Matthew Wharmby's reviews

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Take the Celestra

PREMISE:

Veteran Commander Kronus is decorated at a ceremony, but the model conditions on his industrial ship conceal harsh conditions which spark a mutiny. One of the rebels is Starbuck's old flame Aurora. The power struggle aboard the Celestra prompts Kronus's corrupt deputy to attempt to maroon him and the rebels.

THE SHOW:

Adama reads into his journal that a general lull in events of late has led to a renewal of hope, during which the people of the Fleet can even, from time to time, indulge in ceremony. This is revealed as an awards event in which Commander Kronus, currently skipper of the electronics ship Celestra, is decorated and given formal command of all three industry ships. We hear of his military exploits, when as commander of the Battlestar Ricon leading the Colonial Sixth Fleet, he destroyed three Cylon basestars at the battle of Kasmaro Archipelago. However, the assembled Galactica warriors (getting a chance to dust off their old dress uniforms for the last time) have a shock when Starbuck nearly steps out of line. As usual, he's clocked a girl in the audience, but this time can identify her by name. 'My God! It's Aurora!' he says as his friends have to yank him back into formation before Colonel Tigh spots him.

Aurora is Commander Kronus's pilot. She has some business aboard the bridge before shuttling Kronus back to the Celestra, requesting information about the 'beta sector'. Starbuck catches up with her, but she blanks him. Once the curmudgeonly commander is aboard the shuttle, we see his second-in-command, a smug young individual named Chaka. He takes the opportunity to suck up to Kronus by congratulating him on his decoration, but the commander pours scorn on the occasion in general. 'When I commanded the Ricon and six hundred fighting ships, that was a fleet!' he grouses. This collection of slow-moving derelicts 'isn't a fleet...it's a convoy.' More importantly, he knows full well that Chaka is expecting Kronus to retire and hand over command. Kronus has to let him down gently, but in doing so plants the seeds of resentment into his deputy.

When Aurora gets back to the Celestra, she meets her boyfriend Damon, a weedy fellow with an afro that would make Kid (of Kid & Play) jealous. The information she got from Galactica bridge is going to come in handy when they and a few other Celestra crewmen decide to execute their long-awaited plan to take over a shuttle and make a run for it. The reason is the slave labour conditions imposed aboard the ship by Chaka.

Aboard Galactica, Starbuck is miserable that Aurora has taken no notice of him and has apparently moved on (perish the thought!). He begs Apollo to come with him to the Celestra to try and sort things out with her. Unfortunately the old cad has already got something planned with Cassiopeia, whom he has to blow off. Irritated, she demands the immediate return of the ducats for the triad match they were going to see aboard the Rising Star - but manages to keep Starbuck's jealous nature interested by keeping him guessing as to whom she might be going to offer the extra ticket.

Under the pretense of using their spare time to go over to the Celestra for a maintenance check, Apollo and Starbuck make their way there, but are surprised to walk straight into a firefight. Aurora, Damon and their co-conspirators have managed to surprise the security personnel in the landing bay and pinch their lasers, but further guards have sounded the alarm and fired on them. Starbuck and Apollo are figuring out whose side to take when Aurora appears and draws a bead on Starbuck - roll commercials.

Aurora has her former lover dead, but Apollo moves up behind her and covers her in turn. Unwilling to blast Starbuck, Aurora lays down her arms and calls a halt to the mutiny. She is upset with Starbuck for having ruined everything, especially when Kronus takes a predictably firm line and orders them all shuttled to Galactica brig, with the commander making the handover in person.

Once the shuttle is away, Chaka can now unleash his own counter-plan. Still bitter at not having been given command after Kronus's award, he is now going to undercut him altogether. Having notified Galactica that they are experiencing engine trouble that will force them to drop out of position pending repairs, he orders his helmsman Hermes to cut power to the Celestra's main systems and running lights, letting the ship vanish off radar. This is strictly against regulations - but then again, so is feeding the shuttle false coordinates which will send it haring off into deep space. By the time their two centares worth of fuel runs out, they won't be able to make it back, and if they do, will not be able to see where to land. Just to make certain of his own gratitude, Chaka summarily promotes his entire bridge staff, with the accompanying pay raise.

As the shuttle zooms off in the wrong direction (hold on, you'd think you'd be able to sight the other 219 ships in the fleet and navigate by them!), the mutineers sit there in shackles and with long faces. Starbuck wanders over to chat to Aurora and try and figure out why she'd start a rebellion on a fleet ship. Angrily, she spits that Chaka is forcing the workers aboard the Celestra to complete sixteen-centare shifts. Kronus did not actually know this, probably rationalising the high productivity as evidence of his efficiency. What they were planning to do was to steal a shuttle and flee to the twenty-first planet in this system, which she chose from the info she collected from Galactica earlier. What to do, Starbuck asks. 'Live!' Aurora cries out. As she is explaining this to Starbuck, Damon goes into a major sulk in the corner, figuring she's chosen Starbuck anew - which is where the show's Romeo has to turn stern and tell him off. It's obvious to Starbuck that she loves Damon now - while Starbuck loved her once, it's over. With a guilty thought back to Cassiopeia, he concedes to Damon like a gentleman. With everyone all smiles, all the better to plan their strategy of revenge against Chaka - assuming they get back alive, as it's at this point that they realise that they've been sent in the wrong direction. With a sharp about turn, they steam back in the vague direction of the fleet.

After two centares expire, a smug Chaka reckons his adversaries have had it, and orders Hermes to fire up the engines and resume their position in the fleet. Hermes punches it, and they're away. Once they're within visual contact, they'll bring up the lights and nobody will be any the wiser for what's happened. Not far away, the shuttle is on their trail, but running fast out of fuel. Apollo is furious to see the Celestra dark, and homes in on their landing bay as the ship's last drops of fuel are used up and they're running on fumes. As it happens, this has turned the tables on Chaka, as he can't pick them up as they come in. Our Heroes disembark and head for the armoury, but the shrewd Chaka has ordered the contents emptied and stashed in a box on the bridge. Thus, with just Apollo and Starbuck tooled up, the others have to use their fists to go through the various guards they encounter on their way to the Celestra bridge.

As they storm the bridge, a shootout ensues between Chaka's men and Apollo, Starbuck, Aurora, Damon and even Commander Kronus. However, in the fracas, a stray round hits the flight console and the Celestra begins to plunge out of formation. Commander Kronus bravely seizes the stick to bring the ship back level, but is hit himself and collapses. Alternating gunshots and punches, Our Heroes overpower Chaka and his men, but the focus of this episode is out of it and not responding.

A solemn scene aboard Galactica recalls the first scene as the cast reconvene to send off Commander Kronus where before they'd decorated him. After a brief funeral eulogy delivered by Adama, Kronus's body is committed to space, in a local equivalent of burial at sea.[1]

Experiment in Terra

PREMISE:

Apollo (or is it Starbuck?) does a spot of unintentional freelancing for the Beings of Light, has his fifteen minutes of fame and averts a nuclear war, but all this and he's not on the right planet after all.

THE STORY:

The Eastern Alliance's runaway destroyer tears towards Lunar Seven at star speed, pursued by Blue Squadron. The fascist (or national-communist, if you like, as I think they've got as much East German to them as Nazi German) Enforcers note the pursuing vipers, and in an unfilmed scene makes plans to lure Galactican ships into a trap, assuming nearby destroyers can rendezvous in time. However, that's the last we see of Commandant Leiter and his crew, as Apollo is suddenly diverted. As he peels away from the rest of Blue Squadron's vector to make doubly sure there are no additional Alliance destroyers lurking, his ears are assailed by the unmistakable signature whine of the Ship of Lights, which pitches up behind him and swallows him up before the rest of Blue Squadron can blink.

As Boomer and Starbuck are wondering why their patrol leader has suddenly disappeared into thin air, Apollo awakens in a surprisingly familiar place, his uniform and laser bright white as before. Although his memories were wiped after the momentous events of 'War of the Gods', he recognises the Ship of Lights. Conveniently, an envoy materialises and greets Apollo with a cheerful 'hello'. This is John, engendered for the reassurance of corporeally-based beings such as Apollo, and played by Edward Mulhare (instantly familiar as Knight Rider's Devon Miles). We'll begin to see that all is not as it seems, for a very interesting reason - the script was actually written for Starbuck, and not Apollo. Thus we see Apollo acting quite out of character in many ways, and it's a strange sensation. Try and put that out of your minds, though, and keep reading.

The Guardians, angels, Seraphs, call them what you will, have a mission for Apollo, brushing aside his petty little concerns about his squadron. He's going to be sent to stop the impending war between Nationalists and Alliance on Terra itself, but the time constraint is such that Apollo can't do it as himself. Thus, he is going to have to assume the identity of a player in the Terran conflict, one Colonel Charlie Watts of the People's Nationalist Force. Watts has been imprisoned on Nationalist-held Lunar One, but has escaped. Apollo will take his place in order to deliver news that will hopefully put the Nationalist President off signing a misguided peace treaty with the Alliance. The predictable question, such as 'but won't I look different from him?' are answered briskly by John with a reassurance that Apollo will appear indistinguishable from the missing Colonel Watts. 'Actually, he's quite a good-looking fellow', John quips, showing that these otherwise deadly serious angels do have a sense of humour. As Apollo is sent on his way, however, John is none too convinced of the mission's likely success, pleading to an unseen superior higher above that he's working with primitives.

'Got to give up the late nights,' Apollo chuckles, very Starbuck-like, in his cockpit, believing he's awakened from a corker of a dream. 'My uniform's turned white!' he then gapes in amazement. Even more baffling is that Terra is now visible dead ahead, despite Blue Squadron's position being some considerable distance away. John appears on Apollo's monitor and explains the discrepancy. Far away, in Starbuck and Boomer's vipers, Apollo's beacon suddenly winks on again. Starbuck has no idea how Apollo got so far away in such a short time, but intends to find out. Boomer is instructed to keep after the fleeing destroyer while Starbuck heads for Terra to find Apollo.

Apollo puts down in a desert on the Nationalist side of the surface of Terra - not unnoticed by local authorities - where Charlie Watts's girlfriend Brenda is waiting. As soon as she meets Apollo, and gets him into her ground car (which has been dubbed with a suitable futuristic sound, but what, through the darkness, looks suspiciously like a '76-90 Chevrolet Caprice with enough landram-borrowed roof lighting to gut the battery in mere minutes), she starts bellyaching about how she got called in the middle of the night to come and pick him up in the middle of nowhere, with no warning.

Apollo, of course, has no idea what this pretty(ish) but distinctly neurotic young woman is on about, and his attempts to try and get some basic information out of her don't do altogether well. 'What was your name again?' he can't help but ask. 'Amnesia,' Brenda diagnoses in one, rolling her eyes. 'That's a pretty name,' attempts Apollo. Actually, come to think of it, this isn't as non-Apollo as it looks. Where Starbuck would have probably taken the opportunity to exercise Charlie's privileges with Brenda and quickly, Apollo comes off like a complete klutz with women, which is rather endearing - and definitely Apollo.

Back at Brenda's fashionable flat in the city, she lets 'Charlie' get his bearings while she goes upstairs to change, or freshen up, or whatever it is women seem to spend two hours in the bathroom doing. What she's really doing is calling the law! Some welcome, and some girlfriend! The rationale is that Charlie's been acting dead strange since he got back from captivity, and may be ill or traumatised. Downstairs, Apollo is completely stumped as to what to do next, when John appears. 'Hello,' he chirps again, but Apollo is less conciliatory this time. How is he going to avert this war when he doesn't even know who to get in touch with, for example? Brenda is even more suspicious when she comes downstairs (wearing not a great deal - she's changed all right) and sees 'Charlie' conversing with what appears to be an imaginary friend. When Apollo attempts to introduce John, the Seraph warns apologetically that she can't see him. When the doorbell rings, Apollo gets suspicious, but the two Nationalist military police have him covered before he can pull his laser on them. He is carted off angrily, cursing John as much as he does Brenda.

Aboard Galactica, Tigh and Adama muse over the Terra situation after receiving Starbuck's report, and sanction his long haul to Terra in lieu of pursuing the Alliance destroyer. 'We could be flying into a war zone,' Tigh warns. Down on Terra, word has reached the Nationalist President Arends that Charlie Watts has escaped, but the President has ideas of his own that Colonel Watts's reappearance threatens to scupper. Apparently, none of the general population knows that the Eastern Alliance has captured all of Terra's satellites from the PNF. If Watts were to spill this information, it would derail Arends's grand plan to sue for peace with the Alliance's Supreme Commandant. Therefore, Charlie, and anyone in contact with him, are a threat. Accordingly, Apollo soon finds himself joined in prison by General Maxwell and Brenda. Across the hall, sympathetic Colonel Stone has also been imprisoned. Apollo is now able to reveal his true identity to the Nationalist dignitaries, who only now begin to understand him. If peace were signed so rashly, nothing would be able to defend the Nationalist side from the long-feared Alliance first strike. Anguished, Apollo can only plead to an invisible John for help. In the lab attached to the prison block, Dr Horning is puzzling over Apollo's laser and communicator, noting that the latter begins to receive transmissions from Starbuck. The Nationalist authorities, not least of them the President, are suitably alarmed that a second alien ship has infiltrated their airspace within hours. As it happens, John has to compete for angel status on this episode, as Starbuck has arrived. Landing next to Apollo's viper, he has barely got out of his cockpit when police forces in helicopters appear and set down close by. Cannily absolving himself of any blame should he 'accidentally' waste this local law enforcement, Starbuck records into his communicator 'Let the record show that in first contact with people from Terra, my laser's set for stun'. Five Nationalist military police dismount from each flying craft and line up in front of Starbuck, who is crouching down behind his viper. After a brief exchange, the Nationalists make a move to apprehend him, but Starbuck shoots first, dropping all ten with stun fire. He then, extremely gratuitously, blows their two flying craft to smithereens.

As Starbuck enters the city, he is puzzled to hear a strange voice coming from behind him. John appears, touches him on the shoulder and says 'And now, you remember.' Looking down at his now white uniform, it all comes back to Starbuck. Making his way into the prison block, he is threatened by guards whom he has to stun (or rather, frighten them off by shooting a light fitting off its mountings and onto the floor). Dr Horning picks up Starbuck's shout of warning 'Stop or I'll blast you!' on Apollo's communicator and drops the device in startlement. When Apollo sees Starbuck come to rescue them, he is overjoyed and needs to convince the Maxwells and Stone no further as to who he says he is. The Nationalists are indeed using the peace plan to mount a first strike, and Apollo must get to the Presidium where Arends is about to make his 'peace in our time' speech, and waylay the President's foolhardy quest for glory. The Galactica, meanwhile, has left the fleet, and is charging headlong towards Terra at light speed, with not a moment to lose before it can bring its weapons to bear to avert nuclear war over Terra.

On the Eastern side, a dark bunker is the setting for the Eastern Alliance's Supreme Commandant to bombast his own ideas of 'peace in our time'. Gleefully, he announces that the time has come to ready all missiles for immediate launch. We then see stock footage of ICBMs on trailers being moved to launch positions.

Starbuck has Brenda drive him back to his viper so he can get in range to inform Galactica that all hell is about to break loose. Brenda is appropriately awestruck when she sees the Colonial viper in her headlights (plenty of them, as I mentioned earlier!). Starbuck can get his spot of flirting in, but this time he doesn't even get a kiss goodbye. Oh well... In the Terran Presidium, Arends has delivered his speech, which has produced the desired effect among the audience - shock and muted approval. However, Arends is stunned to see that his political adversaries have escaped and are presenting a counter-argument of their own, spoken by Apollo. The Galactica's strike leader then makes a splendid speech in which he wistfully outlines the tragic recent history of the Colonies (although making sure not to mention anything or anyone by name). In a stinging slap at one-sided peace dreams, he notes bitterly that 'the opposite of war isn't necessarily peace. More often, it's slavery.' Only strength alone can keep opposing sides apart. On the other side of the planet, the Supreme Commandant pushes the button. Scores of intercontinental ballistic missiles breach their silos and charge into the sky...

President Arends doesn't seem too ruffled at his opponents' attempt to spoil his party, and doesn't look threatened enough to have them re-arrested, but it's all academic when General Maxwell steps up and informs them, sotto voce so as not to spread panic, that the Alliance has launched their first strike. More angry than terrified, if not completely resigned, Maxwell states blankly 'We've got about six minutes.'

Starbuck gets airborne and desperately attempts to contact Galactica, now arriving in the sector. Helped out by John, he gets through to Adama and can just about blurt out what he needs to say. 'Hurry up Commander, they're gonna blow each other up!' Tension rises on the bridge as Adama sounds battle stations. Omega tracks the rising missiles, reporting that the Nationalists have simultaneously launched their automatic counterstrike. As the warheads reach the ionosphere and begin to make their approach curve, Galactica activates a powerful shield over Terra's surface. The missiles simply impact the shield and explode harmlessly, and Galactica continues to extend this shield until the entire stock of Terran ICBMs is depleted. Down on Terra, both sides are bemused as to why a) they aren't dead, and b) neither are their enemies. Apollo winks knowingly, looking at the shock on the faces of his Nationalist counterparts, who don't know quite what to believe. Not so long afterwards, even the President is chastised when a direct communique comes through from the Supreme Commandant, who has suddenly gained a desire for peace of his own. The gobsmacked Nationalists look over to thank Apollo for his action - but he has disappeared.

On a Terran sidewalk by night, Apollo wanders along, with John by his side. As John prepares to take his leave, Apollo begs one last question. 'Is this Earth?' John looks skyward for permission, as Apollo protests after all he'd done for them. After some conferring, John gives the answer. 'I'm sorry, Apollo... your journey is not over'.


  • I'm sorry, but I thought the final scene was tremendously weak. All that buildup to a good scrap, heart-stopping music included, let down with a pathetic green shield spat out of the front of Galactica. And from a terrible angle made necessary by two separately matted halves; one of Earth and one of Galactica's underside. And you don't mean to tell me that Galactica could extend such a shield over the whole planet? If so, why couldn't she have performed the same thing over Caprica in the pilot, and let the attacking Cylon fighters blow themselves up in it?
  • Nobody seems too panicked about the impending nuclear annihilation! I don't know about you, but when us kids growing up in the late Cold War used to speculate nervously about the four-minute warning, the usual consensus was that we'd be doing, well, what it takes four minutes to do. 'You can do it twice,' the girls would quip.
  • I'm not mad keen on Brenda's attitude. If every girl who had boyfriend trouble called the Old Bill on such a weak pretext, there wouldn't be a bloke alive out of prison![2]
  • Sheba’s Galaxy: The Ultimate Battlestar Galactica Information Site.
  • Sheba’s Galaxy: The Ultimate Battlestar Galactica Information Site.