Battlestar Galactica – Season 4 Episodes 1 – 10 Review

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Despite over-exposure to the religious themes that had up to this point been well handled, the first half of the fourth and final Season of Battlestar Galactica is a great ride, full of fun twists and dramatic battles. It’s a little bittersweet the second time round knowing how some of these interesting plots don’t really get resolved, but hey-ho, it’s still great telly!

Synopsis:

Starbuck returns to the Galactica and faces doubt from her former crew members as she tries to convince them she knows the way to Earth. Meanwhile Baltar takes up residence with a faction of his followers…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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The Roslin / Adama relationship is one of the better handled storylines in the show.

Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos) – Admiral Adama wants nothing more than to believe Starbuck is back in the fold, but the evidence doesn’t match up…

Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) – Lee has reached his wits end with piloting Vipers and is looking to move into politics… for some reason. Oh well, at least Starbuck is mysteriously back from the dead!

Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) – Starbuck seemingly died in the clouds of a gas giant, but then sudden woke up in front of Earth! She hurried back to tell everyone, but unbeknownst to her, she’d been dead for months…

President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) – President Roslin has found love with Admiral Adama, but the cancer she once beat is back, and this time it seems there’s no saving her…

Gaius Baltar (James Callis) – Gaius has been through the wringer, all right. On board a Cylon Basestar, in prison, on trial, and now surrounded by a cult dedicated to him and his teachings that seem to revere him as some sort of Jesus-like figure… Well, maybe the last one isn’t so bad…?

Number Six (Tricia Helfer) – The Numbers Six human Cylon Model is the sort-of leader of the more rebellious Cylons, as well as the model that actually succeeded in wiping out most of humanity… So, bit of a mixed bag, really…

Number Eight / Sharon “Athena” Agathon (Grace Park) – The Eights are also a rebellious model of human Cylon, with one becoming attached to her secret identity of Boomer (before eventually siding with the Cylons fully) and another properly integrated into the human society as pilot “Athena”… who is also the mother of the first Human-Cylon hybrid child…

Number One / Cavil (Dean Stockwell) – The most intelligent and cold of the Cylon human models, he has insight to their history that other models lack. He also has an unending grudge against his own creators…

Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) – Colonel Tigh is forever loyal to his Admiral, but has also just found out his is one of the “Final Five” Cylons. Currently Tigh is going with the plan to simply ignore it, but with such a revelation it’s proving difficult…

Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) – The Chief has been having marital problems for a while now, on top of an ever increasing workload… oh and the fact he found out he’s a Cylon, one of the “Final Five” models. That’s a lot of stress!

Samuel Anders (Michael Trucco) – Sam was a sports star, then a rebel cell leader, Starbuck’s husband then Starbuck’s widow, and now he’s also one of the “Final Five” Cylons… oh, and now no longer a widow, apparently. Life can get weird.

Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma) – Tory is one of President Roslin’s top advisors, as well as a “Final Five” Cylon. While a shock, she seems to go along with it better than most…

The Good:

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The bizarre Starbuck / Leoben relationship is also well-handled… for now.

In this season the story telling becomes more focused, like at the start, so it’s easier to just talk about the narrative threads rather than specific episodes. The first one is the return of Starbuck (no relation to the Galatica 1980 episode!), which is still handled really well here, in terms of creating a mystery. (I’m trying to review these as chunks on their own, so I’ll keep it in the good, despite foreknowledge of how it ends up… or rather doesn’t…) Starbuck returns like she’d only been gone a day rather than months, and her ship is brand new. She claims to know how to get to Earth but everyone is just convinced she’s a Cylon, or something similar. Eventually Adama sends her (and a bunch of their top pilots and navigator, which is a bit risky, to say the least!) in a sewage barge called the Demetrius to see if her instincts were correct.

The scenes on board the Demetrius are great. Everyone gets more and more paranoid about Starbuck, with only her second-in-command Helo (who, by the way, is so irrelevant now…) who keeps things together… until a Cylon Number Two (hehe), a.k.a. Leoben, arrives and offers to help… and Starbuck agrees! This leads to mutiny, Felix Gaeta being shot in the leg by Sam (who’s still playing the husband card, though he does have other things on his mind…) and eventually a meeting on board a rebellious Cylon Basestar (more on that in a bit) where Starbuck gets told she will lead humanity to their end…

This all leads to a team up of the surviving fleet and the aforementioned Basestar. The Cylons have split down the middle on how to deal with humanity, with the cold-hearted Number Ones leading a group of themselves, Fours and Fives to take out the Sixes, Twos and Eights that want to work with the “Final Five” Cylons and leave humanity be. This is why the Basestar is on Galactica’s side, and it makes for a fun, and realistic, “how can we trust them?” scenario. Eventually they do work together in order to destroy the Cylon Resurrection Hub, the source of their infinite life, and revive the Number Three who saw the faces of the Final Five in the previous series. The assault in Episode 9, “The Hub”, is great, as is the split plot beforehand when Roslin, Starbuck, Sam and Baltar all meet with the Hybrid in the centre of the Basestar and it teleports them away, and the chaos in the fleet as Adama can’t bare to be without the President. I will say Roslin and Adama’s relationship is one of the nicer, well-played out aspects of the series, a completely believable relationship that’s also very… sweet, is the only way I can think to put it.

The storylines surrounding the “Final Five” are some of the best in the series. They all take the news differently, and the confusion around particularly Tyrol and his wife, who soon finds out their secret, and her death at the hands of Tory. That was shocking, and leads to one of my favourite moments right at the end of the series. The fun is also in Episode 10, when they all get found out, either by Tory joining the Cylons, Tigh giving himself up to Adama (who doesn’t take the news very well) and my favourite scene of the bunch, when Tyrol and Sam are outed and arrested in front of Starbuck, with the former Chief almost laughing it off in a “it was bound to happen anyway” kind of way.

That all leads to them finding Earth at long last, Cylon and humans joining forces, and… whoops! Earth is a nuclear wasteland, just like the other 12 colonies they fled from. Properly great cliffhanger.

The Bad:

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Oh he’s bad alright, but in a great-to-watch way!

The whole religious cult forming around Baltar I never liked. It was like Ronald D. Moore just decided to stop being subtle and ram it down the viewers throats. It dropped all cleverness and just went straight for a Jesus comparison, miracles and the whole “there is only one God” / religious war stuff. Just not very enjoyable, and the second storyline in a row where Baltar, one of the most interesting and fun characters in the whole series, gets saddled with a crap and out-of-place storyline (though admittedly after seeing the Original Series and their God vs. Devil episode now, maybe not quite as out of place as I first thought…)

On that topic, Episode 6, “Faith”, has a long story throughout the episode of the cancer-suffering President Roslin befriending a dying patient in her ward and experiencing the stereotypical idea of heaven, complete with meeting all your family members and all that jazz. That felt almost like straight up preaching, and I definitely didn’t appreciate that in the middle of my sci-fi show…

Oh and Apollo has gone from dull lead character, to lawyer, to politician. So, in other words, is still really boring.

Overall Thoughts:

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“So this is Earth… Bollocks.”

While there are things to dislike about this batch of 10 episodes, as a whole there is far more good, or even great, than bad. Lots of teasing, lots of great story revolving around the lore of the show (especially the Final Five stuff) and the Cylon civil war and the battle in and around the Resurrection Hub are all top-class. It’s a shame knowing how so many of these things aren’t carried off well in the next batch, but as reviewed by themselves, it’s still a great watch. Battlestar Galactica at its best.

5 Star Watch

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