Monday, October 25, 2010

Cats and Dogs Living Together

I've watched BSG and I can't unwatch it. The fact that I haven't watched Lost isn't reason to pretend otherwise, but there are pleasures that come from pretending.
Oh, heck. A reason. The unfolding relationship of not-Boomer and Lieutenant DoRight (Tahmoh Peniket's character, Karl Agathon) is a reason. It's compelling,sweet, romantic and sexy, so I'm going to enjoy reliving its unfolding this rainy laundry Monday morning through the first six episodes of the first season.

On violated Caprica, (the creepy images of Caprica's Earthlike globe being taken over by a brown mottle are compelling throughout this sub-arc) Karl is  rescued by  Boomer, who has returned for him after he gave up his spot on his spaceship so she could rescue some refugees. Boomer evades Karl's inquiries about her reasons for coming back for her, as if any good girl could resist this tall, handsome, self-sacrificing guy who "always does the right thing," as she says herself. Only she's not Boomer. She's not-Boomer, and a Cylon, and she has a plan. (Apparently, the only one who actually does.) When Karl and not-Boomer discover that the  Cylons have found her spaceship, we are reminded that they are a team. Not-Boomer is the pilot, but Karl is in charge of stealth. Live together, or get caught by great big shiny, toaster-like cyborg warriors with amazingly ineffectual machine guns (5.56mm? They sure carry a lot of ammunition) in their clawed hands.  "Follow your pilot," not-Boomer tells Karl, and leads him to a fallout shelter, into trouble with the Cylons, and ultimately into some sexy sexy under the implausibly thunderous but entirely routinely rainy Vancouver skies.

I like not-Boomer's plan. I wish someone were planning for me...

Meanwhile, on the Fleet, Cyborg sleeper agent Boomer doesn't know that she's a Cylon, but does know. I guess that admitting the plain facts would mean that her life, love and loyalties are a lie, so instead she clings to her illicit lover, asking him to take the lead, and lets deception lead to the end of the relationship, a gradual psychological collapse and a race between her two personalities (pro-Cylon and anti-Cylon, I guess) over which one gets to kill herself first. Girls can be competitive, too!

What I like about the first episode is it is all about fatigue scooped on fear scooped on  survivor's guilt. Going forward, you'd expect suicidal impulses up the wazoo, and you get it. It's all indirect and not often called, but, notably, when it is called,  Young Apollo (the Commander's son, Lee Adama) is spot on when he calls out terrorist prisoner and leader Tom Zarek, played by the original series' Apollo, Richard Hatch, for attempted suicide by cop.

Now, back at the end of the miniseries, the Commander turned away from his death ride when he sees Dualla and Billy flirting. Twenty-five billion humans are dead. It's time to run away and make more. That seems pretty impeccably logical, but no-one gets the memo. It's perhaps understandable that instead of stopping running away to make babies, people cling to their relationships with family and friends, mostly dead ones. That said, when Baltar's survivor's guilt --or something--  takes the near-palpable form of an imaginary friend played by Tricia Helfer he has sex with her in his head. I mean, due credit for trying, but...

So, yeah. Karl and not-Boomer, the only Galacticans to get with the programme. And did I mention that Grace Park is a Korean-Canadian, while Peniket is Caucasian? (Well, not actually, but see below.)

Blah blah blah, race is not an issue in the BSG universe, we're told, we're shown. But ... Richard Hack is First Nations? Or something... it's not like his Wikipedia biography talks about how I came to see him as a Caucasian actor in the 1979, when he is so clearly not.
This is pretty transgressive stuff. I mean, I'm allowed to notice that the new Commander Adama is Hispanic, because he is famously Edward James Olmos. But if Hatch doesn't say so, I feel like I'm breaking a taboo even pointing it out. Because I am. Race hangs over us, the more present because we can't talk about it. And I think that the producers of BSG are aware of this thing called "makeup." The thoughts that I am thinking might be taboo, but I am meant to have them.

This is where there is something more than local pride and some Vancouver scenery in BSG. Interracial relationships are so common here (and, of course, many other places in the real world) that the phrase sounds fustian and stupid. So much so that that the BSG narrative restores the taboo while playing with it. It's not about White and Asian, but about  humans and Cylons. They're cute together, and so doomed that Joss Whedon could cast them. Still, it's all we've got going on right now.

By contrast, there are exactly three interracial relationships on Lost. Two are wrong and doomed, and one is between two old farts, a consolation prize for not managing to have a life before they retired. By contrast, through the end of Season 6, the world has bent itself into knots to get pretty Caucasians, Koreans, and Iraqis together with their own kind. Ugh. 

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