‘Dirty Hands’ is an interesting and unexpected episode of Battlestar Galactica. Those who have come to know the show as a parable of the current state of conflict in the world will be surprised to find Battlestar Galactica approaching a more timeless theme here: class tyranny. You know, like how the rich kids always get into Future Business Leaders of America? That stuff. But I digress. Its an adult issue too, and thanks to some fantastic writing and even more fantastic acting, Battlestar Galactica makes it an issue worth talking about.
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The backdrop for this allegory on human potential is the fleets refinery ship, where overworked laborers are beginning to show the first signs of an organized revolt. Adama’s response is to arrest the foreman and send in Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas). Big mistake on Adama’s part given Tyrol’s history with the labor union on New Caprica, but not for us viewers! I didn’t know how I’d take another Tyrol episode after he and Callie practically headlined last weeks ‘A Day in the life’. In fact, this was a much needed display of Aaron Douglas’s reign over this character.
Most fans like Tyrol for his everyman fit in the universe. He reminds us of ourselves, the cogs. His occasional elevation into loftier devices (the Sharon/Boomer part one dramatics for instance) show us that there is more going through the Chief’s noodle than Viper schematics, but he usually comes off as more the guy that everybody likes and respects at work, but will never become a manager.
Underneath the sedition on the refinery is a homespun pamphlet written by Gaius Baltar himself. “My Triumps and my mistakes”, a brochure for revolt essentially, focusing on the aristocracy that exists with the ruling class. When people in the fleet start getting the feeling they are pigeonholed based on where they come from, Baltar’s propaganda begins to fuel some big questions over just what people can do with their destinies.
Tyrol finds himself wondering if this is the case and tries to reason his way through it, including a trip to the deposed president himself. Frustrated by the inadequacy of the response from Adama and Roslin, Tyrol reinstitutes the union and puts his crew on strike, a move that rapidly gets him arrested. Adama plays hardball like nobody else, visiting Tyrol and telling him that the act is mutiny and that mutineers will be shot, starting with his wife, Callie. Tyrol calls off the strike and is surprised to be told he is going to meet with president Roslin.
He discusses a few things with Roslin, and then she addresses him as the Leader of the Labor union. Tyrol is confused, he was just locked up for striking, now she wants him in the union? She explains that part of the problem is that the laborers have no voice, they needs someone to listen to them and convey their needs, that person will be Tyrol. It’s a good scene that says, basically, what seems like oppression is often just ignorance mixed with the need to act swiftly. Without a balance, a voice for the oppressed, there can be no fix.
Aaron Douglas did a tremendous job carrying this episode and adding a layer to the Chief that will be remembered. Maybe it’s as much a testimony to the entire cast as it is Douglas, but he was clearly able to carry this show and his portrayal of the Chief had some resonance to it.
- Jon Lachonis, BuddyTv Senior Writer