Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Five: Gun on Ice Planet Zero

A probe led by Starbuck and Boomer find a moon with hostile weather conditions. However, the moon is home to a Cylon base with a large pulse cannon that can destroy a Battlestar with a single blast. When the patrol is attacked, 2 of the Vipers are destroyed by the gun and a third is forced to land on the snow-covered planet by Cylon Interceptors.

Commander Adama orders a specialized strike team to be assembled to destroy the Cylon Laser. Starbuck cons his way into the computer room and “volunteers” himself for this mission. The computer suggests 4 people for the primary mission, but there is a catch – all of them are former Colonial warriors who are now in jail for violent crimes. Apollo is chosen to lead the mission, and Boomer, because of his Arctic experience, is also chosen.

As they begin the mission, Boxey and Muffit stow away. As they approach the planet, Killian, flying an escort Viper, causes a distraction to allow the shuttle to enter the atmosphere, and is destroyed by the gun. The Cylon patrol damages the shuttle and it crash-lands in the snow.

They take the Land-Ram and begin the journey towards the gun, but one of the prisoners, who had taken a blaster in the confusion of the crash, gets into a fracas with Starbuck and an errant shot destroys the power systems. When a dangerous storm threatens to kill everyone, Muffit jumps out and finds help.

They are rescued by a party of inhabitants who call themselves “Thetas” – life-forms grown in a Lab by Dr. Ravishau, whom they call the Father-Creator. After some initial resistance, they agree to help the humans destroy the cannon. Apollo meets with Dr. Ravishau. At first, the doctor does not want to help Apollo, but he soon relents. The Cylons barge in to the office, but are ordered away by Centurion Leader when Dr. Ravishau protests. The Cylons then take the “Theta” who was in the office and “punish” him with a whip.

Meanwhile, the prisoners continue to look for a chance to betray the Colonials and escape. Time for the Galactica has run out and they’ve begun advancing the fleet towards the gun. Making things even more difficult, Baltar’s task force has actually been advancing faster than previously believed, which forces Adama’s hand. When the Thetas on the planet decide to take the gun for themselves, they are scolded by their Father-Creator – which pushes the Thetas to help the Colonials unconditionally.

As the Galactica approaches, the strike team attacks, and Leeda is killed trying to save her husband from the Cylons. It becomes a race against time as the strike team attempts to leave the mountain before the gun is destroyed – and hopefully before the Galactica is caught in the gun’s sights and blown to bits.

The gambit is successful; the gun is destroyed and the Galactica fleet manages to move through the system unchallenged. Baltar’s plan was thwarted and now has to explain the debacle to the Imperious Leader, much to Lucifer’s amusement.

Meanwhile, on the planet, Dr. Ravishau vows to continue his research and allow his creations to live like normal humans. Meanwhile, Starbuck tries to get three of the female clones to go with him, much to Boomer’s dismay.

Review and Thoughts:

This chapter continues some very unpleasant trends, and introduces a few new ones. And it is in chapters like this one (and “The Lost Warrior” before it) that critics of this show charge make it a “Children’s TV Show” and “Corny and Dated.” Watching this chapter, unfortunately, bolsters this charge.

Why “A Children’s TV Show” you may ask? Because the writers thought it was a good idea – for a dangerous mission in enemy territory – to have Boxey and Muffit along for the ride. I expect a cartoon to do something like this (son of the hero wants to be like the hero); not a show about the last surviving humans fleeing from their killers. And, conveniently, the alien allies have children, so Boxey doesn’t get in the way of the hot laser action later on.

Also, the show has yet another human who helps the Cylons. However, his name is not Baltar, so he is not supposed to be booed. He is, apparently, a human from the Colonies. Once again, considering that the humans have been fighting this war with the Cylon Alliance for at least 1,000 years, why is this man helping his enemies since before he was born?

What should have happened is this – Ravishau was a descendent of humans who once left the 12 colonies in search of other inhabited worlds thousands of years ago – before the Cylon Wars began. They crash-landed on this world and began life anew. When the population began to die, Ravishau tried to create clones. After several attempts, the “Thetas” were born. They begin to build an energy lens. The Cylons land and recognize the genius that is Ravishau. They allow him to research and develop things in exchange for technology sharing and completion of the energy lens – which the Cylons convert into a weapon of enormous power.

Redundant Complaint:

Blonde-hair representing things “good” and “innocent.” This seems to be an overriding theme of the series. I do not know if this is the responsibility of the creator, production staff, marketing, or the casting direction staff, but this kind of typecasting really diminishes the series.

And, once again, everyone of the good allies is a blonde.

Theta Male

The men.

Theta Female

The women.

Theta Kids 1Theta Kids 2

The children.

The Thetas with Boxey and Ravishau

All of them are blondes.

This is beyond annoying. It isn’t even halfway through the season, and already my modern sensibility continues to drag my opinion of this show lower than I thought possible.

Sci-Fi Connection:

Dr. Ravishau

Daniel O’Herlihy, who plays Dr. Ravishau, the “Father-Creator” of the Thetas, plays the “Old Man,” otherwise known as the President of OCP, in the movies Robocop and Robocop 2.

Things to Look for:

When Killian is killed, the sequence is simply a mirror of the first attack of the pulsar gun. The only change is that Viper is on the left side instead of the right.

When Starbuck destroys the Cylon fighter with the LandRam’s gun, the explosion (at around 31:10) is a reuse of the scene with the explosion of the Cylon Basestar from “Saga of a Star World.”

The explosions of the missed pulsar gun shots are just random Cylon ships blown to bits.

In Part one, the Gold Cylon (Centurion Leader) had the same voice as the regular Cylons – which meant that you had to watch which head was nodding to indicate which Cylon was talking (for the benefit of the audience). In Part two, what would become the distinctive Gold Cylon Voice was introduced.

Opportunities Missed:

The Cylons attack and the Colonials respond. It is clear that this scene, while showing the madness and genius of Baltar’s master plan, was just SFX and VFX filler. Once you get beyond Boomer, there does not seem to be any clear command structure – or one that deserved any screen-time. It would have been nice at this point to see actual pilot faces beyond some of the faces at launch. If Flight Sergeant Jolly is supposed to be the next in line for Blue Squadron, showing him actually commanding the squadron would have worked here. Tony Schwartz, we hardly knew you…

And, as expected, no face time for Deitre. We see what is obviously supposed to be her hands on several different occasions, but her face is not shown – although the time was taken to show some of the white female pilots and a short shot of Jolly and Giles during the launch sequence.

This chapter would have also been an opportunity to show the remnants of humanity through the eyes of people who have been imprisoned by the Colonies for criminal activity. Sadly, we never learn what Leeda (the wife of the “loyal” Colonial prisoner Croft) was thrown in jail for.

Also, on a strange note, the writers of Battlestar seem to like killing women off – and it is supposed to elicit sympathy for them, or their plight, or their widowers. Serena was killed by 2 Cylons who landed on the planet; and now Leeda dies in protecting her husband. Even worse, she doesn’t get a last line. Not even “I will always love you,” or something along those lines.

Because of the focus of this chapter on the guests, the criminals’ idiocy, and Boxey, Baltar and the Cylons in general were reduced to cardboard cutouts. Baltar has become Snidely Whiplash, literally.

Cylons on the Screen

Cylons = Stormtroopers

Cylons use torture as a weapon. They also have “evil” probes. When going after the good guys, there are innocent villagers that they have to terrorize by throwing things over and grabbing people and menacing them. Since the villagers are shortcuts to “innocent bystanders,” the Cylons here are shortcuts to “absolute evil robots.”

Colonel Tigh:

Another episode with the Colonel just being along for the ride and not really doing much of anything.

Lt. Boomer:

Once the mission started, Herbert Jefferson got the shaft in a big way. Noah Hathaway (Boxey) and Muffit 2.0 got more screen-time in the first part of the story than Boomer did for the entire episode. And, as a matter of practice, if Starbuck didn’t tell Boomer to go on ahead so that Starbuck could do something “daring” and rescue Cadet Cree, Boomer’s screen-time would have been almost nothing until the end of the episode.

In fact, there is a moment that sums it all up – watch the “walkthrough” the tunnel at around 44:15 in Part One. You will see Apollo, Starbuck, ALL of the Colonial Criminals, Boxey, Muffit, the Male clone, and the Female clone. Watch what happens right at the moment Herbert Jefferson’s face manages to show on the screen – they cut away…almost immediately – and don’t allow him the same walkthrough that the rest get.

In other words, this chapter was a waste for him. Boomer does nothing of note throughout the episode except shoot one Cylon, hands 2 bombs to Starbuck, asks 1 question about the elevator cable, and cracks one joke when Starbuck tries to initiate an orgy with 3 female villagers.

Speaking of Starbuck and Cree:

This was a wasted storyline piece. The only reason why Cree was even added was because the writers felt a need to give Starbuck a storyline reason to shoehorn him into the mission – where he performed well above expectations, of course. Cree, on the other hand, was supposed to be the sympathetic male heartthrob at the hands of the evil Cylons. Of course, we will never see Cree after the end of this mission. I doubt we’ll even hear about Cree after this episode.

In the end, there was no real need for Cree to be a prisoner, nor was there a reason for the “torture” scene, nor the ‘deep freeze’ prison. It plays as an already bad drag on a poor story.

The Galactica Crew:

The same African-American male senior officer we’ve seen in earlier episodes in a non-speaking role returns once again…in a non-speaking role. The only bridge officers given lines were Omega and Rigel. Interestingly, Rigel has a larger role in this chapter than Boomer and Tigh. The non-descript Asian male Viper pilot is seen on the high-speed transport…non-speaking role once again.

The Thetas:

Not a single person of color. And, once again, the humans all have Blonde hair. And they are supposed to be the friendly humans.

Final Analysis:

[Life Support] Rating: 3.6 out of 10 points. As I try to state often, “Nothing happens in a vacuum.” When Galactica focuses on Colonial/Cylon action, Baltar, Adama and the Council, or Human/Cylon motivation, the series is very good. Lost Planet of the Gods is something that I would have no problem watching repeatedly. However, when Galactica uses blondes as a shortcut to “goodness,” “innocence,” or similar claptrap; resorts to using Boxey to play up the ‘children’s angle; completely ignores anyone not named Apollo or Starbuck; shoehorns family issues for shady characters, then the show ends up with clunkers like “The Lost Warrior,” “The Long Patrol,” and now “Gun on Ice Planet Zero.”

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