Battlestar Galactica 1.01, "33"
Written by Ronald Moore
Directed by Michael Rymer
This episode takes place five days after the end of the miniseries. The Cylons are aggressively pursuing the human refugee fleet. Every thirty-three minutes the Cylons appear and attack and every thirty-three minutes the human fleet must make a faster than light jump to escape. This has happened 236 times in a row. The crew of the Galactica hasn't slept in 130 hours. They are at the breaking point, desperate for anything to change the cycle. The Viper pilots are particularly exhausted, launching and landing with every jump as part of the defense. Their ships are a mess. Repair crews are working constantly to keep them from disintegrating.
What makes this episode great is the intensity. The original series was always a bit weak on the emotions but this new series has a ferocious intensity level that makes it very clear the level of catastrophe for humanity. They have been attacked, decimated and only a tiny number survive to flee into space. They aren't just having a bad week they are facing extinction. The President of the colonials has a board behind her desk with the total head count, a mere fifty thousand or so, and it keeps going down. The show never lets you forget that and it makes the events gripping to say the least.
Dr. Gaius has a major part in this episode. He is onboard the President's ship, Capricorn One. His mind is still plagued with the gorgeous blond Cylon. She talks frequently of god. Gaius, a man of science, doesn't believe in god but oddly, the machine in his head does. She's clearly not a figment of his imagination. She seems to be very well informed. As you may recall, this Cylon took advantage of Gaius to obtain defense secrets that helped their attack on the colonies. A colleague of his onboard a ship called the Olympic Carrier wants to talk to the President about a traitor. That does nothing for Gaius' already shaky state of mind.
On jump 238, the Olympic Carrier goes missing, a startlingly good stroke of luck for Gaius. The Cylon says god is looking out for him. The Olympic Carrier eventually turns up, claiming a miraculous escape from the Cylons. This makes everyone suspicious, particularly when the ship refuses to keep its distance from the fleet and starts giving off high radiation readings. On top of that, the Cylons attack again. Commander Adama is forced to order Apollo and Starbuck to fire on the Olympic Carrier. These sorts of harsh life and death decisions give the show a very hard edge, which separates it from a lot of other science fiction.
Back on Caprica, Helo is still alive. In the miniseries, he gave up his seat so that one more civilian could make it safely to the fleet. Since then he has been fighting for his life a human world now occupied by Cylons. He has radiation sickness from the fallout of the nukes that hit the planet. Cylons are pursuing him but he successfully takes a couple out before being intercepted by another blonde bombshell Cylon. He is then rescued by Boomer, which is fairly intriguing as she was just seen patrolling space around the fleet. Heavy suspicion is being piled on her character. Does she just look like one of the Cylon models or is she a Cylon? At this point, it's impossible to say.
This isn't a particularly character driven episode, which for once is not a problem. Some development is done with the relationship between Apollo and Starbuck and Colonel Tigh's drinking, but that's about it. This is driven entirely by events and that is more than enough for now.
Quickly, let me run through a bunch of quick thoughts of things I loved in the show. First, the show tries to take science a bit seriously. Watch the way the Vipers fly. They use attitude jets to maneuver, which is exactly how it should happen in the weightless vacuum of space. It's a nice touch, which gives the show a unique visual style. The camera work is often in a hand held style, which lends the show a documentary style realism. It helps ground the show so you don't think so much of the genre. This is particularly so in space shots where the camera swings wildly and zooms rapidly, a rough style that gives the impression the camera operator doesn't know what will happen. Obviously, these are computer-animated sequences and thus highly planned, which is why the camera style is so effective. It causes the mind to set aside how the images were created in favor of trying to sort out visual confusion. I also loved the Cylon designs. The Base Stars and Raiders are evocative of the original series but at the same time very different. The same can be said of the mechanical looking Cylons we see. It is at once alien and familiar. Finally, the score was fabulous. Somewhat militaristic in style, it heavily favors percussions to give the viewer some sense of the desperate escape the fleet is undergoing. Coupled with ever-present 33-minute countdown, the score is relentless in portraying the inevitable attack.
I can only hope that the rest of the series comes close to this episode. I enjoyed the miniseries but not knowing if there would be more tempered that pleasure somewhat. This is a tremendous follow up and brings considerable excitement for what the series will bring in the future.
Episode Rating: 10 out of 10
wants to thank the fine folks at Sky One for this early look at the series. SCI FI, what are you waiting for?