NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Four: “Six Of One”

In recognition of honorable, loyal, and faithful service.

Air Date: 11/04/2008

Director: Anthony Hemingway

Writer: Michael Angeli

Synopsis: Starbuck’s extreme methods of trying to convince the Fleet to turn around land her in the brig, as Adama struggles to make a decision on her claims. Tory gets closer to Baltar trying to find out if he knows who the last of the Final Five is. The Cylons come to a decisive schism.

Review

After a fairly solid, maybe even quite good, opening in “He That Believeth In Me”, BSG skids a bit with the conclusion to that story. “Six Of One” is another episode that has a lot to accomplish, not least an enormous change of the status quo in regards the Cylons, and like the first episode has to leave things at the wayside. But unlike the first part of the story its larger excellence is not as much in evidence.

This should be a big Starbuck story, following up from the events of the last episode and the cliffhanger we were left on. But it really isn’t. We get a mixed opening scene wherein Thrace has something approximating a total breakdown, and while some of it is scripted quite well – see below – Sackoff’s delivery is lacking. I don’t mean that as a dig at her ability, I’m just not sure it’s possible for her to pull off what needs to be pulled off. Seeing Starbuck transform into this, honestly, whiny prophet is a bit off-putting for sure, and the moment where we have half-a-dozen characters looking at her strangely while she screams “Stop looking at me like that!” is just really bizarre, and distracts from the not insignificant truth that Roslin just tried to kill Starbuck. I think they’re trying to get us to register Starbuck’s desperation, but it strays too far into the realm of her being simply unhinged: pointing a gun at the President, then handing it to Roslin and daring her to shoot her, then throwing a tantrum as she’s carted away. What’s happened to the character that peacefully accepted her destiny in “Maelstrom”?

There follows another very odd scene with Adama in the brig, where Starbuck seems happy to goad the Admiral into physically assaulting her just to find out if he still cares, then we segway from that into a heartfelt goodbye with Lee where we get a very unwelcome retread of their romantic sub-plot of last season. The tone is just all over the place, and it’s difficult to get a handle on the character of this resurrected Starbuck. I guess that must be the point, to plant the seed that it might actually be a different person, but it didn’t work for me: Thrace has always been a renegade of sorts, but who she is in “Six Of One” is loony-bin material, and frankly a little annoying.

But, at the very least, it gives us a flashpoint for Roslin and Adama. They’ve been getting closer and closer for so long that it’s easy to forget times when they were at each others throats. Episodes like “You Can’t Go Home Again”, “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)” or “Home (Part One)” were a long time ago. As this episode begins Roslin has actually moved in with the Admiral, and we’re aware that the nature of their relationship is starting to draw a bit of comment. Where this is all heading has become increasingly obvious.

But Holy God, how amazing is that scene where a drunken Adama spars verbally with a pissed off Roslin in light of all of that? There’s a viciousness in their words to each other – where Roslin takes Adama to task for the reasons he wants to believe Starbuck, and Adama questions whether Roslin is approaching the issue from a warped sense of jealousy and fear – that underlines the depth of their relationship. The scene begins with them acting like an old married couple, but then proceeds into the kind of insults and barbed point-scoring that only two people with a lot of feeling for each other would be capable of making. Adama’s theory that Roslin might be afraid that her impending death will have far less meaning than it would have had in “Epiphanies” is so utterly brutal, it’s on a par with his words to Apollo in “Crossroads (Part One)”. Roslin’s comments that Adama’s relationship with loss is affecting him too much is pretty bad too, but there’s something about taunting a terminally ill woman about her impending death that’s just, well, sort of evil. But it does fit with a man who has come to care so much about this woman that he is driven to push her away.

It’s this conversation that allows Adama the ability to come up with a solution to the Starbuck problem. Roslin is right: there’s only so much loss someone like Adama can take at this point, just look at the complex he demonstrates in “A Day In The Life”. He has to give Starbuck her chance, and no matter what he says out loud at the conclusion of “Six Of One” we know it isn’t just a matter of hedging bets for humanity. He needs to believe that this is the same Starbuck he knew before “Maelstrom”, he needs to save that person from the pain of jumping away from a possible Earth. It takes the pain of his conversation with Roslin to get to this point. That relationship will need its own healing I suppose: one wonders how Roslin will react to what Adama does with Starbuck.

If Adama and Roslin are feeling distinctly uncomfortable, one person who is getting ever more comfortable is Baltar. I love this look at him in the civilian mess, looking clean, resplendent almost, modestly accepting gifts and praise while surrounded by what we must suspect is some manner of harem. If there’s one thing we know about Baltar by now, it is that he is very quick to resume positions of power, authority and central focus whenever they are offered to him. It might still be less than a day since the beginning of Season Four, but he looks like he’s been a Messiah all his life.

Until he gets a bit of a shock with the appearance of Head Baltar. If his interactions with Head Six were fascinating enough, this is a veritable psychological whirlwind: Baltar is talking to himself, literally, for the first time. Looking at the two here I was struck by how Head Baltar is sort of how Baltar has always viewed himself – debonair, confident, handsome, utterly unflappable – without ever actually reaching those heights. Being placed opposite such a figure is bound to be disconcerting, and Baltar’s reaction is an understandable mixture of surprise and befuddlement.

Perhaps more interesting than any of that is what this means on a larger level. There was obviously some manner of connection between Head Baltar and Head Six, but Baltar now seeing both makes it undeniable that these figures exist in the same space, and have some form of common purpose. Head Baltar even goes as far as referencing Head Six as someone else that he is aware of. But why has Head Baltar appeared to his mirror now, in this place? Is Baltar’s role as the focal point of this cult something that both Head Six and Head Baltar want to progress? And if so, for what end? Lots of unanswered questions, but for now there is some great comedy to be mined from the sight of these two talking around one another, which only adds to the impression that this whole plot line is being forwarded, at least in part, to get Calllis’ humorous side a long-delayed runabout.

More importantly for the larger narrative, Baltar has now become something of a target for the Five. Like in “He That Believeth In Me”, most of those are just staying in place plot-wise, which is a bit frustrating, but the one in the spotlight perhaps makes up for the lack of attention on the other three. Tory is sent out to get some information from Baltar, after the somewhat dubious leap that the good Doctor might know who the last of the Five is based on what Tyrol saw and heard in “Rapture”. The manner in which she does so is left up to her, notwithstanding some hints from Tigh.

The truth is we don’t really know all that much about Foster, do we? The new one I mean, the woman whose devolution from brutally effective right-hand to the President became apparent in “Crossroads (Part One)”. The woman she is now – the Cylon – is something much more intangible. She seems listless, uncoordinated, and unsure of what she wants out of any situation. She approaches Baltar because the group have asked her to sound him out, but then suddenly she’s having sex with him. Why does she go that far?

At first glance it may seemly seem like Tory is easily seduced, or we could say that she’s less hung-up on sex as a part of life than others: after all, she had what seemed like a fairly casual sexual relationship with Anders just a very short time before this that now appears to be forgotten. Or maybe, like the woman who had no compunctions about trying to steal an election in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)”, she is just willing to go the extra mile in getting the information she needs out of Baltar.

But look a little deeper and a more disturbing answer starts to present itself, even just within the confines of “Six Of One”. Cult leaders have always attracted those seeking a purpose greater than themselves, a sign that they have a place in a wider tapestry: Tory, only just getting used to the idea that she is a Cylon, is not just interested in Baltar’s monotheistic pitch as a means of getting some info, she’s just interested in that idea.

When, during sex, Baltar shows a measure of compassion towards Tory, indicating that her apparent trait of crying during the act simply means she has “an abundance of feeling” it’s like a life raft to someone drowning. The other three of the four, especially Tigh, haven’t exactly treated Tory with any great compassion or feeling since their true nature came out, but Baltar does. And, through his evangelical espousing of a One God who created man and Cylon, and has gifted both the ability to feel, he shows Tory a path where she doesn’t have to be a mechanical non-entity. In that moment, she’s no longer just using Baltar, she’s becoming one of his disciples.

A surprisingly large part of the episode is dedicated to Apollo’s goodbye to Galactica, and I found a lot of it rather odd. It would mean more if Bamber was leaving the show, but he’s going nowhere: he’ll be in just about every episode this season, and he’ll be back on Galactica fairly quickly. Because of that it felt like this extended series of farewells was a bit unnecessary really, with the only scene that really landed being that with the pilots, Lee forced to down shot after shot of ambrosia as part of some semi-formalised ritual of departure. The scene with Starbuck, like that in “Taking A Break From All Your Worries”, just didn’t seem justified, with Apollo acting like he is never going to see Starbuck again, and the show continuing to leave things open for a resuscitation of their romance long past the point when it should be resuscitated. And the farewell on the deck, with the entire crew presenting arms and chanting Apollo’s name, and Dee suddenly viewing the husband she walked out on more favourably, was just very strange, at least to me.

There are different ways you could have gone with this, perhaps with Apollo’s departure engendering bitterness from some crewmembers, from his wife, from his father as was already set up. It could be a dramatic thing in other words, and not this largely meaningless, in terms of Apollo’s absence from the narrative, series of platitudes and false goodbyes. I’m interested in re-visiting Apollo’s role in the political structures of the Fleet of course, but this whole thing as a bridge to that path is a serious drag on “Six Of One” and evidence that the writers were struggling to fill gaps for certain characters.

But now we have to talk about the actual Cylons, back for the first time since Cavil boxed D’Anna and her line in “Rapture”. “Six Of One” has a lot to accomplish with them, making manifest a divide in ideology and belief that we have seen hints of for a long time, arguably as far back as the varied approaches to the “love” experiment with Athena and Helo on Caprica. It accomplishes that pretty well I think, and in the process re-introduces us to the person who is, essentially, the “big bad” of what is left of the show’s run.

I do love Dean Stockwell’s Cavil. It’s that air of confidence mixed with a sense of constant irritation at the universe he is forced to inhabit I think, that makes him so fun to watch. Here he just can’t comprehend how he can be opposed in his plan to lobotomise the Raiders, when the most his opponents can bring to the table is airy fairy talk of God, destiny and distant Cylon figures Cavil has no time for. The Six who is the mouthpiece for the opposing faction – unnamed here, but Natalie in later episodes – encapsulates an increasingly desperate plea for the Cylons to maintain their faith in a divine force that the more pragmatic models just cannot accept. The leadership struggle is a fraught one, especially with the models split right down the middle.

Only they aren’t. It’s somewhat ironic that it is a decisive tipping of the scales in Cavil’s favour that actually prefigures the collapse of Cylon unity, but the cracks in the Cylon democratic process were evident in “The Eye Of Jupiter”, and the cracks in their society as far back as “Downloaded”. Boomer’s deviant behaviour is treated like a taboo by Natalie, but fits with the woman who is less and less inclined to think well of her time as a human, her compassion for that race of beings seemingly eradicated by what happened on New Caprica and what happened when she was saddled with Hera.

Cavil appears to have everything going in his favour: the Biers model gone, a member of the Eights on his side, (and maybe more than that if we are to look into her performing yoga naked in front of him), the apparent fact that seeking to find out more about the Final Five is forbidden knowledge (one of the few times Cavil will go to that kind of religiously motivated well in an effort to get what he wants) and a decision to proceed with the dumbing down of the Raiders. But this is the trap that Cavil sets for himself. He’s too arrogant to think that anybody could one-up him when he is in such a position, because he can’t understand the extent to which someone burning with religious devotion will actually go. After all, such thinking is simply beyond him, something to be scorned. Hence why he is caught so totally by surprise when Natalie elects to burn down the entire Cylon structure by granting the Centurions a greater degree of sentience: a development dripping with irony, as this humanoid figure grants sentience to her mechanical creations, with violent results. All off this has happened before, all of this will happen again.

The resulting massacre really must just be the beginning. What was destined to happen has come to pass, and we now have two Cylon factions shooting at each other, and despite this early blow for the rebels it’s hard to know how it will turn out. Amid Starbuck’s promise to deliver Earth, Roslin’s terminal illness and Baltar’s cult, it’s another heavy layer to add to the plot lines that Season Four will bring to the table.

I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of turning away from the things that I want to believe in. And I believe you when you say that you’ll die before you stop trying.

Notes

-The title is part of the phrase “Six of one, half a dozen of the other”, referring to a situation where two choices are largely the same. Here it might reflect Natalie’s thoughts on a single model being a unified entity.

-This is Anthony Hemingway’s sole directorial credit for BSG. He was little known at the time, but has since gone to make a name for himself with various episodes of Treme, Shameless and American Crime Story.

-Helo positions himself as a negotiator with Starbuck in the opening scenes, calling back to their bond established from Caprica.

-I do really like that Starbuck reminds Roslin of the events of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)”, when Thrace risked everything on the back of the President’s vision. There’s no quid pro quo.

-Not the first, or even second, or even third time we’ve had a scene in BSG where someone is daring another to shoot them. See Tigh and Palladino in “Final Cut”, Adama and Tigh/Starbuck in “Torn” and Kendra Shaw and some random Marine in Razor.

-I just don’t like that breakdown moment. Starbuck devolves into a pathetic mess, and it’s hard to understand what a higher power is getting out of this: why create a prophet that turns into a Cassandra?

-What symbolism are we meant to read into Roslin putting a bullet hole into a picture of her and the Admiral? Not exactly subtle. The picture is from the medal ceremony in “Hero”.

-Starbuck’s last pitch in this scene is just dreadful, and speaks to a character that is just not all there. Which makes subsequent plot points even hard to understand,

-The count is down 22 from the last episode, perhaps wounded from the Ionian Nebula who since expired. The man Paulla attacked in the last episode might also be among them.

-The Hybrid utterances here have fairly obvious nods to the “activation” of the Five, though perhaps not clear enough to justify the move to a coup.

-One has to ask why Boomer – I assume it is Boomer – is performing naked yoga in front of Cavil. When commenting on the models’ aspects later, his note for the Eight’s is their breasts. When did Cavil become this pervy?

-Whatever about his lip service to democracy, Cavil does appear to have become a full-on leader figure since “Rapture”. It’s as simple as him being at the head of the table.

-It’s an interesting thing I find, that Raiders are designed to be capable of higher thought but the Centurions are restrained. It draws the line between the Raiders and Viper pilots even more.

-Cavil flippantly says that “God almighty” declares the Raiders need to be lobotomised, by which he means “the voice of reason”. In other words, him. He’s God almighty, in his own head.

-Cavil confidently declares that the Raiders are “tools, not pets”. Given Boomer’s words to the contrary in “Six Degrees Of Separation”, we can understand this as another fault line in the Cylon psyche: the religiously minded treat them as beings, the rest treat them like machines.

-Tigh has a great description for Starbuck: “Crazy as a latrine rat”.

-Baltar, according to Tigh, is “accomplished at two things: lying in his cell and lying in a woman”. Now that is some unexpectedly vulgar imagery.

-Starbuck stands to attention when Adama visits her in the brig, and I was struck by the occasions where military formality is a barrier in BSG, like between Tyrol and Boomer in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)”.

-Adama perhaps lays it on a bit too thick by asking Thrace “Whose going to help you now?”, in a manner that indicates the President was always on her side in someway, she just needed to let it play out. But that’s not what I was seeing.

-Starbuck doesn’t hold back either, decrying Adama as “the President’s wet nurse”, which is quite the putdown really. Is she thinking that Adama has been made weaker by his growing association with Roslin?

-“We’re going the wrong way!” Give it a rest already.

-There are clear Cylon voting blocks that were hinted at before but made manifest to the audience here: Cavil’s, Doral’s and Simon’s placed against Six’s, Leoben’s and Eight’s. Biers used to be the one that tipped the scales, now it seems like deadlock.

-Boomer walks back into the narrative here, having been gone since “Rapture”. I don’t think any other vital character has been absent for such long stretches.

-“You’re not God” says Natalie, and Cavil again demonstrates his philosophy in bitingly sarcastic form: “No, I’m a mechanic”.

-Once again, Galactica’s pilots are out of control on booze, with a veritable bacchanal happening in the mess. Where do they get all this alcohol?

-The pilots appear to be playing strip pyramid in the mess, which seems ballsy with the Admiral in the room.

-I think the pilots are always destined to mix this kind of happiness with sadness, and that’s reflected in Apollo’s loud toasts to Galactica, the men and women who serve on her, and their sweethearts being followed by one to “absent friends” where things get very quiet.

-Adama has seemingly rebuilt the ship he destroyed at the end of “Maelstrom”. Hopefully this model is insured as well.

-The first scene between Baltar and Tory would seem to confirm there is a civilian mess onboard Galactica now, one that appears to be unmonitored.

-I love Baltar and his scarf. Always a dedicated follower of fashion.

-“Get a grip Gaius”. The perfect example of alliteration.

-The comedy comes fast as Head Baltar leads his opposing number into speaking out loud about how much he’d like to feel Tory up. Amazing.

-Callis is always great at imbuing Baltar with lots of faux humility, here as he claims to just be an observer of God’s orchestra. Yeah right.

-Baltar’s thoughts on God’s message, through him, being a cacophony of instruments changed to a single melody brings to mind J.R.R Tolkien’s Ainulindale, where the creation of his fantasy universe takes place through a music conducted by God.

-Batar wonders if Head Baltar is actually Six in disguise, leading to the best reply: “Why would she need to disguise herself?”

-“Handle with care” says Head Baltar on Tory. “Oh, I’d like to” says Baltar. Ohh err Madam.

-Roslin doesn’t have much time for the idea that Adama is getting his head turned by Starbuck, referring to him as “Admiral Atheist”. His lack of belief is a well-established part of the show.

-Roslin and Adama ponder on just why she missed when she fired at Starbuck. “Diloxin fraks with your aim”. “So does doubt”.

-“Stay in the room…but get out of my head”. Adama really gives it to Roslin here.

-What an exchange as thing whole thing ends: “You’re afraid to live alone” “…and you’re afraid to die that way”.

-Apollo has apparently been nominated, by the Vice-President, for a vacant Quorum of Twelve spot, which again calls attention to how the Colonial government works. A Quorum member is meant to represent an entire colony, but they can just be appointed like this?

-“Never could say no to anything” “…except me”. Can we not move beyond this plotline?

-The kiss between Apollo and Starbuck in this scene calls to mind the one shared between the two in “Home (Part One)” but is less ad-libbed I suppose.

-We really didn’t need this scene of Apollo going down memory lane in the briefing room, with the echoes of past episodes. It’s like he’s leaving the show.

-The formal goodbye is just too much for me. It seems like half the ship is here to salute Apollo.

-A slightly quieter version of “Wander My Friends”gets an airing here, and it won’t be the last time we hear it.

-I do like the final line between Apollo and Dee though: “Looks like you got the house”. There’s a cathartic amicability there, after all the heartache.

-It’s a bloody job with the Raiders as Simon cuts into their brains. This really isn’t a mechanical alteration.

-Cavil starts to lose his temper with Natalie, and asks if she wants to know what “rankles my ass”. It’s an odd phrase coming from him, and speaks to how afar he feels he’s been pushed.

-Not sure of what to make of Baltar preaching through the act of sex. It seems to tie the pursuit of physical pleasure to the worship of God, but perhaps this had less creepy connotations when it was only happening inside Baltar’s head.

-Natalie reveals here that “Centurion higher functions” have been enabled. We might remember Adama, from intelligence provided by Athena, mentioning this disabling of the Centurions in “Precipice”.

-There’s a cool deleted scene involving this plot point, where Boomer explains to the other Eight’s about her apparent relationship with Cavil. Leoben remarks that love is a powerful motivator and Natalie, looking at one of the Centurion inhibitors, says that hate is too. Would have been a cool inert.

-It’s a regular old massacre aboard this basestar, and I do like the effect of the distant screaming as the rebels make their move. Adds a bit of horror, and reminds me of a similar effect in “Valley Of Darkness”.

-Adama retains his cynicism a bit, responding to Thrace’s insistence that she’s not afraid to die with “Little easier after you’ve been through it once”.

-Why put Starbuck in cuffs for this trip? Adama is sending her off with a load of military personnel, it isn’t like it’s going to be kept secret.

-“Demetrius” is a Greek name meaning “follower of Demeter”, an Olympian God of grain and fertility. I’m not sure we can look too much into in this instance.

-“Now go. Find a way to Earth”. We have an objective.

Overall Verdict: “Six Of One” isn’t the very best continuation of the story that was started in “He That Believeth in Me” really. The Starbuck plot line really stretches the extent with which they want to go with that character, the Apollo stuff still seems very strange to me all these years later and there’s a sense that they had one-and-a-half episodes of plot for a two-parter. But, it does have that amazing Roslin/Adama scene and I can’t fault the narrative as it pertains to the Cylon Civil War. It’s a bang average episode really, but does set-up a great deal I am interested in seeing: in the early stages of the season, that’s not the worst thing I suppose.

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5 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Four: “Six Of One”

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