And the Gods and Monsters came upon a planet made of land and sea, but the sky was full of fire.
The opening scene of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1” is what made me fall in love with BSG. Mr. MacIntosh, a big fan of the original ’70s series, was a weekly viewer. I’d play The Sims while he watched, convinced my life was perfectly satisfactory without a television show about killer robots. Boy, was I wrong.
The music behind the opening scene caught my attention, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more perfect integration of original music into a television scene. The piece, Passacaglia, written by soundtrack mastermind Bear McCreary, complements the four nearly wordless scenes it underscores perfectly.
Adama and Apollo open the episode in the Galactica gym, boxing. Apollo throws a good shot, sending his dad reeling while he smugly ask if the older man is all right. The scene changes to a show a naked, entwined couple who look to be Starbuck and Apollo. The scene changes again, and we see Hot, Hot Helo on the move, scaling buildings until he finds Sharon on the steps of a museum. He points his gun at her. Back to Starbuck, who cries out “Lee,” twice, before opening her eyes to find she’s not with Lee, she’s with newly minted Vice President Baltar. Flash to Lee, getting knocked stupid by his dad’s right hook. (And subsequent, “You okay?” Game, point, match Papadama.) Flash back to Starbuck, whose eyes do a fine job of conveying “oh, fuck.” Flash back to Helo, who shoots Sharon in the gut. Flash to Boomer on Galactica, sitting on her bunk with her own gun, debating taking her own life.
This opening scene illustrates, better than any other I can think of while I’m sitting here writing this recap, how great it is when we’re shown and not told. I’d rather see Apollo trade literal jabs with Adama than listen to either of them talk out their angst. It helps that the cast is so strong, and that both Katee Sachoff and Grace Park do a fine job of acting with their eyes. I don’t think Park is the strongest actress of her generation, but her eyes can act the shit out of some drama. We learn more about the various characters in these few minutes than we’ve learned in the twelve or so hours of show that had previously aired.
The scene between Apollo and Adama after their boxing match is particularly representative of their relationship to this point, and probably explains why Lee’s relationships with women throughout the run of the show were so troublesome for him.
Adama: You don’t lose control.
Apollo: Thank you.
Adama: No. You gotta lose control; let your instincts take over.
Apolo: I thought we were just sparring.
Adama: That’s why you don’t win.
Boomer reconsiders suicide long enough to go on a supply search mission with Crashdown. They make a jump and land just above the atmosphere of a planet. After bickering for a few minutes, they realize the planet has oceans and continents, which makes Crashdown wonder if it’s Earth. Boomer tells him it’s more important, the planet in front of them is Kobol.
After Starbuck sneaks out of Baltar’s quarters with her pretty blue dress wrapped around her like a towel, he’s crushed. Baltar is not accustomed to not getting what he wants, and being called the wrong name is a pretty big ego blow for a fella who is 98% hubris. He’s flustered, and he snarks drunkenly at Lee during a poker game. When Starbuck enters, he turns his anger on her. Lee, who clearly has experience driving himself batty over Starbuck, puts two and two together and comes up with a raging case of jealous.
He finds her on the hangar deck the next day, poking at her pet raider. He’s pretty horrible, does some slut shaming, and then they punch each other in the mouth.
Baltar is no better in a meeting with Roslin about mundane governmental affairs, where HeadSix and Roslin are both yelling at him and demanding answers. This scene, including the moment when Baltar shouts out “I am not your plaything!” to HeadSix and HeadSix/Roslin both replying “Plaything?” at the same time, is one of the funniest moments in BSG’s entire run. Baltar excuses himself to go to the restroom, where HeadSix smashes his head against a mirror. She yells at him for a while, then tells him he needs to get away from Galactica, because a surprise is coming, and Galactica isn’t safe.
Roslin discovers that her cancer has “aggressively progressed,” and she’s told she has, at best, six months to live. When shown a current map of Kobol, she hallucinates an image of the way Kobol looked thousands of years ago, when men and gods lived peacefully together on its surface. Combined with her other chamalla-enhanced visions, Roslin is convinced the prophecies and mythology which have guided the faith of humanity are all true. She learns of a prophecy saying that the Arrow of Apollo will open the tomb of Athena on Kobol, and lead the fleet to Earth. Real Earth, not that made-up hopey-changey shit Adama is selling. She decides sending Kara’s pet raider back to Caprica to retrieve the arrow is the best plan of action. When she presents her idea to Adama, he does not agree.
Baltar finds Boomer in her rack, with her gun in her mouth. She tells him she was cleaning it. HeadSix is telling him that Boomer’s model is weak, but she’s been programmed to carry out a task, and nothing can stop her. Boomer bares a bit of her soul to Baltar, who tells her that there are many things worse than death. He and HeadSix leave, and are a few steps down the corridor when Boomer’s gun goes off. We see her later, in the infirmary, with her cheek heavily bandaged. Chief Tyrol comes to see her, and tells her he doesn’t believe she didn’t clear the chamber before she cleaned her gun. She confesses that she wanted to kill herself, but blames the chief for abandoning her and leaving her all alone. He tells her she’s not alone, but she angrily dismisses him. He salutes on his way out of the infirmary.
Galactica assembles a team to go survey the surface of Kobol, and Baltar volunteers at Six’s insistence. Three raptors full of crew are pulled together, and they jump into Kobol’s orbit. Within seconds, the first raptor is T-boned by an incoming Cylon raider and explodes. A second raptor is hit with gun fire, killing one of the pilots and sending the ship into a spin. Chief Tryol yells at Crashdown, the remaining pilot, to radio the one unhit raptor and send it back to Galactica. Crashdown’s raptor spins out of control and blows out its windshield, then crashes into the surface of Kobol. Baltar, a passenger, is screaming the whole time.
Galactica responds by planning to send Kara’s pet raider into the Cylon basestar orbiting Kobol, carrying a nuke. It was Starbuck’s idea, according to Tigh, and this enrages Lee. He stomps down to confront her for not following the chain of command, but they end up in an uneasy truce.
Roslin is also upset about the plans for the raider, because she wants to send it to Caprica instead. She sends for Kara, and then uses Kara’s religious beliefs and faith in Adama to convince her to do Roslin’s bidding. When appealing to Kara’s faith doesn’t work, Roslin tells her that Adama lied about knowing where Earth is. Kara doesn’t believe her, so Roslin tells her to ask Adama herself. She does.
Commander Adama: It’s hard to say.
Kara “Starbuck” Thrace: You got a guess?
He continues to dodge her, and she’s visibly hurt. Later, while doing what’s supposed to be a test of a new auto-pilot system on her pet raider, she asks to speak to Adama on the com, using a scrambled channel.
Starbuck: You lied to me. I believed you. I believed in Earth.
Adama: What are you doing, Starbuck?
Starbuck: Bringing home the cat, sir.
He tells her to be sure of what she’s doing, but she spools the FTL and jumps away. Tigh asks why and where she went, Adama replies, “home.”
There are two themes in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1”: faith and betrayal. Starbuck betrays both Baltar and Lee, at least from their perspectives, and then is betrayed by Adama. Roslin’s faith is strengthened by the discovery of Kobol, but she betrays Adama by manipulating Starbuck’s faith in him to get her to defy his orders. Baltar betrays HeadSix, Boomer feels betrayed by Chief, Helo feels betrayed by Sharon, and all of the betrayed have lost faith in their betrayers.
Join me next week when we tackle “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2.”