Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Battlestar Galactica--"Murder on the Rising Star"

“Murder on the Rising Star” has the distinction of being the most troubled production in the series run. Aside from the diminishing budget issue, which is evident in many of the fleet-centric locales of later episodes, the script was rushed. Glenn Larson was on vacation in Hawaii at the time the script should have been in the planning stage. It took him nearly a week to decide on which story to use, which gave writers Jim Carlson and Terry McDonnell only 36 hours to make a final draft. Inadvertantly or not, larson had chosen a murder mystery story similar to a spec script written by Michael sloan. Sloan earns a story credit for the similarities.

What does the lower budget and rushed nature mean for “Murder on the rising Star?” In regards to the former, not so much. “Murder on the rising Star” is an effective bottle show with genuine tension that also manages to elabortate on the days after the colonies were destroyed by the Cylons. The script, on the other hand, has a death by a thousand paper cuts feel to it. It is surprisingly good for a script written in 36 hours, but there are many minor details that sink it if you scritunize even a little.

“Murder on the Rising Star” is a starbuck murder mystery. Yes, that does mean two Starbuck-centric stories in a row. Shades of the heavily Seven and Doctor laden sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. The episode begins with Starbuck and Apollo playing a particularly heated game of Triad. Starbuck is repeatedly pummeled by Ortega, one of his opponents. Tempers flare, and they eventually come to blows. Sometime after the game, Ortega is found murdered with starbuck hurriedly trying to get off the Rising Star.

Motive and circumstantial evidence poins to Starbuck as the killer, so much so that he escapes from his prison cell at one point in order to escape the fleet because he thinks even his friends do not believe he is innocent. The script does and good job of creating tension. (predicting a certain slow speed, white ford Bronco chase some seventeen years later, too.) We certainly do not believe starbuck is guilty, but there is genuine peril as to how he will get out of this mess.

The truth is a guy named Karybdis, baltar’s former personal pilot, is hiding among the fleet under an assumed name to avoid a war crimes trial. Ortega learned his true identity and was blackmailing him. Karybdis decided to murder him. It was just a stroke of luck Starbuck caught the blame. Apollo takes Baltar off the prison barge under the guise that he will point out karybdis and clear Starbuck. This brings Karybdis out of hiding, as he will want to kill baltar to protect his identity, and Apollo captures him. With his confession, Starbuck is cleared.

There are some problems with this episode likely to do with the rushed nature of production. For one, it does feel strange Chameleon does not show up to support his son. In the real world sense, fred astraire is not going to show up for another go around, but introducing him in the previous episode puts their relationship fresh in our minds. One could reconcile chameleon’s con artist nature means he has no emotional attachments to Starbuck. The conclusion is kicking Starbuck while he is down, know? The audience has to assume Karybdis is taking advantage of Starbuck’s fued with Ortega to frame him. Otherwise, the murder looks like the convergence is a fortunate happenstance. So is Baltar just happening to be in custody. Speaking of which, Baltar taunts Starbuck that he has enemies on the prison barge. They will kill him before he reaches his cell. Which begs the question, why has baltar not been killed? Surely the man responsible for the genocide of the human race would be more despised than Starbuck. Why does starbuck get a full trial while Baltar was apparently tried and convicted by the Qorum on the spot?

A lot of things just do not make sense, but the biggest plothole is in the climax. Apollo is counting on Karybdis to sneak on board the shuttle to kill him and Baltar. He notices by the scale on the dashboard the cargo weight has increased by 175lbs, so he knows Karybdis is on board and takes off. How does Karybdis plan to kill Baltar and Apollo, land the shuttle, and got away without anyone knowing? There is no way he can pull it off, so the resolution is a cop out. Who is dumber, Apollo for coming up with it, or Karybdis for falling for it?

It is a nifty bit of casting for Brock Peters to star as Starbuck’s prosecutor. Aside from being a great character actor, peters portrayed as the falsely accused Tom Robinson in the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

In spite of its flaws, “Murder on the Rising Star” is entertaining. There is genuine mystery that can distract from the contrived nature and continuity issues between episodes. I would suggest not thinking too hard about the details and just let the story carry you. “Murder on the rising Star” is certainly filler on a small scale, but it is not terrible.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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