NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Scattered”

I’m getting back into the cockpit. I’m getting back into my fleet. And I want you to come with me, Saul.

Air Date: 15/07/2005

Director: Michael Rymer

Writer: David Weddle and Bradley Thompson

Synopsis: Colonel Tigh is forced into some hard choices in the chaos following Adama’s shooting, as the Galactica is separated from the rest of the Fleet. On Kobol, the survivors of the Raptor crash struggle to survive.

Review

Season Two opens with another dip into “Crisis of the week”, albeit with plenty of ties to the episodes that closed Season One. In this case it’s how to find the Fleet again after the Galactica inadvertently jumps to the wrong place, a nice unique catastrophe that ties into the time-sensitivity sub-plots of Adama’s medical emergency and the crew members stranded on Kobol. It allows for the season opener to give us some engaging military sci-fi drama, not unlike “The Hand Of God”, closing with a space battle and a desperate race against time. Season openers have to be a big deal, and “Scattered” gives us that sense of giant drama, while never letting any of the other sub-plots feel unimportant or ignored.

I’ve used the word “confluence” a few times recently, but it fits the finale here again, as we move from the battle with the basestar, the drama with the virus edging closer to Galactica’s computers, Roslin praying in the brig and Adama’s impromptu surgery. Rymer really nails it again here, and even if it lacks the beauty of what we saw in the opening minutes of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)” it is still very affecting. There’s a sense of a hell of a lot happening at once, but not so much that you get overwhelmed. The relief that comes, in the characters and in the audience, when Galactica makes it back to the Fleet, is palpable and, just like in “The Hand Of God”, those celebrations are a truly cathartic moment.

Tigh takes up the mantle of main episode focus for the first time since the disastrous “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”, but he’s a hell of a lot better as a character in this one. “Scattered” is framed around a series of frenetic flashbacks to Tigh’s past and his relationship with Adama, and while that trope is more than a little trite, I feel it does ground the episode very effectively with some nice elaboration on the Tigh character. That past gives us some interesting glimpses of the person Tigh is. He and Adama met in the merchant fleet, after finishing stints in the Navy. Adama got back in thanks to his wife and was then able to get Tigh his commission back: in this we see both the depth of the men’s friendship, but also Tigh’s dependence on Adama, who very much has the dominant role between the two. The idea of a world where Tigh is absent Adama is one that he can’t contemplate: here he is essentially just doing what he thinks Adama would do, reflected in the speech that he gives the crew. But of course Tigh also shows some of his own initiative in agreeing to Gaeta’s plan, even if it means breaking some of the Galactica’s, and Adama’s, most fervently held ideals. That inner conflict, egged on by Ellen, is going to be at the heart of of the next few episodes.

Away from that, we see other facets of Tigh come to the fore in “Scattered”. He is still, in many ways, a fundamentally weak person, something we see in his hesitation to make certain decisions (though once he does, he sticks with them to the utmost), in his violent outburst with Boomer and in the last flashback, where his alcoholism is on display in a manner that goes beyond the functionality he has been able to showcase in the course of the show. Tigh is a stand-in when it comes to command, simply not having the temperament for long-term leadership: he’s capable in a crisis, but even in the course of “Scattered” he demonstrates the problems that mean he will always, happily, be in Adama’s shadow. Like so many other characters in the show, this is a moment that means Tigh has the chance to rise to an immense challenge: it remains to be seen if he is equal to it.

The crisis also allows for a nice mini-arc for one Felix Gaeta, who is going to be getting a bit more time in Season Two as I recall. He messes up here, sending the Fleet to two different places, and suffers a crisis of confidence that we can all relate to, even if we haven’t quite experienced it with the same level of stakes as he does. But he rallies back and figures out a way to solve the problem, with the support of the people around him (not least Tigh, who compares him favourably to Baltar: such a word of support actually means much more than Tigh perhaps realises).

On Boomer, briefly, it would seem in this episode that her programming nudges her to basically provoke Tigh into killing her. It would certainly explain the way she goads him after previously begging to know if Adama was still alive. While an interesting plot point of its own accord, it does raise the possibility that Boomer’s suicidal tendencies that were exhibited in Season One may not have been entirely of her own accord: it may have been programming encouraging her to enact a unique method of escaping the Fleet. What a weird addition to Cylon psychology that would be?

What we might call “the rebellion” also gets a certain amount of time in “Scattered” but the fissure in the Fleet will be more fleshed out later on. For now it is enough to see that Roslin is not cowed by her situation, and is still trying to find an angle that will help her. In this case it is Apollo who provides the beginning of that angle, his relative freedom a way of getting him into this episodes finale but which opens doors later. There’s also the unnamed Marine guard who quickly betrays a religious devotion, a sign that Roslin’s adherents in the Fleet are more varied than it might have initially seemed. This might seem like a bit of a plot hole, but enough people know about Roslin’s prophecies that word may have leaked. Roslin is a sideshow in “Scattered”, but a sideshow that effectively lays the ground for future drama.

Where it was sort of a throwaway plot in both parts of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming”, much of “Scattered” brings us back to Kobol. Baltar gets comparatively little attention, just an addendum to the revelation he experienced in the finale of the previous season. For all of his talk of accepting God into his heart and allowing himself to be God’s instrument, Baltar remains a man who hews to the side of logic and reason: it’s this strange thing where he is both accepting of the opera house around him and of the child in the basket as a consequence of being God’s instrument, but also has a desire to understand the reality behind it. Six seems genuinely confused by Baltar’s questions, almost disappointed, but it’s just who he is. Head Six is just a thought in his head, how could she have a child? Things are just getting a bit too obtuse for him, and that causes a reversion back to the commitment-phobic Baltar who suddenly isn’t actually all that keen to be a father.

More juicy than any of that is everything else that is happening on Kobol. Crashdown’s failure as a leader is becoming more apparent, as he ignores good advice, blames others for his failings and seems to actively put peoples lives in danger unnecessarily. He’s contrasted ably by Tyrol who, while not being Captain American by any means, has calm, reason, and a certain supply of courage, all things that Crashdown seems to lack. The conflict between the two is only starting to heat up at this point, but Crashdown has already gotten one of the party killed, and another is coming up imminently. The peace and quiet of Kobol allows for some different landscapes for he show, but that peace is very easily shattered, and will be again.

There’s also some time for a scene on Caprica, which amounts largely to summing the plotline up before we move forward. Helo’s come round very quick on Sharon and her pregnancy, from pointing a gun at her to once again acting all lovely dovey, which is a bit jarring I’ll grant. For now it’s Helo and Starbuck alone, and we’ll get into it properly later.

“Scattered” ends on another cliffhanger, as if we hadn’t had enough of those with the conclusion of the previous episode, essentially making it Part One to what will be Part Two in “Valley Of Darkness”. But I can forgive, just because the set-up of that cliffhanger is suitably intriguing. We’ve seen Tigh struggle with the reality of sole command with this crisis, but now he is about to face a much more direct one. All across this universe, people will now face new challenges, and the stakes continue to be high.

Notes

Whatever it is, it’s bearing on Galactica. We gotta take it out.

-Not much to say about the title here, other than it is a reference to both the Fleet and to the various sub-plots, which marks BSG as a truly intergalactic show at this stage.

-The “Previously on…” sections now feature a line of naked Eight’s for the “There are many copies” line. Still creepy!

-I’m not sure what to make of the work on “young” Adama and Tigh. With Michael Hogan they kind of pull it off with the hairpiece and the softer smile, but you can’t slap a mustache on Edward James Olmos and convince me he’s decades younger.

-Captain Kelly shows up here over the first time since the Miniseries, and is informed he is now second-in-command. Does this mean he is the third highest ranking Naval officer on Galactica usually, or is he fourth behind the, ahem, unavailable Captain Adama?

-“So whats your plan here? Personally, I tend to go with what you know. ‘Til something better turns up.” Adama’s philosophy summed up in three short sentences. And it sort of reminds me of a line later in the show’s run: “When faced with untenable alternatives you should consider your imperative.”

-Roslin is calculating the moment Apollo tells her about his father, you can see it in her face. It isn’t until the next scene that you fully realise why however: if they are in the wrong place, then Starbuck is going to miss the rendezvous.

-Really nice, simple image of the empty DRADIS reading to make clear the enormity of the situation facing the Galactica.

-Matched very well with a pan out showing what looks like an increasing distance between people in CIC and then a pan out showing the Galactica all alone in space.

-The opening titles now includes a crawl and a survivor count, which is a very nice touch to clue you in to how desperate things are episode to episode.

-Baltar struggles to enunciate his confusion over the baby and how it can be the result of him and Head Six. She looks at him with this slight frown, like she’s worried she has to explain the birds and the bees.

-“Scattered” is a grim episode, but has room for a little bit of humour. Here it’s Baltar’s delirious “Am I the father?” before being woken up by Cally.

-Of course, Baltar’s time on Kobol in this episode is less funny if you’ve seen one of the deleted scenes, where an intimate moment with Six gets put on hold when Baltar realises they are getting intimate near a pile of human skulls. As I recall I think the next episode has some stuff on that.

-Interesting choice to have Tigh’s back-and-forth with Ellen suddenly morph into his speech to the crew. It emphasises that Tigh is not an impromptu kind of guy, he needs to practice what he is going to say beforehand, a trait I doubt Adama shares.

-On a first watch, I noticed the sound of birds on Kobol before it was noted by the characters. It’s an almost eerie change from the usual soundscape of the show.

-Tyrol continues to try and talk sense to Crashdown, but very deliberately steers away from confrontation. We saw military formality be a dramatic tragedy in the last episode, here’s it’s about to become a more physical one.

-I’ll admit, it’s just a tiny bit hard to take Starbuck seriously in “Scattered” because the blood coming from her nose has congealed in a manner that looks very much like a mustache.

-“What do you want from me Helo, she’s a Cylon!” Sky used to have this line in all of BSG ads, so I must have heard it 50 million times.

-“Bitch took my ride”. Starbuck is her usual stoic self in the face of being stranded in a nuclear hellscape.

-“Today, you’re a doctor”. Tigh not quite as good at the peptalks as Adama.

-The gun fight comes out of the blue, and I think is actual the first action scene that could use that descriptor since, I guess, “Bastille Day”? It’s basic enough stuff, with the Centurions not even visible.

-Tyrol’s leadership potential is obvious enough here, as he directs Cally’s fire and saves Tarn, at least temporarily. He’s the poster boy for the sort of grounded, simple commander whose emphasis on keeping people safe is first and foremost.

-But he is as prone to breakdown as much as anyone else, as we see in his reaction to Tarn’s death. This is presumably Tyrol’s first taste of armed combat, and while he carries himself well through it, losing someone is always going to be an emotional gutpunch.

-Gaeta refers to himself as the “OOD” when attempting to take responsibility for the disaster. This is “Officer Of The Deck”, a naval term for any officer who has authority over the CIC or equivalent in the absence of a superior. But of course, surely that would have been Tigh then?

-The visual aide of soap, as Gaeta figures out how to solve the problem, is a bit much really, a rare example of BSG talking down to the audience.

-Tigh, after some hesitation, takes the first decisive step in breaking from Adama’s tradition: “Those are my orders”, with an emphasis on “my”. But its clear taking such a move adds to his turmoil, it doesn’t alleviate it.

-“Thank you Madame President”. I don’t think Apollo could have put more emphasis on the last two words of that sentence if he had tried.

-She might have Apollo onside, but Roslin’s shtick gets nowhere with Tigh, dismissed with a curt “You went up against the Old Man and you lost”. The two have had an odd relationship thus far in the shows run, and it will have a few more twists and turns before we’re done.

-The set-up of the four firewalls might as well have a literal ticking clock beneath it really, but it’s at least unique in that regard.

-“I’ll take your work over that shifty son of a bitch any day”. We might remember Tigh’s glaring at Baltar in “Six Degrees Of Separation”. This line clearly means a lot to Gaeta though.

-A really nice shot here of Raiders launching from various parts of the basestar. There are hundreds of them, like a wasps nest, and would indicate that basestars have no flak defences like the Galactica has.

-Having been seen briefly in “Colonial Day”, the Cylon Heavy Raider makes its proper debut here, an alien, and rather terrifying, looking piece of military hardware.

-Roslin prays with her guard during the battle, already moving in neatly to the role of a prophet, especially when it suits her.

-The “flak barrier” as Kat calls it, is a seriously impressive CGI lightshow around Galactica, that offers something new for space combat scenes that I’ll admit are starting to get a little samey.

-I did think it was strange that Apollo notes there is “no fire” after the Heavy Raider crash, considering the explosive decompression: with no oxygen of course there would be no fire. But I suppose the fear is that the crash may have penetrated deeper into Galactica or that there may have been some manner of fuel-leak fire?

-One thing I missed the first time I watched but which now seems very obvious: as Gaeta cuts the network cables, you can see the final firewall breached on the screen. Rather important for whats coming later.

-Nice use of a repeated shot at the conclusion, as we pan out from Galactica to see it ensconced among the rest of the Fleet.

-It’s hard seeing Adama cut open as he is, weak, vulnerable and with his life in someone else’s hands. It’s a shock to Tigh too, clearly.

-I’ve read that Tigh, in the final flashback, is perceived as preparing to self-immolate, which is not what I ever took from that scene, I thought he was just going to burn his uniform.

-The military men in Tigh’s flashback have “SP” written on their helmets. This presumably means “Shore Patrol”, marking them as security forces attached to the Navy or Marines, but I admit that designation doesn’t make much sense in a world where a nautical term like “shore” should have less resonance in a military context.

-“I don’t want a command…I never did”. Tigh isn’t a leader, not like Adama is. The thought clearly terrifies him. That terror is going to lead to bad calls.

-Love that final shot of the Centurions emerging from the Raider, the red light advancing into the camera. To be continued!

Overall Verdict: A very solid, entertaining opening for Season Two, that effectively keeps the various plots of last season ticking over nicely. It’s got a strong character arc at the heart, lots of great dialogue, ends on a spectacular action beat, there is little more that you can really ask for here.

To read more entries in this series, click here to go the index.

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4 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Scattered”

  1. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica: Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Valley Of Darkness” | Never Felt Better

  3. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Fragged” | Never Felt Better

  4. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resistance” | Never Felt Better

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