Rating: ***

Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed By: Michael Rymer

 

Only one Three remains. Not only is D’Anna Byers now mortal, she’s the last of her model, the remainder having been left behind to be, well, “toasted” on the now destroyed resurrection hub. Whatever purpose the Cavils and Boomer had for unboxing her, they’d better hope that a single DB can do the job.

If sabotaging the fragile alliance between the Colonials and the Conoy/Six/Sharon Cylon faction was that purposed, I’d say it was fulfilled quite nicely:

After the rebel Cylon baseship rejoins the Human fleet, D’Anna sparks a standoff by seizing Roslin, Baltar, and their entourage as hostages. She announces that she will hold these hostages aboard the baseship until the four Cylons hidden in the human fleet return safely to their own people. Tory Foster defects immediately, but the other hidden Cylons keep quiet.

Back in command aboard the Galactica, William Adama consults with Lee, who is still acting as President in Roslin’s absence. According to prophecy, the hidden Cylons will reveal the route to Earth, and Roslin has secretly ordered Adama to destroy the baseship — even with her aboard — if that’s the only way keep the Cylons from claiming Earth for themselves. The Human leaders thus face two grim alternatives: if the hidden Cylons defect, the Humans must destroy the baseship to prevent the Cylons from finding Earth, but if the hidden Cylons stay underground, the hostages will suffer. As if to prove this point, D’Anna executes a hostage and threatens to kill more unless the three remaining Cylons join her. In response, Lee orders Kara Thrace to plan a hostage rescue mission.

It’s been a while, but now we remember what set the Threes apart from the other Cylonoid models: her blend of the Twos, Sixes, and Eights’ obsession with the “final five,” and the ruthlessness of the Cavils, Dorals, and Simons. D’Anna doesn’t pass judgment on or even opine about her siblings’ actions in triggering the Cylon civil war or joining the Colonials on their Earth quest; she simply wants the final five – or, rather, the four of the five she says are in the ragtag fleet – and recognizes that with a large handful of Human hostages, she has the ready-made means of obtaining them once and for all.

Which, since they didn’t actually do the D’Anna unboxing, gets Roslin and Adama off the hook for what would otherwise be their latest strategic debacle, as when the base ship returns to the ragtag fleet, it isn’t just the Humans aboard it who are hostages, but the fleet itself as well.

I would call this a needless return to already over-plowed Cylon-Human conflict ground, but for, I have to admit, the genius of how the motivations underlying this scenario have been constructed. D’Anna is simply the catalyst. It is Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory Foster who now hold the fate of the Human remnant – and perhaps Earth itself – in their hands.   And all they have to do is give up the secret they’ve been trying to keep all season long. Only thing that surprised me was that it wasn’t Tory who ultimately spilled the identities of the other three.

One other thing is implicitly revealed in Act II about the identity of the twelfth Cylonoid model. See if you can figure it out by the end of this review.

Genius, however, does have its limits. The expression on Tigh’s face when D’Anna spaces one of her hostages conveys all too effectively the pressure that he and Tyrol and Anders are now under. But where is the logic for D’Anna in turning the screws so precipitously? Yes, Tory revealed herself, but she was right there on the flight deck when D’Anna gave her ultimatum. Has the Three really not considered the possibility that the Colonials don’t know the identities of the other three, and that perhaps her “siblings” aren’t nearly as eager to “go home” as Tory was? What if the Humans aren’t refusing to comply, but are unable to?   And what if they get pushed to the extremity where they gamble on a counter-strike of their own?

As preparations for the dangerous mission get underway, a Cylon musical signal summons Tigh, Tyrol and Anders to the mysterious Viper that Kara flew back to the fleet after her mystical journey to Earth. Intrigued, Tyrol and Anders ask Kara to help them examine the Viper. Tigh, meanwhile, resolves to stop the impending bloodshed at any cost: he finally tells Adama that he is a Cylon. Adama breaks down in fury and grief, incapacitated by this unimaginable betrayal. Lee takes charge and orders Tigh marched to an airlock to await execution. There, Tigh reveals the identities of Tyrol and Anders, who are arrested before Kara’s horrified eyes. As Anders is dragged away, he begs his wife to study the Viper. Stunned, she retreats into its cockpit and starts flipping switches.

Lee radios D’Anna that if she doesn’t release the hostages, he will execute Tigh, Tyrol and Anders. His resolve is steely despite the painful shock of seeing such well-known faces awaiting death at his hands. D’Anna similarly refuses to back down, targeting the civilian ships with the baseship’s weapons. If the three Cylons die, so will thousands of Humans.

Convenient how the final four of the final five start hearing that staticky music again, huh? And that it draws them (minus Tory, of course) to the mysterious Starbuck’s mysterious Viper that she mysteriously flew to and back from the mysterious Earth. And that it prompts them to seek out the mysterious Starbuck to see if she can tell them why their artificial craniums are trying to dial in a 10,000 watt radio station from just over the horizon that only her mysterious Viper’s car stereo seems to be picking up. And that it drives Tigh to confess his true identity to none other than his best friend “Husker”.

Can’t knock the tactical, um, genius of Tigh recognizing his value as a counter-hostage against the Cylons. I don’t know that hiding his true nature was a bad idea as he claims; other than Tory, who got inured to it, he and Tyrol and Anders never lost their souls or their allegiance. Fear of precisely that is what’s been driving them nuts ever since the Ionian Nebula, but that very fear also seemed to provide its own answer. Tigh’s offer to sacrifice himself confirms it.

On the other hand, who knew what their buried programming imperatives really were? Boomer didn’t, after all, until she had put two bullets into Adama. Perhaps it was that delay in confessing what he is that Adama took as a “betrayal,” Tigh and the others having left open the possibility of being witting Cylon tools in the fleet’s midst. Because otherwise I can’t see how the term really applies, seeing as how being “Cylon” has long since reached the point of equivalency to being “Lithuanian” for all the taxonomical difference it makes. A fact completely lost on the Admiral, who spends the remainder of the scene howling in anguish, trashing his office, and punching mirrors in a display of contrived overacting that would leave William Shatner agape.

Ironic, though, that it sends Adama on a drinking binge that looks like it’ll out-pickle Tigh before the end of the series.

And how ludicrously place-trading it is to see none other than Mr. Idealist himself, His Accidency, the Acting President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, Lee Adama, turn back into a ruthless SOB brinksman willing to space Tigh and his two companions and blow up the entire base ship with President Roslin on it if D’Anna doesn’t back down. Did you buy that? I sure as frak didn’t. I guess this is another one of those “terrible things” he was talking about on the witness stand back at the Baltar trial. Another product of the permanent state of emergency the Human Diaspora has been in going all the way back to episode #1.

But with the Admiral having been reduced to a weepy, blubbering old woman, I suppose there simply wasn’t anybody else to fill that role, and the story would have expired right then and there without it.

So what do the writers do when they’ve twisted characters’ personalities into pretzels in a frantic attempt to build a forced confrontation whose foundation is only partially there? What they’ve always done – stomp on the accelerator. Tory assures D’Anna that Lee is bluffing; Baltar shows up to assure D’Anna that he’s serious as a heart attack. D’Anna orders the base ship’s nuclear weapons targeted on the ragtag fleet. Lee prepares to space Tigh first. Baltar makes a religious appeal for peace. D’Anna replies that God will never forgive the Cylons for wiping out the Twelve Colonies. Baltar replies that force has never worked for D’Anna before, so why will it now?   Lee inserts the “open launch tube” key.   An Eight tells D’Anna their nukes are ready to fire. Tigh, like the man he’s always been, looks at Lee and tells him to do it. Lee starts turning the key.

And at the Last Possible Moment [tm], the mysterious Starbuck bursts into the launch tube control room, stops his Accidency, and tells him about the scratchy Viper signal: it’s a signal from Earth. Only I thought Roslin had ordered Adama to blow up the base ship with her on it if necessary in order to keep the Cylons from finding Earth themselves.

Oh, by the way, Roslin can’t be the final Cylon. But then D’Anna told her that last week. So yes, that was a trick tease. But then, who is it? If it isn’t in the fleet and not with the Cylons, then where could it be?   Hmmm….

But never mind. The contrived conflict now over (for the moment), we arrive at the reason why we sat through it all in the first place:

Seconds before an apocalyptic battle erupts, Kara discovers that her Viper is receiving a locator signal that no other ship in the fleet can detect. If it’s from Earth, then Anders and Tyrol have fulfilled the prophecy by giving her a crucial clue to the planet’s location. Faced with this awesome possibility, Lee and D’Anna hesitantly make peace. Lee offers amnesty to Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and Foster, and D’Anna releases her hostages. Then, with Lee and Roslin’s help, William Adama pulls himself together and orders preparations for a jump.

Jump they do. And sell the hell out of it as well. It’s the climax Voyager’s “Endgame” should have had. Galactica and the ragtag, fugitive fleet have made it to Earth. There’s wild celebrating amongst all the different groups and factions.   The CIC erupts in joy. The Adamas and Roslin embrace. So do Fundamentally Oral Gaius and his flock.   Ditto the flight deck crew and the tyllium ship workers and the pilots, the Agathons, and the final four of the final five (along with Starbuck informing “Cat,” all in their own solitary, reflective ways).   The triumphant music swells to a crescendo. It’s a massive, cast-wide group hug. Heck, Roslin was so choked up she could barely give the order to jump in the first place.

And what they find brings the entire concept of hope into the ultimate disrepute.

The original Battlestar Galactica only lasted one season. I don’t know how many seasons Glen Larson had in mind, but the sequel series Galactica 1980 cut straight to the end to answer the question of what the Colonials found when they ultimaty located Earth. And that answer was OUR Earth circa, as the show title witlessly suggested, 1980.   An Earth that obviously wasn’t ready, socially or technologically, to offer a haven for the ragtag fleet or to even be made aware of extraterrestrial Humanity. If there had been both the creative inspiration and the budget for it, this concept could have made for very interesting storytelling possibilities, examining our own current events through the prism of both Kobolian and Cylon outsiders and perhaps exploring the effects subsequent disclosure would have had on Earth civilization.

In a fanfic sense, every scifi geek dreams of seeing what would happen if Galactica had arrived at the Earth of the Star Trek universe in either Kirk’s time or Picard’s. What direction would they have come from? Would they have run into the Romulans or the Klingons first? Would they have avoided encountering the Borg? Would the Federation have taken them in? The inter-franchise “smashup” scenarios are endless.

But that isn’t what the Colonials and the rebel Cylons find.   What they find is what, realistically, should always have been kept in mind as a possibility, but which nobody wanted to even consider, lest it lay waste to their last remaining shred of purpose for continuing to live.

Earth, the goal toward which all parties have been struggling for four subjective years, is a lifeless wasteland, a burned-out cinder, the site of an all-out nuclear holocaust sometime in the past. And the cast, all of them having been so recently in joyous, raucous celebration, wonder around in contrasting states of shocked disbelief, Humans and Cylons alike united in the psychological devastation of the physical devastation all around them, perhaps realizing that the demons that brought about the Twelve Colonies’ destruction were far older than any of them imagined, and just as inescapable.

It is a stunning climax. Or, rather, anti-climax, since Earth was to be the end of the journey.   With no salvation to be found there, and the planet uninhabitable, where do they all go from here? And what of the questions this outcome raises? Who nuked Earth? Did the Cavils, Dorals, and Simons jump ahead and destroy it first?   If the devastation was self-inflicted and the final five were from Earth, does this explain why the other seven models are not to even speak of them? Was the thirteenth tribe actually Cylonoid, and Earth the birthplace of the skinjobs in the first place?

But…is this planet really Earth? We never do get a full-on look at it to identify continents and such. We, the viewers, only know that THEY, the characters, think it’s Earth. And could the fact that it was Starbuck’s Viper that picked up the signal be part of the hybrid’s prophecy that she would lead her people to their end?

The “final episodes” begin in January. I really hope Ron Moore answers these questions before it’s all over. But I suspect that in the meantime, the metastasizing insanity has only just begun.

 

Next: The triumph of despair.

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