Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Battlestar Galactica: "Collaborators"
An autonomous group holds secret tribunals aboard the Galactica, carrying
out death sentences for those they deem guilty of having collaborated with
the Cylons on New Caprica.
Air date: 10/27/2006 (USA)
Written by Mark Verheiden
Directed by Michael Rymer
Rating out of 4: ***1/2
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
It's strange to start a season off with an arc that's such a departure from
the norm of a series. I think back to that six-episode arc that started the
sixth season of "Deep Space Nine." More recently, we had the Kobol arc
bridging seasons one and two of "Battlestar Galactica." When things are so
shaken up, you find yourself wondering how situations will ever go back to
being the way they were -- or at least resembling something similar to what
they were. And yet somehow they still do -- with enough change to avoid
feeling like a cheat.
Obviously, with this most recent storyline, humanity wasn't going to be
trapped on New Caprica forever under the rule of the Cylons. But I still
nevertheless found myself asking: What's the rest of season three, which is
to be some 20 total episodes, going to be about if the Galactica was able to
rescue the human survivors from New Caprica by the end of episode four?
"Collaborators" seems to let us in on some of that. Here's an episode where
the whole point is that even though we might not be on New Caprica anymore,
the consequences of what took place there will continue to play themselves
out now that everyone is back aboard the Galactica and the fleet.
"Collaborators," as its title implies, is all about how characters deal with
the aftermath of the failed occupation, and specifically about dealing with
those who worked for the enemy. Even though "Exodus" might have gotten the
characters off New Caprica, it was not a Reset Button Plot.
Take, for example, the small details. Although there isn't a single line of
dialog about it, the Galactica is shown here as overcrowded, which makes
sense considering that the Pegasus has been destroyed and there are now two
crews occupying one battlestar. How exactly are the crews going to be
integrated? Also: When so many people left both ships to go live on New
Caprica, that left a lot of changes in the duty roster. Now that no one
lives on New Caprica, what will the new duty roster look like? This episode
brings up that question without dealing with it directly. For example, we
see Helo is still the XO of the ship. Will he continue to be now that Tigh
is back aboard?
The answer appears to be yes, at least for the time being. There's a scene
in CIC where Tigh, as a character of this show, seems to represent the
living proof that the events of New Caprica are not, by any stretch of the
imagination, forgotten or forgiven. Tigh calls out his replacement, Helo, a
"Cylon lover" in full view of the CIC, and then bemoans the fact that Gaeta,
who was Baltar's chief of staff, has been given full access to the CIC
simply because "the old man needs his phones fixed." Adama has to call Tigh
off as if he were an attack dog. Every once in a while you get a scene that
announces, loud and clear, that things are *not* simply going to be okay,
and this is one of those scenes. Tigh is going to be a problem. Michael
Hogan's performance portrays a bitter and damaged man who has been through
hell and back and has earned his bitterness. "I'm not just going to forget,"
The episode's plot is actually about dealing with the scars of New Caprica.
In the strong opening sequence, we see Jammer being tried for collaborating
with the Cylons as a member of the New Caprica police force. Jammer's trial
is a secret tribunal conducted by six jurors (called "the Circle") in
alarming swiftness. All the jurors were residents of New Caprica and
probably members of the resistance. Among them are Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and
Seelix -- familiar faces that demonstrate how this is not an episode about
good guys and bad guys, but about a big mess that is now in the process of
being cleaned up by the regular characters in a very messy way. Jammer's
crime is treason. The sentence is death. To be carried out right now.
I see now that the "Resistance" webisodes are more crucial than I initially
thought, because they further flesh out Jammer's arc. He went from a fellow
resistance member to a misguided puppet of the Cylons who hoped he would be
making things better for the human citizens of New Caprica instead of worse.
If history is written by those who survive rather than those who die, then
Jammer's obituary is one of a traitor. The reality might not be so clear
cut. In his defense, he pleads to Tyrol for forgiveness, and he explains how
he helped Cally escape from being executed by the Cylons. Tyrol doesn't
necessarily believe him (and even if he does, the rest of the Circle weighs
Cally's survival against dozens of other deaths), but when Jammer is put out
the airlock, Tyrol can't watch. It's an interesting moment, made more
interesting when you consider that Jammer was once a member of Tyrol's deck
crew. People are being put to death by their own former friends.
This episode is about the ones being executed, and also the ones carrying
out the executions. In a civilized society, the reason a criminal trial is
made up of jurors is so that the verdict is rendered by impartial
individuals. The Circle members are clearly too close to the case to be
impartial, and that's the whole point. Guilt or innocence is being decided
by a biased jury that's in too much of a hurry to get through the cases
(they have only a few days to judge more than 50 people). What's interesting
is how the Circle perceives itself: "We're not just thugs out for revenge.
There was evidence against Jammer," Tigh says. They may not be thugs out for
revenge, but the presumption is definitely one of guilt, and not innocence.
Is that appropriate under the circumstances? Perhaps that depends on what
your definition of the law should be, and whether those accused are worthy
of still breathing.
The episode's central plot is that the Circle intends to bring Gaeta to
trial. We know, and the Circle does not, that Gaeta was the crucial source
that supplied the resistance with inside information. Can Gaeta relay this
information before being found guilty, and even if he does, will he be
believed? At the heart of "Collaborators" is the sinking feeling that an
unjust execution is going to be carried out simply because the system set up
to carry it out is an implacable machine that presumes guilt and doesn't
have the time to look for truth. Tigh points out that while it's true that
everyone used to like Gaeta, the price must be paid by all who collaborated.
After all, Tigh's own wife paid the price for collaborating, and as Tigh
dryly puts it, "I liked her a hell of a lot more than I like Gaeta." Anders
is undecided on the evidence and would rather quit than convict Gaeta purely
on unconfirmed circumstances.
In the rec room, Gaeta is shunned by everyone, and Kara sits down with every
intention of picking a fight with an unpopular traitor. His professions of
innocence fall on deaf ears, because the court of public opinion has already
convicted him. Later, Kara is put on the Circle jury in place of Anders, who
resigns because he doesn't intend to railroad a potentially innocent man. A
scene where Kara confronts Anders (ending with their apparent break-up) is a
powerful one for two reasons: (1) It further demonstrates how damaged Kara
has been left in the aftermath of her ordeal on New Caprica ("I got out of
that room, and it was like someone painted the world in different colors");
and (2) it demonstrates precisely how the Circle is *not* an impartial jury
at all. In Kara's case it's the end result of a dangerous collision course:
She's bitterly angry and looking to punish somebody -- anybody -- to feel
better. Might as well be Gaeta.
If human beings are defined by their actions, then Gaeta is defined by his
dignity, even in the face of a jury that is operating more on emotions than
on facts. When the Circle pulls him in to read the charges, Gaeta doesn't
grovel the way Jammer did; he simply and pointedly states that re-explaining
his innocence to those who refuse to believe him is pointless. Surely, Gaeta
would've been killed had the information about the dog bowl not surfaced at
the crucial moment to reveal to Tyrol that Gaeta was the secret inside
Like the New Caprica storylines (this episode is basically the New Caprica
coda), "Collaborators" asks tough questions: Do traitors deserve to die, and
should the law be circumvented in order to get the job done quietly and
quickly so that government can move on with more pressing matters? That
brings us to the central issue of the government's role in all this: the
revelation that Zarek, as outgoing president, is the one who ordered the
formation of this secret tribunal to carry out these executions "legally."
(Of course, they *aren't* legal, because they're conducted in secret and
there are no lawyers.)
Early in the episode, Roslin makes an agreement with Zarek that includes his
resignation, with the understanding that he will become her vice president
once she resumes her role as president. It's interesting to ponder whether
that offer still applies (the episode isn't clear) once she learns that he
initiated this secret tribunal. Zarek makes good points, however: Trying
collaborators in the open public would bog down the system for months if not
years and would turn Roslin into "executioner in chief." Zarek's secret
tribunal was an attempt to deal with the traitors quietly, efficiently,
covertly. And, in some cases -- let's face it -- unjustly. Roslin's solution
perhaps does not fulfill justice either, but it is pragmatic in terms of
moving forward: She pardons everybody.
What makes "Collaborators" such a terrific episode is that it asks these big
questions and allows for all these differing points of view. And it allows
the various characters to play their reactions on all parts of the spectrum.
This story showcases a wide-ranging cast of characters who have experienced
wide-ranging hardships and have wide-ranging ways of responding.
Copyright 2007, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...