Battlestar Galactica: Litmus

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.”

21 replies on “Battlestar Galactica: Litmus”

  1. fliptw says:

    Tribunal

    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?

    I thought that too. But then again, the Galactica is the only thing keeping what remains of humanity alive, so its something they probably wouldn’t daddle on.

    Probably because all the military lawyers(Or lawyers in general, Hail the great bard) got killed in the mini-series, as no-one had any counsel infront of the tribual, expited things considerably.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Tribunal

      I thought that too. But then again, the Galactica is the only thing keeping what remains of humanity alive, so its something they probably wouldn’t daddle on.

      Granted, but I still submit that it would be physically impossible– or nearly so– to fit all of those events in one day, and it seems dramatically wrong, too. Adama’s reaction makes a lot more sense if the events had been going on for some time (and, although we wouldn’t need to see it, obviously Adama would be keeping aware of what was happening at the tribunal).

  2. joe__gee says:

    I didn’t even catch the time thing …
    I will rewatch.

    As for the “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” I just took that as another nod to genre, “The Incredible Hulk.” We’re already seen this show’s writers give little props to other sci-fi shows. Starbuck “frelling” in the miniseries, Serenity’s presence in the fleet in the miniseries, etc. (Yes, J_W_W, I know, “fracking” is what these folks normally say. I was a teenage fan of the original series. :P ) I suspect there will be more.

    Not only have the show’s writer’s brought incredible dignity to a “franchise” that I would have told you was dead, deceased, an ex-franchise two years ago, they also seem to “get” what sci fi is about, and to me their little quotes demonstrate they’re actually fans of a lot of the same stuff we enjoy. :)

    If they were to quote other shows episode after episode I would probably agree with you, it would be incredibly trite, but I can endulge their occasional flights of fancy. :)

    -Joe G.

    • Captain_Avatar says:

      Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …
      Yeah, it’s kind of neat hear them pay homage to other series. I don’t have any problem knowing the writers are line quoting fans like us. It’ll never happen now but I really would have liked for Archer to have said “Oh Boy” just once on Enterprise. Especially when his old co-star appeared in one episode.

      Not only have the show’s writer’s brought incredible dignity to a “franchise” that I would have told you was dead, deceased, an ex-franchise two years ago, they also seem to “get” what sci fi is about, and to me their little quotes demonstrate they’re actually fans of a lot of the same stuff we enjoy. :)

      If they were to quote other shows episode after episode I would probably agree with you, it would be incredibly trite, but I can endulge their occasional flights of fancy. :)

      -Joe G.

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

        If they were to quote other shows episode after episode I would probably agree with you, it would be incredibly trite, but I can endulge their occasional flights of fancy. :)

        -Joe G.

        I enjoy fannish in-jokes too. However, that one, IMO, threw away a serious moment on a cheap gag, something that, say, the appearance of Serenity in the fleet didn’t do.

    • mbourgon says:

      Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

      Serenity’s presence in the fleet in the miniseries, etc.

      Okay, I know I missed it, since I watched the “abridged abridged” version that NBC showed. Anyone have any screen caps or anything? What ep I need to, um, “get”?

      • joe__gee says:

        Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

        Okay, I know I missed it, since I watched the “abridged abridged” version that NBC showed. Anyone have any screen ty’s presence in the fleet in the miniseries, etc. caps or anything? What ep I need to, um, “get”?

        It’s in the miniseries that launched the new BG. I don’t know which part, though.

        -Joe

      • GrimSean says:

        Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

        Serenity’s presence in the fleet in the miniseries, etc.

        Okay, I know I missed it, since I watched the “abridged abridged” version that NBC showed. Anyone have any screen caps or anything? What ep I need to, um, “get”?

        Right here. As you can see, it was just a cameo – and a quick one at that.

    • TwistyHat says:

      Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …
      Yeah, and of course some of us didn’t even realise this was supposed to be a quote from somewhere else (if it was that).

    • J_W_W says:

      Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

      I will rewatch.

      As for the “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” I just took that as another nod to genre, “The Incredible Hulk.” We’re already seen this show’s writers give little props to other sci-fi shows. Starbuck “frelling” in the miniseries, Serenity’s presence in the fleet in the miniseries, etc. (Yes, J_W_W, I know, “fracking” is what these folks normally say. I was a teenage fan of the original series. :P ) I suspect there will be more.

      -Joe G.

      Ouch!!!!

      Actually, I liked the Hulk reference line. ;-)

      • joe__gee says:

        Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

        Ouch!!!! Actually, I liked the Hulk reference line. ;-)

        So did I. :) I guess we’re easier targets for this kind of humor? :) By the way, which show was on Sunday nights, Battlestar Galactica, or its spinoff where they found Earth? I remember going down to a friend’s house to watch whichever show it was, on a Sunday evening, because she had a color TV, and could get the channel it was on better than I could (I lived in an area that wasn’t served by cable.)

        As I recall it was BG, maybe I am wrong.

        -Joe

        • Timeshredder says:

          Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

          I suspect you’re thinking of the short-lived Galactica 1980, in which Adama had a beard, most of the original cast was gone, and a glowing kid genius who turned out to be sort-of Starbuck’s son invented things, while the adult Boxey zipped around on a flying motorcycle or something. It was like a bad acid trip, and even Larson later disowned it.

          • joe__gee says:

            Re: I didn’t even catch the time thing …

            I suspect you’re thinking of the short-lived Galactica 1980, in which Adama had a beard, most of the original cast was gone, and a glowing kid genius who turned out to be sort-of Starbuck’s son invented things, while the adult Boxey zipped around on a flying motorcycle or something. It was like a bad acid trip, and even Larson later disowned it.

            I remember the flying motorcycle. I remember a Cylon melting down next to a microwave oven. As I recall I watched the first episode, and gave up on it. You know, it might have been the first episode I watched down at my friend’s, because the weather was still warm enough for shirtsleeves, and there were leaves on the trees. :)

            Not only does B42 bring great sci fi discussion, it can take you on a trip down memory’s dusty, cluttered lanes. :P

            -Joe

  3. Eoghann Irving says:

    Disapointing
    I was a little disapointed by this one. The concept had such potential, but the whole thing seemed rushed and unconvincing. Except for Adama, he was great as always.

    • Kaki says:

      Re: Disapointing

      I was a little disapointed by this one. The concept had such potential, but the whole thing seemed rushed and unconvincing. Except for Adama, he was great as always.

      Adama rocks.

      His simple logic reminded me of that line in the ST:TNG episode where the morons stole Geordi, “We look for things, things that make us go”. Only Adama doesn’t have such a simple mind, so he has to break some of his own ethics just to keep the few things that make his world go. And Olmos, superb casting choice imho btw, lets us see how Adama is fully aware of his own sacrificed ideals.

      I’m almost hoping he has to fight to keep a crown off his head. Just to see if he can escape it.

    • Babbster says:

      Re: Disapointing

      I was a little disapointed by this one. The concept had such potential, but the whole thing seemed rushed and unconvincing. Except for Adama, he was great as always.

      Yes, yes. You hit on my only big problem with the episode. I think that they were trying to cram a lot into this first season in order to get as many people hooked in as possible and get their second-season assurance. But, IMO, the storyline (the tribunal) would have been more compelling as an ongoing process taking place throughout three or four episodes. The master at arms could have been developed more and the tribunal’s activities could have been fleshed out, leading perhaps to a bigger reveal at the end of the investigation. As it was, the tribunal turned out to be little more than a device to make sure the chief and Boomer had a bad break-up.

  4. Trekkie says:

    This episode explores …
    … one of the things I hate most about human nature. Give someone ‘unlimited power’ and they turn into monsters. While ‘TNG Did it’ and ‘Simpson’s did it’ I think it’s rather poignant considering the times and trials here in the United States.

    To me, the seargent at arms was revelling in her power, and lording it over even her commander. The ‘civies’ not knowing what their previous roles seemed rather ‘power hungry’ but I could be sensative to the issue as I have a huge personal issue when you assign a small group of people ‘unlimited’ power like that.

    Though one thing that really frustrated me is the cheif’s reluctance to accept that Boomer is responsible for the door in question. I’ve been in relationships before (shocker, even for a person with Trekkie as an alias I know) and I would like to think that when you’re being hunted by a monster race of robots and they can ‘look like us’ and discipline wouldn’t be that broken down that I’d stand ‘behind’ a woman that won’t answer a simple question about a door she used to ‘sneak in’. But then that may be me and it doesn’t make for good TV to not drag that out for another few episodes. Looks like this week in the US we get to find out what happens

    • TwistyHat says:

      Re: This episode explores …
      Well, I haven’t been in a relationship, but it was my understanding that women usually behave “illogical” from a male point of view. And in this case it was a case of “you just dumped me, and now you accuse me of being a traitor” – don’t forget she outranks him.

  5. FarmerBob says:

    The “Plan”
    As I watch more and more, I can see that the Cylons are clearly doing something with the Humans. What is really confusing is what they are doing with Gaius. Avoiding spoilers for the Canadians, in “33” when he repents and the president makes her decision, is that part of the plan? Is it luck? Coincidence? Is there really a God? I know these are questions we are supposed to ask, but I really don’t like knowing.

    I think Boomer really knows she’s a Cylon, and is just acting like she’s discovering it. I think the Cylons are testing the reactions of just a few people: Commander Adama, Kara, Gaius, Galen, and Helo. But beyond that I have no clue whats going on with the Cylons

    On a side note, wtf is up with Stargate? This week had the worst SG1 episode in 8 seasons, and the Atlantis episode was completely pointless.

    • Kaki says:

      Re: The “Plan”

      As I watch more and more, I can see that the Cylons are clearly doing something with the Humans. What is really confusing is what they are doing with Gaius.

      I still have my doubts about how much the other Cylons know about Six’s communications with Gaius.

      I think Boomer really knows she’s a Cylon, and is just acting like she’s discovering it.

      I’m leaning towards the theory that she goes in cycles of not knowing, figuring it out, and being reprogrammed not to know.

      On a side note, wtf is up with Stargate? This week had the worst SG1 episode in 8 seasons, and the Atlantis episode was completely pointless.

      SG1 was pretty lame, but the Atlantis crew got some leads on a few zpm’s. And we got to see the time machine again along with the guy that made it (even if he hadn’t made it at the time we saw him). I was pretty disappointed by the Ancients though. Were they some non-energy types or energy types acting like non-energy types? They didn’t seem that advanced really.

      • vanyel says:

        Re: The “Plan”

        SG1 was pretty lame, but the Atlantis crew got some leads on a few zpm’s. … I was pretty disappointed by the Ancients though. Were they some non-energy types or energy types acting like non-energy types?

        I have to agree in general: SG1 was just a clip show, albeit I did like the fun they poked at themselves, particularly naming the episodes and "that one sucked" or "that one was good". There’s no way they’d have told his wife though.

        Atlantis managed to make a clip show out of all new material, i.e. the flashback style of story telling, which I really don’t like. The "forced suspense" of "oh darn, she went to sleep just as she was getting to the good stuff" is very disruptive to the story.

        The Ancients, however, 10000 years ago hadn’t yet ascended, though now that I think about it, that means they’ve only very recently ascended if that’s the case.

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