[BSG] Jammer's Review: "A Measure of Salvation"
- Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Battlestar Galactica: "A Measure of Salvation"
The Cylons torture Baltar for his knowledge about a deadly virus responsible
for disabling a basestar. Meanwhile, the Galactica develops a plan to
potentially use the virus as a biological weapon.
Air date: 11/10/2006 (USA)
Written by Michael Angeli
Directed by Bill Eagles
Rating out of 4: ***
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
If BSG has its own sub-genres, one of those genres is the "Star Trek"-style
morality play. "Downloaded" comes to mind. It might be worth noting,
however, that the "Star Trek" characters didn't contemplate genocide the way
the human characters in BSG are willing to.
Or, come to think of it, maybe they did. TNG's "I, Borg" contemplated the
possible destruction of the entire Borg race in a way similar to how "A
Measure of Salvation" here contemplates the possible destruction of the
entire Cylon race. I guess the difference is that the characters in "I,
Borg" couldn't go through with it, whereas the characters in "A Measure of
Salvation" can. Or at least many of the characters can. They don't all
agree, which is a promising point for drama.
The Galactica crew investigates the crippled Cylon basestar encountered at
the end of "Torn" and discover that the entire Cylon crew has been infected
by a deadly virus. The Colonial Raptors return with a number of surviving
prisoners shortly before the basestar self-destructs. It turns out that
humans are immune to the virus because it is similar to an ancient human
disease. Sharon (whose new call sign is Athena in order to differentiate her
from Boomer while throwing a nod to the original series) is also immune
because of antibodies she developed while carrying her half-human child.
Dr. Cottle cannot cure the Cylons but says he can treat them with medication
that will keep them from dying. The Cylons are afraid of what this virus
could do to them collectively, so perhaps this treatment can be used to
leverage information from the prisoners. Lee comes up with a more sinister
plan: Stage a battle, and when a Cylon fleet with a resurrection ship comes
nearby, execute the prisoners, and the disease will be uploaded into the
resurrection ship and spread into the Cylon population, possibly wiping all
of them out.
Okay. First some words on the technical details of the plot before I deal
with the moral implications. I guess I simply don't understand how the
resurrection ship works.
(1) Just what is this ship's range? In previous episodes, there was plenty
of reason to believe it was quite a ways -- certainly far enough to
transcend one or more FTL jumps. If, for example, Boomer could be killed on
Galactica with no Cylon ships nearby and still be resurrected, why doesn't
the resurrection ship's receiving range reach the Galactica's present
position? Why does the Galactica have to jump within engagement range?
(2) Wouldn't the resurrection ship have some sort of virus protection
program? Why wouldn't it detect the problem with the incoming Cylon
downloads and terminate the process?
(3) If Sharon is immune to the virus, couldn't the Cylons, with all their
superior biological technology (they have taken human form after all)
manufacture the antibodies to cure themselves?
(4) Since when is the resurrection ship a transmitter in addition to a
receiver? If the virus is replicated in the downloading process, why would
it spread beyond the resurrection ship? Why can't the Cylons simply
quarantine the ship? Why would it spread through the whole population? (I
suppose the Cylons don't have an adequate firewall either.) If the Cylons
are so heavily networked, why do they need a special resurrection ship in
the first place?
Suffice it to say, the whole downloading process of the Cylons strains
credulity. I've accepted it in the past because it hasn't gotten so
detailed, but now we have a plot that's based upon the tech, and I don't
think it holds water. The more the downloading process is explained, the
less I want to hear it. (Although I'm still awaiting the answer to how a
Cylon is downloaded if it's blown to bits and the brain that houses its
memories is completely destroyed. Where do those memories go until they're
I suppose the simple answers to all these questions are that, yes, the
resurrection ship is a wildly implausible device, and, no, we shouldn't try
to come up with answers for why it would or wouldn't work and instead
concentrate on the moral implications. Fine; I'm willing to do that, because
such questions are what make this an interesting episode. Lee's plan is
quickly commissioned and put into action. The biggest voice against this
plan is Helo's, who argues that genocide, even against machines, is simply
wrong, despite what the Cylons have already done to us. If we do to them
what they did to us, a piece of our own humanity is forever compromised.
He has a point, despite the fact that at times he also comes across as a
Cylon apologist with a biased viewpoint and a Cylon wife. One of the
strengths of the episode is how it puts up convincing arguments for both
Even Adama is not sold on the morality of the plan. As a pragmatic military
decision it's certainly the right one, but as a moral decision, he clearly
doesn't want to have to make that call. Who would? That's a responsibility
that shouldn't have to be anyone's. Roslin makes the call, and we sense that
her experience in the "snake pit" of New Caprica plays a role in her
attitudes here to destroy as many Cylons as possible. She has her own
convincing points: The Cylons have already tried to destroy us all, and they
still show no signs of stopping. This is particularly clear in light of the
fact that everyone now knows Baltar is still alive and helping the Cylons
find the path to Earth.
I found Sharon's personal stake in her people's possible demise somewhat
touching, and found it especially interesting that even with that knowledge
she remains steadfast in her determination to maintain her allegiance to the
Galactica and its crew. She chose to be a human being, and that's a promise
she intends to keep. If she's ordered to help destroy the Cylons, she will
help destroy the Cylons. She won't like it, but she will do it in order to
prove which side she's on.
Aboard the basestar, Baltar is found out for covering up his discovery of
the virus on the crippled ship in "Torn," so D'Anna tortures him to find out
what he really knows and if he actually orchestrated a plot with Galactica.
Of course he didn't, so he has nothing to confess, so the torture of Baltar
is essentially trying to squeeze water from a dry sponge. To survive his
ordeal, Baltar tries to focus on his visions of Six, which leads to a truly
peculiar torture/sex scene that has the strangest juxtapositions of any such
scene I can remember.
At first when I saw this scene I couldn't decide whether it was inventive,
pretentious, or absurd. But the more I think about it the more I like it.
This is the first scene I've seen that combines torture, imagined orgasms,
religious debate, unanticipated questions of faith, and somehow comes
together and seems to make sense even if we can't be sure exactly what's in
the characters' heads. Watch D'Anna in this scene, and you see the torturer
become the one who breaks because of what she believes she might be
witnessing. It's a complicated and intriguing scene that doesn't show all
its cards, but shows how D'Anna is willing to operate on faith.
Of course the Galactica's plot to wipe out the Cylons fails, as it must. It
fails because a character makes a decision: Helo cuts off the oxygen to the
prisoners' cell, killing them before Galactica jumps within range of the
resurrection ship. A few questions about that: (1) Hasn't it been
established that a resurrection ship has the range to download dead Cylons
from one or more FTL jumps away? (2) Wasn't it established in "Downloaded"
that dead Cylons could be downloaded hours after they were killed? (3)
Shouldn't Helo be court-martialed for treason rather than having the
incident swept quietly under the rug, despite what Adama might have
personally felt about the plan?
The outcome of this episode at least shows a character making a big decision
and taking a moral stand. I'm just not sure that this could happen without
severe consequences. You can't run a military ship with officers openly
defying the chain of command. Hell, "Torn" showed that just last week.
Still, for all its flaws -- and they are notable -- I'm recommending "A
Measure of Salvation" for asking a tough question and sufficiently
dramatizing it, even if it's a question that this series has become quite
Copyright 2007, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...