Saturday, December 10, 2011

Battlestar Galactica--"War of the Gods, Part I"

“War of the Gods, Part I” signals a shift in tone in regards to arc episodes. It is much darker in tone. The concluding episode will delve more into religious allegory, particularly Christian, Mormon, and Muslim, but there are already hints the conflict between the humans and the Cylons has a greater significance. The remained series took the idea and run with it. One can only speculate how the original series might have played out.

A squadron on patrol encounters floating white balls moving impossibly fast to be any kind of ship of which they are aware. They are subsequently overcome by a laege ship of light and disappear. Upon receiving news of the disappearing ships, Adama sends Apollo, Starbuck, and Sheba to search for any signs of them. They discover a red tinted planet in which their comrades might have landed, so they scout it out.

On the surface, they discover the remains of an enormous ship. They are warned away from it by Count Iblis, who claims to be the lone survivor of an attack which crashed the ship. Iblis is an enigmatic man who never gives a straight answer to attempts at identifying him. Apollo’s suspicions are naturally raised, but Sheba has becomed unusually enamored with Iblis. She convinces Apollo to take him back to the Galactica even if he will not reveal anything about himself. The four of them are hurried along by the return of the floating white balls reappearance.

Iblis takes on a far more messianic demeanor during his stay on the Galactica. He demonstrates special powers, most of them errily similar to the force, so there’s yet another of the 34 claims in the massive copyright lawsuit. Iblis offers the fleet his protection on their trip to Earth if they willingly follow him. When four more vipers disappear in an encounter with the floating white balls of light, the pressure is on for Iblis to prove himself. As a sign of good faith, he multiplies their agricultural output overnight. That is enough to convince the people hope and change is a good thing, but to convince the skeptical Quorum, he offers to successfully complete three tasks of their request. The Quorum decides it wants Baltar delivered to them and the route to Earth mapped out. They cannot decide on a third, but Iblis assumes fulfilling the first will do for now. For the second time in the series, a cliffhanger ends with Baltar in hot water. This time as a prisoner of the Colonials.

You are never quite certain who and how Iblis is manipulating our heroes. It is clear he has cast a spell on Sheba. He admiration for him takes on Freudian tones as she flat out admits to Iblis she reminds him of her father. Iblis tells her she will see him again, which is either him playing with her mind or forshadowing a second season which never came. Take your pick. Tigh inexplicably allows iblis to wander around classified areas and cannot explain why when asked why by Adama. Apollo, ever the skeptic, forgets to mention encountering the floating white balls of light on the planet until the second squadron of Vipers goes missing. There are strong hints his skepticism regarding Iblis have more to do with jealousy over Sheba’s attachment to him than anything else.

Starbuck spends the entire episode trotting along behind either Apollo or Sheba, whomever of the two is the more dominant character in the scene. I am not certain why that stands out for me more in this episode than any other, but it does. Perhaps it is because he is usually one to go off doing his own thing that it is unusual to see him play sibmissive to others the entire episode.

Students of comparative religions have a big, unavoidable spoiler. Iblis is the Islamic equivalent of Lucifer, the angel who lead a rebellion and was banished from heaven after its defeat. It is certainly not subtle there is something unsettling about the Count, but I am curious how many fans caught the connection to Islam?

Speaking of Lucifer, this is the last appearance of the robed lipstick tube. With baltar now in custody, we will never see his passive aggressive right-hand man again. Pity. Or, since Lucifer was voiced of Jonathan Harris, should I say ‘The pain! The pain of it all!” look for a brief appearance by Kirk Alyn, the first man to play Superman on screen, to succor the sorrow of your loss.

“War of the Gods, Part I” is an interesting set up that compels one to want to see the conclusion, so it definitely does its job there. The episode is also a welcome expansion of the BSG universe beyond battles with the Cylons and yet another human colony set against the bckdrop of a popular movie to which Universal owns the rights. Patrick MacNee as Iblis is even more inspired casting than teaming him up with James Bond in A View to a Kill.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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