NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resurrection Ship (Part One)”

The Cylons call this their resurrection ship.

Air Date: 06/01/2006

Director: Michael Rymer

Writers: Anne Cofell Saunders & Michael Rymer

Synopsis: With tensions between Galactica and Pegasus on a knife edge, plans are drawn for an attack on a Cylon fleet and a particularly important ship. Adama contemplates a dark path, while Baltar tries to help the Cylon prisoner.

Review

The very first thing that “Resurrection Ship (Part One)” has to do is resolve the seemingly unsolvable cliffhanger that came at the end of “Pegasus”, with two sets of Vipers flying at each other and their respective commanders moving to open fire at the other. I think that the episode does a good job with this conundrum: giving it time to play out a little, with the remarkably tense visual of the competing Viper squadrons maneuvering around each other without firing, before allowing Starbuck to play the deus ex machina. There’s a good depiction here of the air being let out of the balloon with the snapshots she has been able to take of the Cylon fleet, and both Cain and Adama are happy to allow this new information form the basis of a mutual stand-down. The sheer pride that is making the two come at each other is allowed to remain, with neither really coming out as the loser.

We learn a lot about Admiral Cain in this episode, and none of it is very pretty. It begins quickly with her alarmingly belligerent outburst on Colonial One, wherein her contempt for any form of government or oversight is made abundantly clear. Much more than that, Cain actually sneers at what Adama and Roslin have been able to accomplish, as if keeping the civilian Fleet going is worthy only of derision. While it takes her a while, the end result of her decision that Adama needs to be terminated is not one we are surprised to see her reach.

Before we get to that point though, there is a battle for Starbuck’s soul to be fought. This is where the deleted opening in “Pegasus (Extended)” comes in handy for those that have seen it, giving Thrace cause for antipathy towards Roslin/Adama and a reason to side with Cain a bit more than we might expect. Cain appeals to Starbuck’s desire to get back to the Colonies and save the Resistance, and that must be music to the ears of someone like Thrace. You can see it later in the episode, as Starbuck goes from questioning orders in “Pegasus” to suddenly insisting on their sanctity to Apollo here. That’s a juicy conflict to think about, long before Adama puts Starbuck on the worst kind of spot in the final moments of the episode. She’s still thinking about the person she left behind in “The Farm”.

Of course, we have to consider the long-term plan that is outlined to Starbuck – essentially to somehow liberate the Colonies with just the one ship – which makes Cain seem like someone who has gone off the deep end. She reminds me in this moment of HG Wells’ Artilleryman from The War Of The Worlds: someone whose reaction to apocalyptic circumstances is to imagine themselves the master of the future and the builder of new worlds, when their ability to achieve either aim is very much lacking. Pursuing war for its own sake, and covering that desire with a thin veneer of fantastical long-term strategy, is at the core of why Cain is dangerously unfit for her position.

The other reasons why that is the case is her very personal, emotionally-driven contempt for the Cylons, which is understandable from the context of the holocaust she has escaped, but less so when it leads her to turn the Pegasus into a machine of war criminals and sociopaths. Her assault of Gina indicates that personal touch, as does the look of almost-lust in her eyes when the idea of killing Cylons permanently is outlined to her. This really is all that Cain has: it’ll take later episodes to really make more of it clear, but she’s a woman who has taken the hurt, the guilt and the shame of the Scorpion Shipyards and morphed it into a hardline stance of approving murder, rape and military sycophancy over all else. Offing Adama is just one more extension of that.

Getting to that point for the other side of this divide is much, much trickier. It’s strange, but fitting in some ways, how we go from seeing Cain criticise Adama and Roslin for spending six months “debating the finer points of Colonial law” to Roslin very bluntly telling Adama they are going to have to kill the Admiral. The dichotomy is stark, but is not one that I think is badly aimed. Roslin tries the right way, but Cain isn’t of the mind to engage, so then the cynical, hard-pressed, pragmatic Roslin, the Roslin who left the little girl to die in the Miniseries, who lied to Leoben about sparing his life “Flesh And Bone”, who tricked Tigh in “Fragged”, comes out and comes out strong. One can’t help but think of things like The West Wing episode “We Killed Yamamoto” in these moments, as the nominal pinnacle of law and order makes the case for neutralising a clear and present danger to the Fleet through underhanded means.

Of course, Roslin is being driven by more than just pragmatism in the face of extinction. She has less than a few weeks to live, and her thoughts are naturally straying to the long-term viability of the Fleet after she is gone. With Cain in charge the Fleet is liable to be left behind, going by her track record, so the single most important things that Roslin can do is make sure that Adama’s command survives. It’s a remarkable turnaround from the situation before “Home (Part Two)”, when Adama’s dictatorial rule over the Fleet was an enemy to be fought. She seeks her goal by appealing directly to Adama, and making clear, without saying so with words, that she only has so much time left. The final scene with the two of them in this episode is layered with an emotion that wasn’t quite present before, a mix of genuine affection and even flirtation, perhaps a natural response to Roslin’s impending mortality and the decision to be made on Cain.

But it’s Adama who has to make the call, and I think that “Resurrection Ship (Part One”) does a great job depicting his agony over the decision. It would be easy to show Adama as gung-ho and practical, but it’s baby steps: the continued clashes with Cain, the investigation into what happened on the Scylla, a final heart-to-heart with Roslin and then one last interaction with Cain. The Scylla exploration is really good, consisting of Adama’s interest being piqued by the civilian Laird, utilising Tigh as a go-between with Fisk, and then having that last conversation with the President on the topic. Just as with “Pegasus”, BSG manages to fit an awful lot into this episode without it seeming stuffed to the gills. The final straw is Adama seeing Roslin in her advanced state of illness, and perhaps realising that with her death the last vestiges of civilian control of the military might well be swept away, an inevitability if he is out of the picture.

The episode concludes with a masterful duality between Adama and Cain, in script and cinematography, where this conflict is thought out and decisions are made. There is an excellent montage depicting the two, locked in this very personal and very isolated conflict with their own morals, and with each other, through a distance. The culmination is their instruction to their subordinates, Starbuck for Adama and Fisk for Cain, committing themselves to the violent overthrow of the other. The episode is certainly trying to tie them together in making this decision at the same time, but even here the difference is apparent: Adama turns to family to get the job done, while Cain trusts a group of soldiers whose loyalty she values in terms that smell rather like blind obedience (not unlike Adama’s attitude to a new CAG in “Home (Part One)” actually). That decision is easier for her than it is for Adama, which marks the Commander out more.

Baltar’s work with Gina makes up most of the rest of the episode, and includes an interesting short monologue from Head Six, wherein she outlines how she used to attend sporting games on Caprica to experience the emotion of the crowd, and that she fantasized of having Baltar there with her. It’s interesting because of how unexpected it is, a wispy sort of pronunciation of affection for Baltar even as Six talks about efforts to fully experience humanity and the ways and means we express ourselves. Baltar doesn’t really seem to know what to say in response, and taken in the context of just this episode, it seems like a supremely odd inclusion. But we’ll get to a good pay-off in the next episode.

With Gina, Baltar reaches somewhat of a breakthrough when his humane treatment of the prisoner is enough for her to open up about her desire to end her life, permanently. This is a sin in the Cylon religion – putting aside the Doral suicide bombing in “Litmus” – but the sort of religious fervour that is intrinsic to Head Six appears to have been abused out of Gina. As Baltar said in the last episode, the Cylon psyche is as susceptible to pressure as a humans is, and the end results of extreme pressure are the same also: an inability to want to go on living in a world where you must remember such pressure. Gina’s death wish is tragic, but does allow the writers to tie her story into the larger operation against the Resurrection Ship.

Here we start to see the strands of what will become a sort of warped romance between Baltar and Gina. Baltar is a man who insists he doesn’t take sides, that he is out for himself and his own self-preservation. Gina too stands apart: not human, of course, but also not exactly a full-on Cylon anymore either. She no longer wants to be a part of the Cylon world, denying the possibility of resurrection, and indeed actively aiding the Colonials in order to prevent herself from resurrecting when she takes her own life, or has it taken with her consent. She and Baltar are self-consciously outcasts from the labels of human and Cylon. It’s obvious that Baltar would be drawn to that, and to a flesh-and-blood representation of the woman who is inside his head. It’s one of the reasons he becomes bored of his Caprican mind house. But Gina isn’t Head Six, and this twisted infatuation is going to lead to strange plot points later on.

Lastly, I have to issue a bit of a correction in terms of the last two reviews. I noted in them that the Sharon rape scene had too much focus on the attackers and the rescuers, and I couldn’t remember Sharon ever getting any time in the aftermath. Well, she does have one scene here, where she converses briefly with Adama and Cottle and expresses a bitter attitude at the distinction between Pegasus and Galactica crew in terms of who carried out the assault. But in the end, the scene is still mostly about characters other than Sharon: it’s about Helo and Tyrol, who she inquires after, and it’s about Adama coming to terms that such an assault happened on his ship under his watch. It doesn’t do enough to rectify the mistakes of that rape scene, but, like “Pegasus”, it’s a flaw that you can get past.

I think you just identified the most important ship in the galaxy.

Notes

-Don’t really think much of the this two-parter’s title. Feels like they couldn’t come up with anything at all.

-Kat has gotten over her stim-based meltdown in “Flight Of The Phoenix” to now apparently be Galactica’s CAG, after Apollo and Starbuck were transferred. Or perhaps Cain meant for one of her pilots to have the job but never got around to appointing them before the crisis.

-The titular ship that we see in the opening is a fascinating bit of design: impractical in so many ways but undoubtedly very interesting looking.

-Galactica and Pegasus’ air wings are caught in a civil war that isn’t, and I do love the chaotic visuals of the Vipers zooming around each other (and when they all suddenly form up on the Blackbird in a matter of seconds).

-Olmos again knocks its out of the park with his non-verbal acting, as Adama silently considers allowing his fighters to attack the Pegasus. You can seen the calculation of lives being made on his face.

-Love Starbuck, confused by the non-lethal dogfight she is seeing, attempts to calm everyone down: “We’re all friendlies! So lets be friendly!”

-Cain is taken aback by how Thrace was able to get her “nose up their backside” with the Blackbird, and I think the almost infatuation that becomes clear on the Admiral’s face is very well depicted.

-Also like the the close up on one of those snapshots, that shows Six models in the titular ship. You can extrapolate the rest yourself. It’s good “show, don’t tell”.

-The count is down one, reflecting the death of Lt Thorne in “Pegasus”.

-Adama isn’t backing down at the idea that Pegasus would best Galactica in a fight: “I wouldn’t count on that” he says, with all the air of a moody teenager sulking.

-Cain storms out of Colonial One, and you better believe she isn’t saluting Roslin when she does so. Very, very telling.

-Starbuck gets promoted in an instance by Cain, now a Captain and the Pegasus CAG. Promotions in this situation seem a tad superfluous, but I have to assume that it’s just a given thing for a CAG to not be a rank of at least Captain.

-A statement so blunt and so strange for the person saying it that it hits you like a slap in the face: “We’ve got to kill her”.

-Nice interchange between Adama and Cottle as they speak to Sharon: “What happened to you…” “…was unforgivable”. Cottle is a medical man first and foremost, and “Do no harm” seemingly applies to Cylons as much as humans.

-Very notably for the relationship between the Commander and Sharon, and a stunning contrast with Cain, Adama apologises to Sharon for what happened, not because of the people who did it, but because it happened on his ship, under his watch. It’s an embarrassment to him, that such ill-discipline with such brutal consequences occurred on a ship he leads.

-We head back to the Caprica mind palace here for the first time in a while, and maybe the last time? Interesting seeing Baltar’s dismissal of the location as somewhere that he no longer misses. He’s changing rapidly.

-We can call Cain’s treatment of Gina a form of dehumanisation taken to an extreme: not only is Gina treated as less than human, she’s not even a Cylon. Instead she’s treated like some of abused dog.

-Nice contrast between the sudden rage of Gina’s brief attack on Baltar and her pained expression of suicidal ideation. Baltar is left stunned twice over.

-In “Pegasus” Laird said of the Scylla “Things happened”. Here Cally adds her own discomforting assessment: “Something happened to them”. There’s a difference between things happening on the Scylla and something being done to it.

-I love that it’s Tigh who has been clearly tasked with finding out about the Scylla, through the medium of his drinking sessions with Fisk. It’s Adama turning a weakness – Tigh’s drinking – into a rare strength, as an avenue for finding out intelligence.

-I mentioned before that Fisk is clearly traumatised by his service aboard the Pegasus, and that comes out in spades here, as he drunkenly outlines the horror of what happened on the Scylla. I think Graham Beckel only appears in a few more episodes, but he is quite good in the show.

-The outline of what happened on the Scylla seems to draw a line between that and what happened on the Gideon in “Resistance”. The Scylla executions were calculated, ordered, pre-meditated, while the Gideon killings were in-the-moment shootings. What was it Tigh said in “Final Cut”? “The Gideon was an accident, this is a choice”. There is a difference.

-Lee comes to Starbuck to discuss the op, and finds her in a very uncomfortable spot: in command, and struggling with it. We might remember Adama’s words to Thrace on the topic in “The Hand Of God”. Note also that Starbuck has cleaned up a bit, and is in a proper officers uniform: trying to impress Cain perhaps?

-Baltar brings Gina some clothes, what looks like basic military overalls. The refusal to allow clothing is a basic tenant of abusive prisoner/jailer relationships, and from this point on Gina will be more of a character and less of a mute victim.

-“I’m not one of them” Baltar says to Gina, and we know he doesn’t just mean he’s not one of the Pegasus crew.

-In outlining the details of the Resurrection Ship, Baltar again references “the Cylon homeworld”. This indicates, like when it was spoken about in “Water”, that it’s a place that exists and that the Colonials know about, but it won’t turn out to be quite as simple as that.

-“Then any Cylon who dies out there…would be dead. Really…dead”. The pause in that sentence demonstrates the rapid infatuation that Cain has with the idea. It’s all about that emotionally-driven need to get revenge on the Cylons for everything they have done.

-Adama is stunned at how “bloody-minded” Roslin has become, but this apparent aberration in her character just underlines how close she is to the end, and how important to her it is that the Fleet has some manner of protector from what Cain represents.

-Roslin jokes about getting a new Cylon body, and Adama quips back that he “doesn’t see her as a blonde”. Interesting that it’s the Six model that is the archetype he goes for as representative of Cylon women, and not the Boomer/Sharon’s.

-In a Pegasus holding cell, Tyrol announces his intention to “move on” from Boomer. I can’t remember if this does symbolise the end of the plotline, but I know we don’t see much of Tyrol between the end of this two-parter and the end of the second season.

-The plan to take down the Resurrection Ship is pretty simple at the end of the day, not all that different to the bait-and-switch the Galactica pulled in “The Hand Of God”. You do wonder how the Fleet knows the precise coordinates to jump in behind the Cylon baseships though. Still love those table-top figurines.

-As the briefing concludes, Adama and Cain share equally venomous, equally stone-like death stares, with neither backing down. Unstoppable force, immovable object, etc.

-In asking for a team of Marines to be selected who will assassinate Adama, Cain asks for “Razors”, soldiers who are completely loyal and completely reliable. It’s a noteworthy term right from the off, so it’s no wonder they came back to it later.

-I don’t want to read too much into the respective codewords that Adama/Cain come up with for their assassination plan but the Admiral’s “Case Orange” was already used in the series, in the very first episode, the name for the automated system that manages the Presidential line of succession in the event of a catastrophe. Adama’s “Downfall” is much more straightforward and naturally makes one thing of Der Untergang, released the year before.

-Even in outlining their instructions, the difference between Adama and Cain is clear. She’s cold and clinical, telling Fisk that he is to “terminate Adama’s command”. Adama is visceral and more honest: “I want you to pull out your sidearm, and shoot Admiral Cain in the head”.

Overall Verdict: “Resurrection Ship (Part One)” avoids the trap of becoming just mere set-up for what occurs in the next episode by being pretty entertaining and engaging in its own right. It offers an additional examination of the character behind Cain, a juicy dilemma for Adama to ponder on, some key decisions for Starbuck and also has the Baltar/Gina sub-plot to augment everything else. It may not have the musical and larger cinematography excellence of “Pegasus”, but it’s a suitably well-written and well-paced middle chapter in the larger trilogy.

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

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3 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resurrection Ship (Part One)”

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

  2. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)” | Never Felt Better

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

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