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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Battlestar Galactica: Greetings from Earth – Review

Greetings from Earth” was a special two hour episode that has the our ragtag fleet finally encountering the first humans that were not part of the original Twelve Colonies, unfortunately part of that encounter involves Space Nazis.


While following the heading given to them by the “Ship of Lights” that they encountered in the episode War of the Gods, Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) come across a sublight spacecraft which the sensors detect has six life signs onboard. The readings from the craft are barely enough to sustain life making them wonder if those onboard could even be human, but when the ship is towed back to the Galactica everyone is shocked to find six people in suspended animation; two adults and four children.


If one of them turns out to be Khan we’ll jettison them all into space.

The first half of this two hour episode is all about morality, and tonight the role of Captain Morality will be filled by Apollo. The technology of the craft is so foreign to the crew of the Galactica that there is a danger of killing the sleeping occupants if they screw around without a clue as to what they are doing. Also the atmosphere onboard the Galactica could very well be lethal to these people, not to mention they could be carrying organisms that could spread disease throughout the fleet. Athena (Maren Jensen) tries to explain the dangers of just exposing these new people to the air aboard the Galactica to her classroom of children. It does seem odd that all of a sudden the people of the Galactica seem concerned about contamination when in the past they had no problem popping down to any planet without giving it a second thought. Note: This is the last we see of Boxey (Noah Hathaway) and Athena.


From part of the core command to school teacher, then to oblivion. Goodbye Athena.

Debate rages across the fleet with members of the Quorum led by Sire Geller (Murray Matheson) wanting to open the sleeping containers so they can question them about the location of Earth, while Apollo doesn’t believe they have the right to risk the lives of these six people on the off chance it could lead to Earth and save the fleet. Doctor Wilker (John Dullaghan) is confident he can figure out the mechanics of the ship’s systems while Doctor Salik (George Murdock), Galactica’s Chief Medical Officer, is far from confident on their ability to keep these strangers alive.


“We have no time for silly stuff like medical ethics!”

Eventually Apollo wins over his father (Lorne Greene) with the argument that they had no right to interrupt the strange ships flight in the first place, and certainly no right to basically kidnap the occupants. Things get complicated when Michael (Randolph Mantooth), the adult male, awakens, and believing he’s been captured by something called the Eastern Alliance, he shoots one of the fleet’s civilian police officers. Unfortunately for Michael the world he is from had 1/5th the atmosphere then what the Colonies are used to, so he passes out and is quickly popped into decompression chamber. So it’s up to Apollo, Starbuck and Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang) to sneak Michael back aboard his craft, and get them back on course to the planet Paradeen, which they were heading for before being so rudely interrupted.


Michael seen here armed with…a flashlight?

With Michael and the other five passengers all snugly back in their Sleep Pods, and with Cassiopeia onboard to monitor the equipment, they make their escape out of the Galactica shuttle bay. The Council of the Twelve demand Adama do something so he offers to send Apollo and Starbuck out to “bring them back.” Of course this is all part of Apollo’s plan as they follow the spacecraft to the planet Paradeen. From Michael we learn that on the planet Terra there were two actions fighting a world war, with the Eastern Alliance being a fascist state that uses nukes and biological weapons to take out their opponents. The planet Paradeen was one of Terra’s colonies; it was mainly a farming community, supplying most of the food for the people of their war torn home world and has since been abandoned.


This show is not subtle when it comes to Space Nazis.

Sarah (Kelly Harmon) the adult female onboard the ship turns out not to be Michael’s wife but a widow and mother of three of the children onboard, while Michael is only the father of the oldest girl. Upon arriving on Paradeen tensions mount when the expected welcoming by Sarah’s father ends in the revelation that he had been killed. Sarah declares her hatred of all technocrats, which Michael is, and that she’d rather die than marry one. All of this drama is completely undercut by the antics of two singing and dancing robots; Hector (Bobby Van) and Vector (Ray Bolger).


These two are a comedy black hole. Nothing funny escapes.

The first half of this episode was quite good, with Apollo making some solid moral points, and we got to see more of how the military and the civilian government don’t necessarily get along all that well. Getting into the “For the Greater Good” aspects of your story can really lead to some nice debate, but sadly once they escape the Galactica and reach Paradeen all that screeches to a halt. Instead of further philosophical debate we instead get Sarah hitting on Apollo because she can't stand the idea of living alone on this planet with Michael (why she hates technocrats is never really explained). She even goes so far as to sabotage their ships to keep him on Paradeen. Even stranger is that Apollo than asks Cassiopeia to work on Michael, saying “I want you to get close to Michael. Spend a lot of time with him. I mean really get close,” which kind implies that she is to either seduce Michael to get information on Terra or possibly make Sarah jealous so she will want Michael. Either reason is terrible.


“You use to be a Space Prostitute, so this should be easy for you.”

What is worse though is how abrupt the episode ends; Starbuck and Hector visit a dead city that’s population was wiped out by a neutron bomb or biological weapon.  Apollo hoped that Starbuck would find archives that would lead the Galactica and the fleet to Earth, but instead Starbuck passes out in the depths of one of the buildings due to lack of proper atmosphere, and while everyone is trying to rescue Starbuck an Eastern Alliance destroyer, commanded by Leiter (Lloyd Bochner), lands and they capture Sarah, demanding to know where the pilot of the strange crafts (the Vipers) are. Our heroes arrive in the nick of time and take out the Eastern Alliance soldiers with almost no effort. Sarah, for some reason, realizes maybe she does like Michael, and Apollo and Starbuck commandeer the Eastern Alliance's destroyer and fly it back to the Galactica, with Leiter and his men as prisoners.


“Our spaceship totally kicks the crap out of your crappy primitive destroyer.”

Throughout this episode we get dribs and drabs of information about the planet Terra (which Adama reveals is Gemonese for Earth), how the cruel Eastern Alliance basically enslave or kill their enemies, but when we finally get to meet members of this evil fascist group the show is almost over, and so we just get more cardboard pseudo-Nazis that have appeared in dozens of science fiction shows and movies over the years. The rushed ending and the horrible comic relief robots prevent this from being what could have been a really good episode.


Note: For the deserted city on Paradeen the show used the abandoned pavilions from Expo '67 located in Montreal, Canada.  It's really quite effective and creepy.

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