Wednesday 9 January 2008

Battlestar Galactica - Razor

*** SPOILERS ***

There are two predictions contained in "Razor" which completely change the viewers perspective on the shocking last moment of last year's season finale:

"Soon there will be four, glorious in awakening, struggling with the knowledge of their true selves, the pain of that revelation, bringing true clarity. And amidst confusion, you will find her... Enemies brought together by the apostle, enemies now joined as one. The way forward, once impenetrable, yet inevitable. And the fifth, though still in the shadow yet clawing for the light, hungry for redemption, that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all, the seven, now six self-described machines who believe themselves without sin. But in time, it is sin that will consume them. They will know enmity, bitterness, the wrenching, the agony of the one splintering into many. And then they will join in the promised land, gathered on the wings of an angel. Not an end, but a beginning."

And the second one, which has more consequences for our perception since it is easier to understand than the former: the hybrid calls Starbuck "the herald of the apocalypse, the harbinger of death" who is going to lead humanity into its own destruction. Well, but lets start at the beginning.

"Razor" does not really try to explain things, but it shows a different perspective on a story that had previously only been told from the well-trodden paths and the morality of the Galactica-crew. It is divided into two different storylines: one follows the Pegasus from the Cylon attacks to the point where it met the Galactica in Season 2, the other picks up the Galactica crew after Cain's death and before the destruction of the Pegasus.
First of all, what I found most interesting about the Pegasus-story-arc in season two was something that reminded me of "Lost": both shows deal with the question of morality and leadership in a crisis situation. The moral question which came up in the fleet after the attacks where always solved between Adama and Roslin: a tender balance which only worked because both are usually willing to listen and talk, and because whenever one of the two took a radical standpoint, the other would immediately take the other position. Both Adama and Roslin struggled with their deeply ingrained morals, some of which just could no longer be followed in a situation where, literally, humanity was at stake (a good example for that is Roslin's decision to outlaw abortion in "Captain's Hand"). In "Razor", we now get a deeper insight into the situation on the Pegasus. First of all, Cain is in a completely different position than Adama: there is no fleet, no responsibility for anything but her own crew. And there is no civil government forcing her to justify her decisions, nobody to balance out her extremes. It is hard to imagine how Adama would have acted in a similar situation, and some of the truly horrible things that happened on the Pegasus of course were Cain's only responsiblity, but on the other hand, "Razor" makes it easier for the viewer to understand the mix of political, personal and situational reasons for Cain's decisions.

There are only very few insights into Admiral Cain's character before the attacks. In a short flashback to her childhood, we find out that she lost her family to the Cylons in the first war, and during the two or three minutes we see her immediately before the attacks, she pretends to be meaner than she might actually be in order to scare the new officer (the story is told from the perspective of Kendra Shaw). Then, the attacks come, and everything changes. The Pegasus barely gets away, loses a good part of its crew, and finds out about what happened in the Colonies after two Raptors jump back to report. The situation seems hopeless: The Colonies are completely destroyed, and the Pegasus might as well be the very last remain of humanity for all Cain knows. Since Cain has to know that she has no perspective on rebuilding society, which was most of the motivation on which Adama and Roslin based their decisions, she calls for revenge.
The shocking turning point comes when Cain shoots her XO who refuses to follow a command during a situation he considers too dangerous for his crew. This moment explains why her crew follows her without critique or resistance. Cain does what she thinks is the only thing right: they are at war, and she needs her troops to support her unconditionally. The Pegaus is no democracy and it works by different rules than the Galactica (of course it is highly doubtful that Adama would ever kill one of his officers, but just imagine Colonel Tigh being in control for a second, and you get the picture).
The even more shocking thing we found out about Cain's commands in "Pegasus" is the fact that she stripped Civilian ships of their supplies and those she considered important enough to serve under her command. We found out that she killed the families of those who were not willing to follow her: "Razor" now adds another piece of the puzzle of why Cain made that radical decision, and its a personal one. We find out that she was in love with what turned out to be Pegasus' own Six-model (who apparantly only found out about her own identity after the attacks: the seconds she hesitates to shoot Cain put her into the unfortunate position in the Pegasus' prison cell). Its the moment when Cain loses everything that gave her some kind of stability before, and she shifts from not believing that her lover might be a Cylon to "get that thing off my bridge" immediately (later, we find out about her family, and it has always been a point of the show that humans simply hate Cylons for everything they are, for what happened during the war, for the fact that they are machines). After that event comes the decision to strip the Civilian ships although, had Adama been in her position or had none of the above happened to Cain before, she could have taken them under her protection and decided for a path similar to that of the Galactica (although, the Pegasus would still lack the ultimate motivation which drove the Galactica, the prospect of finding earth and the religious leader in the shape of Roslin). Who knows what way the Galactica would have gone without that, without a prospect of a future for the fleet?

Now, lets return to the prediction of the hybrid. The second storyline of "Razor" explains how the human Cylon models came into existence: during the first Cylon war, Centurions abducted humans and used them to develop the 12 models ("Razor" does not explain the final five, nor how the decision to develop human models was made in the first place. After all, Centurions seem barely able to develop a religion, or to form any kind of government which makes decisions for the Cylon "race". So where is the decisive point in which Cylons became conscious of their own being and able to develop something as complex as a religion? Was it some kind of flaw in programming, or did something from the outside come and change them?). The results were many creepy creatures (this is where "Razor" follows the path of "Alien: Resurrection") and the aforementioned first hybrid, who, like those we already know from the base stars, constantly gives out predictions (or meaningless sentences, depending on which way of thinking you prefer). A mission under the command of Kendra Shaw manages to destroy the "farm" and the hybrid (she loses her life in the process, going the same way as Starbuck's other rival, Kat), but the last message about Starbuck never gets delivered (before dying, Shaw manages to tell Adama that she "has a warning about Kara Thrace". I wonder whether he is going to remember that after seeing her again at the end of "Crossroads".)
I've had several theories about Earth, many of them based on the question why the Cylons have a monotheistic religion and humanity a polytheistic resembling the Greek's. What if they reach earth, and then everything goes wrong, and its not really the humans who found civilization as we know it today? It was apparent throughout the past seasons that Kara seemed to be indestructable and that, for some reason, not even the Cylons had a considerable interest in killing her. She somehow always got away, except for that last time and that seemed to be exactly the point to which her "destiny" was supposed to lead her (maybe a wormhole leading the earth, maybe to the future). What if Starbuck saw Earth repopulated by things that looked human, assumed that everything would be OK in the future, and now leads the fleet but also the Cylons to earth? Who is the last missing model? Do Cylons or some deity the Cylons connect to have a different idea about time, or maybe the ability to jump time (explaining the well-known stanza of "what has happened before, will happen again")?


The next season will be the last one, and I am anxious to see whether Ron D. Moore is going to close all the gaps (although there is barely anyone except maybe Joss Whedon who seems to have such a good grasp on the mythology of his series). There are rumours about when the fourth season will start, perhaps it will be split into two parts, the first one airing in March, the second one in 2009. In addition to that, we'll see how the strike is going to influence schedule. (by the way: is there going to be an Academy Award Show this year?)

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