Battlestar Galactica: Razor (2007)

“War is our imperative, so we will fight.”

Lissa’s Rating: So say we all!

Lissa’s Review: The Harry Potter frenzy has died down, and we know how the story ends. Happily ever after, kill off a few of my favorites, and I strongly believe that Neville gets an Indiana Jones hat at some point because he’s just that cool. And there isn’t much to debate anymore, and no new material to chew on. What’s a fan to do? Search for new pastures, I suppose. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still love Harry Potter. But girl cannot exist on seven books alone, and besides, TV can be a more interactive media. Enter, obviously, Battlestar Galactica.

Like usual, I was late to the party. Duckie would probably argue that this is because I can never show up anywhere on time (erm, okay, maybe he’s got a point), but the truth is I didn’t get into the miniseries when it first aired. Okay, yeah, part of it was the preconception of the cheesy 70’s TV show that this was a “reimaging” of, but also the sound quality wasn’t too good for some reason in the minseries, and I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying.

Thank GOD for DVDs.

So, we’ve watched the entire series. I’ve now watched it twice, except for Black Market, because Black Market sucked. (Incidentally, I am no closer to figuring out who the Final Cylon is than I was when I wrote my article. I’m leaning either on Ellen now, or that Cavil was the final one of the Five, he created seven other models, and the Sevens got boxed (except for one sleeper model in the Fleet (*cough Gaeta or Dee cough*) because they resisted the attacks on the Colonies. But all I can say is that the final Cylon is not Lee or Bill Adama. At least, I’m pretty sure.) Anyway, watched the series. Developed theories. Loved it. But for some reason, I never bothered to watch Razor until recently.

There’s no mystery about why we never bothered with Razor. We heard it wasn’t that good, and didn’t want to spend twenty bucks on it. Plus, I heard it was heavy on Lee, and I really, really, really don’t care for Lee – he’s very boring with all his “I didn’t want this” crap. But it came out as a rental finally, and hey — we can do five bucks, and I can put up with Lee for a couple of hours, especially if some of my other favorites (i.e., most of the rest of the cast) are around.

Before I jump into the rest of the review, let me just say this: If you haven’t watched Battlestar Galactica, 1.) don’t bother with the movie, because you won’t get most of it, and 2.) why not? Seriously, one of the best shows ever, and whether you lean towards guys or girls there are plenty of incredibly attractive people talking very intelligently (most of the time). Go watch it. Shoo!

As advertised, Razor does contain a lot of Lee (Jamie Bamber, incidentally, who in no way is responsible for my dislike of Lee). It also has a lot of a new character, Lieutenant Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen), an aide of sorts to Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes). The story alternates between a search and rescue mission for a missing Raptor during the time when Lee is in command of the Pegasus, and the days between the Cylon attack and when the Pegasus found the rest of the Fleet. It’s pretty interesting stuff, I’ll definitely grant that.

If you’re looking for your favorites, they’re in very short supply here. Adama wanders around (although I don’t ever remember him holding Lee’s hand so much in the series), and Tigh, Roslin and Baltar have cameos. Half the cast is credited because of the show but never appears, or appears in the background in the archive footage. (Example: Michael Trucco, who plays Sam Anders, is credited. However, I believe Razor takes place before Sam even comes aboard Galactica. No Chief. No Gaeta. No Dee. But Hoshi gets lines!) There is Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), and to my delight, she’s the sassy, competent, frak-up Starbuck I prefer, not Season 4 Starbuck. But I really liked the character of Kendra Shaw, and I thought it was an interesting challenge for them to try to flesh out Admiral Cain some more.

Yeah, I chose my words about Cain for a reason. See, I think Admiral Cain is one of the most unlikable characters in the series. I really do. Some of what she does is understandable, but she oversteps the line. And don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely no issues with them creating a character like that, and even applaud that they made her female. She’s plenty balanced by other characters, but let’s face it — it’s hard to like Cain. So to see the attack and the days that followed from her perspective was very interesting. I didn’t like her any more by the end, but I would say I thought her character was consistent and well-handled.

Kendra was just as interesting, as a girl who obviously wanted to advance and ended up admiring Cain, even if she couldn’t really live with some of the things she had to do under her orders. I’m also glad they put some interaction in with her and Starbuck, because there are some very interesting parallels and contrasts there that make for some good viewing. I liked her quite a bit (although I really don’t think they’d make her the final Cylon, given that she’s never even referenced on the show). I didn’t even mind Lee, because around Kendra he was actually tolerable and not too… blech.

Although I wouldn’t say it’s completely true, I do have a reputation as a slasher. (For those not in fandom, that’s someone who likes to pair up guys with guys or girls with girls. I say my reputation isn’t entirely justified because I only like to do it in very specific cases.) Regardless, it’s a bit of a pet issue of mine, so I feel like I should comment about the lesbian plotline that made a bit of a fuss. The truth is that I’m not sure what I think. On the one hand, I did like how it was handled in Razor, in that it wasn’t something anyone blinked an eye over. When Kendra found out that Cain had a lover, her shock was far more over anyone like Cain would want a lover as opposed to the fact that the lover was a woman. That was cool, and fit very well in a universe where the bathrooms are co-ed and all superior officers are addressed as “sir”. I don’t even have a problem with it ending badly, because a.) this is Admiral Cain, and she’s not about hearts and flowers, especially when Gina was a Cylon, and b.) this is Battlestar Galactica, and if you think any of the many heterosexual ships are going to end well then you need to rewatch the episodes. The primary objection I’ve seen is that the lesbian relationship ends badly, and then Gina is “healed” by Baltar’s heterosexual relationship, but given that she commits suicide by nuking Cloud 9 directly after sleeping with him, I’m not so sure I buy into the idea that she’s all that healed, y’know? Right now, my verdict is that I don’t have a huge problem with it, but we’ll see what happens with sexual politics in Season 4.5.

It’s by no means great, but it’s not bad – in fact, it was a lot better than I was expecting. Like most TV-shows-to-movies, it’s a two-hour episode of the show, and if you like Battlestar Galactica chances are good you’ll like this, or like tearing it to shreds. Actually, chances are good you’ve seen this and you’re pointing and laughing at me for not seeing it already, but hey. On the off chance you haven’t, go rent it. It’s worth two hours of your time.

Justin’s Rating: Do Cylons dance “The Robot” or “The Human”?

Justin’s Review: The most cool – and unexpected – facet of this “side tale” of Battlestar Galactica wasn’t seeing Cruella DeCain’s actions on the Pegasus or the introspective glimpse into her corrupted protégée Kendra Shaw’s rise to bloody glory, but in seeing three old fashioned 1979-era Cylons sitting in an antique Raider saying “By your command”.

“By your command.” Words that every geeky kid who grew up in the ’80s knew by heart. I’m not here to wax nostalgic about the old Battlestar Galactica series, which was a crossbreed between Star Wars, World War II and Buck Rogers. Yet there’s something cheesy and quaint about the show that pulls me back to childhood, the same as how the newly reimagined Battlestar Galactica makes me proud to live in this day and age of glorious dark scifi.

In the long dark wait between the cliffhanger ending of BG’s third season and the opening of the fourth, the makers of the show decided to produce and air a TV movie (or, shall we say, “special extended episode”) of a side story in the Battlestar Galactica universe. It wasn’t quite what fans were expecting, I’m sure, but there’s enough coolness and battle scenes contained herein to keep them at bay.

The timeline of this movie is odd, however. Follow me here: although the movie aired between the third and fourth seasons, it takes place somewhere at the tail end of season TWO, and contains flashbacks streaming all the way back to the beginning of the series and even previous. Season two of BG contained one of the show’s most gripping subplots: the appearance of a second Battlestar, the Pegasus, and the hard-ass Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes) with it. At first the human race rejoiced, as the Pegasus represented another five thousand souls keeping humanity alive, as well as some serious additional firepower.

Yet all was not good, and we quickly found out that Cain’s “ends justify the means” approach to commanding in the wake of the Cylon attack had resulted in torture, executions and outright abandonment of other human survivors (for “the greater good”). As we’re only introduced to the Pegasus and Cain at the tail end of this saga of space horror, BG’s writers decided to take us back along her journey to see what made her this way and why.

And most importantly, if there’s a sympathetic side to Cain after all.

The flashbacks – and connections to the “present” BG story – are told through the eyes of Kendra Shaw, a wet-behind-the-ears Lieutenant who shows up for duty on the Pegasus on the morning of the massive Cylon attack. As things quickly go to hell, she clings to the ironclad leadership of Cain, who makes the tough decisions and possesses the strength of will to see the ship to victory. Shaw becomes her trusted right hand, the instrument of a power-crazy commander, and finds that morals are easy to sacrifice when the wrong thing seems to make sense.

As the main Battlestar Galactica series delivers an excellent examination of leadership – the stoic, almost emotionless Commander Adama; the shrewd political center of President Roslin; the moral center of Lee; the corrupt insanity of Baltar. Here, we’re given another expose on leadership with Cain, which answers the chilling question of, “Would you follow a strong leader in a troubled time, even if that leader was eviler than Hitler?”

You can see why people flocked to her, supported her, stood by her even after its apparent she’s not making the best decisions for the survival of humanity. She isn’t a feel-good mother who likes to sit everyone down for a cup of tea to discuss her plans; this is a battle-hardened officer who leads through force and demands everyone follow. They do, because she gets results, and because no one else seems strong enough to do the same job. It’s only later that the though sinks in to some: we’re following a madman. We should take a stand. But is it too late?

Another bunch of almost unrelated flashbacks feature William Adama back in the end of the First Cylon War, when everything looked as it did back in the 1970 Battlestar Galactica series. They’re definitely cool, as I’ve said, but the connection to the main story is so tenuous to be laughable. “Padding” is what some people call it.

Overall, while there have been better episodes of the series than this telemovie, and while I question whether delving into Cain’s backstory actually diminishes her season two arc, it’s still a romping good trip through the stars.

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