original” Cylons in Razor were gratuitous.

So where does Richard Hatch fit in? He was one of the stars of the original series. I suppose the instinct might have been to cast him as a veteran fighter pilot, but Galactica went the other way: Tom Zarek was a terrorist – or a political freedom fighter, depending on your perspective.

Well, there’s not a lot of perspective involved. Zarek is, for the first couple seasons, a sinister semi-terrorist, always plotting some way to seize power.  He gets more interesting later on, but for now, they may as well have given him a handlebar mustache.

That said, Hatch did the best he could with the role. Zarek may be almost-kind-of-evil, but he always appears intelligent and reasonably charismatic. If he weren’t clearly set up as an opponent for Roslin and Adama, the “freedom fighter” angle might be easier to accept. As it stands, the prison setting in Bastille Day makes him look more like Hannibal Lecter than George Washington.

Show creator Ronald Moore mentions on a later commentary that they considered casting Dirk Benedict as the Cylon God. That would have been going too far.

Meanwhile, we discover that maybe humans are just too stupid to live. How else do you explain Adama giving Baltar a nuclear warhead? I know he’s a genius and all, but seriously? You’re giving a nuke to that guy? Subsequent episodes suggest the nuke didn’t come with any frills like a security system or anything to keep track of it. Later on, in Rapture, there’s a sequence that demonstrates all the safeguards and precautions needed to fire a nuke – and that’s assuming the nuclear weapons supply is probably well-guarded to begin with. But sure, Baltar, who may be a genius but is also a flake, can just have one. Adama’s lucky it never showed up in his bed.

It’s still a great scene, as Six bares her teeth. Until now, she’s been helping Baltar with coy whispers and suggestion, a sexy angel on his shoulder. When Baltar balks at her suggestions, she turns into the devil.

Tricia Helfer was one of the most interesting casting choices on Battlestar Galactica. She’s a former model, so she had some obvious qualifications for playing Number Six: She’s tall, slender, and good looking. But she’s also kind of weird and artificial looking, particularly with her bleached-blonde hair. In some respects, she looks like the perfect woman as designed by Maxim, though I imagine their design team would have demanded larger breasts.

Up until now, her role has been to be sexy and seductive, with a small dose of murdering babies. But here, when Baltar starts drifting away from easy compliance, she gets scary. She’s a tall, she’s a robot, and she’s very unhappy with Baltar’s lack of faith. I don’t know if I’d ever call Helfer a great actress – I’ve never seen her in anything else –  but the writers knew what she could do, and she made the most of her role.

But alas, the scene requires Adama looking pretty dumb in order for the scene to work. It’s not that bad in Bastille Day, but moving characters around to facilitate a plot point became a much bigger problem later on.

Random Thoughts:

  • The female Cylon models – Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Lucy Lawless – are all very attractive, but the males are uniformly nondescript. There is no danger of a female human ever being seduced by a male Cylon.
  • Dualla and Cally were two of my favourite supporting characters. They didn’t usually have a lot to do, but they were always there – Dualla on the bridge, and Cally on the flight deck – and they quickly picked up well-defined personalities. Alas, neither character held up well when given a more prominent role.
  • Starbuck is good at everything. She’s already the best fighter pilot, and now she’s the best sniper. (which is odd, because I just read an interesting article about Canadian snipers in Afghanistan which suggested a sniper might have a different skillset than a pilot) In a couple episodes, she’ll be the best interrogator. I love Starbuck as much as anyone, but maybe they could have spread the skills around.
  • Lee is the conscience of the fleet; whenever someone does something morally grey, he’s there to tell them about it. Sometimes he’s annoying, but in this episode it works; it’s nice that someone reminded Roslin she needed to have an election.