So far we’ve had episodes that were Space Westerns, War Adventures, and even a Disaster Movie based one, but now with Murder on the Rising Star we move into the Murder Mystery genre, sadly this episode does not include a Space Jessica Fletcher or a Galactic Ben Matlock.
In the previous episode, The Man With Nine Lives, we spent a great deal of time aboard the luxury space cruiser The Rising Star, so it’s strange that we’d be back again so soon, but once again we are treated to the joys of Triad, the goofy-ass sport the Colonies invented that combines baseball and football. Question: The sport is played by two teams of two players each, and is a combination of two different sports, so why in the hell is it called Triad? Makes no sense whatsoever, as there is nothing to do with three in it, unless maybe it was invented by a Galactic Organized Asian Crime Syndicate. Of course the name isn’t the dumbest thing about this sport, that’d be the costumes.
Two rival players Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Flight Sgt. Ortega (Frank Ashmore) do not seem to get along, Ortega takes several cheap shots after each goal until Starbuck can’t take it anymore and tackles the jerk, and they are both tossed out of the game and sent to the showers. In the hallway Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang) runs to catch up with Starbuck, as he is again tustling with Ortega, and she urges them to calm down, but Starbuck is really, really pissed and wants it out with Ortega. She threatens to report both of them, and have their flight status suspended, so the two part company but Starbuck tells Cassiopeia that she has, “Only delayed the inevitable.” Turns out these two have had it in for each other since they were cadets. Ortega takes off and Cassiopeia tells Starbuck that if he doesn’t meet her at the shuttle in ten centons he needn’t try and see her later.
Meanwhile Ortega has just finished cleaning up when the door to his locker room is opened, and he is confronted by a figure we can’t see. Ortega doesn’t look surprised and quips, “I always knew it would come to this,” and then goes for his blaster. but he’s not fast enough and is killed by a laser blast. His body is soon found by a Pyramid dealer named Chella (Ben Frank), who had just passed a running Starbuck in the hallway. A crowd quickly gathers and suspicion immediately falls on Starbuck. Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) rush off to find him to verify that his laser pistol had not been recently fired. Unfortunately it had. Starbuck is incensed about being accused of murder, claiming that he’d been at the range earlier that day, but things get even hotter when Dr. Wilker (John Dullaghan) runs some kind of laser energy ballistic test that confirms, without a doubt, that Starbucks pistol is the murder weapon. Sire Solon (Brock Peters), the Fleet’s Chief Opposer (That’s prosecuting attorney to us non space people), is ready to lock up Starbuck and throw away the key, that is unless Starbuck pleads self-dense, then he’ll just be forced to leave the Colonial Forces and most likely get a suspended sentence, but if this goes to trial and he loses, well then he will spend the rest of his days on the Prison Barge.
Note: Brock Peters later played the traitorous Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Apollo volunteers to be Starbuck’s Protector/Defense Attorney even though he graduated the Academy as a warrior and not a Protector. Apollo, with Boomers help, have to prepare defense and be ready to present evidence before the Tribunal, in just ten centars. Now a centar is basically one Earth hour so in this wacky universe a person has just ten bloody hours from when he is arrested to when he stands up in court to defend himself. That’s insane. No wonder this fleet has a full prison barge with that kind of legal system. So Apollo and Boomer leap into action, they first track down Ortega’s wingman Lieutenant Barton (W.K. Stratton), who confirms that Ortega was a real asshole, and that pretty much anyone who knew him would have like to see him dead. Barton did remember during one patrol when he told Ortega to change his attitude or someone would end up killing him before the Cylons got a chance to, and Ortega’s response was, “There is only one person in the fleet with nerve enough to try. Karibdis.”
So the rest of the episode is basically Apollo and Boomer trying to track down Karibdis, to lesser degrees of success. Lucky for them Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) recognizes the name as to that of one of Baltar’s co-conspirators, and this man was the one who sabotaged the colonial defense grid preceding the Cylon ambush, so that sounds like a good lead. Unfortunately, there are no photo-records of Karibis, and the only person who can identify Karibdis is Baltar (John Colicos) himself. Of course Baltar is more than willing to help out, as long as he is freed from the brig when he does. Apollo storms out of the cell in disgust, but as he leaves Baltar calls out, “Think about it Apollo. There is more than one prisoner on this barge who would love to have Lieutenant Starbuck here. He won’t live long enough to reach his cell!”
If the Prison Barge is so dangerous how is Baltar, one of the orchestrators of the Colonial Holocaust, still alive?
Um…what? How does threat threat make even a lick of sense? Is Starbuck some kind of space cop and we just haven’t been told, that the prison barge is chock full criminals he’s brought to justice? Or are there just a lot of prisoners in the Prison Barge who in the past Starbuck has cheated them at cards, or possibly slept with their wives? Either way it’s a bizarre thing for Baltar to spout off. Needless to say this doesn’t help Starbuck’s case. The next stop for Apollo and Boomer is The Rising Star, to interrogate Chella the pyramid dealer, who Barton told them let Ortega win more than seemed the norm at the pyramid table. Turns out Chella was being blackmailed by Ortega because he bribed Ortego to get onto the last ship during the mass exodus from Caprica. Unfortunately he can’t be the murderer because his alibi is rock solid, but there were two other people Ortega was blackmailing, Elias (Newell Alexander) and Pallon (Lyman Ward). So Apollo and Boomer arrest the three and take them on a shuttle back to the Galactica
Apollo has no way to prove which one of these men is Karibdis, so he tells them that he’s sorry for the inconvenience, and that they just learned that the killer is a man by the name of Karibdis, so once they land on the Galactica he’s going to head over to the prison barge to get Baltar who can identify the man. This is a dangerous gambit, hoping that the killer will expose himself trying to kill both Apollo and Baltar, with much of the success of the plan hinging on Baltar not throwing in with Karibdis. But Apollo puts great stock in Baltar’s sense of self-preservation, and in the end Baltar helps subdue Karibdis, and Starbuck is cleared of all charges…except maybe one or two. You see earlier in the episode, while he was in the brig waiting to be tried, Starbuck actually tricked a guard into coming into his cell, assaulted him, took his weapon and forced the other guard to open the cell door. Eventually Apollo is able to talk Starbuck out of escaping in a viper, and he returns to his cell, but he is still guilty of assaulting two guards and escaping custody.
This is not a terrible episode, but as a mystery it’s not quite Agatha Christie level, and it’s never explained how Karibdis was able to get Starbuck’s laser pistol, then go and find Ortega, shoot him and then get the gun back into Starbuck’s holster in the limited time allowed. This script was rushed, apparently written in 36 hours, so that kind of explains the looseness of the plot, but unfortunately when writing a mystery the plot is kind of important.