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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Scattered"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Scattered A tactical mishap separates Galactica from the rest of the fleet, and in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 20, 2005
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Scattered"

      A tactical mishap separates Galactica from the rest of the fleet, and in
      order to locate it, Colonel Tigh must reluctantly fill Adama's role as

      Air date: 7/15/2005 (USA)
      Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ***

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      "Bitch took my ride." -- Starbuck

      "Scattered" is a down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty, good old-fashioned war story.
      As a follow-up to what is one of the best season cliffhangers I've seen, it
      does exactly what it must: It continues the story from the big mess we were
      in the middle of at the end of "Kobol's Last Gleaming" and it doesn't make
      the mistake of answering too many questions too soon. At the beginning of
      "Scattered," everyone is in limbo. By the end of "Scattered," everyone is
      still in limbo. Think DS9's "A Time to Stand."

      In terms of characters, this is Colonel Tigh's episode, focusing on some of
      his backstory and the question of whether he can step up to the plate with
      Adama out of action. Even after all the cliffhanger elements set up in the
      previous episodes, "Scattered" is not satisfied and feels the need to add
      yet another crisis: A Cylon base star appears (destroying one turns out to
      be kind of pointless, because there's always another right behind) and the
      fleet is forced to make an emergency FTL jump. When the Galactica arrives on
      the other side, the fleet is completely gone. Where are they? We've gone
      from the frying pan to the fire and now to an empty void.

      It turns out to be a tactical mishap: In the midst of the carnage and
      mayhem, Gaeta failed to transmit the adjusted calculated coordinates to the
      fleet, so they jumped to the unadjusted coordinates while Galactica jumped
      to the correct coordinates. The stand-alone plot for "Scattered" is to solve
      the problem of finding the fleet. To do so, the Galactica must jump back to
      the original position and run calculations to un-adjust for the adjustment.
      The problem is that the calculation will take 12 hours to run, there's a
      base star waiting for them, and holding off a base star for 12 hours is not
      an option.

      I wasn't quite sure of a couple things here. First, if the Galactica had
      jumped to the correct location based on adjusted calculations to compensate
      for error variables, wouldn't they already have the results for the "wrong"
      location stored somewhere? Why would they have to jump *back* to the
      original location in order to crunch the numbers? They know where they are
      and they know where they were, and they know what calculations were made, so
      wouldn't they be able to plot a course without returning to the original
      location? Perhaps it can't all be done using just maps and simulations, and
      perhaps I just don't know enough about FTL course-plotting.

      Meanwhile, Adama lies dying on an operating table. Time in finding the fleet
      is of the essence, because the Galactica's surgeon is on the Rising Star.
      Tigh is in the hot seat because he must find a way to find the fleet before
      Adama dies. In the meantime, a less qualified medic will have to step it up
      herself and become a surgeon for today.

      Lee is put in a cell. Sharon is put in a cell. Roslin is already in a cell.
      What does it say when three of the series' seven top-billed regular
      characters are in jail? It can't mean that things are going well for the
      Colonial fleet.

      Much of what comes out of "Scattered" does little to shed light on where
      this is all going (which is not a negative). With Sharon revealed as a
      Cylon, there's a viscerally energized scene where Tigh questions and beats
      on her. She has little to say, mainly because she doesn't know anything. At
      one point she provokes Tigh ("Just get it over with, you frakking coward")
      because (1) she doesn't much like him anyway and (2) she doesn't much care
      about living anymore. She doesn't prove useful as a prisoner here (perhaps
      Tigh's heavy-handed tactics are the problem), and the scene leaves us
      puzzling over what in the world they're going to do with this character now
      that she's been exposed.

      There's also the question of the people stranded on Kobol, who must take
      cover from an unseen enemy (presumably Cylon), that have landed nearby. One
      character follow-up in this storyline is the question of the Cylon/human
      hybrid child that Six told Baltar about. I'd assumed she was talking about
      the Helo/Sharon pregnancy, but here she says the baby is hers and Baltar's.
      How is that possible? What does that mean? I guess the thing with Six is
      that you never know if what she says is to be taken literally or
      metaphorically (or as truth or lie), or whether it's Baltar's mind and
      paranoia playing tricks on him.

      The scenes on Kobol are conventional, well-executed dramatizations of
      military ground tactics -- transporting wounded, finding cover, evading the
      enemy. There's continued exploration of Crashdown's inexperience, Tyrol's
      experience, and the fact that Crashdown is in command and Tyrol is not.
      After retreating into the forest, half the unit (three soldiers) has to go
      back to the crash site to retrieve a missing med kit, or their wounded man
      will die. Leaving the med kit behind is on Crashdown, because he gave the
      order to bypass the equipment check. Tyrol and his team retrieve the med kit
      but the unseen enemy opens fire on them, and a man is shot and killed. This
      sequence has a visceral impact but, above all, demonstrates how soldiers in
      war sometimes don't die heroically but instead pointlessly, and without

      The Galactica scenes also deal with war strategy, but more high-tech and
      involving the use of ships and war machines. Gaeta comes up with a plan to
      network four major computer systems together in a way that will allow
      Galactica to plot the course in 10 minutes instead of 12 hours, but this
      goes against one of Adama's core standing rules: no networks on the ship. It
      leaves the computer systems vulnerable to Cylon viruses, with only software
      firewalls to provide temporary protection. It's Tigh's big decision to take
      this risk, and he does so standing on his own.

      I was a little unsure about the software points here. First, how could Gaeta
      implement a plan so quickly that goes against the primary standing rules of
      execution? Would the Galactica technology even support it? Second, how is it
      the Cylons can hack an internal network from wireless remote just because
      four computers have been connected to each other with cables? Isn't that
      sort of like saying you could hack an internal LAN from the Internet even if
      the LAN itself wasn't connected to the Internet? Perhaps there's an
      explanation involving software security and the way the Galactica and Cylon
      technology works that could explain this, but it's not in the episode.
      Which, by the way, is the right choice, because people don't watch this show
      to learn about computer networks.

      Besides, as a plot device, this race against the clock of software firewalls
      being penetrated works fairly well when put alongside a battle sequence
      involving a base star, hundreds of Raiders, and lots of battlestar artillery
      exploding. My one question is how the Viper pilots can repel a superior
      force, even for a few minutes, that seems to outnumber them -- oh, I
      dunno -- 20 to one.

      The story's character arc is clearly Tigh's, and it makes for an
      interesting, if not yet conclusive, one. It's about this guy, the
      no-nonsense XO, taking the reins of command and making the life-or-death
      decisions he never wanted to make. There's a moment where he's standing over
      an unconscious Adama in the operating room and says, "I don't want a
      command. I never did." The flashback narrative reveals some intriguing
      nuggets but doesn't give away all the backstory. It would seem that both
      Adama and Tigh at one point had been out of the Colonial Fleet for years,
      before Adama somehow got back in, exploited his political connections, and
      finally pulled Tigh back in at a point where Tigh, washed-up and drunk,
      could not have gotten back in any other way.

      Getting the short end of the stick, as usual (although one hopes the trend
      will change this season), is Cylon-occupied Caprica, which is given just one
      scene in the episode. Starbuck basically wants to kill Sharon, but Helo
      stops her, and while they're arguing, Sharon steals Starbuck's Raider. This
      leads to the show's best line, which you gotta admit when said by Starbuck
      is funny and true to character: "Bitch took my ride."

      I really wanted to see more of this storyline, but that's sort of the point
      of "Scattered" -- it bides its time and leaves you thirsting for more. The
      episode knows what the main storyline is about (Tigh taking command) and
      keeps its focus where it is needed, while reminding us that all the other
      characters are still in play. As the season heats up, the other storylines
      likely will, too.

      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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