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BSG Season 1: Bastille Day Ep. 3 March 12, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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 Apollo:  Now That I Have You at Gun-Point, I’m Going to Give You EXACTLY What You Want!

And we start this episode with a continuation of the liquid theme.  Tighe wakes up, rolls out of bed and drags out his last bottle of liquor, measuring how many shots he has ’till empty.  Then we’re off to hear some exposition where the dire needs of the fleet for water are re-capped along with the logistics of extracting it from a nearby moon.  The need for manpower to accomplish this drives the Roslyn to offer the 1,000 prisoners on the inmate transport ship a chance at freedom if they help extract the water.  So as the series progresses the water motif continues to develop.  While it represented the illumination and understanding of the unconscious  in the previous episode, here it morphs into a metaphor representing an understanding and control over the nature of humanity — or what remains of it.

Roslyn and Adama’s motives seem fairly straight-forward here — they’re looking for water to ensure humanity’s survival.  But they’re also interested in preserving the structure and power of the government (such as it is) and the lack of water threatens to spark an uprising within the fleet.  Their need for water is driven by the imperative of survival in real terms but also in terms of the stability it offers that will allow their fragile democracy and civilization to continue to exist.  But others in the fleet have different ideas about how humanity should save itself and control of the water is the political and symbolic pivot-point.

Just as Apollo is announcing Roslyn’s offer to the prisoners, they take over their ship and Apollo is taken hostage.  The prisoners’ leader, Tom Zarek — played by Richard Hatch, the same actor that played Apollo in the original series — demands that Roslyn step down and an immediate election be held for the presidency.

Apollo is caught in the middle in more ways than one — between his (already shaky) loyalties to his father and commander, and Roslyn in his new role as military adviser.  When Zarek takes over the ship, he finds his loyalties split again, as we find out that he’s read Zarek’s political writings and admires him.  So while Apollo tries to fulfill his duty by putting down the prison ship uprising, he comes to recognize the legitimacy of what Zarek wants:  free elections for the presidency.  Here he’s caught between Roslyn and Zarek as well, since Roslyn doesn’t think elections are possible during the current crisis.  Perhaps most importantly, he’s caught between his own notions of right and wrong — duty to father or to democratic principles, duty to his role as a captain in the military or to his role as military adviser to the president, duty to his fellow hostages or to his mission.  So just as the Cylons rebelled against their Human parents, Apollo is negotiating how the landscape of his own personal rebellion against two personal and societal authority figures:  his father (by working for Roslyn) and the President of the Colonies.

Roslyn is caught as well between her beliefs in democracy and her conviction that the government stands on the precipice, ready to fall over and take what remains of humanity down with it.  Adama is caught between his love for and desire to protect his son, and the imperatives of the moment — to put down the prisoner uprising, to stop a general rebellion from catching fire, and to restock the fleet with water.  Throughout, water plays the role of a symbolic and practical touchstone, infusing the plot and the characters with an existential imperative. 

In the end, Apollo manages to find a way to convince Zarek that it’s in his and the fleet’s interest to cooperate, release the hostages, and save the fleet from dehydration, all at the point of a gun.  By threatening him, Apollo is able to simultaneously give Zarek what he wants without appearing to have caved in to his “terrorist” demands — he commits (without approval from Roslyn or Adama) that there will be elections for president in nine months.



1. Kym - March 12, 2008

Over and over, Apollo shines the light of reason into a situation but oddly enough by acting passionately from his emotions. The character of Apollo in matters of community good always acts from the highest moral position (defend democracy even against one’s father for example) but he does so almost from a gut level standpoint rather than a reasoning one. I haven’t seen enough of the show (just finished season 1) to know why his character does that.

I love the show but, a criticism that I read rings true about the show.
It goes something like this–BSG is a show where plot points masquerade as characters.

The show would be better could they outgrow that tendency.

2. Chris - March 12, 2008

Interesting point. I think I understand what that criticism is saying. Sometimes I find myself trying to piece together what’s motivating a particular character based on their actions (as we do with all dramatic forms) but somehow, it’s more difficult to do this with BSG than other character-driven shows. I think this does improve in season 2, particularly as the Cylon characters begin to become more complex and are given more attention in the plots.

3. Celestedk - March 25, 2008

thats it, brother

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