Battlestar Galactica: S01E01: 33

Freakin’ awesome! That’s all I’ve got to say about this episode. Writing, make-up, acting and atmosphere were all there. This is likely one of the best first episodes in sci fi history. If you’re a diehard TOS fan, hoping that new series will falter and prove to be an embarrassment for all involved: now is the time to give up all hope.

It’s starts out simple enough. Adama has a quick voice over “Saying Previously on Battlestar Galactica” and the next minute is a rundown of the four hour miniseries. Check out the reviews of the mini, if you need a refresher. This is normally where a mundane show would start off with 5 minutes of boring dialogue. Not this time! These guys wasted no time jumping into the story. It’s less then a week from the end of the miniseries.

And the colonial fleet is still running. The episode starts with a ticking clock, and the vipers being scrambled to prepare for an attack. There is a one minute countdown, to what we don’t know yet. But it must be bad because the fleet is scramming away, we see one ship after another FTL jump out of the system.

As it turns out, the Cylons attack every 33 minutes. Why 33, see the bottom of the review. The fleet actually sets their clocks to the Cylon attacks. They don’t know how they are being tracked, just that they are. Everyone is nervous, and more to the point, they all look stressed and mentally exhausted. Much like college studetns during finals. Many of the crew haven’t shaved, or put on clean clothes for a while. I don’t even want to guess what it smells like! Now I personally figure the Cylon attack can’t be that bad. In the mini, the Cylons usually showed up with a couple ships and launched some missiles. The Galactica should be able to take on a few fighters…

A very tired crew watches as the clock ticks down to zero. We’re treated to a space shot where I expect to see a few Cylon raiders emerge from a FTL jump. Nope! A whole Basestar shows up instead. I actually jumped up and shouted an explotive, I was so surprised. Of course the Galactica crew isn’t, they seen this all before, and start firing on the incoming Cylon ships until the last of the civilian vessels jump out of the system. At which point the Galactica recalls her fighters and gets the frak outta Dodge too.

Lt. Gaeta announced that jump 237 is a success. Two-hundred thirty-seven jupms in rapid succession! These guys have been running for a while. What really drives the point home that this has been a long harrowing experience, is that Gaeta’s uniform is wrinkled and dirty. I never thought I’d see the day that he’d violate dress code. The clock is reset for another 33 minutes, and the fleet prepares for another inevitable jump.

Baltar is still having his visions/hallucinations/daydreams/wetdreams of #6. The visions are spread out all over the episode. So much that I could almost think this was a Baltar/#6 heavy ep. They’re all pretty much the same, so I’ll sum it up here: #6 prattles on about god, and tells Baltar that everything and everyone is part of god’s master plan. Baltar doesn’t buy it, and neither do I. It’s a real buzzkill seeing #6’s body, then hear her talking god like some wanna-be prophet.

Cue the opening credits. I’m sorta disappointed by them, the music is a kinda depressing, and the scene’s weren’t edited as well as they could have been. But who really cares about the opening credits anyway?
It’s been 130.35 hours since the Galactica crew has gotten any kind of real sleep. They’ve jumped 237 times, once every 33 minuets.

They’ve gotten no relief, and it shows through their body language and appearance. Kudos to the actors and make-up artists! Adama has a new plan. He wants to split the fleet up into 6 groups, have each group make two jumps then jump to a mutual location. He suspects that only one or a few craft are being tracked. He intends to use this tactic to figure out which ships are a problem. Now I’m not claiming to be a military genius or anything, but I would have thought up the same idea, after about the 5th or 6th time we were tracked! How did Adama make it to the rank of Commander if it took him 237 jumps to figure this one out! Tigh comments that its hard enough plotting one jump every 33 minutes, let alone the 24 jumps that would be required for this manoeuvre. But they set to work on his plan.

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Actually the crew is exhausted with a lot more than just plotting FTL jumps. The flight crews are exhausted from doing the same mission 237 times in a row. The hangar crew can barely work because they’ve been so busy repairing the ships, and the rest of the crew is just busy with all their other routine battle tasks. It doesn’t look good for moral.

Meanwhile on the Colonial 1, President Roslin gets the latest numbers of the human race. The episode started with 50,298 souls. But the number has dropped since the last census by 300. Most of which had died as a result of prior injuries. Roslin is depressed by this latest report, as you would be, and defeatedly says, “Okay, next crisis”. Her assistant tells her about a Dr. Amorak who had vital information about how the Cylons breached their security systems during the attack on the colonies and asks to speak with the President immediately. Baltar overhears the name, and speaks very quickly to Roslin about it. Baltar and Amorak go way back… they were rival scientists working on the defence shield and Amorak was always critical of the work Baltar and #6 did. The quasi-evil duo rightly assume that Amorak knows what happened, and plans to tell the president everything. Baltar gets even more nervous, as you do when you’re about to be turned in for treason.

Meanwhile back on Caprica, we see Helo running through the woods from two Cylons. That’s right Helo, the guy left for dead on Caprica so that Baltar can “help” out the colonial fleet. He lures the Cylons into a trap, involving a claymore mine. How’d he get those weapons? When the mine leaves one of the Cylon’s partially active, he pulls out a handgun and shoots it remorselessly. Afterwards he seeks shelter behind a big tree, and treats himself for radiation sickness. It’s not long however before Helo spots #6, in a white leather raincoat. He turns to run away, but is confronted by another Cylon who takes him captive. This doesn’t sit well with me. The Cylons don’t take prisoners, their jihad is to kill humans, why would they capture one?!

Back on the Galactica, fatigue and exhaustion is settling in. Adama and Tigh order 1 out of 3, pilots every other mission to take stims to stay alert. Starbuck refuses the order, and confronts Apollo about it. There’s a hint of sexual tension, but in the end, the sleep deprived couple realize how silly their situation is, and Starbuck reluctantly (and defiantly) takes her stims.

It’s about that time again. Thirty-three minutes come and go, and the Cylons show up on the clock. But the fleet jumps away before they could inflict any damage. Or did they? on the other end of the jump, one ship is missing, the Olympic Carrier. Nobody is certain what happened to the ship. But what is known is that 1350 people are no longer travelling with the colonial fleet. This inspires a tough verbal lashing from Tigh to the bridge crew. Actually it wouldn’t have been so bad, had the crew gotten any sleep in the last 5 days!

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Roslin wants to know when she’ll be seeing Dr. Amorak, and so does Baltar. As it turns out, Dr. Amorak was on the Olympic Carrier. Baltar thinks its a lucky coincidence, but #6 insists that it’s god’s work. Either way Baltar is safe, at least for another 33 minutes.

And those 33 minutes pass without incident. At the end of that time, the crew breathes a sigh of relief when the Cylons don’t show up again. After another 45 minutes, Adama speaks with Roslin, and puts the fleet at condition 2 (a lowered level of alert). Much of the crew can now enjoy taking a well needed nap. Not included in that group are Boomer, Starbuck, and Apollo who must continue to patrol the fleet. They were the stimmed up pilots. Apollo makes a comment to the group saying that Boomer is fairing the best out of the group. Starbuck jokes that its because she’s a Cylon. If only she knew….

And Boomer like any self believing “human” takes offence to the joke, and threatens to kick her ass. Not that she could, Starbuck would put her in her place. Their conversation is cut short by the arrival of the Olympic Carrier. Adama orders the fleet back to condition 1 in response to its arrival.

The captain of the ship explains that their FTL engine broke and that it “took almost 3 hours to fix”. But anyone who was paying attention to the clocks in this episode, and it was hard not to, should have noticed that less then two hours have passed, since the Olympic Carriers previous jump. Is this a continuity error by the writers, or a logic error by the Cylons? Either way I’m suspicious. Even more so, since they claim that the Cylons deferred from attacking the ship after the rest of the fleet jumped. Yeah right!

The ship wants to dock with the Colonial 1, so that Dr. Amorak can finally speak with President Roslin. Baltar interjects immediately, mostly to save his own arse. He proclaims loudly to the president that a Cylon spy must be onboard and that’s how the fleet was being tracked. He tells them to avoid all contact with the ship, lest it could send a signal to disable the colonial fleets. Roslin and Adama agree. The ship is told to stay away from the fleet.But they ignore the warning. The ship takes off at full speed toward the fleet. Additionally Boomer detects armed nuclear weapons on board the ship. Starbuck fires some warning shots across the hull, which are also ignored. About this point, its been 33 minutes since the Olympic Carrier jumped in and TWO Cylon basestars arrive. Adama with Roslin order that the Olympic Carrier be destroyed.

What follows next is overblown drama. Starbuck decries the orders. She doesn’t want to destroy a civilian ship with over 1300 people. Except that in reality the “civilian” ship appears empty, it’s carrying nukes, and it’s clearly being tracked by the Cylons. Apollo hesitantly opens fire on the ship and Starbuck soon follows. They fire a few rounds into the rear engines of the ship, and the Olympic Carrier explodes like a Ford Pinto in a rear-end collision. Whoever designed the Olympic Carrier, must’ve left a critical soft spot in the engines (or just sucked at being an engineer), because it was destroyed way too easily. What would have happened if the ship was caught in a small meteor shower?

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For me, destroying the ship was a no brainer, but for the all the characters, it was a major moral dilemma. I can’t understand why exactly, but I fear that they’ll dwell on this decision in future episodes with remorse.

Back on Caprica, #6 shows up to the prisoner Helo, and asks him if he’s alive, then kisses him. I’ve seen this before, this is what #6 does just before someone dies. It doesn’t look good for Helo, until Boomer shows up and shoots #6 in the back. She rescues Helo and the two run off into the woods. I don’t know what’s going on, but the Cylons are definitely up to something.

The show ends on a less dark note. They Cylons haven’t appeared in 24 hours, and everyone can now get some well deserved rest. With the destruction of the Olympic Carrier, the human population dropped to 47,972 but a baby boy was born on the Rising Star, so the refugees now total 47,973 souls. There is still hope for humanity.

Whadda great episode, I can hardly wait for next week. I’d rate this episode an all time high of 49,023 out of 10.

Dissecting the Episode:

“Why 33 minutes, why not 34 or 35?”- Cally I don’t know. It could be symbolism, it could be how long it takes the Cylons to get a signal across far distances. It might be because 33 minutes is long enough for a human to start to sleep, without actually starting to go into the meaningful deep sleep. This psychological warfare would eventually break down the humans enough for them all to be destroyed. But this sadgeezer knows otherwise. It’s because the Cylons (or at least the show writers) drink Rolling Rock Beer.

What happened to the Olympic Carrier?Well it seems certain that there was a biocylon agent on board tracking the fleet. S/he would transmit the new location of the fleet back to the Cylons, so that after 33 minutes, they would arrive and try to destroy the humans. For whatever reason it did not jump with the fleet on jump 238. It’s engines could have been damaged, or the Cylons intentionally did not make the jump. It is certain though that the Cylons invaded the ship, killed all the humans, then jumped it to the rest of Colonial Fleet when they were ready.

What about Dr. Amorak?He was likely killed after the ship failed to make jump 238. The Cylons were very eager to dock next to the Colonial 1, and likely used him as an excuse. Probably so they could detonate the nukes on top of it. Thus taking out the leadership of the fleet (assume that the Galactica was also damaged in the explosion)
If they knew the location of the fleet why not, just jump there and blow them up?  Because 1) this would have ended the surprise of the nuclear Olympic Carrier plan, and 2) they would have been unable to track the fleet after they jumped (as they did the other 238 times). Assuming the Olympic Carrier wasn’t sent to nuke the fleet leadership, then it could have still acted as a beacon for the Cylons in future attacks. It could only rejoin the fleet before an attack becuase there would be no otherway for the Olympic Carrier to learn of the new jump coordinates.

What are the Cylon’s plans for Helo?Damned if I know!


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Review is Copyright Ryan Bechtel 2005

Battlsestar Galactica names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of Sci-Fi Channel, NBC Universal and R&D Television.

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