The Fall of Colonel Tigh

When I heard that the third episode of Battlestar Galactica’s second season was entitled Fragged, I initially heard “Frakked”, which called up memories of Farscape’s seminal three-parter We’re So Screwed. Turns out I wasn’t very far off.

“Fragged” is actually a military term dating from the Vietnam war, describing an act of extreme insubordiation wherein the members of a troop would kill their commanding officer by rolling a fragmentation grenade into the officer’s tent. The phenomenon illustrates how much of a mess the Vietnam war was.

In Fragged, we get two examples of a command so badly botched, the soldiers are pushed towards mutiny. On Kobol, LT finds himself completely unprepared for field command; his strategy for coping with a Cylon platoon is nothing less than disastrous. Baltar is warned by his Number 6 conscience that one of the humans will turn on the others during the attack, and he soon realizes that the human is LT, inadvertantly turning against his comrades by leading them to their doom.

On Galactica, the commander that needs fragging is none other than Colonel Tigh. With the immediate crisis now over, Tigh has time to think of the dozens of other long-term crises that demands his attention, and he buckles under the strain. His gambit against the deposed president backfires and he takes the extremely risky step of dissolving the Quarum of Twelve and declaring martial law.

Colonel Tigh’s metaphorical fragging doesn’t come in Fragged, but in the next episode, Resistence, as the civilian fleet bridles at martial law, and certain members of the military decide to break the president from prison. It’s as I said: Commander Tigh is an individual you want in charge during an immediate crisis, and at no other time. And, credit to the writers and actor Michael Hogan, Tigh seems all too aware of this, but like a tragic hero, he can’t back himself off of his path to self-destruction.

The highlight of both episodes was Tigh’s wife Ellen, who is obviously not a Cylon, since she’s doing quite enough damage on her own with her all-too-human ambitions, thankyouverymuch. Kudos to actress Kate Vernon for creating perhaps the most hateful and hated character on television science fiction. This goes beyond mere villainy — many people would actually like to be some of the most memorable villains from science fiction; it’s just so much fun — Ellen Tigh has no redeeming features whatsoever and is really rather ugly in spirit.

Meanwhile, on Cylon Occupied Capra-couver, Starbuck and Helo finally find signs of human life, discovering 53 civilians (including members of a sports team) that managed to survive the bombardment and are holding up in a deserted high school. I strongly suspect that this is far more than it seems. Given that the Cylons were able to render whole cities completely deserted and yet untouched, it can’t be mere coincidence that Helo and Starbuck have stumbled upon the one pocket of resistence that hasn’t drawn Cylon attention, especially given how willing these individuals are to shoot first and ask questions later.

Fragged and Resistence continue Battlestar Galactica’s tradition of high quality storytelling, with tight direction, excellent characters, and a great story full of great characters. However, with these episodes, I felt my first touch of disappointment in the series in a very long time. Maybe I was expecting too much from Fragged, but the first scenes of Resistence were paced oddly. After the Chief’s triumph at Kobol (okay, after the Chief’s relief at being rescued from Kobol), he is immediately taken into custody on suspicion of aiding the enemy, thanks to his association with Sharon. Rather than show the Chief’s arrest, we’re jumped forward to his interrogation. This combined with the sudden arrival of a group of resistence fighters on Caprica, I wondered for a moment if we missed an episode. This odd bit of pacing shook me out of the episode the same way a typo shakes me out of a book. It shattered my suspension of disbelief, and reduced my enjoyment of the story.

But Resistence ends with considerable promise, thanks to Mary McDonnell’s President and the sudden arrival of Edward James Almos’ Commander Adama. The president’s escape from prison was well handled, and we all shared Tigh’s relief to see the old man back in action. After having the underlings mess up the past two episodes, the sense was that the grandmasters were back in action. The next episode promises to be an interesting game of chess between the President and Adama, and I am looking forward to it.

Other Battlestar Galactica Thoughts

  • Is it just me, says Erin, or is Baltar starting to go sane? I don’t think it’s just her.
  • It’s interesting the play that Zarak’s character is getting, here. He is to be commended for leaping to the President’s defence, but what’s really going on in his mind? He seems to me to be an idealogue, firmly convinced that the military command is out for power for its own sake. He truly wants to serve “The People” (tm) and so has become a powerful ally to the President. What happens after she fulfills the prophecy, however? What then?
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