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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the Battlestar Galactica episode "Six Degrees of Separation", which originally aired on February 18th of 2005.
Previously on Battlestar Galactica: Scientist Gaius Baltar continues to deal with his guilt after unknowingly helping the Cylons in their attack on humanity. Helo and secret Cylon Sharon search for a way off Cylon-occupied Caprica.
Of all the television I’ve watched I have a hard time thinking of a more intriguing character than Gaius Baltar, the enigmatic scientific genius of Battlestar Galactica. What makes Baltar so fascinating is that the show is just as comfortable painting him as a potential villain as it is celebrating his heroic achievements, his unparalleled intelligence is matched only by his selfishness. It’s this latter quality that likely inspired the Cylons to target him as someone they could manipulate to help wipe out most of humanity, and while he wasn’t aware of the role he played in their initial attack on the twelve colonies there’s no denying he helped facilitate the disaster.
Baltar isn’t devoid of humanity though, and while he’ll do anything he can to keep his secret quiet (it was just a handful of episodes ago that he recommended an entire ship be destroyed because it carried someone that could expose him) his guilt has manifested itself in the form of Internal Six, a version of his former Cylon lover that exists solely in his mind. The discussions he has with his imaginary friend give us insight into the mind of Baltar, they reveal information that simply couldn’t be conveyed to the audience through dialog with other characters because that would reveal Baltar to be a traitor. They also offer up some fun comedic moments that serve to lighten the mood, as Gaius often gets romantic with his fictional lover and finds himself in an awkward self embrace that leaves the other characters wondering just how quirky Baltar really is.
“Six Degrees of Separation”, which proves to be a brilliant title for this episode, opens with Baltar quarreling with Internal Six within the imaginary house he’s constructed in his mind. Their verbal battle is of a religious nature as Six preaches the importance of believing in God, an idea that man of science Baltar mocks her for. Internal Six responds in a way that way that we’ve not seen before, instead of standing up for her argument she simply disappears. James Callis does a fantastic job of conveying the instant panic Baltar feels once his companion is gone, in order to maintain his secret Gaius has gone to great lengths to keep his social circle small and the only person he’s been able to reveal his true self to is Internal Six.
The timing of Internal Six’s disappearance is juxtaposed with Baltar being called to the Galactica’s command center where he meets Shelly Godfrey, who is another model of the Cylon Six. After a fun exchange where Gaius assumes this Six is just a figment of his imagination the situation turns serious, as Shelly tosses some serious accusations at him. She claims to have visual evidence of Baltar entering the defense mainframe on Caprica with a bomb in his hand, suddenly Gaius finds every eye on Galactica looking at him as a potential traitor. These are people searching for a scapegoat, someone they can punish by exacting revenge for the tragedy that stole both their homes and loved ones away from them. Baltar is in trouble, and he knows it. Of course Gaius realizes that Shelly is a Cylon, but is prevented from exposing her as doing so would lead to his own demise. He's ensnared in a trap of his own making.
Adama orders him to not leave the ship while tasking the computer-savvy Gaeta with cleaning up the low-quality photo, with the result either clearing or damning Baltar. Gaeta had previously been in awe of Gaius which the latter exploits, confronting him in the bathroom in an attempt to convince Gaeta of his innocence. Gaeta remains loyal to his task though, and rebukes Baltar’s attempts to win his favor. Gaius responds by triggering a fire alarm as a distraction, and with Gaeta’s computer left unattended he furiously unplugs wires in an attempt to stop Gaeta’s computer from delivering its verdict. When he steps up his efforts and is about to smash the computer he’s caught in the act by Adama, who promptly has him escorted to the brig until they get their answer. Baltar turns to President Roslin for help but finds her unwilling to support him, a development he didn’t expect. He doesn’t spend too much time in the brig though as Gaeta determines that the photograph was a forgery, noting that the ease of detection meant that Shelly likely wanted it to be identified as a fake. Adama orders a fleet wide search for the mysterious woman, but she is nowhere to be found.
From the moment Shelly’s accusation was made Baltar believed that it would be his face in the picture, even though he knew he had never taken an explosive device to the defensive mainframe. The false accusation provided an outlet for the guilt he carries, which is a heavy enough burden that it convinced even himself of a crime that he actually didn’t commit. This gets a long way towards humanizing Baltar, despite our knowledge of what his past actions have cost humanity.
“Six Degrees of Separation” does a great job of not only fleshing out the character of Gaius Baltar, but it also sets up some conflicts that will pay off down the road. Most notably is the rift that has developed between Roslin and Baltar, her lack of support clearly cutting him deep judging by the look he gives her as she announces his exoneration. Gaius Baltar will prove to have a long memory and a willingness to carry a grudge, and Laura Roslin will come to regret her decision to not have his back during the inquisition he faced in this episode.
The Caprica storyline doesn’t get a lot of screen time again, although what happens on the Cylon-occupied planet is extremely important. Helo confesses his love for Sharon and she reciprocates his feelings, and the two become intimate as rain spills from the sky. Helo is so caught up in the moment that he fails to notice his partner’s spine is glowing red, apparently an indication of a very happy Cylon.