RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica (1978): “The Living Legend, Parts 1 and 2” (Story 8)

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Glen Larsen likes to rip people off. If a story works, grab it, it's all just TV after all, right? Nothing to get upset about. This time out, he rips off Patton, but the writers take a freer hand with it than usual, so the story warps and wanes and goes in its own direction. If one wasn't immediately aware of this, one need go no further than to listen to the music.

Remember how in "Patton," George C. Scott had that little trill that would play whenever he talked about his previous lives? C-A-A C-A-A C-A-A and then a lingering C at the end? We get that here, too, whenever Cain is about to do something crazy dangerous. The Cain trill is G-D-C-D-G D-C-D-G-C-D-G. Later, this is developed a bit more with a F-G-C-G-F-G-C countermelody, which is sorta' nice, but it drives home Larsen's intentions before the story even gets going.

PLAY BY PLAY

Part I:

Starbuck and Apollo are on patrol when they get into a dogfight with…more vipers! Turns out there’s *another* “Last Battlestar,” the Pegasus, which went missing, presumed destroyed, two years earlier, and it’s been fighting the cylons on its own ever since. It’s leader is the legendary “Commander Cain, the greatest military leader in the history of the Colonies.” You can tell he’s a legend because he’s got his own little fanfare that plays whenever he’s on screen, just like George C. Scott had in Patton.

Everyone is overjoyed to find out that there are two Battlestars left, but the crews and commanders start butting heads almost immediately, on both a personal and romantic level. Turns out that Cassiopeia was dating (eh-hem) Cain before the Pegasus was lost in space, and he’s still got a thing for her. This prompted my eleven year old to say, “Man, he’s way to old for her. She’s in what? Her mid-twenties? And he’s like sixty!” He’s young enough not to have realized Cassie used to be a hooker, and I’m not about to point that out to him, but suffice it to say that this supports my theory of why she’s now a nurse: Call Girls - the good ones, anyway, and we were told that Cassie was a great one - would undoubtedly need a bit of medical training to deal with certain risks inherent in these old codgers. I digress: Starbuck is in a bad way over all this.

Anyway, just as Apollo is Adama’s son, Sheeba is Cain’s daughter, both have the same job, both don’t get along. Sheba hates Cassie. They’re both strong-willed southpaws with thick hair, so there’s a lot of “Likes repel” going on there.

The Galactica and the fleet are basically out of fuel. Adama orders Blue Squadron (From the Galactica) and Silver Spar Squadron (From the Pegasus) to intercept and capture some Cylon Tankers, which means we have to sit through yet another boring canned battle composed entirely of stock footage, much of which was taken from the Tanker scene from “Saga of a Star World.” Cain deliberately blows the mission so they’ll have no choice but to attack Gamoray, the local Cylon colony.

Adama refuses to be played, and orders the Pegasus’ fuel to be distributed amongst the fleet. Cain isn’t happy about this, nor are his crew, who basically refuse to let Apollo et al carry out their orders. Just on the edge of mutiny, Baltar attacks with three base ships - at least 900 fighters! Baltar himself leads the attack in a fighter. His goal is to make himself look heroic by wearing a helmet that is both kinds of gay. Think about that: We’re on a show where the men wear capes, where Jonathan Harris is the voice of Lucifer, and where nobody looks twice at Maren Jensen, the most stunning woman on TV, and yet somehow Baltar’s helmet out-gays ‘em all.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

So Cain manages to defend the Galactica by charging the Cylon attack force from the far side of the fleet.

Part 2

The Cylons withdraw, and Baltar is pissed. Adama realizes he’s been maneuvered into doing what Cain wanted to all along: Attack Gamoray for fuel. They quickly realize what they’re up against - a neat, understated touch: Cain actually has more intel than the Cylons do at first! - and they decide to send in a commando team to knock out the defensive batteries on Gamoray, then the Galactica will lead the fleet away while the Pegasus decoys the Cylon task force.

Cassie attempts to stay with Cain on the Pegasus, but he won’t let her and he won’t explain. She instantly realizes he’s planning a suicide mission, and goes to tell the commando team (Starbuck, Apollo, Boomer, Sheeba, Bojay), and signs on as their medic, against everyone’s wishes. They take a shuttle to fly over the city at night, put on clingy pleather clothes (What? They just couldn’t have found a way to have Maren Jensen do that, too?) and parachute into the city, which looks surprisingly like the TRW corporate campus in LA. (Which is also where they filmed “Operation: Anihilate” from Trek).

Predictably, everything goes frack-a-doodle once they hit the ground, running around willy-nilly, Bojay gets shot, Starbuck and Boomer get separated, but it’s always a party with those guys, so that’s kind of for the best. Meanwhile, it turns out the Imperious Leader is visiting Gamoray, and all the local cylons are defecating construction materials for fear that he’ll find out they’ve been lying about the Pegasus thing all this long while. Our heroes shut down the defensive batteries, the tanker shuttles land, and the team gets med-evaced to the Pegasus, where Cassie tried to patch up Bojay.

Refueled, the Galactica and the Fleet head off, but of course Cain has been lying to them all along, going on about his own agenda, as usual. He evacuates the Pegasus and attacks three base ships head on, trying to kill Baltar. Adama realizes something’s up, and calls Cain, ordering him not to attack. “Adama, don’t make my last battle an act of mutiny!” Adama relents, and gives a very formal religious blessing.

Blue Squadron is shepherding evacuees when they realize what Cain’s doing. Despite being ordered not to help out, Starbuck and Apollo decide to go back and help out. “How can we be accused of disobeying the orders of a guy who’s disobeying orders himself?” They fly along and take out the guns on two of the base ships while the Pegasus launches a massive missile barrage. Two of the base ships are destroyed, but no one can see what became of Baltar’s ship or the Pegasus in the explosion.

Back on the Galactica, they try to tell Sheba that they’re sure her dad’s fine. They appear to kind of believe it themselves, but Sheba isn’t buying it. Adama tells her that she’s now a part of their family.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

I remember this episode as being much more exciting that it was. In fact, it kind of crawls.

Where is Cain getting his food from? Munitions? Fuel? Sure, he steals them from the Cylons, but I can't imagine the tin cans having any tin cans of food laying around. Can you?

We’re told the Pegasus was the flagship of the Fifth Fleet, which was sent out to defend the planet Molekay “And its satellites.” Presumably, they lost, the fleet was destroyed. Cain “Pulled the most brilliant decoy maneuver I’ve ever seen” and escaped. Then, rather than head back to the Colonies since he knew there’d be too many enemies for them to fight their way through, they headed out into deep space. Eventually they came across the planet “Gamoray,” (Though Lucifer calls it “Gamma-Ray”), which used to be the capital of the Delphan empire, “a world of fifty-million beings.” The Cylons took it over, and have set it up as their “Outer Capital,” whatever that means. All this must be pretty recent, since Adama hasn’t heard of it. For the last year or so, Cain and his people have been knocking the Cylon base over, raiding it for supplies, retreating, then knocking it over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

“I always wondered why they didn’t send out some big task force to finish us off, but now I know. I knew they were having trouble with some kind of rebel fleet, but I could never crack the code.”

Personally, Cain’s wife died in the not-too-distant past, and he hooked up with Cassie, much to his daughter’s disdain. It’s become fannon that it was Cain’s apparent death that turned Cassie to a life between the sheets, but I see no reason to believe this. He mentions they ‘met’ immediately after his wife died, he’s an old guy, she’s willing to have sex for money, a match made in…well…not heaven, obviously. “A match made in California,” I guess. So just get over it, you prudes!

While on the subject of fannon, I think we can safely discard the notion that in olden days Adama, Cain, and Tigh were a team just like Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer are in the ‘present.’ It’s very clear that Apollo has never met Cain before, nor even heard of Sheeba, which is a little odd if the guy is your dad’s best friend. It’s also pretty clear that Tigh hasn’t met Cain before, and doesn’t like him at all. Clearly Adama and Cain did know each other previously, and they’re friendly, but they’re not at all buddy-buddy. There is a little charisma in their relationship, particularly towards the end of the episode, but they feel like office friends, not real friends. If the two of them had been as tight as Starbuck and Apollo, I think they’d have made more of an effort to stay in touch, you know?

Colonialisms:

“Apparition” rather than “Ghost.”
“Sectar” appears to mean something like “Month,” but context is iffy
“Centon” clearly means minute.
“Centare” clearly means “Hour” in context.
“Gall Monging” is an insult. I can understand that. Gall is pretty icky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gall
“War Daggit” is a manly compliment
“Sitting on your astrams” is a sly pun, though what an “Astram” is is never explained. And who really cares, right?
“Podaka” is an affectionate insult, probably along the lines of “Harry, you old bastard, how are you?” but no translation is given.

Curiously, no one says “Frack” in this entire episode.

Apollo: “It’s a great honor to meet you, sir!”
Starbuck: “A very great honor.”
Cain: “Yes, I imagine it is.”

Most of the also-rans turn up in this episode: Athena, Jolly, Omega…there’s also a bridge officer with long black hair parted down the middle who looks very familiar to me, but I can’t place him. Bree, from “Lost Planet of the Gods” even turns up in a stock footage shot! Bojay turns up in a stock shot as well, probably his last appearance.

Man, Colonel Tolen is really tall! Seriously, he’s like a full head above Starbuck and Apollo, and I’ve met them in person. Both of ‘em are at least six feet plus. He must be at *least* Six Foot Eight, maybe more.

The Starbuck/Apollo “Let’s talk about our feelings” dialog is too seventies, and poorly written, but Starbuck gets several good lines out of it:

“You came from a very big family, I never had that. So I’ve always kept the number of people around me as large as possible.”
“So you can’t be badly hurt by any particular one?”
“Yeah.”

And

Apollo: “What if [Cassie] *wants* to see Cain?”
Starbuck: “I’m not worried about that.”
Apollo: “Of course, because once they experience the aura of Starbuck…”
Starbuck: “I never said that! It’s true, but I never said it.”

The Pegasus flight helmets have a different device on ‘em, a Pegasus in a full gallop. Also worth noting that their ship patch is different. The Galactica has that circle thing, which I think is supposed to be a galaxy, the Pegasus has a red shield with wings and a trident. As one of my kids said, “That makes sense, because Pegasus was formed when a hunk of Kronos fell into Posideon’s domain…” Did I mention my kids are smart? Anyway, apart from Sheeba, no one’s helmets fit right. Their collar rank pins are different on the Pegasus, too. They’re not the compases the Galactica boys wear, but I can’t make out what they’re supposed to be. Bojay and Cain’s helmets sit so low on their heads that they can’t even look up. How did I not notice this as a kid? Cain wears a warrior’s uniform, not a bridge officer’s one, but it’s been modified. It’s got some scrambled eggs on the shoulders, he wears an ascot (With nothing to really tuck it into), and he appears to be wearing something like stylized flight wings on his jacket. This makes me wonder if that little box on the jacket was intended for pilot’s wings all along. There’s some other differences, too. And he carries a baton or riding crop. Again: Patton.

Cain: “Cylons, dead ahead.”
Apollo: “I don’t see them on my scanner.”
Cain: “I don’t need a scanner. I can feel them…”
Again: Patton.

The galactica gets wailed on more than we’ve ever seen in the battle at the end of part one. There’s some nice shots of higgledy-piggaldy on the bridge, with damage and smoke, and a neat high-angle shot of people running around.

The scene when Starbuck and Apollo first meet Cain, and the scene where Cain tells them about Cassiopeia and Sheeba? They must have been the same scene, chopped and then edited into two separate places when the editor realized what an info dump it was. Otherwise, they’d have to talk, go over to the Galactica, do a bunch of stuff, then head back to the Pegasus for the express purpose of talking about Cain’s love life. That makes no sense.

Baltar’s plans have changed: He wants to destroy the Galactica, then use Gamoray as the seat of power to expand his empire through the stars. He doesn’t seem to have thought this through as much as he normally does. Does he not care about his species anymore, or has he just realized there’s humans all over the place anyway? Or maybe he wants to clone himself a chick?

There are several gold cylons in this one, including one functioning as a herald for the Imperious Leader.

If I’ve got a big problem with this episode, its’ that I’m never sure where the heck anyone is. Are they on the Galactica? The Pegasus? The sets for both are the same, but they don’t even make a token effort to distinguish them visually (Say a keylight with a jell aimed at the wall, or a filter, or whatever), so it becomes very distracting. “Wait, did he FLY OVER TO THE OTHER SHIP to complain, or is Cain just hanging out in the bar on Adama’s ship for some reason?” And so on.

We see lots of Civilian cylons, though it’s hard to make out too much detail as they’re all wearing gold lame robes. Their faces are basically human - two eyes, nose, mouth - but have the normal flashing LEDs and they’re as flat as a parking meter. Cheap. Still, the fact that they have civilians is interesting, yes?

Baltar’s shock when he realizes Cain is the guy in charge of the Pegasus is palpable, and this quickly gives way to panic when he realizes Cain’s only objective is to kill him. Curiously, this gives way to an odd fugue state during the attack itself. Not Colico’s best performance, but he always makes such interesting choices on how to play things.

Anne “Sheba” Lockhart is good enough, though she’s overly emotional when Bojay gets shot (They’re supposed to be Starbuck/Apollo style buddies, not, y’know, sex buddies or anything), but she’s got a really good scene when she, herself, gets winged in a fighter:
Apollo: “Sheba, are you ok?”
Sheba: “I….don’t think so.”
That doesn’t sound like much, but the pause is perfectly timed silent panic. The “I” is calm, and the rest of it is clearly trying to stay calm when knowing you’re gonna’ die. Conversely, Lloyd Bridges pretty much phones it in all the way from start to finish. Observe his reaction when he learns his only child has been hurt. It's exactly the same as his reaction when he learns they're all out of ketchup in the PX.

Most of the sets on Gamoray are *also* sets from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I’ve never been able to find any specific details out on this, but this episode was filmed in October of ‘78, and the Buck Rogers theatrical movie was apparently in pre-production at that time. Specifically, the big softly-glowing plastic ‘service walls’ from New Chicago show up a lot, as do the hallways and corridors from the Draconia. The Ovion Hive walls from “Saga of a Star World” show up here, too.

The Galactica got away from Caprica with Seventy-five fighters back at the start of the series. They’ve lost at least one or two per episode since then that we’ve seen, and they’ve refered to more in dialog (For instance, in “Planet of the Gods,” We see one Viper blow up, but Starbuck says “We lost a lot of good pilots up there.” In this episode, we see one Viper blow, but Starbuck refers to two pilots who just died by name. By conservative count, the Galactica has no more than sixty-five fighters at the start of the episode, probably closer to sixty. At the end of the episode, the Pegasus evacuates all her fighters to the Galactica.

No one mentions numbers in this episode because the writers hadn’t decided how many fighters a Base Ship carries, but in a later episode they say that a Base Ship carries twice as many fighters as a Battlestar, and that they have three hundred, therefore a battlestar carries about 150 maximum. The Galactica is at full strength after this ep, so she took on between 80 and 90 fighters.

There’s a lot of debate as to what became of the Pegasus after this episode, but wouldn’t Baltar know? They have plenty of opportunity to ask him later in the series, but they never do.

The Pegasus *would* have returned in the season two premier, “The Return of the Pegasus,” but of course the show was cancelled before then. We’ll talk about that more in the wrap up for this series as a whole.

DELETED SCENES

- Cassie and Cain talk about their relationship a bit more, and Cain is annoyed to find out she’s dating Starbuck.

- A really solid hangar deck scene where Apollo is defending Cassie to Sheba. They dance around the fact that Cassie was a hooker without specifically saying it. “I know the lady you’re talking about. Whatever she was in the past doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve all been through a cleansing fire, we’re all starting over again.” He later mentions that Cassie’s now a medic, and Sheba is genuinely shocked by that. Obviously cut because ABC was uncomfortable with the ‘hooker’ thing from day one.

- There was a vague reference in an earlier episode suggesting Tigh was an atheist. In this episode, he mentions that if they hadn’t run out of fuel they would have blundered into Gamoray and the Cylons would have killed them off. “It’s almost providential,” he says offhandedly. Adama semi-chides him, and say “it *is* providential,” and they kind of smile over this.

- Tigh informs Adama the tankers were blown up

- Some more arguing between Cassie, Sheeba, and Starbuck about who puts on clingy black pleather and parachutes.

- Adama gives orders to inform the fleet they’re being left alone for a bit, “And fuel be damned.”

- An info-dump conversation between two IL series cylons about pretty much everything that’s been going on at Gamoray for the last year.

- An extended sequence of Starbuck and Boomer following a Gold cylon around the Draconia sets.

- A great scene that shouldn’t have been cut:

Tolen: “Our fighters are away. The Galactica has launched her fighters.”
Cain: [Absently] “Good! Good! Excellent.”
Tolen: “Now what?”
Cain: “I don’t take your meaning, Colonel.”
Tolen: [Exasperated] “What do we do now? You’ve never actually told me what your plan is!”
Cain: [Absently] “No, I don’t guess I did….” [Trails off and says nothing more as Tolen fumes]

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Absolutely! The robotic cylons are clearly intended to be metaphors for communism, they specifically state their lack of individual initiative in this one. What’s not to like about killing commie robots?

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