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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "The Hand of God"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: The Hand of God With fuel supplies dwindling, Adama decides the Galactica must
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 16, 2005
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "The Hand of God"

      With fuel supplies dwindling, Adama decides the Galactica must launch a
      surprise attack on a Cylon base and take control of their fuel source.

      Air date: 3/11/2005 (USA)
      Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
      Directed by Jeff Woolnough

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      "The Hand of God" is an exemplary balance of "Battlestar's" key elements of
      its first season: military strategy, character analysis, foreboding
      prophesying, space-flight action, and discussions of a religious nature. It
      doesn't have quite the emotional kick or empathetic reach of a "33" or an
      "Act of Contrition," but as an hour of solid storytelling and setup material
      along several fronts, this is clearly one of the season's best outings.

      The fleet is facing a fuel crisis, which will soon leave them as sitting
      ducks for the Cylons. On a vital scouting mission not unlike the one in
      "Water," Boomer and Crashdown (Sam Witwer) find an asteroid rich in tylium
      ore, which will solve the fuel crisis for well over a year. The only
      problem: The asteroid is crawling with Cylon Raiders; they found the tylium
      first and have already set up a base and a refinery.

      Meanwhile, Roslin gives a press conference about the fuel crisis but
      hallucinates snakes crawling on her podium. The hallucinations are brought
      on by her chamalla medication (potent stuff, that) for her cancer treatment,
      but they take on an added significance when Roslin seeks the counsel of
      Priest Elosha (Lorena Gale) and explains these hallucinations and the
      vividly prescient dream that she had ("Flesh and Bone"). Elosha says
      Roslin's experiences have been foretold in the sacred scrolls by one of the
      prophecies of the oracle Pythia, who predicted the expulsion and rebirth of
      the human race, and that the human convoy would be guided by a dying leader.
      Which is to say: What is the Matrix, and is Roslin the One? In any event,
      this signifies the future of a much more significant storyline.

      Adama decides that now is the time for the Galactica to go on the offensive:
      "We take the tylium from the Cylons," he says. The Galactica has the element
      of surprise -- always a useful military possession -- and besides, this may
      be the only chance the fleet has before they run out of fuel and become
      helpless targets. With the right battle plan, it can work. Adama recruits
      Kara to help devise the attack strategy with Lee and Tigh; they need
      Starbuck's crazy, out-of-the-box thinking in pulling off something that
      itself is somewhat crazy. She throws out their initial strategy: "It's a
      textbook-perfect plan, which is why it will never work."

      I enjoyed the credible details of the military strategizing in the war room.
      The plan is explained almost as if it were a chess game -- on a big map in
      the center of the room, with models standing in for the players. The stakes
      are made clear: Either this plan works and they destroy the Cylon base, or
      annihilation of the fleet is virtually guaranteed: "End of game," as Tigh
      puts it. The risk is big, but in many ways it's an inevitable and necessary
      piece of doing business. "Sometimes you have to roll the hard six," Adama
      notes matter-of-factly.

      Kara consults Baltar, the resident Cylon expert, in figuring out a way to
      destroy the base without contaminating the tylium with nuclear radiation
      fallout. Baltar says that blowing up the staging tanks on the Cylons' tylium
      refinery will cause a chain reaction that will destroy the base, but he
      doesn't know where the stating tanks are, so he retreats into his mind to
      ask Six for help. Six says that God will point him in the right direction.
      At a loss for what to do, Baltar picks a spot on the map at random and says,
      "There." Immediately after the meeting he begins to go into panic mode, but
      Six reassures him: "God doesn't always speak in words."

      It's an interesting notion. In real life, God doesn't tell people what to do
      in the way that Baltar wants to literally hear God's voice. (Compare this to
      the idea of the Prophets on "Deep Space Nine," which were worshipped by the
      Bajorans but also were tangible life forms whose existence could be proven
      as opposed to simply believed as a matter of faith.) Six's reassurance is
      that if Baltar simply puts his faith in God, he will be led down the right
      path. But Baltar's faith is shaky at best. What's nice about these details
      is the way the plot services the characters and vice versa.

      Speaking of characters, Kara has her own dilemma. She can't be a part of the
      assault, because the doctor hasn't cleared her injured knee for flight
      status. This is a disappointing blow that she resists, which leads to a
      great little scene in the weight room that is effective in its simplicity.
      Adama gives her a hypothetical flight situation involving G-forces as he
      adds weights to her knee exercise machine. As much as she tries, Kara's knee
      can't hold the weight, so she isn't going on the mission. End of story. The
      demonstration is so definitive that Kara knows it's not even worth an
      argument.

      In her place as go-to pilot will be Lee, which prompts in Kara a certain
      level of resentment since she wants to be out there flying the mission. Lee
      has his own resentments, mainly for feeling like he's always playing second
      fiddle to hotshot Starbuck. The struggle of the competing egos is a
      believable subplot for these two characters, and Kara sums it up nicely by
      saying to Lee, "Don't frak it up by overthinking." There's a nice father/son
      scene before the mission where Adama offers Lee some moral support. Once the
      mission is under way, Adama turns his advice back to Kara, who struggles
      with the transition of giving up the cockpit for the war room.

      As in "Act of Contrition" and "You Can't Go Home Again," I really like the
      way Adama has the role of father to these two characters within the confines
      of the professional military setting. It's an interesting dynamic that works
      for characterization even while it keeps the plot moving forward along its
      main thrust.

      What's less along the main thrust and involves scenes that feel somewhat
      perfunctory by this point, we still have Helo and Boomer on the run on
      Caprica, being chased by the Cylons, who now consider Boomer a traitor. Much
      to my own relief, there's finally some dialog where Helo wonders aloud where
      all the people are and how, gee, isn't it strange that we haven't seen a
      single living person in a month of running around? Helo spots Six with the
      Cylon squadron and recognizes her as the same woman that Sharon shot in
      "33," prompting Helo's confusion. The only other plot point here is Sharon
      vomiting, which wouldn't ordinarily seem like a plot point except for the
      fact that I already know the revelations in season finale.

      The execution of Galactica's battle plan -- involving decoy ships, Vipers,
      traps, and no shortage of explosions -- is a refreshing change of pace for
      the series. After all season on the run from the Cylons, it's gratifying to
      finally see the Galactica go on the offensive to kick some Cylon ass. It's
      essentially another take on the assault on the Death Star, but it's done
      with skill and excitement and features the best and biggest space-battle
      sequences of the season so far. There's a twist in the plan where a decoy is
      revealed not to be a decoy but the primary thrust of the assault. There's
      also the traditional main-character heroics when Lee storms the fortress
      with his Viper in an improbable act of Starbuck-like madness ("We'll have to
      blow this thing manually") and plants a bomb that sets off a big 'splosion,
      just as Baltar had outlined.

      The victory is milked for a rousing celebration scene in which champagne
      bottles are opened, military men and women cheer, and comrades embrace. Kara
      hugs Roslin in a particularly unrestrained moment of emotion, and the music
      by Bear McCreary swells with what seems to be Irish influences.
      (Intriguing.)

      Leave it to "Battlestar Galactica," though, to take a major victory and
      still employ it for ominous notes. Because Baltar's random guess was right
      on target, he takes this as a divine sign and tells Six, "I am an instrument
      of God" (which, by the way, is an attitude Six fully encourages). Baltar's
      self-ascension to that of a man who carries out the will of God reveals him
      as a potentially very dangerous individual; it's representative of a
      significant character turning point. Up to now he has been pathetic and
      narcissistic, but now we see his narcissism twisted into
      self-aggrandizement. It's compelling -- and a little frightening. If Baltar
      was a man of comic mischief before, he shows the notes of a more legitimate
      villain here.

      -----
      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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