Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 1.07 Six Degrees of Separation
Ronald D Moore's re imagining of the 1970's sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica set a gold standard, both for sci-fi and TV reboots. The darker, grittier re imagining, that saw a fleet of human ships fleeing the dreaded Cylons in search of Earth, won a whole host of awards and critical acclaims over its seven-year run. With the series looking to go through another quasi-reboot under show-runner Michael Lesslie, we look back at the first reboot that defined the early days of twenty-first century television. We reach the season one mid-point next with Six Degrees of Separation...
The twisted relationship between Baltar and Six is a staple of Battlestar Galactica since the mini-series and one of the most entertaining aspects of the show's early seasons. A blend of intense drama and wonderful comedy moments (mostly thanks to James Callis's delightful somewhat unhinged comic timing), their interactions offer another fascinating insight into the world of the Cylons. The assumption that she is a chip in his mind remains completely ambiguous, towing the line between manipulation and insanity, all of which comes together in this brilliant mid-season one episode Six Degrees of Separation.
The seeds of Baltar's rebellion against Six were sown in the previous episode Litmus and boils to the service here with her talk of the one true God - a concept he cannot get behind. All of which leads to the wonderfully humorous sequence where he is summoned to the command deck and then discovers that Tigh, Adama and everyone else can see his Cylon lover standing there in the flesh. The concept of Shelly Godfrey is a brilliant idea - the episode cleverly never has her façade break; to all intents and purposes, she is a human member of the fleet who managed to get off the Olympic Carrier just before it was destroyed in 33 and now has evidence that Baltar was complicit in destroying the Caprican defences. Even when Baltar confronts her alone, she never smiles, never hints that she is Six playing mind games with him and the rest of the fleet.
The twist of course is that he was unwittingly complicit in the Cylons overcoming the defences of the twelve colonies, just not for the reasons Shelly Godfrey claims. As a viewer, it's hard to know what to feel for Baltar. He is guilty - does the discovery that he might have planted a bomb - true or false - enable him to be punished for his actions? Then again, he was manipulated by Six through sex and mind games from the start - does he deserve the impending fate waiting for him if he is found guilty? And what of his actions since? While there is an argument that Six may be the product of guilt and paranoid delusions, he is still in bed with the enemy. That's what makes the character so interesting to watch.
While James Callis really holds his own this episode, both in his comic timing and ability to bring some vulnerability to the character of Baltar, Tricia Helfer also offers a new side to Six. Shelly Godfrey - a nice play on the name - is altogether different to the versions of Six we have seen so far. Masked behind a suit and glasses, offering a quieter, more reflective persona, it is easy to see why she is able to dupe the crew and turn them against Baltar; interestingly, it's only when she demonstrates Six's base instincts, attempting to seduce Adama, that the mask breaks.
Amongst all the grittiness of the events unfolding, the humour of Baltar and Six's story really adds some levity to the series. This episode is no different. The scene in the toilets is certainly the funniest sequence to date as Baltar tries to communicate with Gaeta through the cubicles. In the stark realism of Battlestar Galactica, it's also refreshing to see characters actually use toilets. Babylon 5 once made the point of having two characters chat at a urinal, but Star Trek has always kept any hint that it's hundreds of crew members might actually need to use the toilet firmly off camera. The conversation in the cubicles here adds another sense of realism to the story, while upping the paranoia and dark comedy of the situation.
While Six Degrees of Separation is mostly centred around the fall from grace of Gaius Baltar, it does make the time to progress other character beats. Following her injuries in You Can't Go Home Again, Starbuck faces a painful recovery; her antagonistic relationship with Tigh is another entertaining facet to the show and it's interesting that it is his bullish behaviour towards her that finally gets her off her hospital bed than the encouraging attempts made by Apollo. Boomer's gradual descent into darkness continues too; the realisation that she is a Cylon is becoming all too real - particularly in the scene where she caresses the Cylon raider in the hanger bay. It's a tragic story line that will only get worse as the show heads to the end of it's first season and you can't help but feel the pain of Grace Park's tortured performance as her world starts to collapse around her.
Six Degrees of Separation is another strong entry in season one. It doesn't have the tension of episodes like 33, but it certainly offers a compelling character journey for Baltar and plenty of moments of humour against the darkness. With a final delightful twist, that sees Baltar rise higher than ever, his manipulation by Six seems complete. His exoneration by President Roslin at the episode's end will lead to plenty of bigger things to come - and not for the better...