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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR (Sci Fi)
(Saturday, November 24 at 9:00/8:00c)
The network's description: "The special two-hour episode "Razor", which will serve as a backdrop for the events of season four of Battlestar Galactica, tells the story of Lee Adama's first mission as the commander of the battlestar Pegasus � and the harrowing tale of that ship's desperate fight for survival in the immediate aftermath of the Cylon's genocidal siege of the Twelve Colonies. Lee Adama's new XO, Major Kendra Shaw, is plagued by memories of her service and sacrifices under Admiral Helena Cain, who was able to save her ship during the Cylon attack � but only by making Shaw and her fellow officers rationalize suicidal battle tactics and brutal war crimes against their own people. In the crucible of war, Shaw must let her hesitation and doubts burn away, until all that remains of her is the honed edge of a living human weapon � what Colonial veterans call "a razor." But an edge so fine cuts in more than one direction. It can cleave an enemy to pieces � or it can carve away a person's soul."
What did they leave out: The seven webisodes created to promote "Razor" are far from filler - parts five through seven are spliced into the actual film.
The plot in a nutshell: A recap of the events surrounding the Pegasus to date serves as the backdrop to our introduction to Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen), a world weary officer who's been demoted to peeling potatoes in the galley following her tenure under the late Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes). Despite her status, incoming commander Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) sees potential in her as his new XO. And with that we begin a pair of dueling tales - Shaw's first day under both Adama and - in flashback - Cain. As is the case with anything "Battlestar Galactica," the less said about the plot the better as its unfolding is a unique experience in itself. Suffice it to say all the expected gaps about the Pegasus's past are filled in with the usual mix of gravitas, pathos and surprise. Plus look out for the biggest shout out to the original series to date!
What works: It really is quite astonishing how well this show manages to eat away at the human condition. For three seasons we've been given front row seats to everything from genocide to torture to uxoricide to suicide. And just when you think there's no dark corner left to explore, "Razor" reveals that believe it or not - it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Essentially "Galactica's" take on "The Other 48 Days," "Razor" takes us through Pegasus's journey which includes many of Galactica's signposts but with widely different outcomes. And because the show has already set up much of the ship's history (Cain killed her XO when he refused to follow her, their "Six" was raped and tortured, etc.) we even have our own little "trailer" of what's going to transpire. What's really interesting though is how all said events come together. Were things so hard because Cain was crazy? Or was the situation so overwhelming that it required her to do crazy things? I think it's the former case but the fact a show features such a debate like this is just another testament to its awesomeness. Equally as impressive is a surprisingly large expansion to the show's mythology (which I won't spoil here) making it all the more heartbreaking there's only 20 hours left. (And I would be remised if I didn't give a shout out to the aforementioned surprisingly critical webisodes - all of which Sci Fi thankfully included on the screener.)
What doesn't: At the same time the events in the show (aside from the last 10 minutes) more or less exist in a bubble. We know that Apollo isn't going to die, the Pegasus isn't going to explode, etc. so when threats like Starbuck potentially having to sacrifice herself to save the Pegasus come up, they ring rather hollow. On the flip side, we also know Shaw herself is essentially doomed from the start as introducing a major character no one has mentioned before or since these events would seem rather disingenuous. Thankfully, "Razor" doesn't turn out to be "continuity porn" as the geeks say (i.e. filling up continuity holes for the sake of filling up continuity holes) as it explores interesting themes and expands on the show's history in a meaningful way. As for those final 10 minutes, they definitely live up to "Razor's" purpose...
The bottom line: ...giving "Battlestar" fans a meaty appetizer before the show's final season. At the end of the day, "Battlestar" remains science fiction at its best - whether it be as a giant soap opera, a metaphoric prism held up to humanity or an excuse to blow up shit in space. No show does one - let alone all three - better.