Episode Summary

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Episode Summary

Post by Omphalos »

Season one, episode one, titled 33, aired 01/14/2005: Summary: In a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, a ragtag fleet of humans desperately tries to escape from the Cylon pursuers who are repeatedly attacking them every 33 minutes. When an exhausted Adama discovers that a nearby passenger ship has manages to pass by unscathed, he fears that a traitor onboard may be planning the annihilation of the entire fleet.

Episodic television does not get too much better than the first episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica. Set approximately five weeks after the end of the first mini-series, it's called 33 because every 33 minutes the Cylons jump into the vicinity of the human fleet and attack. The reasons for this are not clear to the crew, but it becomes painfully obvious to viewers that it is only a psychological tactic to wear the crew down, Gaius Baltar in particular. We are told at the beginning that the crews of the Galactica and Colonial One, and probably many other ships, have not slept for 130+ hours. Only skeleton crews remain after the devastation of the Colony Worlds, and neither ship can spare any men or women for rack time. The humans are almost dead on their feet, and they know that if they make one little mistake, or if the Cylons change the rules at all, they are probably dead in space. Soon enough that mistake comes. During the 241st attack a civilian passenger liner called the Olympic Carrier is left behind with "1,345 souls" on board. At the end of the next 33 minute cycle it reappears instead of the Cylon fleet, claiming that they miraculously evaded Cylon destruction, repaired their engines and rejoined the fleet.

The episode introduced some important concepts and devices that were used and revisited throughout the entire series. "Head Six" was introduced in the last episode of the first mini-series, and in this episode her importance was set in stone. She also continued to witness to Baltar about "God" instead of the traditional "gods." There were some clues dropped about Boomer and Tigh too; both were noted to be standing up very well to the stress of multiple jumps with no sleep in pretty much the exact same way, suggesting very early that there was something special about them both. The "Head Count" board was also introduced in this episode. Through miscounts, the destruction of the Olympic Carrier, and one birth, the count ended at 47,973 souls in the fleet. Astonishing, considering that the fleet drew from at least twelve worlds. At one point Dualla is told that from her entire world of Sagittaron, less than 5,300 people survived the war. "The Board" was also shown for the first time; it was a corridor of the Galactica given to mourners to post photos of loved ones lost during the war. With obvious connections to the spontaneous wall that was put up in New York City after 9/11, the intention was obviously to communicate the deep sense of loss that these people were feeling. I would not have thought that reinforcement of that feeling was needed, but the Board did work well for that. Finally, the rumor mill on Galactica was running at full steam, informing anyone who would listen that Cylons could don human skins and blend in with them.

Fleet command mourned the loss of the Olympic Carrier, but one passenger on Colonial One had particular reason to celebrate. Gaius Baltar had previously been given permission to sit with Colonial President Laura Roslin on Colonial One. He was privy to messages from the Olympic Carrier's captain telling Roslin that a passenger on his ship, Dr. Emmrich, who was Baltar's co-worker in the Ministry of Defense on Caprica, has evidence of a traitor in the midst of the survivors. Emmrich refused to give any other information out over the radio, but instead requested a direct audience with the President. Baltar was relieved when the ship failed to make the jump, but scoffed when Head-Six told him it was God's will that he be saved. When the ship reappeared he urged Roslin to order its destruction, telling her that it was probably filled with Cylons. In the end the ship was destroyed by Starbuck and Apollo, both reluctant to carry out Adama's orders, but only after Head-Six got Baltar to repent and accept that God was directly involved in everything that happened.

This show had multiple purposes. First, it was to establish the "gritty-cred" of the entire series, and send a strong message that viewers were not going to get the same old fluffy space-opera that they got with the older version of BSG, or for that matter like from Star Trek and other SF-TV shows. The writers and actors stuck very well to the rules of the situation, and pulled off something that just seethed with feelings of reality. As far as I am concerned this show set the gold-standard for SF-TV, in that it made it clear that the way to succeed in this very difficult medium is to think ahead and go into the show with fully developed characters, agendas and plotlines. Or save your better shows for the second or third episode, which is another thing I have noticed lesser series do.

There are also a few character interactions in 33 that move the family themes along. Adama tried to discuss his order to Apollo to destroy the Olympic Carrier, but Apollo would not have any of it. I don't know about you all but I was sick of petulant youths years before this show started. Thank god the writers did not make us wait until the end to change the dynamic between father and son here. I was also a little confused as to what the debate was really about, since the Galactica's radiation-detectors had already established that the Olympic Carrier, a civilian vessel, had nukes on board, and was barreling towards the fleet, ignoring all attempts to communicate. Seems to me anyone would have known that if there were any civilians on board they were as good as dead, since it had to be destroyed. Back to the point of this paragraph, Head-Six also told Baltar that she wanted to have his children, hinting again at the monotheistic imagery by vaguely suggesting the idea of spousal love as an earthly stand in for Gods love of us all.

33 also established that Helo survived the war on Caprica, now referred to as "Cylon occupied Caprica." Having been found by the Cylons, Helo flees from them and sets traps to blow them up. Late in the episode he was captured by a Six and a Cylon, but was rescued by an Eight in the first instance of Cylon-on-Cylon violence (which was obviously staged, but resulted in the messy death of a Six at the hands of an Eight); Sharon, in a flight suit with a blaster. Actually, she murdered the Six who was trying to kiss Helo as she asked him if he was "alive," suggesting some Cylon fetish with living creatures. Of course as viewers we all already knew that Sharon was a Cylon, from the very last scene of the mini-series, but now viewers were informed that there were two plots involving Sharon/Boomer.

Finally the steel of Adama's resolve was yelled from the mountain tops. 130+ hours of no sleep, and he still thinks of nothing but the survival of the fleet and can make the hard decisions in the time it takes him to snap.
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)

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