The bad news is that we have to wait until April for season four of Battlestar Galactica. The good news is that we get a two-hour special, Battlestar Galactica: Razor, this weekend [Saturday, Nov. 24th, Sci Fi, 8 p.m.]to hold us over until then. Razor looks at the past three seasons of BSG from the point of view of the crew of Battlestar Pegasus – specifically, Kendra Shaw, who goes from raw rookie to hardened razor over that time.
The first time we meet Lt. Kendra Shaw [Stephanie Jacobsen], she is trying to find her way to the command center. In a fine bit of foreshadowing, the only person who will give her directions is Gina [Tricia Helfer], whom we know to be a Cylon agent. Needless to say, Shaw narrowly avoids getting off on the wrong foot with Admiral Cain [Michelle Forbes].
Razor recycles several sequences from the regular series [the Pegasus surviving the Cylon attack because its computers were down; Cain’s solution to an XO’s refusal to obey an order, and so forth], but does so from the perspective of the sip’s newest crew member.
Since, for Cain at least, survival isn’t enough, the Pegasus crew takes the fight to the Cylons. Shaw learns to think on her feet and becomes an aggressive warrior, helping to thwart an incursion by Cylons, saving the admiral from an assassination attempt and revealing the spy in their midst.
Razor takes us from the Pegasus’ survival of the initial Cylon attack through to Shaw’s becoming Lee Adama’s [Jamie Bamber] XO after Cain’s assassination. As a result, we get to see how she adapts and survives in her new environment – until she comes up with a plan to destroy a hitherto unknown Cylon basestar that hides a terrible secret – a secret known only to Admiral Adama [Edward James Olmos].
What makes Razor so intriguing is that we get a new perspective on survival in the post-Cylon invasion existence of a small group of humans. Admiral Cain’s approach is not one to evoke admiration, but it is certainly understandable, given the Pegasus’ unique circumstances. Many of Cain’s actions – and those of her crew] are utterly reprehensible, and yet, because they are doing what they have to do to survive, we can almost sympathize with them.
The character of Kendra Shaw is our touchstone throughout. Through her, we feel the horror of the Cylon attack; we feel the shock and dismay at Cain’s removal of her first XO; we become a razor – willing to shut down all human emotions in order to do what must be done however drastic and inhuman. Then, once Cain is gone and the Pegasus comes under the command of Lee Adama, we begin to feel our humanity returning as he appoints Shaw as his XO and shows her his trust and respect.
Naturally, there’s always some friction. Shaw’s life hasn’t been easy and she bristles easily – especially when contending with Adama’s CAG, Kara Thrace [Katee Sackhoff]. It seems obvious, and yet still a bit of a surprise, when Shaw’s plan to take out the Cylon basestar finds Shaw and Starbuck working together. A grudging form of respect develops between them.
Battlestar Galactica: Razor is a treat for BSG fans. It is as smartly written as the best episodes of the series and is directed with verve and more than a little panache. While it may be the darkest single BSG production since the mini-series, it’s also filled with that unique end-of-the-universe humor that helps keep the flicker of hope alive. Writer Michael Taylor and director Felix Alcala have crafted a memorable piece of work here, and an outstanding performance by Jacobsen really brings it home.
Razor may be the biggest event of 2007 for the small screen. It will bring joy to regular viewers of the series and also acts as a terrific jumping-in point for newcomers. It’s even possible that it could win the show a second Peabody Award. It’s just that good.
Final Grade: A+