Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 1.12 Kobol's Last Gleaming Part 1
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 head towards the end of season one next with the first episode of the two-part finale...
There is the sense that everything is going to come to a head with the dazzling opening sequence to Kobol's Last Gleaming. Bear McCreary delivers a haunting score as we cut between different events - Sharon 'Boomer' Valeri succumbing to the dreaded realisation that she is a Cylon and putting a gun to her mouth as Caprica-bound Helo shoots his lover Sharon in the chest after discovering she is a Cylon following the closing moments of Colonial Day. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace has sex with Gaius Baltar, observed disturbingly by Six, but she has Lee Apollo on her mind, calling out his name in a moment of passion. Lee meanwhile spars with his father; surely all the pent up tension between father and son makes this a terrible decision? Events are spiralling and that's before the discovery of Kobol that leads into a shocking, dramatic season cliff-hanger next episode.
Battlestar Galactica does season enders well and the standard is certainly is set here. There are plenty of strong character moments; Lee discovering Kara slept with Gaius makes for a rather violent confrontation on the hanger deck that seems to undo the bond they shared last episode, while Gaius himself seems ready to rid himself of Six. Tricia Helfer plays the Cylon in his head with a cool menace; the scene where he argues with both Laura Roslin and Six simultaneously is a masterstroke in comic timing, scripting and tension. The forbidding warning that he is not safe on Galactica sends Gaius on the mission to survey the newly discovered Kobol and into the arms the Cylons waiting for the raptors as they arrive on the planet, one of the many nail-biting cliff-hangers heading into the finale as Gaius, Chief Galen Tyrol, Callie and Crashdown plummet to the planet's surface in the doomed raptor.
Prophecy plays a bit part of the narrative in this episode; Laura Roslin has visions of an opera house and a thriving city and she surveys the images of the ruins taken from the survey of the planet, cementing her role as the dying leader in the sacred texts. Her actions quickly see her move against Adama; coercing Kara into betraying her commander and de-facto father for a mission to Caprica to retrieve a golden arrow, will send the pilot in an interesting new direction story-wise, while setting the president against Adama in the finale.
The episode is packed with betrayals; Adama lies to Kara about Earth's location and she ultimately betrays her mission to destroy the Cylon base star. Cylon Sharon's betrayal of Helo sees her on the back foot, shot and freezing as she pleads with him. Roslin betrays Adama, Gaius betrays Six, Kara betrays Lee. It is a domino effect, tearing apart every relationship established across the first season and it makes for riveting television.
Kobol's Last Gleaming Part 1 is all about set up. On retrospect, many of the big moments from the end of season one come from the next episode. But it packs plenty of tension and drama, raising the stakes on a personal level. Even without the pay off to come, the episode is still a riveting watch from beginning to end. There is a sense that Battlestar Galactica is upping its game...