Standoff (The Eye of Jupiter Reviewed)

Eye of Jupiter

Images courtesy Galactica Station

Last week, I said that the best thing about The Passage were the Cylon scenes. While they were wholly disconnected from the narrative, they were well directed, suitably mysterious, and promising of payoff down the line. The Eye of Jupiter delivers that payoff.

Arriving on the algae planet, helpfully named “The Algae Planet” (possibly because “Baltar” was given to the last sulfurous gas giant or brown dwarf they passed) the humans set to work processing the algae into protein bars. Chief Tyrol, pausing to admire the scenery (which is remarkable. The X-Files would try to film Florida or Iowa in the interior of British Columbia, and be laughed at for the results. If I didn’t know that Battlestar Galactica only films in British Columbia, I would have sworn they went elsewhere. Kudos to whoever picked the location, and the camera operators who shot it), is called by a mysterious intuition toward a cathedral rock.

Very quickly, he finds his way into a cave which, very quickly, shows its artificial origins. While scenes of Lee Adama and Kara Thrace finding themselves at loggerheads in their relationship (she won’t divorce; he won’t commit adultery — I’ve never wanted to slap Starbuck more), and Baltar on the Cylon ship finding Hera in distress cut into the narrative flow, Tyrol finds a metal door, manages to turn the handle, and enters into what is possibly the greatest reveal in television history.

I’m serious: it was a perfect moment. The direction was tight, the scenes cutting in and out in a pace that increased with the beat of the music and then wham! Tyrol enters a big chamber. I mean a big chamber. Oh, holy cow, that’s big. The camera is still pulling back! Look, there’s an alter, and writing on plinths. And just when you think the shot can’t get any more awe-inspiring, the cameraman decides to look up. Wow.

Now, I have to assume that a few days have passed since The Passage. The director (Michael Rymer — whose name I’m seeing again and again on some of Battlestar Galactica’s best episodes) helpfully suggests this by giving Baltar a much fuller beard.

But I make this point because I hope that the algae processing has been going for a little while, and people have received their first few rations of protein bars, because if this isn’t the case, I think civilians in the fleet might be a bit upset to see work distracted by the discovery of the temple, even if it is clearly “the Temple of the Five” as Tyrol identifies it as. You don’t mess around with hunger. And when the Cylons happen to show up (with Baltar having guessed the location based on the babblings of the hybrid), and the civilian fleet jumps away to the emergency coordinates, one is left to wonder how upset people will be to come to the point of starvation, get a few bits of a new protein bar, and then stare starvation in the face again with the potential loss of the algae planet to the Cylons.

This is not The Eye of Jupiter’s fault, but that of The Passage before it. I guess it shows, in a television show that’s plotted this tightly through its episodes, one should never introduce elements that you intend to throw away by the end of an episode, unless you are willing to have them properly dealt with. It’s easily overlooked in the moment, though, when four Basestars come in almost on top of the human fleet — but don’t launch raiders.

Then comes a moment that must be almost surreal to the Galactica bridge crew: the Cylons hail them, and Baltar is on the other end of the line. The writing crew of Galactica did something very interesting when they transformed this traitor from the original series into an egomaniac who’d been tricked into betraying humanity. The writing crew hinted that their intention was to take Baltar down a long path from haunted-egomaniac to a megalomaniac who’d completely thrown his lot in with the Cylons. The call he places to Adama is almost at the level of megalomaniac. There’s a deadly calm there — almost as if Baltar realizes (and he probably does) that the humans would kill him as soon as look at him, but he’s prepared to accept that. I predict that, the next time Baltar calls Adama on the phone, Baltar will be an out-and-out supervillain.

Things get even more surreal when the Cylons send D’Anna, Brother Cavil, Boomer Sharon and Baltar over to parlay. After brief negotiations with Adama which set the terms of the standoff (with Brother Cavil hilariously offering to throw in Baltar to make a deal, and Adama and Tigh being tempted by the offer), the two sides face off. Adama has crew (including Lee) down on the planet, and he won’t leave until they’re aboard. He’ll nuke the planet if the Cylons send a single centurion to the surface. Despite D’Anna’s rather generous equation of one Battlestar to one Cylon basestar in her assessment that the Galactica is outnumbered 4 to 1, the Cylons can’t intervene without risking the precious Eye of Jupiter. However, D’Anna managed to smuggle a squadron of Centurions onto the planet’s surface, and so Lee and the others are on borrowed time.

Then there’s the meeting between Boomer Sharon and Athena Sharon, which of course results in Athena learning that her daughter Hera is alive (typing this out, I’m forced to ask: isn’t this actually reversed in Greek mythology?). The interesting bit is that when Adama comes to President Roslyn with the news that Hera is alive, the president’s decision to smuggle the baby away was clearly kept secret from him, and he’s pissed.

I have a little trouble believing that Adama would be kept out of the loop (and I wonder if Roslyn did it because she realized that Adama had lost a son), but Edward James Almos’ acting carries the scene. The scene that follows where he talks to Athena and Helo is very important, showing just how much he has come to trust Athena Sharon in the months since she came to Galactica.

And let’s not forget the developing Lee-Kara-Anders tensions simmering on the Algae Planet’s surface. It’s quite clear that Anders knows what’s going on between Lee and Kara, but it’s also clear that he’s aware of Kara’s other indiscretions, to which Lee (and the audience) says with one look: “what other indiscretions?!” When Kara’s ship is shot down by the squadron of Centurions, Lee and Anders’ conflicts take on several levels: adulterer and cuckold, military and civilian, a soldier’s duty versus a husband’s duty.

Meanwhile, on the Cylon basestar, the Cylons are nearly frantic about what to do next. Only Brother Cavil (played marvellously by Dean Stockwell) carries himself calmly, speaking about the opportunity to destroy Galactica and expressing a machine’s confidence that they’ll get to Earth eventually (and, do what, exactly? Cavil obviously intends to nuke it, but I’m less sure if the other Cylons agree). Dean Stockwell plays villains best, I’m told, and he’s in fine form here. Dan suggests that the clothes that he wears and his mannerisms would make him a good Master on Doctor Who and I think he’s right.

It’s also nice to see Callum Keith Rennie’s Leoben back, although I’m unclear why he’s back in the command structure now, when he wasn’t at all during the occupation (is he the only Leoben about? Was screwing with Kara Thrace’s mind a full time job?). An interesting look passes on his face when Cavil talks about ending “the human pestulence”. Erin theorizes that this is because Leoben is more religious than Brother Cavil (which makes a conflict between the two inevitable and interesting). The Eye of Jupiter is a sacred site, and perhaps Leoben doesn’t want to see it taken through violence. It’s interesting to note that he’s the first Cylon to order the mission to take the Algae Planet be turned back.

D’Anna continues to go around the bend, and to take Baltar with her. After cutting Caprica Six loose (I just love the scene where Baltar stammers platitudes to try and mollify Six, only to have D’Anna say bluntly “It’s over, Caprica.” The fact that he then just motions at D’Anna as if to say, “okay. What she said.” is priceless), D’Anna decides to see the temple for herself. She’s on the verge of a revelation, she thinks, and perhaps we’ll get a clearer picture of Cylon mythology soon. She says she’s on the verge of seeing the faces of the five other models of the Cylons (wait a minute: she hasn’t even seen them? Doesn’t even know what they look like? This suggests that the models weren’t boxed for objecting to the attack on humanity; they weren’t around to begin with), if not the face of God. At that moment, the hybrid babbles about the temple, and says it may only reveal its secrets to “the chosen one” — a phrase she repeats several times while her eyes bore into Baltar’s skull.

Great. As if the mans ego wasn’t big enough.

But it’s Chief Tyrol who has the most interesting story here, with actor Aaron Douglas reminding us just how good he was last season. It’s quite understated, but the sense of what must be going through his head — his tensions with his dead parents over his adolescent defiance of the gods, the fact that he felt himself was drawn here by a mysterious force, he reverence with the place in conflict with the fact that he might have to blow it up — is well played and fascinating, and you definitely get the sense that he’s on the verge of a major revelation here.

It’s no accident that he’s possibly the most significant player in the cliffhanger, launched when the Cylons try to break the standoff by sending half a dozen Cylon raiders including Baltar and D’Anna to the planet’s surface. The director kicks things into high gear, snapping us back and forth between increasingly tense scenes on the planet’s surface, on Galactica, on the Cylon base star, and back to Tyrol in the temple of the five. Adama isnt bluffing; he’s willing to nuke his son. The Cylons are about to have a major meltdown over the possible loss of the Eye of Jupiter, Lee and Anders are about to come to blows, and Tyrol is very, very close to finding the Eye. You know it.

But you’ll have to wait until January 21 to find out. Damn you Sci-Fi Channel!

Eye of Jupiter

Galactica Notes

  • The countdown of doom in the credits reveals that only about 20 people perished in The Passage. I do recall a statement made that Galactica, which was better protected against the radiation, had taken aboard most of the civilians, leaving the ships to be piloted by skeleton crews, but this highlights the ham-handed way the episode was plotted. Other than a couple of establishing shots of crewmembers faint with hunger, and grim-faced civilians silently mobbing the Galactica cafeteria, too much of that story develops through hear-say. I’m feeling more and more disconnected from The Passage than ever.
  • Continuity watch: in season one, Adama told Baltar just how many nuclear weapons Galactica had on board. I think it’s the same number of warheads that get loaded up at the end of this episode. If those are the only nukes he has, then his action, as bold as it is, still stands as a bluff. I mean, what else has he got? Worse, Baltar would know this number, although he’s fortunately not on the Cylon bridge to feed this information to the Cylon fleet. However, as I type this, I realize that Adama probably got the extra nukes from the Pegasus.
  • I should mention Lieutenant Gaeta’s contribution to the episode, helpfully putting the gun on the wall for part two (entitled Rapture) by pointing out that the star they’re orbitting around is about to go nova. Could be tomorrow, or it could be a year from now (hint: it’s probably tomorrow). He’s also given the task of delivering what is known in the Turkey City Lexicon as “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit” — wherein the author tries to diffuse the reader’s incredulity by a preemptive strike. Gaeta comments on the coincidence of the Cylons and the Humans coming to this sacred site at the same time, just before the star is to go nova. Either something is going to come along to explain the high level of coincidences here, or it’s a statement to acknowledge the sheer improbability of the event and move past it. It’s probably the latter, but the rest of the episode’s writing, and the way Gaeta delivers the lines, does lend an air of believability that keeps my disbelief suspended.
  • Nice touch: here are two images that suggest eyes in this episode: the artwork in the temple is obvious, but less obvious is the star in the middle of the nebula.
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