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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Six Degrees of Separation"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Six Degrees of Separation Claiming she has conclusive evidence, a copy of Number
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4 1:37 PM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      -----
      Battlestar Galactica: "Six Degrees of Separation"

      Claiming she has conclusive evidence, a copy of Number Six appears on the
      Galactica and accuses Baltar of being a traitor who helped the Cylons in
      their sneak attack on the Colonies.

      Air date: 2/18/2005 (USA)
      Written by Michael Angeli
      Directed by Robert Young

      Rating out of 4: ***

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      Your mileage on "Six Degrees of Separation" might very well depend upon how
      entertaining you find the performances of James Callis as the animated Gaius
      Baltar. Here's an actor who seems equally at home in the role of the
      cool-headed egomaniac as in the role of the completely panicked guilty
      innocent. In a way, that's been his role since day one, but "Six Degrees"
      takes it to an extreme when Six appears in the flesh.

      It begins with Six spouting her usual religious Cylon rhetoric, until Baltar
      gets fed up and tells her enough is enough. Perhaps he's speaking on behalf
      the audience, which by this point may be finding the dialog that Baltar is
      having with Six (in his head) is becoming a bit repetitious. After Baltar
      explodes in frustration, Six leaves him. Being left by your fantasy woman
      must be its own special kind of insult, but of course the nature of Six's
      existence in Baltar's head has its own ambivalence.

      Almost immediately after this confrontation (in what one is tempted to
      suspect cannot be a coincidence), a woman named Shelly Godfrey turns up in
      the CIC of the Galactica and accuses Baltar of being a traitor. Godfrey
      claims to be a colleague of Dr. Amarak (see "33") but is actually a version
      of Number Six in the flesh, which everyone else can see, and which puts
      Baltar in the odd position of mistaking a person (or, more to the point, a
      Cylon) for a hallucination.

      Godfrey has in her possession an octagonal CD that she says contains proof
      that Baltar helped the Cylons attack the Colonies by accessing the defense
      mainframe. Personally, I would question the credibility of anyone who
      possesses an octagonal CD (or DVD, or whatever), since there can be no
      functional advantage for a spinning disc to have such a shape unless,
      perhaps, Godfrey has a career in gimmicky marketing.

      On the octo-disc is a digital surveillance photograph showing a man of
      Baltar's height and build compromising security on Caprica. Godfrey claims
      that a digital enhancement will reveal Baltar's face in a reflection. Baltar
      cries foul, saying he's the victim of a frame-up. Lt. Gaeta says the
      enhancement will take about a day and will answer the question of who's
      lying. I was reminded of "No Way Out," in which Kevin Costner must race
      against the clock to put himself in the clear before an enhanced
      photograph -- which he knows he is in -- reveals his face. The twist in "Six
      Degrees of Separation" is that Baltar isn't actually guilty of being in the
      photograph but is guilty of something else.

      We've seen these issues of guilt/non-guilt with Baltar before; it's
      practically the definition of his character. This episode plays like the
      culmination of that theme, in which Baltar's possible guilt comes into the
      public eye and his conviction starts to go down in the court of public
      opinion. The episode also plays like the culmination of the James Callis
      panic-attack performance, featuring every possible permutation of Baltar
      trying to think his way out of this rather uncomfortable jam. For example:

      -- There's the scene where Baltar desperately calls Roslin on the phone to
      tell her that he believes Godfrey may be a Cylon, only to have Roslin
      collapse on the phone because of her illness.

      -- There's the scene where Baltar follows Gaeta into the restroom and takes
      the stall next to him, and begins asking him in a hilariously loud and
      increasingly desperate whisper how the photo enhancement is proceeding.

      -- There's the extension of this scene where Godfrey shows up in the (coed)
      restroom, and Baltar confronts her, ending with his announcement, "No more
      Mr. Nice Gaius!"

      -- There's the scene where Baltar is up against a wall and retreats into his
      fantasy where he finally admits to a nonexistent Six, "I love you!" and begs
      her to come back. This proclamation is predictably self-serving in its
      timing.

      -- There's the scene where Baltar's desperation reaches its end and he
      attempts a direct (and futile) assault upon the computers processing the
      photo enhancement. Even this ends in failure; he can't get the picture of
      himself on the monitor to go away.

      -- Eventually, Baltar has landed in a jail cell and prays to God for
      release, and vows that he accepts Six's God as the one and only God.

      These scenes walk a tightrope act between broad comedy and convincing
      terror, because we find ourselves simultaneously rooting for and against
      Baltar. We root for him because in this case he's actually innocent, and the
      crime he's guilty of we can in many ways forgive. We root against him
      because -- well, he so self-serving and narcissistic and hopelessly pathetic
      that he *deserves* whatever happens to him.

      Meanwhile, "Shelly Godfrey" is free to walk the ship, and in one scene she
      tries to use human loss as a way of seducing Adama in his cabin. Adama isn't
      buying it, and Godfrey's move only raises his suspicions.

      In addition to taking us even more directly into the hyperkinetic mind of
      Baltar, the episode keeps the supporting characters under watch with
      vignettes: Roslin's illness leads her to overmedicate, which brings a
      chiding from the ship's no-BS Dr. Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes). Starbuck
      grudgingly begins rehab for her knee injury, sparked in part by a perfectly
      orchestrated use of reverse psychology by Colonel Tigh. Meanwhile, Sharon
      has some insights about the captured Cylon Raider -- perhaps more insights
      than she reasonably should. On Caprica, Helo and Boomer have comfort sex in
      an environment otherwise devoid of comfort; one begins wondering if the
      Cylons' entire motivation is to either learn the purpose of or take control
      of humanity through sexuality, and if so, then why.

      But mainly the show is about the trust put in Baltar and how that trust
      erodes in the face of a false accusation. At one point Adama says that if
      Baltar is guilty, he has made fools of those who lead what's left of
      society. Are Roslin and Adama therefore fools, even though he's innocent of
      this particular crime? There's a scene where Baltar is in the brig and
      Roslin tells him that she believes that he is guilty of something, even if
      it isn't this. It's an interesting notion about gut instincts, although the
      story doesn't really get to the bottom of it. Once Baltar is cleared, Roslin
      drops the matter. Perhaps she drops it out of pragmatic necessity. The story
      doesn't specify. Was this on the writers' minds? It should've been.

      One of the understated pieces to this story is the friendship between Gaeta
      and Baltar. It might be said that Gaeta is the only friend that Baltar
      really has. It might also be said that Baltar doesn't really appreciate that
      fact because he's too wrapped up in his own little world.

      And then Godfrey, under surveillance as a possible intruder, mysteriously
      vanishes from the ship, much to Adama's ire. How did she do that? And is it
      a coincidence that Six reappears in Baltar's mind right around this time?
      One of the episode's pleasures is the way it toys with the nature of Six as
      a possible figment of Baltar's imagination, or possibly as a real
      spokeswoman for the Cylons. The net effect of Baltar's implication and
      eventual clearance is that it makes him possibly less susceptible to future
      suspicion and therefore more powerful, and at the same time more under the
      thumb of Six/God. Was that the plan all along?

      Sneaky, those Cylons. I just wonder what it is they're doing that makes all
      this methodology worth the trouble.

      -----
      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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