NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “Unfinished Business (Extended)”

I made my choice.

Air Date: NA

Director: Robert Young

Writer: Michael Taylor

Synopsis: As the Galactica crew partakes in an old tradition, the simmering tensions between Apollo and Starbuck come to a head. Dee and Anders end up as casualties of that battle, while Adama takes desperate measures to arrest poor standards.

Review

The extended edition of “Unfinished Business” – of all the extended episodes, the one that perhaps adds the most, with an extra 24 minutes for a 42 minute episode – means business right from the off. The opening confluence of violence and memory here is much harsher than that in the TV version, with longer lingering shots of Apollo and Starbuck having sex on New Caprica interspersed with a more visceral framing of the Apollo/Helo boxing match on Galactica. There’s a sense, from the very beginning, that we are going to see the same story that we saw on TV but this time, in what I suppose is an appropriate metaphor, the gloves are very much going to be off. But while that does follow over for the next hour, this version of “Unfinished Business” is also going to be a bit more subtle in the way that it approaches this narrative, and we get that almost right from the beginning too, as a larger focus is given to Admiral Adama and the “slipping” that he has to try to correct.

“Unfinished Business (Extended)” is Adama’s episode much more than the other version. It starts with him dipping his feet into the earth of New Caprica, and we continue on from there. The story is of a man with good intentions allowing them to lead him to bad places, and that’s true in both points in time. On New Caprica Adama allows himself to be seduced by the idea that the war is over and he can let people go to live their lives, with the extended edition allowing us the chance to see that viewpoint form a bit more concretely. In the “present”, Adama is happy to allow “the dance” in the belief that it will help the crew to get over various conflicts and improve flagging standards, but he comes to see that the opposite is the case.

I feel like, in this cut, it’s Roslin that is the critical aspect of both instances. Roslin getting up close and personal with him on New Caprica was a seduction in a certain sense, with her monologue on how they needed to take the opportunity that the planet represented a very powerful message for a man like Adama. She treats New Caprica as, at worst, a break from all their worries: a chance to live relatively normal lives free from the stress of always being on the run, a place where the Cylons can be forgotten about until they turn up again. Lying there, on the New Caprican sand, Adama allows himself the space to embrace that dream, and he acts accordingly in allowing Starbuck, Tyrol and Cally to muster out of service.

In the present day, the memory of that moment drives Adama on, and especially with Roslin being present in the room. His entire interaction with Tyrol seems like a way to tell the crew the plain truth: the break’s over. New Caprica, and the possibilities it granted for people to act as if the apocalypse was over, is in the dust. It’s time to start acting like a military machine again, because the alternative is not to be contemplated. Adama has had his break, he had it with Roslin snuggling on his shoulder. The cost of it was extensive. I find the extended cut does a really good job of parsing this out, between the longer interactions between Adama and Roslin on New Csprica, right down to the way that Adama’s speech is edited differently at the conclusion, with a few less lines that could be described as outlining the point of the exercise a bit too bluntly.

Of course the rest of the episode, or at least most of the rest, belongs to Starbuck and Apollo, but I’ll take them one at a time in this instance. The basic narrative remains the same, but this cut adds a few layers for each character in this demented quest to find reconciliation through violence. Take Thrace: the extended cut adds a theme of her simply being tired of other people’s expectations, especially those of male romantic interests. We’ve already discussed how her inability to be with Lee may come from his inability to pace the relationship, but here we see a similar problem with Anders, who attempts to move too fast for her liking. And it isn’t that Starbuck is totally opposed to any sort of “real marriage” with Sam since, as we see here, she pushed Apollo to arrange a billet for the two of them after New Caprica, and got turned down flat. But Starbuck looks out for herself and moves in her own current: she tells Sam she isn’t going to try and convince him to accept their mostly sexual relationship if he doesn’t just want that, she tells Sharon that men in her life have a tendency to “think they own you” and in the end it gets to the point of an MMA fight with Apollo.

This is important as I did feel that at times Thrace comes off as quite childish in the TV cut, happy to have sex with Apollo and scream out loud that she loves him, only to go in a totally opposite direction within a few hours. That final decision seems to have been directly inspired by Lee actually, after he painted a mocking future of Starbuck beings Mrs Sam Anders: there may be some immaturity in the response, but it’s another example of Thrace not being happy to direct her life based on the comments and opinions of men. The picture still painted by “Unfinished Business (Extended)” is of a desperately unhappy woman, but at least this time there is a greater method to the madness.

On Apollo, we get a fuller formed picture of a man who consistently seems to want something that just isn’t there. He wants to be more open in his relationship with Dee in New Caprica, but she wants to show more decorum. He wants to be with Starbuck, a woman he is happy to profess loving, but she’s just not into his approach. He wants a marriage with Dee, but it’s one based very much on a lie. He just always seems to have the worse kind of expectations when it comes to these relationships.

And of course he makes stupid, impulsive decisions too, as one of the most important additional scenes of this cut makes clear. Starbuck gets married to Anders seemingly on the back of Apollo’s comments to her the night before, which is bad, but here Lee is worse: he openly tells Dee he wants to marry her because Starbuck has done the same, and offers only a weak defence when she suggests that any union with her will be temporary owing to his love for Starbuck. In a way one has to consider this scene non-canon, since it makes Apollo look practically reprehensible, and too much so: indeed the whole episode is more about painting Apollo in negative tones really, from the way he sullenly walks off from his fight with Helo to the manner in which he basically blows off his wife multiple times.

Oh, and poor Dee. The extended cut really makes the Apollo/Starbuck stuff a triangle that includes her, with lots of additional scenes and dialogue. The picture that gets painted is of a woman who is walking, eyes open, into tragedy. She knows that Apollo isn’t really her soulmate, or at least he doesn’t view her as such, and she goes even further by openly declaring that she’ll be Apollo’s wife until he decides to leave her for Starbuck. And she’ll fight for Apollo and try to be the good wife who is emotionally and sexually available too. This is just sort of who Dee is: she’ll put up with what is likely to be a great deal of emotional pain down the line if she gets some happiness in the short and medium term. That’s not very healthy, but I do recall that it is a character trait that the show will follow-up on in later episodes. Her words are always an appropriate thematic echo of Roslin’s philosophy, that humanity should take what it can get while it can get it.

Last on a character level, I want to talk about Tigh a little bit, who gets a bit more time here as well. He’s recovering, but is lost in bitter memories still, with the sight of loving couples reminding him of what he had and what he lost. As a result his scenes on New Caprica have that extra tinge of melancholy, as we get to see what we can probably describe as the happiest time of his and Ellen’s life together, even if it is infused with alcohol. There will come a time when this sort of story for Tigh starts to wear a bit thin I’ll admit, but for now this is a good addition. I also have to give some kudos to the late scene with him and Starbuck, which allows for a genesis of their more friendly relationship that emerges later. It’s an informality that is seemingly bred by hatred: the two have no reason to hide anything from the other, hence Starbuck just admitting that she slept with Apolo, and Tigh’s reaction being just to laugh.

My final point is more about the technical side of the episode. I think the extended cut makes better use of the duel timelines, cutting back and forth between New Caprica and the “present” in a manner that lands a bit better than the TV version. The TV cut used bright flashes to signify the change, which was fine, but here the moments are intermingled more freely and more directly, and that gives a different, but not worse, experience. You get the feeling more strongly that the events of the past are very much in peoples minds in the present here, and others things add to that: a few looks that Adama and Roslin give each other, the way that Apollo and Starbuck’s consummation is revealed earlier, stuff like that. It’s all part of what I think is an ambitious alternative version of an episode that was already pretty good to begin with, which is about all that you can ask for from a project like this.

Let’s stop spending the little time we have left here worrying about when it’s gonna end.

Notes

-Ronald D. Moore does have some interesting thoughts on this one, dubbing it an “editor’s cut” and not even considering it better than that which made it to TV. It’s like an experiment really.

-I like the open here on Adama with his feet in the sand, or rather the “alluvial deposits”. Unlike the bright lights of the TV version, it’s a gentler beginning. Things get harsh quick though.

-Glimpses of Apollo and Starbuck going at it on New Caprica in the beginning remind me that we don’t actually see many human characters having sex in this show, as compared to Cylons anyway. I wonder if that was a conscious choice.

-Dee doesn’t pull punches in outlining how bad things have gotten onboard Galactica in terms of shoddy standards. She seems to still be operating as someone close to Adama, but I’m not sure what her role onboard actually is at this point.

-I do love Starbuck’s response to Anders’ pleas for a “real marriage”, that if he’s waiting for her to try and stop him leaving “I’m not going to try and change your mind”.

-A few shots in this episode that show Gaeta is the bookie for the boxing. Always liked that. Everyone is involved.

-The extended edition chooses to show a new build to the “betrayal” Apollo feels when Starbuck marries Anders, essentially spoiling it early on. In this case the episode seems to make clear that it’s the journey to this moment that is the important part.

-I like how Apollo gets to be a bit more cutting in this version, advising Thrace to go find Anders: “He’s always good for a laugh”.

-An nice additional scene here where Helo and Apollo make nice after their match, with Lee reining in his emotions, or at least putting on the facade of doing so.

-Excellent comparison in quick cuts, of Apollo and Dee kissing in the past compared with Lee offering her a quick hug in the present.

-Apollo is having a shouted conversation with Dee here, which given she isn’t shouting presumably means he’s got blood in his ears, which is a nice touch.

-Tigh is welcomed to the episode here in a brief conversation with Adama, where he admits that while he would prefer to be under the blanket with a bottle, he needs to “get used to the light”.

-I might need to be corrected, but I think this cut showcases Tyrol’s drinking a bit more than the TV edit, which is important for a lot of reasons.

-Dee is perhaps a little on the nose when she advises Apollo that “The other side of hatred is love”.

-I like how amid the smiles and applause, Adama doesn’t react to Baltar’s speech at all. He’s the same look in his eyes that he did when Baltar became President in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)”.

-I love Thrace’s eyes when Ellen compliments Anders a bit too much. Just bugging out in alarm.

-Gaeta and Dee partake in some dancing together, reminding us of their close relationship. We might remember Gaeta dancing with Sharon back in “Colonial Day” too.

-An Ellen-based flashback for Tigh is now motivated by him staring at Apollo and Dee in an intimate moment, which was a very good addition. The bottle of bitterness is never far away.

-Nice comedic moment when we get a still shot of Anders just passed out and motionless on the New Caprica sand. It might not even be Michael Trucco.

-I liked that we got a longer dancing sequence for the New Caprica flashback, maybe just because it’s such a change of pace for this show.

-Dee’s propriety is pretty on-point. It’s natural that a newly minted officer might not be very gung-ho about flaunting a relationship with her commanding officer.

-Adama honest-to-God sings a few bars of a song here, one that I understand is made-up for the show. Olmos is a great actor, but maybe should leave the crooning to others.

-Really nice cut here as the starscape that Adama and Roslin appear to be looking at turns into the background for the Fleet, that we see moving into frame in a manner we never see again as far as I am aware.

-I do like Adama’s reply to Roslin questioning whether he’s going to keep his crew on the ship until “the apocalypse”: “The apocalypse has happened once before”.

-Roslin mentions an “earthquake” as a possible disaster they shouldn’t spend their time worrying about, which should be considered a bit of a misnomer really, the Colonials shouldn’t have the context to use “Earth” in that manner.

-“Life’s a bitch and then you die” proclaims Roslin. I don’t know who coined that phrase, but I’ve always had a hankering for Vince McMahon’s delivery.

-“I’m not getting married” Starbuck says to Apollo very seriously as he posits the idea of her and Anders settling down. Does she really think this, or is she protesting too much?

-Lee really is a bit creepy as he moves in to kiss Starbuck, and it’s not hard to draw allusions between this sight and Leoben doing much the same in “Exodus (Part Two)”. But important to note that Starbuck doesn’t say no.

-The screaming scene that gives me serious cringe vibes is also longer here, which in a way works because it adds an additional impression that a drunken Starbuck is just playacting when Apollo is deadly serious.

-Starbuck really goes for the jugular here in telling Dee she’s “been there, done that” with Apollo, a nasty method of getting at Lee. His furious reaction really sells it. Not surprised that didn’t make it into the TV cut, it makes Starbuck look too bad.

-Man, we just watch Adama get pummeled by Tyrol by the end, though I do appreciate the clever choice of cutting between people’s reactions as we hear the dull thump of the Chief’s punches.

-Adama’s speech is changed a little bit with the line “I gave some of you breaks, let some of you go, before the fight was really over” now cut out. Moore never liked it, as it was a network note meant to make the Admiral’s motivations a bit clearer.

-Should note here that the score is different for this version, with Bear McCreary actually composing some new material. The music is less impactful for the extended edition, which is not something I especially like myself.

-I do love Michael Hogan’s laughter when Starbuck makes her admission. We rarely see happy Tigh, and this is happy Tigh.

-Not sure I like the time given for Apollo and Starbuck to be a bit more blunt as they wrestle: “I made my choice”. “You ran away”. Yeah, we get it.

-Oh, Dee’s quiet resignation as she tells Apollo “I will marry you”, even as she contemplates Starbuck taking it all away.

-An addition to the end of the episode see’s Apollo and Starbuck actually collapse to the floor, Rocky II like, which might be a bit much.

Overall Verdict: While it maintains much of what made “Unfinished Business” so good on TV, the extended cut is to be admired for the way that it fleshes out the roles of Dee and Tigh in the episode, takes a different approach with Lee and Thrace and attempts to be a bit more respectful of the audience with certain dialogue choices. There’s parts of it that are a bit off, to the point that it’s difficult to accept the extra material’s legitimacy to the canon. But even if this is non-canon, at least in a head sense, it’s a great example of what BSG could have been in those moments when the creative team and the editors were let off the leach. As we move forward into uncertain territory, that’s worth remembering.

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3 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “Unfinished Business (Extended)”

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

  2. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “Taking A Break From All Your Worries” | Never Felt Better

  3. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Extended) | Never Felt Better

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