NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “A Day In The Life”

But you keep bringing me back anyway, just this one day, year after year. only thing I can’t understand is…Why?

Air Date: 18/02/2007

Director: Rob Hardy

Writer: Mark Verheiden

Synopsis: On the occasion of his wedding anniversary Adama slips into an imagined interaction with his ex-wife Carolanne as he reckons with his feelings towards both Apollo and Roslin. An unexpected crisis puts Tyrol and Cally in mortal danger.

Review

“A Day In The Life”, a much belied episode among the fanbase for reasons we will get into, is an story about change, and people’s resistance to that change. In some ways it is a rethread of similar beats and themes that were visited in “Flight Of The Phoenix”, but told in a more personal way. Too many people on Galactica are attempting to act as if the basics of existence – a marriage, a family, peace – is something that they can have without any complications, as if the holocaust, military service and the never-ending threat of Cylon pursuit are things that can be waved away. They’re either deluding themselves in pursuing that fantasy, or getting mired in the drudgery of what’s actually happening as they try to pursue it. The focus is on Adama, indulging himself in the fantasy of his ex-wife being next to him again, and on the Tyrol’s, who find themselves facing death amid the mundanity of daily life. The episode does offer a larger lens at times – like the pilots, portrayed as getting sloppy in the face of their own changed circumstances, the Cylons having not been seen for 49 days – but for the most part zeroes in on those two plot-lines.

This is our first full-on Adama episode since “Hero” and on the face of it it is a pretty interesting premise: a glimpse into the Admiral’s backstory and general state of mind through a running conversation with his now deceased ex-wife, a woman we have only heard about it briefly in the Miniseries. I find that whole idea rather haunting, that Adama basically indulges himself once a year with this ghostly interaction, that is entirely inside of his own head. Baltar and Caprica aren’t in control of what they are seeing (and feeling) when they interact with their “Head” counterparts, but Adama is voluntarily doing this. It’s not at all healthy, and in a way a bit of a shock: which might explain why a lot of people don’t like this episode.

I don’t hate it per say, but there are problems here. The promise of the premise gets overplayed fairly quickly, and by the time we get to the point where Carolanne is literally shouting at Adama you’ll be wondering where all the subtlety of BSG has gotten to. If Carolanne was just a wispy voice in Adama’s head, a vision in a few flashbacks, that would be somethin. But when her persona is literally present in the scenes where Adama is, when she crosses the line from nostalgic memory to imaginary friend, things start to get a little silly. The dark turn that things take when Apollo gets involved are a belated effort to save it, but it’s difficult to take “A Day In The Life” all that seriously: it’s a very clumsy method to lead Adama into an epiphany regards his idealisation of women, and the reality of his ex-wife’s behavior towards their children.

Those are very worthy plot points, and they tie in nicely to the nature of the relationship between himself and Roslin – more in a sec – but I think that the execution is really lacking. I think back to “Torn” and Tigh imagining that he see’s Ellen or Starbuck’s twisted blend of grief and lust in her memories as showcased in “Act Of Contrition” or even, God help me, Apollo’s flashback in “Black Market” and see better methods of doing this. “A Day In The Life” gets experimental with this idea, or maybe Verheiden thought he could extend the Baltar/Head Six dynamic to someone else, and it has to go down as a failure. We also really don’t need more guilty conscience Adama after “Hero” or “Unfinished Business” – whose use of flashbacks may have informed the ill-fated approach here I suppose – but at least the other sub-plot involving him in this episode points the way to something a bit lighter.

And then the other reason perhaps that “A Day In The Life” isn’t very fondly remembered: the proper beginnings of the Adama/Roslin romance sub-plot. We saw stirrings of this in “Unfinished Business” of course, but that could be dismissed as just a brief memento of drunken revelry on New Caprica. This is the more concrete beginning of a romantic angle that will go on until the conclusion or the series, and it’s one that divided fans then and now. For myself, I never had the level of antipathy for this narrative that others had, though I understand why the feeling exists: it’s akin to the Apollo/Starbuck soap opera stuff, and will end up being just as long-winded. I’d say there’s an element of people just being grossed out by such a plot-line involving two middle-aged characters, which isn’t exactly fair. I’ll take it bit-by-bit as it comes, but will start by saying that it’s so far so good.

This is a slow-burn thing, and in this episode ties in nicely to Adama’s feelings on his ex-wife. She, or rather the shade of her, berates him for having an idealised view of woman, with the President the new target for such deification. What became an established partnership since the events of “Home (Part Two)” has blossomed into an affectionate friendship, to the point that Roslin is comfortable asking Adama if she can move into his house – Galactica – for a few days so she can use the gym, and Adama is comfortable telling her that she is “always welcome”. Roslin only appears in a couple of scenes, but they’re all great, most especially the last one: she and Adama remember that night in New Caprica, with Adama needling the President on whether she really would have built that cabin. There was a lot unsaid in that whole proposition, and when Adama asks her that question, we all know what he’s really asking. She takes a moment before answering, and the answer is yes. For now it’s just an example of what might have been between the two, something to make either of them smile before they go back to their responsibilities. An Admiral and a President can’t be together. Yet.

In the midst of all this, Season Three of BSG begins the major inter-personal drama of what remains of its run, as Adama and Apollo become immersed in the story of Baltar’s trial. Adama has come to respect Apollo a great deal as CAG, maintaining the kind of professional separation that has marked the relationship between the two at several points throughout the show’s run, all the way back to Adama’s gentle refusal to have a deeper talk with Lee at the end of the Miniseries. But he’s also trying to get closer to Lee as a son, encouraged somewhat by the ghost of Carolanne. There have been plenty of moments in the course of BSG where we have seen them sharing an emotional connection – “The Hand Of God”, “Home (Part Two)”, “Exodus (Part One)” and “Hero” all stand out in that regard – and there is another one here. This is especially deep though, as Adama is forced to comprehend the fact that Carolanne was not as great a mother as he thought she was, and Apollo gets a much needed opportunity to vent about a childhood that was not as blessed as his father thought it was. The reckoning only goes so far though: Apollo doesn’t really get the chance to call his father out enough for him leaving, and Adama essentially dismisses Apollo’s criticisms of his mother as being of no relevancy in their current circumstances. It’s a whitewash in other words, but one that I think fits the characters, and will fit the direction in which things go between the two now.

Because other than the CAG and the son, Apollo has an additional role here, and that’s as the lawyer. Adama betrays some of his own ignorance of his son’s background when he finds out that Apollo once dreamed of being a lawyer, following in the footsteps of a grandfather that the elder Adama had no great amount of time for. His response is to indulge this now dropped dream of Apollo’s by supplying that same grandfather’s law books for his use as part of Baltar’s trial, which does seem like a pretty decent gesture on Adama’s part. But there’s a very negative kernel at the heart of it that is going to sprout some very rotten fruit: the law is connected to his own father in Adama’s eyes, and the problems in that relationship are now going to start growing in that between Adama and his son.

The Tyrol/Cally stuff allows us another chance to look at the state of marriage on Galactica, from a perspective different to the more over-the-top stuff we’ve had to reckon with regards Apollo/Dee and Starbuck/Sam in “The Eye Of Jupiter”, “Rapture” and “Taking A Break From All Your Worries”. Here is a couple that are sticking together without a human outside force driving them apart, not least because they have a son they need to care for. But like much of the rest of the crew, the Tyrol’s are caught going through the motions, maintaining the pretence that they are still the family unit that existed on New Caprica, even when it is basically impossible to replicate that situation. The two have no time or space to be a married couple: instead they seem merely to be deck crew who happen to share quarters, and who occasionally get to see a son that is routinely dumped in daycare.

We can understand Tyrol’s motivation, selfish as it is, to have some time alone with Cally even if it requires them to have that time together while working. Being a parent on Galactica looks like an exhausting job, that leaves very little room for anything even vaguely resembling romance. Tyrol’s desire for that, for just having a work shift with his wife, stands out as something we can really believe he would try to bring about. Call it an unorthodox date. But trying to replicate this small, warped bit of normalcy only magnifies the feeling that too many people on the ship are stuck in a past they can no longer credibly claim is still happening in the present. This is something BSG is dedicating increasing amounts of time to, given the focus on couples over the last few episodes, and it speaks to the way that so much of the fabric of what is left of society is going to fall apart in Season Four.

Of course most of this plot-line is dedicated to a fine example of BSG’s mini-crises, in this case the Tyrol’s getting caught on the wrong side of a malfunctioning airlock with limited time to save them. It is simple, but I think very effective, sci-fi action, that marries the science-fiction with a very human and relatable character drama. The Tyrol’s don’t just have to survive this brush with vacuum, they need to find a way to exist as husband and wife, as well as parents who occasionally get to be parents. “A Day In The Life” sees them accomplishing one of those goals at least, but the jury is still out on the others. It may no longer be possible to accomplish.

Speaking more generally, I do think that “A Day In The Life” does a good job with the meshing of its plots, given the struggles that BSG has had with that problem post-New Caprica, such as “Torn”. Both of them are about unions that are broken in different ways, Adama with this warped memory of what was a not especially great marriage really, and the Tyrol’s clinging on to what they have in the face of their apocalyptic circumstances. But there’s a difference between them, at least here. Tyrol and Cally survive, and are re-united with their son. They’ve overcome a major physical trauma, and there’s a commitment to making their marriage work in the wake of that trauma. For Adama, it’s too late to fix his marriage, all he can do is rake over the coals and wonder about what might have been, revelling in his fantasy once a year. He gets to see the stronger union of Cally and the Chief first hand though, and that givens him the inspiration for his final scene discussion with Roslin. It’s something at least, and I appreciated the efforts that the script made in bringing those two plots together naturally. The episode spends some capital on the idea of dreams deferred until “we have the time”, regards Apollo’s legal ambitions and the Tyrols’ marriage. For them, and for Adama and Roslin, the time may be coming sooner than they think.

All I know is the frakking daycare workers see more of Nick than we do.

Notes

-The title seems fairly rudimentary really, a reference to a single special day in Adama’s year.

-The “Previously on…” section showcases some fairly huge difference in picture quality between the Miniseries and the actual series.

-It’s a surprise to see Adama in bed with someone at the beginning, but of course it is all in his head. Not that Tigh doesn’t take note of the messy bed though.

-“Carolanne”? What kind of spelling is that?

-Tigh outlines a host of “minor problems” onboard, but of course a lot of minor problems can add up to one big one: the Galactica is starting to fall apart.

-We start things out with Carolanne as we mean to go on, with her voice ringing through Adama’s head in a distorted manner.

-The ghost of the Admiral’s ex-wife sums up their union pretty succinctly: “Good times, but more bad”.

-Adama strokes his wedding picture here in a manner that you can’t possibly separate in 2021 from the image of an animated Wolverine doing the same to Jean Grey.

-One of Adama’s orderlies is a Private Jaffe, who’ll pop up again one more time in memorable fashion in Season Four. Here it’s enough to note that he’s a Marine, from the ranks, and that low-ranking Marines are tasked with these kids of jobs.

-It’s smart, having Tyrol try to comfort Cally by telling her that their son didn’t cry when left at daycare for the first time, with him only belatedly realising this is not going to be a comfort at all.

-Analysis done by others tells me it’s been something close to a year since “Exodus (Part Two)” so it strikes me as strange that this over-crowded ship still has basic internal repairs from that episodes events like that the Tyrol’s undertake to actually do.

-Cally asks the hard question, the question a lot of unhappy couples have to ask themselves: “What if rough patches are all we have left?”

-There’s a good use of music here, a section I don’t recognise, to build up the tension as we go to the main titles. This is just a little hole in the hull, but the production makes you realise how big of a deal it is.

-The count is down three from “The Woman King”, which accounts for Willie King and two others.

-The Adama residence is swanky, something akin to the Baltar dream home I suppose. It might be entirely fictional really, seeing as how its basis is an idealised memory.

-Adama practices memory exercises to remember the order that people bring him things during the day, which is a sign that he might not be 100% mentally.

-The interactions between Adama and Carolanne slowly build a picture of what their relationship was like, and here’s the first negativity, as the ghost complains about Adama keeping his distance from people he turns into “godlike” figures.

-I like Adama’s military acronym for a very basic problem: “Deep space pilots call it OBE…Overcome By Events”.

-Roslin’s concerns on which kind of legal code – Caprican, Picon, etc – Baltar should be tried under confirms that the Colonies operated on a federal structure when it came to laws, to the point that treason could be tried differently depending on the planet.

-Of course the Fleet doesn’t have a law library. Makes you wonder what else humanity might have lost that we sort of take for granted.

-On the face of it it might seem a bit strange that the President wants Apollo working on Baltar’s trial, but the two did have a very close relationship all the way up to “Home (Part Two)” at least. There’s a trust there that just hasn’t been seen on-screen in a while.

-“Adama And Roslin” gets another airing here, and it still always gets me going.

-There’s a deleted scene for this episode where Dee and Gaeta gossip good-naturedly about the amount of time Adama and Roslin are spending together, and what it might imply. Probably didn’t need it, but it’s a nice light-hearted moment.

-Carolanne gives Adama both barrels as things get decidedly more dramatic in their interaction, she describing him as “the husband who wasn’t there, the father who left”.

-First look at former Pegasus pilot Narcho here in a while I think, he’ll be popping up a few times between now and the end of things.

-Helo’s STD joke at Hot Dog’s expense comes out of nowhere. I don’t think these characters are even seen at any other point of the episode. What was that about?

-Interesting that Adama describes his son as “Proud, stubborn and angry”, which are all elements of character that he himself has exemplified at different moments in the shows run.

-Adama’s approach to his son is mostly business, but we can see the change when he falls into discussing a previous life the two shared on the Colonies. This is him trying with Apollo, but it isn’t enough.

-We’re getting a repeated percussion sting in recent episodes, taken from the opening of “Storming New Caprica”, and I find it so distracting at times. It jut doesn’t fit.

-Tyrol describes their situation as “a full blown FUBAR”, an informal military acronym which in this context stands for “Frakked Up Beyond All Recognition”

-Tigh claims the ship would need six weeks in drydock just to carry out basic repairs, which is a scary thought really: how much longer is the Galactica going to be able to last?

-I love the reactions to Apollo’s plan of “taking them out the front door”. Everyone knows it’s crazy, but they also don’t have any other options.

-How long can you last in vacuum, unprotected? Opinions differ. Adama is theoretically right when he says up to a minute, but that doesn’t take into account brain damage and other physical effects from the experience. Properly cared for after, and it might be possible

-Cally warns that they both know what happens “to kids in the Fleet when their parents aren’t there for them”, which I presume is a reference to what we saw in “Black Market”. You’d think more would have been done to try and stop that.

-Tyrol and Caslly’s designated choice of parents in the event of their deaths is Apollo and Dee apparently, which strikes me as strange: are they really that close?

-Tyrol revelation that he switched shifts so he could spend some time with Cally is a little garbled in delivery, and doesn’t get the treatment it probably deserves in the episode.

-I do think it’s a little strange that Athena doesn’t seem to be considering the debris that’s going to get blown out the door when it opens.

-I like the build to the moment when the airlock gets blown, between the countdown, the cuts and the music. It is a well put together bit of tension.

-Though the CGI seams are visible: the computer generated Chief looks pretty ropey.

-Tyrol and Cally do just crash into the Raptor don’t they? You’d think that would be a problem all of its own.

-I really like the way that Jamie Bamber allows Apollo’s anger about his upbringing to come out bit-by-bit until it builds to a huge crescendo. This is something he has tried to bury.

-Adama’s denial is pitch perfect really: he’s spent too long imagining Carolanne as the perfect woman to so easily led the idea collapse now.

-I do like the change in lighting as Adama hears Apollo’s words on his childhood. His fantasy of Carolanne changes to a rather hellish hue.

-“You blew it” is a very simple, but pretty thundering denunciation of Adama, up there with Dee’s “You let us down” in “Home (Part One)”.

-Apollo pierces to the heart of the matter when he tells his father “I don’t think she ever loved you”. But he still can’t accept that.

-Aaron Douglas sells the physical damage of what Tyrol has undergone pretty well here I have to say. It’s important that he does so too.

-Adama’s gift to his son is a little curious really. Why has he kept the law books of a father he never liked in storage on Galactica? For no other reason I’d suspect space is at a premium.

-The very faint strains of “Wander My Friends” are heard here. The Adama father/son relationship won’t always be so positive.

-Roslin’s gift is extremely thoughtful when you think about it, and a call back to previous moments between her and Adama regards books in “Water” and “Flight Of The Phoenix”.

-Roslin has just enough tact not to outright admit she was high and/or wasted that night on New Caprica: “I got a little silly”.

-I love this beat when Adama and Roslin are just staring at each other. So much is left unsaid.

-Roslin makes sure not to leave Adama dangling: “I would have built that cabin”. I think we all know what would have come with it.

-Adama lets Carolanne go, but only for a year: we can guess he will be stroking that picture again in 365 days.

Overall Verdict: “A Day In The Life” has a great central idea in its Adama stuff, a good bit of sci-fi storytelling in its sub-plot and manages to draw a line between the two as well. For all of that, it’s a good episode. But the manner in which it goes about doing things with the Adama stuff starts to become a little nonsensical after a while, and can be considered a significant hamstringing of the larger episode. This isn’t a bad one per say, but it needed fine-tuning. Moreover, the show feels a little mired in once-off stories right now, so we could do with a bit more material dedicated to a grander plot. Hopefully we’ll get there soon.

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7 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “A Day In The Life”

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