A review by Logan Gawain
Razor, the new Battlestar Galactica movie airing November 24th on the Sci-Fi Channel, written by Michael Taylor and directed by Felix Alcala is an excellent double episode that sheds new light on much of the back-story details that previously we’ve only heard about, from the journey of Battlestar Pegasus before she joined the rag-tag Galactica fleet.
The film focuses on Kendra Shaw played by Stephanie Jacobsen, as we see Admiral Cain’s actions on the Pegasus through Shaw’s eyes. As the story begins, Lee Adama has just assumed command of Pegasus right after the episode, “The Captains Hand”. Lee pours through the crew fitness reports and finds that Shaw was demoted to kitchen duty under Commander Garner. Lee sees elements in Shaw’s record of service that he thinks will give him “a strong right hand” so he asks Shaw to serve as his XO.
The story is interwoven with Shaw’s flashbacks of her serving under Admiral Cain, from the day Shaw arrived on Pegasus -- the day of the Cylon attack on the Scorpion Ship Yards-- inter-cut with the story of Lee’s first assignment as Pegasus Commander. In that story, Admiral Adama sends the Pegasus on a search and rescue mission for a missing science Raptor. The events of that story tie in to the Adama flashbacks we’ve seen as the Razor Minisodes involving the old style Cylon Centurians, and the experiments they were conducting at the very end of the first Cylon war. Through a twist at the end of this storyline, we also get a jolt of a tease of things to come in season 4.
Stephanie Jacobsen is the center of this film. The story revolves around Kendra Shaw's story, choices, and her journey. And Shaw’s interactions with Kara Thrace -- whom as we know has a history of bucking authority and fighting her XO’s-- provides for some excellent scenes between the two. Jamie Bamber as Apollo and Edward James Olmos as Adama also have several strong scenes together as they adapted to what was then a new dynamic and tension in the family Adama, with one commanding a Battlestar, and the other commanding the whole fleet.
Michelle Forbes as Cain really brings a depth and a stronger humanity to the character that wasn't completely on display when we were first introduced to the Admiral in season 2. Forbes' performance adds nuance and texture to the role. Seeing Cain before the attack and before Gina (Tricia Helfer) was revealed as a Cylon agent, shows us that Cain’s journey was a long and brutal one, and that by the time she met up with Galactica’s fleet, she wasn’t the same person she had been because of everything she and her crew had gone through alone in space, believing they were the last Battlestar fighting the Cylons in a life and death struggle. Did she shed some of her humanity in order to become a razor? Perhaps so. And that’s a question Kendra Shaw struggles to answer for herself as well. (And in a way, isn't it a question for all the characters on Galactica, if they think back on how much they have changed since their journey began?)
If there is any flaw to Razor, it’s that it’s too short. Clearly the extended version coming to DVD in December will provide more context and fill in the missing pieces. (Also, while people may be expecting Razor to have the epic qualities of a film, it actually is more simply defined as a extra late season 2 double episode, that tells an interesting side-story.) But, even the TV version is a worthy installment in the BSG saga, filled with tons of action, and stunning feature film quality visual FX eye candy to satisfy every fan -- there are some scenes clearly designed to elicit a crowd pleasing cheer.
But, what Razor does really well is allow us to see Admiral Cain in a new light. As Adama said in the second season episode Pegasus “context matters”. Now, we have the context of Cain’s actions, and the choices she made.
This is what Battlestar Galactica always does best: Force the viewer to think about another point of view, and to see the other side of the argument.
For a “sci-fi” show, Battlestar Galactica remains the most harshly realistic television series of our time.