Spoiler alert: This post discusses the last episode of Battlestar Galactica, aired Friday night, in detail.

Battlestar Galactica features several characters that are Cylons, though they look human. Most of the Cylon characters in re-occurring roles are women, specifically Boomer and Number Six. There are many duplications of each character, which can lead to some interesting story lines.

Boomer, in different incarnations, has fallen in love with two human males. She is now known to be Cylon and imprisoned. The crew refers to her as ‘toaster’ and ‘it’, but they also have become more sympathetic toward her, as she has joined forces with the humans because of her love for one of the men.

Number Six appears mainly as some form of mental image in the mind of the scientific genius, Dr. Baltar–though whether this is madness or mechanics, we’re never quite sure. It was his relationship with Number Six eventually led to the destruction of the human planets. In the show, dialogs occur between the two, though only he can see the woman. This can lead to some humourous scenes (sex plays a big role between the couple); but some tedius ones as well.

I was ambivalent about the casting of humans as Cylons in this new show, but the last four or five episodes have been absolutely riveting because of this decision. None more so than the show last Friday night when another battle ship, the Pegasus, found the Battlestar Galatica, and the actions of the military in the two ships can be compared side by side.

The Battlestar Galactica is led by Adama, a man who for all of his strict reliance on all things military, is able to adapt to situations. He’s a stubborn man, but an honorable one. He’s appealing because he makes mistakes, and even more so because he doesn’t always see them as mistakes. This has kept the show from being cheap and overly heroic.

The Battlestar Pegasus is led by a woman, Admiral Cain, following on a strong female presence in the show. Unlike Adama, though, Admiral Cain is a by the book military commander, with little interest in much other than a need to win, to triumph, to take the fight to the Cylons.

The meeting between the two started out smoothly, but it’s not long before problems started arising. Admiral Cain has little regard for Adama’s personal interactions with his crew, considering them a weakness. She demands a break up and mixing of crew members. More, we find out that she had killed her first XO in cold blood because he wouldn’t follow her orders. We also find out that the Pegasus also has a Cylon prisoner of its own–none other than one of the Number Six characters who haunt Baltar’s mind.

Number Six is beautiful, blonde, and devious. She is the ‘evil’ member of the Cylons, the one who helped bring about destruction of the planets. In the opening shows, she kills a baby in his crib and then walks away without once looking back. She is tough, strong, and not particularly likable–using sex to manipulate men such as Balthar. I’ve seen her referred to in sci-fi circles as ‘the Cylon Slut’.

When we see her on the Pegasus though, she is collapsed on the ground and chained about her neck, arms, and legs. She has been badly beaten and starved, and lays there staring vacantly ahead of her. From joking that male Pegasus crewmembers do with those on the Galactica, we find that the crew used that oldest expedient to break women: rape.

Cut away and the Pegasus officer that has beaten and raped Number Six is now on his way to do the same to Boomer.

From there we have a constant cut away between scenes where a selfish, self-centered Baltar is trying to help Number Six, crying, as she lies broken on the deck; while the Pegasus officer has his men straddle Boomer over a bed and prepares to rape her.

The two scenes, juxtaposed, are powerful, and made more so because Number Six is clearly ‘evil’, while Boomer is just as clearly ‘good’. And it is this that made all the difference.

I was curious and searched in Technorati for mention of Battlestar Galactica and rape. It was interesting to read the reactions; especially to see young men deal with something they’ve never faced in all their Lara Croft games; to hear science fiction fans talking about war and rape and genocide, and explore whether rape would be allowed on a ship commanded by a woman. One person wrote that he knew rape existed, but it wasn’t something he wanted to necessarily see on television, in such graphic detail. Disturbing, he called it.

Yes, it is.

An excellent review of this episode of Battlestar Galactica.

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