BATTLESTAR GALACTICA “The Oath”: The Needs of the Few Outweigh the Needs of the Many?

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Look, I’m not saying the Zarek-Gaeta Revolution is right. It’s not. It’s clearly not. If your plan is attractive to the kind of person who rapes for fun and profit, you need to rethink your position.

But the rebellion is fascinating not only for the conflict it creates among favorite characters and the storylines it sets up (basestar and battlestar, fightin’ again! Woo!), but because the revolution, wrong as it may be, has some right things at its core. Adama’s statement that anyone who doesn’t want to concede to his unilateral orders can immediately be jailed is astonishing. We as viewers have a better understanding of the “friendly” Cylons than almost everyone in the Fleet outside of Adama’s own little cabal. While that means we sympathize with the overthrown, it also means that the overthrown are the worst politicians ever. And when they can’t persuade people to do what they want, they’ll force people to do what they want. I know Adama and Co. are right because of all the show has demonstrated to us, but the run-of-the-mill members of the Fleet can’t see all of that, and the only real surprise in terms of the mutiny by people who don’t know those things is that it took so long to come.

Gaeta’s even more right than he knows, however, when he claims that the world is upside down. He’s ugly wrong relieving Adama of duty, but he’s right in claiming that Adama isn’t the leader he used to be. It’s troubling enough that the Adamaites would overreach the limits of their power, but it’s even more upsetting that all of their actions have been reduced to their own relationships. It’s eyeroll-inducing to see Adama eulogizing the redshirt who jumped in front of him during the mutiny, because the redshirt is so beyond not the point. Who cares about the redshirt or how young he was or whether he was honoring his uniform? When asked why he’s organzing evacuations and rebellion against rebellion, Tyrol replies that the old man deserves a better end than he’ll get at the hands of the mutineers. Well, as long as Adama gets to die in his sleep someday as the commander of the Galactica, I guess it doesn’t matter if the remaining colonists are forced to ally with enemies they don’t trust. The problem with the mutiny isn’t that it offends Bill Adama’s delicate sensibilities; it’s that the mutiny reduces the odds that two races will survive. That survival matters more than whether someone’s pride is hurt or whether Adama and Roslin can be together or whether the Agathons can live happily ever after. This is the argument Roslin finally–finally—tries to make to the Fleet about accepting the Adamaites plan, but the fact that she’s spurred into doing it to try to save Bill Adama rather than to try to save Commander Adama (or because it’s just the right path) is exactly the problem. Lee finally–finally–makes the Fleet’s argument to his father and One-Eye McCylon, but it’s too little too late (possibly because he is afflicted with the Worst Politician Ever gene). They’re too caught up in their mini dramas to see the big picture.

These are the same leaders who once blew the Olympic Carrier and its 1300 innocent, unsuspecting passengers to smithereens because they might have been an unintentional Trojan Horse that threatened the survival of the human race. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few then, but our heroes have gone all the way to the other end of the spectrum. I’ve got no problem with the Adamaites using extreme force to turn the world rightside up again so they can save it, but if, say, Laura Roslin is getting back in the game and coming after the mutineers because she’s afraid Bill Adama is going to get airlocked, they’re all lost. Gaeta’s right in his wrongness–Adama and all the others swore an allegiance to protect the Galactica and all her people, not just Lee Adama or Kara Thrace or Hera Agathon The Shape of Things to Come or Saul Tigh or Laura Roslin. They’re all going to die with nothing if our major players can’t remember that. These characters might be more interesting when they’re naval gazing and falling in love and betraying their personal relationships, but they’re not more admirable when that’s their focus.

So here’s hoping Laura Roslin is back in the game for the right reasons. So much of this show has been about balance and mirrors, including how the humans and Cylons balance and mirror each other. Bill Adama, Best Commander and Worst Politician Ever, is completely unbalanced without President Roslin. He has Laura Roslin, but he doesn’t have President Roslin, and that lack of balance is just like the mess that split the fleet all the way back in the Kobol days. There’s no Dee now to calm everyone down this time, and he’s lost Gaeta, who kept everything afloat while Adama found his balance. He’s lost Galactica’s heart and its brain, and that means everything’s going to be harder this time–which is what makes it so delicious.

As an aside, Richard Hatch is a delightful person, so seeing him pick up a wrench and take out poor Laird is really, really upsetting. I’m going to go sit in a corner in a little ball and rock back and forth for a little while as a result, but kudos to Hatch and the rest of the cast (James Callis doing more in five minutes of screentime than entire casts of lesser shows) for making all sides of this clusterfrak so compelling.

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3 thoughts on “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA “The Oath”: The Needs of the Few Outweigh the Needs of the Many?

  1. I would argue that the characters are actually far *less* interesting when they’re naval gazing and falling in love and betraying their personal relationships, which is why I haven’t really enjoyed this show since the second season. Noble public servants trying to hold the dregs of civilization together with duct tape and willpower is far more interesting to me than self-involved narcissists falling in and out of love while their civilization crumbles from their own mishandling. I was sucked in by The West Wing in Space, and instead what I ended up with was Desperate Housewives in Space. Blergh.

    • Girl, you know I am missing the Shipper Gene and agree with you on that. Even I was screaming, “Kiss her!” at Adama and Roslin’s reunion at the end of “The Hub”; now that they’re actually kissing, I wish they’d stop. 🙂 But I know some folks find that component of it more compelling, and I can respect that even if it totally doesn’t work that way for me. But even if that stuff matters or works for some folks, the characters’ basing their decisions to do things like shoot at a battlestar based on that stuff makes them less noble rather than more so because they are affecting the Fleet for their own selfish reasons. Their selfish reasons might be good ones personally, but if I’m working in the algae processing plant, I want Roslin to be making decisions based on what’s going to keep me and the rest of the human race alive rather than based on what’s going to get Bill Adama out of the brig so she can check out and go have some afternoon delight again.

      I love the comparison to a West Wing in space, since I was always a good deal less interested in CJ’s dad’s health or any of their dating traumas than I was in how they got to be five votes down or how they were going to get Aquino on a stamp. In fairness to BSG, I think they’re showing us now the consequences of the core characters making everything about themselves–if Roslin had gotten back in the game before now, someone like Felix Gaeta might still be stewing about the toasters, but the government might still be functioning, leading fewer people to object to Adama’s military coup. I just hope that a) their coming actions are more about the Fleet than about their own relationships and b) someone calls them on this. Lee’s snapping at his father and Tigh was a beginning…

  2. The problem I have with this season is the poor pacing. I guess I just have a hard time believing that Adama could so easily come to terms with Tigh’s “betrayal” or that the two of them could suddenly decide that it’s okay to just turn over their communications technology to the Cylons. Probably smart in the long run, but as you say, politically inept in the short run. I feel like I’ve missed a couple of episodes in between finding Earth and where we are now, but unfortunately I’ve seen them all.

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