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MURDER ON THE RISING STAR

Written by Donald P. Bellisario, James Carlson, and Terrence McDonnell

Original Airdate: February 18, 1979

Synopsis by Matthew Wharmby

I'm suffering through reviewing the bunk episodes before a grand finale with 'War of the Gods', so here's one of the ones I wasn't that keen on.

PREMISE: Starbuck is framed for the murder of a bitter rival after a Triad match, and it's a very plausible stitch-up as well. Apollo has to take on his defence against the entrenched might of the Colonial justice system in the person of Sire Solon, but in doing so, puts his own life at risk at the hands of the true murderer.

THE STORY:

A triad match is under way on the Rising Star, with Apollo and Starbuck (red team) versus Barton and Ortega (blue). We quickly establish that Ortega is a wrong'un from Boomer, who is up in the gallery assisting with the commentary. Sure enough, he takes the opportunity to slip Starbuck a cheeky elbow in the ribs, Alan Smith style. But where Alan Smith is cool, Ortega is not, and gets booked. Starbuck's temper grows progressively worse when he gets two fists in the face from his increasingly dirty opponent, and this is remarked upon by Cassiopeia and Sheba, who are also up in the stands. After some wry banter concerning the extent to which Cassiopeia has to patch up her battered boyfriend after each match, the womenfolk remain concerned about the temperature of this one. 'If those two keep at it, they're going to end up killing each other,' is the first give-away line of this episode.

Having remarked in his journal at the beginning of this episode about the necessity for diversion among the fleet, Commander Adama finds himself in a private lounge aboard the Rising Star, watching the match on a vidscreen. On attendance is a lanky bartender called Pallon. Watch this guy, because he's about to become important - especially when he states he's going off duty imminently and whether there's anything else he can bring the two Galactica flag officers. But Adama seems more interested in, not to mention amused by the demeanour of Colonel Tigh, who's with him tonight. He's triad mad, and is bounding off the edge of his seat in excitement! He points out Ortega as a known hard man in the triad scene. 'Very competitive. Hates to lose.' Caught in mid-stream, Tigh is suddenly a bit embarrassed and tries to restrain himself, but it doesn't work. Try making me calm down when I'm watching Leeds! And the language I use in exhortation definitely wouldn't have made it past ABC's censor boys.

Another bout of the red mist by Ortega gifts Starbuck a free shot, which he takes and scores, putting the red team ahead. At this juncture Apollo takes Barton aside and criticises Ortega. Barton isn't that offended. 'I fly with him because we're assigned together, and I play with him because he likes to win,' he explains apologetically. But when Ortega unleashes a career-ender of a bodycheck that Roy Keane would have been proud of, Starbuck loses control completely and goes for him. Seconds later, it's turned into a brawl and both Starbuck and Ortega are sent off. 'I'll kill him,' Starbuck rages.

In the corridor, Starbuck and Ortega are about to batter each other senseless again when Cassiopeia appears and drags them apart. She uses her medical authority to threaten to report them before Ortega departs for the turbowash with a backward slander at Starbuck. As for Starbuck, if he's not on the shuttle home in ten centons, he can forget about seeing her again. Argument deflated, you think? You thought wrong.

Ortega washes and dresses, making a show of checking his laser before buckling it on. Dressed at last, he's ready to go when the door opens. Ortega seems pleased. 'I always knew it would come to this,' he says to whoever's standing in the doorway, and draws his weapon...

A couple of minutes later, Starbuck rushes down the corridor to make the shuttle and bumps into another fellow, a bartender named Chella, who tells him he had money on him. But Starbuck doesn't stop to chat and dashes off looking flustered - at which point Chella discovers the lifeless body of Ortega, shot dead and collapsed in the doorway with gun arm extended.

Summoned to the scene of the crime, Adama orders the Rising Star sealed off. He then questions Chella, who has his alibi in place. His mention of Starbuck running throws suspicion on Our Hero, ludicrous as it sounds. When Apollo catches up to him in the docking bay and tells him of the murder, Starbuck is shocked, and naturally incredulous that people are already putting two and two together and fingering him. All Apollo needs to do is check Starbuck's laser - and he's as stunned as anyone to discover it's been fired.

Angrily, Starbuck protests that of course he fired his laser - he'd been on the firing range that morning. In attendance is Sire Solon, the fleet's Chief Opposer, and a man apparently already convinced that Starbuck did the deed. It begins to look bleak when Starbuck's laser is tested by Dr Wilker for expended charge against the amount of energy that killed Ortega and it's a perfect match. Starbuck's weapon killed Ortega. With heavy heart, Adama has no choice but to charge Starbuck and confine him to the Galactica brig. And the options from here don't look good either - pleading self-defence, which Starbuck angrily refuses to do, or taking the fall and getting life. Apollo and Boomer put themselves forward to defend Starbuck, but they've got a very limited window in which to do it. Ten centars, as it happens, is all the time allowed to present all the evidence. And harshly, failure to do that is interpreted as admission of guilt!

The first thing Apollo and Boomer set to is look for Barton, Ortega's triad partner and wingmate. He's about to take off on patrol and can give only limited information about the deceased. Despite a penchant for gambling, Ortega wasn't one for socialising and didn't have any friends as such - on patrol they usually just shut up and left each other alone. But Barton does recall an incident where Ortega drank a little too much and bragged about how none of his enemies would really have the guts to kill him - not even Starbuck. Only one man would - and Barton can only just about remember the name. Karibdis.

Thus Apollo and Boomer's next step is to check out the personnel records, supervised by sleepy Corporal Komma, who had a small role in 'The Gun On Ice Planet Zero'. The grumpy computer has no records on Karibdis or any permutation of that spelling, so that's one blind alley.

Miserable in the brig, Starbuck is visited by Cassiopeia, whose advice is little more welcome than the mean-spiritied interview of Solon by the IFB that he's watching on the screen in his cell. 'They're gonna convict me,' Starbuck almost sobs. It takes all Cassie's strength to even broach the subject of changing his plea to self-defence, but Starbuck is adamant that he didn't do it. After she leaves, he switches the trial coverage back on. A throwaway comment by the anchor to the effect that the long and stellar career of Lieutenant Starbuck appears to be over infuriates him, and he gives the telly a good thump (as one would!), causing it to lose the picture. He asks the guards for help fixing the monitor, but suddenly has a brainwave. Lightning fast, he whips the first screw round and disarms him, then orders the second guard to open the cell and get inside. The guards are sympathetic, but Starbuck is desperate. He runs like mad.

In the launch bay, Starbuck is inside a viper and getting his helmet on when Apollo runs in and spreads himself across the hull. Starbuck is distressed and desperate and sees this as the only way to get away from an obvious stitch-up that is going to see him sent down for life, even though he's got no idea where he's going to go. Apollo asks him whether he's going to fire on the inevitable viper contingent that will be launched after him if he does go. 'If I have to, yes!' Starbuck cries. 'I don't think you have the guts!' Apollo rails. Stinging him with the potential shame is only half working, and all Apollo can do at last is just stay where he is and wait for Starbuck to crack. The engines are fired, all Starbuck has to do is press that famous turbo button - but he can't do it. He wilts, throwing off his helmet in disgust.

Adama is furious at Starbuck of course, but at the same time he orders him to stay in the brig with only his two protectors for visitors, he also castigates Sire Solon for going on the IFB and swaying public opinion. The two opponents thus humiliated, he asks Apollo whether he has any defence at all. When Apollo mentions their so far fruitless search for Karibdis, Adama is stunned. He reveals that Karibdis was Baltar's pilot, and the man responsible for sabotaging the Colonial defence grid prior to the Cylon attack on the Colonies. Someone Adama would want to get his hands on himself, if anyone knew where he was or if he was still alive - since his name didn't show up on fleet personnel records, it was assumed not. Similarly, no picture of Karibdis is known, so nobody would be able to recognise him if he was in the fleet and going under a different name. Except for one person, of course...

Baltar knows Karibdis all right, he says when Apollo and Starbuck visit his cell aboard the Prison Barge, but, you guessed it - will only spill any info for a price. Well aware of their inability to offer him any terms at all, not to mention their desperation, Baltar has all the cards here, and clams up.

Frustrated, the two protectors follow their slim earlier lead to the Rising Star, where Barton mentioned Ortega's tab with Table Three of the Chancellery. They are surprised to see that the dealer is Chella, the same man who discovered Ortega's body. All of a sudden, they think they have their killer.

At the next convening of the tribunal, Apollo and Boomer state their defence that Karibdis killed Ortega because Ortega knew who he was and was blackmailing him, but when their first witness, Barton, is cross-examined, he drops Starbuck deeper in it by mentioning that Starbuck did say he wanted to kill Ortega. When Chella is called to the stand, it is got out of him that Ortega was blackmailing him to cover up his gambling losses. All at once he confesses - not to being the murderer, but to a crime of conscience that happened during the night of the destruction of the Colonies. Desperate to get aboard the only ship left in the vicinity, the Rising Star, before the Cylon ground forces arrived, Chella (who reveals his real name as Riftis) coldcocked a woman refugee and stole her clothes to get on. Ortega, who was a security guard booking people onto the Rising Star, spotted him and threatened to throw him off until Chella shoved a handful of cubits at him with the promise of more later. Since there was of course no more, Chella had to let Ortega win every time at his table. But since there's no proof that either Chella is Karibdis or that he committed the murder, Apollo and Boomer's case is gurgling rapidly down the U-bend.

It turns out that Chella wasn't the only one Ortega was blackmailing, as he names Elias and Pallon. Exasperated with Our Heroes' clumsy defence strategy but still intrigued, the tribunal orders the two brought from the Rising Star to testify. Aboard the shuttle, Apollo has a feeling that one of the three was set up by Karibdis to take the fall, and hatches a plot to flush the real killer. He goes to the back of the shuttle and informs the two that they've just had word from the tribunal that the real killer, Karibdis, has been identified and that after they drop off the suspects on the Galactica the shuttle is stopping off at the Prison Barge to bring back Baltar, who can identify him by face. Apollo figures that the killer will need to snuff Baltar too and sneak back on board the shuttle to do it. Apollo realises that he's making himself a target, so instructs Boomer to have an open radio channel from the tribunal to the shuttle.

As everyone disembarks, Apollo, ostensibly alone aboard the shuttle, watches the cargo weight indicator. Sure enough, up it goes again as a 175-pound individual reboards. Boomer returns to the tribunal, raising eyebrows at the fact that Apollo has been 'detained' inexplicably, and comically attempts to stall for time. But Solon twists the knife by calling Cassiopeia to the stand. Reluctantly, she is forced to admit that Starbuck did mention wanting to kill Ortega. Our Hero is being stitched up like a kipper, over his own head, our spirits fall. We are even less enthused when aboard the shuttle we see a hand reach out and lift a pistol from the armoury. Eyes on the weight monitor again as Baltar is brought aboard (and if he weighs 190 lbs, I'm a Dutchman!). Baltar is bitter and still offers nothing, but his composure falters when Apollo tells him Karibdis is aboard right now. 'I don't believe you,' Baltar says, maintaining that Karibdis was as loyal to him as a son to a father. Footsteps echo, and Karibdis appears, at last, behind Apollo and Baltar. Karibdis is Pallon, and he's aiming a weapon right at them.

Boomer, all his cards played, now attempts to get the tribunal to listen in on Alpha Channel, the direct line to the shuttle where hopefully, the killer is exposing himself. As it's against all procedures, not to mention totally implausible in line with the shoddy way in which Starbuck's two protectors have conducted themselves, Adama is reluctant. In desperation, Boomer just hits the comm switch. 'For Sagan's sake, listen!'

Jaws drop as the whole scene plays out. Baltar implores Karibdis to remove his shackles, while the triumphant killer tells the whole story of how he did it. Baltar is ordered to cut in the automatic pilot... and we hear all hell break loose. Scuffles, punches, a gunshot - and silence. The tribunal sit agape, and then Apollo comes back on. 'Did the tribunal hear all that?' he says in relief, puffed out from scrapping. When thanked profusely by a relieved Starbuck, Apollo coms over all smiles. 'Don't thank me, thank Baltar.' Turns out the traitor clubbed Karibdis between the eyes with his handcuffed fists before Apollo was able to grab the weapon and drop him. The look on Baltar's face is priceless!

And that's the end of that. Trial over, Starbuck exonerated, and O.J.Simpson lives to fight another day - wait a minute, wrong show. The final scene is of Our Heroes once again suited up for the triad court. Adama's even laid a bet on them. As they enter the arena, the audience comes to its feet in a spontaneous ovation of applause.


John's Review:

Rating: Two stars out of five

Murder She Wrote in outer space??? This story had little point being part of a show like Battlestar Galactica. This is the kind of story that is done on almost every science fiction series when the writers are out of ideas. There is very little in the way of drama because the viewer knows the hero is innocent and will be cleared. This story tries to give the impression that Starbuck might be guilty (we don't get to see who shoots Ortega, Starbuck is shown running from the scene, plus Starbuck's anxiousness in the shuttle bay makes him appear guilty), but only the most gullible of viewers would fall for this. The story would be more forgivable if we learned some new insights about the characters or the fleet, but what do we learn? What is the point? Is it that the Colonial system of law is virtually identical to the U.S. system? (which is hardly believeable) Or that Adama has to spend time hearing court cases? (Not too believable either considering the incredibly burdensome task he has of commanding the fleet) Or is it that playing triad is more dangerous than anybody thought??? What is the point of this episode except to fill an hour's worth of time???

This story could have been done differently to make it more poignant. What if Apollo was unable to conclusively prove who killed Ortega, and Adama intervenes, using his power as commander to have Starbuck set free. It would raise the question of whether Adama was abusing his power. Even then, considering the fleet must be depleted when it comes to seasoned viper pilots, it could be argued that the fleet needed Starbuck as a warrior. It would have been an interesting moral issue, something Battlestar Galactica rarely had. I also think the story would have been more interesting if we were left with some doubt as to whether Starbuck killed Ortega (in self-defense, of course).

This is the fourth episode that features Starbuck. While Dirk Benedict certainly plays a wonderful character, it would have been nice to have featured some of the lesser used cast members (Tigh, Boomer, Athena, Sheba).

Despite the story problems, there are fine all-around performances from the cast to make this watchable. In a way, it makes the episode more disappointing to have such great talent squandered on such a poor story. But everyone holds up their end well, especially Dirk Benedict and Laurette Spang in their scene inside the brig. It's nice the writers found a way to bring Baltar into the story, and John Colicos still makes a great villain. The flashback of the destruction of Caprica was also well-done. There were certainly many crimes committed during the evacuation, and it illustrates that Battlestar Galactica was brimming with potentially interesting stories to explore, which again only makes this episode more of a letdown.

This story loses points on continuity because Chameleon is not present. There should have been an explanation for his absense. Wouldn't he have shown up to give support to Starbuck who is his son?

When Chella flashes back to the pilot, the words "F--- Off" can be clearly seen spelled out in the lights of Caprica just to the right of the third Cylon fighter bearing down on the city.

Cassiopea sports a different hair-style in this episode.

When Apollo and Boomer do a computer search for Karibdis, you have to wonder how it is that none of the Colonials have a last name. Are we to believe that, out of twelve planets, everyone had a completely different name? If not, how is an accurate computer search even possible?

It is absurd how little time Apollo is given to prepare a case for Starbuck's defense. He only has 10 centares, and the script for this episode has a key that states a centar is an hour. Only 10 hours to prepare for a murder trial??? Give me a break!

The script of this episode has scenes left out of the final cut. Click here to see them.

Baltar taunts Apollo and Boomer by saying that the convicts on the prison barge would kill Starbuck, and yet wouldn't Baltar be a target of the convicts as well since it was his betrayal that caused the Destruction?

The cockpit hatch of the only full-scale viper used on the set was often in need of repair. In the scene when Starbuck is about to launch, the hatch of the viper closes very sloppily.

In yet another example of how rushed the series was, story editors Jim Carlson and Terrence McDonnell were forced to write this episode in 36 hours straight. One of the reasons they were so rushed was because Glen Larson was in Hawaii and took a long time to decide which story idea to give them.

There is one problem with the idea that Karibdis would sneak aboard the shuttle to kill Apollo and Baltar. How would he escape afterwards? Could he really have expected to land the shuttle on the Galactica and sneak away without anyone seeing him?

During the triad game, Cassiopea says "Everytime Starbuck plays against Ortega his body looks like a black and blue Orian hasher the next morning." The script for this episode has a key that defines an Orian hasher as a "bruised person."

Corporal Komma appears for the last time.

In the final scene where Apollo and Starbuck walk out onto the triad court, there was a take where Anne Lockhart and Laurette Spang walk up from behind and pull their speedos, giving them wedgies.

There is an early script of Fire In Space which also has Starbuck accused of murder, and the story is far superior to this one. Murder On The Rising Star is not based on it, however, as the writers never even saw the script.

Cassiopea wears the same dress she did when she was alone with Starbuck in the launch bay in Saga Of A Star World. The dress was one of Laurette Spang's favorites.


Matt's Review:

RATING: 2 3/4 out of 5 - Not the worst episode, but it very rarely gets pulled out of my rack of BSG videos.

THE USUAL STUFF:

I'm not a fan of courtroom drama at all. The only writer who can pull it off for me is David E. Kelley, and this pre-dates him by fifteen years.

I'm afraid that in the real world, Starbuck would have probably got more tacked onto any sentence for busting out of prison than for murdering someone! Did that count as mitigating circumstances?

I do like Brock Peters (Solon) - always reliable and responsible as an actor.

Writing Tigh as sports crazy was fun.

'Now just a centon!' cried out by Boomer sounds much better than the clinical courtroom 'Objection!'

Nice spot of contemporary Cold War demonology by naming this episode's baddie after the then ruler of Nicaragua - not one of the USA's best friends at the time. Funnily enough, after he got voted out of office (which must have been a bit of a pisser for a communist!), Daniel Ortega got on the US lecture circuit and even came to visit my lot a couple of times.


Guest Cast

Ortega		Frank Ashmore

Luman Ward Pallon/Karibdis


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