Battlestar Galactica: Act of Contrition
November 25, 2015 11:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

After a hangar accident that kills thirteen pilots, Starbuck is assigned to quickly train replacements from the civilian population. This brings back painful memories of her fiancé, Zak Adama, whose death she feels responsible for because she had given him a passing flight exam knowing he wasn't ready.
posted by 256 (7 comments total)
The opening scene of the aprty on the flight deck is so terrifying. You absolutely know from the first moment that these characters are not allowed to be this happy. The scenes with Lee, Starbuck, and Adama are lovely though. It's so rare that we get to see Lee being anything other than broody and serious.

After the first break, things get weird. BSG is experimental with episode structure and editing now and again throughout the series, but very rarely to we get anything as disjointed as the multiple interspersed flashforwards, flashbacks, and repeated shots that we see in this episode. It's disorienting enough that it's sometimes difficult to know which of several rapidly cutting timelines is the “now” of the narrative. And it is extremely effective. So well done.

Perhaps because of that, the Cylon-Occupied Caprica scenes feel even duller and more pointless than usual.

As for the nuggets. I remember coming to hate both Kat and Hot Dog later but, at this point, it's a very fun subplot.
posted by 256 at 11:11 AM on November 25, 2015

I remember an interview where Ronald Moore was told by network execs to have more upbeat, happy moments on the show. The hangar party was his response.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:46 AM on November 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

I remember an interview where Ronald Moore was told by network execs to have more upbeat, happy moments on the show. The hangar party was his response.

You very nearly owed me a new keyboard, there. (I feel like BSG failed more than it worked, but I appreciate their commitment to keeping the whole thing super, super dark.)
posted by mordax at 12:43 PM on November 25, 2015

One of Ron Moore's essays about BSG was that he wanted it to be Naturalistic Science Fiction. Meaning that once the environment was established, it would be mostly grounded in realism. So, people often acted in their own best interests rather than altruistically. Or irrationally. Because that's what people do. More realism: there were limited supplies in the fleet, (a lack of sufficient water was covered in "Water" and "Bastille Day",) and only a finite number of experts in any given field. Here, we see the danger of not having enough pilots, and that theme of limited supplies and people would be revisited time and time again throughout the series.

Production staff and writers did a decent job keeping track of continuity, too, unlike many other scifi shows. (My favorite example of that is Star Trek: Voyager. Lost without hope of re-supply, 75 years' travel from home. The ship was lost with only two shuttlecraft on board. They destroyed 17 and badly damaged another 8 during the series' 7 year run.)

I think that the Naturalistic Sci Fi concept was a large part of what made BSG so successful -- it felt more real to viewers.
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on November 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Another thing I love about this episode is the way it drives home the gender equality of the society in a way that surprises the audience. Star Trek (especially TNG and later) presents a utopian gender equal society but it never really succeeds in feeling real in its depiction of gender relations. Tasha Yar is a badass, but her ability to be a strong female character is, strangely, neutered by the utopian vision.

In BSG, everything is dark and terrible. Tempers are high, and violence is ever-present. In this world, Starbuck can be a real badass without feeling like she is having her hand held the whole time. It's amazing that both her confrontation with Lee and her being physically threatened by Cmdr Adama in this episode play, without any commentary or wink-wink within the episode, as being entirely undifferent from the same situation involving two men. When a man threatens a woman in BSG, it is just violence, it's not violence against women.

What's so impressive is that they pull it off, when it could have felt either gross or cringeworthy if handled even slightly differently.

Of course, this is tempered somewhat by the fact that they included the entirely unnecessary rape scenario in the previous episode, and also makes the surprising rapiness of the Pegasus crew in season 2 seem discordant.
posted by 256 at 2:48 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

When a man threatens a woman in BSG, it is just violence, it's not violence against women.

This is not always true. rot13 because spoilers for season 2: Tvan, gur cevfbare ba Crtnfhf, vf xrcg nf n encr gbl gb gbegher ure.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:54 PM on November 25, 2015

ROU_Xenophobe: Yes, I mentioned that specifically. I think that is the big one that stands out, but there are some other moments in the show where there is some real gendered violence. And, while some of that could work well in a showing-the-exceptions kind of way, some of it is unfortunately handled pretty clumsily and thus makes the dynamic shown by Starbuck coming out swinging against male officers who aren't afraid to hit her back, just a little bit harder to swallow.

In this episode though, I think it is well done.
posted by 256 at 6:56 AM on November 26, 2015

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