I'm beginning to see why Maren Jensen (who played Athena) publicly bitched about this episode. Among her complaints: Why are only too-skinny models shown wearing those skin tight suits? Why are women in a futuristic society not flying vipers already? And, Sweet Mother of Jesus, they kept calling us girls! Ahhhhhhhh!
No lie. She really did bitch about it. I'm not sure what shocks me more: That a cast member of a 1978 show had the balls to complain publicly about it while still employed by said show, or that Maren Jensen, who totally gets no love from fans for her portrayal of Athena, made the complaint. It makes me very sad that she wasn't a better actress, because it's pretty clear that she has a brain. In fact, if she were standing in front me right now I would kiss her. On the lips. With tongue.
To give Apollo credit, he's being very professional business-like in explaining what the pressure suits are and what they do, even though his Humolon is among the inductees vamping away. She manages to embarrass Apollo during the presentation by announcing her love for him while the assembled Playboy models actually titter. No lie. There's a very distinct "tee-hee" following the Humolon Serena's schoolgirl antics. It's like seeing ABBA's 'When I Kissed the Teacher' played out in living color. What makes it really funny is that while Jane Seymour says the line, I swear you can see her mentally counting down the filming days before she shakes the dust of the Battlestar Galactica set from the soles of her shoes.
While the Playboy models descend to levels of maturity normally found among 8-year-old girls, Starbuck is wandering around. The drool leaking out of the corners of his mouth threatens to turn into a waterfall. I wish I could say it was some damn fine acting, but going by the actor commentary in 'Saga,' it's not so much acting and is more "true life." I start praying very, very hard that one of these women will turn around and punch Starbuck in the nose.
In either case, once Apollo has been thoroughly humiliated, he decided to make tracks and leaves Starbuck in charge of the draftees. Gee, Apollo. Thanks. That's kind of like letting the wolf guard the barnyard right there.
Salik looks around in despair at all the sick pilots in his cryo-tubes. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that everyone looks like they're encased in actual ice, but whatever. Deciding enough is enough, he marches up to the bridge to plant his foot in Adama's ass.
As he strides onto the bridge, Tigh's worrying about the void they're about to enter. He actually says that it's "infinite." Bwhuh? Infinite? Dude, what kind of space pilot are you? It's got borders. You know it does. You even proposed skirting around it. By definition it can't be infinite. It's no wonder why Adama's practically laughing at you while he's stating that it's not infinite, just too big for the scanners to "see" through to the other side. Adama's explanation doesn't make any sense either, by the way. We already know that the void has magnetic properties and screws up the Galactica's instruments. So even if it was a teeny-tiny void, they still wouldn't be able to scan into or through it.
As Salik strides onto the bridge, Adama cheerfully greets the doctor and asks when he's getting his pilots back. Again. Salik, who's already told Adama that the pilots are dying and he has to get back to the moon to isolate the infectious agent, predictably goes boom. That'll teach Salik to tell Adama anything while the ol' man is coming down from an acid flashback.
Anyway, Tigh gets shirty with Salik by pointing out that the moon (which they call a "planetoid") is something called a "parsec" behind them; that it's a Cylon outpost; and that they only have Starbuck and Apollo able to fly military escort since the rest are draftee shuttle pilots who are running their first combat simulation. So, unh, maybe letting them die the only option they've got.
It's right about then that everyone on the Galactica bridge wets their pants. While I'm sure they've realized it before now, they now have official confirmation that the fleet's got two pilots to protect the entire she-bang, and neither one of them has the sense not to fly into magnetic voids when presented with better options.
Adama agrees with Tigh, but Salik's hearing none of it. He pitches a fit and says that: 1) He's not in love with watching a lot of people needlessly die when he can do something about it; 2) He's even less in love with leaving the defense of the fleet up to the Bobbsey Twins. Sensing he'll have a full-blown mutiny on his hands if he doesn't give Salik his way, Adama finally agrees to the doctor's plan and orders him to get his team ready.
So, how d'ya think Apollo's gonna take the news?
Before we find out the answer to that non-mystery, we get a teeth-grinding, infuriating scene of the draftees in flight simulation. First up with her practice combat run: Athena.
Whoa. Waitasecond. I'm, like, totally confused. We were informed by the Humolon Serena that Athena was a viper pilot. Not someone who was qualified to fly a viper in a pinch, but an honest-to-the-Lords-of-Kobol viper pilot. Apollo even agreed with that assessment.
So what the hell is Athena doing in flight simulators? Not only that, why does she sound unsure about what she's doing? And how the hell is it possible that she completely screws up her simulation run by accidentally taking out the other virtual viper when she takes out the Cylon? Now, if they said she was qualified to fly a viper, but didn't actually run combat missions, this would make a certain amount of sense. But they told us that she was an actual viper pilot.
I know it's such a small thing, but it's a small thing that really makes you back up and go, "Hunh?" In the end, all you can do is fanwank that Athena is a qualified viper pilot and that she has to fly X number of hours (or centars in 1978-speak) a year (or yahren in 1978-speak) under non-combat conditions to keep the qualification, and that in reality she is: 1) not a very good pilot; 2) which is why she's a reserve pilot; and 3) that means she has to simulate some combat missions so she'll be ready to dogfight.
Starbuck starts off well in explaining what Athena did wrong, but ruins the whole air of bonhomie professionalism by calling all the draftees "girls." AAAARRRRGGGHHH! Don't call them girls, you nitwit! While it's too much to hope for that you'll call them nuggets, can you at least call them cadets? Hell, call them ladies if you must. But "girls?" They. Are. Not. Girls. They are women in uniform, and right now they're the only backup you've got if things go pear-shaped. So how about a little respect? Hunh?
And don't think Apollo's getting off lightly here. Although our New Age Sensitive Man is standing in the corner not saying anything while he programs in various simulated scenarios, he does not pull Starbuck aside and tear him a new one over the use of "girls" when addressing the draftees. Although to give Apollo credit, when he's called to the bridge for the impending explosion we all know is coming, he snarks at Starbuck to try to not get killed in the next simulated combat scenario rather than directing his ire at his sister.
When Apollo makes it to the bridge, Adama is entirely too cheerful when he asks his son how "our shuttle pilots" are doing. Apollo immediately gets into mental crash positions because he just knows that something's up.
The conversation that follows this opening salvo really is remarkably similar to the scene between Kara and Bill in S1's 'Act of Contrition' in which the commander asks his Number 1 flight instructor about the nuggets, and Number 1 flight instructor says that not one of them is ready to go kill Cylons. Missing is the Kara-angst over Zac. Instead, we have Apollo-tension over Serena being sent into a gunfight with a potato peeler.
While Apollo insists that not one of those shuttle pilots are anywhere close to being combat-ready, Adama misreads Apollo's vehement opposition to sending the draftees into a meat grinder without more training. He dangles the prospect of letting Apollo "pick-and-choose" who will go along. He can leave "certain, less-ready" draftees behind and take only the top of the class.
Apollo rolls his eyes, because this is soooooo not what he meant. When he said none of the draftees was ready for the Big Show, he didn't mean some, he didn't mean one, he meant none. If he's going to hold even one pilot back, then he should hold them all back. In fact, he still wants to hold them all back because where Adama sees a desperate plan, he sees a frakking bloodbath, thank you very much.
Adama is no more moved by this argument than Bill was moved by this argument almost 30 years later. It's a clear-cut case of fighting with the pilots you've got, instead of the pilots you wish you had. Given that the survival of the human race is in balance, and that right now Starbuck and Apollo are the only experienced pilots they've got, it's a hard argument counter.
Surprisingly — or maybe not so surprisingly because it's Richard Hatch and Loren Greene playing the scene — the acting is pretty good. Adama's cheerful "I'm about to give you news I know you're going to hate" seamlessly melts into trying to make a bargain that Apollo might find easier to swallow on to the steely-eyed "I'm giving you an order, Captain." Richard Hatch does a good job playing Apollo's exasperation with the situation, his father, and the plan while nailing Apollo's fears and dead certainty that he's right. Hatch also somehow manages to put in that little unspoken extra here that Apollo's hoping that he can out-stubborn his father by stressing that every last pilot (including him and Starbuck) could be wiped out by this plan, which (he hopes) will make the ol' man back down from what looks to him like a suicide mission.
Aside from the acting, the writing also makes this a stand-out scene. The focus isn't on the fact that the draftees are women, but that they simply aren't ready because they're just going through their first simulator training now. That same concern would play out regardless of the sex of the draftees and regardless of their Colonies of origin. In that sense, this scene looks like it came from a completely different script, or even a completely different set of writers. Now this conversation (which was somewhat played out in Battlestar 2003), shouldn't be at all extraordinary. In fact, it should be completely ordinary. However, after the T&A scene and the flight simulator scene with the cringe-worthy use of "girls," this scene comes off like a diamond in a piece of tinfoil.
We go immediately from Apollo's losing battle to getting the new — and significantly more female — Blue Squadron prepping for launch. While Apollo's busy prepping with the bridge, Starbuck warns "the girls" that the vipers are sensitive "like a school girl's..." he catches himself before he finishes that sentence and changes the unspoken end to "lips."
That's about when I begin praying for death. Not my death. Starbuck's.
And as for those three male bridge personnel who are overhearing the conversation via a speaker and sniggering like a bunch of pimply high school boys, I want them to die a firey death along with Starbuck.
Apollo (who I note has not once called the draftees under his command "girls" — probably because he knows the Humolon Serena will kick his ass if he does) pep talks everyone by saying, "Blue Squadron, let's show 'em how a launch is done."
And this is when things start to get really weird.
The new and improved Blue Squadron launches with nary a problem. Oh, one newbie has a difficult time keeping her viper from crashing into her fellow pilots, but there's never any danger. As for the rest? A picture-perfect launch. Bwhuh? Considering that none of these draftees have ever been in a viper cockpit, and considering that they've had one (count it: one) go at flight simulation, you'd think there'd be more than one eensy little problem that's easily corrected during that launch, don't you think?
While Blue Squadron and the medical shuttle streak away from the Galactica, we're back at the basestar. Lucifer, this time in the company of an armed-and-dangerous centurion, informs Baltar that they've caught up with the Galactica and are now following from behind just out of scanner range like Baltar has ordered. While Baltar looks mighty pleased with himself, Lucifer adds that the Galactica has veered away from the outpost and is now, against all logic, making a beeline for this magnetic void.
Baltar gets the same acid trip flashback look on his face that Adama got as he takes in the news. You know, for a planet that was "lost" to history, it seems like at least two people are pretty damn sure of its exact location based on a few bare scraps that pass for clues. When Lucifer slides into "kill now" mode and urges an attack on the Galactica, Baltar snaps back to the present and tells Lucifer not to do it. Instead, he orders Lucifer and company to keep an eye out for long range patrols from the Galactica and to capture (not kill!) one of the pilots.
Remember this first mention of the plan, because this is kind of important.
Again, without getting into the details of his cunning plan, Baltar mysteriously mentions that if he's right, he'll be able to get Adama to turn the Galactica over to him without firing a single shot.
Unh, yeah. Right. At the end of 'Saga' Baltar pretty much knew that his credibility was toast. Near as I can tell the nefarious plan somehow involves the void, a captured pilot, and Adama placing faith in Baltar's demonstrated lack of trustworthiness. It seems to me that this cunning plan makes no sense whatsoever. Baldrick has come up with better cunning plans. I think the Cylons have laced the furniture with something, because the only way this plan makes any sense at all is if Baltar is completely high.
On second thought, they're probably pumping the good stuff through the basestar's ventilation system. As Lucifer leaves the throne room with his armed-and-dangerous centurion escort, he actually babbles about how Baltar's so devious and how the Cylons could learn soooooo much from him. It's at this point that I have to remind myself that the Cylons are really very dangerous enemy who are stronger, smarter, and faster than the humans, and not a bunch of dim bulbs who've gotten as far as they have only because they cheated and have bigger numbers.
Blue Squadron now approaches the moon, which over the course of the hour has been called a "moon," a "planetoid," and now an "asteroid." In the grand scheme of things, it's really a very small item. But you would think that it would be relatively easy for the scriptwriters to, I dunno, keep track of what kind of hunk of rock Boomer and Jolly landed on. I can understand lack of continuity between episodes, given that this is a late '70s space opera aired on ABC primetime. But lack of continuity in the same episode? It's enough to make the Baby Jesus cry.
Apollo tells Starbuck to stay with the squadron while he flies down to the asteroid surface and blows the outpost up using his viper's laser cannons. Deidre — one of the draftees — points out that he could get smushed by himself if they've got anti-aircraft and that maybe it might be better idea if they all go down together. Apollo points out that due to the massive lack of experience on the part of her and the entire squadron (save Starbuck), she and her fellow pilots best stay put.
This is yet another nice scene that really comes from out of nowhere. Both Apollo and Deidre are right in this instance. Under normal circumstances, a massed attack on the outpost increases the chances of a quick victory and decreases the chances of casualties. This is not normal circumstances, however, because almost the entire squadron is flying a maiden voyage. What's especially great about this is that we actually have one of the draftees stating what would normally be correct thinking, and we have Apollo taking her seriously enough that he at least hear her out before telling her no.
Oh, dear. How is it possible that I once thought Apollo was boring? Right about now, he looks nothing short of awesome.
As Apollo flies off, we get a little exercise in contrasts. Brie — one of the new draftees and the one who frakked up her take-off — informs Starbuck that she has a blip on her scanner. Starbuck fluffs off her warning by informing her in a bored voice that it's just the medical shuttle.
Cut scene to a Cylon raider not-so-sneakily sneaking up on the attack force.
Brie tries again, and points out that the blip on her scanner is gaining on them.
Starbuck snits that he distinctly remembers telling the medical shuttle to hold back until the outpost is destroyed before flipping on his onboard computer to get a read on the blip. Upon seeing it identified as a Cylon raider, his shoulders slump. Fantastic. Cylon base to the front of him, lone Cylon raider to the rear. Nothing for it but to drop back and take out the raider. He gives Deidre (Who he calls Dee! Excellent!) command of the squadron as he peels off. To his surprise, when he peels off, he doesn't peel off alone. Athena is tucked in nice and tight next to him.
Waitasecond! Athena is also flying this mission? And this is the first we even see of her post-launch? We didn't even get a facial close-up during launch or during the entire flight between the Galactica and where we are now. Seriously, are you kidding me? Considering that Athena is the one with actual military and piloting experience (remember, she holds the rank of lieutenant), you'd think that she'd be the one arguing with Apollo about whether he should go alone to blow up the outpost. You'd also think that Starbuck would've given Athena command of the squadron while he sped off to deal with the Cylon. Instead, the part that Athena should have played was given to (and I want you to think about this) a nugget.
In what universe does this even make sense? And just how low in esteem do both Starbuck and Apollo hold Athena? Okay, maybe not so much Apollo and Starbuck, but definitely the writers. Her use (or lack of use) in this instance utterly beggars logic.
While Starbuck demands to know what Athena thinks she's doing, Athena points out that she's his assigned wingman (Wait, she is?) and that Apollo has told her that where her wingman goes she must go also.
Wait. She's tagging along because of something Apollo said? Note that it's not because military regs say that this is the way it is. It's not because Athena's flown before and she knows how it works. It's not because of anything having to do with something sensible or logical. No. She's following Starbuck because of an off-hand comment her big brother said. Worse, he may not have even said it to her. He may have mentioned it during flight simulator training to the whole class.
It's right about here that I get head-desky.
Starbuck mumbles and grumbles like a spoiled 10-year-old before reluctantly letting her tag along. Of course, he can't resist nastily telling Athena to try not to kill him like she did his virtual viper in the flight simulators. I know it's supposed to be light-hearted teasing, but it doesn't come off that way, and Athena sure as hell doesn't take it that way. Truth to tell, neither do I. I don't know if it's Dirk Benedict's line reading, nor do I know if it's because of Starbuck's behavior in the episode thus far, but right about here is when I'm inspired to start playing I Crush Your Head every time Dirk Benedict appears on screen for the rest of the episode.
A few quick cuts later, show us Starbuck and Athena dealing with the Cylon and Apollo rushing for the outpost. Before he gets there, the outpost launches everything they've got. He manages to get the first fighter, but the whole herd is now in the air and Apollo orders everyone back to base. Deidre's hearing none of that, and Blue Squadron disobeys orders and attacks.
Remember how I said things get really weird? This goes doubly for what comes next. In short order, the newbies of Blue Squadron wipe out all the raiders without so much as scratching the paint on the vipers. Thanks to the magic of stock footage, the fighting looks exactly the same as it did in 'Saga.' There's not even a hint that any of the draftees are even remotely new at this.
And after this we're supposed to believe that the Cylons are even a credible threat? Are you kidding?
In the meantime, Apollo blows up the outpost after the horses have escaped the barn. There's an odd moment in the footage, however. Right after the outpost explodes, we see Apollo's viper heading toward the surface at a 90-degree angle at full speed right in front of the outpost opening. Hunh? I rewound that a couple of times to make sure I saw that right. This visual doesn't even make sense.
Know what else doesn't make sesne? How Deidre got the rant of lieutenant. Isn't she a shuttle pilot-turned-draftee? How the heck did she get a rank all of a sudden? Wow. Suddenly Starbuck's, Athena's, Boomer's, and Jolly's rank of lieutenant looks a whole lot less impressive. In either case, Apollo praises "the lieutenant" for a job well done, quick thinking, and (one would assume) for disobeying orders.
Back on the Galactica, upon hearing that the fighting females of Blue Squadron has just finished kicking Cylon ass without losing a single pilot, Adama gives the order: once everyone is back on board, the entire fleet is going to close ranks and head into the void. Tigh clearly thinks that Adama is nuts, but Adama won't hear of it. This time, however, Adama's prepared. He's points out that the Cylon base probably sent out a distress signal and that reinforcements are probably on the way. The void, he says, will give the fleet some desperately needed cover. We know this is a lie, of course, because Adama's rubbing that damned medallion again. The money shot is the look on Tigh's face. He knows Adama's lying his ass off.
We close out the episode with Lucifer interrupting Baltar's scenery-munching time with the news that the Galactica has destroyed the outpost and that the vipers that wot did it were flying very strangely. (They were?) When Lucifer further informs him that the Galactica is continuing on into the void, Baltar acts surprised. Wait. Not more than 10 minutes before in show time, we clearly saw indications that Baltar damn well knew why Adama was leading the fleet into the void. Now he's surprised? Suddenly this void is a big ol' mystery to him? Hunh? Why? The writing is not making a lick of sense here.
The episode closes with a "To Be Continued..." splashed across Baltar's face as he orders Lucifer (again) to capture him one Galactica pilot.
Rumor has it that the Lost Planet of the Gods episodes were actually three scripts that were cobbled together in a bit of a rush. Certainly the Baltar scenes look like they came from different episodes and the disease-of-the-week angle definitely looks tacked on.
Despite the rampant sexism in this part (most notably, rampant sexism from Starbuck) on the whole the episode isn't actually that bad. Okay, okay. I snark because I love. It's better than the Planet of the Bug People that ate the second half of 'Saga,' and we're getting into the mytharc pretty quickly.
So, it's time to keep score, peoples. In 'Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1' we see:
- More Apollo-Starbuck subtext than you can shake a stick at. I'm beginning to think that the slashers rooted those stories in canon. Yes. It was that blatant.
- Conclusive evidence that Serena is a Humolon
- Ample reason to put Starbuck down like the sexist, rabid dog he is
- Proof that Apollo is awesome, his little issues with his future wife-y-poo wearing a pilot's uniform aside
- That "lieutenant" isn't so much a rank, but a nice title that is handed out like candy to anyone who climbs into a cockpit
- The beginnings of the "let's ignore Athena and maybe she'll go away" tactics from the writers
- Ed Begley Jr. kicking acting ass in this 5.5 seconds of screentime
- Boomer showing all the commonsense and brains of a turnip
- Tigh wondering if it's too late to transfer to another ship in the fleet before Adama gives him a heart-attack
- The desperate need to up Adama's meds. I hear from Laura that chamalla is the way to go here
- That sisters damn well can do it for themselves. In fact, they can do it so well, that maybe they could've saved the Colonies from being wiped out if they were allowed to be viper pilots, lack of training be damned.
- That the Cylons are, if possible, devolving to a lower life form, complete with lower intelligence
- The only person crazier than Adama is Baltar. Maybe.
And, so, class, what is our moral lesson from 'Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1?'
Don't ever, ever, ever call a woman in uniform "girl" if she's armed, and knows how to fly an viper up your ass.
I give 'Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1' a big Four Minutes of the bloodbath that would follow when 1978 Starbuck makes the fatally tragic mistake of calling 2003 Starbuck "a girl."