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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Colonial Day"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Colonial Day Following his release from prison, former terrorist Tom Zarek is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2005
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Colonial Day"

      Following his release from prison, former terrorist Tom Zarek is selected as
      a delegate in the interim government, where he becomes an instant rival of
      President Roslin.

      Air date: 3/18/2005 (USA)
      Written by Carla Robinson
      Directed by Jonas Pate

      Rating out of 4: **1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      "Colonial Day" is the thematic sequel to "Bastille Day," in that it features
      Tom Zarek and showcases his skill for using free speech as a tool of
      empowerment. Also like "Bastille Day," it isn't quite convincing in the way
      it portrays life following the downfall of society.

      As I look over the plethora of facts in my notes, it's occurring to me that
      "Colonial Day" has more value as governmental background material for this
      series than it does as a standalone episode -- even though the primary
      thrust of its plot acts as a standalone. Paying attention will provide you
      insights into the governmental workings of the Colonies, each of which has a
      delegate that sits on the Quorum of 12. As "Colonial Day" opens, we learn
      that an interim Quorum of 12 is being put together.

      We hear this from three reporters who comprise "The Colonial Gang," which is
      the fleet's low-rent equivalent of the McLaughlin Group. They are reporting
      from the grounds of the Cloud 9 luxury liner, which appears on the series
      for the first time because it was damaged in the Cylon attack and
      uninhabitable until now.

      The Cloud 9 is like a luxury hotel and conference center, and features a
      large dome with artificial sunlight that shines down on the well-kept
      gardens. The Cloud 9 is such an odd part of the fleet -- and raises
      questions that the episode can't begin to address -- that I began wondering
      whether it was such a good idea to even have it on the show. Isn't a ship
      like this with all its creature comforts a place where everyone in the fleet
      would want to live? For that matter, who's going to live there? Are there
      going to be fights over it? Maybe the government should set up a rotation
      system so everyone gets to spend time on this ship.

      But I'm getting mired in technicalities. Obviously, the Cloud 9 is a
      filmmaking device that allows this show to take place in Earth-like settings
      that have the rare opportunity to be filmed outdoors. Also, it gives the
      governmental proceedings the added benefit of a senate-floor-discussion
      scope, since watching Roslin continuously give speeches from the aisle of
      the Colonial One simply will not do.

      The charismatic Tom Zarek, who has been freed from prison since the events
      of "Bastille Day," apparently has enough support from Sagittaron that he's
      able to secure their delegate seat. This is a thorn in Roslin's side, who
      does not trust Zarek one bit, but as a matter of law cannot stop him from
      participating in government. I myself wonder if Zarek, being such a
      polarizing figure, would so easily have been chosen even by Sagittaron.
      Perhaps this demonstrates how the divides between the "unified" Colonies
      still live on even after the Cylon invasion, but one of the problems with
      the episode is that it never really gives us enough detail to believe that
      its events are democratically plausible beyond the actual players of the
      game. What about all the "unrest" in the fleet? We don't get a real sense of

      Baltar's own popularity has given him the seat for Caprica, which is a nice
      (if obvious) irony; the man who was used as the Cylons' instrument now
      becomes a key member of government representing one of the worlds they

      Meanwhile, an unseen figure loads a gun ominously and repeatedly as the
      camera style makes it look all Intense and Foreboding and Assassin-y. Could
      Zarek have hired an assassin to take out Roslin?

      The government proceedings take place on the Cloud 9 in a room vaguely
      reminiscent of the U.N., in which Baltar -- hopelessly bored -- now sits
      behind a placard that says "Caprica." Zarek, wasting no time in exercising
      his newfound powers, moves for the selection of a Colonial vice president,
      and at Six's behest, Baltar finds himself seconding Zarek's motion. Another
      delegate then nominates Zarek for the VP office; another delegate seconds
      the nomination. Suddenly, Zarek is a VP nominee. Talk about swift

      One of the best points made in the episode is actually made by Zarek, who
      talks to reporters about the way society is still going through the motions
      of its former self, with people hanging on to what was, and is no longer.
      The Colonies have been destroyed and the fleet is limping across the galaxy,
      and yet people do jobs that are now meaningless. Take, for example, the
      groundskeeper for the Cloud 9. Is he still being paid? If so, what is there
      left to buy? There's no manufacturing or industry; it has all been left
      behind on the Colonies, presumably destroyed by the Cylons.

      It's a really good point -- and a challenging one for the writers to talk
      about so openly -- but how do you address something like that? One of the
      problems with "Colonial Day" is that it sidesteps these very issues. What
      would the end of the world really look like? I honestly don't know, and I'm
      not sure the writers do either. But to tell us the world is over and yet we
      still have this luxury cruise ship with people hanging around the bar (isn't
      the booze going to run out?) and getting into heated political
      discussions --
      it's a little weird and disconnected.

      One such heated discussion leads to a bar fight, which incidentally causes
      the would-be assassin's gun to be knocked into plain view where Lee and Kara
      see it, resulting in the arrest and interrogation of the suspect, a man
      named Valance. Lee and Kara believe Zarek hired him, and want Valance to
      give Zarek up. They make ominous (albeit false) threats about the fact that
      the law is on hold and they can do just about whatever they want in the
      interrogation room. After what happened in "Flesh and Bone," there's a
      certain menace behind these threats, although there's clearly a line of
      acceptability separating the torture of humans and the torture of

      The plot thickens when Valance turns up dead, in what could've been suicide
      but probably was murder. Did Zarek have Valance killed to head off the
      investigation? Does Zarek's maneuvering with Tigh's troublesome wife Ellen
      (a foreboding fact in itself) have something to do with it? Or is he
      innocent, as he claims? The problem with Valance's murder is that I don't
      buy it as a plot point. Valance died in custody. If he was killed, the
      killer had inside information and apparently came in "through the vents."
      This is a fairly flimsy idea. The notion of someone killing a guarded
      suspect without being seen makes the Galactica security look incompetent.
      Convenient that those vents have such handy access to the very room holding
      a would-be assassin. A better word would be "contrived."

      What I like about this episode is the way it depicts Roslin as a shrewd
      politician willing to do whatever politicking she must to keep Zarek from
      the VP office. She asks her right-hand man Gray to walk away from his
      nomination because it looks like he might lose to Zarek (she tells him to
      claim "health reasons"). She then asks Baltar to step up because of his
      rapidly increasing popularity. The final vote in the quorum is a 6-6 tie,
      with Roslin casting the tie-breaking vote. Nice. This also gives Baltar more
      power, coming on the heels of his self-ascension to "instrument of God" in
      last week's "The Hand of God." Roslin's assessment of how this plays out:
      "Better the devil you know..."

      We never really find out for sure who killed Valance, and we never really
      find out what Ellen and Zarek are exchanging ominous nods of acknowledgement
      about. We have our suspicions, but the episode leaves a great deal of
      ambiguity in its intrigue, which is fine and good.

      The episode ends with an elaborate banquet celebrating Baltar's selection,
      which goes so far as to put Kara in a dress ("I clean up nice sometimes")
      and have Adama dancing with Roslin. There's a nice exchange where Adama
      compares politics to war, and Roslin notes that you can get killed in
      politics a lot more times than you can get killed in war.

      And yet, the problem with this scene and the episode overall -- with its
      expensive celebration and exceptionally 21st-century-Earth sensibilities --
      is that it feels too much like business as usual, like the political process
      of the society that existed *before* the Cylon attack. This does not look
      like the process of a mobile government scraping for survival and addressing
      unforeseen challenges. For all the political intrigue and shuffling of
      characters in this plot -- which is interesting -- the episode isn't
      convincing on the bottom line because it looks like government on Earth and
      not like government for a fleet of isolated ships and a population of a mere

      To forgo the pretense of a transition, here's your Caprica update: In their
      mission to get off the planet, Helo sees another copy of Six and figures out
      that she must be a Cylon. At the end, Helo sees another copy of Sharon and
      realizes that *she* is a Cylon. He runs away in a somewhat awkwardly edited
      scene; this moment of discovery should've had more impact.

      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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