April 22, 2007

GWC Podcast #40

This week felt like “The Baltar Show” — or maybe “Everybody Loves Gaius” — as we take some new listener calls and run down the current re-watch. Highlights: we discuss how soundtracks affect our lives, question Baltar’s intentions versus his actions in terms of his “evil” nature, speculate further on Baltar’s cult of women, consider variations on the “we’re all Cylons” theory-of-everything, and talk about how much we miss “moral compass” Lee as he was in this week’s re-watch episode, “Bastille Day.”


36 Responses to "GWC Podcast #40"
  1. Brian CC says:

    Just downloading this podcast now, but I wanted to comment on Baltar. He is pretty funny now that I have gone back and watched the 1st season again. I am sure it is James Callis’ personality coming through. I didn’t really notice this when the shows originally aired.

    My favorite Baltarism was when he was berating Shelley Godfrey in the lavatory…I remember him exclaiming “NO MORE MR. NICE GAIUS!”

  2. StevieSpin says:

    Baltar isn’t simply evil, I don’t think. I see him as all an amalgamation of all the least attractive potential aspects of being all too human, ie cowardice, desperation, fear, selfishness. All the things we strive not to be are his hallmarks. If there’s a trait about yourself (or someone you know) that you aren’t too fond of, you’ll likely find it in him.

    If her were simply evil, in the diabolical caricature way, he might actually be less repelling because he wouldn’t have so many traits so real and familiar to us.

  3. Armando says:

    I’m with Stevie on this. I don’t think Baltar is “evil” so much as simply a moral coward and a narcissist. His seemingly evil actions stem not from a desire to do bad but from a desire to get his own way. Of course, we could define evil as being the ultimate in selfishness and, in that way, we could say Baltar is truly evil. What I think is so interesting about him is that he’s so ambiguous. He is capable, from time to time (although less so during season 3), of doing good and acting for the benefit of mankind (c.f. “The Hand of God,” “Water”), yet deep down he is driven by a desire to get his own way.

    Baltar reminds me of something Terry Gilliam said about Michael Palin’s character in his movie, “Brazil.” Talking about the difference between a villain like Darth Vader, which Gilliam rightly calls a charicature of evil (albeit a very “good” and well developed charicature), and Palin’s beurocratic torturer he says that it is the latter who is TRULY evil, because he will smile and be your friend but then stab you in the back when it suits him.

    Maybe Baltar IS evil then. Hmmm….

  4. Leon Kensington says:

    Close captioning for The Baltar show provided by:

    Planet Algea, the best green restaurant in what is left of humanity!

  5. Eyeless says:

    I think that evil is as evil does. Giving a suitcase nuke to terrorists is definitely evil, and Baltar made this choice autonomously, as opposed to all of his others, which were pretty much fate.

  6. Timbuck says:

    This isn’t related to podcast 40 but it’s too cool not to share. It’s a video montage of season 3 set to some really good music. I have no idea who these people are (I’m not promoting them–but they are good).

    http://www.sharkle.com/video/125696/

    Heavy w my girl Deanna!

  7. The 13th Cylon says:

    Is Baltar evil? He’s a darker shade of gray, that’s for sure. I’d say most of the things that he’s done were in good faith (or at least not bad faith), with the exception of giving the nuke to Gina. If you had a beautiful lady in your head making demands and had the ability to make a fool of you infront of others and physically harm you (slamming the ol’ head into a mirror), I think you might be willing to compromise yourself too. I’m not excusing him for his actions because he has to face the consequences of what he does, but he’s certainly in a tricky situation.

    James Callis does love toasters though. He said so right here (also interesting to see what Aaron Douglas wrote in hindsight lol):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ursa_major/230468180/in/photostream/

  8. Pike says:

    Great ‘cast, as usual.

    Yay! Audra’s Bombastic!

    Bear set us up teh bomb. He’s right up there with Alexander Courage and John Williams. And Danny Elfman. And Mark Mothersbaugh (aka whatshisnamefromdevo)

    Re Audra’s King quote. My personal mantra is “Courage isn’t standing up to your enemies, courage is standing up to your friends.”

    Baltar isn’t evil now. The interesting thing is that he’s gotten more evil as the series progresses. He strangled a Six just because she blamed him for her predicament.

    All the good actors who play villians inevitably base their take on the idea that the villian thinks that he’s the honorable one. And almost always, there’s at least enough of a hook that makes that plausible.

    The Orange Chuck is thinking of is Saffron, used by Buddist monks.

  9. BoxytheBoxed says:

    nnice cast I have Starwars music on my Ipod too. i w as cleaning the garage and it came on, and i almost pulled a Starwars Kid

  10. Dainin says:

    Evil Baltar ~ Redux

    In my audio comment, I was trying to emphasize that much of what we call ‘evil’ are often the actions of ordinary people. Evil encompasses the actions of the psychopath, the Hitlers, Stalins etc. We all can agree on that, and feel good because ‘good people’ don’t do that. What Zimbardo showed in the Stanford Prison guard experiment is that ordinary people can act in evil ways. He took Stand ford undergrads and randomly divided them into two groups, Guards, who had absolute, non supervised power, and Prisoners, who were totally at their mercy. The experiment had to be terminated prematurely because it got out of had, with the Guards becoming sadistic and brutal.

    In a review of Hannah Aredt’s book on Eichman, it was observed, “This horror is not the inherent evil of Hitler or Himmler or the sadistic camp guards. The holocaust presented these already morally bankrupt men with the opportunity to commit the evil which their consciences allowed. Of greater horror are the individuals, such as Eichmann, who were not evil per se, but who were willing to put conscience aside in order to advance within an evil system.”

    As a collective society we nod our heads wisely that of course, those are evil men, without the realization, that we carry the same seeds of evil and can act, in different situations, in ways that we call evil. It is in this that the abuses of Abu Ghrab need to be examined. I am positing that Baltar is not evil per se, pycho or sociopathic. Rather as a narcissistic personality he is opportunistic, based on the sole criteria of self benefit. This may result in great things, or things we label evil.

    Audra raised a good question. Is it the act or intent? In Criminal law, there cannot be a crime without both act and intent to do the act. Ultimately, the only real standard we have for ‘evil’ is the act itself. But here too it gets muddied. How do we classify the destruction of the Olympic Carrier? The deliberate extermination of over a 1,000 souls; or by sacrificing a few, the greater are saved? In fact, was not the Circle or whatever it was called, inherently evil? Yet would we call the people who participated evil? No. But we as a society, will excuse our evil actions, because we are ‘good’ people who could never do any such thing. Yet we currently prosecute a wart where thousands of innocents die, in the name of a ostensible greater good. Perhaps it is justified, but unless we question ourselves and admit that we too collectively may act, at times, similar to Baltar, then we continue in ignorance.

    On another note: for a modern parallel to Programming Rockstar. You need the ego as well so how about Steve Jobs of Apple? 🙂

  11. Moe says:

    Dainin,

    Good points but just a small correction. In criminal law intent is required for some crimes but not all. Drunk driver causes an accident – he didn,t intend the accident but is still responsible.

  12. Dainin says:

    Moe

    True enough, we have created some per se crimes, but in the classical sense mens res (state of mind) coupled with actus res (an act) is required.

    Consider: walking down a street and throwing out your arm you punch someone in the nose. Is it a crime? Only if your act was coupled with the intent to hit them (or scare them). You may have intended to throw your arms out because it is a glorious day, but no crime. The fun is in the inferring of intent. As my favorite lawyer said, “Perverse, isn’t it? That’s why I love what I do.” (and yes I am ‘one of those’ scom sucking bottom dwellers other than a fish! :D)

  13. Architect says:

    Dainin,

    That was a most excellent post on intent and action. And yeah, I agree with you – when I heard “Programming Rockstar”, the first person that popped into mind was Steve Jobs.

  14. Armando says:

    Pike,

    Although there are very few film composers whose work I care for, I’d have to agree with you about Bear McCreary’s talent. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s up there with the best in the field, but he’s certainly got the potential to get there. He’s still young, however, and BSG is his first serious gig, no? I’ll be curious to hear how he develops as he gets more experience. It should be a hell of a ride.

    And although I have no aspirations to being a film/tv composer, I have to admit that I’m insanely jealous of his gig.

  15. Renegade says:

    whats up

  16. WackoTTL says:

    Baltar is evil. black as the clouds of death. He has no soul and no morality. he is the embodiment of evil because he manages to confuse so many.

    People bring up Hitler and his men during these kinds of discussions all the time because it a very good example. “normal people let it happen, but they are not evil.” when I was in the air force, if I was told to follow an illegal order I would have said no. if I was told to kill all the Jews, I would have said no. they would have stacked my body up with the others, but I would have said no.

    when you let evil happen because you want to live, or worse, you want a better life you are doing evil things. Look into your hearts and minds and ask yourself what you would do if someone put a gun to your head and told you to kill hundreds to save yourself. If the answer is anything but frak you, you have my pity.

  17. Vin L says:

    Godsdammit, Audra is the coolest.
    The Cylons in the temple have robes like the Master in Manos.
    Hysterical.

  18. Ruck says:

    I have ~20 minutes left of the podcast so I could be wrong, but you guys never even mention Baltar saving Roslin’s life. If you’re going to give the man credit for doing some positive things you almost have to mention this on any such list yet it never gets mentioned. What’s up with that?

  19. Armando says:

    WackoTTL, you’ll have to forgive my skepticism at your unwillingness to follow an illegal order in the military. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to say we would not raise our hands against a Jewish prisoner had we been soldiers in Hitler’s army. It’s not so simple when, say, it’s a war in Iraq for which the justification is suspect. There is an army officer currently on trial for refusing to re-deploy because of his view that the current war is illegal. Is he right in doing this? The man VOLUNTEERED for the army and knew what was required of him and that involves obeying an order, regardless of his views on the conflict. The best he could hope for is to ask for conscientious objector status and be assigned to non-combat duty.

    I am, however, ignorant on the specifics of this in the armed forces, since my only experience with them was as a military school student in 1st through 10th grades. Please, then, correct me if I’m totally wrong, which I’m sure there’s a huge chance of. Also, forgive my complete distrust of human nature (military school has something to do with that too, I think), but I think all of us are capable of evil no matter what, but especially when we and (especially) those we love are placed in danger. I can’t think of a single principle I hold that would be worth sacrificing my child for. That’s not evil; it’s biology. Is that to be pitied? Do you know what I mean?

  20. Pike says:

    Armando, that’s the problem in any military (or paramilitary.) You have peer pressure reinforced with guns and the military code of conduct. It’s even tougher in a modern western military because it is expected that one would refuse an illegal order. Only in real life you never know all the parameters. And you’ll be held responsible if you guess wrong. Good luck.

    Also, I’m no musical scholar, but/thus any soundtrack composer whose work I (favorably) notice must be doing something right.

  21. WackoTTL says:

    The Geneva convention clearly states that following an illegal order makes you a criminal. you can not, no mater who you are, say “I was just doing what my superior told me” this is the way the current military is trained. I accept that being in Iraq can blear the lines since civilians and combatants are intermixed in every situation, but we’re not talking about moral gray areas here. We are talking about innocent men and woman being but to death for the sake of your own life. I don’t need 20/20 hindsight to know that if they lined up a bunch of Muslims, civilians and children with no weapons and told me to shoot, I would not do it on the grounds that it is an illegal order. If I died that day, then I that would be the end of my story.

    And before you even go there, yes there were terrorist in the middle of the innocents on new caprica. but nothing Baltar does is an isolated incident. He measures any amount of life against his own, and his own comes up every time. The man is evil, not flawed. Col Tigh is flawed, when it came to absolute end game, he would give his life before he let suffering go further. He sent others off to die, but he never thought he was actually getting of that planet. that’s what “I’ve got one job here lady” speech was all about.

    I apologize for my heavy handed feelings on this subject, I’ll try to tone it down after this.

  22. Armando says:

    WackoTTL, don’t apologize! I love your posts! You make a very compelling argument and I really respect your opinions on this. Like I said, I’ve never served in the military (and gods bless those who, like you, choose to do so) so I have no idea what it’s like to be placed in such situations. I would like to say that, like you, I would act morally in the event that I am made to make a choice that would involve killing innocents or some other immoral/amoral act. There was a time when I would not hesitate to say I’d rather die than do something like that, and I probably still would. Having children, however, has blurred some lines for me and I don’t think I could make the same choice were it their lives and not mine that are threatened if I don’t act a certain way.

    Perhaps I should apologize for my moral ambiguity on this. It’s one of those issues that is a struggle and which I hope few of us ever have to face in a practical way.

  23. Armando says:

    Pike,

    Well, I am, sadly, a musical scholar (well, a professional musician with two advanced degrees in music, in any case), so when a composer, particularly a film/tv composer (just because I’ve heard so many film/tv scores that made me cringe) comes along whose work impresses me, I take notice. Bear McCreary is pretty darn talented and I’m insanely jealous particularly of his age (he’s only 25 or 26 or something like that). He’s headed for some serious things, let me tell you.

  24. Pike says:

    Armando, I think we’re just saying the same thing past each other. You know music*, so Bear is good. I don’t (really) know music, so if I like it, Bear is good.

    End result. Bear has some serious chops.

    *(By “knowing music” I mean things like being able to say “that’s an interesting choice in chord prgresssion” vs. “I like that shit.”)

  25. Audra says:

    Ruck – Agreed. Baltar did save Roslin’s life. And though I can’t remember now (it’s late) I keep thinking there was something shady about even that – didn’t Six have something to do with it? But yes, we should have mentioned it. It wasn’t an intentional omission.

    Dainin – I understand what you mean about people seeing themselves as “good people” incapable of acting the ways proven evildoers have, and the immense danger of that. I think it is important that we realize that everyone has the capability to think/act in evil ways if we aren’t vigilant about examining our own motives, behaviors, etc.

    Wacko – I respect your beliefs. I am a pretty hardcore civil rights person, and I’d like to say that no matter what the threat, I’d do the right thing. I hope to gods I would. It’s scary because I can’t imagine being in that situation – i.e., life threatened over committing an evil act. If Baltar had said “frak you,” the Cylons could easily have killed every person who said that until they found someone who would follow the order. Is there a situation where it’s not worth letting that happen? I just don’t know.

  26. Armando says:

    Pike-

    I know what you mean/meant and I was agreeing with you, yes. 🙂 Bear does have some serious chops, at least for film/tv work (I don’t know his concert music, which is a very different animal with very different requirements than film/tv/theater music, at least when it comes to the dramatic and structural needs of a piece).

  27. WackoTTL says:

    Oh yes, grey areas all around. questionable things require questionable actions all the way. but sometimes, not always but sometimes, people are asked to give up their lives for something or someone else in a clear cut way. It’s those times I’m measuring Baltar, that’s really my only point.

    When the chips are down and it is absolutely end game, you can trust Gaius Baltar to do the action that would best benefit himself no matter the cost. Eventually you get to a number of lives when it’s just not grey anymore, it’s black and you know you are doing an action that is wrong. Both Lee and Bill Adama have gotten to that point, and they have turned around and gone the other way.

    Baltar would personally set off a nuke that destroyed all of the fleet, never doubt it. He is more then just flawed, he’s a cancer that does nothing but hinder the human and cylon races. I make such a point of it, because he is the perfect example of what evil really is. Never give into the Baltars of the world, see them for what they are.

  28. Armando says:

    That’s a good point, Wacko. It did raise one question, though: cancer or not, is Baltar’s life worth less because he is evil? Should the people in the fleet cast him out an airlock simply to ensure their own survival, even if it costs them their souls?

    (Okay, so maybe that was a question better asked BEFORE Crossroads Part II. So sue me!) 😉

  29. Devo says:

    Armando and Wacko, I just want to thank you two for an amazing discussion. This is truly what Battlestar Galactica is all about.
    I just have to interject my two cents and that’s all it is compared to your fascinating discussion! I see Baltar not as an evil person but as a weak one. I cannot imagine any individual being forced to make so many decisions in his life while being force fed information from so many different angles….none of which he can completely ignore. The man doesn’t know who to make the right choice for… is he human or is he a Cylon? This is his dilemma. Yes, his choices are self interested but they also help the Cylons of which he might be. So perhaps they are not entirely self motivated. He doesn’t know who he is anymore and I can’t blame him.
    His actions repeatedly look bad for his human side but if everyone has a general disliking of him what motivation does he have to help his fellow mankind? Yes he is morally ambiguous, but the poor guy is mixed up and confused as hell. I would just want to survive as well. I find him a sympathetic character who is supposed to remind us of our own weaknesses. I do not believe Baltar has ever made a decision on his own because he has never had the clarity of mind to do so. He is always facing pressure and being haunted by his past actions. I say give the man a break and a little room to think. But it just might be too late for that. I think he might be our worst nightmare at the moment (in reference to next season).

    Sorry for the long post everybody!

  30. Gray says:

    Just listened to this podcast. I’m running a little behind on the rewatch but I just wanted to comment quickly on a couple of points.

    First, I completely agree that Bear’s score is incredible. It really amplifies every emotion, just like Chuck said. And for the emotions to be made even more resonant is quite an achievement when you consider how powerful they already are. His choices, especially the Celtic style instrumentation used to represent the Adamas and the Fleet really struck a chord with me from the beginning because like you all mentioned, it does have a familial feel to it. It’s music you ttend to connect with tradition, like Chuck said, firefighters and military funerals. Especially in America, I think, it tends to have a very brave, heroic connotation.

    Secondly, and I’m not sure I want to delve really deeply into this because I’m running late but oh well. All the talk about Baltar really got me thinking. I was listening to the pcast in in bed last night which is always a babd idea because I can’t get to sleep afterward but I really started thinking about intent and action and the line that separates people who are evil and people who do evil things. When Audra brought up Hitler and the Newseek article it made me think of this.

    There’s a historian’s debate that’s been going on for years that can be simplified like this. Functionalists or Intentionalists. It concerns Hitler’s position relative to the Holocaust. The Intentionalists argue that while ha may not have cohesively pictured the Final Solution right away, and known precisely the shape it would take, that some manner of genoicide was his goal from the beginning. Possibly even ’38 or ’39.

    Functionalists argue the opposite. They argue that Hitler’s feelings regarding the Jews, Gypsies, etc. simply encapsulated any ill will that he had and the plan grew organically as his leadership continued.

    So with that, I think you can make certain statements about Baltar, ethically at least. Obviously, here he would be a functionalist. Every decision he makes is guided by self-motivation and self-preservation. I think yall said it perfectly when you said that others, like Starbuck, Lee, and Adama for example, have come out their best in the crises. They make mistakes but the intentions are good. Baltar is the complete opposite.

    In light of all that, I think intent and action can never really be separated and
    consequently, we can never really understand which one carries more weight.

    Re: the Sean O’Hara Theory of No Humans- I’ll get back to you. It freaked me out though.

    This wasn’t short at all. Sorry.

  31. Nick says:

    Very interesting discussion on Balter and his evil. For the most part his actions are self-serving and result in very bad things. However I do think he does deserve to be tossed out the airlock. So most of his evil acts are not because of a dark heart, but are a result of his cowardice. Some have good results, but the overwhelming majority have disasterous effects. Such as when he hides Boomer’s status as a Cylon followed up by saying “Everybody is human.. doesn’t matter what the tests say. It’s just easier that way”

    There are a few examples of truly Evil behavior which have nothing to do with circumstances he is placed in. 1) When Sharon is suicidal and talks to Baltar, he essentially says “here is the gun, put it in your mouth and pull the trigger” 2) When he stopped the chief’s heart while interrogating Boomer 3) When he gave a cylon a nuke on the off-chance he might get laid out of the deal.

  32. Pike says:

    “3) When he gave a cylon a nuke on the off-chance he might get laid out of the deal.”

    That’s just being a guy 🙂

  33. fuzzyelf says:

    maybe it’s been said, but i dont think he gave her the nuke to get laid. it was an almost immediate reaction to reading the letter Roslin left him should he take office, if i’m not mistaken…

  34. rachel says:

    Balter’s hot.

  35. The 13th Cylon says:

    That was wild that someone mentioned Dr. Philip Zimbardo! In my psychology class in high school a few years back, we often watched his video series on Fridays. And let me say, that guy is wild! No disrespect to him because he’s one of the leading psychologists of our day, but he was pretty weird in those videos. Sometimes, when starting a new scene, he would have the back of his head facing the camera and then turn around and act shocked a camera was there. Another thing I remember was him randomly sitting down and eating a sandwich with strangers. It was a hoot!

    P.S.: He also has a Satan goatee.

  36. Dave Griffin says:

    Is Baltar Evil? Well you probably don’t mean he’s evil in the sense of Count Iblis from the original show or Randal Flag from Stephen King’s The Stand. Those characters are essentially the Devil, or corruption incarnate. Their every intention is to spread corruption and suffering.

    So What about people who are so corrupted themselves that they are essentially “little devils”? Those people are always looking for ways to cause pain and suffering. I don’t think Baltar is like that.

    So what about the sort of evil character like the original Baltar or Hitler (maybe) or someone who has totally convinced themselves that they’re working toward some worthwhile goal but to get there they have to do things other people will consider evil? No I don’t think Baltar imagines he is part of a great crusade, much as he would like to. Maybe that comes in time.

    So what is Baltar? Not the corruptor, but the corrupted. In the Air Force they would teach us how a foreign intelligence agent could corrupt us by a small favor leveraged against embarrassment to ever more serious errors. In effect Baltar has found himself making ever more serious errors, more and more out of control. So I would say he’s more a victim than an evil man. Definitely not up to the level of evil in the original Baltar.

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