Battlestar Galactica – Maelstrom


MASSIVE SPOILERS for episode 17 of Battlestar Galactica’s third season, “Maelstrom”. Seriously, the pivotal two-word spoiler lies beyond this cut, and it’s going to cause an uproar.

Okay, so not as game-changing as I made out to be. But now that I re-read the scuttlebutt from Ron Moore and David Eick, they suggest that “Maelstrom” only kicks off the changes of the final three episodes. Oops… Oh Don Piano, indeed. Still, there’s a fairly big character change.

Starbuck’s death is an odd one. The entire episode is devoted to her fragile state, as she begins to hallucinate a Cylon raider, dreams of Leoben and the ancient symbol from the Eye of Jupiter temple that she has painted since childhood, and flashes back in the final act to her abusive and tormented mother. There’s no discernible plot to speak of, and for all of Leoben’s talk since season one of her destiny, we still get virtually no clue as to what it is. Given Starbuck’s indisputable physical death (her Viper implodes), these mythology questions appear to have been raised and left unanswered once again. I foresee two possibilities.

First, Katee Sackhoff wanted to leave and this scuppered the writers’ plans for her arc. Not wanting to ignore the groundwork they have laid, they tie it into her demise in a fashion that implies an apotheosis of some kind.

However, Moore and Eick insist that her death (although not revealed at the time of the interview, of course) precipitates a drastic change in direction for the show. As central as Starbuck is to the ensemble, Sackhoff’s departure would not necessitate a course correction for the mythology, unlike say, James Callis’s Baltar. Which brings me to the second possibility: that Starbuck’s destiny has not yet been achieved, and that she will be back, looking like Sackhoff or otherwise.

Here’s my theory, which just came to me and I want to preserve here for prosperity. Unlike many other engaged TV viewers, I very rarely speculate about a show’s direction or the answers to its mysteries, either because I like to be swept along and surprised or because I have no creativity – one of the two. But I have something this time:

I don’t think that Starbuck is a Cylon. I think that this far into the show’s run, revealing any cast member as being one is going to be difficult to swallow, but Starbuck seems like a particularly big leap. But I do wonder whether she is somehow going to be reborn via the Cylons, perhaps as a Cylon-human hybrid ala Hera, and that her destiny is to bridge the gap between the two races (although where that would leave Hera, allegedly central to Galactica’s core questions, is unknown). How this eventuality can have its roots in Kara’s childhood – her mother’s insistence that she is ‘special’ and her painting the eye-like symbol – is an open question, but it’s not inconceivable that something done to her on the Caprican ‘farm’ or during her abduction on New Caprica has prepared her for downloading. After all, the Leoben we see guiding her through her flashback in this episode said that he would show her the majesty between life and death, or words to that effect.

I dunno, we’ll see. But Starbuck, Cylon-human hybrid… watch this space.

Nicely acted and written episode though, with Sackhoff going out (if she is) on a high with some meaty if well-worn material about her dominating, massively insecure mother. There was a very poignant scene between Starbuck and Apollo that almost made up for the quadrangle tripe earlier this season, and Adama’s final grief-stricken gesture is powerful, one of the only moments that we’ve seen this stalwart character enraged. Plus, Callum Keith Rennie shines as Leoben once again. This guy can deliver lines like nobody’s business, giving every sentence a creepy grandeur. He’s been a great recurring fixture since the series began, and I hope we saw more of him as this storyline continues, whatever it turns out to be.

If this is the end for Starbuck though, plenty will be pissed off, especially since the headstrong Kara Thrace essentially commits suicide. Even the immensely minor Kat, with her inexplicable special episode earlier this season, had a heroic death. I’m of two minds though. On one hand, I’ve never had the immense adoration for the character that so many have. I’ve respected the creation of a strong female character that eschewed the butt-kicking conventions that have become cliché in recent years, and Sackhoff has been a consistently great performer. But she seems to have existed on the periphery of the show’s central myths and meanings and consequently I won’t miss her as much as I would other characters (Roslin, Baltar, Adama). On the other hand, I’m a little unsure about what Galactica will be without her. Will her absence be more keenly felt than I suspect in terms of the show’s essential makeup? We’ll have to find out. Or perhaps we won’t…

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2 thoughts on “Battlestar Galactica – Maelstrom

  1. Sebastien says:

    Ok, finally read this post… it’s been winking at me ever since it’s been written, but of course I hadn’t even watched 1 episode of BSG. I’ve now catched up and just, JUST, finished screening ep. 17.First, I must note that I haven’t seen the last 3 eps yet. Will do once I’ve ordered my Indian and am happily munching on a samosa dipped in copious amount of paneer butter masala.Second, I shudder at what’s in store for me in the morning… -cue scene of Seb sweating on the throne, fist clenched towards the heavens… “there is no God!”But I digress (and hopefully. later, digest… haw haw). I totally agree with you -nah, strike that, I fucking called this like 5 minutes into the show – that Starbuck is a half-breed. If it happens, and I am right, it’s actually because of very shoddy writing.Perhaps this is pointless because maybe you now know I am wrong, but in any case, it’ll give you a good giggle if I continue. So I shall…Mom on a some planet during 1st Cylon wars = she fracked a cylon = baby born = starbucks.Nah, not fracked. Got fracked. Raped. Which explains Mom’s hate/love thing with baby cylon, as well as inflicting pain on said-baby.Pointless scene between Starbucks and shaving Helo, talking about baby Hera (?) waking up because of bad dreams exactly when Starbucks starts waking up because of bad dreams. Stupid scene is rendered somewhat witty once we’ve established that it’s put there to sew the seeds of Starbuck’s cylon awakening…Whole bunch of other stuff… cylons leaving Thrace pretty much alone when she was on Caprica. Her being really good at flying a FRIGGIN’ MACHINE. Stuff like that.Now that I think about it, ok, Mom didn’t get raped. I bet she was emprisonned and planted with a fertilized egg or something… because, of course, the cylons are all ga-ga over Hela (?) being the first half-breed kid around.Anyway, I could go on and on, but as I said, I must order Indian and watch the other 3 eps. However, while I’m on it, here’s a few remote wanderings of my own about the show…1) best sci-fi show ever, sure. Not best show on TV though. But up there.2) It seems like Olmos and Roslin took the job for cash and realized, around mid-2nd season, that they were on to something, because the acting and effort on their part has jumped up. Realized that when I re-watched the pilot mini-series for fun and Adama was spewing lines as if reading a cue card. I know he’s doing it, because as a Canadian, I’ve been raised on Saturday Night Live, and that’s what guest stars do.3) any scene between Lee and Starbuck is gold. Chemistry is awesome between the two. Producers know it and cut all music. It’s very very good stuff. They also (thanks the Lords) usually put the camera on a tripod, or the very least, a steadycam during those scenes.4) the Chief is an amazing actor.5) someone finally put some cash into the sound department somewhere during season 3, as the score has suddenly gotten very very good (and played by an orchestra).6) someone finally put some cash into the sets during season 3 as well… Frak it, I’m guessing they upped the budget. Anyway, the show looks much better now. Before, it looked like a crappy canadian production, only with good sound. (all crew, most of cast, and all locations are around vancouver I believe. I wonder if Canada will advertise itself as being Real Earth when they find it, in contrast with New Zealand’s Middle-Earth and Australia’s Upside-Down Earth)7) Eating too much indian gives you the nasty shits.And finally, I’ll say this: Baltar is an awesome actor, what with most of his job consisting of spewing meaningless blabla about the final 5’s and destinies and shit… guy could read a phone book, and you know what? He’d make it engrossing. Don’t give the guy an Emmy, ever! He’s too good for it.So say we all.

  2. Jack Reed says:

    Ahoy – ring of fire treating you well? LOL – that was a highly amusing ‘scene’.Yeah, I’m liking the half-breed thing. When you’ve seen the finale, let me know and we can wax lyrical on it.That is a damn good idea about Starbuck being conceived during the first Cylon war. Alas, I found out that there is a Battlestar Wiki (it’s bloody huge!) and discovered that the first war was 40 years ago, so that puts it out of the running. Shame, cuz that would’ve been cool.But her mother still could have been impregnated during the armistice, as part of some secret Cylon contact with humans that most people never found out about. Hmm…And true, if Starbuck were a half-breed, why would the Cylons care so much about Hera, particularly arranging for Helo and Sharon to bump uglies in order for her to be born.But then, that’s a great point about Starbuck being the only one who could fly the Raider. That’s very telling.On to your other points:- yep, best ever. There’s no contest. Until now Babylon 5 had the inside track, but BSG kicks its arse in dialogue, production values, acting, and most other respects (I’m soured on the show these days compared to my teens). And yeah, the best show on TV that’s still going is The Wire, no contest. If Deadwood hadn’t been cancelled, they’d be neck and neck. Ditto Arrested Development. BSG is second-tier.- I thought that Olmos and McDonnell would be in it for the money too, but they claim to be true believers from the beginning. If that’s the case (and it could be their spin, true), I think they just found their groove within the genre – and this take on it – later, hence why their performances are even better in s2 and 3. Plus, the writing got better too. I thought s1 was better than most of 2 initially, and then watched 1 a second time and realised that 2 is actually a lot smoother and more subtle, despite some filler eps. As for Olmos, he says he’d do the show for free – he fuggin loves the thing, which is heartening for an actor of his stature.- yeah, it must be cool to know that the show’s filmed in Canada, and Vancouver to boot. A lot of the actors are Canadian too, including the Chief.And yeah, there was a budget increase for season 3 I believe. The New Caprica episodes in particular look really stellar. But I must disagree, I think the music’s been great from the start, although it’s undoubtedly improved as the guy’s gotten more practice. That teaser in season 1 where the Adamas are boxing and Helo shoots Sharon, set to that original classical piece, is bloody tremendous, mostly because of the awesome music – it shits on most TV output (except Lost, but Giacchino’s phoning it in a bit now that he’s doing movies).- Callis does indeed have gravitas to spare, which is all the more laudable considering he isn’t of impressive physical stature and he plays such a weasel at times.And yes, considering not even the Emmy finalists (the nominations aren’t out yet) include BSG, The Wire, or Deadwood anywhere, Callis is indeed too good for them. Grey’s Anatomy my arse.

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