Thursday, July 10, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.17: “The Man With Nine Lives”

Airdate: 1/28/79

Fred Astaire guest stars as Chameleon (pronounced Sham-elon), an elderly gent on the leisure ship The Rising Star. There he takes a liking to Starbuck (and is beguiled by his failed gambling system), and, after much discussion, discovers that he may very well be the young lieutenant’s dad (he was orphaned as a child). One hitch: it seems like the old man is on the run from the Borellians, a trio of nasty folk who look like pissed-off cavemen, and perhaps that is indeed why he’s pulling the father bit, as it’s allowing him safe passage on the Galactica. Things come to a head when predators meet prey, but wily Chameleon manages to thwart them using one of the Viper’s laser cannons. He fesses up to the ruse, and a heartbroken Starbuck accepts his apology – except Casseopia, who was running he genetic testing, gets a positive match. Chameleon gets her to lie that it was negative; he doesn’t want Starbuck giving everything up for a “worthless old man” such as himself.

Another winner - but, by this time, with only six episodes left, the ratings-challenged series’ fate had already been sealed. Give the show points not just for featuring a terrific vehicle for another veteran performer (is the show turning into The Love Boat?), but for pretty accurately predicting the future science of DNA testing. First half of episode features the series’ best writing s far; it starts getting thicker toward the end, but on balance it’s pretty solid science fiction. Twist at the end is as poignant as it is unexpected – and adds a new name to Galactica’s family tree.

Rating:  ***

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