GWC Re-Watch Frak Party: Black Market

It’s weektwenty-five of our planned off-season re-watch of the entire “re-imagined” BSG canon, and it’s time to move on to the season2.5 episodes “Black Market.” So why not join us here for the GWC online frak party? There’s room for everyone, though you’ll have to bring your own snacks…

Feel free to jump in at any point with your comments on this week’s episode as the re-watch is by definition spoiler free. We’ll be in and out, but we’ll definitely take a look at your comments before we start next week’s podcast.

See you here all week!

33 Responses to "GWC Re-Watch Frak Party: Black Market"
  1. Leon Kensington says:

    Finally, the greatest Bear McCreary music ever. Black Market.

  2. Solai says:

    I have a thought…or perhaps simply a question. Given the history and feedback this episode has received, does it make sense to bifurcate the discussion? Perhaps the first couple of days should be reaction to watching the episode again and then at a certain point everyone goes and listens to the RDM podcast regarding the episode. I recall Ron had some fairly specific things to say about this particular episode and it may make for an interesting discussion here.

    Or, as I imagine Sean might comment Art is in the eye of the beholder. No matter what the artist intended while creating a piece or how they felt once the piece was finished is not necessarily as important as what the viewer brings to the table.

    Those are my 2 cubits.

  3. Chuck says:

    Solai: I totally agree that in the end, the feelings and ideas art creates in the audience is where it’s at. But I’m not just an art critic — I’m a fan! So I enjoy listening to the RDM ‘casts, too. And as you can tell, I love discussing them both.

    I’ll admit that I’ve never listened to the Black Market RDM ‘cast, so I’ll see if I can’t make some time this week to check it out.

  4. Phil says:

    What I like about this episode, besides getting away for Galactica for a bit to see how life in the fleet actually works, is that I think it shows both Apollo’s 2nd strongest (after single handedly taking out the Cylon mining base) and his weakest moment. Interestingly, I think these occur at the exact same moment. On the one hand when he shoots Phelan, he is showing decisive action to protect the fleet and its people (“Won’t somebody, PLEASE, think of the children!?”, sorry, a momentary channeling of the Simpsons). On the other hand, he is betraying his principles by performing a summary execution and denying criminals their right to fair trial. He probably wouldn’t have shot Phelan if he wasn’t currently going through his existential crisis dealing with Roslin’s order to assassinate Cain. I bet he’s actually learned from her that there really isn’t a functioning Colonial society anymore and there are times when threats are so grave and immediate that they have to dealt with without the comfort of worrying about civil liberties. I suspect that despite doing the heroic thing here, it just depresses him all the more. I was of a similar mind when watching it, first thinking it was a job well don, but then more conflicted once I thought about it more.

    In a second moment of irony, it is Roslin who is still clinging to the idyllic notion that it is still possible to impose a legitimate economy upon the fleet. Apollo, who is in a better position to realize that the society they used to know is disintegrating, is the one to argue that the black market is actually the only functioning economy left.

    It is funny that at the beginning of the series Apollo and Zarek both have strongly held convictions but are polar opposites in their ideals, yet they are regularly being forced into cooperation and slowly having to give up their previously held notions to become more similar in their beliefs. I hope for more Apollo/Zarek interactions in the forth season.

    Whoa, last little brain fart: I guess its quite metaphorical that Zarek is played by the Richard Hatch who played Apollo in the previous series, yet now his character’s name start with ‘Z’ from the opposite end of the alphabet. Hum….

  5. Solai says:

    Chuck, I totally agree with you. If you have never listened to the RDM podcast let me say this: Watch the episode first and give yourself some time to think about it. Even jot down some notes prior to listening to the RDM podcast as he definitely puts some strong opinions out there.

    I recall vividly both my feelings after watching the episode and after listening to the RDM podcast on the train. It will be interesting for me to go through that experience again and see how things have changed.

  6. Number 13 says:

    Oh boy, Black Market. I try to block this one out of my mind.

  7. master1228 says:

    I haven’t had time to watch this week’s episode yet, hopefully I’ll be able to catch up by this weekend. I started watching the ep Pegasus during the regular rewatch week, but I totally lost control and ended up watching both pt1&2 of Resurrection Ship that same night and during the weeks for the Resurrection Ship rewatchs I didn’t have time to post and since then, I haven’t been in town with my dvds to watch anything since, but I am just now listening to Podcast 63 and heard about the site redesign.

    I just wanted to say I enjoyed the look of the old site, but I REALLY like the new site design. Good work GWC crew (for whoever did what on the site update)!

    I’ll post about Black Market later.

  8. Boxytheboxed says:

    most of alll good eppy. cept i dont like lee wiht the prostitute, that seemed undeeded and wasteful to me

  9. Altair IV says:

    I suppose everyone involved should of least have got a “B” for effort. “Blackmarket” is kind of the “Black Sheep” of the BSG episode flock. Still it has it’s good points.

    At least here, for once, there is some attempt to show that some kind of ‘ordinary life’ occurs in the fleet that doesn’t revolve around presidential politics and shooting Cylons. Don’t get me wrong, no one likes political backstabbing or Viper Vs Raider action more than me. But we have 40,000 plus humans out there.

    There would seem to be a whole fleet full of potential for alternative story lines, …about cooks, families, teachers, old people, lowly technicians, doctors, non-Battlestar ship’s captains, etc. We know all of Baltar’s fantasies but we don’t have much idea what life is like for the average citizen refugee in the fleet. How do they cope? Is life for them still worth living?

    For all it’s faults, BlackMarket, like Colonial Day, at least let’s us a narrow, if probably atypical, glimpse into some of the lives of the nameless 40,000.

    Maybe whilst we’re waiting for Series 4, …and instead of the proposed new series “Caprica”… maybe some ‘webisodes’ of “Life in The Fleet” would be a great addition to BSG lore.

  10. Phoenix says:

    Not one of my favorites. They lost me at Apollo paying for sex. Music is very cool though.

  11. Number 13 says:

    Yeah, Apollo wouldn’t have to hire a prostitute. He could just wander from ship to ship wearing that towel. lol

  12. Phil says:

    I don’t know, it doesn’t seem that out of character for Apollo to be seeing the prostitute. First of all, we don’t even know of there is a similar type of stigma in prostitution in Colonial society as there is in ours. This kind of also follows up on an a theme from the original BSG where one of the main characters (Cassiopeia?) was a prostitute, but there was some kind of euphemism for it (facilitator, pleasurizor, or copulator or something). But I digress (not that that isn’t tolerated around here). Second, Apollo wasn’t hiring the prostitute for sex, but he was actually paying for the fantasy of a real relationship with a family. Its pretty clear he isn’t a love’m and leave’m type guy (i.e., resisting bedding Starbuck until she would officially acknowledge their relationship). Third, the episode made the point that the reason he was attracted to this woman was because she reminded him of a former girlfriend (or fiancee?) who he let down because he wasn’t able to commit to her. It seems to make sense that as he is thoroughly unsatisfied with the state of his current world, that he would try to find some way to recreate and live in the past.

  13. Armando says:

    I hate this episode. Not for what it shows of life in the fleet, which I agree is cool, but because its story has almost no repercussions for anyone ever again. We find out a lot about Lee in this episode: he’s more bad ass than anyone gives him credit for, he has a soft spot for kids, and he was in love and ALMOST A FATHER before the attacks…only to walk away from that like a coward. Yet, none of this has ANY BEARING ON HIS CHARACTER EVER AGAIN IN THE SERIES (so far).

    It drives me NUTS!

  14. The Alpaca Herder says:

    Cassiopeia was termed a “socialator” in BSG’78

  15. dxf says:

    Very late observation/question. Regarding: “Adama is a cylon” — when they were operating on him, did they notice a red glow from his spine?

  16. Phoenix says:


    Cool, I never thought of it that way. It makes me feel a bit better about the episode.

  17. suzanne says:

    yeah, this has never been one of my favorites either.

    where does the money come from? and is it worth anything? is there a money printing ship? when lee pays the prostitute, the money he uses looks almost like cut up newspaper. does everyone get an income like social security that they spend on goods and services?

    i feel like this episode sets up lee’s existence outside the military. the flashbacks, the relationship with chevonne, and his decidedly “grey” decision to monitor rather than shut down the black market. he is coming to terms with or at least finding out more about the imperfections of the fleet.

  18. Phil says:

    Thanks, Phoenix. Thinking about it more, I guess the ironic part of the episode (or I guess it just reflects the growth of his character) is that while he was trying to recreate the past with a fake comfortable life with the prostitute, he is forced to fully acknowledge the present. He realizes that the only way to actually protect the fleet is to execute the mob boss, circumventing any form of legal justice system, and is able to realize before Roslin and Adama that the Colonial economic system has completely collapsed, and now they are forced rely on an illicit black market economy.

    Another thought, that might explain why season 2.5 is so unsettling, is that from Pegasus on through the New Caprica storyline the big shift seems to focus on the fact that there are just as many threats from within the fleet (two different military establishments on separate battlestars, traitors who collaborated with the Cylons, appeasement movements, mafias, and inner demons).

  19. Solai says:


    Your summary is excellent and really adds texture to the episode. I believe you have nailed all of the attributes the writers intended to convey. I do have one question for you (and anyone who wants to discuss it):

    Why does Lee shoot the mob boss? I have thought a long time about it and cannot come up with a reasonable answer. Shooting the mob boss does not eliminate the Black Market, it simply removes the current most power figure in it. In a few days another person will step into his shoes or simply rise to power. In my mind shooting the mob boss accomplishes nothing except prove that Lee may need some lessons in anger management.

    I would go on to posit that it would have made more sense to leave him in power following the “devil you know” philosophy.


  20. Armando says:

    I wonder if the idea was to somehow make Lee the head of the black market syndicate. Supposedly, that was part of the original plot of “Taking a Break from All your Worries” before the Baltar being tortured story went from “B” story to “A” story. According to RDM’s podcast, that episode was supposed to be a lighter one based loosely on Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” with Lee playing a Milo Minderbinder-like role of someone who is well connected in the black market and can get just about any commodity you might want (hence the welcome from the bartended to Chief Tyrol, “Any friend of the Captain is a friend of mine”). When that episode evolved into a more serious rumination on the use of psychological torture on prisoners of war, the lighter Catch-22 story took a back seat and the (intended?) connection (?) to “Black Market” was lost, making, in my mind, “Taking a Break” a stronger episode while keeping “Black Market” as a weaker one.

    (Though, granted, “Black Market” is a poor BSG episode, but would be a fine hour of TV on any other show.)

  21. Cami's Mom says:

    Since this episode’s advent was Jan 2006 (not sure how long it takes to bring these things to fruition??) my first thought was that the theme is directly inspired by USA’s post-9-11 reality. (I’m not usually so philosophical so I’m not really sure where this comes from.)

    As Phil pointed out the entire season seems to be pointing out “as many threats from within the fleet” as from the external factors. Perhaps it’s a Hollywood/Vancouver? reminder that we thought everything would change and then 9-11-2007 is just another Tuesday and it’s okay to debut your CD or DVD. Every thing is really the same unless you live in Manhattan. Also, something an RDM podcast stated (sorry I CAN NOT remember which one), something about how even an apocalypse doesn’t change basic human nature.

    I thought Apollo’s story/back-story kept the episode from being completely fraked or limited by the 9-11 thing. I was *sure* Apollo wouldn’t off Phelan (the whole time he was drawing down on the bad guy I was saying “He won’t do it. He won’t do it. He did it!). And when he did I was *sure* Zarek would get involved with later black market activities. I liked how Apollo’s past relationship played out all in his head, the writer’s never made him talk about it. It’s not something the Apollo we know would be proud of and for sure doesn’t fit into his current existence.

  22. suzanne says:

    i thought lee shot the black market boss for pure revenge- the mob boss burst the bubble of his fantasy life- recreating the past with chevonne. also, it shows that lee is human, namely that he is not morally above the other people in the civilian or military fleet. he is, so to speak – “standing in the mud”. in this episode, almost everyone is shown to be complicit with the black market,. the only exceptions are roslyn and adama…

    i expected tom zarek to be more involved in the black market- for him to take it over after he used lee to get phelan out of the way…

    did anyone find roslyn asking baltar to resign to be rather ironic-given her flashback in epiphanies of being in the same situation with president adar? did she actually expect baltar to resign?

  23. suzanne says:

    phil- good comments on this episode and season 2.5.

    ironically- roslyn’s personal demons are her idealism – which is why she wants the black market dismantled, and she can both scold baltar on her deathbed, and ask him to resign once she recovers- and her growing isolation from the civilian fleet. she seems so far away from the civilian fleet at this point, when compared to the kobol episode arc.

    also, contrast roslyn’s behavior in this episode with her pragmatism in the miniseries. there, she convinces adama to run rather than fight the impossible fight. perhaps the series of compromises that she has to make while being the president wears on her, and she tries to re-find her high moral ground with respect to the black market, rather than have one more “enemy” to keep tabs on.

  24. dbhyde71 says:

    I think that Lee really ends up regretting shooting the black market dude. It seems like the guilt carries over to seaon three when he chooses the law over loyalty to his father and the military. I think it really puts him in the camp of accountability and due process. Although it is interesting that he didn’t mention his “murder” of the black market dude in his empassioned plea on the witness stand in the episode that shall not be named. I would suggest to the writers an edition to the dialogue:
    “Shot a unarmed man in cold blood…forgiven.”


  25. Armando says:

    Topgun, Ron Moore, in his podcast to this episode, mentions that in the world he and Eick created in BSG, prostitution is legal, not merely condoned. I don’t know if they meant it as an expression of how they believe things should operate in the real world or not, but it makes for an interesting dichotomy between their world and ours.

  26. Phil says:

    I have a different interpretation of why Lee shot Phalen. I think it was a very calculated move on his part. He knew Adama and the military had the ability temporarily squalsh the black market and eliminate its leaders, but Lee realized new leaders would pop-up in their place (resulting in a Whack-a-Mole situation). The black market needed to continue because it did aid in the functioning of the fleet, but it could not continue in its present completely unregulated form. Phelan demonstrated himself to be Big ‘E’ Evil by selling children into sex-slavery (which I guess is just one step down from actually eating babies), and showed no impetus towards moderating his actions. Lee realized removing Phelan though any legitimate means would not work. Simply arresting him does not send a strong enough message, and clamping down completely on the market just leads to a new market forming in its place. The competition to fill the vacuum of a new black market leader would likely produce someone just as bad. By publicly assassinating him he makes the point to Phelan’s underlings and obvious successors that the worse practices of the black market will not be tolerated. He basically established boundaries in the only way they would understand, and avoided forming a power vacuum.

    I agree that Lee is probably very unhappy about having to do this. As I said before, he seems to have learned from Roslin’s play book, that in their current situation sometime you have to do very unseemly things to protect the fleet. At the same time, I think he is the only one to truly realize that by doing such things they are further hastening the erosion of the last remnants of their Colonial society and that is what depresses him the most. The question is are these actions necessitated by the current situation on the ground (or in space as it were), and I guess this is where the show parallels our experiences in a post-9/11 world. What type of compromises to our ideals are necessary to preserve our society in the face of an external threat? And, in so doing are we actually undermining our society more than the original threat was?

  27. Phil says:

    I wonder if the prostitution being legal thing is also a further parallel between Greek/Roman and Colonial societies???

  28. Pike says:

    Phil, possibly, but I think it more likely a nod to the original series, where there was a sort of courtesan class.

  29. StevieSpin says:

    I just placed my first store order! Quick and Easy. Only issue is the light grey type on the white bg is very hard to read.

    I’ll be checking my mailbox daily.


  30. Jason says:

    There are plenty of modern societies where prostitution is legal. Here in Germany, for example, it’s so legal that prostitutes charge sales tax. So I don’t think we have to look back to ancient Greek society for parallels, and I wouldn’t characterize it as a dichotomy between our world and theirs.

  31. Armando says:

    Good point, Jason. It’s very easy, after all, for us Americans to think that the rest of the world operates by our rules. Big D’oh!

  32. Starbuccaneer says:

    On Lee: Was she supposed to be a serious girlfriend/love of his life? Why didn’t they give her a name? Why have we up until now been led to believe that Lee missed Zac, who was already dead, but wasn’t really grieving for specific people he lost on Caprica other than his brother and maybe his mother. Yes, he’s a stoic guy, but it makes no sense to have him seem more or less future-oriented and totally not hung up on some woman with whom he frakked things up seriously and didn’t get to apologize to before she (and Adama Jr.) got nuked. This came out of left field, even considering how changed he is post-space walk. Maybe if they’d alluded to it at all ever before I would have bought it. Maybe if they just had him use her name it would have felt more real.

    On Black Market: I am no student of economics, but I have the basics down. Especially since there was not yet a law banning trade outside of the supply runs, the so-called BM was much more of a FREE market. There were goods which were acquired by those with the good business sense to understand scarcity and anticipate future demand. There were people who wanted stuff. Thus, trade occurred. Yeah, it’s more barter than the cash economy they were used to (what the frak are cubits good for in the fleet with nothing to back the paper the symbol loses its value). But the term black market implies illegality/illegitimacy that I just don’t think were present (except for the people-trading which I will address momentarily). It is true that most governments create regulatory measures for goods like medicine and that most war-time governments would regulate basic foodstuffs. However, since it doesn’t seem that Roslyn had taken those steps in a legal way and had relied on a military solution, the trade system run by Phelan wasn’t a black market so much as it was sketchy. You can imagine the space-age equivalent of many goods he offered having “fallen off the back of the truck.” The human trafficking is, of course, unconscionable, but that was the only truly illegal thing he was trading in.

    Roslyn would have done better to create legal, civil regulatory mechanisms than to try for the whole-sale shutdown of the “black market.” Lee is right- it would pop right back up. And Phil is right that you’d end up with a “whack-a-mole” situation if you antagonized all trade leaders. Offing Phelan was a good thing, as he was an Evil thug who thought that garroting was the best option for assassinations and didn’t mind making a buck on the flesh and innocence of kids. But let Zarek do his thing- I might not wholly trust him but he’s not evil enough to cross the boundaries of inherent human worth. Having a functional barter-economy with lively trade is one of the only ways to foment development of a future traditional capitalist economy within the RTF.

    My .02 cubits ended up rather long… but I might be back after relistening to the RDM cast.

  33. Kappa says:

    To Starbuccaneer: Thank you! You articulated exactly what my two big problems with this episode are. Listening to the RDM’s RSII commentary, he implies that originally, Lee was originally going to be swimming toward a woman on the shore, which makes me think they did consider adding hints of his girlfriend before “Black Market.” I really liked how the water scenes worked as-is, so I don’t know if it would have been a good idea to change them, but I completely agree that the girlfriend coming out of the blue and then disappearing from Lee’s mind just as quickly is frustrating.

    And as far as the black market, aside from the obviously illegal human trafficking, it would be “black” if they showed that Phelan was stealing the goods he was selling, like medicine and pineapples, but otherwise, it’s basically just a “market,” right? Maybe Phelan is violating some trade laws, but it seems like the system has broken down far enough that him cheating on his income tax probably shouldn’t matter enough in the grand scheme for Roslin to try to shut down something that there’s an obvious need for.

    Complaining aside, I liked it more this time around than before. Lee shooting Phelan and killing his idealism in the process was interesting, and I like that for once on TV, the hero is not wonderful with little kids. And Zarek is pretty cool, too.

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