Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.19 and 1.20: “Greetings From Earth”

Airdate: 2/25/79

A drifting spacecraft is brought aboard the Galactica, where Apollo and the others discover its occupants to be a family of humans asleep in suspended animation. Suspecting that their ship may be programmed in a course toward Earth, Adama considers waking them, but the doctor warns that such an action could kill such life forms unused to a different environment. All agree to let sleeping humans lie, but the impatient council decides to risk their lives by opening their tubes. All this bickering is for naught; the male human, Michael, wakes up by himself, and when he approaches some nasty Galactica security officers, he is greeted with hostility. Apollo, outraged at the treatment and curious as to the visitors’ planned destination, arranges a “military action” whereby he, Starbuck and Cassiopeia escort Michael and the others toward their planned course of action – to the chagrin of the war mongers ready for a fight.

They follow the humans to their home planet, Paradeem; Apollo is more than a bit perturbed that Michael has destroyed their homing beacon, and sort of wonders why. All is answered when it is revealed that these humans are actually from the planet Terra, and are at war with an oppressive empire known as the Eastern Alliance, which had destroyed most of Paradeem. An EE commandant is hot on the trail of our heroes, and they have a face-off amid the ruins of an abandoned city. Michael’s companion, Sarah, is held hostage (she, incidentally, is not Michael’s wife, and in fact hates anyone having to do with the “science” that killed her dad; she sort of has the hots for Apollo, but of course it’s unrequited), but that doesn’t deter our Galactican heroes from TCBing, and bringing those Alliance guys to justice.

Double-length episode need only be single, as the first half of this bloated story is just the bickering back and forth on whether or not to remove the humans from hibernation, and then what to do with them after they awaken. Second half isn’t much better: the “Eastern Alliance” is just a group of black-clad, German-accented overactors that are clearly supposed to be Nazis (even their name suggests it), and there’s some political allegory toward the end that makes subtle references to the Eastern-bloc Communism.

If I only had a brain...
Quite frankly, there’s only one real reason to see this – wait, make that two. It’s two wisecracking androids that caretake Michael’s home – Hector and Vector, played by Ray Bolger and Bobby Van, respectively, As you can well imagine, they play the robots as if they were a vaudevillian act, and they do it well, too. It’s clearly a nod (or rip-off, depending) to R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars, but here it’s just crazy to see old-time movie stars doing their shtick in a sci-fi series. Maybe surreal is a better word. Well, kids, that’s what the 70s were all about.

And speaking of, this episode got a bit of a ratings boost when it first aired. ABC put it on an hour earlier, at 7:00 PM (Sunday night prime time started an hour earlier; and ABC’s slot, with no Disney or 60 Minutes, was pretty much empty realty). But immediately following, at 9, was the conclusion (part 7) of Roots: The Next Generations, and leading in to this was a Neilson gold mine. But the series was already cancelled by this time.

Rating:  **1/2

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