RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica: “Baltar’s Escape” (Story 14)

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

The Terra arc continues: We pick up with Adama dictating his journal, talking about how the council wants to release the Alliance prisoners they captured in “Greetings from Earth,” treat them as diplomats, and send ‘em home. Adama, of course, opposes this, but the council has never been presented as anything other than a buncha’ self-destructive goons, and now is no different.

Adama, Starbuck, and Apollo take a shuttle over to the Prison Barge to talk to Commandant Leiter. (Remember that cut scene from last week that involved a lengthy conversation in a shuttle, and I couldn’t figure where it would have plugged in to the episode? That’s because it wasn’t *from* that episode. It was supposed to go here) Leiter is exactly what you’d expect of a Nazi POW: he refuses to bend, brags of his own people’s superiority, and expounds on the “Universal Truth” of his people. In essence, his truth is that the strong rule the weak, and the failing of the “Western Nationalists” is that they go against this Unviersal Truth. Meaning what, exactly? They provide for their weak and ill? Prop up the weak? Refuse to submit? What? Never explained. Adama manages to trick Leiter into revealing that the alliance has “Almost” a thousand destroyers. Baltar is in a nearby cell, and overhears much of Adama’s conversations. He taunts Adama with his annoying fake laugh, then goes to serve lunch.

That’s right: He’s on Mess Hall duty, serving lunch to the other prisoners. Resse - who evidently surived last week’s frame job at the hands of Boomer and Jolly - escorts him to the kitchen. Once his shift is up, Baltar goes to sit with the Borellian Nomen from “The Man With Nine Lives,” and tries to talk them into joining him for an escape attempt. His plan: Break out the Eastern Alliance Prisoners, get to Terra or Lunar 7 or wherever, and be treated as a prince by the heroic Nazi-Commies, where he’ll give them tactical info that will allow them to bring down the Galactica.

“Your record to date does not exactly inspire confidence, Baltar,” Maga says, but eventually they decide to go along with it. “When the time comes, we will die for a moment.”
Baltar: “Die?”
Maga: “We do many things to survive, even die.”

En rout back to their cells, all three Nomen keel over dead. Reese calls for a medical team while ordering the rest of the guards and prisoners away. The Nomen then come back to life and quickly dispatch the guards using jumping scissor kicks and whatnot.

Baltar: “Good Lord!”
Maga: “Confinement had slowed our reflex. They will improve now that we are free.”

They quickly take over the barge.

MEANWHILE: Back over on the Galactica, the council has voted to end the state of emergency that has been in effect since the Exodus began, and revert to civilian government. He will be left in command of the Galactica, of course, and he’ll retain his seat on the council as the Caprican delegate, but he’ll no longer have his position of overall grand poobah-dom. Also: he’ll be assigned a soviet-styled political officer to make sure he makes the right decisions. They attempt to offer him a gold watch (In the form of “The Star of Kobol”) as a retirement present, but he refuses.

Starbuck and Apollo are openly insubordinate when they learn of this, and Adama - who’s already pretty furious - gets madder at them. Starbuck says something insulting about the Council, and Adama says, “I won’t have that kind of talk aboard my ship.” Apollo says something equally scathing, and Adama gives one of his best lines ever:

“Maybe they’re right. When two of my best warriors openly defy the council and forget their oaths to the civilian government - we *have* been under martial law too long!”
Starbuck and Apollo are properly chastened.

Siress Tinia of the council is assigned as Adama’s political officer, and immediately sets about questioning his every move. Adama takes it with good graces, and respects her authority, but you can see he’s upset. She makes a fumbling pass at him, but he ignores it. They send a security detail over to the prison barge on a shuttle - Blackshirts like Reece - piloted by Sheba and Boomer, rather than a bunch of armed guards, and they insist the Galactica’s landing bay not have a guard detail when the shuttle lands. Leiters’ goons are *emissaries* after all.

Baltar and his allies capture the shuttle and keep the guards and pilots as hostages. His plan has changed: rather than simply run away, which is what he’d told the Alliance he was going to do, he’s going to try to capture the Galactica.

Upset at the startling breech of security, Tigh wants to go to the hangar bay personally. Tinia won’t let him. He goes off duty. She again informs him he can’t go to the hangar bay. He goes to the officer’s lounge and - conversationally, casually, accidentally on purpose - he informs Starbuck and Apollo about the situation. They quickly leave.

Tigh: “Was it something I said?”
Apollo: [Lying] “No, we just sort of felt uncomfortable drinking with a senior officer.”
Tigh: [To himself]: “I sort of hoped you might.”

It’s Terry Carter’s best scene since “Saga of a Star World,” and arguably his best scene ever. It tells us loads about the character, and why Adama relies on him so heavily.

Baltar’s shuttle lands on the Galactica and quickly captures the landing bay, as well as ten of the council members who were there to greet them. En rout to the bridge, they’re intercepted by Starbuck and Apollo, who chase them back to the bay. The effort to capture Galactica munged, we’ve now got a hostage situation. Baltar will blow up the shuttle if Adama tries anything.

Baltar demands the release of his shuttle and his pilots, as well as the Alliance Destroyer. Once that’s done, the ships will launch, one by one, and head to Terra. There he’ll release the hostages. He’s lying, of course. Adama has one hour to comply. Unexpectedly, Siress Tinia proves to be not an idiot, and suggests making an assault on the bay. They’ll win, but the odds are not good that the hostages will survive. 70:30, Baltar’s favor. “Given the mistakes we on the council have made, I wouldn’t be surprised if your warriors offered to help Baltar push the button,” she jokes.

Dr. Wilker has disassembled Baltar’s pilots in an effort to discover a means of turning them off by remote control. He can’t get them working again in time, so they can’t comply with Baltar’s demands. Adama begs for another hour, and offers himself as an additional hostage in the sake of good faith. Baltar agrees. Once in the shuttle, Sire Domra tells Adama that the council has had a vote since they were captured, and decided to extend the State of Emergency and let Adama keep his wartime-leader autocrat status. Uhm…hooray? Maybe?

The plan now is for the warriors to attack the bay the moment the bad guys board their respective ships, but since the Cylons aren’t working, Starbuck and Apollo have to come up with a new plan on the fly without Adama’s knowledge. They hide on Baltar’s ship. The alliance ship leaves, and they scream at Boomer et all to leave on the shuttle, which violates the previous plan, but eventually they do it. When Baltar boards his ship, Starbuck and Apollo jump out and grab him and wrestle the detonator out of his grasp.

“Oh no, not you two again!” he whines.

The Galactica is tracking the Destroyer, and Adama and Siress Tinia are - apparently - on a date, much to Tigh’s disdain.

The End

OBSERVATIONS

The note that it would take a thousand Alliance destroyers to take out the Galactica is interesting, since we’ve seen Battlestars get dusted with as few as 200 Cylon Raiders. This means that a Destroyer is considerably less powerful than a Cylon fighter. Or a Viper.

A much easier rescue mission would have been to simply put a bomb on Baltar’s fighter, and blow the thing up the moment it left the bay. Then he’d be dead and unable to set off the bombs on the shuttle.

All the bad guys leave the shuttle at the same time. Where are the Nomen going? They haven’t got a ship of their own. Are they gonna’ ride on the Destroyer? Why not just stay on the shuttle to maintain order?

This is Dr. Wilker’s final appearance in the series. I know last time out I said that was, but I’d been drinking since dawn at the time. This time I mean it, though. Had the series made it to a second season, he wouldn’t have been on it. We’ll talk more about that in a subsequent entry. Wilker is far less of a jerk than he was in “Greetings from Earth.” In fact, apart from that one episode, he's always been portrayed as a very nice guy.

Man, Baltar’s fighter is huge on the inside, isn’t it? Where do they keep the engines in that thing?

I’m pretty impressed with Adama’s reaction to the council in this episode. He’s (Apparently) been Emperor of the Fleet for however long it’s been since the apocalypse, but he has sworn loyalty to the Council, and when they decide to replace him, even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he accepts it. We saw something similar with Commander Cain in “The Living Legend:” “…But I’m also the best damn warrior in the history of the colonies, and I’m not going to disobey orders,” and later on, “Please, Adama, don’t make my last battle an act of mutiny!” I’m also impressed by the decorum he composes himself with when Tinia is obviously getting on his nerves. This is not a man who’s used to taking orders from anyone, he stood toe-to-toe with the devil a couple weeks back, for Pete's sake. He clearly doesn’t like it, but he recognizes the limits of his authority. He comports himself well. And as he himself points out, the council may not be entirely wrong. Starbuck and Apollo’s insubordinate behavior *is* inappropriate, and the fact that we take it for granted probably *does* support the council’s position.

Clearly, Adama has already suspected suspension of the civilian government had already gone on long enough. Back at the start of the series he immediately reconstituted the council, and they offered him the presidency. He declined.

Speaking of which, who *is* the president, or do they even have one? Uri was the president at Carillon, but we haven’t seen, nor heard reference to one since then. There’s a seemingly random spokesperson every week. Is that the president? Is it a revolving post? Certainly it didn’t seem like that with Adar. Is Adama the president? Exactly how much does he have to defer to them?

Speaking of which, I find the council sort of vague. Ok, each colony was represented by a delegate, and now each delegate represents the survivors from that particular colony. Fine, I get that. But having Adama as the Caprican delegate, and the ranking military officer, and the grand poobah seems a bit much power, even under Martial Law. But ignore that: Back in Saga of a Star World, Adama was both active duty military leader and delegate. What sense does that make? “Oh, yeah, we can’t take a vote because he’s off fighting and will be back in two years.” And “Count Baltar of Orion” certainly was both a delegate and the dictator of his own world (Orion, replacing “Cancer” in the zodiac for obvious reasons), which, again, seems a conflict of interests. He *may* have been active duty military, too, since he had his own battlestar and Karibdis referred to him as “Commander.” If not in the colonial military, the only recently retired.

This is the first time we’ve seen a counselor with a sense of brains, even if Siress Tinia was pretty annoying at the outset. She shows a quick grasp of the situation, accepts the error of her ways, and adjusts on the fly. She even shows some bravery in the crisis. I can only assume this was intended to show a gradual change in the presentation of the always-idiotic council, and I really wouldn’t have minded seeing her again. Ina Balin, who played Tinia, played the Russian spy chick in the “Time Bomb” episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and did a half-dozen Barnaby Jones episodes.

“The Star of Kobol” is the colonial’s highest award, and hasn’t been granted in more than 1000 years. Clearly, in Adama’s case, it’s warranted and accepting it would mean promotion to Moses, Second Class. This makes me wonder who was the last person to get it, and why? Must’ve been something pretty big. That would’ve been right before the Cylon War started. Fanficers and Fanfilm makers, there’s a dangling thread for you to glom on to!

This episode was directed by Winrich Kolbe, who is just a directing machine with a particular dedication to the genre: He’s done 18 episodes of Star Trek Voyager, 13 episodes of DS9, 16 eps of TNG, five of Millenium, two of Space: Above and Beyond, 11 eps of Knight Rider, and a bunch more things besides. This is his only episode of Galactica, though.

Man, does this show have a sprawling cast or what? In this one episode we’ve got dialog for six major characters, speaking parts for three recurring characters, a non-speaking appearance for Rigel, and four, count ‘em, four recurring villains. Yow! Last week had even more. This is a freakin’ HUGE cast for a TV series at the time, quite expensive. A whole bunch of these characters would not be returning in the second season, if there was a second season, but more on that in a few weeks.

I really like that the plans on both sides of the conflict change very rapidly and on a dime, both sides in flux, adapting quickly. I like the interior continuity it’s all built atop. I like that Baltar isn’t a complete nincompoop, and I like how openly disgusted he is when he realizes who’s bested him - again! He doesn’t mind being beaten, he hates being beaten by those two.

I *don’t* like how he starts to lose his nerve halfway through. That’s a bit too sniveling.

Is all of this more backstory for Larson’s unsold “Little House on the Planet” series?

COLONIALISMS:

“Micron” means second this week (For a while this was “Micro-centon”)
“Centon” means minute this week. (Sometimes it means “Hour” in the older episodes, though)

DELETED SCENES

There was the one with Adama et al on the shuttle discussing what to make of the Alliance folks. That was mis-attributed to the extras on the previous episode. Apart from that, nothing.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yes, I think so. It shows some healthy skepticism of a civilian government, but it is in the end highly respectful of the concept, and even Adama seems to view his military dictatorship as an unfortunate thing he wants to get rid of ASAP. There’s a strong sense of “Just let the military do their thing, and don’t bug ‘em,” but it’s also very, very, very clear that the military is supposed to be subordinate to the civilian government in normal situations. These are all things I think most of us would agree with without question.

Tags: