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BSG Season 1: Act of Contrition Ep. 4 April 23, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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Noble Sacrifice or Self-Destruction? — Starbuck and the Crew are Caught in a Cycle of Love Leading to Sacrifice Leading to Self-Inflicted Wounds

It’s interesting that in a series whose central premise is the persecution of the Humans by “machines”, this episode begins with a self-inflicted loss as a Human-controlled drone (read: “machine”) cuts lose on the hangar-deck and kills a bunch of pilots during a celebration for one of their comrades on his 1,000th flight.  The Humans can’t seem to keep their own, “dumb” machines from hurting them, let alone the their rebellious Cylon servants.  In fact, this episode seems to suggest that Humans are more than capable of hurting themselves, with or without machines.  This sets up the plot line for the episode as Adama asks Starbuck to train the next batch of replacement pilots.  But rather than healing the wounds from the hangar-deck loss, Adama’s request only scrapes the scab off a previous tragedy — the loss of Adama’s son and Starbuck’s role in it. 

Further self-inflicted wounds are described in flashback scenes for various characters.  Starbuck’s memories of how she passed Zack (Apollo’s brother) in flight school even though he was dangerous in the cockpit.  Starbuck adds insult to this self-inflicted injury by telling Apollo what she did.  In brief, he was horrified and pissed.  This all builds into the memory of how Adama confonted her and found out what she did for Zack.  And all this interspersed with quick-cut scenes of Starbuck falling through the atmosphere of some planet with her Viper burning up around her.  The bad memories continue with Starbuck’sfear of training a class of new pilots due to her guilt about Zack’s death.  After the blowout with Adama she buckles down and starts to adjust to being an instructor resolute to the task of making something of the trainee “nuggets”.  Just as this transformation of her character takes place, where she moves from self-destructive behavior to self-sacrificing, she sacrifices herself to save Hot Dog, one of the more high profile “nuggets” (and the real-life son of Olmos). 

But Starbuck isn’t the only one working to distinguish between self-sacrifice and destruction.  The self-inflicted wounds are slowing growing between one of the Sharons (later to be known as “Athena”) and Helo on Caprica as they fall in love.  Here, their selfless acts of love for each other set the stage for later in the series when they form a key couple affecting the day-to-day politics in Galactica.  In this sense, they are responsible for a great deal of the tension and the “wounds” that occur later in the show. 

Similarly, we privy to Dr. Cottle’s examination of Roslin.  As he learns the facts of her cancer, he confronts her on why she did not have regular breast exams for a period of five years.  Her defensive answer is that she was very busy, but this is mere deflection.  [!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!] Since Roslin was having an affair with the President, she may have been inflicting punishment on herself for her love by ignoring the growing warning signs of her illness. [!!!END SPOILER ALERT!!!]

In all these cases, we see a repeated pattern of love leading to self-destruction and guilt, leading to more self-destruction.  What an interesting and depressing show this is!



1. Kym - April 23, 2008

Wait, When did we find out Roslin was having an affair with the president? I mean it fits (and makes me think even more that she is a Cylon) but did I just miss this or are you throwing a spoiler in here :mean face:

Why is romantic love always wrong so far in the series? Starbuck’s love causes her to allow Odama’s son to become a pilot when he wasn’t good enough. The Chief’s and Sharon’s love is against military policy. Then there are others that will happen in the rest of the season–always love leading people to make poor decisions.

Personally, love has always been a force for the good in my life. The writers for the show must have lived in Hollywood too long.

2. Chris - April 24, 2008

Yeah….these guys must have had traumatic childhoods. Interesting though that usually science fiction stories portray love as the unique quality that separates humans from machines and is often the trait that sentient machines envy. Here this is the case as well, but it’s the human trait that leads to human downfall more often than not, and STILL, the machines are attracted to it. Nice twist on an old theme.

Unfortunately, the reference to Roslin was a spoiler mistake…I’m going to mark it as such. Sorry for the reveal.

3. Kym - April 24, 2008

Not having viewed far into the second season, I’m curious– the Cylon’s are showed as being in love. Sharon with the Chief, Sharon with Helo, Six maybe with the good Doctor–so evidently they have found a way to imbue androids with emotions? Why did they do it?

4. Chris - April 24, 2008

I think we’re beginning to get hints to answers to your questions from chatter about the Caprica series, but telling you now would add spoiler-insult to spoiler-injury. There…that’s called a non-answer, answer. 🙂

5. Kym - April 25, 2008

If my family doesn’t start freeing up time to watch this, I’m going to scream.

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