Sunday, November 12, 2006

Battlestar Galactica - 'A Measure of Salvation' (3x07)

This episode has some issues with its overall narrative construction, but it was incredibly entertaining while I was watching it, and I think that overwhelms the problems that emerge with the ending. And regardless of the specific issues with what went down at the end, the general direction of the series is still very strong, and I'm optimistic about the future.

There were two strands of this episode that I loved. One was Baltar's interrogation stuff. Baltar's stay on the cylon ship has given new freshness to his mental interactions with Six. Last season, they had pretty much exhausted both the comedy and drama of doing scenes that juxtapose Head Six's words with whoever Baltar was really talking to. However, here we see a really striking juxtaposition of pleasure and pain that completely blurs the lines between what's real and what's not.

Watching, we don't know what Baltar is feeling. From doing audio work myself, I know out of context, it becomes pretty easy to confuse cries of pain with cries of sexual pleasure, and this scene makes expert use of that fact. When Baltar's in the chair, he's yelling, but that could just as easily be in reaction to what Six is doing in his head as it is to the pain that D'Anna is inflicting on him. I still love the look of both the ship and the beach in his mind. The color correction maximizes that, a stark contrast between cold blues and rich, warm reds.

These scenes further the idea that this Six is a benevolent force, and once again Baltar is confronted with the will of God. I love the philosophical stuff here, and D'Anna's expression at the end, when she is confronted by Baltar's declaration of love, is great. I love all this cylon basestar stuff and I'm really curious to see how it develops.

The other great element of this episode was the stuff with Helo. There's a lot of dramatic potential in his relationship with Sharon, but we haven't gotten a chance to explore that in a while. This brings it to the forefront, and we see each of them at cross loyalties. Sharon has chosen to serve on Galactica, and will not betray that oath. She would rather let her entire race die than betray Adama. That's only going to make it even more crushing when she finds out what Adama and Roslin did to Hera. I'm guessing that scene will be in episode eleven, and incite some kind of clifhanger for the brief midseason break.

I think this episode works very differently depending on how you feel about the moral question of what to do with the diseased cylons. I've always sympathized with the cylons, and the idea of exterminating them with this bio-weapon is morally objectionable. The thing that most of the human characters on the show won't admit is that the cylons are virtually identical to humans. The differences they have are more cultural than biological. There's more difference between primitive humans and the people on Galactica than there are between the cylons and people on Galactica. To destroy all the cylons might be the prudent military choice, but I would agree with Helo that it's crossing a moral line, and should not be done.

He gets his best material in a long time. I love the difficulty he has dealing with both Sharon's seeming indifference, and the fleet's strong stance in favor of extermination. He's a wild card now, and even more than for Sharon, the knowledge that Adama and Roslin took Hera could destroy him. I'm really curious to see his reaction, will he and Sharon leave Galactica and go to the cylon ship? Hera is there, so it would make sense. And, we would get an interesting reversal where Helo would be forced to decide just how much he really can accept cylon culture.

The show always poses really interesting moral questions. The problem with a really tough moral conundrum is that solving it requires major consequences, or a copout ending. And this ending feels a bit lacking in consequences. Even if they're not going to discipline Helo, there should have been a scene where we get some sense of where Adama and Roslin stand on the actions. I do find it interesting how they have switched roles from where they were at the beginning of the series. Adama's work with Sharon has forced him to reassess the cylons, while Roslin remains generally removed, willing to give the go ahead to exterminate the whole race. I would have liked to have seen some followup on how she feels about making that call.

However, I don't think the lacking ending doesn't preclude this from being a really strong episode. I love the way this season is developing, it's easily the best series on television.

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