Battlestar Galactica

"Dirty Hands"

3 stars

Air date: 2/25/2007
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders and Jane Espenson
Directed by Wayne Rose

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Dirty Hands" has an intriguing focus on a topic that's one of the series' crucial "big idea" questions: Just where is this broken society headed? In the absence of Cylon siege, can the fleet continue to function as a society, and what will that society look like if and when it reaches Earth?

As was usually the case with the various Star Treks, the focus of this series is generally on the more elite characters: the people who run the show. Admirals, captains, pilots — the ones who make the big decisions and get the lion's share of the glory. In the opening sequence of "Dirty Hands," on the other hand, we experience what life is like on Chief Tyrol's flight deck. Much of it is hard, physical, repetitive labor with a minimum of glamour and no shortage of extraneous crap jobs, like delivering the weekly laundry. You don't normally think of who delivers the laundry on the Battlestar Galactica, but somebody has to do it.

The message of "Dirty Hands" is that the rote routine of such jobs can't be sustained by the same people forever. At some point, human beings become unhappy and disenfranchised. This is demonstrated in an early scene where Seelix, who has taken the pilot's entrance exam and scored well, has been turned away for no other apparent reason than because she's too important in her current operation as a mechanic on the flight deck. Few things are more infuriating in the career world than being told you are ineligible for advancement because you're too vital where you are now. At some point, what's the incentive for continuing to do a job you hate?

In Galactica's universe — and here's the rub —the incentive is that if you don't do your job, people die, and perhaps the entire human race is destroyed as a result. The grumbling on the flight deck is a problem, but a much bigger problem is the grumbling on the fleet's tylium refinery vessel, the Hitei Kan. Once the fleet's most reliable ship, the president notes how it has descended in recent weeks into a disaster waiting to happen. The chief of the refinery, Fenner (David Patrick Green), has become a thorn in Roslin's side, with daily requests for better working conditions and even overtime pay. (I'm not sure what overtime pay can possibly mean in a fleet that has no apparent working economy as we know it, but there you are.) The situation comes to a head when a Raptor with a contaminated fuel supply goes out of control and crashes into the Colonial One and only by pure luck doesn't kill anybody.

When Roslin and Adama call Fenner in to discuss the problem, Fenner explains that contaminants in the fuel are a side effect of a refinery whose production line has been overworked to a breaking point. Roslin says, simply, "Fix it." Fenner then makes a veiled threat that if he isn't heard on his labor issues, further problems with the fuel supply might surface, and perhaps not unintentionally. Roslin orders Fenner jailed for extortion, in part because Fenner quotes from Baltar's new prison book, which was smuggled out by his lawyer and predicts an opening class divide.

Adama puts Tyrol in charge of getting the refinery back up and running. Tyrol's eyes are opened — and so are ours — when he goes over to the refinery and sees exactly what the working conditions are like. This is a harsh existence of hard, dirty, dangerous, unremitting labor, with 12-year-old workers and a ship full of people whose perception is that no one cares about their plight. I have no idea whether BSG's production staff built this set or repurposed an existing location, but the effect is vivid: This is an implacable juggernaut I would not want to spend a day on, let alone define every working day of my life — which for many of these people has been every day since the original attack on the Colonies. It's also a place whose workers are on the verge of exploding, with the power to hold the fleet hostage. They've already hidden key filtering components that halt production, and the remaining tylium supplies are dwindling.

One question about Roslin and Adama and their reaction to the refinery crew's grievances: Isn't it awfully shortsighted for them to approach the problem as hardliners rather than more even-handedly? These people aren't terrorists, after all. Roslin's initial closed-mindedness borders on being out of character. (Yes, she would react in such a way to, say, Baltar, but would she cut Tyrol off so quickly regarding legitimate working conditions? This is the same Roslin who negotiated over a labor dispute in the flashbacks of "Epiphanies." Or maybe she's not the same, and that's the point.) If the fleet's sole refinery ship is in such bad shape that it could literally explode, shouldn't it be top priority to repair it? And this is in addition to the awful working conditions, which are threatening to cause the workers' morale situation to explode.

I'm not sure I always believe the characters would act the way they do, but given these actions the episode powerfully dramatizes the problems on both sides in this dispute: Adama and Roslin cannot negotiate with extortionists because they fear a potential floodgate of subsequent worker revolt if they cave. Meanwhile, the refinery workers are realizing they are doomed to an unending existence of dangerous labor.

What I found interesting about the episode were the implications of the emerging class divide, in which societal lines that were drawn long before the Cylon attack now play out in the newly emerging post-apocalypse. Poor colonies like Aerelon and Sagittaron, which were known primarily for their farmers and manual laborers, were like second-class citizens to wealthier colonies like Caprica, which had more professionals, artists, and politicians. Tyrol makes an excellent point about the inheritance of duties that's chilling when you hear it spoken aloud. People trapped on ships like the refinery are stuck along with children who are now being taught how to man the refinery because there's no one else to do it. Is this the start of generations of laborers who will have no control over their lives?

Roslin concedes the point and enacts a random fleet-wide lottery among qualified workers for such jobs, but even that process is problematic, as evidenced by the kid who was a "farmer" in title because he spent a summer doing it before college. It's an imperfect post-apocalyptic world with imperfect solutions.

The episode's best scene comes when Tyrol feels compelled to visit Baltar in the brig and hear the prisoner's theories on the rising aristocracy. In a surprise bit of character backstory, Baltar reveals that he grew up on Aerelon and tried to suppress his true working-class heritage by ridding himself of his native accent and leaving his old life behind for a more prestigious one on Caprica.

This scene is brilliant in its ideological observation about the class divide as well as its notion of redefining who we think Baltar is. James Callis is superb at convincingly revealing dimensions to Baltar that we'd never suspected, while at the same time showing Baltar as a master manipulator able to cause problems throughout the fleet from inside his jail cell. (Is it true what he says about his past, or just something he concocts to lend credence to his ideological argument? With Baltar you can never be sure.) There's a credibility to Baltar's missives on the "emerging aristocracy" that's frightening to contemplate.

I also liked the scene where Tyrol, after witnessing a work-related injury, makes an emotional decision and declares the refinery on strike. It's a satisfying moment of drama as a populist gesture, sold in no small part by Bear McCreary's score, which has a flavor that feels just right.

Tyrol also puts the entire flight deck on strike, a gesture that gets him thrown in the brig. The ensuing showdown with Adama is dramatically charged but not entirely believable. Adama threatens to have Cally shot as a mutiny ringleader, which strikes me as more oppressive than Adama would likely approach the situation. While Adama makes completely valid points about how the chain of command cannot be viewed as "optional," his reaction strikes me as excessive. And when Tyrol relents and calls off the strike, Adama immediately allows him to talk to the president. I don't know about that either. If Adama is trying to prove a point (the only possible conclusion to draw from this scene), why doesn't he simply appeal to Tyrol's sense of duty more directly before threatening to kill people?

Thematically, I see what the writers were going for here, but I don't think it works when compressed into two minutes of screen time. (I also don't think you can have Adama threaten to execute mutineers here if he's going to let Helo walk free without an investigation in "A Measure of Salvation.") And the next scene where Roslin hears Tyrol's labor grievances (over drinks, no less) and appoints him as the head of a labor union is also an awkward about-face. Simply put, if Tyrol makes so much sense to Adama and Roslin now, why didn't they listen to him before the strike?

So the ending is problematic. Still, this is one of the most useful and provocative episodes yet about the way society functions in the BSG universe. It's a reminder that aside from this series' focus on the military and the Cylon threat, there are also a lot of civilians and workers out there that are going to have to grapple with an emerging future that has not yet taken form. Balancing the creation of that future society with the immediate reality of a fleet still on the run from possible attack is, obviously, a major challenge that will require concessions from everybody. Some will have to live harder lives than others. This episode is hopeful that with responsible leaders and the right decisions, a just outcome might be possible, despite the validity of skeptic opinions like Baltar's.

Previous episode: A Day in the Life
Next episode: Maelstrom

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42 comments on this post

Mon, Nov 26, 2007, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
I also felt that Roslin and particularly Adama were painted as too hardline in this episode, which seemed out of character with their previous stance. What intrigued me most about the episode though was the subtle commentary on class perceptions in Britain (still very much more a class society than the US or the rest of Europe), with James Callis switching to a northern English accent instead of his usual southern well-spoken variety. As someone who was frequently looked down at school and college for my own northern English accent, I appreciated this.
Tue, Jan 8, 2008, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
I must say I disliked this episode quite a bit, mainly because they didn't seem to be playing fair with the characters in order to make a point - something which seriously gets up my nose. Could Adama and Roslin act the way they did? Definitely, but I didn't buy the way it was presented. Perhaps it was the script, perhaps it was the acting... I can't tell, but I felt both the Adama/Tyrol showdown and the last scene with the Prez were unconvincing. If they'd made the character work more convincing, the episode would have felt less forced to me, and that in turn would actually have strengthened the very interesting and valid ideas in it.
Fri, Mar 21, 2008, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
I have been catching up on episodes as they have been shown again, and I have re-thought my initial... umm... thoughts on the about-face spots, especially by Roslin. In my mind, it showed how people sometimes react to stress, as it builds slowly over time to a point where they just want everybody to "Do their FREAKIN' JOB!", no matter what that job is, and don't bother me with any more nonsense. Driven by that stress, some think that they can make people do what they want by the force of their will. (If you kids don't settle down back there, I'll turn this fleet right around, go back to Caprica and no Earth for Anybody!). Okay, they don't actually say that, but I believe it showed the military and civilian leaders at a breaking point, unable to take on one more thing, displaying arrogance that anyone would defy THEM.

By being force-of-will hardliners, they then couldn't back down when it degraded to thinly-veiled extortion. While their turn-arounds may have been too quick, I thought the episode showed how the characters realized they have been acting poorly and how they need to fix a situation that they have made worse with hasty decisions and words.

Thanks for the reviews, Jammer. They are enjoyed.
Wed, Apr 23, 2008, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
Um, first they say that they'll never give into extortion, and then once they hold Cally hostage and force Tyrol to call off the strike, they then proceed to negotiate with him and accept all his demands. Lessons the BSG labor movement can take from this: 1) Strikes work and 2) be prepared for The Man to hold your family hostage. I don't know if it's just me, but both Roslin and Adama have been pretty damn detestable leaders, ever since New Caprica. You'd think Vice President Zarek would at least try and reign that mad dog in a little... Anyways, awesome reviews, as always!
Fri, Apr 25, 2008, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
just found your reveiws - great and so perceptive thanks !!
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 2:07am (UTC -5)
Baltar's prison manifesto is a key to his character. Putting aside the question of how he is able to smuggle out a book from his cell, as if his captors would really be that short-sighted in giving a Cylon collaborator access to mass audience, the fact that he has articulated a brewing social problem well enough to a)solidify it, and b)exacerbate it - reveals more about his own self-serving motives than the society's he criticizes. Baltar has established very well his willingness to sacrifice humanity for his own gain on several occasions writ large. I can't believe the fleet would give him any credibility regardless of the truth of his sentiments.

I also don't buy that Roslin would be so closed to hearing the plight of labor.

But my biggest question is, why why why are they short-handed on the flight deck? Didn't they just absorb a *whole other crew*? Give me a break! There are thousands of civilians who no doubt have lost their jobs on Caprica, who I'm sure would be looking for something to do. People get bored with no job. While I'm sure they wouldn't be lining up for ore processing, surely, surely there are incentives in place, such as, oh, I don't know, higher "salary" for more labor without education - just like the real world. People don't work on oil rigs or in coal mines in developed countries because of class. They do it because they can make more money than artists. Yeah, I don't quite buy into the Dickensian conditions on a frakking spaceship.
Fri, Nov 14, 2008, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
I liked this episode but there was something in it that bugged me, and it is something the series has done quite a bit. As a Soldier serving for 20 years I kept waiting for Chief to say to Adama, "Sir, if you execute all my deck crew, who is going to repair and maintain the Vipers and Raptors? The pilots?"
But it also led to a fristration I have had since Kobal - but let me digress by saying I am serving in Iraq and am on my seventh combat tour in 20 years, I have been around and in the military my entire life, so this is where I am coming from. This series has Soldiers, ok, Colonial warriors, drawing their weapons on one another WAY too much. I know it builds suspense and is drama, but I am sorry, it bugs me.
Sorry about the length, but it has been bugging me as I watch the series, and please understand, I am SO hooked on this series now that I have it, but when it seems they are pulling weapons on one another as often as I rotate my boots, it pulls me out of the show. Just a rant, thanks for listening.
Sat, Nov 15, 2008, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Nick. The writers just use it as an an easy way to ramp up the tension. It's pretty transparent. As much as I love BSG, there's a tendency for the writers to always go for the most shocking or dramatic turn of events possible - and people drawing their weapons on each other is the quickest way of doing this. It's cliche and irritating, and detracts from real drama.
Wed, Dec 17, 2008, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
Nick makes a good point: there is often violent posturing on BSG. When it is done well, there is real threat and menace. I think the season 2 ep "Sacrifice" did this well: despite its other faults, the gunfights are fast, dangerous, and deadly. I rewatched "The Women King" last night and there is a scene where a marine puts a gun to Helo's face. He barely reacts to it.

I've never had a gun pointed at me, but I imagine my reaction would not be pretty. If a friend were to pull something like that, we would no longer be friends. I would think that a professional relationship, like the one between soldiers, would suffer similarly. Too often, it is treated as business as usual on BSG; this may well be a nihilistic streak that comes from being the last of their civilization.
Wed, Dec 17, 2008, 6:22pm (UTC -5)

I reminded myself of Lee's assertion that the people of the Fleet are a gang, not a civilization. Worth noting in this context, I think.
Mon, Jul 26, 2010, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
I actually did not find the characterizations of Adama and Roslin to be at all unbelievable. There was perhaps a missing scene showing how Roslin changed her mind, but that was dampen the surprise of it at the end. Suffice it to assume Tyrol's arguments were weighing on her, and once the strike/mutiny was resolved, decided it needed to be adressed seriously.

I also have no problem with Adama's reaction. Had the strike been confined to civilians, that would be different, but for some reason Tyrol saw fit to extend it to the deck crew, which was asking for trouble.

S3 has a lot of bottle episodes that are lame and pointless, this is not one of them. While it cannot stand up to series classics because it is too far removed from the core theme and mythology of the show, it is still a really good hour of TV, imo.
Mon, Jun 20, 2011, 5:00am (UTC -5)
Roslin's about-face was slightly awkward, but still pretty believable from the "we can't cave to extortion" angle which is completely consistent with her surprisingly-hard-line stances throughout the series.

Adama's actions were completely unreal, threatening to shoot Cally!? His argument about obeying orders was sound and well voiced, but threatening to kill a pretty much innocent woman as a means of coercion is unprecedented and uncharacteristic. This was the only scene I found unbelievable.

Still, it's the best episode since Collaborators and for that, I am thankful - most of season 3 has been rather disappointing in the shadow of the first 2.

Tyrol has always been one of my favorite characters, and this episode completely sells me on that opinion.
Wed, Jun 22, 2011, 11:00am (UTC -5)
I am completely appalled by Adama's reaction. Does he think he is leading an army? A real fleet? Fleet is made up of soldiers who volunteered to be there. Who signed up for this.
What Adama and Roslin are actually leading is the entire human society.
True, he flipped out when Tyrol put the deck crew on strike, but it was about the refinery strike as well.
And if he starts calling any dissent "mutiny", he'll truly become a tyrant he is nominally trying not to be.
"Will anyone lead this fleet whose last name is not Adama?" indeed.
Nick P.
Sun, Jul 3, 2011, 1:21pm (UTC -5)

I will start with saying I absulotely LOVED the 1st 43 minutes of this episode. But the Cally order I think is tragic. I think Adama has never been a well written character, and this I think has finally crossed the line with me.

Now, I am not a liberal person, one reason I love this show over Star Trek is the ludicrous PC hippie ST, and its fake protrayal of humanity. BSG generally shows humans more as they actually are, with flaws.

Adama makes a MAJOR mistake with the Cally order. Think about this. To end a strike, he threatened to shoot the wife of the head of the union. WOW. Let me be very clear, Patton, Union-Busters, Hitler himself never threatened union leaders families with death. The only real power workers have is the means of production. That is why I support strikes, even though I am quite conservative. For Adama to threaten death for a Strike, well, the only real negotiating is hoping Adama and the president are nice this week....

I have been questioning Adama's command style from the first episode, and I am def. on the verge of wanting a replacement Admiral, this guy has problems. He cannot make personnel decisions to save his life, as I have documented here many times, he is very self-involved and has seemingly never made a good decision in his past, he favours his friends and family in almost all respects, and at the end of the day, he IS A DICTATOR. He is only nice to Roslin when she is flirting with him.

I would actually like someone here to argue he is not a dictator.
Tue, Jul 19, 2011, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Nick: Adama is going to go down as one of the greatest, most beloved, and most studied figures in human history, assuming humanity survives. He has saved humanity more than once, and leads with heart. If you want a replacement admiral, perhaps you could bring back the Pegasus lady from Season 2 and see how that works out, speaking of dictatorship. Yes, Adama is a dictator, but not a tyrant. I promise you, the cylons would love nothing more than to hear news of your replacement admiral taking the helm of humanity's fate.
Mon, Sep 26, 2011, 9:57pm (UTC -5)
This episode had a bizarre structure. It takes four Acts for Tyrol to finally decide to go on strike (something which I saw coming way in advance), and then the strike is settled in two minutes of screen time. It seems to me it would have been more interesting to see the strike go on for a couple of acts, see the effect it has on the fleet before Roslin would finally agree to the workers' demands.
Sat, Nov 26, 2011, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Ugh, a problematic episode, this. Others have noted most of the points I noticed but I'll reiterate.

Firstly, after what Baltar did, how is it possible that his "book" (smuggled out of prison, really?!) would gain traction with anyone in the Fleet, regardless of the validity of his ideas??? Baltar, a "man of the people." And Chief, of all people, fell for it. Give me a break.

Secondly, the human race is in an existential war and some people find it fit to start peddling commie crap about working conditions? Are ANYBODY's working--or living, for that matter--conditions favorable?! Affirmative action and R&R!!?

Thirdly, Adama did select Cally because she's Tyrol's wife, but she was also a high-profile part of the gang of mutineers. I don't see anything particularly wrong with threatening to shoot her, although he should have put Tyrol up before the firing squad first. If you ask me, Adama was not forceful enough with the strikers, and neither was Roslin.

I've no problem with organized labor or with workers' right to strike as a last resort. Heaven knows workers have been grossly exploited over the course of history, especially since Industrialization. But in war such niceties are rendered subordinate to the war effort.

Bottom line: If the flight crew can risk their lives to protect the civilians, then the civilians can put in seven days a week at work to keep the flight crew in the air. And those who do not, forfeit their membership of the society.
Sat, Mar 10, 2012, 3:23am (UTC -5)
Not a three star episode, in my opinion. Good premise, poor execution. Roslin and Adama's attitudes in the beginning were just totally unreasonable and, more importantly, out of character.

Is it so hard to understand that working the same back-breaking job 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for years on end my bum a person out a little bit? Maybe for Roslin, considering she's seemingly never done a hard day's work in her life. I mean, in the end, it turned out there was a pretty simple solution to everything, so why did it take them so long to find it? Because they were being (uncharacteristically) stubborn and asshat-ish.

My other concern is why Tyrol thought it was a good idea to include the deck crew the strike. Surely he should have recognized this as unnecessary and not likely to end well.

Just poor writing all around, with the exception of the big Baltar scene. He is quickly becoming my favorite character (perhaps simply by process of elimination).
Thu, Mar 22, 2012, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
I don't know who the heavy was in place of the Admiral--maybe it was a changeling. That would explain the hammy acting and out-of-character-ness of threatening to kill Cally. I half expected Tyrol to threaten to blow up the Go-Go-Juice ship in retaliation, but I'm glad it didn't come to that. I think this was a two-parter that was squeezed into one episode.

I will mention that the class divide issue touched on here was handled much classier than on DS9 (the Bajoran Dijara system), although I'm glad both series touched on it.
Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 8:32am (UTC -5)
@ Michael: "Secondly, the human race is in an existential war and some people find it fit to start peddling commie crap about working conditions? Are ANYBODY's working--or living, for that matter--conditions favorable?! Affirmative action and R&R!!?"

I think this point was deliberately made right at the top of the episode. After the raptor hit Colonial One, Roslin was all "Oh poor me, I have to move to the other end of the ship. Tory had her shoulder dislocated." That to me was there deliberately to show how she thinks she's got it bad, and then to show us how bad it REALLY is. Hell yes she's got favourable working and living conditions, if the worst she can complain about is moving to the other end of her personal palace. That's the point. The refinery crew do have legitimate concerns, and claiming that "everyone's in it together" is simply a way of willfully ignoring their rights.

As for the hardassness of Adama v Tyrol, I read it as Adama actually agreeing with Tyrol all along. But because neither he nor Roslin could be seen to be negotiating with strikers, or else everyone else would try it, he had to do something so deliberately and blatantly "eeevil" that there was no chance Tyrol would not back down. Then, once he has, Adama can give him everything he asks for and that he wanted to give him all along. Tyrol just had to be seen to give in first, for the sake of the chain of command.
Thu, Jul 26, 2012, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
I thought that Adama's reaction was horribly out-of-character, until I read @lvsxy808's comment above; genius! of course that's what it was!
Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 2:12am (UTC -5)
Baltar is the only character I really like anymore. Sure he's completely self-interested, but he doesn't have the pretense and self-righteousness that Adama and Roslin seem to constantly exude... oh and everything he says in this episode is true. Go Baltar!
Tue, Sep 3, 2013, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
I had to pause this episode twice: firstly when the kid goes to poke around at the conveyor belt (uggh) but most of all the smug ending scene where Roslin and Tyrol decide to take a lesson from the Khmer Rouge. Those damned New People on Caprica One!
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 12:15am (UTC -5)
I also agree with @lvsxy808's spot on assessment. Adama's threat to execute Cally was never real. It was issued based on the letter of the law, but Adama usually follows the spirit of the law. If he had followed through, then "real" mutiny would have ensued. Adama understood that the underlying problem was not a military one but a civilian labor dispute. But he had to remind Tyrol that he took the wrong route by instigating things while he was still under military command. So the ending is more palatable to me in that Tyrol was negotiating with Roslin as the union leader, though he didn't realize initially. In the end, I think all three (Adama, Roslin and Tyrol) all made mistakes, but all three all gave in a little too. Recall that Tyrol also used a questionable tactic in locating the missing filters by forcing Zenner's hand. I don't want to sound like I totally agreed with the writer's approach to the episode, but I think I understand why they did it that way.
Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 9:22am (UTC -5)
I liked this one more than I thought I would. Thought it would be another stand-alone that didn’t really contribute to the big picture. But I think we’re headed somewhere with Baltar and his book. Why so many people keep falling for his enigmatic behavior is beyond me. But like they say, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the people. Smiled at the end when Ceelix got her wings and was promoted to flight training. What really would’ve been a good kicker is having Roslin bringing in the laundry with Ceelix’s new uniform. But anyways, the actress sold it. Who hasn’t had that feeling of euphoria when they land a job they really want?
Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
While I like the episode and the general theme of the "underclass" v. the aristocracy, Roslin and Adama are totally overboard. Threatening to kill people because they go on strike (not threatening the most important missions of the fleet?) Gee, get Admiral Cain on the line.

Nevertheless, I thought it was a very interesting episode and a good concept. I generally don't agree with union tactics, but in this episode I totally empathized with the Chief and Baltar.

PS. Caleb, I wouldn't say Baltar's the only character I like, but he's definitely the one I like the most. I agree with Jammer, James Callis is awesome and so is Baltar!
Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was pretty weak; I actually preferred the previous "Day in the Life" episode over this one. The class conflict comes out of nowhere as does Baltar's schtick about being a man of the people (and I agree with Michael it is hard to imagine Baltar developing a following). The resolution is way too pat. This should have developed over many episodes, not condensed into one.

Sam brings up the DS9 episode on the Bajoran caste system; DS9 also had an episode on worker organizing as did Babylon 5. All of those episodes like this one had commendably pro-labor messages but they all shared the same nice ending where the heroes pull a solution out of their asses to meet the demands of the workers. In reality successful labor mobilization are extremely difficult. It'd probably be easier to defeat the Cylons than win a union election in the contemporary US!
D. Albert
Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Adama is no dictator. He shares power with the Pres. Adama has complete military authority; the Pres has civilian authority.

So, the question is whether Adama went overboard by threatening Cally. Maybe. For the reasons many here have made. On the other hand, Chief's mistake was to "unionize" the flight deck crew. That violates the chain of command. Ooops. I am all in favor of unions, and this episode does a good job of showing why. But the military is NOT a civil society. The chain of command can only be bucked when an immoral order is given.

3.5 stars
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
The world ain't fair, I think that's what this episode is about as a simple non-political point.

Kids have to work to survive in the BSG world and despite what we as a civilized society might want to see in fair labor practices and no child laborers, it just doesn't work as fair world.
Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
I think I've hardened and toughened (which to many might be regress rather than progress) since I made my comment above. So, today I say: "Workers of the Fleet unite? HA! My ass. They should all have been airlocked."

I am a firm believer in justice and fairness, and in social mobility based purely on meritocracy. But cheese and rice, that does not happen in the middle of a godsdamn war!
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
If pilots get days off for being drunk, nice showers and cozy living spaces, you can at least give civilians a day off.

The only thing communist is forcing them to work unending 16 plus hour days because they aren't in the right social class.

War is made by people, and in this case there is a society there. Calling for the death of brutalized workers faster than a treasonous admiral says something about you.
Wed, Oct 21, 2015, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
As a person with a strong interest in society politics and social issues (not so much interested in what Republican A said about Democrat B or in politicians themselves but in the issues that the politicians deal with) I find this discussion interesting as well as this episode. I've been thinking the form of government in the Colonial Fleet is most like that of a Semi-Presidential System that has recently evolved from a Constitutional Monarchy/Parliamentry system (and not one like Britain is today, but one whose monarch is significantly powerful both de jure and de facto whose powers are limited in various areas by law [the constitution], and they are also required to work with an elected parliament who selects a prime minister, or chancellor) ... much of the workings are the same as in the Constitutional Monarchy only the system explicitly rejects the idea of a monarchy and the legitimacy of kings but when you look at how their government works in practice it functions similarly to a Constitutional Monarchy. These are systems like the French Third Republic or the Weimer Republic before the Nazis took over. They are distinct from other republics in having both a President (called head of state, but again not in the way many European kings are today but with real power) and a Prime Minister (chosen in a democratic way, often by the elected parliament). The Prime Minister reports to the President similarly in manner to the way he/she would report to a king in a con. monarchy. Also like most con. monarchies the president is supposed to rule with a "hands off" approach when possible and let the prime minister run the day to day government, and give the orders- but in meetings behind closed doors the President has the power to order the Prime Minister on what to do, and if the Prime Minister refuses directly or by action the President has to power to dismiss him/her. Look at pre WWII Germany- Hindenburg was its (elected) president, and the president has long terms of office, sometimes ten years or so in some systems, making them more like a king. The Chancellor was like a prime minister... so when Hitler was elected chancellor he could do a whole lot of things but he and the Nazis were still restricted from a lot of what they wanted to do by Hindenburg remaining in office- the army's first loyalty was to the President, but the Prime Minister was expected to act as the army's head of the chain of command in ordinary circumstances (this differs from the Galactica model). Iran is another example, with (in theory) democratic feature to its government and an elected president but the Supreme Leader who normally stays behind the scenes to act as head of state can if he chooses overrule the head of government and temporarily run the government himself until the people pick another president. Iran is really a Constitutional Monarchy/theocracy but it does have some Parliamentry aspects.

On the Colonial Fleet Adama is more or less the President and Roslin, their "president" is like the Prime Minister, with the exception of the running of the day to day military operations is of course done by Adama. In this aspect the Fleet more closely resembles a Constitutional Monarchy where the Monarch takes an active involvement in running his military. Like the Presidents of newly formed Semi Presidential Systems Adama's authority at least nominally came from a republican origin- he gained is rank by serving in the military of a republic- but now given the fleet's situation he is likely to serve a long term, and in that time he cannot be overruled by the Prime Minister (Roslin). Now it should be obvious that my analysis comes from a de facto viewpoint more so than de jure; obviously the public expects Roslin to make decisions but Adama has the ultimate power to influence what she does or remove her if she refuses to go along with his "behind the scenes" guidance; like that time he "terminated" her presidency. From a de facto standpoint his supreme authority over "military decisions" can always trump Roslin's authority over "political decisions", and in reality while Adama became more and more accommodating to the democratically elected authorities (like allowing the fleet to settle on New Caprica on Baltar's authority), it was really always at Adama's discretion whether to overrule a "political decision" or not, because not only does he "have the guns" that can be pointed at the fleet he also has the guns that are pointed at the Cylons when they attack and the fleet knows they are as good as dead if a ship or group of ships went their separate way from Galactica.

I'm not saying that I disapprove of this system either, as I think the extraordinary circumstances of the fleet allow for a form of government I would not accept is normal circumstances. The status of the fleet as moving with Galactica almost like one big pseudo military unit makes it necessary for Adama to have a king like authority over many issues. Or one could compare the situation to Republican Rome where in emergencies a dictator could be appointed (and to better understand this try to think of the word without its strong negative connotation it has accumulated in modern times). I think in "Colonial Government's" situation of traveling a a fleet through dangerous territory a proper dictator may be necessary- and Adama's competence, heroism, public support (usually) and lack of challengers within the military who have any support he has a certain legitimacy as Dictator.

Well damn, now that I've typed all this and thought of the Roman example I now see how another good comparison of Galactica's system of government would be with the Roman Republic's consular system with Adama and Rosilin as the two consuls, in a way. Haha oh well, I still stand by by original comparison as well.

Now this episode does illustrate the potential imperfections in this system (and the inherent problem in giving any one person, however "worthy", of near absolute power- if they lose their temper or their good judgment they can take things to an unwelcome extreme as illustrated by Adama's threat to shoot Callie.

As much as this would surprise many people who know me and my advocacy of freedom and the rights of the individual, in certain situations with a worthy, inspiring (if not perfect, as that is not possible) leader I would willingly bend my knee to the leader as a vassal to a king in support of creating a constitutional monarchy , and the fleet's situation is one. I would support "King Adama" and his head of government Laura Roslin with the Quarum of 12 as the leaders of the parliament. I would feel better all around that way then to allow the Quarum and the masses they represent too much influence as they have shown themselves to be volitile, too stubborn or too easily changeable, and giving their future election campaigns more priority in their decisions then what is best for the Fleet. They would still have some influence and their say, and to maintain the sense of propriety they under Prime Minister Roslin would ordinarily run the day to day business of governing, but Adama in his secure position as king (this sounds kinda funny haha) would be able to legitimately overrule them when they start acting out too much, like they do from time to time.
Sat, Jul 21, 2018, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
I think season 3 is when I started hating Adama and Roslin so much. Just everything they do, they are awful. I mean from what they did to the workers here to the way they treated Baltar and the kangaroo court they ran, to executing Gaeta and Zarek later on. Roslin is like a benevolent tyrant and even the benevolent part is questionable more often than not. She changes the goal post whenever it suits her needs and when someone objects, she invokes the age old cry of the oppressor about "security of the state", which is just code for those in charge getting carte blance for their abuses and essentially creating a dictatorship. She is just a total, powertripping bitch who thinks everyone should roll over when she snaps a finger. And then she sends in her boyfriend's troops if they dont do what she dictates.

I mean, why do they have to be such assholes to the workers? Why couldnt they work with them, make some concessions, meet them halfway? Whatever their needs as a fleet, you cant work people to death. They are still an asset and even slave owners know they cant do that. People get tired, exhausted, even if they dont actively sabotage, they will burn out and mess up on the job. So the right thing to do would have been for Roslin to meet with these people and work with them, not arrest and abuse and torture them. And bullshit on Roslin saying you cant get things done via extortion. It is called collective bargaining. You rely on the labor of these people to turn the wheels, you dont pay up, the work stops.

Simple as that. Why? Because people are what makes the machine work and they need to be compensated accordingly. They dont owe anyone subpar working conditions or their lives.

And then the way they threatened Tyrol to throw his family out the airlock. Disgusting. It is really stunts like this throughout the show that have often made me wonder why humanity deserves to be saved in the first place. Often I find myself rooting for the Cylons hoping they finally put these wretched humans out of their misery and rid the universe of them.
Sat, Dec 15, 2018, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
Wow thanks for the spoiler alert Ellen, WTF?
Wed, Dec 26, 2018, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
it's always interesting to see how sentiment towards an episode shifts over time
Sun, Apr 21, 2019, 11:31pm (UTC -5)

I see you're becoming a bigger asshole as the time passes. Heartwarming. Tell me, who would work, if all the workers were airlocked? Repression like that only creates more rebellion. Pretty soon the whole Fleet would be in an uprising. It's not human nature to submit to repression. Never was. Never will be. If you don't treat your workers like human beings, why should they work for you? Why should they give a fuck? And if they rebel, what then? Execute their families as an example? Good idea. Galvanize MORE resistance and rage at you! Brilliant thinking.

I think you and Admiral Cain would get along nicely, in your societally-destructive ideologies. And you would also eat a bullet in the end, right alongside her. Thank the gods most humans don't think like you do, or I would root for the Cylons to finish the job and exterminate humanity.
Grant Kerr
Wed, May 13, 2020, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
There are bad episodes (Woman King for instance) but this episode is extremely irritating. The writing is heavy handed and capricious. Adama and Roslin's villainy is pantomime and jarring. Baltar's ludicrous messiah complex burgeons and that it's recieved sympathetically doesn't make any sense (he sentenced Chief's wife to death and now she's reading his Marxist pamphlet). Pilots are held up as the epitome of a loafing upper class when in fact they were only just flying convoys through radiation clouds. Chief is a representative of the underclass despite living in a massive (relatively speaking) apartment... etc.

Hate it. Feels like it was written by a college kid.
Tue, Jun 2, 2020, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
On rewatch I *really* liked this episode and the ending with seelix really moved it. I remembered thinking it was good but that Adama acted in a way at the end that I didn’t totally buy. But this time, I had no issue. It struck me very clearly that Adama was making an aggressive bluff and Tyrol had no desire to call it (in part because it was so unexpected and convincing). I liked that Roslin could be very firm and rigid in some places (as with Adama, she knows this is a can of worms that cannot be even slightly legitimized) but where there was room and it was a conversation without extortion/strike (the conversations about inheriting jobs, and again at the end) she met Tyrol’s POV genuinely. A lesser episode would have kept her hardline throughout.

3 stars feels right, but a strong 3. First episode in a while that really felt like it was firing on all cylinders in all aspects (even other midseason stronger episodes had some weaknesses).
Tue, Jun 2, 2020, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
Also, I saw the quick changes of mind by Roslin and Adama as essentially they agreed with Tyrol’s points, but they could not give credence to strike as legitimate. So once they got him to back down first, get that token win, they proceeded to address the issues like the rational people they are.
Matthew Martin
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
"Xeno Finner? What'd he do?"

"Pissed off the President."

And then the awesome look Laura gives him.

Loved it
Wed, Mar 8, 2023, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Gotta love Roslin and Adama issuing hardline edicts to the refinery crew about how they have to keep working 18 hour shifts for eternity because "everyone's working hard" - even as the two leaders are sipping wine in clean, pressed clothing in the air conditioning of Colonial One.
Fri, Apr 7, 2023, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Some really strong arguments and performances in this episode. The solution appears to be quite convenient but the point made is an important one. Adama's threats are over the top with the mutiny accusation -- nobody's trying to take over Galactica FFS.

Gotta hand it to the production qualities here -- really did well in showing an ore processing operation and conveying the dire conditions of workers. How did they just put all this together? That Baltar's writings about the class schism are floating around pours gasoline on the fire. That he supposedly came from a lower-class farming colony is a surprising revelation.

This may be seen as filler but it's valuable world-building (or fleet-building). I think a lot of questions about how basic things are kept running on the fleet are fair to ask and here it is about the power supply. There are also some larger issues about children having 1-dimensional futures and I guess there was already a class divide before the Cylon attack.

Some standout moments are Tyrol's expression -- the man on the mission -- after the kid's hand is destroyed in fixing the machinery. Also, Baltar and Tyrol's conversation. And even Adama's steely, unwavering resolve to order Cally shot as a mutineer was something to see. But Adama's right about orders not being followed and people potentially dying.

Roslin's a bit wishy-washy here. At first she's tough as nails with the first dude who was talking about the flow of gas. In the end she totally entertains Tyrol's suggestions -- they're not bad suggestions and maybe in the long-run it's beneficial. But at some point, something had to change. So Tyrol's back as a union boss.

The ending with Seelix is pretty good too -- a good use of Starbuck here.

3 stars for "Dirty Hands" -- liked the way the 2-class society narrative was played here with officers (white collar - aristocracy) being from Caprica and the other colonies being blue collar - working class. Baltar's writings were "stirring the pot" and maybe there's even more to him than we ever imagined. I think an episode like this was much needed in the grand scheme of things.

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