Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 3 - Episode 16

BSG - 3x16 - Dirty Hands - Originally Aired: 2007-2-25

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 4.84

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Synopsis
Mid-flight, a Raptor catches fire and crashes into Colonial One. No one is killed, but when impurities in the craft's tylium fuel are discovered, Roslin and Adama demand answers from Zeno Fenner, the foreman on the tylium refinery ship Hitei Kan. Fenner has shut down his ship's production, insisting that broken machinery, unsafe conditions, and sheer exhaustion make it impossible for his workers to do their jobs well.

Although the fleet's fuel supply is now dangerously low, Fenner threatens to disrupt production further if these problems aren't solved. Then he quotes from a subversive new manifesto about class conflict that Gaius Baltar has written and had smuggled out of his cell. In response, Roslin orders Fenner arrested. Adama sends Galen Tyrol to the Hitei Kan to replace Fenner and get the tylium flowing.

Tyrol can't help but empathize with the disgruntled refinery workers. One of his working-class deckhands, Seelix, was recently denied elite pilot training for suspiciously arbitrary reasons; his wife, Cally, even agrees with Baltar's declaration that a new aristocracy of privileged Capricans is systematically oppressing the fleet's working poor. But Tyrol also understands that someone has to do the dirty jobs for the fleet to survive at all.

Tyrol can't help but empathize with the disgruntled refinery workers. One of his working-class deckhands, Seelix, was recently denied elite pilot training for suspiciously arbitrary reasons; his wife, Cally, even agrees with Baltar's declaration that a new aristocracy of privileged Capricans is systematically oppressing the fleet's working poor. But Tyrol also understands that someone has to do the dirty jobs for the fleet to survive at all.

Seeking better answers, Tyrol reads Baltar's book and visits the imprisoned ex-President. Despite himself, he ends up considering Baltar's subversive ideas. Soon afterward, aboard the Hitei Kan, the rickety gears of a conveyor belt jam, nearly causing a deadly disaster. Danny saves the day, worming his body into the machine to fix the jam. But as the gears clank into motion, Danny is snagged and seriously injured.

Seeing this young man — who once dreamed of a college education — bleeding on the floor of the refinery jolts Tyrol into action. He shuts down the Hitei Kan and declares a strike. His workers cheer, but Adama immediately arrests Tyrol for mutiny — and declares that all mutineers will be shot. This time, Tyrol must negotiate not just for his workers' rights, but also for their lives. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- Survivors, according to the main title: 41400. (This is up by 2 from last episode, inexplicably, presumably due to births.)
- Caprica, Virgon, and Tauron are noted as having been rich colonies along with Aerelon, Saggittaron, and Gemenon being poor colonies in this episode.

Remarkable Scenes
- Seelix' lamenting about the reasons she was rejected for promotion.
- Racetrack's raptor colliding with Colonial One.
- Adama to Roslin: "If your quarters become cramped, you're always welcome in one of my beds... in a manner of speaking."
- Roslin having Xeno Fenner arrested for quoting Baltar's book "My Triumphs My Mistakes."
- Roslin regarding Baltar's book: "I'm thinking of having a good old fashioned book burning."
- Tyrol regarding Xeno Fenner: "What'd he do?" Adama: "He pissed off the President."
- Roslin confronting Baltar about his book.
- Milo asking to throw the switch.
- Tyrol talking to Baltar.
- The conveyor belt crushing the new kid's arm.
- Tyrol striking.
- Adama confronting Tyrol about the strike.
- Roslin talking with Tyrol about union issues.
- Starbuck promoting Seelix to officer's rank in order to train her to fly vipers.

My Review
Dirty Hands is a very cleverly written episode in that it does a lot with very little. In many ways I am referring to the show's budget here. Numerous major characters were not present in this episode and also the entire set for the tylium ship wasn't in fact a set, but an actual factory that was borrowed to do this episode. I find these details to be so remarkable because in this recent string of stand alone episodes and in most of the season as a whole there has been an overall drop in episode quality and one of the reasons attributed to this was that the budget was blown quite a bit during the New Caprica arc at the beginning of the season.

This episode however is an example of just how good an episode which uses very little budget comparatively can be. It also demonstrates just how well a stand alone story can be constructed out of an issue that seems to come out of nowhere. One of the criticisms I had lined up when going into this episode is that in A Day in the Life, Tyrol and Cally's lives are saved by Adama but now a week later they're completely at odds and I just didn't buy it. But when you watch this episode, by the time the strike/mutiny actually happens, the characters have completely earned that moment.

The essential lure of this episode is how well it highlights class structure related social problems in colonial society and in the ragtag fleet, much like the way The Woman King dealt with racism, but in a much better way with a much larger scope. While RDM refers to Baltar's book as Baltar's version of Mein Kampf, I tend to look at it as Baltar's version of Das Kapital, as what Baltar is talking about seems more Marxist in origin than anything Hitler wrote about.

Indeed, the whole episode is very overtly about class struggles. Cally even goes so far as to say that she and the rest of the deck gang are not a part of the "ruling class" and that they are not afforded certain luxuries as a result. Great details were sprinkled throughout the episode to highlight differences in class structure. Some details were large, such as Roslin being completely aware of horrid working conditions and the use of child labor and not seeing too much of a problem with it nor speaking of any kind of running plan in place to make it better. Other details were small, like placing a scene depicting Adama and Roslin quietly sipping wine in front of Tyrol just after he returned from his first and rather traumatic experience on the tylium ship.

The greatness of the episode doesn't end there though. Right from the teaser, we're just loaded with goodies. I loved how they actually showed Roslin looking out the window of Colonial One just as the raptor was about to collide with her ship. While I wish they didn't cut over the actual collision, it was a very creepy detail to end the teaser on. Also creepy was getting to hear Baltar's original accent and his description of his origins on Aerelon. What a fantastic acting job there.

The ending was the only thing about the episode that I thought wasn't particularly remarkable, though it wasn't particularly weak either. Adama's threat to Tyrol during the strike was certainly compelling for all that it was reckless, however as the episode began to resolve itself, it began to lose steam quickly. This isn't much a problem though, because the ending was very short. And while the final scene wasn't great, it was a pretty good scene. It's nice to see progress is being made toward overcoming these class structure problems, but all this "let's be friends" stuff at the end felt rushed to me. A better ending wouldn't have resolved anything, but merely laid the first stones toward a resolution. A proper resolution would be crafted amidst a series of future episodes.

Suffice it to say, if this is the last episode dealing with class structure problems in the ragtag fleet, it would be a big mistake. Setting all that aside, however, this episode stands very well on its own, being one of the better offerings of the season.

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