I really don’t want this blog to become All Battlestar All The Time, but I can’t keep silent about the latest episode, Collaborators. It hurt to sit through it, but even so, I downloaded and watched it a second time this evening and came out thinking it’s a minor masterpiece. Further thoughts beyond the Read More link for those who aren’t afraid of spoilers.As in last week’s episode, the show starts with the death of a traitor. Having watched the webisodes, I was not surprised to see Jammer meet this fate. I never really liked him, but even so, I couldn’t just dismiss the fact that he had been a minor character on the show from nearly the beginning. His death was not a throwaway, easily ignored event. It made my gut churn.
What made it worse was that the executioners were also familiar. Anders, the resistance fighter, sort of made sense. Tigh, the man who had to kill his own wife for collaborating in the previous episode… yes, I can see it. Tyrol? He was a leader in the resistance, but… what was he doing on this witch hunt? Then there were the two women, Seelix and Barolay, who also looked familiar. Only Connor was new.
Each member of the Circle was an individual with a different approach to the situation. Nevertheless, they kept coming up with unanimous votes condemning people to death. In the case of Jammer, they appeared to get it right. All the relevant facts we, the audience, knew about Jammer came out in the discussion. And he was found guilty. Execution by vacuum seems like an overreaction, but it wouldn’t have been too traumatic for the audience if all the “justice” was implied to be like this. Hard, but necessary.
But almost immediately another familiar face came up in the roster: Felix Gaeta, former Galactica Officer of the Watch and Chief of Staff to Gaius Baltar under the Cylon occupation. The earlier episodes of the season revealed that Gaeta was the primary source of inside information about the Cylon plans. He was crucial to the Resistance efforts, but no one knew who he was — even Tyrol, the man who retrieved packets of documents from the drawer behind the dog. So no one could really defend him against the nebulous charges of “collaboration and crimes against humanity”. So much for innocent until proven guilty.
The scene in which Gaeta was dragged into the launch tube and refused to beg for mercy just killed me. First, because I loved how the actor played it. From my previous posts you might be able to tell that I identify with Gaeta. To me he really seems like the archetypal computer geek (a pretty hot one, but still) — someone who is used to being called when the need is urgent and never thought of otherwise, someone who is underappreciated and frustrated by the general lack of brainpower around him. I loved his outburst at Starbuck in the mess hall, “Like I’ve just said about fifty times now, I was serving the legal president of the colonies. We all elected him, remember?!”
By the time the hood was ripped off his head in the launch tube, it made sense that he would think that there was no point trying to argue with these people. They were clearly a mindless mob, and what would be the use? And there lies the genius of this show. Though I identify with Gaeta completely and appreciate his dignified and fatalistic reaction (which Ronald Moore said in his podcast was the actor’s take on how his character would behave), events made it clear that if he had only talked earlier he would have reached the right ears — Tyrol’s. He appeared to believe that telling Starbuck about his resistance activities was enough. Little did he know she wouldn’t say anything about it to the other members of the “jury”.
Thank Peep he lived, because I might have stopped watching the show (or quit my job) otherwise. The one who came out worst in this scene was Starbuck. She was practically Gollum to Gaeta’s Frodo. (See if you can figure out that analogy. It makes sense to me, but I can’t really explain it.) It will take a while for her character to recover from this point, and I think it’s going to be an ugly road.
The message is: evil deeds are not necessarily the work of strangers. Look at the people around you. Under stress, or having gotten bad information, might they turn on you? Who will have the strength of character to really seek out the truth rather than just doing what feels right or caving in to peer pressure?
This episode pretty much said that no one would. At least in a hand-picked group of six individuals who operate in secret under a lot of pressure. In the podcast, Ronald Moore said of this situation:
What have they been doing? What happens when you don’t give people a chance to challenge their detention? What happens when you don’t give people a chance to actually […] face their accusors and fight for their day in court? Maybe those are things we should think about.
This may seem obvious to students of history or those who are skeptical of government (for whatever reason), but a lot of people these days don’t seem to get it. Whenever a person’s life or freedom are at stake, closed door judgement cannot be trusted, no matter who’s delivering it.
Now I think I’m going to lighten up a little, by watching some episodes of The Wire. (Kidding, but only a little.)