RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica (1978): “Lost Planet of the Gods” (Episodes 2 and 3)

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Last time out, I gave you the literary equivalent of the Vietnam War by way of a review. I apologize. Again. I had a lot of info to get through, but let’s see if I can do it in a less murderously insane fashion this time out, by which I mean: “Shorter”

PLAY BY PLAY:

The Galactica is cruising along through space with the fleet in tow. Apollo asks Serina to marry him at a family dinner, and she agrees. After dinner, Starbuck and Apollo go out on patrol. Starbuck is acting jealous (As he, himself admits) because he’s losing a part of Apollo to Serina (hopefully not the icky reproductive part. No, wait, that’s the other Richard Hatch). They go out on patrol, while Boomer and Jolly go out on patrol in a different direction. Meanwhile, we get a cut down, re-edited version of the epilog from the last episode, with all mention of “Let’s be nice to the humans” removed.

Boomer and Jolly discover a Cylon base on “An asteroid” (Obviously a planet), and beat a quiet retreat. Apollo and Starbuck, meanwhile, have found a “Magnetic Sea,” a vast void that, despite all their oohing and ahhhing over it, is frankly not all that impressive looking. Apollo gets lost in it, but Starbuck rescues him, and they, too, beat a hasty retreat. Baltar, in command of a base ship now, is tracking the Galactica, just out of it’s scanner range. He instructs Lucifer, his first officer, to capture him a colonial pilot.

Boomer and Jolly are feeling a bit out of sorts by the time they get back home, but they skip decontamination to go to Apollo’s Bachelor Party (or “Last Night” as it’s called in Colonialese). “Decon” is a really big deal, despite the fact that it’s never seen nor mentioned ever again. Boomer and Jolly manage to infect all the other fighter pilots, and the bridge officers who came by for free food. (Sorry: “Victuals”) Starbuck and Apollo get back late, and are thus spared the infection, but it quickly incapacitates every pilot on the Battlestar. Realizing what’s happened, Adama gets rather uncharacteristically freaked out and fatalistic, but he recovers shortly.

For some time now, the Galactica has been attempting to replace the crew she lost in the previous episode (“Do you know how many shuttle pilots we lost on Carillon?” “Do you know how many civilians?”) and Serina has been training to be a shuttle jockey, unbeknownst to Apollo. When she springs it on him, he’s pretty upset, but eventually the prospect of nookie with Jane Seymour wins out over more reasoned protective urges, and he’s ok with it. Given the plague, all these shuttle pilot trainees are bumped up to fighter pilot trainees, which pisses off Apollo again, but, you know: nookie. He gets over it. And Jane does loon nice in the uniform, even if she isn’t so bouncilicious as last time out. Starbuck and Apollo - as the only two remaining pilots - put the trainees in a crash course in flight and fight tactics, which necessitates a gratuitous - and oddly non-sexy - scene of a whole room full of attractive women in body stockings. (“Pressure Suits” in Colonialese. Athena was changing out of one last time, remember?). And why are all the new pilot trainees chicks again? Never explained. “Flying shuttles is women’s work,” I guess. Meanwhile, upon hearing of the void, the mystical music starts playing, and Adama gets to absentmindedly stroking his broach (Which is one of those things that sounds dirty, but probably isn’t). Meanwhile all the pilots are on life support in some pretty serious-looking medical equipment. Cassiopeia is now a nurse, inexplicably, but I guess that makes sense. You’d probably want a high-priced call girl to have some basic medical training. Things can happen, stuff can go wrong, …I though of five or six funny third things to say here to pay off the joke, but they’re all pretty gross, so let’s just move on, shall we? Suffice to say: I don’t find Cassie’s instant transformation from hooker with a heart of gold to Florence Nightengale quite as shocking as everyone else did.

As an aside: “Doctor Payne” from the first episode is conspicuously absent, and never mentioned again (Let’s just pretend he died on Carillon, rather than getting fired by the producers) and in his place we’ve got the instantly iconic Doctor Salik, played by George Murdock. He’s instantly unlikeably likeable. When Adama points out how screwed they are without fighters, Salik says “I know, but that’s your problem. Mine is keeping these men alive.” As another aside: This is CLERALY not the same rinky-dink medical set we saw in the previous episode. This is a sprawling thing with a lot of impressive props in it. He tells Adama that everyone will die if he can’t go back to the Cylon asteroid/planet/whatever and get a sample of whatever it is that infected the men. Adama agrees, and the newly XX-dominant Blue Squadron flies out to support the medical shuttle.

A stock footage battle (Consisting entirely of shots we’ve already scene) ensues, so I’ll take this moment to point out some oddities here. Now we know that the Galactica has 75 fighters remaining (They lost one over Carillon), and that it normally has two squadrons (Though the other one is never named, I believe it‘s called “Red Squadron“), let’s assume roughly equal in size, so, say thirty five or thirty six Vipers each. Certainly, whenever see the pilots hanging out in their barracks, there seem to be 15 to 20 of them at any given time, so this is pretty consistent. When they bring in the hot chicks in body stockings as replacements, there’s again, fifteen to twenty of ‘em. We’re told the entire barely-competent squadron is sent off to fight at the Asteroid.

And yet we never see more than five fighters. In fact, internal dialog makes it fairly clear that there are *only* five, and they’re all out there. So the whole squadron is just five people? It gets sloppier: The characters involved in this scene are: Athena, Diedra (Who’s hot!), Bree (Who’s supposed to be hot, but is merely blonde), Serina, Starbuck, and Apollo. Did you catch it? That’s SIX peple in FIVE fighters. Sloppier still, Athena and Starbuck split off from the main group to go fight a rearguard action for several minutes, and during that period we *Still* see the fighter squadron consisting of FIVE fighters.

Yeah, yeah, I know: A wizard did it.

In actual fact, John Dykstra quit the show for some reason early on in the production of this episode, so, very few new special effects from here on out, and very far between ‘em.

Starbuck is already clearly preferring Cassiopeia. Athena makes moves on him twice - once in a deleted scene - and he bolts off both times, but Cassie is crying in his arms in the final scene, right across the hall from Athena, whom he’s not consoling at all. Oh, speaking of which: In a deleted scene, Cassiopeia makes a veiled reference to her hooker past, saying “The good thing to come out of the destruction of the Colonies was that we all get to make fresh starts.” As we’ll see later on, this is like her third fresh start.

Moving on:

Back on the Galactica, there’s a pretty funny scene where all the chick pilots are all in guy-talk mode, trading stories about the battle, drinking Ale, and smoking cigars, so, in protest, Starbuck and Apollo sit by themselves and sarcastically talk about interior decorating and various kinds of fabrics. (“I found some Renalon!” “Is that the translucent kind?” “It is! It’s so cozy!”) Meanwhile, the Galactica and the fleet head into the void to hide from the Cylons, but you know something’s up because Adama keeps stroking’ his broach and gazing knowingly at his medalion, and reading his Bible - bow-chicka-bow-bow-bow-chicka…oh, wait, that last one isn’t…uhm… yeah. Anyway, the colonial word for “Bible” is “The Book of the Word.” They’re a chatty and officious race, these Colonials.

Starbuck, Apollo, and Serina go out on patrol in the void, and Starbuck gets lost, so Serina and Apollo decide to celebrate by getting married:

Apollo: Without a charismatic sidekick as the breakout character of the series, I’m once again the clear lead!

Serina: Who needs him anyway? I found his looks intimidating. Sure, I’ve got vastly more hair, but his was better.

Apollo: He is prettier than you…

Serina: And another thing…wait, what?

Apollo: And he did tell me he was jealous of you on some level…

Serina: what are you saying?

Apollo: …I didn’t assume it was an urogenital level, but now that I think about it…

Serina: You can’t be serious!

Apollo: Hmmm? No, no, I’m not serious, but I am curiously curious about it all of a sudden…I mean, now that I think on it, I *am* thirty three years old, and dialog makes it pretty clear that you’re my first serious girlfriend, so I guess I must not have all that much interest in…

Serina: Gah! Casting! Casting? Someone let in the Richard Hatch from Survivor again!

Apollo: What do you think, Serina, him and me crashed all alone on a desert planet, with nothing but a crate of feathered boas and some old Judy Garland records…ah, but now I’ll never know..

Cue music: bow-chicka-bow-bow-bow-chicka-bow-bow

Starbuck is taken to see Baltar, and we get some genuinely funny dialog.

Starbuck [Upon entering the Imperious Leader’s Throne Room]: “I like how you haven’t gone overboard with furniture.”

Lucifer: “It would go better for you, Lieutenant, if you were to show a little respect.”

Starbuck: “What, you mean things could get worse for me?”

Lucifer: [Hums amusedly]

Later:

Starbuck: Baltar! I’d give my life for one shot at you!

Baltar: (On his throne pedestal) I’m as much a victim as you are.

Starbuck: Yeah, you look like one.

Later:

Baltar: Take him away.

Starbuck: Yeah, well, you’re not going to get anything out of me. I’ve had a course on resisting torture. [Cylon grabs his arm] Ow! Hey, watch it! I bruise easy!

Baltar: [Laughs]

Anyway: While the wedding is going on, a bright star appears, and guides the Galactica to Kobol, “The mother world, where life began!” The fleet goes into orbit, Adama, Apollo, and Serina go exploring the Egyptian-style planet, and faster than you can say “Jumpcut” they find the tomb of the 9th and final lord of Kobol, “The final ruler before the exodus.” (From Egypt, you see. Yup. Just thought I’d drive that obvious bit home, there. If you pay me, I’ll stop.) Adama’s ancient Kobolian ceremonial medallion - each councilmember was given one - turns out to be a key that lets them into the tomb. They take some battery powered lamps (Good batteries to last, what, 7000 years or so?) and find Baltar waiting for ‘em.

Baltar spins a tale of how the Imperious Leader’s “Peaceful coexistence” speech from the epilog was an obvious trap (Interesting. You know, I never got that before, but it probably was. It makes sense), but that the Cylon homeworld is in crazy disarray, undefended, overextended with all her forces strewn through the stars looking for the humans (And I don’t think there were all that many Cylon forces to begin with, for reasons I’ll discuss another day). Taking the Galactica back, pretending it’s his prisoner, they can attack the Cylon homeworld and destroy them. Wow. You know, that’s pretty plausible, really. They don’t believe him, but he releases Starbuck as a show of good faith.

Lucifer - seated in Baltar’s throne - gets antsy and scheming, and decides Baltar’s probably dead,

Lucifer: Well, it seems Baltar’s plan has failed, whatever it really was.

Centurion: We were to escort the Galactica back to our homeworld.

Lucifer: Yes, but the part of the plan that intrigued me was exactly who was to be who’s prisoner…

Centurion: Our instructions were quite explicit: The Galactica was to be our prisoners.

Lucifer: Ah, you centurions have such limited appreciation of human deviousness. So does our Imperious Leader, I’m afraid. He and I are the same series, you know. The IL group. Why he was selected instead of me, I’ll never know. Just the same, a major military victory just might…have the raiders attack.

A battle ensues, and one of the girly pilots gets killed - and now we’re down to 74 vipers - but then a miraculously recovered Blue Squadron, led by Boomer appears and whups up on the bad guys. In the pyramid, Adama finds a map to earth, but then the pyramid gets blown up by a Cylon weapon - a tactical nuke, apparently - and it’s destroyed. Baltar is trapped under a pillar, and left to die. Serina is shot in the back, and dies on Galactica, in the dinky Medical Center set from the first episode. Boxey and Apollo cry openly, and Apollo calls him “Son” for the first time.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

You know what? This is a really, really good episode. Lots of character bits, lots of interesting character dynamics, I like that the plot revolves around a nearly-fatal screwup that one of the characters made because he was trying to do something nice for a friend, and all the things they had to go through to fix it. There’s some great cool guy dialog, too:

Boomer: Blue Squadron reporting for duty, sir.

Tigh: Reporting for duty? You can barely stand!

Boomer: With all due respect, sir, a Viper is piloted from a seated position…

They address major casualties at Carillon, personnel shortages, and other stuff, and the Cylons are just freakin’ fascinating! There’s a great dynamic between Baltar and Lucifer, and Lucifer is just fascinated by the human’s cunning. I love the idea of the devil taking evil lessons from the bad guy in this show, which is obviously their intent. The Cylon society hinted at in this episode is pretty fascinating, particularly Lucifer, with his mellifluous voice (Jonathan Harris from Lost in Space. Inspired stunt casting: here he *is* the bubble headed booby), scheming ways, and open aspirations.

Just to put a finer point on it: Baltar recognizes the Imperious Leader’s ploy as a trap, and uses it to set a trap of his own. Lucifer immediately recognizes this, but goes along with it, as he thinks it might be good for his career, but doesn’t hesitate to screw over his boss when it appears the plan has failed. And of course Baltar’s trap had a trap within it: he’d take rule of the last of humanity. An impressive level of sociopathy.

And frankly, I think Baltar’s was probably mostly telling the truth. The Leader’s good tidings were certainly disingenuous, and Baltar’s assessment of the Cylon’s vulnerability was probably spot on. His plan probably was the right course to have taken, and Adama more or less blew it. Commander Cain would have taken it without hesitation. Trust Baltar? No: Take his advice, and then deal with him later? Yes.

Man oh man! Screw Ronald D. Moore! Can you imagine what a “Re-Imagining” *THAT* would have made for? Wow!

And I love John Colicos. He just eats up every scene, and he’s really good, it’s not hambone. His overbearing assurance with Lucifer, his absolutely aghast speech when he claims to have had nothing to do with the destruction - wow! He’s lying, but it’s a really, really good lie, and he tells it well! I love how Baltar is such a master manipulator in these early episodes. That whole scene with him trapped under the pillar at the end, where he’s in pain, bleeding from the mouth, clawing at the rock, and spewing out venom and curses - again, that’s just fantastic stuff. A deleted scene gives us a bit more of that, including some insane laughter and some crying babble about how he was “Destined to be a king.” Interesting guy, our Count Baltar of Orion. This is the only time he mentions his family (Dead) and his own personal Battlestar (Destroyed).

Pity about the toupee, though. Seriously, it’s really obvious, and why even give him one? He’s still got a full head of hair, though it’s kinda’ thin in the crown, as per the first episode. It just looks goofy, and hard to justify.

Imperious Leader: “I will give you…a base ship!”

Baltar: “Great! Can we run by the flaming ruins of my homeworld first, though, I need to pick up my toupee. I’m just a little selfconscious without it. I forgot to pack it for the ambush, and the other Sires were snickering at me behind my back - as if Sire Uri had hair! Ray Milland was bald as a spear! - it’s ultimately why I betrayed them.

Imperious leader: [Sighs] Fine. But then carry my epistle to your people.

Baltar: Sure, sure, right. I do need to go shopping. You guys don’t have any clothes, and these robes are starting to smell, and I could really go for a nice green tunic - I look good in green, hides my paunch - and some suede boots, and maybe an oversized clerical collar to catch the light and bring out my eyes from below….

Imperious Leader: [Sighs again] Fine. Lucifer!

Baltar: [To Lucifer] After we get my toupee, can we go to Sagittaria? They had such nice things there…

Lucifer: Oh, certainly. You know, I’ve been known to play a little dressup myself now and again, though that’s considered deviant among Cylons.

Baltar: What do you think? Tight velour pants, or something more modest?

Lucifer: Oh, go with the velour! You’ve totally got the legs to pull it off!

Baltar: You think?

Lucifer: Definitely! I’d die to have an ass like yours!

Conversely, Adama has a great Frank Sinatra toupee.

There’s a massive amount of world building in this episode, all of it pretty interesting. An unfilmed scene from the script says that Kobolian civilization fell as the result of an ecological collapse. It also mentions that the Kobolians were able to colonize 13 other worlds, but the effort so overextended their abilities that their civilization fell apart, and society started over more-or-less from scratch on all of these worlds. Incidentally, I’m told that “Kobol” is a lazy anagram for “Kolob,” which, in Mormonism is a planet or star that God came from before He became God, which is, I guess, a major part of Mormon theology. Lots of that in this show: the Egyptophilia, for instance, and the “Sealing” from this episode is, I’m told, a Mormon temple marriage ceremony which bonds a man and woman in this life and in the afterlife (As opposed to Christianity, in which Marriage is just for one’s mortal life). Glenn Larsen, creator of the show, is also a Mormon bishop.

The ‘void’ thing doesn’t make too much sense: The Book of the Word says that a great star appeared and guided the travelers to safety. Swell. But weren’t they traveling *away?* So if a sign guided the Kobolians *out* of the void, then wouldn’t it be useless for guiding the fleet *into* the void? It’s like trying to steer by looking at a roadsign that’s behind you.

Kobol is said to orbit a “Burned out star” at a distance of between 1 and 3 parsecs. Whaaaaaat? That’s between 3.2 and 9.6 light years! I’m assuming it was just a case of them using a ‘spacey’ word without knowing what it meant, but yowza! In a deleted scene, they keep referring to it as a “Megastar,” which may indicate that it really is that big. Needless to say that violates pretty much every known law of physics. But, hey, it’s the ‘70s. Who cares if an orbit would take a couple billion years…

Most of the trainees in this episode were probably not complete newbies. Athena, after all, was already and experienced shuttle pilot, and had evidently been one for several years, and Deidra (Who was smoking’ hot, by the way!) was a Lieutenant. A lot of these girls were already shuttle pilots, and not completely green civilians. Really, Serina and Bree were probably the only civilians. An unfilmed scene from the script mentions that several of the girls were from other ships, engaged in shuttling people and mail and supplies back and forth between the battlestars, and got trapped on board when the battle started. Evidently, female pilots weren’t allowed combat duty, much as was the case with female pilots in the US Military at the time.

Note that their helmets don’t fit, by the way. Note also that the on/off switch for the helmets is hidden in the right side. Incidentally, the preview/teaser for part one, and the ‘previously on Galactica’ recap at the beginning of part two contain a scene that isn’t in the episode (Nor is it in the deleted scenes) - the one where there’s a large bank of simulator control panels with girls in ‘em, and starbuck saying “Remember, vipers are sensitive. Thinking about something is enough to make it happen.”

Not to sound reactionary or anything, but after a decade or two of Grrrl Power, I actually found the minor sexism in this episode kind of quaint and pleasant. The guys are uncomfortable with having the women in this role, and the women themselves are a little uncomfortable with it. No one’s really looking down on them, it’s just odd for both sides. That seems reasonable. If everyone was doing what they’d ordinarily do anyway, why tell a story about it? But forcing people to act outside their normal range is, well, dramatic, even if it isn’t PC. BTW, despite what they say about pilots wearing pressure suits under their uniforms, we’ve seen the guys changing clothes a couple times now, and they clearly aren’t. Athena’s been seen in ‘em twice now, though. I’d really like to see her in ‘em a third time - I’m in eleven-year-old-boy love with Maren Jensen - but alas it’s not to be.

Speaking of the guys changing clothes - man, Jolly is hairy. They’ve really got to stop doing that.

So…uhm….human life originated on Kobol, which was inside a massive, massive void of some sort. How did they even know there were other stars out there?

The symbol they keep showing of Adama’s medallion, with thirteen rays coming out of it on the lower side is deliberately similar to the symbol of the cult of Aton in Egypt: the sun with rays coming out of the bottom, ending in hands.

There’s a resolution to a subplot that isn’t actually mentioned in the episode until it’s resolved: Apollo now believes in the afterlife. Evidently he didn’t before, but no one mentioned it until Serina was dying.

Serina, as I said, was supposed to die at the end of the first episode, but they tried to rope her into doing the full series. She refused, and this was filmed as a compromise. Her and Richard Hatch kiss really weird. An outtake shows her taking a more-than-professional interest in her thespian macking, but as my wife said, “He just kisses weird.” Now, if you’re a heterosexual like me, you’ll have noticed that something terrible and evil has happened to Jane Seymour’s butt in the Egypt scenes. This is because the wahabi have a rule against women wearing pants and showing their hair, so they just stuck a thirteen year old boy in a wig and shot him from behind as a stand in. It’s disturbing and wrong on so many levels.

Several new sets: The medical set, the Officers Club, and the Chapel (Never seen again.)

In addition to Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer, there are several frequently recurring ‘also ran’ pilots. Jolly’s the most prominent among them, but there’s also Greenbean (Ed Begley, Jr.) and Giles (Larry Manetti). The two of them were also on the cast of “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” Glenn Larsen’s previous show, which was a fighter pilot drama set in World War II. When Galactica started, he threw them in as minor recurring characters as an in-joke, and also because he liked ‘em, and wanted to throw ‘em a bone. It’s rumored - but very likely untrue - that the character “Jolly” was intended for Jeff McKay (Also on Black Sheep), but he wasn’t available. McKay *does* turn up in a very minor recurring role later on in the series, but he’s not a pilot.)

During the wedding, Apollo wears a blue bridge officer uniform with a cape. This is pretty much exactly the normal Dress uniform we’ve seen him wearing before, except in blue. We never see it again afterwards, which is a little odd as it looks really expensive. (I mean, how many times did they re-use those white uniforms later on in the series? Sheesh.) The significance of these duds are never explained, but I have a workable theory: There’s regular officers, and then there’s ‘line’ officers. Regular officers are in charge of stuff - doctors, lawyers, engineers, chaplains, fighter jocks - but they’re not in the *LINE* of command that would put them in charge of the ship if everyone outranking them were killed. I mean, you want the Chaplain commanding a ship in an emergency? They tried that with Troi on Trek, and she immediately crashed the ship. So the Chaplain, lawyer, doctor, whomever is out of the running: they can *NOT* command the ship, even if they outrank the highest remaining Line officer. I think the blues are Line uniforms. Apollo normally doesn’t wear one because he’s running Blue Squadron, and so he’s wearing the same uniform they do, but he *is* in the line of command for the ship (Presumably behind Tigh and ahead of Athena. Do they have Majors in the colonial military?) Which raises the recurring question of whether or not command of a battlestar is hereditary…

The Cylon base is really cool. Doesn’t match the dialog, but it’s still really cool.

Colonialisms:

“Instructional Period” = Class

“Fumarello” = Cigar

“Sealed” = Married (Though they also frequently use “Marriage” in the episode as well)

“Crawlon” = Spider

“Megon” = probably Megaton

“Victuals” = Food

“Lifestation” = Sickbay

“Milicenton” = A second

“Centon” = any dang thing they want it to be. Seriously, this is beyond inconsistent: At different times, from context, it means minutes, hours, days, weeks, it literally changes meaning from sentence to sentence in the same scene. At first I thought this was just really bad writing, but now I think they’re deliberately trying to annoy us.

In the first episode, the control room was called “Core Command,” but now they’re calling it “The Bridge.”

Adama makes a mention of how he wishes he was a hundred Yahren (Years) earlier. So how old is he? In a later episode, he mentions that the average colonial lifespan is 200 years. My son did math stuff that I don’t really understand, and concluded that Adama is about 158. I’m prepared to accept his estimate.

And I think that’s it. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this series, or you simply haven’t seen it in a while, do check it out. It’s well worth your time.

It's probably not worth mentioning, but when has that ever stopped me? The Marvel Comics Battlestar Galactca series (Which outlasted the show) followed the outline of the first two episodes, but diverged massively after this point: The entire rest of the comic series takes place with the Galactica exploring *inside* the void, whereas in the show, they're gone quickly and never look back.

Finally, all the characters are far more comfortable in their roles than they were in the first episode. Reason? They were filming out of sequence. This two parter was actually the third story, and the sixth and seventh hours, they shot.

Eh. Well. It’s shorter. Still too long, but shorter.

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