31 Day Challenge: Battlestar Galactica, Day 17: Most Upsetting Death

Like “The Body” from Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Collaborators” is such a hard episode to watch. I can only torture myself with it once a year or so, and it’s probably the darkest the series every went. Basically, to recap, the Galactica rescues the humans stranded on New Caprica under Cylon occupation, and then the acting president, Tom Zarek, put forth an order to establish what I call a Death Jury to try, condemn, and execute humans who collaborated with the Cylons. Jammer is the first victim we see, and I teared up when his body shot out of the airlock.

Specialist James “Jammer” Lyman was one of those background characters that I enjoyed. I even had a little head-canon backstory for him, where he joined the military so he could start his own mechanic shop after he served. What’s so sad about his death is that he was truly trying to affect positive change by joining the New Caprica Police (NCP). It blew up in his face, and he found himself questioning his involvement, saying to Tyrol (who had no knowledge of Jammer being in the NCP) that maybe those volunteering were just trying to make a difference but got in over their heads. After realizing his mistakes, he does help Cally escape a mass execution, although this action wasn’t deemed enough for the Circle (aka Death Jury, in wihch three of the six members ended up being Cylons themselves) to acquit him of crimes against humanity.

What’s more is that, at the end of the season, Gaius Baltar is put on trial for his own treasonous activities while the acting president on New Caprica and is acquitted, not because he isn’t guilty, but because Lee, in a rare case that I didn’t despise him, gave this speech:

“Did the defendant make mistakes? Sure. He did. Serious mistakes. But did he actually commit any crimes? Did he commit treason? No. I mean, it was an impossible situation. When the Cylons arrived, what could he possibly do? What could anyone have done? If he had refused to surrender, the Cylons would have probably nuked the planet right then and there. So did he appear to cooperate with the Cylons? Sure. So did hundreds of others. What’s the difference between him and them? The President issued a blanket pardon. They were all forgiven, no questions asked. Colonel Tigh … used suicide bombers, killed dozens of people. Forgiven. Lieutenant Agathon and Chief Tyrol. They murdered an officer on the Pegasus. Forgiven. The Admiral … instigated a military coup d’etat against the President. Forgiven. And me? Well, where do I begin? I shot down a civilian passenger ship, the Olympic Carrier. Over a thousand people on board. Forgiven. I raised my weapon to a superior officer, committed an act of mutiny. Forgiven. And then on the very day when Baltar surrendered to those Cylons, I, as commander of Pegasus, jumped away. I left everybody on that planet, alone, undefended, for months. I even tried to persuade the Admiral never to return, to abandon you all there for good. If I’d had my way, nobody would have made it off that planet. I’m the coward. I’m the traitor. I’m forgiven. I’d say we are very forgiving of mistakes … But not this time, no. Not this time. Not for Gaius Baltar. No, you … you have to die. You have to die because, well, because we don’t like you very much. Because you’re arrogant. Because you’re weak. Because you’re a coward, and we, the mob, want to throw you out of the airlock, because you didn’t stand up to the Cylons and get yourself killed in the process. That’s justice now. You should have been killed back on New Caprica, but since you had the temerity to live, we’re going to execute you now. That’s justice … This case is built on emotion, on anger, bitterness, vengeance. But most of all, it is built on shame. It’s about the shame of what we did to ourselves back on that planet. It’s about the guilt of those of us who ran away … And we’re just trying to dump all that guilt and all that shame on one man and then flush him out the airlock and hope that just gets rid of it all. So that we could live with ourselves. But that won’t work … That’s not justice. Not for me.”

Despite the length of his diatribe, it’s an important statement, particularly in reference to Jammer. His only real crime was choosing to believe that the Cylons could be trusted to treat humans kindly, unlike Baltar, who was, of course, only looking out for himself. Lee makes a good point here, though: what could anyone else have done? Jammer’s execution was a turning point for the series, I think, where you have to start questioning if humanity deserved to be saved from the Cylon’s attempted genocide.

Hell, at least Gaeta was saved at the end of this episode. Sigh. I need to go watch kitten videos on YouTube or something.

Art Credit: Wikipedia

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