Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Occupation’ And ‘Precipice’

Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Occupation’ And ‘Precipice’

Technically two separate episodes that ran back-to-back, 'Occupation' and 'Precipice' launched the critically lauded but controversial Season Three.
Warren Henry
By

This is the nineteenth in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Lay Down Your Burdens’ (Parts 1 And 2)” here.

Spoilers ahead.

“Battlestar Galactica’s” third season premiere was nominated for an Emmy and a Writers Guild of America Award (losing to “The Sopranos” series finale and “Big Love’s” series premiere, respectively). But the Cylon occupation of New Caprica – and the human insurgency resisting it – proved divisive with the larger audience, souring many conservatives on the series.

Granted, in 2006, “Occupation” and “Precipice” were easily viewed as a critique of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, even if series co-creator (and author of these episodes) Ronald D. Moore was quick to note the influence of other historical occupations, such as in World War II. But the issue of suicide bombing – along with dialogue from Cavil alluding to Vice-President Dick Cheney’s comment about the U.S. being welcomed as liberators – made the Iraq comparison unavoidable.

However, with the passage of time, the differences between New Caprica and Iraq may be equally interesting. Before invading Iraq, the U.S. had never tried to exterminate the entire country. The Cylons remain the side motivated by religious doctrine. While a human bomber prays before his mission, there is no suggestion he expects a reward in the hereafter. Indeed, the morality of suicide bombing is hotly contested among the human resistance.

Beyond history, the conclusion of “Precipice” carries echoes of “The Great Escape” (itself based on a true WWII story). And on a lighter note, Ellen performs services for Cavil with names lifted from “Seinfeld.”

‘Occupation’

Season Three resumes on the 134th day of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica. Tigh, wearing a bandage over one eye, is in detention and under interrogation by a Cavil. Ellen is bedding another Cavil to secure his release. Tyrol and Anders are part of the leadership of the insurgency against the occupation, bombing a dock and destroying a Six, a Boomer, and a Cylon Raider.

Starbuck is imprisoned in an apartment by Leoben, who has seen a vision of her falling in love with him and playing a part in the destiny of both races. At dinner, Starbuck jams a steak fork into Leoben’s neck, to which the reincarnating Cylon replies, “See you soon.” (This story of unrequited, oppressive “love” is the larger storyline writ small.)

Roslin writes of the insurgency in her diary. She retains hope that Adama and Apollo will return to rescue the settlers. In the meantime, she believes it is necessary to attack a high-value target.

On Colonial One, the Cylons discuss the failing state of the occupation. Caprica Six and Boomer remind all that they are on New Caprica in order to find a new way to live with humans. Other models, notably Cavils, argue that humans need to have the fear of God instilled by the Cylons. They debate killing Baltar – an idea opposed by Six and ultimately discarded once they conclude that Baltar is now so unpopular that humanity would cheer his death.

Tyrol receives information from a mole close to Baltar (later revealed as Gaeta) regarding the upcoming graduation ceremony for the New Caprica Police – humans working for the Cylons in masked anonymity. Tigh, who lost an eye under Cylon torture, calls for a suicide bombing of the ceremony, which Baltar is scheduled to attend. Tyrol seeks a delay while they try to contact a Raptor that should be nearby, per Adm. Adama’s contingency plan. Anders believes they have been abandoned.

On Galactica, Adama is working the Viper and Raptor pilots to the point where a drill is aborted after a collision. Apollo objects to the relentless drills, while Adama believes Apollo has become fat and soft (and Dualla agres with Adama).

After obtaining intelligence on Cylon jamming frequencies, Tyrol makes contact with Racetrack’s Raptor and begins exchanging information for a rescue operation.

Given these circumstances, Tyrol tries unsuccessfully to get Tigh to cancel the suicide bombing. Baltar informs Gaeta he will not attend the graduation for security reasons. Gaeta passes the information along, but not in time to stop the suicide bombing of the ceremony.

‘Precipice’

Leoben presents Starbuck with Kacey, a little girl who he claims is their offspring from an egg the Cylons harvested from her at the Farm. Starbuck denies her motherhood, but after Kacey injures her head in a fall, she prays by the child’s hospital bed and takes the hands of both Kacey and Leoben when the girl regains consciousness.

Adama and Sharon (the Boomer copy) have reconciled. He reinstates her as an officer and liaison to the insurgents. Apollo objects to the appointment and the plan, believing they need to focus on protecting the remaining civilian fleet. Adama ultimately tells Apollo to prepare to resume the search for Earth with Pegasus, but Adama cannot abandon the settlers.

Roslin urges Tigh to end the planned suicide bombings, but Tigh refuses, arguing that he has sent soldiers on suicide missions in two wars and his sole job is to keep the Cylons distracted and afraid until the rescue comes. After the suicide bombing of a power station, the Cylons decide to round up and execute people associated with the insurgency. Baltar ultimately signs the order with a gun to his head.

During another tryst, Cavil tells Ellen she will provide intelligence on Tigh’s plans or Tigh will be detained and executed. Ellen obtains the map of where the insurgents will meet Sharon’s liaison party. When Anders meets Sharon outside the city, the humans immediately come under Cylon fire.

Gaeta confronts Baltar about the execution order. Baltar acknowledges seeing the names on the list, but explains he had no choice. Jammer (Dominic Zamprogna), one of the masked human police, assists Cavil in rounding up Cally (who has given birth), Roslin, and Tom Zarek – who are placed on trucks destined for the execution.

Outside New Caprica City, a Cavil orders the trucks to stop, ostensibly for a five-minute rest stop. Zarek asks Roslin about the election. She confesses she rigged the vote. Zarek confesses he now wishes it had stayed rigged (she agrees).

Jammer cuts Cally’s bonds and tells her to run as Cylon Centurions mount a nearby ridge for the execution. She can hear gunfire as she flees through the forest.

Warren Henry is the nom de plume of an attorney practicing in the State of Illinois.

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