RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica (1978): “The Lost Warrior” (Episode 5, 3, or 2, depending on who’s counting)

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I think this review will be a lot shorter. I really have hopes this time out. The first one I did was long enough to be evidence of some kind of neurological impairment, but the second one was merely an exercise in hypergraphia driven by OCD. Granted, still a neurological impairment (Actually two for the price of one), but it’s a much more serviceable, much less annoying kind of crazy than the first review. And this one should almost be like the kind of thing a normal human would do.

Why?

Because (A) this is the worst episode of the entire series, and (B) nothing much happens.

Apollo is on patrol all by himself for some reason (Though we never see solo patrols before, and never since), being chased by four Raiders. He runs away from the fleet, broadcasting cries for help. The Cylons assume he’s running back to the Galactica, and radio the information on its presumed course and heading to their command ship. (Baltar? Probably, but it’s never stated) Once the Cylons take the bait, Apollo heads off, but he’s out of fuel by this point, and can’t make it home. He manages to coast to a landing on a Wild West Planet.

No, Really.

Back on the Galactica, Adama refuses to send out a rescue party for Apollo, since blundering into the situation would undo all that his son was attempting to accomplish. Sucks for Boxey, though, so Starbuck and Boomer (Who are really a charismatic pair, I wouldn’t mind seeing a show just about the two of them) decide to take care of the kid and pretend everything’s ok, even though his dad ain’t a-comin’ home. They play Pyramid (Note to people who only know the RDM show: Pyramid is a card game here, Triad is the volleyball-like sport. RDM misremembered that, and didn’t bother to look it up.) until bedtime, then Starbuck’s ex-hooker girlfriend comes in and tells the kid to say his prayers and go to bed. I love that! Well, she *is* an ex-hooker, and prior to that she was a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, so it’s not at all inconsistent. In fact it plays out as kind of sweet, but it still makes me laugh in concept. Jolly and Giles are in the card scene, but no Greenbean. Presently they decide to go look for Apollo, and Colonel Tigh eventually talks Adama into slowing the fleet so they can have a little more time to look for him. “Boxey’s lost one parent, he’s not gonna’ lose two!”

Adama: “All this effort for the commander’s son?”
Tigh: “That’s utter felgercarb and you know it. If it was Starbuck or Boomer or a first orbit cadet, you’d do it. Don’t let the fact that he’s your son diminish his chances.”

Meanwhile, back on the Wild West Planet (“Equellus”) Apollo has been taken in by the stereotypical beleagured widow who’s about to lose the farm. Turns out her husband, “Martin,” was killed by the local boss’s hired gunslinger, a guy named “Redeye.” Nine men have tried to kill Redeye and failed. From here on out, the episode is basically a blatant ripoff of Shane. If you want to know what happens, just netflix that movie. It’ll take longer to watch than this episode, but it’s well worth it. It’s much, much better.

In the end, Redeye turns out to be a brain-damaged Cylon (No, really!), and Apollo kills him. The dead “Martin” turns out to have been an MIA colonial warrior from 11 Yahrens earlier, and she gives Apollo fuel from the wreckage of Martin’s fighter. Apollo blasts off, finds Starbuck and Apollo, and heads back to the fleet.

As a final scene, we find the widow and her son staring up at the stars, talking about how Apollo promised he’d come back some day.

Say, that wasn’t too bad! I mean, not the episode - that was rubbish - but that I managed to get the whole synopsis in at under a page, even with a sizeable digression about a non-Canadian hooker. Of course I had to cheat by referencing an outside source, but then the show cheated by blatantly ripping off an outside source. Glen Larson is the creator of this series, as you know, and not for nothing is he referred to as “Glen Larceny” in the entertainment biz. There’s no story so well known that he won’t rip it off. We’ll see this again several times in the run of the story, and script outlines for the never-materialized second season likewise involve several blatant ripoffs. Yikes!

Observations: Well, this episode sucks, there’s just no two ways about that. It’s a great big suckfest from start to finish, so sucky a sucking that even as a maniac eleven-year-old who was obsessed with the show, I’d say “Meh” and turn this one off when it turned up in repeats. That said, everyone involved does their very best with it. Richard Hatch is a little too 1970s to effectively pull off a Gary Cooper/Gregory Peck tough guy with a conscience role, but I do think he’s more than serviceable. Benedict and Jefferson make the most out of their scenes, and Starbuck really does chew the scenery in his own quiet way.

I don’t know how I never noticed this before, but Starbuck is a really bad gambler. With one exception, every time we’ve seen him in a game, he loses. The one exception had a battle break out before he could collect his winnings. Tonight he’s beaten by a six-year-old. There’s no evidence that he was trying to throw the game. He just sucks. That’s pretty hilarious, actually.

“Jellybeans” are called “Jellybeans” in the colonies, and not something more spacey like “Jellyglobules” or “Confectionbeans” or whatever. On the other hand, no shortage of goofy space-talk tonight: “Numos” are air-rifles (Neumatic, see); “Lupus” is a Wolf; “Tribute” is taxes; “Ovines” are probably cattle, but we never see one, so it’s a little unclear. “Binyan” appears to be beer, at least on Equellus; “Flaters” are the local currency. It’s a little fuzzy, but it seems like the locals worship a god called “Equus.”

As local faux exoticism, all the space cowboys wear metal cowboy hats (no really) with rhinestones in ‘em. (No, really). The horses are tiger-striped, and all the animals have their dialog translated by other animals. A horse sounds like a cat, a wolf sounds like that same grizzly bear heard in every 1950s kids adventure movie. It’s distractingly odd. But it really is an unabashedly in-your-face insultingly stupid cowboy planet, right down to the batwing doors in the bar and the synth version of cowboy music on the juke box. (I have half a mind to go in and redub the Rednex over those scenes.

A few words about Claude Earl Jones, who plays Lacerta. He’s a character actor popping up frequently on TV from the 70s through the 90s, you know him if you saw him: Man, he just plays the hell out of the part! He’s amazing. His take on Lacerta is like a menacing Truman Capote by way of Sidney Greenstreet, and it totally works. He’s the dangerous fat man in the corner, and Jones plays him as a self-amused man of gross appetites (In both senses of the word). He’s flagrantly gay - really no question about that - and one gets the feeling that, frankly, gay is the most acceptable thing about him, with his odd delivery, and Neronic lasciviousness. It’s a great performance captured in a crap episode.

The Galactica isn’t ‘off the map’ yet - Adama is looking at tactical maps of the Hatari sector, and clearly the Colonials and Cylons have fought in these woods before. Evidently they lost, or were driven out prior to the destruction of the colonies, based on Adama’s reticence to get anywhere near the place, but the important point is that they’re still within “Known space.“ Everyone on Equellus uses colonialisms, so they must be relatively close, or perhaps settled by Colonials at some time in the past.

This raises a couple odd points: Last time out, the Galactica found Kobol. They weren’t expecting to find Kobol, they just stumbled into it, they evidently didn’t know where it was. Furthermore, Kobol is in the middle of a huge natural feature (a “Magnetic Sea”) that really couldn’t be missed. Yet since we’re still ‘on the map’ here, that means Kobol must be somewhere *INSIDE* of known space. How is that possible? I mean, how could they not know about the magnetic sea, and the fact that Kobol is in a magnetic void is *IN* their freakin’ Bible…

Equellian civilization appears mostly 19th century, but they’ve got electric lights and an obviously-well-developed metal industry. I mean, the hats, the doors, the armor on Redeye’s horse, fireplaces (Man, that must be dangerous for little kids!) The widow’s house appears to be made entirely of adobe and bolted metal.

A little unlikely that Apollo would crash in the backyard of the same woman who took in a crashed warrior 11 years before, isn’t it?

Some praise for Richard Hatch: He gets in a great bit of face acting when he’s all proud of Puppus - the widow’s son - and suddenly thinks of Boxey. His whole face just crashes for a second, and then he recovers a more composed facade. Really good job. Apollo would seem to have fallen in love with the widow - rebound, perhaps - and he promises he’ll come back some day. That seems a really odd promise for him to make: he must know his chances of doing that are pretty much nil. I mean, it’s really unlikely that the fleet will even survive, and their massive battle strategy consists not of defeating the Cylons, but rather running away. (“To flee where no one has fled before”) Just a weird tag that I’m sure they wish they’d never made in an episode I’m sure they wish they’d never made.

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