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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 "The Hand of God", which originally aired on March 11th of 2005.
Previously on Battlestar Galactica: President Roslin has terminal cancer, but instead of treating the disease with chemotherapy she seeks relief from alternative medicine. The fleet’s diminishing resources are proving to be as much of a threat to humanity’s survival as the Cylons are.
I was rather harsh in my review of “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”, which is little more than a forty-two minute character study on the rather unlikable Ellen Tigh. But Battlestar Galactica redeems itself with “The Hand of God”, an episode so full of action, suspense, and character development that it makes it easy to forget all about last week’s dud. The chapter begins with President Laura Roslin holding a press conference to address the fleet’s latest problem: a lack of fuel. There’s only enough tylium available for two more jumps to light speed, meaning humanity is running out of time to find a habitable planet to rebuild upon. The press conference comes to an abrupt end when Roslin experiences a vision of a snake slithering around on her podium, and later her religious guide tells her of a prophesy about a dying leader that sees serpents before leading their people to salvation. At this point Roslin’s terminal diagnosis is a secret shared with only her physician, but the knowledge is enough to inspire her to further walk down the spiritual path, a journey that will eventually conflict with Adama’s practical military nature.
The Galactica gets to work searching for more tylium, and just like in “Water” it’s the Boomer/Crash duo that saves the day by discovering an entire asteroid composed of the valuable resource. While getting the water had been relatively easy restocking their fuel supply will prove more difficult, as the Cylons have already staked a claim to this hunk of rock. Cylon Raiders patrol the space above the tylum processing plant constructed there, leaving Adama to make the most-difficult decision the fleet has faced so far: run and hide, which will likely leave them out of gas, or finally take the fight to their enemy. Being wise enough to realize that the former choice will spell doom for what remains of the human race, he gets to work on an attack strategy.
One of the most-charming characteristics of Commander William Adama is he’s aware of his own shortcomings. Given the long odds they face in taking the tylium he enlists the creative mind of Starbuck, who remains unable to fly as she recovers from the knee injury she suffered in “You Can’t Go Home Again”. Despite the objections of both Tigh and Lee she concocts an outside-the-box strategy that the elder Adama endorses without question, a display of his trust in the young woman he sees as his own daughter.
Starbuck’s absence from the cockpit leaves everyone doubting the chance the mission has to succeed, a sentiment not lost on fellow Viper pilot Lee Adama, who clearly has a bit of an inferiority complex in regards to her. We got a taste of the rocky relationship he has with his father in show’s pilot, but that story thread hasn’t been pulled since. And that only makes sense from a narrative standpoint, given how dire their situation is it wouldn’t make sense for the Adamas to waste screen time on family drama. The night before the mission is to launch Lee is restless, and his father finds him in the hanger bay. The two share a nice exchange that speaks volumes about their past and current struggles, a relationship further complicated by the fact that it is simultaneously personal and professional. The elder Adama’s acknowledgment of his shortcomings as a father are important, as is the passing on of the family’s good luck lighter to the son who is tasked with leading tomorrow’s suicide mission.
Starbuck’s attack plan is full of trickery due to how overmatched they are, and due to military protocol even President Roslin isn’t privy to the entire plan. But as the battle plays out it never feels like the omission of details is a storytelling cheat as it is in The Last Jedi, the way the episode is written and filmed lends a natural quality to the way the events unfold. Adama’s need-to-know mentality is honest and earned, therefore the audience buys it without a second thought, even when the big twist that a secret squad of Vipers is in play is revealed.
The Cylon base is better defended than the military expected though, and the initial attack proves to be unsuccessful. Up to this point Lee Adama has been a very by-the-numbers pilot, there’s no denying his talent but he’s simply not a risk-taker when in the cockpit. But when the battle for the tylium appears lost he takes a page out of Starbuck’s book and gets creative, taking his Viper inside the facility in a dramatic action sequence that ends with him singlehandedly saving the day by destroying the Cylon base. It’s such a great character moment for Lee, escaping the long shadows cast by both Starbuck and his lost brother Zak. He returns to the Galactica humanity’s hero, and the journey we’ve taken with him to get to this point helps us understand just how important of a moment this is for Lee Adama. It’s amazing that in such an action-packed episode the show runners were able to fit in such powerful character development, a testament to how well Ronald D. Moore and Co. understand this world and the fictional people that populate it.
The Caprica subplot continues to be mediocre, its shortcomings particularly obvious when juxtaposed against the outstanding storytelling the rest of this episode offers. Very little happens on the war torn planet, Helo and Robo-Sharon are still on the run from the Cylons and seek refuge in a stable. While I do appreciate another example of how similar the world of Battlestar is to our own these trips to Caprica are getting annoying, although we do get our first taste as to what the payoff of this subplot will be. While going over their breakfast options the Cylon Sharon gets nauseous, and since she was intimate with Helo just a few episodes ago it’s easy to connect the dots as to what is ailing her. The other significant revelation to be found here is Helo realizing that there’s multiple versions of the humanoid Cylons, setting the stage for the inevitable conflict between these two lovers. The truth will be arrive soon, and the fallout of this human-Cylon relationship will impact the Battlestar Galactica story all the way to the series finale.