Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Twelve: Murder on the Rising Star

During an extremely tense Triads match, Starbuck and Ortega, whom Starbuck has had bad blood with previously, exchange harsh words, and eventually have a physical confrontation. This leads to both players being ejected. When both players find themselves down in the showers, there is another confrontation, and Cassiopeia intervenes. After a shower, a janitor appears and Starbuck almost runs him over. The janitor walks further down and sees the man Starbuck fought with on the floor, and dead.

Meanwhile, Starbuck is fidgeting about with Cassiopeia. Apollo and Boomer show up and inform him that Cortez died. Back on the Galactica, Dr. Welker performs an energy-based ballistics test and finds out that Starbuck’s weapon is the one that killed Ortega. The Prosecutor, Sire Solom, who was called when the test was being conducted, charges Starbuck with Murder. Apollo jumps in to act as his counsel and defense.

They start with questioning his Triads partner and fellow Viper pilot, who tells him that Ortega told him of a man who may have had a motivation to kill Ortega – Charybdis. This leads them back to the Galactica computer, where their search comes up empty.

Meanwhile, Sire Solom, interviews on Galactica TV outlining the case and attempts to poison the well by insinuating that should Commander Adama find Starbuck innocent, it would be due to the close relationship he has with the pilot. Starbuck is dismayed, and Cassiopeia tries to comfort him.

Starbuck, realizing that his chances of being found innocent are slim, assaults the guards and attempts to run away before his Tribunal was set to begin. Apollo intervenes, and Starbuck, after a tense confrontation, relents.

Apollo and Boomer talk to Adama about trying to postpone the Tribunal, when they talk about Charybdis, whom Adama reveals is Proteus, the man who disabled the defenses on Caprica. They go back to the Rising Star, and find that the “janitor” who found Ortega’s body is the dealer for a Pyramids table where there have been questionable and dubious winnings happening on his shift. When they confront the dealer, he tells them of a tale of a man who bribed his way aboard a ship to save his life during the evacuation. Apollo takes him into custody – when “Chella” (the Janitor/Dealer) tells him that 2 other people got on the same ship in the very same way.

Apollo and Boomer now have all three of the men in custody, and Apollo concocts a plan to expose Charybdis. He tells the three men that Baltar is going to identify Charybdis when he returns. The idea is to make the “real traitor” sneak back on board and attempt to kill both of them. Boomer is then foisted with the job of acting as Starbuck’s Protector Pro Temp while Apollo carries out this plot.

Apollo gets Baltar out of custody and gets on the shuttle. When they get close to the Galactica, Proteus, the Traitor,  reveals himself to Baltar and Apollo – and he is indeed one of the three men. Apollo, however, was prepared for the incident to occur and had Boomer listen in on the transmissions from within the shuttle. While Baltar and Proteus/Charybdis discuss how to escape, Boomer makes the transmission available to the Tribunal, which implicates Proteus and exonerates Starbuck. Baltar, realizing the gravity of the situation, assaults Proteus, and a struggle ensues between Apollo and Proteus. A shot is heard, and Apollo informs the Tribunal that he is okay.

Right at the start of the games, Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer walk out onto the Triads floor to a rousing ovation from the crowd in attendance, and the three share a handshake as they affirm their bonds to each other.

Review and Thoughts:

Things get a little mixed-up on this one. This episode follows the heels of “The Man with Nine Lives,” and acts as another Starbuck episode. Although it is a character-driven ditty, it still follows the boring episode line.

Blah, Blah Blah:

I hate throwing people under the bus, but Cassiopeia needs to meet the Route 436 to Queens. Consider, for the moment, that she “forces” Starbuck to shower and change in “Red Alert – Scramble to Vipers Now!” time. This was the reason why Starbuck ran as fast as he could to meet with Cassiopeia. And, believe it or not, this is what set the chain reaction down-line. Starbuck would have looked a little less guilty (and made for a better episode) if Starbuck was the first to discover the body – and then it was discovered that a Colonial Blaster was responsible. Then we find out that Starbuck’s weapon was used.

Oh, well.

Over the Line:

Once again, this is where better writing needs to take place. The attitudes that Apollo and Starbuck take when accused of murder of a Colonial Warrior were out of place, and come off as a bunch of whiny rich teenage brats being confronted by police officers. The gamble of the writing here is that we as the audience would immediately sympathize with Starbuck, and by extension, Apollo. But that defiant attitude is actually conduct unbecoming an officer and a Colonial Warrior. Even with poor writing in this case, the Prosecutor, Sire Solom handled the situation by making Starbuck look like an even bigger fool – but that really isn’t that hard to do.

And then, they had Starbuck attempt an escape.  There was no scene regarding the consequences (or lack thereof) for his escape attempt.  This would have made the episode a little more dramatic than what we were shown.

And then, Apollo decides on making a hare-brained scheme which somehow involves Baltar, and someone on the writing staff felt the need to add a backstory of people involved in a conspiracy to bring down the Colonies defenses – instead of having the Cylons simply overwhelm the defenses that were employed.  This was to make Proteus more than just a run-of-the-mill evil character, but one whose evil would rival Baltar’s own.  If it felt like it was contrived and tacked on, it was.  We will not hear about Charybdis/Proteus ever again.

Another Sci-Fi Connection:

Brock Peters as Prosecutor Sire Solom

Brock Peters as Prosecutor Sire Solom

Brock Peters plays the Prosecutor who brings Starbuck to trial. Brock is known for a number of roles, but he is known to Star Trek fans for playing Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI; and as Benjamin Sisko’s father Joseph Sisko in the spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

Forced Character Conflict:

The “bad guy” of this episode was Sire Solom, who is supposed to be the hard-nosed Prosecutor who attempts to find “the hero” Starbuck guilty of the murder of Ortega. Again, the writing and production indicates that the audience was not supposed to have any sympathy for Sire Solom regarding the matter at hand – since we know that Starbuck would never kill anyone, even a man like Ortega, in cold blood.

In the end, it becomes a missed opportunity. Sire Solom could have been written as someone who is indeed hard-nosed, but reluctant – in that despite the “evidence” that Starbuck committed the crime, he does not enjoy the situation one bit. A Colonial Warrior, especially one that is as revered and popular as Starbuck seems to be, is now accused of a capital crime. This would have worked better if Apollo and Starbuck confronted Sire Solom through a scene where a plea agreement failed – and Cassiopeia or Athena accuse Sire Solom of grandstanding because of Starbuck’s position within the fleet. The more I think about this, the more disappointed I get at the finished product of this episode.

Another Smart-Alec Computer:

Virus writers would be heroes if all computers acted like this.

Virus writers would be heroes if all computers acted like this.

When Apollo and Boomer attempt to find out who Charybdis is, they use the Galactica’s computer system, which performs in the same manner that CORA (and her progeny KITT) does.

Apollo the Perfect:

And Apollo has yet another specialization that allows him to star in another episode: Colonial Law. Although he did not graduate as a Protector, he knows enough to use the law in his favor – and have Starbuck acquitted of all charges against him. Of course, when it comes time for the actual Tribunal, Apollo’s other part of the hare-brained scheme had Boomer sitting in as the Protector Pro Temp.

Final Rating:

[Tokens] 2.1 of 10 points. With the benefit of watching shows that have appeared after Galactica, “Murder on the Rising Star” becomes a very dated episode. Apollo’s brashness was not necessary to advance his mythology and/or legend here. This being a military tribunal and investigation should have brought about a military-style investigation. Galactica’s fleet apparently stocks a Prosecutor, so one would believe that there are JAG/IG officers within the fleet. One should have been assigned to Starbuck’s defense – and, for once, I wouldn’t care all that much if the JAG/IG investigator were a woman – and felt some kind of attraction to Starbuck and vice-versa (given Larson’s writing of his male heroes, this would not be a stretch).

Or, this episode could have been filmed from the point of view of the Galactica legal system as Starbuck is held for trial. Or, anything other than what we were given as the final product here.

Even Star Trek: The Original Series had better military hearings than this, which involved murders and courts-martial.

But, as my complaint states, the show has continued an unbroken streak of “Apollo the Perfect” since the beginning. This is a drag on the show the longer it continues.

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