What happens when your Moses leads you to the promised land and it’s an irradiated, uninhabitable heap of shit? The human race lies in desolation on the scorched Earth, its numbers depleted, its dreams shattered, questioning its very identity. Out of exile, into Armageddon. Produced during the professional mayhem of the writers’ strike Sometimes a Great Notion is one of the most important episodes in the Battlestar Galactica canon and it’s also one of the best. The main focus is the devastation wreaked in the fleet by the discovery of Earth as a nuked hellhole but interweaved with that are hugely important historical strands that unravel slowly as the episode progresses. Immaculately paced and passionately performed, it is historically great television.
"Out of exile, into Armageddon. Produced during the professional mayhem of the writers’ strike ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’ is one of the most important episodes in the Galactica canon and it’s also one of the best."
So everything has fallen apart. But look, it isn’t all bad. Take Dualla: she seems to be taking things well considering. Spending an evening with Apollo as if their marriage had never broken up. She can move on. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Acceptance. Oh wait, she’s put a gun to her head and blown her noggin off like BLAW!!!. Oh you godless humps, Galactica. You had me believing mankind had a future. Fuck you in your centurion cock holster.
"Oh you godless humps, Galactica. You had me believing mankind had a future. Fuck you in your centurion cock holster."
And on board the hovering Galactica, President Roslin and Admiral Adama can’t look anyone in the eye. Roslin is broken – riddled with cancer, the picture of despair; Adama distracted – his mission in tatters, his fleet in disarray. Indiscipline rules in the rank-and-file. They booze and brawl like squaddies on leave. ‘FRAK EARTH’ graffiti appears. This is what becomes of the broken hearted. None of them can see the light.
But in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And Saul Tigh is an unlikely voice of reason as a pissed-to-the-gills Adama confronts him about being a cylon, even needling him about his dead slutbag wife Ellen in an attempt to get Tigh to kill him. Adama rallies to tell the fleet that the search for a home will go on and that they will succeed. He barely believes it himself.
"Starbuck finds a viper with her charred body inside. Leoben is all "dude?" and she tells Leoben that the Hybrid told her she was going to lead all of humanity to their end and does he think think that’s significant in some way?"
Meanwhile, down on Bad Earth, Starbuck and her former Cylon husband/jailer from Caprica Leoben search for the source of the beacon that took them to Earth in the first place. Somewhat to her surprise, Starbuck finds a viper with her charred body inside. Leoben is all "dude?" and she tells Leoben that the Hybridtold her she was going to be the harbinger of death and was going to lead all of humanity to their end and does he think that’s significant in some way? This information visibly shakes the unshakeable Leoben and sends him running for the hills with Kara screaming at him "What am I? What am I??" What, indeed.
"Skeletons exhumed and examined by Gaius Balthar confirm the shocking historical truth: the 13th tribe was Cylon."
While walking on the beaches, looking at the features, Anders, Tyrol, Tory and Tigh have flashbacks that let them and us know that they lived there on Earth 2000 years earlier. Skeletons exhumed and examined by Gaius Balthar confirm the shocking historical truth: the 13th tribe was Cylon. How much more headfuck can we take?
At least one more as it turns out. As a Post Office box lid triggers Tigh’s flashback he remembers, 2000 years previously, tending to a wounded Ellen who consoles him as the nukes fall, telling him "It’s Ok…everything is in place. We’ll be reborn again…. together."
"Every character could just as easily be Kara Thrace, standing in tundra on her decimated homeland by her own scorched corpse screaming ‘What am I?’"
…and one is five. That’s right folks. Your final fifth Cylon is dead slutbag Ellen. Now, you didn’t see that coming did you? The revelation of the fifth member of the final five cylons means that they now have enough brethren for a basketball team. And also enough to alter human and Cylon history forever. Hell on earth will follow.
This is an awesome episode and they really couldn’t have played it better. In the increasingly complex Galactica mythology things become stranger, darker and maybe just a little bit clearer. It’s a brooding, philosophical show that plays intelligently with the idea of identity. Every character could just as easily be Kara Thrace, standing in tundra on her decimated homeland by her own scorched corpse screaming "What am I?"
"Cylon and human exist as twisted mirrors of each other, each others’ nemesis or saviour, mutually assured destruction or survival."
Cylon and human exist as twisted mirrors of each other, each others’ nemesis or saviour, mutually assured destruction or survival. The fleet’s alliance with the Cylon rebels may be the genesis of a brave new world. How this plays out is anyone’s guess but this was a stunning way to enter the finishing straight of a show that has consistently engrossed and surprised and you see no reason why they should not continue in this vein to the inevitable gutwrenching climax. Part of me dreads it, part of me can’t wait. That’s what great drama does to you.
The best thing about it: The final revelation of Cylon slutbag, Queen of the Metal Hoes
The worst thing about it: The Adama and Tigh got a bit scenery chewing at times.
The verdict on Battlestar Galactica Season 4, Episode 11: Sometimes a Great Notion: Flawless dystopian storytelling.
Marks out of 10: 9
Imagined: 21st January 2009