Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 1.11 Colonial Day
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 continue with the politics and power plays of season one's late entry Colonial Day...
Colonial Day serves as something of a breather before the dramatic events of the two-part season one finale, allowing characters to let loose a little while still addressing the politics at play within the fleet as President Laura Roslin attempts to re-establish a functioning government. It leads of the promise Apollo made to Tom Zarek in Bastille Day, examining what humanity might look like following the destruction of the twelve colonies and how a new society might be forged beyond the Cylon threat.
Arguably, it's a direct sequel to that third season one episode, the first narrative that didn't explicitly deal with the Cylon threat. We quickly learn that Zarek has been currying favour with ship's captains, providing the supplies that Roslin won't and his charismatic nature puts him in position to represent Sagittaron - and get one step closer to the presidency itself. The biggest threat he poses is in challenging Roslin to open up votes for a vice-president, one that Six is quick to manipulate by having Baltar second. With Roslin dying and Zarek popular than ever, Zarek is a likely candidate to become the president - a huge leap from the incarcerated terrorist he began the series as.
The success of Colonial Day lies in the way it challenges Roslin. We know that Zarek can't be president, but her unwillingness to stray too far from established law quickly sees her as outdated and unpopular. Many of Zarek's challenges are right, even if the man behind them might not be. Baltar becoming the only other choice is a terrific move - Roslin is caught between two devils even if she doesn't know it - though this may have been Six's plan all along. It's great to see Baltar out in the public eye, James Callis delivering a fun, charismatic performance. It's a move that will have catastrophic consequences by the end of season two.
Amid all the political plots and schemes we have Lady Macbeth herself Ellen Tigh. In the luxury of the Cloud Nine liner, with its lush gardens, champagne receptions and luxurious hotel suites, Ellen elevates her attempts to bring Saul with her into a position of power. The episode never explicitly states what she talks about with Zarek, but it certainly is worrying, and the continuation of a thread that will have greater consequences in the opening episodes of season two. It's also nice to see another side to the fleet in this episode. Starbuck and Apollo enjoying the gardens, having fun - Starbuck in her expensive gown as they dance the night away - it's a nice contrast to the doom and gloom and claustrophobia of the corridors of Galactica and Colonial One and made all the more heartbreaking given the betrayals of the finale.
And on Caprica, we see some momentum of Sharon and Helo's story as he discovers a second version of Sharon among the human Cylon models. Their story has certainly felt a little dragged out all season - checking in on them maybe three of four episodes out of the eleven would not have altered their story one bit. But at least the discovery that Sharon is the enemy will spur things forward in the finale and into season two, turning it from an intriguing side story and glimpse into what the fleet left behind and into an essential part of Battlestar Galactica's mythos moving forward.
Colonial Day is probably the weakest episode of season one, but not without its merits. The changing political landscape and Baltar's rise to Vice President makes for an intriguing next step in humanity's journey. It's nice to see certaing characters left off steam and Helo and Sharon's story starts to finally go somewhere. Where it really works is in laying the groundwork for season two and the dramatic events that will shape that season's finale and into season three.