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BSG Season 3: The Woman King December 15, 2007

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).


It’s Helo Alone Against the World (Again) — But Who’ll Save Us From Another Stand-Alone BSG Episode?

As mentioned in a post for a previous episode, the quality of BSG episodes tends to wax and wane depending on whether the plot is a “stand-alone” or serves the larger story arc of the series — “stand-alone” episodes tend to suck.  This episode appears to serve mainly to fulfill a contract requirement for Tahmoh Penikett, the actor who plays Helo, as the story concentrates on his assignment to take care of the refugees who are being harbored aboard Galactica.  As he’s processing them a civilian doctor named Robert (Cue the Beatles:  “He’s a man you must believe, he helps everyone in need, no one can succeed like Doctor Robert…”) discovers a deadly virus has infected a group of refugees known as the Saggitairons.  Unfortunately, this group (like Christian Scientists?) doesn’t believe in medical interventions, so while the disease is easily treated with an injection, Saggitairons are dropping like flies.

There are a couple of interesting turns in this episode despite it’s slow pacing and sub-par entertainment value.  Caprica Six’s imaginary Baltar returns and asks her why she came to Galactica.  She doesn’t have a satisfying answer, but Imaginary Baltar answers his own question, saying she’s there because she wants to be human.  According to him, the trick to being human is to only think about yourself.  Clearly this is the real Baltar’s shortcoming, so it makes sense that Caprica Six would believe that the rest of humanity is similarly hobbled.  And perhaps it’s largely so, but the main storyline of this plot centers around the selfless actions of hero Helo, so we’re led to believe that in contrast to what Caprica Six and her imaginary friend may think, humanity does have the ability to act altruistically. 

Altruism is a characteristic that many associate with doctors, but Helo grows suspicious of Dr. Robert after Ms. King, a Saggitairon with a son that dies from the virus, tells Helo that Dr. Robert killed him.  Saggitairons become the symbolic stand-ins for all victims of prejudice and hate as we find out that Dualla is one (although she denounces their “paranoid thinking”) and Col. Tighe openly applauds their deaths.  Helo’s suspiscions are piqued and he starts digging into the records of Dr. Robert.  When he finds the evidence he’s looking for — that Dr. Robert is intentionally killing Saggitairons — he finds himself a lone voice defending those who are victims of prejudice; a situation that none-too-subtley echoes his defense of Athena, the “good Cylon” and his arguments with Roslin and Adama on the immorality of exterminating the Cylon race.

When Dualla goes to Dr. Roberts to get an injection (she comes down with the illness), she looks like a strung-out drug addict begging for a fix?  “Hey doc, I don’t really fell so good — think I could get some of that Bitamucin?” says Dualla, all pale and itchy looking.  Was this intentionally written this way to play on our own prejudices of African Americans as drug addicts or is this just a coincidence and I’m imagining it?  Whatever the cause, we’re clearly supposed to associate our own prejudices for African Americans with the other colonists’ racist opinions of Saggitairons.

As Helo rushes to save Dualla from Robert’s fatal injection, Tighe and Dr. Cottle arrive to arrest Robert as a murderer, autopsy evidence “in hand” that he’s been poisoning them.  Helo’s persistence, belief in himself, and altruistic sense of duty to those oppressed win the day, and Tahmoh Penikett get’s his moment in the series spotlight.  All-in-all, a pretty lousy episode, and unfortunately, it’s not the last we’ll see in this season which takes another nose-dive starting here.



1. hobbylobby - December 17, 2007

I gotta say – I would agree that there are parts of season 3 that weren’t as great as previous seasons – but I really liked this episode. I just re-watched it last week and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. (had only seen it once before).

Helo wasn’t ever my favorite character – but I do like his inclusion in the series and I thought this was a pretty good show.

I do agree that the stand alone shows should be ditched – or the stories should probably be tied in to the bigger picture more.

so many shows do that though.

well, nice review even if I liked it more than you

2. Chris - December 17, 2007

I hear what you’re saying, and on reflection I’d say that it’s not a terrible episode, but it is the beginning of a downhill slide for season 3 (at least the way I see it) so I think that’s why I was a little harder on it than it maybe deserved based on it’s own merits. Thankfully, Season 3 redeems itself in the last (or maybe second-to-last) episode.

Helo is also not one of my favorite characters, mostly because he’s written in a way that makes him always seem to take himself so seriously…very little levity there.

Thanks for the interesting comment. Come back soon and check out the reviews as they’re posted. My plan is to finish off Season 3 and then backtrack to Season 1 and work through Season 2.

3. hobbylobby - December 17, 2007

I watched part of the (can’t remember actual name) fuel strike – Chief saves the day episode yesterday – but didn’t finish.

I guess that’s another one similar to the woman king. I like it – but it’s not so great after the 3rd or 4th time.

I had another thought:
what *is* the BSG mythology?

is it searching for earth?
is it battling Cylon Raiders?
is it life in the fleet?
is it the relationships of the people of the fleet?

it’s really all – so, in that sense, it’s tough for the writers to craft an episode that steps outside of that. (think: x-files – where a clear distinction could be made)

Well, happy day!

4. Chris - December 18, 2007

I see that one as another in a line of “stand-alone” episodes that I actually like, but mostly because they’re BSG and I like even the worst episodes.

I would say that the BSG story plot or “arc” (I think that’s what you mean when you’re talking about the mythology) is fundementally the search for Earth. Fighting Cylons, life in the fleet, the relationships between characters — all of these serve the main story arc. Without this central, driving plot, the rest of the stories would lose much of their import. Although there are a lot of “gray area” episodes where the plot is not clearly stand-alone and not clearly serving the main arc, I would say that in general, it is possible to draw a meaningful distinction. That said, it’s also my opinion that the further an episode gets from serving the main series arc, the less interseting and compelling it is.

Thanks for your interesting thoughts!

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