Battlestar Galactica: “Act of Contrition”

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.

29 replies on “Battlestar Galactica: “Act of Contrition””

  1. Trekkie says:

    Comments
    Having raced home from Austin to start watching part 2 before the TiVo had
    gotten halfway through it (and discovering for Sci-Fi Channel thats the best
    time to start watching is 30 min into the recording, you never hit a
    commercial or run out of recording) I must say this was a pretty decent two
    part story arc. I almost wish they didn’t do the ‘to be continued’ bit, just
    seemed like a natural progression of a story arc.

    Part one really up played the emotional response much more than I’ve seen in
    any sci-fi story in a long time. The constant flashback to the spin of the
    viper going in had you wondering at first if you were watching Zach’s
    death…then as it progressed and they showed more of the interior and the
    activity you figured out it was Thrace.

    I’ve said it in every other review posted but god I love this show so far. Great
    stuff.

    • vanyel says:

      Re: Comments
      <BLOCKQUOTE TYPE="cite">
      Having raced home from Austin to start watching part 2
      </BLOCKQUOTE>

      Having just watched Part 2 yesterday, while it was good dramatically, I really felt let down: there is just no f-ing way. Not a single chance in hell. Adama putting the entire fleet at risk was bad enough, but was a minor problem.


      There is, however, no f-ing way Starbuck could fly that raider:

      1. Stuffing a sock in a hole the size of a fist is not going to hold atmosphere

      2. The controls would not have been mechanical, and ripping the hell out of the innards does not make equipment work better

      3. Even if she could have somehow made the controls work, they would not have been in good enough shape for her to outfly Lee

      4. If she killed the cylon brain with that shot out in space, there would not have been enough left of the raider to recognize it, much less fly it. It would have been a pretty flaming meteor…

      I just hope the rest have at least some level of plausibility…

      • dgswensen says:

        Re: Comments
        I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way about part two. I still enjoyed
        the episode, but it really undercut the hard-boiled verisimillitude of the series
        for me. And I remember hoping that this exact thing wouldn’t
        happen, and, well, it’s one of the first things that happen.

        It’s not a dealbreaker for me, the show is still really good, but this is a
        real dent in the show’s credibility for me. Ah well.

      • TomSwiss says:

        Re: Comments
        In reply to a few spoiler points:

        1. Stuffing a sock in a hole the size of a fist is not going to hold atmosphere

        Actually all you need is a patch that’s non-porous and flexible. Air pressure will hold it in place once it’s in space. A sock wouldn’t do it, but a big enough piece of fabric from her suit folded suitably might do. I can suspend disbelief on this one.

        2. The controls would not have been mechanical, and ripping the hell out of the innards does not make equipment work better

        We dunno what Cylon/machine interface is like. Maybe there’s a legacy from the time when they were under human control, that’s a stock SF plot point. Iffy but I can let it go.

        3. Even if she could have somehow made the controls work, they would not have been in good enough shape for her to outfly Lee

        Yeah, that one’s pretty far out there. :-)

        4. If she killed the cylon brain with that shot out in space, there would not have been enough left of the raider to recognize it, much less fly it.

        She didn’t. It was still alive – remember when she poked it with her knife?

        • vanyel says:

          Re: Comments

          In reply to a few spoiler points:

          1. Stuffing a sock in a hole the size of a fist is not going to hold atmosphere

          Actually all you need is a patch that’s non-porous and flexible. Air pressure will hold it in place once it’s in space.

          If it’s too flexible, it’ll get blown right through the hole, but I’ll grant you if the patch is soft and squishy to seal well, but rigid enough to not get blown out into space, then that could work. It looked like a piece of very flexible cloth though, that would last all of about 2 seconds, if she was lucky.

          2. The controls would not have been mechanical, and ripping the hell out of the innards does not make equipment work better

          We dunno what Cylon/machine interface is like. Maybe there’s a legacy from the time when they were under human control, that’s a stock SF plot point.

          Maybe, if all that meat in there was muscles to pull on things. It didn’t look like that was the case — those cable things she was pulling on looked like electrical cable wrap, but on the other hand, what was that meat there for otherwise…

          4. If she killed the cylon brain with that shot out in space

          She didn’t. It was still alive – remember when she poked it with her knife?

          I remember her poking it, but not that she got much of a reaction, though now that you mention it, it seems like she did make some sort of comment about it. I think I took it as a comment about it being organic, but I’ll have to go watch it again…

          • Eldhrin says:

            Re: Comments
            One thing that’s important to remember is that the Cylons were designed by humans, therefore they’re quite likely to use some human-recognisable and human-comprehensible concepts in their interface design.

            I’m tempted to say more but I daren’t in case I step over into spoilers of later in the season.

          • valen1260 says:

            Re: Comments

            1. Stuffing a sock in a hole the size of a fist is not going to hold atmosphere

            Actually all you need is a patch that’s non-porous and flexible. Air pressure will hold it in place once it’s in space.

            If it’s too flexible, it’ll get blown right through the hole, but I’ll grant you if the patch is soft and squishy to seal well, but rigid enough to not get blown out into space, then that could work. It looked like a piece of very flexible cloth though, that would last all of about 2 seconds, if she was lucky.

            If I remember my physics correctly, air pressure is exactly what would blow the sock out. Pressure on the inside + no pressure in the vacuum of space = bye bye sock and atmosphere.

            2. The controls would not have been mechanical, and ripping the hell out of the innards does not make equipment work better

            We dunno what Cylon/machine interface is like. Maybe there’s a legacy from the time when they were under human control, that’s a stock SF plot point.

            Maybe, if all that meat in there was muscles to pull on things. It didn’t look like that was the case — those cable things she was pulling on looked like electrical cable wrap, but on the other hand, what was that meat there for otherwise…

            I kinda let it slide that maybe this thing was pulling cables with it’s tentacles, but that’s a really stupid and ineffecient way for a semi-organic ship to fly.

            3. Even if she could have somehow made the controls work, they would not have been in good enough shape for her to outfly Lee

            No way. She’s lucky she could take off.

            Now, I understand Starbuck’s lot in life is to be a show-off, but it seems if you’re precariously flying an unfamiliar spacecraft perceived as hostile by your peers, the FIRST thing you’d do is flash your underside "STAR BUCK" sign (which I though was really clever).

            • Sprydle says:

              Re: Comments


              Now, I understand Starbuck’s lot in life is to be a show-off, but it seems if you’re precariously flying an unfamiliar spacecraft perceived as hostile by your peers, the FIRST thing you’d do is flash your underside “STAR BUCK” sign (which I though was really clever).

              Well, first you have to get close enough for them to be able to read it, and THEN, you have to get their attention in such a way that they don’t automatically blow you up anyway.

              I was reminded of the original episode where Starbuck and Apollo fly a Cylon raider into a Base Star to destroy the C&C operations center and lose their ID transponder. I was wondering how they would handle it. I think this version did it better.

            • babasyzygy says:

              Re: Comments


              I kinda let it slide that maybe this thing was pulling cables with it’s tentacles,
              but that’s a really stupid and ineffecient way for a semi-organic ship to fly.

              Actually, no, and I think it gets back to why we’re seeing humanform Cylons.


              There’s a cut scene on the DVD from the miniseries where one of the
              undercover Cylons (the press agent) is axplaining to a tour group that the
              only sensor that can’t be jammed is the human brain. They made the point
              again more subtly – “Eyeballs Mk 1”.

              Also consider that they’re throwing nukes around, with all the EMPs
              that nukes imply. The one trick we saw work in the miniseries was Apollo
              generating an EMP – ostensibly to trick the Cylons, but who knows what kind
              of havoc that would play on non-biological sensors?

              I think this explains why they’ve moved to using biology. They’re just too
              vulnerable to software and EMP attacks.
              It actually makes a lot of sense to try to operate as much as possible with
              biological and mechanical methods.

    • babasyzygy says:

      Re: Comments

      (and discovering for Sci-Fi Channel thats the best
      time to start watching is 30 min into the recording, you never hit a
      commercial or run out of recording)

      18 minutes, actually, and that’s standard – US television “one hour” shows are
      usually (excepting things like that 24 “no commercials” season opener)
      around 42-44 minutes, and “half hour” shows are about 22 minutes.

    • chad says:

      Re: Comments

      Having raced home from Austin to start watching part 2…

      Timeshredder, I’m wondering why you wait a week before posting the Galactica episodes. Is it to prevent spoilers?

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: Comments

        Timeshredder, I’m wondering why you wait a week before posting the Galactica episodes. Is it to prevent spoilers?

        Sadly, I don’t wait a week. In Canada the show runs a week behind the U.S. (and we’re both waaay behind England). When I picked up the review detail to the show, we didn’t know they we’re going to start doing this with the eps. If anyone wants to buy us a satellite dish so we can pick up the U.S. broadcast….

        • pdavis says:

          Re: Comments
          Bittorrent is your friend. I picked up all the episodes that aired over the weekend and watched them. Great stuff. It has left me wanting more. I really didn’t think I would like this series but if the writers can keep it together… Does anyone know how many episodes have been filmed and how many have aired ? I count 13 plus the mini.

          • GrimSean says:

            Re: Comments
            That would be all of them.

          • valen1260 says:

            Re: Comments

            Bittorrent is your friend. I picked up all the episodes that aired over the weekend and watched them. Great stuff. It has left me wanting more. I really didn’t think I would like this series but if the writers can keep it together… Does anyone know how many episodes have been filmed and how many have aired ? I count 13 plus the mini.

            That use of Bittorrent is probably illegal.</disclaimer> ;)

          • OrangeCarrot says:

            Re: Comments

            Bittorrent is your friend. I picked up all the episodes that aired over the weekend and watched them. Great stuff. It has left me wanting more. I really didn’t think I would like this series but if the writers can keep it together… Does anyone know how many episodes have been filmed and how many have aired ? I count 13 plus the mini.

            There’s the Mini and 13 episodes, SciFi has ordered 6 more scripts (according to SciFi Magazine and The Chicago Tribune).

          • babasyzygy says:

            Re: Comments

            Bittorrent is your friend. I picked up all the episodes that aired over the
            weekend and watched them. Great stuff. It has left me wanting more. I really
            didn’t think I would like this series but if the writers can keep it together…
            Does anyone know how many episodes have been filmed and how many have
            aired ? I count 13 plus the mini.

            Not that many of you will care enough to respect their wishes, but Ron Moore
            and the other show creators are pleading that people not download the BSG episodes.

          • GrimSean says:

            Re: Comments
            In reply to this comment by babasyzygy; I can’t reply to his post directly due to a weird bug caused by his not closing his hyperlink tags:

            I may have downloaded the eps, but I’m still watching them as they air on Space up here in Canada.

            I’m not entirely sure how that would affect ratings, though, as I’m not a Neilson household – and I find it hard to believe that someone in a Neilson household would download episodes rather than watching them on the television, as it seems somewhat antithetical to what they’re supposed to be doing. If you scroll down far enough in the article you linked to, they mention that as well.

            Furthermore, it’s time for the networks to wake up and realize that the box has been opened on this, and people are no longer tethered to their televisions. VCRs were a pain in the arse to program, but most people can figure out how to download via BitTorrent.

            I’m personally curious as to how many here would be willing to pay (and how much) for a television show, either on a per-episode or per-season basis. I personally would be willing to pay about $5 an episode for something the quality of Galactica, or $50 for the season (and I’m saying that as a person who has already seen the entirety of it). That’s pretty much my max, and an option to get DVDs at a lowered price would sweeten the deal.

            • valen1260 says:

              Re: Comments

              Furthermore, it’s time for the networks to wake up and realize that the box has been opened on this, and people are no longer tethered to their televisions. VCRs were a pain in the arse to program, but most people can figure out how to download via BitTorrent.

              I think there’s nothing wrong with downloading the episodes as long as you don’t substitute them for DVD’s down the road. The most important thing any of us can understand is that if you like/love what someone in The Industry produces, *SUPPORT IT*. Spread the word, share the downloads, and when it comes time to buy the DVDs, do it!

              The ratings system is a joke. The people in this forum know that better than anyone else. The only way we can affect the system is to vote with our wallets.

              The DMCA is a another joke. It’s an attempt by trade industries to sandbag their dated, failing business models. Who really watches commercials these days anyway? How many good albums do the major labels actually produce?

              I’m personally curious as to how many here would be willing to pay (and how much) for a television show, either on a per-episode or per-season basis. I personally would be willing to pay about $5 an episode for something the quality of Galactica, or $50 for the season (and I’m saying that as a person who has already seen the entirety of it). That’s pretty much my max, and an option to get DVDs at a lowered price would sweeten the deal.

              A la carte cable/on-demand television can’t be avoided much longer, no matter how much it’s fought. I don’t know about $5/episode, though. It seems that we’d buying in bulk, and if I paid that much for everything I like to watch, I’d be out at least $55/week. But the idea of discounts or even rebates on something that you have technically already paid for (minus physical media, packaging, extras, etc.) is a great idea!

              • vanyel says:

                Re: Comments

                A la carte cable/on-demand television can’t be avoided much longer, no matter how much it’s fought. I don’t know about $5/episode, though.

                I’d love to see it happen so that good shows can survive in niche markets, but I agree with the price being on the high side: I’m watching about a dozen quality shows a week now, and no way could afford that. What I think might happen is that the ala carte niche shows will follow more of the british short season model of a half dozen, maybe a dozen shows if they’re popular (at least that’s what it seems like from the ones that I see on bbc: hamish macbeth, ultraviolet, coupling). Or a real miniseries as they used to be done here (not the two-part movies that have been the staple lately). Each mini-series could have a real, substantial, story to it as well, making them even better.

                • GrimSean says:

                  Re: Comments

                  A la carte cable/on-demand television can’t be avoided much longer, no matter how much it’s fought. I don’t know about $5/episode, though.

                  I’d love to see it happen so that good shows can survive in niche markets, but I agree with the price being on the high side: I’m watching about a dozen quality shows a week now, and no way could afford that.

                  I should clarify – $5 is my upper limit, and that would be Canadian dollars, which makes it about $4 USD (or about 2 Pounds for you Brits). I would not expect to pay that for everything, just niche or high-quality shows that would put that kind of money to good use (such as Galactica).

                  Something like Enterprise or Stargate I would give a max of $3 CAD per episode (actually, I’d give more for Enterprise were it un-cancelled, B&B fired and Manny Coto put in charge), and I would think that would probably be about average, with seasons running anywhere from $30-55 (again, all in Canadian) – but the reduced price on DVD boxsets would be a must.

                  Even then, yeah, it’s a premium price, but early adopters always pay more, right? Still, I’d like to have what I do legalized, and I’d like to be able to ensure that the actors whom I enjoy get paid for it. This would kill commercials, though – they’d have to move to a Truman Show style of product placement, or perhaps back to how they did it in the fifties on live television, with the actors stepping out of character for a few minutes at the end of a scene to hawk a product.

                  • pdavis says:

                    Re: Comments

                    or perhaps back to how they did it in the fifties on live television, with the actors stepping out of character for a few minutes at the end of a scene to hawk a product.

                    Ditto on much of the previously posted. As for this last bit about advertising, I’m surprised some shows haven’t picked up on this a bit more (Smallville, Late Show, & 24 episodes comes to mind right now). They could up the show length to about 54 minutes and record 12 minutes of in-show commercial footage (leaving 6 minutes for station identification and other such stuff). This would work better for some shows than others… For example I can see Clark now asking his mom where the toilet paper is… she goes and gets it from the top shelf and starts to explain to him that she switched brands because this brand was stronger and more absorbant than the previous brand… Now as far as a show like Galactica, not sure what products you would place. Maybe all the screens in C&C are HD Hitachi and the XO talks about how they were lucky they were just upgraded before the decommisioning of the ship and how great they are… Just some thoughts.

                    • valen1260 says:

                      Re: Comments

                      I’m surprised some shows haven’t picked up on this a bit more

                      Does no one remember the hour-long Ford Focus commercial that starred Jennifer Garner, for example?

                      Shows are actually getting shorter, to make room for more commercials. And they’re butchered even more in syndicated reruns. Even though I despise product placement, I’d rather see, in your example, Martha Kent hocking toilet paper in the middle of a scene than waste 30+ seconds for that sole purpose in a commercial.

                    • vanyel says:

                      Re: Comments

                      For example I can see Clark now asking his mom where the toilet paper is… she goes and gets it from the top shelf and starts to explain to him that she switched brands because this brand was stronger and more absorbant than the previous brand…

                      I hope this is a joke. I don’t mind innocuous placement where you can see that he’s eating wheaties for breakfast, for example, but outright embedded commercials would kill the show for me. I’m sure they could be well done, but well done commercials can be done now — how often are they? At least now it’s not too hard to deal with the dreck.

                  • valen1260 says:

                    Re: Comments

                    Still, I’d like to have what I do legalized, and I’d like to be able to ensure that the actors whom I enjoy get paid for it.

                    … and writers and creators and composers. But not necessarily the studio big whigs (shameless B&B mention).

                    Ah, to live in a world where we pay only for what we enjoy, and that goes directly to those responsible for that enjoyment.

  2. Trekkie says:

    One more…
    …what is that quote you’ve posted at the end from?

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: One more…

      …what is that quote you’ve posted at the end from?

      Billy Bragg’s “The Space Race is Over.” I’m not certain what album it originally appeared on, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to find online. I know it from The Essential Billy Bragg compilation.

  3. scharkalvin says:

    Great two part story arc
    Some unkind comments have been made of Starbuck, but this story arc shows just what a natural pilot she is. She was cast in the same mold as Chuck Yeager. With her O2 running out she climbs on board the cylon ship and figures out how to fly it home. (And finally answers our question, those cylon fighters are not flow BY cylons they ARE cylons! And the cylons have biological brains too, they are cyborgs). Starbuck quoted from Wolfgang Langewiesche on the art of flying (go get a copy of “stick and rudder” and see what I mean).

    • madhack says:

      Re: Great two part story arc
      Hey, thanks for spoiler-masking it for those saps like me who are stuck waiting until tomorrow to watch it. I didn’t want to enjoy the payoff to the cliffhanger or anything. :)

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