The “Beings of Light” from the episode War of the Gods are back, and they continue to be intergalactic busybodies with their lame apparent “non-interference” methods. Originally this was supposed to be another Starbuck centered episode, but Richard Hatch pointed out that too many episodes had been focusing on fan favorite Starbuck, so the producers just swapped characters around, and thus this it became an Apollo story.
The episodes begin with a squadron of Vipers, led by Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), in hot pursuit of the Eastern Alliance destroyer that had escaped during the end of the last episode. Their plan is to follow the destroyer to its destination as well as find out more about the planet Terra, and what the Eastern Alliance is up to. Unfortunately for our heroes before that has a chance to happen The Ship of Lights appears behind Apollo’s Viper, he is abducted by these apparent “superior beings” and is given an assignment by John (Edward Mulhare), one of the Beings of Light.
Apollo is told that he is being sent to Terra to stop the war between the Eastern Alliance and the Nationalists, and one guy being sent to stop a war would seem to be a difficult task for anyone, even someone as awesome as Apollo, so John uses some space magic so that the Terrans will see Apollo as one of their own, a pilot by the name of Charlie Watts, who’s been missing in action on one of the satellite planets destroyed by the Eastern Alliance.
Note: Donald P. Bellisario, one of the show’s writers, would later use this idea for his series Quantum Leap. In Experiment in Terra Apollo is in the role of Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett, while John appears as a type of hologram to give Apollo advice, much in the same way Dean Stockwell gave Sam advice as Al.
The Beings of Light make a phone call to Charlie’s ex-girlfriend, Brenda (Melody Anderson), to get her out into the desert to pick up Apollo, and things don’t go so well, as poor Apollo has no knowledge of who she is or what’s going on with the war, and even who in the hell this Charlie person is that he’s supposed to be impersonating. At least in Quantum Leap Al was able to provide Sam with tons of background information, but here John leaves Apollo hanging out to dry with little no back-up, so he ends up coming across as a person whose elevator no longer goes all the way to the top. This results in Brenda calling security and having “Charlie” taken to a hospital for his own good.
Meanwhile, Starbuck has left Jolly (Tony Swartz) in charge of the squadron so that he can take off to find Apollo, because screw responsibilities, his best friend is missing. He arrives on Terra and is almost immediately found by forces belonging to the Nationalists, and as Starbuck is not one for diplomacy he takes out the nine soldiers by firing three times…wait what? Before firing Starbuck made a recording on his communicator, to inform whoever may hear this report, that he was setting his gun for stun, this clearly for our benefit so we don’t think Starbuck just murdered those poor hapless dudes, but it does not explain how firing three times can take out nine people, unless the stun setting is strangely way more effective than the kill setting.
Starbuck blows up the two helicopters that the soldiers had arrived in, he then hoofs it into town to find Apollo using a tracking device, but just as he’s about to storm the facility, the one he knows is holding his friend, John shows up to provide absolutely no help. Seriously, he stops Starbuck from going in guns blazing, talks with him for a bit, and then Starbuck goes in…guns blazing. These supposedly advanced beings take the non-interference thing a bit too far; they have no physical form, so cannot interact with anyone physically (though they constantly forget that as we see John often touching Apollo and Starbuck), and they are not allowed to give our heroes any real useful information, so basically they just hang around like useless ghosts. Hell, Casper the Friendly Ghost would have been more helpful on this mission.
In the previous two episodes we learned a little about the Eastern Alliance, the Space Nazis bent on complete conquest of all worlds and the imposing of their doctrines, but now in this episode, we finally meet the Nationalists, and they aren’t all that great either. The President (Peter MacLean) is trying to cover up all the death and destruction perpetrated by the Eastern Alliance on the satellite worlds, this is so that he can push his Peace Treaty through, the one that he’s managed to get the head of the Eastern Alliance to sign. When he heard that “Charlie Watts” has returned, from a place he knows was destroyed by the Eastern Alliance, he had Charlie/Apollo locked up so none of his people could hear of it and spoil the treaty with valid protests.
Back on the Galactica Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) has ordered Colonel Tigh to prepare to put the ship to light speed so they can get to Terra fast enough to rescue his son, and this means abandoning the rest of the fleet with but a squadron of Vipers as protection, and does this seem to bother him? Heck no. Meanwhile, his son has at no point tried to pretend he is Charlie Watts, as he was instructed to do, but constantly tries to explain to the Terrans that he is from a distant galaxy, and he gives an impassioned speech about how his people use to believe that the opposite of war was peace but quickly learned that strength and strength alone can ensure freedom. His brilliant rhetoric is of course ignored as the ravings of a madman, but before he can be tossed back in the nut factory they are all informed that the Eastern Alliance has launched all their nukes, and in turn, the Nationalist nukes have automatically launched in retaliation.
During all this Brenda and Starbuck had been driving around the desert, in the hopes of finding his parked Viper, but earlier we saw that he had a tracking device to locate Apollo, yet for some reason, he doesn’t have one that can locate his own ship? Eventually, they stumble across his Viper, and he launches in the hopes of getting to the Galactica and using its superior technology to prove to the Nationalist that Apollo isn’t nuts. John then pulls a Ben Kenobi and starts talking to Starbuck as he flies, informing him that Armageddon is about six minutes away. Starbuck radios the Galactica and fills them in on the situation; Adama orders battle stations, which in this case means putting some kind of laser shield over the entire planet so that the missiles all explode harmlessly in space.
With all their nukes destroyed, by some advanced unheard of weapon, the Eastern Alliance sues for peace on the terms set by the Nationalists, and all the people and colonies that were wiped out by the Eastern Alliance’s war machine is apparently forgotten. The episode ends with Apollo demanding that John tell him if Terra is the Earth they’ve been searching for and he is told, “I’m sorry, Apollo… your journey is not over.”
The most painful element of this episode has to be John, the supposed Being of Light, who wants Apollo to save Terra because its destruction will cause repercussions that will affect even them. Strange that Apollo never asks where in the hell the Beings of Light were when the Cylons were unleashing genocide on the Twelve Colonies, but I guess that would be rude. And once again this show hammers the message that only the military can solve problems because politicians are all lying cowards who will roll over at the first sign of danger.
For the index of reviews click here: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series
Experiment in Terra,
The only really good thing to come out of this episode is that it inspired Donald Bellisario to come up with Quantum leap, but as an episode on its own it is a rather rushed yet lazy conclusion to this rather lame three part Eastern Alliance story arc.