Battlestar Galactica: S01E06: Litmus
I’d have to say that one of the key flaws to this program is that it’s too good. It started off very strong with the mini and 33, and now it must live up to that same standard. Those episodes were predominantly action, mingled with suspense. But the series would loose its credibility and realism if the fleet were perpetually under attack, so every episode can’t feature a major Cylon attack. Litmus doesn’t feature any space battles, fist fights, or even shouting. And despite this, there is still a heavy tension through most of the episode. More than enough to make this a excellent and memorable episode to watch.
For some unexplained and likely stupid reason, the Galactica has received a transport ship full of civilians visitors. Maybe they’re there for a tour, a press briefing or maybe just as a plot device. I just can’t understand why. The “tourists” exit the landing bay, and have to pass through Galactica’s “crack” security force before entering. In other words, they need to show their passport. We follow one passenger (Doral) as he goes through the lax security, and then separates from the group. You’d think the entire group would be followed by security. There is a war on after all!
I guess the entire crew of the Galactica is oblivious to the war effort, because the next scene cuts to Chief Tyrol and Boomer in the ship’s reservoir, getting ready to have sex. They’re going to making love not war. All the while Cally is standing guard by the door to make sure they aren’t interrupted. And maybe even listen…
But this is a “family show” so we don’t get to see any real action. Instead the scene moves back toward Doral. He’s walking with intent through the halls with his hands in his pockets. Luckily Col Tigh spots him, and immediately calls for security to intercept him from the back, while he approaches from the front. Tigh is joined by an equally surprised Adama, and they both confront Doral. Too late… Doral says nothing, opens his jacket revealing a suicide bomb, which he summarily detonates, creating the only explosion of the episode.
The credits are starting to grow on me, even more since in the last two episodes, they’ve come up immediatly after a short first scene.
The explosion was a particularly deadly one. It killed off 3 men (the 3 security guards that Tigh called for) and injured (read: torched) another 13. And it occurred not far from Baltar’s lab. A furious Adama calls the chief of security, Sgt. Hadrian, to his office and fills her in on all the details; that the Cylons now look human. Hadrian asks to create a tribunal so that she can follow this investigation wherever it leads, without interference. Adama grants her a tribunal.
This turns out a be a big mistake. Adama calls Roslin and tells her that they now need to go public about the Biocylons, and that a tribunal has been set up to investigate the recent explosions on the Galactica. Roslin questions both decisions. She reluctantly agrees to going public about the Cylons, even though it will cause a great panic, and a lot of paranoia amongst what’s left of humanity. But what she really disagrees with is the tribunal. She warns him, that from her political experience, that tribunals rarely affect only the guilty. More often then not, it will harm a lot of innocent people instead. This is the first of many political statements, with obvious parallels to modern USA politics seen in this episode.
One of the lighter moments of the episode came when Tyrol catches some of the deckhands trying to make moonshine, or some similarly high proof, make-you-go-blind booze. He takes a sniff, and scolds them for their stupidity, “You people are the sorriest of the sorry. The dumbest of the dumb. The only thing you’re making out of this is a one way trip to sick-bay, or the morgue”. Tyrol then predictably adds, “Now tonight, after night call, one of you brings me twice that length of copper tubing, a spot heater, and a CO2 scrubber, [and] I’ll show you people how this is done. Tigh will flip when he finds out about this.
If it hasn’t become obvious by now that the Biocylons are testing Helo like a rat in a cage, on Caprica, it is now. The camera focuses on a rat for a good 5 seconds before cutting to a broken Helo sitting on an apartment deck. And just to nail the point home, we see Doral, #6 and Boomer, watching over him ominously, talking about him.
#6: He’s very attractive.Doral: You really think so?Boomer: She says that about everyone. Even the other characters are cynical about #6’s overactive libido.#6: You disagree?Boomer: He’s attractive. Said very flat #6: I hope you’re more convincing with him.
Boomer then discuses what Helo’s next move will be. If he wants to find her, he’ll move north toward the last known Cylon position. If not he’ll go south and look for a shuttle. Should he try to escape the planet, he’ll be killed immediately. Either way, he won’t make his move until the cover of nightfall.
Sgt. Hadrian has gotten a jump on the investigation, in the wrong direction. She suspects Chief Tyrol has some involvement in all the recent explosions, and begins questioning the deck crew about his whereabouts at the time of the attack. They think that they are covering for the chief’s illicit affair, and each one tells her a contradictory story about his location. This only serves to pique her interest in the Chief.
In the meantime, Roslin has called a press conference to discuss the recent explosion. In front on a large group of reporters, how did the fleet get so many professional reporters?, and over the radio, she announces to the fleet that the Cylons now have the ability to look human, and to be on the lookout for the two known models of Biocylon. At the end, she asks the reporters if they have any question questions. The “press room” erupts with questions before she even finishes the sentence.
As you’d expect, the whole of humanity starts accusing one another of being a communist, I mean Cylon. The show focuses on one such conversation; Jammer argues with Cally and Socinus that Chief Tyrol is a Cylon. Neither takes the charge lightly and denounce anything he says on the subject. It’s funny because they do it with fanatical loyalty to the chief, rather than thought out logic. Which for me is a sign that they are a little uncertain themselves.
Soon after Hadrian arrives with a security detail to question Boomer and Tyrol. After a brief confrontation, the two agree to go to the tribunal. Tyrol leaves Cally in charge. Either this shows how thin the staff aboard the Galactica is, or the writers just didn’t want to introduce a new higher ranking character. Personally I would have not chosen an insecure enlisted woman, younger than me none-the-less, to lead the deck crew.
Hadrian questions both Boomer and the Chief in front of the tribunal. They both lie about their whereabouts during the explosion. They think that this is about their relationship, and not that they are being viewed as accessories to the Cylons. But Hadrian gets lucky when she brings in the young Socinus. She asks him if he saw the Tyrol, and when he lies that he did, she points out that she has statements contradicting his own about Tyrol’s whereabouts.
It looks like Socinus is going to crack and tell them the truth about the affair. But instead he creates a new lie, one that implicates himself. He tells Hadrian that he cut out of work early to go get something to eat, and that he left a door open on the way there. That open door, allowed Doral access to the weapons bay, and thus the bombs to set off the explosion.
Something odd about the Tibunal Scene is that, the three members of the tribunal are not military. How did they find these people so quickly? Can they be trusted? Will we see them again later?
Dr. Baltar pops into sick bay to give Starbuck a visit and a cigar. It’s an obvious attempt to flirt with her, and it’s done so poorly that it makes me think that he was intentionally being corny to get into her pants. But his flirting comes to a stop when Starbuck points out, “So doctor, your super secret project is on C-Deck right? … The bomber was on C-Deck right? … Do you think that’s where he was headed?” And right on schedule comes #6. Baltar backs down from flirting, and takes his leave so he can discuss matters with his imaginary friend.
Rather then be discreet about talking with #6, he instead does it in public so that everyone can see his irrational behaviour. Which gets him a lot of odd stares from security personnel. Baltar is very distressed that the Cylons wanted to kill him. But #6 points out that “they wanted to destroy your work, destroying you would have been an added bonus”. Personally I don’t think that would have been the most reassuring thing to say, but #6 does like to mentally screw with him. Baltar says that he’ll destroy the project and blame it on saboteurs, just to prevent future attacks against him.
I’m inclined to say that #6 didn’t like that idea very much. Because she slams him up against a bulkhead, grabs his throat and orders him to complete the detector. Then she forces a kiss on the cowardly scientist. This must’ve been quite a sight for the guard watching only a feet meters away.
It’s nightfall back in Caprica City and Helo leaves his current hideout. He first goes south, away from Boomer, but quickly turns about to look for her. This prompts Doral to ask Boomer if she’s ready for the next part of the plan. She says yes, and Doral backhands her. Boomer asks #6 and Doral if she looks hurt enough. #6 claims that the real Boomer would give up so easily, smiles, then proceeds to pummel Boomer. When Lexxluker and I discussed this scene afterwards, he said that #6 really kicked Boomer’s ass. But this is simply not the case. At no point did #6 kick her ass, she spent most of her time breaking Boomer’s nose, knocking out teeth, kicking her in the ribs, breaking her jaw…
Roslin calls Adama to discuss the recent findings of the tribunal. She believes that its suspicious what’s going on, but Adama supports his men, and won’t give Roslin an inch. Before they can talk much longer, armed marines enter Adama’s cabin and face him. Adama tells her “Madame President, I’m going to have to call you right back” in an agitated but dry tone.
Helo has a very easy time finding Boomer in Caprica City. He hears a noise coming from a warehouse, and spots some pigeons flying away from it. He enters it and finds a Cylon dragging Boomer. When he attacks it, the cylon quickly disarms him, then knocks him on his ass. Somehow Helo grabs his gun and destroys the cylon before he’s shot too. Helo quickly unties Boomer, whom #6 really messed up!, and the two limp off together. The whole time, Helo was being observed by #6 and Doral.
The next scene shows Hadrian grilling Adama about his command of the Galactica. It was a tough scene to pull off. And I personally don’t think they pulled it off. It could have been the acting of Jill Teed, maybe some dialogue was cut (or otherwise not written) or the director just had a bad vision for the scene.
McCarthy, err Hadrian begins by questioning Adama about how long he’s known about the Biocylons, and why he didn’t choose to tell his security force about it. He answers her quickly and without emotion. Hadrian brings up a good point though. Adama should have told his security chief about the Biocylons sooner. When she doesn’t get the answers she wants though, she starts turning to conjecture. Adama recognizes that he’s being set up for a fall, and avoids the questions. I half expected to hear her ask Adama, “Are you now or have you ever worked with the Cylons”
Her line of questioning becomes more personal, and Kenneth Star, Hadrian starts asking about the relationship between Tyrol and Boomer. And more to the point, why Adama didn’t act sooner about it. It’s at this point that Adama stands up and orders the tribunal collapsed. He feels, rightly so, that she is abusing her power, and that the tribunal it has turned into a witch hunt. She orders him to sit down and answer the questions. But he just turns to walk out the door. Hadrian orders the guards to force Adama back to his seat. Instead Adama counter-orders the guards to arrest Sgt Hadrian and confine her to quarters. After thinking briefly, the guard moves to arrest Sgt Hadrian.
With the tribunal disbanded, Roslin gets on the radio and announces to the fleet its findings. Since there must be a scapegoat out of all of this, she announces the Socinus has been stripped of his rank and sent to the brig indefinitely because his “negligence” allowed Doral access to the weapons locker.
Upon hearing this, Tyrol barges into Adama’s cabin to confess, and pleads for Socinus’s release. Adama is adamant about the punishment. “I can’t let someone who wares this uniform, get on a witness stand and lie under oath. And that’s what your man did. He either lied the first time, or he lied the second time, and it doesn’t matter. He’s guilty! And he’ll pay the price. You, you’ll have to pay a different price. You’ll have to walk out onto that hangar deck everyday, knowing that one of your men is in the brig, because you could keep your fly zipped!” Adama won’t throw Tyrol in the brig, because he still needs him to repair the Vipers, and even tells him that.
After disbanding the tribunal when it got to personal for him, and now demonstarting that some people are worth more than others, Adama is heading down a path of despotism, that will be difficult to to turn off.
So Chief Tyrol does what any decent man would do. He meets up with Boomer and kisses her… for the last time. He breaks up with her and tells her exactly why. Boomer doesn’t seem to care though. This only makes him more distrustful of her. Before he leaves, he asks her if she left the door open the last time they met. She refuses to answer the question, and instead turns it around on him. She claims that he now thinks that she is a biocylon. He might not have before they talked, but he certainly has reason to believe now.
I’d rate this episode a tense 38,816 out of 10.
Dissecting the Episode:
Was Doral on his way to blow up Baltar’s lab?There’s really no way to tell for sure. He could have been on his way to attack the mess hall for all we know. But destroying the biocylon detector would make a lot more sense than blowing up the ship’s laundromat.
If Doral was targeting Baltar’s “super secret project” how did he learn about it?Starbuck’s sarcastic name for his cylon detector makes its pretty obvious. Rumours were already floating about, that the Cylons looked human, and the Baltar was “working” with a senior officer on a secret project related to it. These rumours were talked about in the open in front of both Baltar and Gaeta in the card room, so we can safely assume that talk of this spread elsewhere through the ship and fleet in a similar fashion. There’s a timeless saying in the navy, “loose lips, sink ships”. It seems appropriate here.
Why does #6 want Baltar to finish the cylon detector?If I had to guess, I’d say its because she wants Boomer to be detected. We’ve seen a lot of animosity between #6 and Boomer on Caprica, so it’s logical that #6 would also hate this Boomer. Additionally, eliminating the biocylons from the fleet would increase Baltar’s chance of survival, and #6 is very concerned about his survival.
Has anyone else tried to make a still in the fleet?It takes some suspension of disbelief, to watch any sci-fi program. Especially one with FTL travel, sexy cyborgs, artificial gravity and machines bent on human destruction. But I cannot believe that out of 50,000 people, only 3 have tried to distil their own booze. There’s got to be pockets of college students, rednecks, bootleggers, engineers and alcoholics who were already tearing out copper tubing as soon as they left Ragnar Station. I refuse to believe otherwise.
Did Boomer leave the door open for Doral? Again it’s hard to tell. It appears that way. The evidence is even more damning if we learn that the Biocylons can communicate with each other non-verbally. However it’s still possible that someone else unintentionally left the door open.
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