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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Downloaded"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Downloaded On Cylon-occupied Caprica, reincarnated copies of Six and Sharon
    Message 1 of 1 , May 18, 2006
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Downloaded"

      On Cylon-occupied Caprica, reincarnated copies of Six and Sharon struggle to
      reintegrate into Cylon society, and must cope with the roles they played in
      humanity's destruction.

      Air date: 2/24/2006 (USA)
      Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
      Directed by Jeff Woolnough

      Rating out of 4: ****

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
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      Now here's an episode of "Battlestar Galactica" that's made in the best
      tradition of classic "Star Trek." Also "Deep Space Nine," since it has all
      the messy and labyrinthine character relationships (not to mention two of
      its former writers). "Downloaded" is a morality play with the fascinating
      twists of science-fiction, creating a scenario that asks difficult human
      questions in circumstances no human being could ever experience.

      It's hard to believe that this episode almost never happened ... or at the
      very least almost never happened at this point in time in this particular
      form. According to previous Ronald D. Moore commentaries (for the record, I
      listen to all the episode commentaries, but not until *after* I've written
      my reviews) "Resurrection Ship" was originally planned as one episode, with
      the slot for "Downloaded" assigned the status of a clip show because of
      budget constraints. When "Resurrection Ship" was expanded across two hours,
      "Downloaded" became possible. I am thankful. This might be BSG's best and
      most enlightening episode of the season. It's emotional, psychological,
      informational, and intellectual.

      When a Cylon dies, he or she is downloaded into a new body, and we get to
      see that process first-hand in the episode's intriguing opening minutes.
      They play like a variation of "The Matrix," with a traumatic birth-like
      emergence into a strange new world. Granted, "variation" is a polite way of
      saying "rip-off," but the idea itself is effective. Six wakes up in a
      download/resurrection chamber (a "Matrix"-like bathtub of transparent slime)
      after being killed in the nuclear blast of the miniseries. She's coaxed back
      to consciousness by her fellow Cylons, who guide her in rebirth like helpful
      parents. There's also a scene where Sharon, after being shot in
      "Resistance," undergoes a similar rebirth. Sharon's rebirth is far more
      horrifying than Six's, which is perhaps an insight into the natures of their
      programming and the duality they face in "Downloaded."

      For me, however, the central idea in the story is the notion that Six
      hallucinates visions of Baltar, in much the same way Baltar hallucinates
      visions of Six. (The copy of Six in "Downloaded" is the same one from the
      miniseries that deceived and used Baltar to gain access to the defense
      mainframe, making the sneak attack on the Colonies possible.) The story's
      most crucial choice is that it approaches Six with a genuine curiosity about
      her conscience. Yes, she used Baltar and specifically their sexual bond to
      take advantage of him, but how did she actually *feel* about it?

      The fact of the matter is, she feels very guilty about it. She carried out
      her mission effectively, and the sneak attack was successful even beyond the
      predictions of the Cylons' own war architects. Six is now known as "Caprica
      Six" and holds a hero/celebrity status. But always appearing to her is the
      vision of Baltar, reminding her of the massive crime she assailed upon
      humanity, and by extension, upon him.

      As a storytelling device, this is a masterstroke. Logically, one might
      wonder if the Cylons in general and Six in particular are sentimental enough
      to be capable of this sort of psychological weakness -- but of course they
      are, because they are us. Besides, this allows for a Six/Baltar duality that
      is now fully complete; they are their own mirror images. Where Baltar's
      guilt has created a Six in his mind that drives him mad and leads him down a
      path of increasing darkness, with Six it's just the opposite -- she sees an
      image of Baltar that reminds her of what she did (and what she might in the
      future do to atone for that sin). The psychological details to ponder are
      endless; the most intriguing thing about the episode is realizing that these
      two characters are intrinsically one, and exist as a dichotomy that allows
      them to take completely different paths.

      Like I said, this is a morality play. It's about Six facing up to what she
      did and figuring out now what to do about it. Her choices play out through
      her interaction with Sharon, whom she has been assigned to help reintegrate
      into Cylon society. Sharon is even more wracked with guilt than Six, mostly
      because she wasn't aware of her assignment as she carried it out. In a
      society of lies and deception, Sharon is the ultimate victim because she was
      an unwitting perpetrator. The cosmic joke was not simply played upon her,
      but also used her as its instrument. Sharon is understandably bitter about
      that joke. Seeing Sharon, Six grows more troubled with the moral
      implications with each scene.

      Another of the interesting aspects of "Downloaded" is that it shows us more
      about how the Cylons operate. Early scenes show the Cylons rebuilding
      occupied Caprica, and the dialog establishes more facts about the
      resurrection process that has been slowly but steadily revealed in previous
      episodes. (Even months after being reborn, Six confesses that she doesn't
      feel quite at home in her new body.) There's also the dynamic among the
      Cylons themselves. Six takes orders from a copy of D'Anna Biers (Lucy
      Lawless), who says that if Sharon can't be brought back in line with the
      acceptable Cylon temperament, she will be "boxed" -- her memories put in
      cold storage. (This would be the Cylons' apparatus for quashing possible
      internal dissent.)

      Watching "Downloaded," the other thing I couldn't help but think about was
      the long string of cause and effect and how all the characters in motion led
      us to this point. Consider the multiple Sharon roles: "Galactica Sharon"
      from season one is now "Caprica Sharon" here, and reveals to Six that Baltar
      is still alive. Of course, Galactica-turned-Caprica Sharon is the one who
      rescued Baltar from Caprica in her Raptor in the first place. Meanwhile, the
      Caprica Sharon of season one is now the Galactica Sharon of season two;
      after spending the entire first season on Caprica with Helo, she now carries
      their hybrid child. This sounds like a dizzying mess, but these characters
      have been so well established that we understand immediately who and where
      everyone is and why they feel what they feel.

      The story crosscuts between Caprica and the events on the Galactica, where
      the pregnant Sharon has complications and must give birth to her daughter
      prematurely. The baby, named Hera, has underdeveloped lungs and must be
      incubated. This now means that Roslin and Adama must decide what they are
      going to do about this Cylon child. Meanwhile, Baltar, still believing he
      has a symbolic claim to this baby, hovers ominously over the proceedings,
      and I must point out that I love how all these characters are connected in
      such strange and twisted ways.

      Roslin's plan for Hera could be its own morality play, and makes use of the
      classic ends-versus-means argument of necessity. She's right, and she's
      pragmatic, but she is not strictly moral. She decides that Sharon cannot be
      allowed to raise the child, and the Cylons cannot become aware of her. So
      she orders Dr. Cottle to take part in an elaborate kidnapping scheme while
      faking the death of the infant. Hera is turned over with a cover story to a
      human mother who has no idea she is becoming stepmom to a Cylon hybrid (and
      a potential future target).

      The presumed death of Hera is understandably devastating to Sharon, who
      accuses Cottle of being part of a conspiracy to murder her baby. Notably,
      she's not wrong about the fact there's a conspiracy. Not only does the
      kidnapping of Hera open up future story possibilities, it also makes for a
      good intellectual companion alongside the Caprica storyline involving Six's
      and Sharon's own struggles of conscience. At one point, D'Anna says, "Humans
      don't respect life the way we do," which is smug hypocrisy coming from
      someone complicit in genocide. One could also argue that Roslin's
      willingness to treat the Cylon infant as an innocent is an action that
      speaks for itself. My only problem here is a plausibility detail: Just where
      did they find a dead baby that could substitute as a stand-in for Hera?
      Somehow, I doubt the fleet has conveniently similar female infant corpses
      just lying around.

      There's also a thread in here involving Anders and the human resistance on
      Caprica (see "The Farm"), which uses guerilla war tactics to blow up a cafe
      full of Cylons. After the bomb goes off and everyone is buried in the
      rubble, much of the rest of the story is stripped down to a four-character
      dialog piece (Six, Sharon, D'Anna, Anders). Such pieces -- involving a few
      characters wielding ideas much larger than themselves -- were often an
      effective staple of "Star Trek"; it proves to be effective here, too.

      The story arc is ultimately Six's: Her doubts about the destruction of
      humanity take her down a path toward a new destiny -- that of a critic of
      Cylon policy. In seeing Sharon's plight and D'Anna's inflexibility, Six
      comes to realize what's right and wrong, and what she needs to do about it.
      She has a choice, and realizes her voice as a Cylon celebrity may carry more
      weight. Tricia Helfer's performance in the episode is crucial, and she's up
      to the task. Helfer communicates a lot with looks and glances, suggesting
      depth, guilt, and introspection. She creates a character we can empathize
      with and eventually root for, because we want to see Six think for herself
      and go against the establishment. She was a villain; now she's something
      else. "What kind of people are you?" Anders asks her. "I don't know," she
      responds.

      And always in the back of her mind is Baltar, coaxing her in that new
      direction. She loved him, and wants to do right by him. When she kills
      D'Anna and decides to embarks on a new path with Sharon, the image of Baltar
      tells her, "I have never loved anyone more in my life than I love you now."
      The message is that love makes us see not only the other person but also
      ourselves, and it can make us try to become better people. That's what Six
      experiences in "Downloaded."

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      Copyright 2006, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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