What kind of offence is “Star-bucking?”*
–vaguely Irish female prisoner, 70s Galactica ep, “The Long Patrol.”

“Act of Contrition” (Part 1) juggles three timelines and provides us with small developments in two subplots, all while remaining coherent and maintaining a good pace. This ep also emphasizes character more than the series has previously. Specifically, this one’s about Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, and her guilt over a past act.

“Act of Contrition”

Cast and Crew:

Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace
Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama
Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin
Jamie Bamber as Lee “Apollo” Adama
James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar
Grace Park as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii
Bodie Olmos as Hot Dog
Michael Hogan as Col. Tigh
Tahmoh Penikett Helo
Tobias Mehler as Zac

Writers: Bradly Thompson, David Wheddle

Director: Rod Hardy

Plot:

An accident kills several pilots and puts several more in the sickbay. Adama assigns Starbuck to train replacements, but her guilt over Zac’s death interferes with her ability to do her duty.

Meanwhile, on occupied Caprica, Helo and Boomer find an apparent military outpost– but it’s clear the Cylons have designs.

As part one of this two-part episode ends, new circumstances makes the need for new pilots all too apparent.

High Points:

1.The show does a great job of juggling three different timelines, and repeating moments that have a definite change in effect with the change in context.

2. Galactica has created a plausible military culture, built from bits and pieces of our own world which serve as reference points. This episode highlights the series’ sense of reality, familiar but not quite our own.

Low Point:

The number of times Starbuck gets reminded of her guilt by the comments of characters– mostly Adama– who are unaware of the effect their remarks have, seemed to labour the point. Sometimes, less really is more.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 This is a conventional military story, set in space. However, it is well made, and if stories like it have been common in printed SF, we’ve not seen much like it on television.

Effects: 6/6. The space shots remain impressive.

Story: 5/6 . It’s a two-parter, but I’m going to be optimistic about the overall story. Those of us watching on this side of the ditch don’t yet know how this one ends.

Acting: 5/6 This story emphasizes characters, and the actors are solid.

Emotional Response: 5/6. I found the story moving, though the writers overdid the central emotional conflict in places. It’s also great that Galactica’s first sexy shots were genuine and intrinsic to the story. The show didn’t stoop to cheap cheesecake, beefcake, or decongelcake.

Production: 6/6. Great editing.

Overall: 5/6

In total, “Act of Contrition” receives 36/42

Additional Comments and Musings:

I lie in my bed and dreamed I walked
On the Sea of Tranquility
I knew that someday soon we’d all sail to the moon
On the high tide of technology.
But the dreams have all been taken
And the window seat’s taken, too
And 2001’s already come and gone
What am I supposed to do?
Now that the space race is over
It’s been and it’s gone
And I’ll never get to the moon.
Now that the space race is over
And I can’t help but feel
That we’ve all grown up too soon.
–Billy Bragg

One of the things this show makes me feel is nostalgia for a future that never happened.

A time once was when we were going to the moon, and then we went to the moon. It seemed like humanity would move into space, and a base on the moon by 2000 seemed a given. The hard SF of the postwar era often dealt with the basics of space travel and space life, but in a context that imagined it would be our near future, and that deep-space flight might follow not so very far after.

Since the 1990s we’ve experienced a Renaissance of hard SF. The best easily matches the quality of the older stuff– but it lacks the potential to posit that the old, more optimistic view of our future will happen anytime soon.

Galactica has a bleak premise, but it creates a world very like that found in the SF of old, and it sets well-crafted stories in that world. For these reason alone I would keep watching.

*With reference to the opening question, I suspect the crime of “Star-bucking” involves selling overpriced coffee beverages in pretentiously-labelled sizes. Yeah, yeah…. You saw that one coming.