Trials are frustrating and beautiful in their rigid adherence to a certain set of conditions. Those conditions provide unpredictable outcomes — a celebrity, for example, can walk free despite almost certain guilt — and society is torn by opinion. Now go a step further and imagine an outside influence that is literally indestructible. When commanded by several individuals who are essentially walking gods, how can a human be found guilty of caving to their whims?
Unspoken in Gaius Baltar’s trial is the similarity of the human-simalcrum Cylons to the humans’ pantheon of gods. Though we’ve never really been told the colonies’ legends, we can assume that they share more than just the deities’ names. Like our Greco-Roman myths, the colonial gods probably walked among humans and yet used their divine powers to command capricious and often sadistic whims.
So… with that background, how can a society condemn Baltar for playing patsy to another set of immortal, super-powered creatures? How does that society react when faced with such a contradiction?
Even if that argument went unsaid, the first part of "Battlestar Galactica’s" two-part season finale vividly illustrated the way society’s fabric can be torn. Most of the survivors desperately need a sacrifice after the loss of their most recent homeworld, and Baltar is both convenient and reasonably appropriate. So what if he was commanded to sign a list of humans to be executed by a group of superhumans?
Though attorneys Romo Lampkin (Mark Sheppard, Badger from "Firefly") and Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber) may loathe Baltar, they believe he’s being set up as a human sacrifice. We the viewers get what seems to be the "Galactica" writers’ strong point, a compelling season finale driven by character. Consider the scene where Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) disowns his son Lee after having lost his elder son (Zack, killed off before the series began) and daughter-figure (the recently departed Starbuck). The admiral never hesitated, though the tension exuded by Olmos and Bamber was breathtaking.
Apollo lost another authority figure in President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who he skewered on the witness stand in another great scene by revealing her return to hallucinogenic drugs. Is she really dying of cancer again? I suspect not, since we’ve seen no evidence. That said, drug abuse sure would explain her abrupt mood swing between icily condoning child labor and then laughingly agreeing to allow labor unions a few weeks ago.
I have to hope the alcohol-soaked testimony of Colonel Tigh (Michael Hogan) lands him back out of uniform, though his auditory hallucinations and their larger meaning may do just that. Depressingly, though Tigh and Roslin proved entirely unfit as witnesses, the admiral (one of the trial’s three judges) proved willing to overlook them in favor of his own need for a kangaroo court. We’re in the sad position of hoping for a deus ex machina, traditionally a deity’s intervention — in this case, totally appropriately, another Cylon attack — to show the fleet that one pitiful human’s actions in the face of supernatural threat wouldn’t have made a difference worth jettisoning the rule of law.