RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica (1978): “Saga of a Star World” (Episode 1) Chapter 3

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[CONTINUED FROM CHAPTER 2 YESTERDAY, WHICH WAS ITSELF CONTINUED FROM PART 1 THE DAY BEFORE THAT. TRY TO KEEP UP.]

As an aside, whoever put this scene together clearly doesn’t know anything about gambling (A bit unusual given how many Mormons work in Las Vegas): There’s lots of people at gaming tables, none of which appear to have any games on them. We never see any cards, we never see any chips, and people are just pushing piles of cubits (Colonial money - little gold metal rectangles) around and smiling, almost as if they think the cubits *are* the chips. It’s weird, and there’s a whole lot of close up scenes of this going on.

Meanwhile, Apollo explains to Boxey - in an awkwardly filmed scene in which their hair length changes several times - who and what the Cylons are. The short version: A very long time ago there was a race of reptiles called the Cylons. Eventually these Cylons determined that the human body was the most functional and efficient one in the star system, so they built a race of robots to do their work for them. Eventually, thousands of years ago, the reptile Cylons died off, but their machines kept functioning, and adopted the name of their creator species. Though it’s become fannon that the robo-Cylons killed off the repto-Cylons, there’s absolutely no indication of that here. When they filmed this episode, the Cylons were armor-wearing reptiles. The network became uncomfortable with the notion of so much killing - even if it was aliens - so they asked the producers to make ‘em into robots, which necessitated this scene to be filmed and inserted into the story months after principle filming had ended. Thus - if you look close - you’ll see a landram with four people and a ‘bot in it, then a lot of tight angle shots of Apollo and Boxey in a landram that’s *clearly* got no one else in it, intercut with some generic reaction shots of the other characters.

They get out of the Landram to look around. Boxey immediately gets lost and captured by Ovions, four-armed bipedal insectoids. They’re pretty freakin’ cool! The rest of Team Apollo is promptly captured, and taken to see the queen, who lives in the largest tylium mine anyone’s ever seen - “This must be the biggest one in the star system!” - Tylium is fuel for the Colonial ships, and it’s pronounced “Tie-lee-uhm” here, as opposed to “Till-ee-Um” in the RDM series. The Queen seems friendly enough for a huge bug, and takes the group into the casino, where they meet Starbuck and Boomer and Boxey and that monkey-thing. Starbuck brings Apollo up to speed on what’s going on.

Sire Uri makes another power play, and authorizes shore leave for half the people in the fleet, annoying Adama. The Ovions seem friendly enough, and offer food and fuel to the refugees (Is this charity? How are the refugees paying for this, if it isn’t? I can only imagine the utter destruction of the colonies would have devaluated the Cubit considerably. May as well be Confederate Dollars), which starts filtering up to the fleet, though the fuel is in “Curiously small amounts.”

Mysteries abound:
1) Why hasn’t anyone here heard of the destruction of the colonies?
2) Why hasn’t anyone outside of Carillon ever heard of this casino?
3) Why is *everyone* winning in the casino?
4) Where is the food for the tourists coming from? Clearly it’s not being grown on the barren planet itself.
5) Why is this casino so far off the normal trade routs?
6) Why is there the largest mine in the history of ever on a planet that was surveyed and found to have barely any magic glowey fuel rocks on it?
7) Why is the casino so close to the mine?
8) What’s the connection between the casino and the mine?
9) What do the Ovions get out of all this? Money? Tourist trade? Wouldn’t both of those have gone better if they’d advertised?
10) Why are the Ovions being so stingy with fuel when it’s clear they’ve got way too much of it?

Sire Uri continues to make power plays, now suggesting that if they settle on the planet and destroy their weapons, the Cylons won’t try to kill them anymore. Apollo suggests it’s the booze talking. Meanwhile, up on the ship, Adama has discovered that the original survey of Carillon was done by Baltar’s people, and “All our modern intelligence reports are based on” there not being useable resources on Carillon (Remind me: why was this considered a good place to bring the fleet again? No Cylons - well, that’s a plus. No food, fuel, nor apparent water - those have to be problems. Not even enough sunlight to grow crops.) At this point, they don’t *know* that Baltar betrayed them. They suspect it, given his behavior during the ambush, but they don’t know it for sure. He could just be a nitwit. Just the same, Adama says “Where Baltar is concerned, I suspect everything.”

Baltar, meanwhile, is hauled before the Imperious Leader of the Cylons (Who looks like a lizard with a bitchin’ fro), who thanks him for his assistance to the Cylon Empire, and then sentences him to death.
Leader: “Did you really think I would trust a man who would see his own race destroyed?”
Baltar: “Not destroyed, subjugated! Under me!”
Leader: “You have missed the entire point of the war: so long as one human remains, we are vulnerable.”
Hm. Interesting lack of biological knowledge there. Were the organic Cylons hermaphroditic? Or maybe he isn’t wrong: The colonies are pretty advanced. Perhaps they can clone people, or grow ‘em from genetic samples. If that’s the case, then actually, one person *Could* repopulate the species fairly quickly, though, of course, you’d still need to teach ‘em and all. If *this* is the case, perhaps that’s why Tigh handles it relatively well when 48 billion people die: find a good hidey-hole, stay there for a generation or three, and you can clone the species up into the billions again.

In any event, Baltar is hauled off for public execution (Why would robots care for that sort of thing?) In the theatrical release of this episode, they behead him right then and there, however.

Meanwhile, down in the casino, people are disappearing, but in small enough numbers no one notices. Elevators malfunction accidentally on purpose, people end up going to the forbidden sub-basement of mystery, the doors open, and the women scream. Whatever’s in the forbidden sub-basement of mystery, it sure is mysterious!

I should mention that the casino scenes just feel wrong. Everyone is happy, everyone is pushing fake gold alien rectangle money around and pretending that’s gambling, there’s the occasional dancing girl, and yet it all seems so horribly flat and boring somehow. It’s like a great party conceived of by someone who’s never been to any kind of a party at all - it’s an impression of what people do for fun rather than anyone actually having fun. It’s like a corporate retreat party - perfect example. Ok, so there’s food and games you can’t lose at - you still have no home to go to, your families and friends are dead, your nation destroyed, and some very bad robots want you dead. I don’t really think some low-rent Circus Circus ambiance and a dancing girl or two is going to make up for that. There’s also no scene showing the reaction of the tourists themselves when they find out what’s happened. The place is the freakin’ land of the lotus eaters, it just totally doesn’t feel real.

Cassiopeia hits on Starbuck, and he tells her to get a room. It’s actually borderline-steamy. While she’s away, Athena shows up looking typically hubba-hubba, starts hitting on Starbuck, apologizing for her earlier behavior, wanting to talk, and clearly in the mood. Cassie comes back while this is going on, Athena tries to steal the room away, and ultimately both of them storm off, furious with him. Cassiopeia - who, you’ll remember is a call girl - coldly says “Next time, Lieutenant, it’s office rates.” Wow. That’s cold, cynical *AND* dirty. Impressive for 1978. One again, Starbuck don’t get none.

Cassie ends up in the Forbidden Sub-Basement of Mystery.

Uri makes yet another power play with the council, and sells them on the idea of unilateral disarmament and throwing themselves at the mercy of the people who just killed 9999375% of humanity. It’s a bad plan, and Adama flat out tells the Council that he has the utmost disgust for them and their actions. We find out that a thousand years back, the Cylons were attacking an alien race called the “Hassai.” The humans came in to the conflict on the side of the Hassai, which was the start of the war with the Cylons. There’s no word as to whether the Hassai survived or not. I’m assuming that means they’re extinct.

There’s a couple of nonsensical scenes where Starbuck talks about ditching the military and starting a career as a theatrical agent. No, I’m not joking. He’s mesmerized by these four-eyed two-mouthed alien singers (“The Android Sisters,” even though they're not androids. That's just a cheap gag. They're actually "Tuncanae.") playing at the casino, and tries to talk one of them into signing a contract with him, talking about all the money they can make on ‘the star circuit.’ These are just weird scenes given what we know of their situation. In the original concept of this series, however, the premise was a little different: The Colonies were destroyed, but there were lots of other well-established alien nations around, and all of these traded with each other extensively. Early drafts of early scripts from the series show that much of what the Galactica was doing was simply hiding out in known space while humans (Mostly undercover) interacted with these alien races for information, food, fuel, and stuff. Presumably Starbuck’s obsession with managing a successful lounge act was an aspect of this, and pretty much the only one that made it to air. It was a difficult and confusing idea, and it was ditched pretty fast.

Uri and the council demand that the entire military compliment, and as many civilians as practicable be on the surface for a ceremony where Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, or whatever. There’s some storytelling problems here. In the first half of this episode, Adama is somber, and progressively depressed, for obvious reasons, even fearful and overprotective of his remaining family. Suddenly, once they get to Carillon, he seems more-or-less fine, as does everyone else. Also, while the story never really completely falls apart, a lot of the dots aren’t really connected in the second half. For instance, Adama and Tigh start cloak-and-daggering around the Galactica, for fear that the Council will…what, exactly? Throw them in jail? Tell them to destroy their weapons? All we’ve seen is that Sires Uri and Anton (Wilfred Hyde-White) want peace at any cost, and they obviously plan to use the Medal of Honor ceremony to influence the masses, but, come on, aren’t they democratically elected? Don’t they have to contend with the three million constituents who watched the Cylons kill 48 billion of their closest friends? Is Adama really that concerned that his crew won’t come back? *most* of this cloak and dagger stuff seems unnecessary.

Anyway: The plan is this: Adama wants to keep his fighters in a state of readiness because he suspects the Cylons will attack when everyone’s down on the surface. Uri will notice if the crew doesn’t show, however, so Adama has Tigh steal as many uniforms as he can (From the pilot’s quarters? Wouldn’t it be easier and faster to steal ‘em from the laundry? It is a funny scene, though) and put ‘em on any barnacle scraper third class they can find. These are sent to the surface to impersonate the flight wing, while the REAL pilots fly out to do patrols, then land on the planet in the boonies, and evidently sleep in puptents or whatever until called upon.

Again, why? I mean, if you’re faking sending the pilots down to the surface anyway, and hiding what you’re doing, why not just keep the pilots AND fighters on board the Galactica? It’s an order of magnitude greater.

And again, Uri wants to make a *proposal* to the people. Does Adama fear his own crew won't come back? That seems pretty unlikely. Frankly, everyone is acting randomly and unreasonably in the second half of this episode, particularly when viewed in contrast to the first half. Adama mentions that everyone is saying he got them all into this mess - which mess? The Apocalypse? Rescuing them? Delivering them to a (Relatively) safe haven? What? - but this comes out of nowhere, no one mentions it before or after.

Oh, before I forget - how big is this resort casino thing, anyway? I mean, we’re assuming about three million refugees (About 13,000 to a ship, which, now that I think of it, might be kind of unreasonable), and Uri has let half of them go down to the surface, which is one and a half million. In never appears any more or less crowded in the casino, so how many people can the thing hold? Even if we assume only a million people (About 4500 per ship, which seems more plausible), that’s still a half million on the surface, that’s still a lot, and yet the casino seems to have no problem housing and feeding ‘em all.

(Oh, by the way, the earliest draft of the script that I’ve seen mentions that *no one* got left behind: Everyone who survived the holocaust was able to get away, much to the consternation of the Cylons. When they invaded to kill the humans, there weren’t any humans to be killed. The Novelization mentions that the rag tag fleet consisted of 220,000 ships! Yow! Obviously, that didn’t survive the first budgeting discussion)

Anyway, so the Big Three (Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer) each notice folks wearing uniforms with the insignia of their squadron that they don’t know, and all of them have terrible tailors (They actually mention this. By the way, none of these uniforms *have* insignia on ‘em, so how do they identify their own group?) Apollo and Starbuck go off to check what’s up, and don’t find anything, so they hot-wire an elevator and go to the Forbidden Sub-Basement of Mystery. They take too long, however, so Sire Uri sends Boomer off to look for them, and warns him that the ceremony will start with or without them. (What? Isn’t it specifically a ceremony to give ‘em a big honkin’ award? “Well, we were going to give Douglas MacArthur a congressional medal of honor, but he’s off chasin’ tail or something, so instead, Earl’s gonna’ play the banjo for ya’ for a while, and then I’ll give a speech about how the Nazis really *should* have been appeased” It’s weird.)

Starbuck and Apollo quickly discover that the Ovions are working for the Cylons, and then they get into a kind of pointless argument about who should go to warn the Commander, and who should stay behind to find out what the connection between the Ovions and the Casino is. (Wait, does that even matter? Cylons = bad; Ovions are working for the Cylons, therefore they’re also bad. By the commutative property of villainy, then, the casino is also bad. That’s a no brainer. What, they’ve got an amazing shrimp cocktail and two-for-one lap dances or something, and so Starbucks’ falling all over himself to try and vindicate the place’s reputation? Or maybe he thinks that the destruction of the colonies was, itself, just a smaller act in the Nefarious Casino Conspiracy, and if he busts it open, the illuminati will never recover? Seriously, dude: It doesn’t matter. Get. The Heck. Out.) Before they can decide which one gets the pointless suicide mission, Boxey blunders out of the elevator, right in front of a Cylon who’s just standing around doing nothing, and somehow didn’t hear three minutes of stage whispering less than twenty feet always.

So they shoot the Cylon, and rescue Boxey, and then we get a big, long, running chase sequence. It’s actually pretty good, nice music, interestingly geometric hallway sets, nice use of light and shadow, fair cinematography. It could be better, but it’s pretty good. Then they discover the Entirely Superfluous Secret of the Forbidden Sub-Basement Of Mystery:

[TO FIND OUT WHAT THE SECRET IS, COME BACK TOMORROW WHEN THIS LUDICROUSLY LONG REVIEW WILL BECOME EVEN LONGER IN CHAPTER 4 , I DON'T PRETEND TO KNOW WHY]

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