Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Eleven: The Man with Nine Lives

Starbuck and Apollo take some time off to enjoy some gambling aboard the Rising Star, with Starbuck wanting to test a new gambling system that he has been working on. On another ship, an older gentleman finds that he short on the funds required to pay for his trip to the pleasure ship. He befriends the woman sitting next to him, who decides to pay his way and act as his date.

When Starbuck and Apollo reach the pleasure ship, they meet with Jolly and Boomer, who take an interest in the stage show featuring a dance troupe. Meanwhile the same older man finds himself enjoying the company of his date. As the party continues, many of the people who watched the show end have now gotten up out of their seats and have started dancing to other music.

The festivities are interrupted by three hostile-looking aliens who have entered the club. While the patrons are somewhat frightened by their presence, Jolly is now on alert; the aliens who have entered the club do not mix with non-members of their species unless they are on a “Blood Trail”; a ritual method of hunting those who have committed a crime against someone of their tribe.

The older man has also spotted the Borelians and begins to make his exit. One of the Borelians grabs a weapon and it begins to power up. Boomer and Jolly intervene. The Borelians exit the party rather than face arrest.

Meanwhile, Starbuck’s new gambling system is racking up the credits. When the dealer hands Starbuck a card, he makes a calculation and decides to bet his pot. The older man from earlier, who joined the table to ‘blend in with the crowd,’ warns Starbuck that if the dealer has a “Capstone” for a hand, then the system Starbuck has would be all for nothing. Starbuck heeds his advice and removes 80% of his bet. The dealer turns out to have a Capstone and Full Pyramid – and Starbuck is now grateful to the mystery man.

Later on, Starbuck, Apollo, and the mysterious man (named Chameleon), have a drink. Chameleon explains that he was a professional gambler, but became a genetic tracer because he lost his wife and son during a Cylon Raid on Caprica many years ago. For five years afterward, Chameleon was an amnesiac, and only learned later that his son was still alive, but missing. Starbuck starts to wonder if Chameleon could be his father; Starbuck was one of the children who were orphaned during the raid.

Meanwhile, Boomer talks with Apollo about his run-in with the hostile Borelians. Jolly tells them both that the Borelians never left on the shuttle as promised, and believes that they are on a “Blood Trail.” There is another confrontation with the Borelians with Apollo and Boomer, one that leads to blasters being drawn. Taba, the Borelian who drew his bolo, is arrested, but the others still remain. As they plot to find a way to get close to Chameleon, they see an ad for the Colonial Service – and get an idea.

Back on board the Galactica, Starbuck and Chameleon submit to genetic testing, and Cassiopeia tells them that they are at least within the same blood family. Starbuck is elated; Chameleon, on the other hand, seems concerned. As they begin genetic testing to see if Starbuck is Chameleon’s son, the Borelians have decided to “join” the Colonial forces and have made their way onboard the Galactica.

Starbuck and Chameleon have grown attached, and now there is a worry about whether or not Chameleon is running a con game to stay away from the Borelians. They start a “Security Check” of Chameleon to find out what is going on. It comes to a head when Starbuck learns that Apollo and Boomer have run a Security Check of Chameleon and dissolves his friendship with the two of them. However, the mystery deepens when Tigh tells Apollo and Boomer that Chameleon doesn’t really exist.

The Borelians make their move, assaulting two flight crewmembers and stealing their uniforms. They find out that Starbuck and Chameleon are in the Launch Bay and go for a showdown. As Starbuck and Chameleon talk, Starbuck reveals that he plans on quitting the Service and joining Chameleon and continuing his work. Chameleon is dismayed at the thought, since he considers what Starbuck is doing right now to be very important work in its own right. Before they can reach an agreement, the Borelians come down the launch elevator and a firefight ensues.

Starbuck is disarmed in the middle of the fight, and tries to escape by going down the launch tube. The Borelians pursue, and Chameleon takes a gamble – he fires the Viper cannons from inside the launch tube and causes an explosion. Reinforcements arrive, and the Borelians are taken into custody.

The truth is soon discovered: The Borelians have been taking parts and supplies from other ships. According to Starbuck, they had enough spare parts to assemble their own Viper. When Chameleon, under the alias of Captain Dimitri, swindled the Borelians, they respond by going on a Blood Trail.

Meanwhile, Cassiopeia visits Chameleon’s cell and tells him that the results of the tests are positive: Chameleon is Starbuck’s father. However, he counters that the results are mistaken. Chameleon warns that if Starbuck knew that Chameleon was his father, Starbuck would give up everything and everyone just to spend a few years with a man who never did a straight thing in his life. Cassiopeia relents on the condition that Chameleon tells Starbuck the truth one day. Chameleon ups the ante by saying that he’ll do that when Starbuck gets married. Cassiopeia scoffs at the prospect of it, but Chameleon’s insight tells otherwise.

At the “hearing” with Adama, it is decided that he will be sent to the “Senior Ship” for rehabilitation, with Siress Blassey (the woman he befriended at the beginning of the episode) taking care of him. Starbuck and Chameleon share a bonding moment as they leave – and Chameleon thanks Cassiopeia for not telling anyone the real test results.

Review and Thoughts:

Again, a filler episode. This one focuses on Starbuck and some of his backstory. Normally, I find Starbuck-centered episodes boring, and this one is no exception. However, this is slightly less boring because this one is more character driven than the others (most notably “The Young Lords”). Since there is not a lot of hot laser action against the Cylons, the VFX were relegated to computer terminals and the occasional blast.

Admittedly, there are some scenes with Dirk I actually enjoyed – when he was not over the top with his delivery (like when he dissolves his friendship with Apollo, complete with finger-poking in the chest).

A Living Legend:

A Living Legend Graces BSG

A Living Legend Graces BSG

In one of his last on-screen roles, Hollywood Actor and Dancer, the iconic Fred Astaire, plays Chameleon (pronounced Sha-MEE-lee-on), a ‘con-artist’ whom befriends Starbuck.

Uncredited Recycler:

Lance LeGault as Maga (Center).  His Credit is not listed in the episode.

Lance LeGault as Maga (Center). His Credit is not listed in the episode.

The leader of Borelians, Maga, is played by Lance LeGault; previously as Boutis from “The Lost Warrior” and best known for his role of “Colonel Decker” from the TV Show, “The A-Team.” Although he has a very prominent role, his cast credit is not listed.

Dead Woman Walking Once More:

We can now add Starbuck to the list of cast members who lost Mother to the War. We “know” that Chameleon is the father. Chameleon tells Starbuck that his “wife” died in the Cylon raid more than 20 years ago.

In the Background:

Never Given a Name, But She Shows Up More Than Once

Never Given a Name, But She Shows Up More Than Once

The non-descript Asian female Viper pilot who was seen briefly in the gathering for the female Viper trainees back in “Lost Planet of the Gods” makes a walk-on appearance during the shuttle flight in the beginning, and is seen flirting with another officer. Since she is in the traditional Viper uniform, it can be inferred that she did pass training, did make the cut, and has been sortied for a few missions.

Interesting note, the black male security guard last seen in “Lost Planet of the Gods” shows up again in this episode. The white male guard has yet to be seen since he was chastised by Colonel Tigh.

Also, there are others, most notably a black male who gets a walk-on role when they show the Civilians enjoying themselves. He is first seen briefly in “Saga of a Star World” when Adama discusses their current situation proposes that they go off to find Earth. There are also a number of people of various Asian nationalities as typical background fodder, with some dressed in Colonial Officer and Senior Officer uniforms.

Nowhere to be Found:

Athena & Boxey. Oddly enough, these two would have been perfect for this. Boxey especially, since he went through the pain of losing his parents already. It is too bad that Noah Hathaway (Boxey) never got the chance to act with Fred Astaire. I would have probably enjoyed seeing this.

Athena, on the other hand, would probably have been an interesting fit. Even with the new bits about Starbuck, it is hard to tell when he met the Adama tribe, but this little bit could have been filled in during the episode. But, we don’t get Athena, and this particular piece of information remains clouded.

Moments Where Conflict Ends Up Being Contrived:

When Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer are talking in the corridor, Tigh comes out of nowhere and announces that the Security Check of Chameleon just came through. This was supposed to be a trigger that “Apollo doesn’t trust anyone except himself,” and sets Starbuck against Apollo and Boomer – and the moment where Starbuck dissolves their friendship.

The whole idea doesn’t work. If Tigh is second-in-command on the ship, with Adama being the only one with a higher rank, then why does no one seem to stand at attention when he appears? For that matter, why is Tigh openly discussing a Security matter in a corridor? And why does Tigh initiate the conversation? Wait a minute, I already know: The show is running out of time, and they need a conflict moment like this one in a hurry. Which leads to…

Apollo the Perfect:

He had a hunch that Chameleon was not who he said he was. So he orders the security check. This leads to the partnership and friendships going bust. But Chameleon was not who he said he was – and that lead to trouble. So Apollo was right…at the very end…again.

Jolly, Pushed Aside:

This episode would have been perfect for Jolly to come front-and-center. He first recognized the “Blood Trail” (which inexplicably turned into “Blood Hunt” at the end) and sounded the general alarm about the Borelians. However, when the scenes shifted from The Rising Star to Galactica, Jolly disappeared…completely. I guess Tony Schwartz gets a limit on how much onscreen time he gets allotted and had it run over this week.

Final Analysis:

[Tokens] 2.6 of 10 points. Don’t let the final rating fool you. I don’t hate this episode as much as some of the others, mostly because while Boomer and Tigh don’t show up for most of the episode, their appearances aren’t marked with a “Fail” when they do show up. Fred Astaire, even in the twilight, is not that bad – I was more interested in his character than I have been with Starbuck’s.

Jolly, however, was pushed aside, and Anne Lockhart gets the daily minimum required onscreen time this episode. New toy, getting old now? The Borelians were throwaway villains, and the writers knew that from the start. The character moments drove this episode, but shoehorned the Borelian action plot to maintain the “action show” façade.

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One Response to Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Eleven: The Man with Nine Lives

  1. Pingback: Hiring The A-Team: Season 1, Episode 5 – A Small and Deadly War | Loose Cannon

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