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THE GUN ON ICE PLANET ZERO

Parts One and Two

Written by Leslie Stevens, Michael Sloan, and Donald P. Bellisario

Original Airdates: October 22 and 29, 1978

Review by Matthew Wharmby

A fight between the convicts short-circuits the land ram and almost ends the missionTHE PREMISE:

Hemmed into a narrow corridor between Cylon baseships and a devastating pulsar weapon based on an inhospitable ice planet, the Galactica has to pick assault specialists from dangerous convicted prisoners aboard the prison barge and send them with warriors to the surface on a deadly mission to destroy the weapon.

THE STORY:

A deep patrol launches from the Galactica, led by Starbuck and Boomer. Accompanying them are three trainees from the Academy, Cree, Shields and Bow. Cadet Cree already gets himself in hot water by flying a little too close to his neighbour.

Aboard the battlestar, Commander Adama is not convinced that a recent victory has put them in the clear. 'I just have the feeling that we're being carefully manoeuvred,' he says in agitation. 'Herded towards our present position.' When Athena asks what could be out there, he can't answer. It's no point putting extra vipers into the air because they're so overstretched that they're having to field cadets, like the three being trained right now. That patrol then makes contact with a request for a scan of the small moon they're approaching. It's not a nice place, consisting of ice and shrouded by diethene storms. 'Stay out of its gravitational pull,' warns Tigh.

We then see that a Cylon garrison is in residence on the ice planet's highest peak, and its commander Vulpa immediately detects ships on their way. 'Alert the gun crews,' he orders, and centurions come to life, cranking into action what we will become familiar as the Ravashol Pulsar - the galaxy's biggest siege gun. Kind of like Big Dora before Sevastopol, but with plenty of moving targets, and one particularly big one that the Cylons can't wait to knock off - of course, the mighty Battlestar Galactica. With lens system aligned, pump system to speed and targets locked on, woe betide anybody wh strays into the pulsar's range.

Cadet Bow sees a flare go off on the planet's surface and flies to check it out - straight into the range of the pulsar, whose first shot takes him out. Starbuck and Boomer are amazed by the range of the weapon and alerts the Galactica, who go on red alert. Adama also orders the fleet to full stop.

Boomer and Starbuck try to chase the two other cadets out of the pulsar's range as they're apparently attempting to fight it themselves. Receiving scans of the mountain from the cadets, Boomer and Starbuck are aghast at the size of the pulsar. Vulpa instructs his Cylons to capture one of the pilots alive, first blowing away Shields for good measure and then sending fighters after the hapless Cree. The cadet is forced out of the sky and crash-lands in the snow. Unable to help him for the moment, the two remaining vipers withdraw.

Adama reckons that the pulsar can destroy the Galactica in a single pulse, and now knows why the Cylons lured them that way. They can't send vipers to destroy it, so Adama recommends sending a small, specialised assault team to the surface. The team will have to comprise experts in arctic survival and heavy demolition.

Corporal Komma is dozing in the Galactica's main computer room when Starbuck enters. The friendly Komma is supervising the computer's automatic search for the personnel qualified enough to go down to the planet. Starbuck suggests he go and meet the female viper pilots so that he can get the room to himself, whereupon he sits down for a bit of reprogramming of his own.

When the final tally comes out, Starbuck is surprised to note that most of the specialists are criminals. He and Boomer are then detailed to go to the Prison Barge and bring them back.

Commander Croft was caged for turning over a Cylon garrison on the ice planet Kalpa - nothing wrong with that, you think, but he absconded with the spoils. A proper nutcase is then brought in, chained from head to foot - Wolfe, the demolitions expert. Straight behind him is alien expert Thane, who displays a bad attitude right away. He's doing time for murder. Finally we get Leda, sub-zero experienced medic. An added frisson of danger is revealed in that she's married to Croft - tempestuously so.

Apollo is angry with Adama that he's not on the mission despite being qualified in just about everything necessary. Somebody obviously fiddled the computer, either that or Apollo believes that Adama swayed the selection because he's still traumatised over losing so much family. Since Apollo is, by anyone's admission, the fleet's best warrior, he manages to get Adama to let him go on the mission. Or, the way I see it, Adama backs down just to get Apollo out of his hair for a bit!

Adama outlines the mission specs and introduces the additional personnel - gunners Haals and Vickers and weapons expert Voight. Croft is getting his Colonel's rank back for the duration - assuming he's not killed in action, of course, but the mission will be under the overall command of Captain Apollo, with Boomer and Starbuck accompanying them. A timescale is also laid down - the pursuing Cylon basestars will catch up in 'eight or nine hundred centons.' Whether or not the pulsar is destroyed, the fleet will resume moving in 700 centons.

In the officers' billet, Starbuck takes offence when he sees Giles packing up Cree's personal effects, as one does when warriors have been KIA. He feels guilty about losing the cadet and has fiddled his way onto the mission to try and make amends.

Snow pours down as Cree shivers in his cockpit, buried up to the nose. Three Cylon centurions then appear and march up to take him prisoner. Cree manages to shoot one before his gun jams and the other two drag him away.

Apollo has to say his goodbyes to Boxey and as always it's a difficult time. When told that they're going to an ice planet, Boxey is fascinated and wants to come too, but Apollo has to let him down easy. Even though he's a warrior. After his father has gone, Boxey cuddles Muffey and says 'Too bad we can't go to that ice planet...'

Squabbles break out in the shuttle as the party trips over each other while loading equipment, and one of the warriors is injured. If any more scrapping had been allowed to take place before the crims were prised apart, one of them might have set off a hand mine, as we see Apollo hold it up. Remember that mine, gentle readers. Apollo manages to get their minds returned to doing a number on the Cylons rather than each other and they get underway. The shuttle takes off, escorted by Captain Killian in a viper.

The pulsar cranks back into action as Vulpa sights the second incursion by Colonials into Arcta's perimeter. The Cylon patrol takes to the air again and Killian heads them off, destroying one and splitting the flight, but in doing so wanders straight into the range of the pulsar, which picks him off with a devastating shot. Shorn of their muscle, the shuttle is now set upon by the Cylon fighters before it can reach the protection of the cloud cover, and one blows a hole in its side. The shuttle plunges out of the sky, straight into the snow. The Galactica doesn't dare contact them for fear of giving away their own position.

Voight is seriously injured. While they're tending to him, Wolfe pockets his laser. They examine the shuttle with grim results - it will neither fly again nor support life, so they're all going to debark in the snow ram. However, one of the Cylon fighters has spotted the crash site and will be coming back. As they're unloading, Apollo is shocked to discover Boxey and Muffey, who've stowed away. Starbuck gets on top of the snow ram and hammers away with its gun, blowing away the lone Cylon fighter. Vulpa orders foot patrols sent out after the humans. Meanwhile we see the interrogation of Cree by Cylon centurions, who press him for the location of the Galactica. 'Go rust yourself,' is Cree's brave response, and a somewhat foolhardy one as the Cylons then proceed to hook his cerebral cortex up to a brain probe. They'll get the location of the fleet out of him that way.

Away from the shuttle, the perps discuss when, where and how to escape, but Croft's mind is set on the mission. Wolfe and Thane, the more hardcore of the criminals pour scorn on him for turning heel. The snow ram gets underway, with alternate individuals riding on the roof. A fight breaks out up there as Wolfe gets sick of shivering against the blizzard and pulls the gun he appropriated earlier, attempting to use it on Haals. When it goes off it hits the snow ram's electrics and puts it out of commission for good - nothing so bad that it can't get worse! And a diethene storm is coming! All they can do is stay put and attempt to ride it out wearing masks - but humans can't survive diethene when it reaches death point! Muffey, who can withstand this kind of thing, then does his usual and bolts from the snow ram, but the only others out on the snow-covered plateau are Cylons. Four of them have now found the shuttle's wreckage and report back to Vulpa. It looks like Muffey's going to gallop straight into them as he approaches some torch-holding figures.

The humans awake in a cave, alive and grateful at their rescue. A bearded gentleman in overalls brings them water. The warriors are perturbed not only to see these so-called 'simple hunters' alive in Cylon-controlled territory but surrounded by loads of spent Cylon ordnance. Even odder, the bearded fellas all look the same. 'They're clones,' Apollo realises. 'We prefer the name 'Theta-class life forms,' says an attractive blonde who appears out of a corner. Starbuck's pimp radar goes on TILT as he espies Tenna, played by Britt Ekland.

Assuming that the Thetas are against the Cylons, the Colonials explain that they are aiming to destroy the Ravashol pulsar, but it's unclear why the human Ravashol, who built the weapon, is in league with the Cylons. Ser 5-9 is thrilled to hear that the Colonials are packing explosives that can destroy the hitherto invulnerable pulsar and prepares to lead them to the village. Still obsessed with guilt over having allowed Cree's capture, Starbuck asks Tenna if she might have seen any uniformed humans and where captured ones might be taken.

On their way to the clones' village, Wolfe shows Thane that he's armed and ready to use it whenever the opportunity presents itself - he managed to blame the snow ram's end on Haals shorting it out, who ended up too injured to protest the true reason. As they pass through a ravine at the end of which is the entrance hatch of the ravine, they spot large numbers of Cylons patrolling the top of the crevasse. Everybody hunkers down, but Muffey's growling causes the tail-end centurion to pause and look behind him...

Baltar's first appearance follows, and he's very happy with himself indeed, even pre-empting Lucifer's report. It's all going to plan - Baltar has lured them right into the path of the pulsar. He calls for reinforcements and dismisses Lucifer, grinning 'Soon, Adama... soon.'

Part Two opens. The last centurion turns round again to rejoin his comrades, and everyone can draw breath again. The humans thus gain the village and a little more background from the Thetas. They were created for slave labour and comprise some of the few that escaped - the rest of them are still under Cylon servitude in the village. First order of business is to find Dr Ravashol.

Baltar is in a foul mood this time when reported to by Lucifer, stalking round in circles in his throne room. He flies into a rage when told that the shuttle got down with survivors, and orders the Galactica harried by an attack with fighters, in a bid to push her forward.

The Cylons start combing the village for the Colonials. Starbuck is as amazed as Boxey is enthused when Tenna suggests they hide with the children. Designed to be sterile, the Thetas have been clandestinely breeding.

Ser 5-9 leads Apollo to Ravashol's lab. The naive scientist is convinced that his 'energy lens system' is still transmitting intelligence, the purpose for which he designed it, rather than being used by Cylon gunners as a weapon of war. 'I have no control of the use of my creations,' Ravashol protests, before the chime goes. The Theta, who's not supposed to be up here, has to hide Apollo as three centurions appear and start searching the lab. Ravashol contacts Vulpa to complain. The command centurion orders his troops to depart and take Ser 5-9 away for punishment. As they leave and the rest of the centurions finish shaking down the village, Thane slips away. Apollo tries to explain to Ravashol that all humans, including him, are threatened. Ravashol gripes that everything was in its proper place before the Galactica arrived, and that the Cylons understood his work and thus let him live. But he's shocked into reality when Apollo reveals that Ravashol's planners and workers are not only planning and working, but having children.

The first phalanx of Cylon fighters sent by Baltar attacks the fleet. Aboard the basestar, Baltar takes a report that the battle is underway and then orders the attack broken off to confuse Adama into believing that they are closer than they really are. 'A little hard on our troops,' Lucifer notes, 'but very clever.' There now remain 420 centons for the fleet to move forward.

Boxey and Muffit discover the children of the ThetasRavashol explains the layout of the pulsar to Apollo and how to destroy it, by jamming the main pump. Below, Thane has managed to coldcock one of the Thetas and pinch his uniform, but with no beard he's a dead giveaway and the Cylons soon collar him. With swords aloft, they march Thane to a dais and interrogate him. Starbuck tries out the same uniform switch gag in an attempt to rescue Thane, but the truth emerges that he's trying to find Cree. All Tenna can offer is a hope that Cree didn't survive. Accordingly, the Cylons complete their interrogation of the exhausted cadet and shove him in a cold cell. Thane refuses to answer any of the Cylons' questions but then appears to crack. 'In my inner pocket is a tape coder,' he explains tonelessly. 'The information you want is recorded in it.' Cue anticipatory music, the centurion nearest to Thane reaches in and withdraws the hand mine mentioned earlier! 'Just press that button,' Thane instructs, and they're all blown off the platform. In bravely sacrificing himself, Thane didn't betray his comrades.

The ascent up the mountain towards the garrison starts, but Wolfe and Leda are still bent on escaping. This time they aim to steal a Cylon fighter from the garrison and make for Starlos, the nearest habitable planet, but Croft is still vacillating. His warrior background makes him reluctant to fire on fellow warriors, despite having been cast out by them.

Baltar's throne is turned to face Lucifer this time. His profligate use of his fighter resources has left him with only 30% of the basestar's full complement to put into the field, and he amazes Lucifer by ordering them to mount another attack against the Galactica. 'It will drive Adama crazy,' he surmises. Sotto voce, Lucifer goes 'He's not the only one.'

As the warriors and their criminal associates climb Mount Hekla, the Cylons engage the Galactica and its fleet again. Furious fighting ensues. At the close of the battle the Galactica now scans the approaching basestars, and Adama has no choice but to order the fleet to resume movement at flank speed. With the fleet hemmed in between baseships and pulsar, Baltar contacts Vulpa directly and instructs Arcta's command centurion to begin continuous firing, sweeping the entire quadrant. The pumps and lenses of the massive cannon activate again and powerful shots ring out at spaced intervals. The energy released triggers an avalanche from the mountain top, one of which cascades down over the Colonials, burying them in snow. A falling rock smashes Ser 5-9's leg and he has to be carried back down again. 70 centons now remain before the Galactica is within range.

The party reaches the summit and the hoods choose now to make their break. Wolfe levels his weapon as Apollo tries to convince them not to abandon the mission. But it's Croft who rushes Wolfe when the pulsar has another shot, and after a scrap Wolfe runs off into the blizzard, never to be seen again.

As the fleet's 220 ships inch along, Tigh suggests they accelerate to their own maximum possible speed and spread out. The pulsar continues to whale away, with 60 centons left to go. On Arcta, Tenna directs Starbuck to the location of the cold cells where Cree is most likely to be held prisoner. Starbuck drops into them from a floor above, surprising and shooting the centurions on guard and breaking Cree out. Impressed at his courage, Tenna guiltily reveals that the Thetas, while helping the Colonials to flush out the Cylons, will not actually permit the destruction of the pulsar - their only means of defence.

Atop Mount Hekla the mountaineers get to the outlet of the intake tube to the cooling system. They gain entrance but on their way have to hold on to the sides of the tube as the pulsar draws air in a fearsome rush. At the exit they identify the energy exchange pump, where they'll place their charges. From there the thing will overload and blow itself up.

Starbuck attempts to reason with the Thetas, who are convinced that the Cylons will take revenge after their garrison is defeated. All are surprised when Dr Ravashol appears, and contritely accepts the humanity of the Thetas. In a speech, he implores the Thetas to help their human brothers destroy the pulsar. 'I didn't give the Cylons everything I've created,' he explains to Starbuck.

Apollo, Boomer, Croft and Leda creep out of the air intake and prepare to take on the Cylons at the gun station, co-ordinating with Starbuck and the Thetas against the garrison below. Starbuck blows the door off the latter location and wades in, as similtaneously Apollo's team attack the gun crew. Vulpa pitches in when their backs are turned and downs Leda with a rifle before submitting to gunfire, leaving the fire control as the only two Cylons left. Croft is shattered at the death of his wife, however estranged they may have been. Having placed their charges, they escape down the lift. The countdown commences as they flee for their lives, and we see close-ups on the red-lighted faces of Tigh, Adama and Rigel (well, her ass is at much at stake as any of the big people!) At the point of zero the Galactica is in range of the Ravashol Pulsar. Down comes the Cylon gunner's hands on the firing levers, and the whole lot goes up in a roar, tearing the top off the mountain. 'They've done it. They've done it!' shouts Commander Adama in exultation, triggering cheering on the bridge.

There's certainly no cheering for Baltar. Not only does he look a fool, but his employers aren't going to like it either, especially since the strategy was all his. 'I recommend we come up with some sort of front,' Lucifer suggests sympathetically, 'to explain this debacle to the Imperious Leader.' Lucifer's nothing if not forgiving in this one - not a lot of the sarcasm that you usually see (well, other than the 'he's not the only one' crack). Baltar's so vain that anything like this just goes straight over his head anyway.

So it's time for Our Heroes to take their leave of cold old Arcta, and Starbuck is wasting no time bestowing goodbye kisses on three Tennas he's picked out of the crowd. 'You win one, you lose one, Boomer commiserates. 'I just lost all three!' Starbuck whines.

RATING:

Four and a half out of five (Excellent). A big favourite. Clearly based on the unsurpassed war movies of the 1960s by mixing The Guns of Navarone with The Dirty Dozen, The Gun on Ice Planet Zero's got everything.

BITS AND PIECES:

The computer readout of the specialists is absolutely littered with spelling mistakes, some of them real howlers!

They do a lot of mucking about with the Cylons' voices from Part II of this two-parter, introducing both the lower tone of the command centurions (adopted by Vulpa from Part II) and the higher tone that I assumed was for a lower-grade centurion again. They mix them up a bit much with the result that by the end they're all speaking in the highest tone. It's a good idea, as you couldn't really tell which Cylon was which if two were talking together - unless their heads nodded!


John's Review

RATING: Three and a half stars out of five (Good)

This two-part episode is based on the 1961 movie The Guns of Navarone and the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen. The episode has a theatrical feel to it because, as mentioned before, the two-parters had bigger budgets. Although the story is by-the-numbers, it is very enjoyable because of the fantastic special effects. Still, as good as Gun is, it is easily one of the lesser of the two-parters. While better than Greetings From Earth, Gun falls far short of The Living Legend, Lost Planet Of The Gods, and especially War Of The Gods.

This was actually the second episode filmed. This would explain why Serina and Cassiopea do not appear (Serina and Cassiopea died in the original version of the pilot before the decision was made to bring them back). Baltar and Lucifer's scenes were probably shot much later.

8 tons of plastic snow were used during production. Face masks were worn by the crew to keep them from inhaling it.

Shooting this script was difficult because the actors were extremely hot from the arctic jackets they wore despite the use of extra air conditioners on the set.

An early title for this episode was Ultimate Weapon.

At this point, the constant reusing of the same space battle scenes really starts getting redundant.

This episode raises a serious question. Considering the staggering number of people who had to be left behind due to lack of ships, why would the Colonials bother to take criminals with them? Perhaps they were already locked in the brig on the Galactica before the Holocaust or they somehow managed to sneak aboard the fleet to be captured later. Or perhaps most of them committed their crimes after joining the rag tag fleet. Considering how overcrowded, starved, and disorganized the fleet was when it was assembled, it is logical that many violent crimes would have occurred. An episode exploring this would have been nice.

The idea that there would not be enough qualified Colonial warriors to go on the mission is hard to believe. And why do Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer get chosen? They are pilots, and their emphasis is not on ground assault. Logically, the Galactica would have a ground assault team available for these kinds of situations. It is also difficult to believe that Boxey would have found a way to sneak onto the shuttle. At least he and Muffit have an impact on the success of the mission.

Baltar comes across as a very delightful villain in this episode. His words: "Soon, Adama. Soon..." at the end of part one are quite haunting.

The Cylon Gold Leader (Vulpa) appears for the first time in this episode and looks very cool. Vulpa is considerably fleshed out in the Berkley novelization of the episode, Battlestar Galactica 2: The Cylon Death Machine, as is Croft. In the novel, Vulpa is transferred to the ice planet for being disobedient to the Imperious Leader. He believes that the Cylons should simply let the humans go. Vulpa survives the explosion on the mountain, but there is nothing he can do but wait for his eventual demise. To read my in-depth review and analysis of the novel, click here.

Blooper 1 - Dirk Benedict got a haircut shortly after filming began. In numerous scenes his hair is long, then it is short, then it is long again.

Blooper 2 - Adama and Apollo both mistakenly refer to the Cylon baseships as "Cylon battlestars".

Blooper 3 - The floors of the subterranean caves are completely smooth and flat even though the walls and ceiling are rocky.

Blooper 4 - Near the end of part two, Starbuck looks at his watch and says "eight centons to go", but it is Apollo's voice that says the words.

Blooper 5 - In part one, Starbuck calls Commander Adama "Captain".

Blooper 6 - In part two when the pulsar fires its lasers at the Colonial fleet, we see explosions in the sky. Why? The beams aren't hitting anything. It looks cool, but this kind of ignorance of science caused many die-hard science fiction fans to ridicule the show.

Blooper 7 - In part two, there is a segment where we see the pulsar laser going through the Colonial fleet even though neither the Galactica nor the fleet were yet in range.

Blooper 8 - No one on the Galactica ever notices that Boxey and Muffit are missing.

Blooper 9 - Footage of the three female clones at the end of part two is poorly edited into the scene where the landing party first meets the Thetas in part one.

When the shuttle crashes, how is it that Boxey did not get hurt or least a little shaken up?

Logically, the Colonial fleet should have been able to avoid the pulsar by simply skirting around the perimeter of the planet, placing themselves out of the weapon's range.

Starbuck's determination to save Cree shows there is more to Starbuck's self-serving personality than meets the eye. Still, you have to wonder why Starbuck blamed himself so when Cree blatantly ignored his direct order to pull back.

During Vulpa's interrogation of Cree, it is revealed that a battlestar named Columbia was destroyed at the peace conference.

We are given a brief note of Boomer's history when he says he served at Ice Station Thule. In Space: 1999, Ultima Thule was an ice planet encountered by the Alphans in the episode Death's Other Dominion. The use of the name may not have been a coincidence.

Starbuck in part one and Tigh in part two respond to Adama's command by saying "Aye, aye." This seems a bit out of context with the military protocol in every other episode of the series.

Part two of this episode was aired one hour earlier (7pm). These schedule changes by ABC were no doubt a strong factor in the series' declining ratings.

Richard Lynch (Wolfe) appears again in the Galactica 1980 pilot Galactica Discovers Earth as the renegade villain Xaviar. He also appears as Count Iblis in Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, the movie trailer created by Richard Hatch. Lynch is the only actor to have appeared in both series and the trailer.

At the end of part two, most of Baltar's dialogue is delivered without showing us his face. It appears that most of John Colicos' lines were redubbed.

Croft becomes a major character in the later original Berkley novelizations Die, Chameleon!, Apollo's War, and Surrender The Galactica!

Christina Belford (Leda) was a top contender for the role of Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers. Although the role went to Erin Gray, Belford still got to play an Earth military officer in the Buck Rogers episode Vegas In Space.

There is an earlier script of this episode called Crossfire.


Regular Cast

Capt. Apollo            Richard Hatch

Lt. Starbuck Dirk Benedict

Commander Adama Lorne Greene

Lt. Boomer Herbert Jefferson, Jr.

Athena Maren Jensen

Cassiopea Laurette Spang

Col. Tigh Terry Carter

Baltar John Colicos

Boxey Noah Hathaway

Flt. Sgt. Jolly Tony Swartz

Rigel Sarah Rush

Omega David Greenham

Dr. Salik George Murdock

Dr. Wilker John Dullagham

Brie Janet Louise Johnson

Ensign Greenbean Ed Begley, Jr.

Giles Larry Manetti

Cpl. Komma Jeff MacKay

Imperious Leader Dick Durock

Patrick Macnee (voice)

Lucifer Felix Silla

Jonathon Harris (voice)

Guest Cast

Roy Thinnes             Croft

James Olson Thane

Dan O'Herlihy Dr. Ravashal

Christine Belford Leda

Britt Ekland Tenna

Richard Lynche Wolfe

Denny Miller Ser Five Nine

Alan Stock Cree

Larry Cedar Shields

Alex Hyde-White Cadet


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