-Commander William Adama-
"Don't be so sure commander. Rebellions are contagious."
-President Laura Roslin-
One man's terrorist or "butcher" is another man's freedom fighter or "prisoner of conscience" as two sides of the proverbial coin or argument fall squarely on the subject of political dissent for the third episode.
Political dissent and the politics of the series in general is clearly the theme in play and on full display for Battlestar Galactica, Season One, Episode 3, Bastille Day. The title is a clear reference to the Parisian prison Bastille that was stormed, and the triggering events of the French Revolution (1789). The allusion echoes the tumultuous events aboard the prison ship Astral Queen in Bastille Day.
While some of the writing in the entry definitely leans left on making its argument, on the whole both sides are represented. A sympathetic ear to the political dissidents is on display and the writers seem to justify violence as a means to their ends. Ultimately though a diplomatic resolution by Apollo, who represents the Hawks, results to the writers' credit. Nonetheless Apollo is sympathetic to the Zarek end, not the violent means, but toward free and open elections.
In Brian Ott's (Re)Framing Fear: Equipment For Living In A Post-9/11 World in Cylons In America I don't agree with the framing of his argument regarding the episode, an essay that is clearly anti-George W. Bush yet it's always fascinating to see the views of the political left. It's well written and this episode seems to underscore and represent the leanings of the collegiate left.
For example, Ott compares Roslin's default appointment to the Presidency as illegitimate and not truly an appointment by the people (despite the appointment as legally binding according to Caprican law) to that of the election of George Bush. Speaking of argument framing, Ott suggests Bush was not elected by the people (not receiving the popular vote Al Gore allegedly received) simply disregarding the electoral form of government established by the framers of our Constitution and discarding the electoral vote total for George Bush. The founding fathers in their infinite wisdom have established a system that has worked for hundreds of years. Pray that it continues to serve the country well balancing population centers with geographic representation across a nation.
In Battlestar Galactica, the inmates are running the asylum on the Astral Queen led by the one and only Richard Hatch (formerly Apollo in Larson's classic Battlestar Galactica) as Tom Zarek who takes up arms against Adama's dispatch to the prisoner ship. Hatch makes a huge splash as the creators behind the new BSG pay homage to the now late, great Hatch in a major guest starring (and recurring) role for the third episode of the season.
Hatch, always a long time proponent of Battlestar's potential for a rebirth, is paid back handsomely. His passion for the franchise and his loyalty and commitment to the series that made him a star for its single season run way back in 1978-1979 landed him a terrific new character role.
Bastille Day enjoys a face to face meeting of the new Apollo, played by Jamie Bamber, with the original Apollo in Hatch. It's particularly rich to watch Hatch, the former Apollo, wax poetically of the God Apollo in his performance in good detail as a tribute to the character he once played. It's fun to see the baton handed off by Hatch as the new Apollo reveals himself to be one of the most principled and lawfully righteous characters in the series.
Once again the writers write for intensity and character and story and land another riveting entry in the first season.
Communications between those who work for Commander William Adama (representing the Hawks) and those who work for Laura Roslin (representing the Doves) makes for a compelling debate.
When terrorist Zarek takes matters into his own hands and extreme violence occurs it's difficult to get behind him as the hero.
In fact, Hatch plays the anti-hero as a mirror to his now classic role. He's far from the courageous, noble hero of Larson original in the form of Zarek. Though his character is intended to be complex and more indefinable as many of the ambiguous characters are in this series along with their often questionable motivations. Where characters in the original series seemed to be led by their best impulses, the characters here often seem lured by their worst. Like the mirror universe episodes in Star Trek the new BSG is seemingly all of that to the original. The bulk pessimism and despair in this survival tale is often palpable and excruciating, but the execution of its world is perfect.
Bastille Day examines the free society. Zarek questions the strict military oversight of the fleet, the rise of Laura Roslin's swearing in as an affront to free and open elections. Bastille Day asks us to reflect upon freedom and doesn't spoon feed us any easy answers, but in effect see the two viewpoints without preaching as the tendency is to do (see later seasons of TV series Homeland). Lee Adama pushes for democratic representation while Roslin considers squashing such opposition as elites in power can. Lee is the complex balance between William Adama and Laura Roslin and the two political schools of thought.
Ronald D. Moore noted "I saw this episode as an opportunity to really set up the politics of the show. I wanted the audience to know that politics were going to be an important part of the show..." (p52, Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion). While a tricky proposition to take on politics in such a headlong manner it became a hallmark of this series and was handled by and large quite exceptionally regardless of your political persuasion. This is challenging material for both sides.
Bastille Day offers great, textured writing zeroing in on the politics of Battlestar Galactica yet remains mercilessly entertaining and brutal while doing so. At the end of this day, Bastille Day is a powerful, effective piece of science fiction television with no shortage of provocative reflection.
With Bastille Day Battlestar Galactica once again moves from strength to strength and barrels along in its first amazing season going three for three.
Writer: Toni Graphia. Director: Allan Kroeker.