Monday, December 12, 2011

Battlestar Galactica--"The Man with Nine Lives"

Battlestar Galactica continues its odd tradition of casting Golden Age of Hollywood stars in guest roles. This time around, Fred Astaire joins Ray Milland, Anne Jeffreys, Kirk Alyn, Bobby Van, and Ray Bolger as a guest star. “The Man with Nine lives’ has the unique distinction of being the last time Astaire dances on film, albeit a brief slow dance with Anne Jeffreys. It is too bad the story is not all that remarkable to complement the historical significance.

Astaire plays Chameleon, which is pronounced Shameleon just to be cute, a con man who is running from three pseudo-religious warriors called Borellian Noman. Chameleon, who has recently seen an interview with Starbuck on television and knows about his being an orphan, weasels his way into his life with a sob story about how he got into genetic testing to reunite families broken up by war and the hin the may be Starbuck’s father. He proposes going to a lab on the Galactica for a test to make certain. Starbuck escorts Chameleon safely off the Rising Star without even knowing he is being duped. The Nomans eventually make their way to the Galactica posing as new recruits. When they finally catch up with Chameleon, Starbuck rescues him from certain death. As it turns out, Chameleon really is Starbuck’s father, but he and Cassiopeia decide to keep it a secret to prevent starbuck from resigning his commission to spend time with an old con man.

Many things about “The Man with Nine Lives” are really quite strange. Why are xenophobic aliens like the Borellians living in the fleet/ Why are they allowed to carry their weapons with them into civilian areas, including a crowded night club/casino? How does a con man like Chameleon know anything about genetic testing? He was spot on about the Galactica possessing the equipment to determine familial relations. Cassiopeia acted as though the genetic tests were a routine deal she could do easily. As it turns out, she can do so accurately. You have to wonder why the testing is not something that is going on regularly if it is that easy. Limited resources, maybe. The oddest part is how Starbuck has no hard feelings about Chameleon lying to him once all is revealed. Chameleon ot only gets away with everything he has done scor free, but Starbuck wants to be buddies anyway while Chameleon is still lying to him about his paternity. I suppose he has a logical rationale in keeping Starbuck from throwing his life away, but still…too trite an ending.

The novelty of Astaire as a con man on a science fiction show is amusing enough to qualify ’The Man with Nine Lives’ as watchable. Fans of the series also claim the updated Klingons of movie and 24th century era Klingon of Star Trek were based on the look and shogun-esque culture of the Borellian Noman. I remain skeptical. Note one of the Noman is played by Lance LeGault. he will be on the trail of Dirk Benedict again in the future when they play Col. Decker and Faceman on The A-Team.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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