This is the 22nd in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Collaborators’ And ‘Torn’” here.
“A Measure of Salvation,” addressing the ethics of biological warfare, is the sort of episode which drew viewers to the series as an exploration of post-9/11 anxieties. A plot device at least as old as The War of the Worlds gets a fresh treatment.
“Hero” is the sort of episode that aggravated some viewers, suggesting the military possibly had foreknowledge of Cylon intentions or even incited the Cylons. It obliquely echoes the partisan debate over how much the Bush administration knew about al-Qaeda’s plans in the nine months before the 9/11 attacks.
The theory in “Hero” works no better than the one about 9/11. The episode contains a serious continuity error. The pilot at the heart of “Hero” is supposedly held captive for three years, which incorrectly places his capture after the Cylons’ mass attack.
Even assuming a longer captivity, Adama (and the writers) seemingly forgot the Cylons are planners motivated by faith. Indeed, we learn later in the series that Cylon infiltration occurred decades before the attack. Building the necessary military force would also have taken many years.
‘A Measure of Salvation’
Apollo and Athena lead a mission to the abandoned Cylon Basestar. The landing party finds several living Cylons, engaged in a prayer practiced only by those who believe they will not be resurrected. A survivor calls Athena a traitor, but reveals they are dying of an infection to which she may be susceptible.
Apollo requests permission to kill the survivors. Helo convinces Adama they should be seized for interrogation.
The landing party and survivors are both quarantined. Dr. Cottle determines the Cylons contracted a strain of encephalitis affecting their brains. Humans are immune – as is Athena, due to her pregnancy with a half-human child.
Cottle also informs Adama he has a vaccine which can suppress the disease in Cylons with regular injections. Adama uses the vaccine as leverage to interrogate the Cylons. One of the survivors divulges that Baltar is alive and assisting the Cylons to find Earth. He also reveals the Cylons fear their infection would spread though resurrection.
Apollo realizes the Cylons could be annihilated if the fleet executed the infected prisoners within range of a Resurrection Ship. Pres. Roslin is excited by the idea, while Helo argues the mass killing of beings like Athena would rob the humans of their humanity.
Roslin ultimately approves Apollo’s plan, even after Adama avoids responsibility by noting he requires a presidential order for the use of biological weapons.
Galactica jumps to a known Cylon supply line and launches a Viper attack. As expected, they are met by a Basestar and Cylon Raiders. Adama orders the execution of the prisoners during the battle.
However, by the time the order is to be carried out, the prisoners have died from lack of oxygen. The ventilation system was sabotaged by Helo, who expects to be arrested after Galactica escapes.
Roslin deduces Helo or Athena committed the sabotage. Adama tells her the matter will not be investigated. As Cottle believes the virus to be 3,000 years old, Adama concludes the infected beacon was left by the Thirteenth Tribe as a marker to Earth. Roslin agrees, but notes the Cylons are on the same trail.
In the Cylon fleet, the lead Three and Caprica Six confront Baltar about the beacon he failed to mention in his report on the infection. He confesses he knew of it and is taken from his quarters for interrogation.
Baltar is tortured by the Three, but survives with mental assistance from Caprica Six. He questions Three’s faith and later seemingly proclaims love for her, though he is actually verbalizing his conversation with Six. A confused Three discontinues the questioning.
Galactica comes upon two Raiders pursuing a third, which identifies itself as piloted by Lt. Daniel “Bulldog” Novacek (Carl Lumbly). The pursuing Raiders are destroyed by Vipers, while Adama allows the third to land aboard Galactica.
Bulldog emerges from the Raider; he is recognized by Adama, confirmed as human by Cottle, and later debriefed by Adama and Roslin.
Adama tells Roslin that Bulldog piloted a black ops mission for Adama when he commanded the Battlestar Valkyrie. Adama claims Bulldog was believed killed while conducting reconnaissance of colonists violating the Cylon peace treaty by mining too close to the armistice line. Bulldog claims he was held by the Cylons for years and escaped when his captors contracted a virus.
After Bulldog leaves, Roslin reveals she does not entirely believe this account. Adama asks her to trust him.
Adama visits Tigh (still drunkenly brooding in his quarters) to relay the news about Bulldog. Tigh, who also served on the Valkyrie, advises Adama to tell Bulldog “what really happened.”
Instead, Adama confesses to Apollo that the Admiralty had him cross the armistice line to spy on Cylon military capabilities. Bulldog was disabled by Cylon ships, but Adama fired upon Bulldog to protect the mission and perhaps prevent Cylon retaliation. Adama now believes the mission likely instigated the Cylon attack on humanity.
Meanwhile, Bulldog visits Tigh. Over drinks, Tigh – ostensibly believing Adama had already come clean – reveals the truth to Bulldog.
Starbuck reviews video of the recent dogfight that shows the pursuing Raiders had easy chances to kill Bulldog, raising the suspicion he was allowed to escape. Starbuck takes her evidence to Tigh. Bulldog arranges a meeting with Adama with the purpose of killing him. Tigh interrupts the assault, explaining to Bulldog that he was set up by the Cylons to be an assassin.
Adama tenders his resignation to Roslin over his possible role in provoking the Cylon attack on humanity. Roslin refuses, noting he may have been a pawn of the Admiralty. Instead, she plans to award Adama a medal for 45 years of fleet service to boost public morale; his punishment will be to accept it.
On the Cylon Basestar, the lead Three dreams of being killed aboard Galactica; when she awakens, she is in bed with both Baltar and Caprica Six. As Three’s dreams intensify, she orders a Centurion to shoot her. She has a vision (seemingly of the opera house) between death and resurrection and is exhilarated by the experience.