The public learns that Cylons can look like them, and the result is a tense, suspenseful episode that raises a number of questions.


Title: “Litmus”

Cast and Crew:

Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama
Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin
Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace
James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar
Grace Park as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii
Aaron Douglas as Chief Petty Officer Tyrol
Jill Teed as Sergeant Hadrian
Alonso Oyarzun as Socinus
Bodie Olmos as Hot Dog
Michael Hogan as Col. Tigh
Tahmoh Penikett Helo
Tricia Helfer as Number 6

Matthew Bennett as Aaron Doral

Writer: Jeff Vlaming

Director: Rod K. Hardy

Plot:

When a human-seeming Cylon sets off a bomb, the public learns of their existence. A tribunal investigating how the intruder breached security raises some troubling questions.

High Points:

Some of those troubling questions pertain only to the show; others have obvious real-world implications. How does the public react to disturbing information, even when it is being released by a government that isn’t trying to manipulate them needlessly? How do they react to learning that they were kept in the dark about a dangerous situation?

Adama walks away from putting himself above the rules. Of course he does, but at what point does this behaviour become a problem? Another character gets away– sort of– with a serious dereliction of duty because, like Adama, they need him. The situation demands a certain realpolitik. Again, will this present a problem in the future?

Finally, we remain in the dark about Boomer. The model on Caprica clearly knows that she’s a Cylon, manipulating Helo (and I remain fairly certain that the Cylon’s bizarre toying with him will serve some logical purpose). At least, she knows it sometimes. I suppose it’s possible she’s programmed to forget who she really is when she’s with him, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Does the model on the Galactica know? Is she a sleeper or a “Manchurian Candidate?”

Unlike the anomalies in a certain other SF show, the questions raised here are legitimate and intentional, and the suspense pervading the show derives from the real uncertainties that result. We really can’t be certain what will happen next.

Low Points:

Okay. I will take this back if someone can prove that I’ve misinterpreted.

One question hanging over this ep really does appear to be the result of an error.

At the conclusion, the Chief asks Boomer if she left the hatch open “last night.” Last night? Am I hearing things? Was the hatch left open a second time? Or are we to believe that the events of this episode– the bomb, the aftermath, the President’s press conference, the tribunal, and its consequences– all took place in a single day? Does that make sense? And (like the earlier indication that all twelve colonies were in one solar system) was it even necessary?

If I’m wrong, then I submit as my low point the following line: “Don’t make me angry, Gaius. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Granted, it’s not a hulking great low point, merely a trivial one, but still….

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. Again, the premise has been used before, in conventional fiction and in genre. Heck, even TNG had “The Drum Head.” It’s a good handling of the premise, but it’s not especially original.

Effects: 6/6. In addition to the brief, always good space visuals, this episode gave us a grotesque look at the bomb victims.

Story: 5/6 A generally strong, suspenseful episode.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6

In total, “Litmus” receives 35/42

Additional Comments:

A few episodes ago, I annoyed some people by raising a question regarding Galactica’s relative lack of racial diversity. This episode shows a more racially diverse population than any ep since “Bastille Day.”