Recovery (Collaborators Reviewed)


Image courtesy Galactica Station.

I’ve been having difficulty gathering my thoughts on the latest Battlestar Galactica episode, Collaborators. I enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was a grim and taut psychological thriller. Did it compare to Exodus or Occupation/Precipice? Of course not. But it struck me as better than the treading-water episodes that marred the latter half of the second season.

But immediately upon completion of Collaborators, Erin spoke up, saying “that was rather pat, boys.” And she may be right. That may be the problem in a nutshell.

In the aftermath of humanity’s escape from New Caprica, the fleet puts itself together. There are nice scenes of once empty corridors now crowded with people, and even though it’s only been six episodes since we’ve seen the fleet at full strength, it feels crowded. Starbuck and Anders sleep together (possibly in all senses of the term) in a cot within a crowded barracks. It’s to the credit of the director that it all feels thrown together, that people who used to live shoulder to shoulder in cramped conditions give the impression that they have to relearn how to do this, and that new conflicts might be possible.

But aside from that, there is the uncomfortable issue of those who collaborated with the Cylons while New Caprica was under occupation. As the Chief predicted, the other humans haven’t forgotten, and a shadowy group known as the Circle is trying a number of these collaborators for crimes against humanity in secret, kangaroo courts. The charged have no representation, and are usually found guilty and thrown out of airlocks.

Very soon, the Circle’s attention settles on former communications officer Lieutenant Gaeta, the chief of staff of Baltar’s government, and widely seen as the number two man of the Cylon occupation. The fact that he seems to have stood idly by while the Cylons executed their death list marks him as guilty in most of the Circle’s mind, although Anders and the Chief have their doubts.

Erin questions why Gaeta doesn’t just tell people that he supplied the resistance with key information about the Cylon occupation while in his position of power. Although he does do this to Starbuck, who dismisses it as a bunch of lies, he does seem unusually reticent to defend himself. Perhaps he hates what he did during the occupation, but that alone doesn’t justify his keeping that information away from most people, especially when it seems that this has been done by the writers to ensure that Gaeta’s persecution escalates until he’s almost thrown out of an airlock.

Dan puts his finger on a flaw in the episode. The Circle is a well-used plot device, of battered people who are cloaking their vengeance in the guise of justice. Their realization that they almost spaced an (almost) innocent man is nothing new, and only made watchable by the performance of the regulars, especially Colonel Tigh, the Chief and especially Starbuck.

Starbuck’s traumatized character is a highlight of this episode, especially the tense scene where she tries to thrust Anders out of her life for his own protection. When she demands that Gaeta beg for his life, laying bare how the Circle has become about vengeance instead of justice, it kicks up the scene nicely. The music plays along to, intriguingly inserting her father’s theme music as she condemns Gaeta to death.

But the best part of this episode were the exchanges between Roslin and now Presiden Zarak, as he hands power over to her in exchange for the Vice Presidency. Zarak has become a complicated character that we know little about. A former terrorist, he made peace with Roslin when the two discovered they were equally on the wrong side of President Baltar. The revelation that the secret trials were his idea throws a wrench in that relationship. Zarak’s problem is not that he’s selfish or obviously self-centred like Baltar, but that he feels he knows what’s best for the people around him and has the tendency to act unilaterally. Taking on the responsibility of subverting the constitution so that Roslin doesn’t have to is almost a selfless act, despite how terrible it is. Roslin and the others will have to watch Zarak, not because of his ambition, but because of the danger that might result should he see some other key cause to provide an end that justifies his rather ruthless means.

Then there are the scenes of Baltar on the Cylon basestar (which have a strange, but nice seventies feel to them), and the Cylons’ confusion over what to do about him. Not much happens here, save for a number of atmospheric shots (and an always-welcome appearance by a Cylon Centurion), but this is a part of the series where we’re getting some real forward motion. The Cylons are probably going to have plans for Baltar. What are they? That should be interesting to find out.

Collaborators ends abruptly. Almost as soon as Gaeta proves that he was the mole in Baltar’s government, the secret trials are put away, and President Roslin proposes a Truth and Reconciliation commission, rather optimistically hoping that this sooths the trauma of the occupation and the desire for recriminations. She acknowledges that this won’t be a popular move (and Gaeta continues to eat alone until the Chief pointedly sits beside him), but you do get a sense that this matter is about to be dropped and that the writers have no interest in pursuing these dramatic avenues much in the future. Maybe there isn’t much dramatic potential to mine here, but it does feel pat, and a little unrealistic.

Battlestar Galactica is treading water again, but in a different way from where things stood during the middle part of the second season. We’ve had four powerful episodes that have pushed the series and its characters forward in tremendous ways, and now is the time to take a breather, to start to line up more ducks in a row. Collaborators is not Exodus, but it may be the sort of bread-and-butter Battlestar Galactica episode that makes episodes like Exodus possible.

Galactica Notes

  • We did get an interesting glimpse into Cylon society when it was revealed that a vote had been taken on Baltar’s fate: 3-3, with “the sixes” undecided.

    We know of seven Cylon models: the Simons, the Leisure Suit Larries, the Sixes, the Boomers (the Eights), the D’Annas (the Threes), the Brother Cavils, and the Leobens. Well, now we know that these seven models amount to the Cylon council, at least as far as Caprica and New Caprica are concerned. The remaining five models (of which two could be the Centurions, and the ships) aren’t a part of this council, and it would be, at this point, a cop-out to introduce a new Cylon model and then make it a part of the power structure, without a decent explanation of where that model has been.

    And Leoben is now a part of the council, which makes me wonder what he’s doing, working on his own projects outside of council attention, or if he’s still rogue and the remaining position is taken up by a Cylon we don’t know about yet.

    I think there’ll be more exploration into the Cylon society in the future.

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