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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Water"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Water When the fleet s water supply facility is sabotaged, a mission to find a new
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2 7:42 PM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Water"

      When the fleet's water supply facility is sabotaged, a mission to find a new
      water source becomes a top priority, and the need to seek out undercover
      Cylon agents becomes more clearly urgent.

      Air date: 1/14/2005 (USA)
      Written by Ronald D. Moore
      Directed by Marita Grabiak

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      Poor Boomer. Of all things, what I feel most for Sharon is pity. She's a
      Cylon and doesn't even know it -- although after "Water" she's beginning to
      have some very scary suspicions about herself. The crushing horror of her
      situation is that she thinks she's a regular person, a good person. She
      certainly doesn't *want* to be a Cylon, and she doesn't want to be a traitor
      and saboteur -- or even suspected of it.

      She blacks out one evening and all of a sudden finds herself alone in a room
      the next morning, dripping wet, with a G-4 detonator in her bag. How did
      that get there? She takes it to the small-arms locker to put it back where
      it belongs, opens the case, and finds that half a dozen more detonators are
      missing. Where are they? Richard Gibbs, who also scored "33" and the
      miniseries, drives the point of shock home for us with intense, pounding
      percussion. It's effective storytelling without dialog: The music and
      Sharon's horrified gasp tell us unequivocally that This Is Bad.

      As the title implies, the episode is about water -- specifically the water
      supply and highly efficient water recycling system aboard the Galactica.
      Virtually not a drop of water is wasted in the recycling process, we learn.
      Other ships in the fleet that don't have recycling systems must tank
      periodically from the Galactica, but even so, the Galactica has enough water
      to last several years.

      But then the G-4 explosions go off in the water tanks, venting most of the
      Galactica's water reserves into space. An investigation is launched to
      determine what happened and why, but more pressingly, a search for a new
      water supply must start immediately, as well as strict rationing of the
      current supply. The prospect of rioting comes into the discussion when Tigh
      dryly notes what will happen when people learn they can't take showers or
      "drink more than a thimble a day." The discussion of the food supply also
      comes up, as Baltar explains what it will take to feed the fleet every week.
      These issues demonstrate how we're not just talking about space travel here,
      but about having all of known remaining human society as a mobile unit.

      The other issue of discussion is finding the Cylon saboteur. Adama and Tigh
      recruited Baltar in the miniseries to use his scientific genius to find a
      way to detect Cylons from humans. Here they ask him how progress on his
      Cylon detector is going. Baltar, the king of BS, tries to stall for time
      since the reality of his situation is that he has no idea how to make a
      Cylon detector. Adama offers him the assistance of additional personnel. Six
      appears and starts hopefully suggesting that his assistant might be an
      attractive woman. Instead, Baltar gets Lt. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), a
      longtime admirer of his work.

      Ah, Baltar. Even when constantly threatened with possible exposure, all he
      can think of is the next time he's going to get laid. James Callis is funny
      in scenes where Baltar hallucinates, with his ticks and stammering and
      looking in the direction of a woman who isn't really there, while everyone
      else regards him with puzzlement. It's a fine line of panic and comedy that
      the actors skillfully walk in these scenes.

      What's nice about "Water" is that it has a clear-cut plot, yes, but also
      keeps its character threads alive, showing the series' promise as a true
      ensemble show. Tigh's alcoholism is revisited early in the show, as he
      rations his remaining liquor into days. Meanwhile, Lee struggles with his
      guilt over destroying the Olympic Carrier. His father, always the pragmatic
      military man, tells him to leave the second-guessing to the historians.

      There's a scene near the end where Lee shares his guilt with Roslin, and
      Roslin tells an interesting little story about acknowledging guilt in
      private versus public, and how one Colonial president kept his mistakes
      written down and hidden in a desk drawer, so that he wouldn't forget them.
      "I don't have a drawer yet," Roslin says, "but I have a pocket." In her
      pocket is a scrap of paper with "Olympic Carrier" written on it. This is the
      sort of detail that feels like it's based on fact, and elevates good
      material into the realm of better material. There's an interesting
      relationship between Roslin and Lee -- sort of a camaraderie that grows from
      the pilot -- and she asks him to be her personal military adviser, a role
      that forebodes torn loyalties.

      Speaking of military and civilian government, there's an informed
      conversation between Adama and Roslin about the roles of the police versus
      the military (the fleet has no police), and why it's not such a great idea
      for the military to serve as police. Again, the level of detail makes the
      difference here; the writing has the ring of credibility.

      Meanwhile, Baltar joins a card game and goes head to head against Starbuck
      and beats her. They exchange competitive stares; maybe being rivals is how
      big egos flirt. And on Caprica, Helo and Boomer realize they're stuck there,
      since the Cylons have captured Boomer's Raptor. Even here, poor Helo looks
      destined to spend the entire season running around a wrecked world in
      limited scenes.

      But the heart of "Water" is Sharon's dilemma. She's essentially a guilty
      innocent. She thinks she's being framed. (Unfortunately, she's being framed
      by herself.) In this time of heightened paranoia, she doesn't want to be
      even vaguely connected to the sabotage, so with the help of Chief Tyrol
      (Aaron Douglas), she covers up the fact that she even had one of the
      detonators. Tyrol believes her, but then he's also sleeping with her. That
      brings up an interesting question of his culpability; their relationship is,
      after all, against regulations.

      There's a fascinating scene where Sharon, on a Raptor scouting mission
      looking for planets with water, sees evidence of water on her monitor. But
      she can't bring herself to announce what she sees. The sleeper agent inside
      her kicks in, and tries to sabotage the mission. But Sharon fights it at a
      level she isn't even aware of -- and finally wins. This is conveyed by a
      terrific performance from Grace Park, who completely sells the internal
      struggle with facial expressions. A tricky, potentially confusing scene
      comes across not only clearly, but with a surprising emotional impact: We
      feel sorry for Sharon because she can't control what she isn't even aware
      of, and we feel victorious when she overcomes it. It's a victory she can't
      feel because she isn't even aware that it happened. Intriguing stuff.

      And that's the reason "Water" is so effective. It stops for the human
      details and feelings and relationships, even though the plot is about
      finding water and flushing out Cylon saboteurs. There's more to storytelling
      than plot, and "Water" knows it.

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      Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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