I’ve probably mentioned before that I enjoy movies and shows that take place in a snowy setting. I’m only half kidding when I say that I believe they allow my eyeballs to air condition the inside of my head. Recently (while waiting for that slow poke CURTAINS DVD to arrive!) I decided that I’d get a quick snow fix by taking in the BATTLESTER GALACTICA (original series) episode “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero” because the only thing better than an ice planet is an ice planet with a robot dog running around on it. I know it’s really just a chimp in a costume but that hardly makes it any less adorable, unless of course, you think about how it was probably no fun for the chimp, who I hope was at least handsomely paid with bananas. Anyway, while watching this snowy episode I began to remember that there was another GALACTICA episode that kinda freaked me out as a kid and so I skipped ahead and watched that episode right afterward. It’s called “War of the Gods” and like “Ice Planet,” it’s a hearty two-parter, though alas it’s sadly snow free and low on chimps.
In this episode a bunch of pilots go missing so our intrepid heroes Starbuck, Apollo and Sheba investigate a planet that looks like California filmed in infrared. There they discover a massive crashed ship and an imposing fellow named Count Iblis who speaks in a grandiose manner and has a shifty glint in his eye. They take him back to the Galactica and that’s where he really starts acting smarmy, telling everybody what they want to hear, making huge promises to all who will listen and even putting the moves on Sheba who is easily half his age.
Perhaps due to having recently experienced an epic holocaust that nearly wiped out the entire human race that was caused by one duplicitous dude’s flimflam, Apollo’s not exactly itching to buy the space equivalent of swampland in Florida. He goes back to the planet they found Iblis on to investigate the wreckage further and is followed by Starbuck and Sheba and a pissed off-Iblis. What Apollo finds in the ship’s mangled debris is never shown but it’s obviously damning evidence against smooth taking Iblis who is particularly loath to have Sheba learn his true colors.
As Apollo begins to out Iblis with other names that he is known to go by, including “Prince of Darkness,” Iblis decides maybe he’ll just kill Sheba to shut him up and curse Apollo’s conscience forever. As he shoots some kind of magic death ray out of his hand towards Sheba, Apollo being Apollo jumps in front of it to save her and is killed himself (What!?!). Seeing his buddy dead throws Starbuck into a heart-wrenching rage that still makes me verklempt and he begins wildly blasting at Iblis and the gunfire reveals Iblis’ real face and it’s a pig face. Yep, a demonic pig face. The effect hasn’t held up very well but neither have I, so I guess we’re even.
Back as a kid in the seventies, I had much to worry about. Would I get that Lego set I wanted for Christmas? (Nope). Would I be good at sports? (Nope). Would I excel at school? (Nope). Was my awkwardness a phase that I’d grow out of? (Nope). Would I become possessed by the Devil? (Still pending). It sounds pretty dumb now but back then Satan was ubiquitous and inescapable and looking back it didn’t help matters that those I looked up to and believed in made it pretty clear he was a valid concern. I remembered feeling somewhat betrayed, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was where I went to get away from such worries. Satanic phantoms were for horror movies and Sunday school; what were they doing here on my favorite show?
Kid-me needn’t to have gotten so wigged out though, as this episode really knows how to clean up a mess; by the time the end credits rolled I was able to jump into bed with no worries. Starbuck and Sheba put Apollo’s dead (Still, what!?!) body in a shuttle and began their sad journey back to Galactica and on the way there, they encounter what looks like a giant sparkling chandelier that welcomes them aboard and bleaches all their clothes a pristine white. The place is crawling with calmingly mellow angel/aliens who are super wise and considerate and very open about not being big fans of Iblis.
They show Starbuck and Sheba Apollo’s dead body and Sheba starts to loose it because she figured what transpired had to be a nightmare. The kindly angel people tell her that she’s the one who was meant to be pushing up daisies on account of her being bamboozled and ask her if she would trade her life for his (Oh no, now I’m getting all verklempt again). Sheba and Starbuck are both like, “Hells yea! We’d switch places with Apollo in a heartbeat because he’s so awesome and we love him.” And so the angels bring Apollo back to life and they don’t even make the other two drop dead as payment because it’s like WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and they just wanted to test them to see if they were assholes or not. So everything works out great, the aliens erase the entire incident from everybody’s head so that nobody has to deal with the ramifications and then to be extra friendly, they shove the coordinates of Earth in their noggins instead. So basically, bite it, Count Iblis.
Look at me trying to sound flip when in actuality I was riveted the entire time and sincerely moved. The tale of good vs. evil, of the temptation to sell out what you value for shortcuts and empty promises and learning that only through selflessness can you regain all that you’ve lost must be as old as the hills but maybe there’s a reason for that. People can say whatever they want about this show, that it’s corny or too kid friendly or too reliant on special effects and is overall simplistic when compared to the more complex re-imaging but simply seeing the expression of awe and gratitude on Sheba’s face when Apollo is resurrected is enough for me.
We sometimes (i.e., always and especially lately) live in a terrible, frightening world. There are plenty of secret pig faces (e.g., politicians, religious leaders) selling pie in the sky dreams if only you hand over your humanity. But as any chandelier worth its crystal can tell you, it’s really our bonds with each other that matter. So again I must say bite it, Count Iblis, you wretched pig face. But I should add that actual pigs are nice and by many accounts as smart as dogs. I’m going vegan or at least I’m not buying a bacon bowl anytime soon.
Note: There’s another trauma lurking inside this trauma, a memory of an even younger me having to go a couple doors down to a strange family’s house to memorize Bible verse and being paid in useless colored ribbons for my efforts. The head of the household was a motorcycle enthusiast (and a cop?) and a poster hung on the wall of their garage depicting a guy on a cycle saying something like, “So what if I’m a male chauvinist pig?” and yes, you guessed it, he had a pig’s face. It was a very disturbing image and frankly these people’s entire house smelt funny and why am I not surprised my parents were fine with leaving me in the care of total (and strange smelling) strangers as long as it meant my being out of their way for a while? I swear anybody who survived being a kid in the seventies deserves a reward and not a useless colored ribbon either. Maybe a Lego set.