NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “The Eye Of Jupiter”

Do you really think you have found the Temple of Five?

Air Date: 15/12/2006

Director: Michael Rymer

Writer: Mark Verheiden

Synopsis: Just as an artifact of the Thirteenth Tribe is discovered, the sudden arrival of the Cylons puts the Fleet and its algae harvesting operations in jeopardy. Apollo struggles to control the situation on the planet amid his part in a complicated tangle of relationships, while Athena is presented with a startling revelation.

Review

In a certain way, BSG has been drifting since “Exodus (Part Two)”. Leaving aside the two-parters of “Torn” and “A Measure Of Salvation”, we’ve had a number of stand-alone stories where Colonial and Cylon were separated, and where the larger point of the show was allowed to be side-lined. Well, the road to Earth, and the war between human and Cylon, is back with a vengeance, in one of the tensest episodes since the conclusion of the New Caprica arc.

The set-up is oh so simple but oh so effective. Galactica and the Cylons both want the next marker on the road to Earth. The humans are outnumbered, in space and on the ground, but they also have the capacity to eliminate said marker if the Cylons get too close. And around this simple but intractable conundrum, a host of human drama stories play out: the relationship square that Apollo, Starbuck, Sam and Dee form planetside; Tyrol being called to prophecy; Baltar struggling to find his place in the universe; Adama forced to gamble with the life of his son.

It’s almost fan-fiction writing, in a good way, as the Cylons and Colonials have a brief summit onboard Galactica, in one of the best scenes of the season so far. Its got it all: Adama going eye-to-eye with D’Anna, Baltar jumping from humble to indignant at the drop of a hat, a scheming Cavil and the meeting between Boomer and Athena. Amid all of the great performances and excellent writing we are brought right down to the brass tacks that will define the main issue of the episode: a game of poker between Adama on the one hand and D’Anna on the other. In a way that the show perhaps hasn’t been able to fully replicate since similar scenes in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”, we get a fraught situation with no easy resolution: oh, and there’s a ready-made ticking clock in the form of the local star, about to go supernova at any moment.

This leads up to the conclusion of the episode, where the Cylons, or more specifically D’Anna, decide to put Adama’s resolve to the test. I really love that cliffhanger ending, with nukes aimed and no obvious answer as to who is going to give way first. It helps that this part of the episode is shot so well, in the way that we cut back-and-forth between the CIC and the heart of the basestar, not unlike the conclusion of “Pegasus”. Who’s going to blink first? We have no idea, and the work that “The Eye Of Jupiter” does to get us to that point really marks it out as a strong effort.

As stated there’s a lot of character drama alongside the main plot, and we’ll start with Athena. She’s been quiet enough in plot terms since “Exodus (Part Two)” bar her brief stints as a side-player in “Torn” and “Unfinished Business” and her role in the opening of “The Passage”, but gets the chance to take back some proper agency in “The Eye Of Jupiter”. From the moment that the Hera conspiracy was hatched in “Downloaded” we knew that the truth would eventually come out. That time is now, with the revelation coming out of a very juicy confab with Athena’s mirror image in the form of Boomer, who seems more than ever to be a fully blown member of Team Cylon.

The following episode is going to have more of course, but I really liked Grace Park’s performance here, both as a goading Boomer and as an Athena who looks like she’s simply had enough. She’s paid her dues in Colonial confinement for over a year, and has risked her life repeatedly for humanity since: her thanks is for her child to be taken from her, and for a lie to be told about her death. Her rage at the meeting with Adama, where she forcefully insists that she speak to Roslin, is extremely powerful, just in terms of the anger she is suppressing.

The consequence of this is one of the most interesting confrontations between Adama and Roslin, where I think some of the key dynamics of the two are helpfully re-stated. Adama is not a true believer, even if, as Gaeta says, the odds of the situation they find themselves in are infinitesimally small. He doesn’t believe in Gods dictating events, he believes in his ship and in his crew. He just watched a member of that crew die of radiation poisoning in front of him. So when Roslin admits the truth and then starts in on a justification for her actions, Adama just leaves. And that’s enough: we don’t need any angry words or shouting from him, the fact that he has cut off Roslin in mid-sentence and marched out of the room is more than enough to get the point across. Roslin may be some kind of prophet, but she’s messing with Adama’s family with these actions. And no better man than Admiral Adama to understand the pain of a dead child.

But forget all of that, because there’s a soap opera happening elsewhere! Yes, it’s an old-fashioned love square, as Apollo and Starbuck cheat on their respective spouses with each other, before they are all forced to be in close proximity of each other in a dire situation. It’s a convenient set-up that I was able to forgive just because, like a soap opera, it’s so juicy and ripe for melodrama that you just can’t pull your eyes away.

I mean, look at all this: Lee pushing too hard with Starbuck again, almost revelling in his own guilt as Thrace essentially says she’s looking for something a bit more casual than he is (seriously, they simply are not meant to be); Lee flat-out lying to Dee, who then has to put up the catty comments from Starbuck; Sam goading Apollo by claiming he isn’t the first guy Starbuck has cheated on him with; Starbuck having to come between Apollo and Sam before they come to blows; and, oh yes, Apollo having a gun pulled on Sam when he refuses to follow orders. The layers to this are incredible, and all in the middle of an imminent Centurion attack/prophetic discovery of an ancient Temple. When did BSG become this show?

And I say all that in a positive way. The strength of this show has always been the way that it marries sci-fi action with very human drama, and that’s what the stuff on the algae planet is. It’s dramatised but relatable, these people caught up in extraordinary circumstances still obligated to deal with the kind of relationship train-wrecks that are the reason so many people watch Eastenders. It’s true that BSG has never gone this far with this aspect of itself – not even the love triangle in “Sacrifice” was this convoluted – and it could be played for comedy in different circumstances, but I found it good enough to watch. That’s probably down to the performances of Bamber, Sackhoff, McClure and Trucco, and the way that Verheidan’s script slowly ratchets the tension up to the point that Sam is being held at gunpoint by the guy banging his wife (for the perverse reason that said guy doesn’t want the husband to go to rescue his wife from a dire situation: it gets better!). That is to say we don’t start out with everyone at each others throats, but we build to it bit-by-bit. I remember that the next episode things take a darkly comic swing for Dee and Starbuck in this plot-line, and I can’t wait. Some come to hate Starbuck out of this whole plot-line, but for me it makes her more real: how many of us have had to put up with religiously minded hypocrites at some point or another?

The episode also gives a bit of time, amid all of that, to Tyrol of all people. His role in the episode is important, even if it is a little understated, and I think if we are to trace certain revelations that occur much later on to a particular point, I think this it. He gets the strange call to go out into the wilderness, he discovers the Temple, he becomes obsessed with its meaning. Tyrol’s always had an intangible connection to the larger mystery of the show – I suppose we could call it “the Cycle” – we see that in the manner in which he had strange, prophetic seeming dreams in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part One)” and the manner in which he tends to be around critical moments for that Cycle, like Baltar’s revelation on Kobol in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)” or his interactions with Cavil. His role in “The Eye Of Jupiter” is pretty much just an extension of that, as he elaborates on an aversion to blowing up the Temple that he can’t fully understand.

Over to the Cylons then, who after several episodes of “And they are around too” explode back into the main contention of the narrative. The underlying theme of their part in “The Eye Of Jupiter” would appear to be about the divide beginning, as D’Anna essentially makes a play for leadership of the Cylons, directing things around the stand-off with Galactica and going against the wishes of others in the process. I liked the way that the episode was able to get across how Biers is basically losing control in her increasingly unhinged quest to discover the identities of the Final Five even as she puts on the facade of maintaining it: Cavil especially is not going to tolerate this kind of thing for much longer. That adds something to the larger crisis of the episode, a divide within a divide.

The growing divide is also seen in a more personal way, in the form of Baltar. He essentially separates from Caprica Six as part of D’Anna’s quest, something that really does resonate: this is the woman that Baltar has been obsessed over for years at this point, but he’s willing to walk away from her to find out if he is a Cylon or not (and the irony of her letting Baltar into this Cylon world only to find herself outside of his circle is not lost on me either). And remember that this is not some idealistic mission to find out if he can stop being a traitor to humanity, this is all about power: Baltar happily joins in with Biers’ game, because he knows that it is in his interest to do so, even if all that it does is ferment discord among the Cylons that he might be able to exploit later. Some may say that I am being cynical in all that, but I don’t buy Baltar as the benevolent prophet any more than I buy him as a father to Hera in their one brief scene together early (and hey, remember her?).

I also don’t buy him as a “chosen one” which he is addressed as directly in this episode by the Hybrid. “The Eye Of Jupiter” is an episode where BSG comes down pretty hard on the side of “pre-ordained” in the battle with “free will”, but even with that it is hard to credit Baltar as a genuine hand of God anymore. Maybe that’s because of how far he has fallen in recent times, or how he really does seem subordinate to Biers in this episode. He talks a good game about transcendence, but even on a first viewing I felt very much that the former President was in for a fall: the master of self-delusion, he’s going to find nothing but more questions on this planet.

Before I close up, a brief moment on Dean Stockwell. At time of writing the actors death was just announced, so perhaps I was paying closer attention to him here than I normally would. I do just love his Cavil though: the air of detached amusement in nearly every action, the sense of menace he exudes in every movement regardless and his ability to be the guy in a scene you never want to take your eyes off of. Lucy Lawless is nominally running the show here for the Cylons, but it really is Cavil: he’s the evil Emperor standing behind her grinning. I think there’s a lot that might be worth criticising in BSG as we move forward, but I doubt that Stockwell is going to be one of those things.

So is that what this is all really about?

Notes

-The BBC plot description for this one cracks me up: “A lost temple causes a stir”.

-The title is fairly straightforward, and given the image in the actual temple only adds to the connection of the storm formation on the planet in our Solar System.

-Like that opening shot of a Raptor twirling out of Galactica and then descending into the atmosphere of the planet. It’s good to be reminded of the agility of these crafts.

-Like the Colonies post-apocalypse, the algae planet is shot in an overexposed fashion which perhaps is meant to reflect the radiation level coming from the star cluster?

-Given that it took two seconds for people to start calling the planet discovered in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part One)” “New Caprica”, I’m surprised the Fleet has been in this new location at least a week and it is still called the “algae planet”.

-Oh, the barely disguised bitterness that McClure is able to get into “Funny how she keeps finding herself at the top of rotation”.

-Apollo and Starbuck hook up in the Raptor, and one’s mind naturally goes to a very similarly framed scene from the Miniseries between Tyrol and Boomer.

-It’s good to be reminded that Starbuck remains a religious person, albeit a bit of a hypocrite: divorce is a sin to be avoided but adultery is just “bending the rules a little”.

-Apollo and Starbuck in a nutshell: he waxes lyrical about how “Every time I look at my wife, I see my own guilt reflected in her eyes” and she responds by sarcastically applauding him for being “really poetic”.

-We get a very un-BSG-like dissolve transition to the Cylon fleet from this moment, and then into a pretty harsh montage of Hera crying. It was jarring, but I presume was meant to be.

-Easy to dismiss Tyrol being guided to the Temple as just another part of the prophecy right now: one of the problems with what came late in the season as I remember was the unsatisfied feeling that nothing was set-up, but I guess we could call this a bit of that.

-The algae planet and the distinctive rock formation that hides the Temple are shot on Native lands known as the Hoodoos in British Columbia, not far from the city of Kamloops. It’s private land, so no sightseeing.

-The temple interior is well-realised, and I understand was a jazzed-up silo on the Vancouver docks, previously used for the Ragnar Anchorage in the Miniseries.

-The count is down 18 from “The Passage”. Discounting Kat, this indicates 17 people died as part of the “skeleton crews” of the Adriatic and the Carina.

-Probably not a coincidence, the details of Tyrol’s upbringing within a very religious family that just so happen to be perfect for finding and understanding the Temple. It’s too perfect: can we take this as another hint?

-The runes on the pillar in the Temple appear to be Hebrew in origin, but from what I can find they have no specific meaning put together.

-The “Five” in “the Temple of Five” are apparently five priests who worshiped the suitably ominous “One Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken”. Assuming it’s not Voldemort, this is presumably the Cylon God, but these terms open a window into the Colonial religion that I could stand to hear a little more of. A deleted scene from “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)” mentioned a “Jealous God” of the Colonial pantheon who precipitated the ancient collapse of Kobol, who may be the same figure.

-Brad Dryborough does a food job with the, to this point mostly background, role of Lt Hoshi as he gets the most unexpected phonecall in history: “It’s the Cylon baseship…requesting to speak with you”.

-Callis is great in all his scenes with the Fleet, but most especially with the way he both cracks with emotion and feels the need to identify himself here: “Admiral, I can’t tell you what a genuine pleasure it is to hear your voice.This is Gaius Baltar.”

-There’s an amazing outtake of this scene, where Edward James Olmos picks up the receiver after hearing Baltar’s message and declares “Baltar…eat shit and die”.

-The return of Head Six, last seen I think in “A Measure Of Salvation”. She’s not confined to Galactica, but this is where we see her most.

-Tigh appreciates the irony enough to have a smirk, but isn’t taking any chances when he finds out Boomer is onboard: “You just lost your visiting privileges”.

-Roslin can’t even bring herself to look at Baltar in these scenes, which is a really nice touch. Then again she didn’t have any problems talking to him in “Precipice”.

-Calling back to his “Take me to your leader” line in “Lay Down Your Burden’s (Part Two)”, Cavil opens up here with a slightly sarcastic sounding “We come in peace”.

-Baltar doesn’t keep up the repentant stance for too long, getting outraged when Roslin walks off: “So I’ve saved your life…again. How many times is that now? Because I’m beginning to lose count.”

-Just like his offhand suggest of “Let’s shoot Baltar” back in “Occupation”, Cavil indulges his sense of the comedically dramatic here: “We’ll throw in Baltar”.

-I imagine that Boomer’s revelation that “Hera’s alive” is not some opportunistic thing, it’s a calculated effort to sow discord.

-Adama isn’t messing around, as he steps up and literally stares D’Anna down face-to-face, in a very cool moment.

-Cavil makes sure to throw in a wink as he departs the Galactica. It’s genuinely Joker-like, in a good way.

-I do like that Sam doesn’t just whinge when given orders by Apollo, he points out that he and the civilians are going to be no good with “deployments” and “fire teams”. Lee’s misjudging what he has to hand.

-“Wouldn’t want to step between you and your Major”. I love how bitter Anders is when Starbuck is using Apollo’s rank.

-Tyrol paints a bit of a weird picture of him dancing around naked “with porn magazines” in his mother’s prayer room. OK then.

-One of the basestar’s is literally floating just over the Galactica, which seems like the kind of distance Adama would not be comfortable with.

-Gaeta notes that they will only get the warning of a “helium flash” from the star about to explode, which does match certain examples of “real life” supernova instances. I’m not sure how much such flashes are actually observable though.

-He’s right when he points out out tiny the odds are that all of this would be happening together. Adama tries to appear unconcerned, but his joke about a higher power having a sense of humour is just deflection.

-There’s a deleted scene I thought they should have kept in where Baltar, on Galactica, meets Gaeta and quietly warns him to check out the nearby sun. Always playing the odds is Baltar.

-Our first full Cylon confab in a while here, but D’Anna and Cavil are the only two of import really.

-Cavil makes a good point when he says that the Cylons have a time advantage over humanity, in that they can spend eons looking for Earth if they so choose, but the Fleet can’t. But the others aren’t convinced. This again marks Cavil out as someone who identifies more as machine than as biological.

-Apollo’s right when he praises Sam’s leadership qualities. Anders doesn’t try and hide the difficulty of the task through obfuscation or stirring words, but focuses more on insuring people feel supported and that they have a chance to succeed.

-“You think you’re the first?” Ooooooooh. Saucer of milk for Mr Anders. I love Bamber’s shocked face here too. He doesn’t really get Starbuck sometimes.

-Not much to the Hybrid’s words this time, seems fairly consistent with Biers’ mission to get the Temple.

-This sort of strange menage a trois between Caprica Six, Biers and Baltar appears to pretty much break-up here. D’Anna is at least up-front about it, Baltar can’t bring himself to be so decisive.

-“Pray for us, Caprica. We’ll be praying for you.” I don’t know if I’ve ever hated Biers as much as I did in this moment.

-Good action spot on Starbuck’s crash landing, and Sackoff sells it well with her screaming.

-Olmos knocks it out of the park in just one word, cutting off the President’s train of thought as he moves to confront her: “Laura…”

-I just love that Adama walks out on Roslin. He can’t even let himself hear the totality of her explanation. A deleted version of the scene has him stick around to hear her out, but that wouldn’t have worked half as well.

-Helo cuts right to the heart of the matter by telling Adama that “You of all people” should understand their pain. But the Admiral is right to point out that it isn’t comparable: their child is still alive.

-“Well unfortunately we are bluffing.” “…Are we?” I love Adama here.

-A slightly altered version of “Prelude To War” plays over this scene, which is fine, but perhaps can be seen as evidence that the show was cutting back in certain areas.

-There’s a good visual confluence between the extremely high stakes drama in orbit and the much pettier stuff happening on the surface, but it all works together. It’s hard to see people backing down in either instance.

-We get to see how Galactica deploys nuclear arms here, which is out the top of the ship in some hidden silos. Very cool image.

-Galactica started with five nuclear warheads, and used one to destroy a basestar in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two), then lost one that was used by Gina in “Lay Down Your Burden’s (Part Two)”. With seven here, we can presume Pegasus had a compliment of four, and Apollo was smart enough to leave them behind in “Exodus (Part Two)”.

-“And the heavens opened up, and they saw the Eye”. Tyrol gives the apocalyptic danger of the nukes a nice bit of scripture gravitas.

Overall Verdict: It’s one-half of a whole so maybe I should refrain from giving too complete of a judgement of “The Eye Of Jupiter”, but this is an episode that I have consistently liked since it first aired. I think it balances two very different kinds of drama really well, and combines soap and space operate beautifully. There’s so many single scene things to suck you in here too, and there isn’t a bad performance to be had. I’d go so far as to put this on its own merits into BSG’s top tier, but perhaps I might change my mind after the next episode.

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12 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “The Eye Of Jupiter”

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