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Thursday 9 February 2006

The Quality of Leadership:
A Summary of Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 on DVD

by Cynthia Ward

Executive Producers David Eick and Ronald D. Moore

Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Tahmoh Penikett, Grace Park

The Short Summary

In Season 2.0, Battlestar Galactica continues to be the best show on television and the best SF TV show ever. For the gods' sake, don't buy the Season 2.0 DVD box set!

The Long Version

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 opens moments after the cliffhanger ending of Season 1. Galactica Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) has just been critically shot by one of his own fighter pilots, a Cylon sleeper agent. Vice President Gaius Baltar and a group of soldiers are trapped on the planet Kobol. In the brig, deposed Colonial President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) still holds her possibly drug-induced belief that the Gods have chosen her to lead the humans to mythic Earth. And Adama's coma makes his weak second, Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), the leader of both Galactica and the human race.

Colonel Tigh never wanted to be a commander. A smart man with a drinking problem, he knows he has some serious weaknesses. As the acting commander, he makes some good decisions?-but never believes he has. So he takes strength from his wife, Ellen (Kate Vernon). She has no leadership skills, no wisdom, but she is strong-willed and confident. She wanted an alpha male she could control; that being impossible, she married a man whose rank puts him one breath from command and whose minimal self-esteem lets her manipulate him. Their folie a deux has deadly consequences for the human fleet.

Upset by the civilian demonstrations against Adama's military coup, Tigh orders martial law, believing this will quiet the civilians. It does precisely the opposite. At Ellen's prodding, Tigh sends marines to seize necessary supplies withheld by the civilians. When the unarmed civilians riot, some marines fire, wounding and killing several.

It's a disaster, but not the end of Tigh's bad leadership decisions. When the civilian government, the Quorum of Twelve, arrives on Galactica and demands to see Roslin, whom they assert is still president, Tigh's wife informs him, accurately, that Roslin is crazy. Without verifying, Tigh takes the Quorum to see Roslin. In the interim, she has gained more of the controversial anti-cancer drug that is keeping her alive. No longer crazed by withdrawal, she addresses the Quorum with clear-headed dignity. She identifies herself as the dying prophet predicted to lead humanity to Earth. The Quorum falls to its knees before her.

Roslin gained more of the psychoactive camala because Tigh's bad decisions are also making the military mutinous. The soldiers who help Roslin escape the Galactica include Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber). Tigh reacts by alerting the Galactica's one-man Viper fighters. Will he order them to shoot down the president and his best friend/commander's only surviving son?

Leadership: Myth and Reality

Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 explored a powerful myth of leadership. According to the myth of King Arthur, in a time of cataclysmic crisis, a leader will rise to the challenge. When the Twelve Colonies were destroyed, Commander William Adama proved to be smart and fair, and the new president, Laura Roslin, proved inspirational and wise. Both grew to cope with the crisis. The survivors (and viewers) believe the two are capable of leading humanity's last 47,000+ survivors to safety.

The myth of Arthur is deeply grained in the American consciousness by the great crisis leaders, General/President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln. However, the myth has a dark side. Leaders don't always meet the challenge, as America demonstrated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 delves deeply and scarily into the reality that leaders can fail us when we need them most. As acting commander, Colonel Tigh makes several grave errors. A lieutenant commanding the people trapped on Kobol makes such bad leadership decisions that he gets fragged. Adama sticks by his unwise decision to depose the president, which drives one-third of the starships to leave the fleet with her, dangerously dividing humankind's few survivors as Roslin returns her believers to Kobol on a religious quest.

Most significantly, a new battlestar is discovered: the Pegasus, commanded by Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes of Star Trek: The Next Generation). Her crew's brutal treatment of its Cylon prisoner, its assault on the Galactica's Cylon prisoner, and her snap condemnation of two Galactica soldiers to execution, vividly demonstrate that Admiral Cain would make a willing and bloody-handed commander of Abu Ghraib prison, and would summarily veto any attempt to make the torture of enemies illegal. She has fallen to the occasion of human extermination, and Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 ends on a cliffhanger even more hellacious than Season 1's, as the Pegasus and the Galactica fly into battle?-against each other.

DVD Extras

The DVD box set (Universal, 2005) collects the first ten Season 2 episodes of Battlestar Galactica, hence the set's title of Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0. Season 2 has another ten episodes, which have just begun broadcasting on the Sci Fi Channel. Accordingly, this box set, with its full-season-sized list price of $49.98, contains only half of Season 2. You'll have to buy another box set to get the rest of the episodes. Perhaps there won't be a separate release of the second half, but, instead, a new box set containing the entirety of Season 2.

Either way: what a ripoff!

If this isn't bad enough, Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 has a paucity of bonus material. The features consist of SF movie and TV series previews; a "Sneak Preview" of BG: Season 2.5; seven "podcast" episode commentaries by Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore (available free on the website); and deleted scenes from nine episodes. The DVDs are in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the episodes are in English Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English (closed captions) and Spanish. The deleted scenes are extensive and enlightening, and they include some fascinating scenes that explore the creation and evolution of William Adama's and Saul Tigh's close friendship.

But you still shouldn't buy the Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 DVD box set.

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