This isn’t true introductory material, but the beginning of at least two episodes include the XO, Saul Tigh, examining, measuring, and drinking a bottle of alcohol. He’s obsessed. We’re also slowing getting the idea that he’s a powder keg, just waiting to explode. He goes off to work and it is obvious he’s drunk. Maybe there’s a reason we’re getting information about Tigh this way; I just don’t remember. Well, the rest of this episode, “Bastille Day,” focuses on prisoners and their storming of their prison ship. Don’t worry, they have some demands.
1. Treatment of prisoners
The fleet has found water and is looking for a way to access it; we don’t get many specifics here, but releasing and gathering the water will require hard labor. Luckily, the fleet still has a ship that was moving 1,500 convicts for parole hearings, that will now never happen. This leads to immediate tension between Adama, Apollo, and Roslin over how to use these convicts to gather water. Adama knows these prisoners have already been sentenced to manual labor, so hey, why not just use them for this back-breaking work. But Roslin refuses to use these men as slaves; she wants them to volunteer. Apollo agrees with her. When Apollo boards the prisoner’s ship, the Astral Queen, he speaks to the group of detainees and informs them that the fleet needs 1,000 men to get that much needed water. He speaks of earning “freedom points” to a group that is oddly silent. “We respectfully decline,” says one man as he steps forward.
Oh, hey! It’s the guy that played Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica: Richard Hatch. I definitely remembered this detail from my first watch, but I was surprised by how good he is for this role. Sometimes guest stars are jammed into places they don’t belong. I don’t feel that way about Hatch. Maybe it’s because he’s always been Tom Zarek to me, not Starbuck. But back to the episode, the prisoners start chanting Zarek’s name. It’s obvious they love him and he can rally them to a cause. It’s obvious things are not going as Apollo planned.
2. Experience, youth, and idealism
Which brings me to another topic where I’ll, yet again, discuss the dichotomy between Adama and his son, Apollo. I’m not tired of it, it’s just all over this show so far, and I do enjoy it. Apollo is the senior pilot on the Galactica, and he is also working with the president. After the discussion of using prisoners to harvest water – I guess there are no moisture farms on this planet – it’s obvious Adama and Apollo disagree. Adama tell his son that, “every man has to decide for himself, which side he’s on.” Apollo retorts with, “I didn’t know we were picking sides.” After Apollo walks away, old, experienced Adam replies, “That’s why you haven’t picked one yet.” Apollo’s idealism of youth is on display here, and on the Astral Queen as well. Zarek speaks down to the CAG and lets Apollo know that prisoners are owned, that they’re slaves. Apollo turns the tables on Zarek and lets him know that he’s read his book, the one that was banned, and that he agrees with many of the ideals proposed by the so called terrorist. Zarek does appear to be surprised, but only for a moment, because, there’s a perfectly timed prison break.
The crew from Galactica is held hostage and we quickly find out Zareks plan: he wants President Roslin to resign and wants a new, free election that represents all the people. There’s a good deal more that goes on behind the scenes here, but you’ll have to watch to find out the nitty, gritty details. Zarek tells Apollo that if humans are not free, they are no different from Cylons – I’m hoping we get more of these ideas later. He also tells Apollo he has to pick a side in this fight, something lots of people have been telling him. Poor Apollo is an idealist in a world that can no longer cater to idealists, in fact, maybe it’s a world that never did. In the end, Apollo, the idealist, saves Zarek from death, gives him control over the Astral Queen, and agrees to hold elections in 7 months when Roslin’s term is up. The idealist has led his ideals guide him. Bam. Apollo has picked a side. Maybe there is room for idealism in this world after all.Continued below
3. Definition of a terrorist
Freedom fighter, prisoner of conscience, butcher – all terms used to describe Tom Zarek in this episode of Battlestar. Billy seems enamored with Zarek, as he believes because Zarek’s colony was exploited by the other 11 for years, through marginalization and brutalization, he has a right to commit the acts he has in the past. On the other hand, Anastasia Dualla, or Dee, believes he’s a terrorist because he blew up a government building; to her, there is no excuse for this action. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Dee prior to this moment. She’s a communications officer that works in the operations room of the Galactica. I keep wanting to call the CIC, or operations room, the bridge. I assume this is because of Star Trek. But anyway, Billy has a major crush on Dee; he’s the one that got her sent to the prison ship in the first place, because he’s there too. And here is where we see the crux of this dilemma, what makes a terrorist a terrorist? Does it depend on your point of view? Your country of origin? Your political ideals? Are terrorists ever justified in their actions? I grew up in a family where the IRA was spoken about with reverence. I’m pretty sure not everyone feels that way. Were they freedom fighters, or were they butchers?
4. Humans mistreating humans
The humans in this universe don’t need Cylons to treat them badly, they already treat each other badly. Man makes his own bed, and the Cylons are just a product of this. In one scene on the Astral Queen, Cally is brutally attacked by a prisoner, and she does not take any crap from anyone, so in an amazing scene, she bites the prisoner’s ear right off. And she tells everyone he’s lucky that’s all she bit off. This may be where I love Cally the most: spunky and sassy. Zarek believes it’s the treatment this man has received in prison, the way he’s been treated by his fellow man, that’s forced him to act this way; to act as an animal. In the end, Starbuck shoots this animal right in the head. (We find out she’s the best sniper in the fleet in this episode. More small details leading to character building and world building.) This leads us to another question, how did the humans treat the Cylons, their own children? Are humans completely blameless when it comes to their current situation? It’s been said that man creates his own hell, his own devils; the evil is in him. Is this the case in the world of Battlestar as well? Have humans fostered their own destruction?
5. Random Thoughts
This episode covers multiple topics with clarity, not just the ones I mention, hopefully cleary, above. President Roslin has a very particular philosophy on negotiating with terrorists, as does Adama. Roslin so obviously loves Apollo as a son; he’s a man that runs on principal, and she totally respects that; the end of the episode makes this very clear. And last, but not least, a connection that sets my heart on fire; there is a reference to a ship named the Astral Queen in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Thanks Ron Moore.
We, almost, bookend this episode with more Saul Tigh, where he is again having a war of words with Starbuck. Is this part of the plan? A long game somehow? She attempts to make amends, again. He just can’t stomach it. Tigh is blunt and to the point. So far this series has given Tigh little to do, but set him up to be a major element of the story. Same with Starbuck. The storming of the Bastille culminated with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and, thanks to Apollo, the men of the Astral Queen have the rights to make their own decisions on their own ship.