Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Two: Lost Planet of the Gods

Although moving through deep space has been difficult, humanity has found some comfort in its journey. For the Adama family, the news of Serena and Apollo announcing wedding plans has sent waves through the Galactica. Starbuck, however, is avoiding the situation because it means having to a face a future without Apollo as his running buddy – and perhaps having to decide on whom he wants to spend the rest of his life with; whether it is Athena (and become Apollo’s brother-in-law) or Cassiopeia.

Routine patrols on this day reveal new phenomena and old enemies in hiding. Apollo finds a ‘Sea of Darkness’ and rushes in. As his instruments go berserk, Starbuck rushes in and saves him. Meanwhile, Boomer and Jolly find a Cylon listening post and land to investigate. Eventually, the two escape and report back to the Galactica, but Jolly starts to feel sick and fatigued. Boomer, meantime, has joined a party celebrating Apollo’s impending marriage with the colonial Viper pilots, at which point he collapses from fatigue, as well.

The new Cylon Imperious Leader has decided to spare Baltar and gives him command of a Basestar and the services of Lucifer, an Imperious Leader-class Cylon. Also, it turns out that the Cylons detected Boomer and Jolly at the listening post, but allowed them to land and let them leave as part of Baltar’s evil plan.

As the sickness incapacitates the Viper pilots, Adama has opened up flight training to volunteers. Serena volunteered for such duty, much to the chagrin of Apollo. However, when the disease looks like it will kill all of their pilots, Adama orders the most flight-capable shuttle pilot recruits to be turned into Viper pilots. In this case, all of the flight-capable recruits are women. When the Doctor’s investigation forces him to request a shuttle flight to the asteroid where the Cylon outpost is located, Adama orders the new female Viper pilots into action. On their first mission, Apollo and Starbuck find themselves under attack and are bailed out by the female Viper pilots.

Upon their return, Serena and Apollo start to become even more serious, and Starbuck commandeers Apollo’s Viper to pursue a Cylon shadowing the Galactica. Serena and Apollo follow, but lose Starbuck when he leaves the Sea of Darkness. He is captured by the Cylons and meets Baltar aboard his Basestar. Baltar orders Starbuck to be taken care of – and proceeds to implement the next step of his plan.

Apollo and Serena decide to get hold the marriage ceremony due to recent events. It is during the ceremony that a “star” appears. It turns out to be the star of Kobol, the birthplace of humanity – where the 12 colonies were spawned. Adama believed that the planet Kobol would hold the key to the existence (and, possibly the location) of the fabled 13th Colony. When they find the planet Kobol, Adama leads the landing party, and finds the tomb of Kobol…and Baltar.

Lucifer, having learned from Baltar about treachery, decides to increase his own power within the Cylon Alliance by attacking the humans at Kobol. The female Viper pilots scramble, but find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of Cylon fighters. A last-minute save by Boomer and the recovered Galactica Viper fighters forces the Cylons to retreat, but not before Baltar is buried beneath a rock pile, Adama sees the information on the 13th Colony destroyed, and Serena mortally wounded by Cylon soldiers on the planet.

Back on board the Galactica, Apollo and Boxey grieve over the loss of their wife and mother Serena, and the Galactica crew mourns.

Review and Thoughts:

Sometimes, it takes a re-watching of a series to rediscover what was liked about it to begin with. Lost Planet of the Gods brings us back up to speed following the events of Saga of a Star World – where Baltar was spared and given a Cylon advisor…as well as a Basestar to destroy the humans.

The production reason behind this move was to save costs – it would have meant more money for the VFX to make a random actor “Imperious Leader” and have the SFX crew dub Robert MacNee through an echo reverb several times each episode than it would have been to use John Colicos as the leader of the Cylon hunting group.

But, once you get beyond this point, this chapter was the standard “Men are incapacitated, so the girls have to step in” fare. Straight from the “Girls in Empowered Roles” Rulebook. This also includes the somewhat chauvinistic and embarrassed reactions when dealing with the new female recruits. And the scene where they are actually competent in their jobs. And the scene where they find themselves in over their heads and need a little help from the guys who “got better from the sickness.” In retrospect, this chapter, while not perfect, could have turned out to be much worse than what actually happened, especially if this were penned by more “enlightened” writers.

In this episode, it is made clear once and for all that Count Baltar was also a member of the Quorum of 12 – and that he was also a Battlestar Commander. Thanks to Colicos, there is a continual sense of “which side is Baltar really fighting on?” throughout the episode, and his ruthless pursuit of power makes for his making power plays interesting. What is unclear, however, is whether the space sickness was a deliberate trap created by the Cylons (since many of the Cylon worlds do not have humanoid subjects, and military installations without them would be easy to plant such traps there), or if it were something about the asteroid itself.

Colonel Tigh:

Terry Carter continues to get the short shaft. I have, in these 5 episodes, yet to see an instance where Colonel Tigh has been proven right about much of anything. I realize that he is supposed to be the skeptic – and the anchor for Adama’s more harebrained schemes when he needs to take the leap of faith, but Tigh has never been correct about anything on this show. This is a case of writing a good story and shafting a character continuously.

Lt. Boomer:

I’m mixed about Boomer now. On the one hand, he has a sharp eye for detail, and seems to be more competent at his job than 99% of the Viper pilots onboard the Galactica. On the other hand, he skips “Decon” and joins the party. I realize that they needed a quick way to incapacitate the men, but I would have rather let Boomer handle things by the book – and let it be a failure of the Decon tech (new unknown type of disease…thus could not be detected or prevented). When Doctor Selik finds the cure, it gets added to the Decon system.

Also, it is clear that Boomer is the 3rd in command of the Galactica pilots. Considering that this is supposed to be the Apollo and Starbuck show, I can live with that. I just get wary when Boomer becomes fodder for some of the many idiot moves that they make him a part of.

The Galactica Crew:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a special guest among us:

Lt. Dietre

Lt. Dietre

This is Deitre (played by Sheila DeWindt). She is one of the new female Viper pilots when the original members of the Galactica Vipers fall ill to a space disease. At this point, my “token” detection equipment starts giving me warning signals – Black women in Sci-Fi shows tend to end up as background noise to the blonde-haired girl that we’re supposed to look at; failing that, the Black woman is usually incompetent, ignored, or is a traitor; or, is headstrong until the end…when she dies.

Deitre…follows none of those tenets. In fact, Sheila is listed as a front credit guest star (with George Murdock and Ed Begley, Jr.) from the beginning of this arc. Unheard of…ever.

Deitre is a committed Viper pilot. She can fly with the best of them. She can fight with the best of them. In the first part of the arc, when Apollo and Starbuck attempt to attack the listening post and find themselves under attack by Cylons, Deitre takes command of the squadron and helps to repel the attack (she blasts 3 Raiders in the process). In the second part of the arc, she and Athena are the only female pilots shown to be blasting the Cylons to pieces when Boomer and the rest of Blue Squadron show up to assist.

And, even more amazingly, she is actually given a speaking part during the episode, and for some “inexplicable” reason, is placed in the shot with Colonel Tigh and Boomer outside of the Serena’s hospital room before Serena’s death.

Since I am watching this series in order and commenting as I go along, only time will tell if we get to see more of this woman…or any of the guest female pilots for that matter (Athena does not count, and Serena just bit the dust).

Also, and finally, Deitre is either on the cusp of qualifying for “Ace” status (if going by the 5-kill standard) or has already reached (if going by the 3-kill standard).

Sci-Fi Connection:

George Murdock, who plays Dr. Selik, also played Admiral Hansen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes “The Best of Both Worlds,” Part I & Part II.

Final Rating:

[Non-Tokenized] 7.1 out of 10 points. Sheila DeWindt’s appearance, behavior, and demeanor were big plusses in my book. My modern sensibility on this episode tells me that the over-the-top embarrassment Apollo and Starbuck have should have been toned down; instead of highlighting the fact that the pilots were all women, the fact that they were all “green recruits” should be emphasized a little more. What remains to be seen, and later episodes will tell, is whether any of the “female” Viper pilots will be integrated into the Galactica squadrons. Deitre would make the cut easily.

Also, this rating would have been higher if Boomer’s role had been changed slightly (as I offered above). Colonel Tigh also needs more to do.

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3 Responses to Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Two: Lost Planet of the Gods

  1. tenacitus says:

    I like your writings on movies and scifi. Have you heard that both Battlestar Galacticas are based on the Book of Mormon? From what I recall Mormons also believe that God the Father and Jesus both came from the planet Kobold. Anyway love your posts.

    • Heavy Armor says:

      Glen Larson’s Galactica takes many cues from the Book of Mormon. Ron Moore’s Galactica was based on his throwing darts at plot points on a wall.

  2. Ellyn says:

    I know this comment is two years later, but I just saw it while doing a search.

    The photo of Lt. Dietre in your post is NOT of Sheila DeWindt! That is another black actress whose name escapes me at the moment. Here is the link to Sheila’s photo in Battlestar:

    http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Sheila_DeWindt

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