Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Razor"

***

Air date: 11/24/2007
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Felix Alcala

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

If you wanted your Battlestar Galactica fix — and there's little doubt that the fans, myself included, did — "Razor" will do the trick. Coming nearly eight months after the third-season finale aired — and somewhere between three and four more months before the fourth season will finally premiere — this two-hour BSG movie fills the lengthy gap by providing, if nothing else, something to tide us over until March. In doing so, it plunges us into the dark and ugly world of Admiral Cain's Pegasus, not seen since the second season.

To that end, "Razor" is typical, solid BSG: dark, compelling, and uncompromising in its vision of its amoral main characters. If there's a problem with "Razor," it's that large chunks of it are both dramatically and thematically redundant. It's well made, solidly performed, deftly structured, and, at times, powerfully intense. But the bottom line is that there isn't much here we learn about the Pegasus or her crew that we didn't already know after "Pegasus" and "Resurrection Ship."

Still, there's an appeal to the idea that "Razor" allows, via flashback, for an actual dramatization of Cain's brutal command, which we had previously only heard about (when Fisk revealed them to Tigh in memorably ominous dialog scenes in the aforementioned episodes). Also, the saying goes that the truth lies in the details, and there are some interesting details here that we were not previously privy to.

Structurally, the writers find a way to do this in a way that connects past and present both logically and emotionally — via the character of Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen), who begins the story as a green recruit and finds herself drawn into Cain's inner circle after the chaos of the Cylon attack on the colonies.

It proves to be deft handling of a structure that had the potential to be confusing — because "Razor" does not simply contain flashbacks, but flashbacks within a flashback. (The whole story takes place in various stages of the past.) Its frame of "present" reference is actually right after second season's "The Captain's Hand" as Lee takes command of the Pegasus. He recruits Shaw to be his XO in an effort to address the ship's wounded pride (four commanding officers in a matter of weeks) and lend himself some credibility in the eyes of those who believed in Cain and now see Lee as a Galactica outsider. But Shaw comes with attitude and baggage. What "Razor" is ultimately about is the mentor/protege relationship between Cain and Shaw, the role Shaw played in Cain's brutal reign, and how that now informs the present.

In that present, a Raptor research team has gone missing, and Adama assigns Lee and the Pegasus to search for it — warning that excessive risk is not one of the parameters of the mission. "Meanwhile" (if that term means anything), in the past we see the moments on board Pegasus leading up to the Cylon attack, and then the harsh days in the aftermath as Cain and her crew realize the extent of the damage and decide what to do next.

Structurally, "Razor" is about as solidly built as it possibly can be. But it still suffers somewhat from its narrative momentum shifts. Every time the story switches back and forth between the past and the present, we are pulled out of the moment at hand and into the parallel story. It's fortunate that both threads of the story are interesting, but the flashback structure has its inherent drawbacks.

Most of the flashbacks dramatize things we already knew — granted potently. We see the attack while Pegasus was still docked. The shipyards burning. The desperate blind jump out of the battle to Anywhere But Here. Later, Cain makes a speech to her crew that is as reminiscent of the speech in the miniseries that Adama made to his crew as it is a stark, contrasting reminder that the Pegasus took a different tack: Rather than running to try to preserve humanity, under Cain they took it to the enemy in a guerrilla style quest for revenge.

And then there's the order Cain gives to send in a wing of fighters that is virtually suicide — an order the XO (Steve Bacic, of Andromeda fame) refuses, resulting in Cain shooting him in the head in full view of everyone in CIC. We'd heard about this via Fisk's monologue in "Pegasus," and it's equally effective on-screen as it was off, possibly because of the mounting suspense in knowing it's coming.

Still, on a series that has always benefited from the fact that we never know exactly what lies around the next corner, all of this feels slightly redundant. Or perhaps it's an exercise in Dramatic Irony. We know, for example, that Gina Inviere (a key point in the "Pegasus"/"Resurrection Ship" storyline) is a Cylon spy who ultimately will kill Cain (not to mention blow up the Cloud Nine), and that makes her presence as a Pegasus crew member — right down to joining the "So say we all" rallying cry — all the more distasteful.

Perhaps the most interesting new nugget of information is the fact that Cain and Gina were lovers. The fact of this relationship more fully informs the severe bitterness Cain held for Gina in "Pegasus," because it shows that Gina's betrayal was a personal one of the most intimate and humiliating kind.

Now for a digression that I just can't help myself on. Following the Cain/Gina revelation, in the bumper after the act-out during the TV broadcast, we get: "It's been revealed! Helena Cain and Gina Inviere are lovers! Brought to you by Quizno's!" This is one of the most absurd — and in retrospect, hilarious — things I've ever seen. The intended context of this message was apparently in connection with a poll question on SciFi.com, but for any viewer who didn't know that at the time (including me), it was positively weird randomness bordering on the sensationally ridiculous. (It almost seemed to say: "Look! Lesbians! Wow! Quizno's!" Beyond goofy.)

And we're back. In other ways, however, the Cain/Gina relationship feels like a missed opportunity. While the very knowledge of it informs our understanding of Cain's bitterness, that's really all it does. In every other way, it's meaningless. It changes nothing about Cain's character and adds no new depth or insights (or even clever plot points of Gina betraying Cain). The thread is so subtly established that it barely seems real. One can hardly picture that these two actually had a relationship, because one can hardly picture that Cain, always so serious and duty-minded, has the capacity for a relationship at all. Really, as a character Cain is barely social and basically asexual. So I don't quite even buy that these two were involved.

But there's one particularly interesting storytelling choice to arise from this. When we get to the second Really Dark Tale (also previously established in Fisk's Tales of Darkness) — namely, the massacre on the Scylla and the plundering of the civilian fleet for parts — there's the icy moment when Cain orders the shooting of resisting civilians while staring directly at a battered and raped Gina in a holding cell. It's as if she gets her resolve to take this unspeakable action by looking into the eyes of an enemy who was once a friend and letting the rest of her humanity go because she's already come this far. In that moment, she sees everyone as a potential threat to her authority.

Does "Razor" more fully "humanize" Helena Cain? I suppose that depends on your definition of human. Yes, she's human in that she is deeply flawed and at least has feelings and realizes that her humanity is being stripped away. But her ability to make such amoral choices is chilling. She feels she has no choice, but does that justify her position? Cain has a telling speech to Shaw, which ends, "This war is forcing us all to become razors, because if we don't, we don't survive, and then we don't have the luxury of becoming simply human again." An argument like that plays like the opposite of Adama's question in the miniseries where he asked if humanity was worth saving.

It's to the writers' credit that they are brave enough to simply observe rather than judge Cain. Still, I found myself not just questioning Cain's morality, but also her sensibility and pragmatism. How, and why, do you continue to wage a war that's over and where the only possible outcome is defeat? When she orders her XO to send in the reserve fighters in what's tantamount to a suicide mission merely to make a point, and then shoots him in the head when he refuses, what does she really end up proving? That sending in that attack leads to a devastating loss (more than 800 soldiers; a third of the crew) that leaves the ship reeling.

And if you're going to plunder a civilian fleet for parts and personnel following such a devastating loss, and leave the rest of them stranded and defenseless, just what is your military protecting, exactly? Nothing, except its own stubborn will. Based on pure results, Cain is a leader who seems determined to win the battle at the cost of the war. The writers may be unwilling to judge her, but I'm not. She's a dangerous cancer.

Michelle Forbes makes this character utterly believable, even if I find Cain's philosophy no easier to comprehend than ever. If you are looking for insights into Cain, there are few new ones to find here. We see more, and we understand the Pegasus' hardships, but I still don't see how Pegasus had it much harder than Galactica. Maybe it's all about balance, and how Cain didn't have any. Adama at least had Roslin to stand up and challenge him. Cain was the proverbial emperor with no clothes.

Our witness to all this is Shaw, and she bridges the past and the present. She's a drug addict who's as screwed up as anybody but wears the Cain protege label like a badge of honor. "I wouldn't be alive if not for the decisions she made," she says at one point. Maybe not, but hundreds of others might not be dead, either. Watching Shaw's hero worship is revealing and scary. You see how a mentality of tyranny begins to make sense under the circumstances, and how some become enamored with it. Cain is not without her appeal and worthiness of respect, until you stop and think about what it has cost. If you think back to "Resurrection Ship," you see that history was actually repeating itself, because in that episode Cain was (successfully) bringing Kara into the very same mentoring program.

There's a lot more to "Razor." In the present plot, the missing Raptor crew has been captured by an old Cylon sect dating back to the first war (called the "Guardians," who protect the first Cylon Hybrid). There are even flashbacks to 41 years ago during the first war, where we see a young William Adama (Nico Cortez, who has the Olmos faces down to a T) having witnessed the scene where the original Hybrid was built via nasty bio-experiments. These scenes feed into the series' mythology. I also enjoyed the idea of using the original-series ships and Centurions to depict the outdated Cylon Guardians. The Centurions get a few lines, and the writers even work in "By your command." Nice touch.

The rescue attempt aboard the Cylon base features the other staples of BSG war footage: much machinegun fire while soldiers hold down X position. The mission's goal is to rescue the survivors and then nuke the installation. This action is routine as these things go: competent but not exactly pulse-pounding or suspenseful. When the remote on the nuke is damaged, Someone Must Stay Behind, although I wasn't exactly clear on why Lee would've ordered Kara to do it. If Shaw led the mission, wouldn't it be her duty to stay behind? If that's not how it works, then why not the most expendable (that no-name chick)? But then I don't know much of anything about military protocol. I guess as drama it just plays better to make it Kara.

Shaw won't have it, and pulls a gun on Kara so Shaw can stay behind. She'd rather die for the mission than keep living with her past choices, one of which — in a surprising reveal — was that she was the one who fired the first shot on the Scylla. (The way the flashback is staged, it's almost as if her thinking was that someone had to invoke the tragically inevitable, so why not me?) Before blowing up the joint, Shaw has a conversation with the omniscient Cylon Hybrid, which makes for "Razor's" most intriguing and haunting scene. The Hybrid is spooky in his utter calm, his seeming desire to impart wisdom, his ability to tell you your past and predict your future, and his offer to forgive your sins. Call him God; he doesn't have a problem with it. And his message for Shaw, which she is not able to communicate to anyone, is that Kara Thrace is "a harbinger of death" that will "lead humanity to its end."

It provides a clever way to reveal something that ostensibly took place during season two and yet will cast its shadow onto season four. Kara's return in "Crossroads, Part 2" is turned on its ear from a prophecy of hope to a prophecy of doom. If we can believe the Hybrid's doublespeak, anyway.

But I've gone on for far too long. "Razor" is a compelling if not groundbreaking BSG outing that offers up an experience that is, really, more introspective than visceral. The visceral impact is blunted somewhat by its inevitability. But what it does, it does well. The horror of "Razor," above all else, is in the way its characters are fully aware of their descent into an amoral abyss — and yet are still willing to go there, knowing that they are sacrificing their humanity in the process.

Extended DVD edition notes:

  • A superfluous exposition scene of Shaw on Caprica has been restored.
  • The Adama flashbacks have been extended, including a notable FX action sequence that was previously in the SciFi.com "minisodes" but not the TV version.
  • There are flashbacks to Cain's past during the first Cylon war, where she had to make a tough choice to leave her sister behind, who was apparently kidnapped by the Cylons (X-Files style).
  • Baltar actually gets a scene. He was cut from the TV version.
  • There's more blood when Cain shoots her XO and during young Adama's visions of Hybrid bio-experiments.
  • Kara and Shaw have a scene before the rescue mission that gives their relationship a little bit more depth.
  • That priceless, 100-percent-Starbuck smile that Kara has as she walks away after catching Shaw about to shoot up has inexplicably been removed from the extended version; it's in the TV version. Now there's instead a weird edit.
  • There are a lot more cryptic lines from the Hybrid during the scene on the Cylon base. Probably pages of them.
  • Acts-in/out have been seamlessly removed.
  • Movie-style end credit sequence features Bear McCreary's score.
  • And, finally, from a BSG DVD release we get a passable menu design rather than something that looks like it was created half-assed on the fly in Photoshop (see season 1 and 2 DVD menus).

Previous episode: Crossroads, Part 2
Next episode: He That Believeth in Me

Season Index

36 comments on this review

Boris Layupan - Sat, Dec 1, 2007 - 9:59pm (USA Central)
Hi Jamahl,

I came across your site a few weeks ago and am enjoying the reviews. If you decide to post some thoughts on SG 1 and Atlantis, I'll read 'em. =)

It's my pleasure to post a pre-review comment on "Razor":

Being hyped as a tele-event on Sci Fi for months, I found "BSG: Razor" to be more of a souped up season 2 two episode parter rather than a feature extravaganza. But by BSG standards, that's really good.

Two storylines were combined here: the first days of Lee Adama in command of the Battlestar Pegasus--with the backstory of Admiral Cain and the Pegasus spoonfed in--and an encounter with the Protectors, a force of active original mechanical cylons, and the hybrid organic cylon they were protecting. Admiral Adama almost stumbled across the cylon organic experiments 40 years earlier on the tail end of the 1st Cylon War in the recent SciFi miniepisode series (November 2007) on a young Bill Adama.

I won't go into too many specific plot spoilers here so much as speak on general story points and character developments.

Personally, I feel that Season 2 was the highlight of the new BSG series with Season 3 (especially the second half) being a disappointment. I want the the producers to prove to me and the rest of the core viewership who're left that Season 4 will be up to snuff.

That said, "Razor" fit the tone of Season 2 perfectly and added another magnitude of drama to that chapter in the series.

It was great seeing Admiral Cain again, and awesome to see the events alluded to by Colonel Fisk in "Pegasus." We're tied into Pegasus' past following the Cylon attack that obliterated the Colonies and the "Present" of Season 2 through the character of Kendra Shaw. For those who want to know, the survivor count hints at the time of "Downloaded."

Watching Kendra go from raw aide to ruthless soldier under Cain's guidance is spellbinding to say the least. And watching her butt heads with Starbuck as Lee's new XO is a treat. Being
"Cain's legacy," she wouldn't hesitate to do what Tigh only dreamed of in putting Starback in her place. It would've been interesting to see how her and Starbuck would've gotten along is she hadn't been killed off at the end (more on that later).

Seeing Lee command in his own right was a pleasure. I can only imagine what would've happened had the the producers decided to not have the Colonials settle on New Caprica and set in motion the events that led to Lee sacrificing the Pegasus. This "what if" of Lee's development as a battlestar commander tantalizes me.

Cain was what we expected her to be: equal parts hero and villain. Sequences that show us Cain as a girl who was left an orphan by the 1st Cylon War weren't shown with the telemovie. But they're part of the extended version on the upcoming DVD (12-4-07). These sequences help us understand why Cain turned out to be a military die hard who sees herself as an unflinching weapon. A razor (though she was holding a folding knife at one point while imprinting on Kendra in a dramatic speech). Seeing Starbuck holding the knife following Kendra's death hints that she's the current holder of "Cain's legacy" (which doesn't bode well for the remnants of humanity in Season 4). What I don't understand, though, is why Cain didn't have the nerve to go through with her assasination plan of Adama in "Resurrection Ship (RS), Part 2," but she shot her former XO (who she'd served with for years) in the head with his own weapon without a blink. What accounts for Cain's sporadic flashes of humanity (in "RS, part 2") and hesitation? Something that I missed also was why Cain was so inflexible in pursuing an attack on a cylon station against odds of 4 to 1 when she'd assured her command staff in private that she wouldn't waste lives and resources on "a mad quest for revenge." Either this is inconsistent character development or Cain was lying to eveyone--and herself.

The fact that Cain was revealed to have a relationship with Gina, a version of organic cylon model number 6, didn't have any impact on the story and could've been omitted completely. Something not dramatized on the telemovie, but I'm sure will be included in the DVD version, is the torture (beatings and gang raping) of Gina. These events will show how a Nazi fascist state comes into being on Pegasus under Cain's aegis in contrast to the morally grey, but still humane family atmosphere that Adama preserved on Galactica.

The Protector cylons were pretty lethal for outdated models. The impression given is that there was one base star's worth of them, but it's mentioned once that a "fleet" attacked the Pegasus at one point. A slip I'm sure. The scene with the three cylon fighter pilots and a "By your command" line was priceless. When Kendra leads Starbuck and on team onto the old base star to rescue some human hostages, I found myself wondering how they could find their way around, how many cylons were guarding the vessel, and why all opposition on the ship had vanished as Kendra got a warning from the hybrid about Starbuck being the "destroyer" of humanity just before Kendra nuked the ship.

The warning about Starbuck from the hybrid nicely foreshadows one of Season 4's main issues. I'm still on the fence about that, though. I wondered why the hybrid offered Kendra the heads up? It indicates to me that this particular model wasn't such a bad person. And I wondered why the Protectors didn't seem to be taking orders from the hybrid?

Kendra blowing herself up tells me that she feels remorse about what she did as a soldier under Cain's command, but her taunting the hybrid "You should be afraid" struck me as insensitive and contradictory. But then she's human--and flawed. So where's the line between humans and organic cylons?

At the end, Adama tells Lee that without him, Tigh, and President Roslin keeping him honest, he might've done some of the same things as Cain. I can see Adama being darker, but not going quite the same route as Cain. For one thing, Cain ignored and then shot her former XO, Colonel Belzen for not following questionable orders. Belzen was the closest thing to family and a conscience she had. Adama shooting Lee, Starbuck, Tigh, Helo, the Chief, etc is unthinkable.

All in all this is a strong episode, tele-event, what have you. "BSG: Razor" was meant as an entree for Season 4, which was originally scheduled to air on Sci Fi in January 2008, I believe, but was pushed back to at least April 2008 because of the bloody WGA strike. (Hopefully the studios and networks will see reason before too long.) I expect it'll have to hold us over for a while.

I wanna give "Razor" a 5 out of 4 stars, but I'd say it rates more like a 3.95.

Boris
http://www.borislayupan.com/
Brian van Oppen - Tue, Dec 4, 2007 - 1:44am (USA Central)
I personally would give Razor a 3.5/4 rating. It has a lot of great stuff (most of which was covered by the previous poster), but it also had a few problems, mostly with the structure. Even though the Pegasus flashbacks were showing us how Kendra became who she is, I felt like Razor was trying to get away with telling two stories. However, I think that's very fogiveable given that this had to take place in the past- what better than Pegasus?- yet had to influence season 4 somehow, which it did. However, what is there is some great stuff- my favorite bit may have been the shot of the Cylong piloting the Raider, a very nice homage- and I think that even with the structure issue, it's still standout material.

I really hope we see more of these TOS Cylons, if not it might make Razor feel truly isolated from the series.

Can't wait to read your review, Jammer.
Brian - Tue, Dec 4, 2007 - 1:49am (USA Central)
Just one other thing- I found the gay relationship useful for one thing: understanding why Cain ordered the civilians shot. She was looking right at Gina when she gave the order, experiencing all the feelings of betrayel associated with her and filling her with such hate for the Cylons that she'll kill civilians to get revenge. It also explains why Cain hates her so much in the trilogy.
Ryan - Tue, Dec 4, 2007 - 7:17am (USA Central)
I felt the best scene in "Razor" was when when Cain gave a speech that paralleled Adama's in the miniseries.

It's a great scene because her speech is not great; she's afraid, rattled, and tells her crew to hold on to vengeance, because war has been left as their only option. Where Adama inspired the crew by inciting a chorus of "so say we all," the Pegasus crew started cheering it themselves. Desperate and hopeless, they had only one recourse left: the one their commander offered them, and it was vengeance. It's an incredible entry point into the sociology of the military, and really gives more depth to how the Pegasus crew became the way it did when we first met them in Season 2.

I think the injection of a sexual aspect into Cain and Gina's relationship was an incredible move. It made the Cylon betrayal of the armistice that much more personal for Cain. There is a scene where Cain stands and stares coldly at Gina in her cell after she's had her first round with Lt. Thorne. Gina is battered and bloody. There's no dialogue. Cain just stares. It's horrific. And come on, how can you not see some juicy subtext in this:

CAIN: Frak you.
GINA: You're not my type.

Nonetheless I'm reserving full judgment til I see the DVD version. It's 20 minutes longer. It's the original cut, and apparently has a lot more backstory on Cain. That's what I'm hoping Jammer will review. The TV cut felt like a neutered curiousity, even if it was a quality one.
Boris - Tue, Dec 4, 2007 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
I picked up on the... undertones in Gina's line "You're not my type."

Personally, I feel that the BSG producers could've gotten more mileage out of Cain's relationship with Gina if they showed us a scene, say, Gina delicately picking herself free from Cain's unconscious arms and out of the Admiral's bed to hack a command database in Cain's quarters. The telemovie was definitely a condensed affair. I wonder what, if anything, the DVD version will add to the relationship?

The point on Cain's lesbian relationship with Gina making the Cylon attack personal is interesting. Taken in conjunction with the fact that the Cylons killed her family and left her an orphan by the end of the 1st war, Gina's betrayal is icing on the cake.

If Cain's hatred of Cylons in general and Gina in particular led the admiral to order the executions of civilians in blind anger (I didn't make that association at all), that'd indicate to me that she's a very volatile person and acts without insight.

In "Resurrection Ship, Part 1," she stepped back from a shooting war with Adama over Helo and the Chief, though, when she got the telemetry that Starbuck/Kara gathered on the Resurrection Ship's fleet while flying the Blackbird (too bad that stealth viper was splashed).

There aren't HUGE gaps in Cain's character portrayal, but they do raise eyebrows in my case.

My take on Cain ordering the civilian executions came from the rationale she stated a couple times in "Pegasus": As a flag officer in time of war, she has wide ranging authority to take sweeping actions and military needs outweigh all other considerations. (I'd expected her to state it for the first time in "Razor" and was surprised when she didn't.)

And I felt that Cain being an orphan led her to rationalize that suffering is a part of life and it cut down on her ability to empathize with the suffering of the civilians her crew was plundering.

It's a rare story that hits 100% on character, plot, etc. "Razor" is much, much better than normal TV/film fare.
Ryan - Wed, Dec 5, 2007 - 3:39am (USA Central)
I just saw the DVD version tonight. Big step up. The addition of a few key scenes of insight into Cain and Kendra made them both more sympathetic and deep in the context of this particular 'episode.' And rather than Starbuck and Lee just floating around, their scenes really added to the main moral dilemma Cain's storyline was asking us to consider. There was even a moment of believable bonding between Kendra and Starbuck that earned the later moment where she saluted Kendra goodbye aboard the Baseship.

Some additional scenes from Cain's past and the re-structuring of a few other importance scenes to far better dramatic effect really improved it the episode as a whole. Once again, I hope Jammer's reviewing the DVD version.
Boris - Wed, Dec 5, 2007 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
Thanks for the low down on the DVD version. I hope to rent it from a video store myself.

Boris - Thu, Dec 6, 2007 - 10:35pm (USA Central)
Hi Jamahl,

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

The shifts between the present and flashbacks were a bit jarring since the two storylines didn't directly complement each other. For better or for worse, it seems that "Razor" was produced with a mandate to tell the story of Cain and Pegasus at the expense of the film's dramatic story integrity.

And I went in unconsciously expecting new insights on Cain's character, too. I suppose that the producers didn't feel they had more light to shed on Cain and just concentrated on giving the viewers Cain in all her glory.

"Razor" is definitely a quality production, though.
Steve - Sat, Dec 8, 2007 - 9:26am (USA Central)
I wonder if that missing Starbuck smile from the extended version is a mistake, because it is also missing from the "Broadcast Version" on the DVD. Also, if you listen to the audio commentary during that section, it does kind of sound like the audio commentary cuts out at the exact moment where the weird edit happens (though, I may be reading too much into it).
Dan - Sat, Dec 8, 2007 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
I didnt really care for the "current day" Galactica storyline. Its fodder for the asian austrailian chick and completly unnessecary. Theres no point in doing character development for Lee or anybody else in current day Galatica since we know what happens to Lee and the Pegasus.

This movie should have been a 2 hour movie from the Pegasus's point of veiw including more of what happened in the time from when the cylons attacked, to the time when Pegasus found Galatica. They could have explored more of Cain's turn to the dark side, more of the Pegasus hunting cylons, and maybe even some ressurection ship storyline.

I definitly rate it 2 stars from a storyline perspective, 3.5 stars for production and execution.
Boris - Mon, Dec 10, 2007 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
Till I learned the plot details, I'd thought that "Razor" would concentrate on Pegasus from the Cylon attack to its finding the Galactica and the fleet.

I figure that because the fourth season is the last, the producers are trying to cram as many stories as they can into production, hence the mixed storylines in "Razor."

C'est le vie.
Brendan - Tue, Dec 11, 2007 - 4:57pm (USA Central)
Dan,

I'm not sure how you can call the "present" storyline "completely unnecessary" - it has HUGE implications for where the final season is heading.
V - Fri, Dec 14, 2007 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
As for the "Apollo ordering Starbuck to nuke herself" scene, which you also thought was ridiculous, they explained that in an interview:

The idea was that the ORIGINAL framing device would be that we open "Razor"'s first scene with Apollo and Papadama in Pegasus CIC, debating what to do during the attack. Then we'd keep cutting back to it and showing progressively another few seconds of the scene; sort of like the slow revealn of the final fight with "Scar".

***The result is that the final Pegasus CIC scene debating "do we nuke Starbuck" "Starbuck nuke yourself" "surely, you don't want to nuke Starbuck?" etc. etc......was NEVER meant to air all in one sitting beginning to end like that. That's why there's so many dramatic pauses throughout the dialogue in that scene; they thought each line or two of dialogue would serve as the intro to a commercial break or something.

I agree that the homosexual storyline just wasn't substantial enough, and felt tacked-on.

I seriously think the "casual viewers" will remember the Quiznos ad almost as much as anything else in it. This isn't the cast and crew's fault, but a clear sign that Scifi Channel has NO IDEA how to handle promoting this show or run competent commercials.

"Razor" may not have been very original, but at least it recaptured (to an extent) the ORIGINAL feeling of the series in seasons 1 and 2, before Season 3 came. Season 3 its as if they forgot there was a Fall of the Twelve Colonies at all and focused on the Love Polygon and "I have PTSD from New Caprica!". Ugh. The show is ending, and after the bad third season, it was nice to pull Pegasus out of mothballs and take it for a spin around the block again to show "this is what things used to be like".


My bigger question though, is how does a show which prides itself on its realism, also handle prophesy things from the Gods or Cylon Hybrid that serve almost as Deus Ex Machina?

"Razor" was a fun revisiting of "this is what this show used to be like before the Love Polygon hit and we ran out of budget"
Dan - Sat, Dec 15, 2007 - 10:04pm (USA Central)
"I'm not sure how you can call the "present" storyline "completely unnecessary" - it has HUGE implications for where the final season is heading"

You didnt need the whole present day storyline to get out the point of Starbuck. That line could have been slipped in the webisode flashbacks or anywhere else.
Chris - Mon, Dec 17, 2007 - 1:29pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed Razor. I felt that it worked extremely well as a companion piece to the Pegasus arc in season 2. I think that the most compelling element was the fact that we were aware of the stories about what Cain had done, and now we were seeing them unfold. I did think that Cain shooting her XO so quickly was a bit jarring, but the scene on board the civilian transport was excellent. The destruction of the Columbia, witnessed by a young Adama, was probably my favourite scene. I got a kick out of seeing the old-school Cylon basestar and raiders, and of course the old Centurions. It was hilarious to hear Adama say "This cocksucker's mine!".

I wasn't particularly impressed by the character of Shaw - I would have preferred to have seen someone who was more affected by the horrors she had witnessed. Shaw being a grizzled soldier, with underlying concerns about her situation and deciding to be a hero at the end of the day, just felt a bit cliched.

As Moore says in one of the DVD extras, the revelation about Kara instantly throws a spanner in the works for season 4. We'll know that there's something wrong with Kara, and we'll be waiting to see what it is and how the other characters find out. There's something a bit Matrix-y about the "beginning and end" theme, but I have faith in Moore. Season 3 did have its ups and downs, particularly the stand-alone episodes in the middle of the season, but Crossroads set up a hell of a lot of interesting threads. I look forward to seeing how they play out.
phillydlj - Fri, Dec 21, 2007 - 11:41pm (USA Central)
I was watching Razor with five other people, including someone who never saw Battlestar before, and when that damned Quiznos bump came in revelling in Cain and Gina's Lesbianism, we erupted into laughter. I still laugh just thinking about just how impossibly DUMB that bump was.

As an aside, it's interesting to point out that Shaw very closely resembles Angelina Jolie's nonexistent, younger, hotter sister. Even in a wool duty uniform, she was slammin'.
Brendan - Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - 2:33am (USA Central)
Dan,

It was much more than that. The backstory on how Cylon hybrids first came into being will no doubt be very important.
Jim - Mon, Mar 31, 2008 - 1:44am (USA Central)
Maybe that marketing ploy worked. The word Quizno's made its way into a sci fi fansite four times. I'm reading about it four months later. Man, I'm hungry.
Tomás - Mon, Sep 29, 2008 - 8:44pm (USA Central)
"While the very knowledge of it informs our understanding of Cain's bitterness, that's really all it does. In every other way, it's meaningless"

I really felt it deserved more than 3stars... IMO and on the above point, I think there was lots more to that dynamic, than simply an explanation of being humiliated in an intimate way... I think it went much further into Ad. Cains character... I originally watched Pegausus, then Resurrection Ship and later Razor... but if after Razor you watch Pegasus + Resurection Ship again, something else is noted... Adama says she was an officer that Cain was faststreamed to the rank of Admiral... and Adama is, like his ship... a classic, someone to command respect for his service, even from admiralty... however these two lock horns, two strong leaders, with opposing philosophys on leadership... having never met before. To me I wonder if Cain had issues with men of power?? Her exchanges with Adama on Colonial One, almost seem to be without respect for Adama's years of service... I also note in contrast her warming towards Starbuck, even as far as to congratulate her striking Tigh, in the opening show... as a vailed attraction for another strong woman... and she goes on to promote her, to be in command of Adama's son... Yet Starbuck is the model of inserbordanation, as she claimed to Adama she took great exception to... So IMO that relationship had a huge significance to explaining Admiral Cains character and if it was written that way subtely, but intellegintly cast... Its a stroke of writers genius, that surely deserves its recognition???
Jason - Tue, Jan 13, 2009 - 10:11am (USA Central)
I saw the dvd version of this movie at the tail end of the 2nd season right around where it's meant to take place, and thought it was fantastic. I saw it between "The Captain's Hand" & "Downloaded", and it felt very much like it belonged in Season 2. I think a lot of the disappoinments that people have with "Razor" have a lot more to do with seeing it at the beginning of the 4th Season (at which point it feels like an un-needed flashback) than any real problems of the film itself. I know it's not perfect, but seeing it right after "The Captain's Hand" it was pretty close. Having now seen all of Season 4.0, it's amazing to me that they filmed "Razor" as part of that collection of episodes.

The only problem I did have with "Razor" when I first watched it was that the flashbacks to the attack on the colonies are dated as having taken place 10 months ago. Then in "Downloaded" the flashbacks to the same attacks are dated as having taken place 9 months ago. So "Razor" clearly takes place after "Downloaded", but I liked seeing it right after "The Captain's Hand". I changed up the order a few weeks ago when I rewatched all the current episodes, watching them like this:

2x16 Sacrifice
2x18 Downloaded
2x17 The Captain's Hand
4x01-4x02 Razor
2x19 Lay Down Your Burdens, Part I

And that seemed to work a lot better. For starters, there's a full month between "Sacrifice" & "The Captain's Hand", which "Downloaded" can now fit into. The storylines from "Sacrifice" featuring Apollo, Dee & Starbuck aren't touched at all in "Downloaded", and so it's not affected - except now there was something between them so when it's said it's a month later it felt less like we'd missed something. This also means that we have a full episode ("The Captain's Hand") between the supposed death of Hera and an episode in which Athena is seen helping the fleet again ("Razor"), which with the other order we don't have. The only odd thing is that this means that Tory is seen with no one commenting on her being new. But she never had an introduction scene anyways, and the scene in "The Captain's Hand" where they talk about her not being Billy plays just as well as it did the other way.

Just my thoughts. ;-0)
Pegasus - Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - 5:15pm (USA Central)
"Maybe it's all about balance, and how Cain didn't have any. Adama at least had Roslin to stand up and challenge him. Cain was the proverbial emperor with no clothes."

Cain had someone to stand up and challenge her: her XO Colonel Belzen. Unfortunately, she made the decision to murder him the first time he challenged her. Whereas Adama chose to listen when Roslin challenged him.
Vrenir - Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - 1:01am (USA Central)
I finally got around to watching this chapter of Battlestar, and having seen the first nine episodes of Caprica, I found the Cain as Tauron aspect especially interesting. In "Pagasus" etc, her cold amoral attitude had seemed almost bizarre, but under the expanded culturescape of Caprica, her fixation on revenge at all costs makes more sense, and it's a fascinating contrast to Adama's (essentially ex-Tauron) stance of survival and rebuilding. I only wish that the writers had done enough work ahead to make her wear black gloves.
Brendan - Sat, Jul 3, 2010 - 8:59pm (USA Central)
Too bad she didn't have any tattoos... or maybe she did? :P
Sanagi - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 1:23am (USA Central)
Good show, but I was still waiting for some deeper development of Kendra and Adm. Cain when I realized it was about to be over.
Pegasus - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 1:54am (USA Central)
If only it were longer.
Nic - Tue, Jun 21, 2011 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
Kendra Shaw was an interesting character wonderfully portrayed by Stephanie Jacobsen, and since she's essentially the main character of this movie, Jacobsen deserves a lot of credit. That being said, I think my favourite sequences were the flashbacks of young Adama discovering the first experiments Cylons did on humans. As for the Pegasus scenes, there were mildly interesting, but not dramatic enough, given as we knew about all of these events already. The reveal that Cain had a relationship with Gina COULD have shed light on both characters, but it didn't. It's just a 'shock' moment that doesn't have any other impact. It's also a bit disappointing that the only homosexual characters we've seen so far are amoral or traitors. Finally, the Hybrid is an interesting concept that will not be confined to this film (though I wondered how it and the old-style Centurions could still be around after 41 years). Overall, I think three stars is fair.

As always, the music outshines its material. When Kendra's theme started playing during the end Credits, I FELT like I had seen a really great film even though I knew it was just a pretty good one.
Ilya - Sun, Jun 26, 2011 - 10:53pm (USA Central)
Nope. Cain is still 100% villain; even with all her excuses and reasons.

She is also nuts. "Survive!", "Avenge!"; yeah, good job loosing 1/3 of your crew and murdering your XO over surviving a skirmish with an opponent that was immortal, had almost unlimited resources, and no considerable opposition.

Still,
- Frack you!
- You are not my type.
Awesome. I wonder if the writers knew back then?
subunit - Wed, Jul 13, 2011 - 9:42pm (USA Central)
Just got around to watching this. I was most interested in it because the Pegasus arc left me with the distinct impression that every single member of that crew was an irredeemable fuckhead. I was looking forward to a well-written examination of how such a fall from grace could happen. Razor was anything but, imo.

Let's review what we know about Admiral Cain:
-obviously deeply traumatised as a girl by the death of her family and her inability to save her little sister during 1st Cylon war.
-spent her entire career in a peacetime military, at most putting down the occasional civilian uprising, but most likely pushing paper and flying desks
-upon the 2nd Cylon invasion, her very first combat situation sees her murder her XO in order to execute exactly the kind of hopeless attack against overwhelming odds that she stated she would not pursue
-said attack kills ~1/3 of what for all she knows are all remaining Colonial Fleet personnel and severely damages her ship
-during the attack, discovers that her lover is, in fact, a spy. orders her to be taken to the brig and raped repeatedly
-upon discovering what, again, for all she knows are the only remaining Colonial citizens, she orders a few to be drafted, murders or leaves for dead the rest (while contemplating the brutalised body of her former lover), and strips the ship in order to pursue further hopeless attacks
-we're told, pursues further attacks off-screen against the Cylons (which, given her demonstrated command incompetence, seem highly unlikely to have been very successful) until meeting up with the Galactica and entering the Pegasus arc

This characterisation is bizarre to the point of being laughable. This is a person who's so traumatised by her childhood experiences that she's obviously become an extremely damaged, dangerous sociopath. Somehow, she evades psych testing and makes officer in the peacetime colonial military, where her abrasive and violent nature is mysteriously overlooked. She rapidly climbs the ranks of said peacetime military (a process which usually requires significant political prowess and mutual back-rubbing, not very easy to picture her in that role). In her very first combat situation, she issues a panicky jump-to-anywhere order, makes a cursory investigation of the Colonies (two raptors, makes no effort to check for survivors anywhere), and is instantly transmogrified into Stalin.

What are we supposed to draw from this? That the Colonial officer selection process is woefully inadequate? Cain affects the air of a hardened combat officer, collecting old guns and the like, but is obviously nothing but a desk jockey. Her childhood trauma is supposed to be an excuse for her behaviour, but Adama's been through just as much, and actually fought in the first Cylon war, and somehow manages to keep it together. She's totally unsympathetic, and a completely nonsensical candidate for a flag officer position.

The crew of the Pegasus, including Shaw, is likewise show to be worthless trash. Given Cain's obviously erratic behaviour post-attack, they should have had the balls to stand up to her and relieve her of duty. Instead, they ignore the obvious fact that in the absence of a civilian government (or civilians to protect), their uniform is a meaningless fetish, with no legitimate authority, and execute obviously illegal and counterproductive orders with little more than a few sidelong glances or a few seconds of hesitation. Shaw is revealed to be an arrogant brat born of the aristocracy that Baltar decries, who has so little regard for her oath to uphold her duties that she's willing to murder civilians after only a moment's thought. Truly unlikeable, unbelievable characterisation in this one.

As a last note, I found the whole reveal of Gina's true nature to be particularly ridiculous. Shaw busts into the CIC, points a gun at Cain's lover. Cain, rather than blowing away Shaw as she did her XO for much less, does nothing. Shaw demands that Hoshi put up a security camera image which shows a corpse that looks a little like Gina. Cain instantly jumps to the conclusion from this single grainy image that her lover is, in fact, a spy, and deserves to be raped in her brig forever. Gina steals a weapon, and rather than offing herself and repopping on the resurrection ship, allows herself to be captured. Huh???

Hazel - Wed, Nov 30, 2011 - 3:16pm (USA Central)
subunit - can answer your last point - Gina can't kill herself because it's a sin against her god. She had hoped the Colonials would kill her and then she'd ressurect - she didn't expect to be kept alive and tortured.

She also didn't expect to fall in love, which she clearly did, which is why she couldn't kill Cain when she got hold of a weapon after her nature was revealed in the CIC. This is one of the problems with Cylons being constructed with human emotions as well as appearances - they can fall in love by accident, like Athena-Eight and Caprica-Six.
Michael - Fri, Dec 9, 2011 - 6:19pm (USA Central)
Oh geez, daddy gives Lee a battleship and Lee makes Kara C.A.G. of the Pegasus. So, not only does Adama ride total roughshod over the very notion of democracy, but he also espouses nepotism and corruption. He treats the Fleet as his personal fiefdom.

That aside, I liked the movie. The flashback method, which usually grates on me, worked well. The plot and acting were good, as were the special effects. There was the right balance of action and drama. Some people are given to overanalyzing characters, factoids, etc.; I just want a good movie to spend an hour and a half with, and this did it for me.

I highly appreciate the writers' decision to not get Kendra and Lee to shack up because, I swear, the minute it became apparent they'd be spending time together on Pegasus I was sure he'd end up bedding her at some point. So, really glad to see that temptation was not given into.

I thought Adama's delivery to Lee at the end incongruous. He usually speaks in laden, leaden, deliberate, ponderous tones; here, he sounded almost as if he was on Everybody Loves Raymond or something. He sounded airy, flippant. It didn't work. His message--which, for once, was good--was lost on me.

The big question though remains: What DO we make of Adm. Cain and her crew, including Kendra. Hmm... I am one to usually say that war is war, and that lilly-livered bleeding hearts who scream bloody murder every time an innocent gets killed in error are misguided and delusional. They sanctimoniously view the theater of war from the comfort of their armchairs and have ZERO idea how the brain and body reacts on the battlefield when your life is in imminent danger.

Yet, there are some acts that are simply going too far. Those civilians were executed in pretty much cold blood. Nothing can justify that. It is legally and morally inexcusable.

Or is it?

Legality and morality do not exist in a vacuum. They exist only relative to an organized society. After the destruction of the Colonies and the rest of the human kind, can it be argued that there WAS a society of any kind left? Did the Pegasus crew see itself as the last bastion of the human race whose purpose was to go down fighting rather than preserve that human race? I don't think an answer can be deduced, but if so, then I would propose that no, the Pegasus crew was NOT bound by any legal or moral rules devised by and applicable to an organized society. Whatever helps them in their mission goes, and their mission is to inflict maximum damage on the cylons before they are taken out for good. In such circumstances, if you need an F.T.L. drive on the double, you take it come hell or high water.

Is torture of a P.O.W. acceptable? Ordinarily, no. And yet, there are numerous circumstances where I'd definitely approve of torture. A ticking bomb scenario is one example. Extracting information from an infiltrator whose actions just cost your crew--who are among the last survivors of the species--is another.

There's no right or wrong answer here, but it is a testament to B.S.G. that it gets one thinking to this extent. Few shows do that.

3.5-4*
Nic - Fri, Dec 23, 2011 - 9:49pm (USA Central)
@Hazel: That's not entirely valid. Suicide is a sin, yes, but only when resurrection is impossible (as it was for Gina in "Resurrection Ship, Part II"). But offing yourself to be resurrected later cannot be considered a sin in Cylon religion because other Cylons have done it without second thought (see "The Plan").
Ryan - Sun, Mar 11, 2012 - 9:28am (USA Central)
Ilya and Subunit, you two are right on. Cain's a dumb bitch.

@Michael: Your points about legality and morality may be valid, but are ultimately irrelevant, in my opinion, because all the questionable things Cain did were unnecessary and unwise, as per Subunit's post.

Is there a situation where killing civilians might be necessary? Yeah, maybe, but this wasn't one of them. It's been pointed out numerous times that the Galactica isn't exactly the jewel of the fleet; in fact, it's a bit of a rusted out shitbucket that was ready to be turned into a museum. And yet it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. On the other hand, the Pegasus is the newest ship in the fleet and is fancy schmancy but needs to rob blind a rag tag group of civilian vessels in order to carry on? I don't buy it. I guess it's understandable, though, seeing as how the dumb bitch of a commanding officer ordered a suicidal attack that left the crew morale and equipment in shambles. (Nothing boosts morale after a bonehead move like ordering your people to rob and shoot civilians, amirite?)

At one point, referencing Cain, Adama says something to the effect of "Tactically, I can't find any fault in any of the things she did." Horseshit. Absolute horseshit. Nearly everything she did was counter-productive. As Jammer mentioned, the war was effectively over; therefore, all the horrible shit she did in the name of that war were pointless. Even if we set that aside, though, none of it was necessary and there were much more sensible alternatives to every "desperate measure" taken.

Tl;dr: Cain was a dumb bitch in season 2, and she's still a dumb bitch now.
Ryan - Sun, Mar 11, 2012 - 9:30am (USA Central)
By the way, Cain is a dumb bitch. Did I mention that?
Justin - Sat, Jul 14, 2012 - 11:47am (USA Central)
Lee turned out to be a pretty good Commander for Pegasus. It's a shame he had to blow it up. By the way, we never did find out if he awarded Shaw the posthumous medal, which is interesting. It was left open to interpretation. My view is that she did not deserve it due to her actions on Scylla. Yes she sacrificed herself to complete the mission, but that does not make up for murdering innocent civilians. The History as it was to be written in Lee Adama's logs should make little note of Shaw. She deserved to be forgotten.

On another note, I had to watch that bizarre Quiznos "Look! Lesbians!" bumper on YouTube before I could actually believe it. Holy frak, we have a weird culture...
Jason K - Mon, Oct 8, 2012 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
Not for nothing, and not to pick nits, but Kendra Shaw had THE. WORST. PAPERCUT. in BSG history. I mean, look, she had the same band-aid on her finger when she first met Admiral Cain that she had on when she was in the kitchen with Starbuck.
Nebula Nox - Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - 8:31am (USA Central)
I guess on Caprica, humans' eyes can go from blue in young adulthood to brown when you're mature. I wonder why they did not choose Bodie Olmos to play the young William Adama? He looks just like his father.

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