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302[BSG] Jammer's Review: "A Day in the Life"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Feb 21, 2007
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "A Day in the Life"

      On the day of his wedding anniversary, Adama finds his thoughts occupied by
      the lost past. The lives of Tyrol and Cally, meanwhile, are jeopardized when
      they become trapped in an airlock.

      Air date: 2/18/2007 (USA)
      Written by Mark Verheiden
      Directed by Rod Hardy

      Rating out of 4: **

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
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      I've found that even the weakest episodes of "Battlestar" still meet a basic
      level of competence that makes them watchable, and that they still contain
      moments that are valuable. "A Day in the Life" is one of the weakest
      episodes of BSG to date, and yet it still has solid performances and the
      story still contains wistful moments of humanity. I guess that's a credit to
      the cast and crew; they've made a pedestrian script into a watchable hour.

      Not watchable enough, mind you. At this point, I think the question isn't
      whether the story is competently told; I think the question is whether the
      story is compelling or necessary. "A Day in the Life" is an episode of
      "Battlestar" that's utterly unnecessary to the tapestry of the series. It
      held my attention while it was on, but once it reached its destination my
      thought was, "What was the point of *that*?" It's an earnest but ineffective
      character study that ultimately comes across as disposable filler.

      I'm not saying every episode has to feature big sweeping plot developments
      (particularly an episode with a title like "A Day in the Life," where we
      learn it's been 49 days since the last Cylon encounter), but there at least
      has to be a sense that *something* relevant is going on that informs story
      or character. (Last week's "Woman King" managed that, despite having little
      to do with the series' larger arc.) If you're going to do a "day in the
      life" episode, there should be more focus on more characters' lives. This
      episode suffers in part because so many characters are omitted from the
      proceedings.

      The episode is primarily an Adama piece. Today is his wedding anniversary --
      a day when Adama observes a personal annual ritual of pulling a wedding
      photo from the corner of a drawer and reflecting upon his lost ex-wife,
      Carolanne (Lucinda Jenney). At the end of the day, he'll put the picture
      back in the drawer, not to be reflected upon until next year. Carolanne
      presumably died in the attack on the Colonies, and even before the attack
      she and Bill had long been divorced, but on this day, Adama remembers what
      they had and what he's lost.

      Meanwhile, in an attempt to give the episode a more tangible, meaty "plot,"
      Tyrol and Cally find themselves inadvertently locked in a damaged airlock
      where the atmosphere is slowly leaking into space. If they can't find a way
      out soon, they'll suffocate. The structure of the episode is that it sets up
      Adama's character storyline at the beginning, addresses the Tyrol/Cally
      crisis in the middle, and then gets back to the character core well before
      the end. That's actually not a bad structure for this sort of episode, but
      the problem is that neither the crisis nor the character core has much
      resonance.

      The jeopardy premise is uninspired, to say the least. A true "day in the
      life" episode, had it been able to give everybody solid character material,
      would not have needed such a device. I suppose we should instead be thankful
      that this plot is handled with a minimum of tech and a maximum of
      straightforward plausibility. With time running out, the only solution
      available is a dangerous scenario in which the airlock hatch must be blown,
      and Tyrol and Cally must be vented into space and pulled into a Raptor
      waiting just outside the hatch. Can they survive a few seconds' exposure to
      space without suits, or will they freeze to death or die of decompression
      effects? (What do you think happens? Here's a hint: They don't die.)

      This is competently handled, but there's nothing compelling about it. The
      premise does have a basis in characterization, specifically that Tyrol
      scheduled himself and Cally to work together as a way of spending time with
      her without their baby in tow. He's maybe trying to recapture the past as it
      was before New Caprica. Of course, the problem with having two parents
      working together is exactly what happens here: A work-related accident could
      instantly orphan the child. That's a legitimate issue to deal with aboard a
      battlestar, I guess. But as storylines go on this series, this was not
      anywhere on my list of Top 50 things I needed to see.

      Nor was the Adama story, where he rehashes his marriage in his head in the
      form of a running commentary between himself and Carolanne. I find it
      alarming that the writers seem to think Adama-themed episodes must venture
      back into his past via a flashback structure. First we got "Hero," and now
      we get this, in which insipid flashbacks try (but fail) to inform the
      present. The flashbacks take the form of a conversation in the present. It
      doesn't work. We already get enough scenes of imagined conversations between
      Baltar and Six. We certainly don't need such scenes between Adama and his
      dead ex-wife. (It also doesn't help that the setting is reminiscent of
      Baltar's house.)

      In terms of character insight, there's nothing new to be found. The episode
      falls apart in one particularly cringe-inducing scene where Carolanne
      accuses Adama of putting his career ahead of his family, she yells and
      screams, she knocks all the contents of a table to the floor, etc., etc.
      This is a typically overwrought depiction of a typical broken marriage of
      the typical military man who cannot fix his typical problems at home. How
      many cliches can you get in one scene?

      Meanwhile, I keep waiting for the new breakthrough between Adama and his
      son, if such a thing is possible. Their relationship has obviously improved
      a lot since the miniseries, but you could also say it has long since reached
      a subdued plateau. There's a conversation where Adama tries to discuss the
      divorce with Lee and the results are ... forgettable. The navel-gazing
      merely rehashes themes we've seen many times before, and doesn't tell us
      anything new or insightful about the characters.

      Most other characters go unseen or barely seen. Kara, Helo, Sharon, and
      Dualla are glimpsed but barely on the periphery. Why not see more of what
      their days are like with the war on standby? Baltar and Six aren't in the
      episode at all -- although there's more talk about Baltar's upcoming trial;
      Lee is assigned as chairman of the legal body that will oversee the trial's
      procedures. This suggests that Baltar's trial will be dragged out for most
      or all of the rest of the season. That might be fine if, in the meantime,
      there were real drama surrounding it, but we've now had two episodes where
      Baltar has gone completely unseen, while the story here offers up only
      tedious issues of legal wrangling.

      Still, they say the truth is in the details, and there are some details here
      that I enjoyed. Roslin's friendliness toward Adama pushes into the realm of
      flirting. At one point she gives him a book, staying true to Adama's notion
      of books as gifts rather than loans. They discuss the lost what-ifs of New
      Caprica, and there's chemistry in the air. Adama does his best to resist it
      ("She's president of the Colonies," he notes, as if to put the idea
      off-limits), but the Adama/Roslin scenes are the best thing about the show.
      Coming in second place is the idea of Lee's legal interests, which stem from
      his past and also from Adama's father (a nice touch of continuity).

      In the end, however, it's not enough. "A Day in the Life" feels like a lot
      of derivative themes and rehashed characterization. Carolanne and the
      flashbacks ultimately prove deadly to the show, and I yearned for
      storytelling that looked forward instead of back. BSG was just renewed for a
      fourth season, which reportedly could be limited to 13 episodes instead of
      20. That might not be a bad thing if it allows the producers to tighten up
      the storytelling into something that moves along more efficiently and spends
      less time pining over the past.

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      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@...