BY KATIE MAPES
Although Battlestar Galactica: Razor, a two hour made-for-TV movie connected with the Sci-Fi channel television series, doesn’t air on TV until November 24th, two Record staffers managed to see a sneak preview in theatres Monday night (by which I mean we signed up on-line like the rest of the dorks). For those us of who took (and failed) the MPRE a couple of weeks back, watching Razor should be pretty reassuring. After all, if we were taking the MPRE in the BSG universe, all the questions would have read like this:
You are a newly assigned lieutenant on the fleet’s flagship battleship under the command of the brilliant, steely Admiral Cain. Shortly after reporting for duty, evil robots attack, killing 12 billion people on your home worlds and leaving your crew isolated and desperately in need of supplies. If, acting under orders from the good Admiral, you press gang the crew of civilian ships into service, strip the vessels of useful parts, and shoot the wives and children of crewmembers who refuse to comply, are you subject to discipline?
A. No, because, dude, the evil robots are still after you.
B. Yes, unless Admiral Cain was really persuasive (and also about to shoot you if you disobeyed).
C. No, what kind of toasterfrakker are you, anyway?
D. Yes, unless you feel really, really tormented about it later.
Such is the set up for Razor, which follows the Battlestar Pegasus from the time of the attacks in scenes tightly interwoven with a “present day” plot that takes place sometime between when Lee Adama takes command of the ship and the settlement of New Caprica at the end of season 2. The events that take place on Pegasus after the cylon attack aren’t unfamiliar – we heard about them secondhand back in the second season episodes “Pegasus” and “Resurrection Ship, Parts I and II”. But now we see the through the eyes of Admiral Cain and her crew, particularly the young Lieutenant Kendra Shaw assigned as Admiral Cain’s aid shortly before the attacks.
Regular Battlestar watchers will marvel at the fact that the show’s creators have managed to create characters who are even more screwed up and more tormented than the series regulars. This is not a cheerful couple of hours, and moments of levity are few and far between.
Like the television series itself, though, Razor excels in its depth of characterization. Admiral Cain, played by the formidable Michelle Forbes, expands on her role from the series, making her character sympathetic without ever making her actions excusable or acceptable.
Similarly, Stephanie Chaves-Jacobson is marvelous as the tormented Lieutenant Shaw, and it’s easy to forget that this is an entirely new character, so smoothly is she blended with the existing cast.
Razor isn’t perfect. It’s a bit prone to exposition (perhaps in a misguided effort to attract viewers who aren’t fans of the series – a lost cause at this point), and it occasionally becomes ponderous. The director is a bit too fond of the slow-motion power shot, and Edward James Olmos is only just able to sell some too-neat pieces of dialogue summarizing the movie’s central dilemmas for us.
In the end, though, this isn’t the kind of TV movie that lends itself to nitpicking. It presents its audience with a stark picture of the hard choices and realities faced by officers in desperate situations, and provides a fascinating counterpoint to the Galactica’s (comparative) success at maintaining some semblance of democracy. Most importantly, it doesn’t flinch from hard questions and almost never caves to the temptation to provide easy answers. And, perhaps most intriguingly, it ends with some tantalizing hints of what’s to come in Season 4, which can’t premiere soon enough.
Rating: * * * 1/2