Director: Edward James Olmos
Cast: Edward James Olmos (Adama), Tricia Helfer (Number Six/Caprica Six), James Callis (Baltar), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Grace Park (Sharon Valerii/Sharon Agathon), Jamie Bamber (Lee), Mary McDonnell (Roslin), Michael Hogan (Saul), Michael Trucco (Anders), Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh), Rekha Sharma (Tory), Don Thompson (Anthony Figurski), Colin Lawrence (Skulls), Finn R. Devitt (Nicholas Tyrol), Leah Cairns (Racetrack), Aaron Douglas (Tyrol), Leela Savasta (Tracey Anne), Keegan Connor Tracy (Jeanne), Lara Gilchrist (Paulla Schaffer), Hector Johnson (Marine Lieutenant), Laara Sadiq (Priestess), Steve Lawlor (Marine at Baltar's), Iris Paluly (Speaking Delegate #2), Marilyn Norry (Reza Chronides), Heather Doerksen (Surveillance Marine), Donna Soares (Speaking Delegate #1), Andrew McIlroy (Jacob Cantrell) & Judith Maxie (Picon Delegate)
wanted to be with? Got stuck with the best of limited
ptions. And why? Because the ones we really want,
that we've really loved, are dead, dying, turned out
to be Cylons and they didn't know it..."
Every so often BSG likes to throw out an episode that sits a little awkwardly – in a good way. Escape Velocity doesn't progress things to any major degree (ignoring the Cylon civil war and reducing Starbuck's mission to one brief scene), so instead it's a series of character-based situations – with Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) trying to cope with the "suicide" of wife Cally, Tigh (Michael Hogan) searching for clarity from Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer), and Baltar (James Callis) taking his first major step in creating a monotheist religion...
Following the shock death of Cally last week, we witness a typical funeral for the dearly departed, but her widowed husband Tyrol has a surprising reaction to the loss. He's unaware that Cally discovered the fact he's one of the Final Five Cylon models, so instead blames his closeness to fellow "toaster" Tory (Rekha Sharma) for giving Cally the wrong idea.
Of the four newly-revealed Cylons, Tyrol is clearly the one having the most difficulty adjusting – as a wonderful scene between Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Tyrol proves. The two men meet in a bar, with Adama offering his sympathies, only to have them thrown back in his face – as Tyrol launches into an astonishing attack on Cally, with her "boiled cabbage stench" and how glad he is that she's gone. His public outburst forces the shocked Adama to reprimand Tyrol.
It's a superbly-acted scene from both Olmos and, particularly, Aaron Douglas. I got the impression that Tyrol's really just rallying against all the things that make him human, trying to deny his humanity in the face of knowledge he's "just" a machine.
With Tyrol facing meltdown, the more pragmatic Tigh is trying to seek clarity by talking to the imprisoned Caprica Six -- who I was surprised to see didn't know she was in the presence of a fellow Cylon. Is it just the Cylon Raiders that have that understanding, or are all Cylons just programmed not to endanger the Final Five? That would seem to fit with Anders' survival of the Raider attack back in episode 1.
Anyway, Tigh is quite rightly guilt-ridden over his actions towards wife Ellen (Kate Vernon), who he killed on New Caprica for colluding with the Cylon enemy. The "enemy" he's now aware he's part of. It's certainly enough to cause some major turmoil for anyone, particularly a staunchly anti-Cylon military man like Tigh, and his scenes with Caprica Six are interesting – if slightly overplayed. Tigh begins to imagine Ellen as the one talking to him, battling with his lifetime of irascible hatred for Cylon-kind, whilst desperately trying to reach out for a mentor figure. Someone who can make him understand. Indeed, I really hoped Tigh would tell Caprica Six who/what he is, but the conversation (which ends in a queasy mix of pleasure/pain) at least looks to have formed a strange connection between the pair. Was anyone expecting a tender kiss to follow that punching violence?
Baltar's story gets very interesting, as his followers become the victims of a religiously-motivated attack by the Sons Of Ares. President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) decides to stop such attacks by limiting the numbers of people who can gather together; an act that essentially puts a spanner in the works of Baltar's group, and other religious groups (like those who believe in "Mithras", whatever that is.)
It's actually a little bit disappointing how hazy the religious aspect of BSGs society is, as I personally find the religiously-themed episodes the more intellectually stimulating. I tend to just think the humans believe in the Lords Of Kobol (a multiple God religion), as opposed to (some of) the Cylons' "one true God". But it seems more complex than that – which is more realistic, but at the same time frustrating. This is the fourth season, and the writers are suddenly muddying the waters with what people believe.
Still, Baltar's own branch of mysticism (in-keeping with the "one true God" belief, and half fuelled by the visions he has of Virtual Six), takes a significant step forward here. Fed up with being cowed by Roslin and attacked by disbelievers, he makes a stand by intruding on a religious ceremony and sacrilegiously vandalising the event, before he's prevented from returning to his harem – blocked by soldiers there to enforce Roslin's crowd-limiting edict. Encouraged by Virtual Six, Baltar is prevented from entering by violence, leaving him bloodied and beaten on the floor. Fortunately, Lee (Jamie Bamber) arrives to end the violence, as he's managed to have Roslin's new law overturned.
For mythology-lovers, this corridor scene with Baltar is very memorable for the way Virtual Six seems to have a physical effect on Baltar – heaving him up to his feet, manipulated like a marionette. I was actually surprised people didn't notice the puppeteering of Baltar (maybe Six should have picked Baltar clean off the floor!) But this does mean that Virtual Six has a physical presence that can interact with her surroundings. She's can't just be a mental construct, or hallucination. That's quite a revelation for anyone who's puzzled over Baltar's "visions" since the mini-series – although I note that showrunner Ronald D. Moore talked down its significance in the episode's commentary podcast. Hmmm.
Written by Jane Espenson, who has a loyal following thanks to her tenure on genre shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Escape Velocity is accomplished and interesting work. There are a handful of brilliant scenes, crammed with insightful dialogue, vividly brought to life by the actors. Callis, Hogan and Douglas are particularly excellent here.
Respect must also go to star Edward James Olmos, who once again sits on the director's chair. Olmos seems to love the stranger, mystical episodes of BSG, after helming last season's Taking A Break From All Your Worries, and this is another fine piece of work. Some great editing here, too; in the early Son Of Ares attack and the closing sermon, with its meaningful links to various characters' situations.
Overall, while lacking in big developments, Escape Velocity is a very interesting character study that provides meaty material for some of the show's best actors. I'm personally very excited by the possibilities of Baltar establishing his own religion now, and the continuing strain being felt by Cylons Tigh and Tyrol (but not so much Tory and Anders -- yet) is delivering plenty of drama.
29 April 2008
Sky One, 9.00 pm