Monday, January 30, 2006

Cinescape's Review: Black Market

Cinescape has posted their review of Black Market:

Reviewed Format: TV Show

Network: Sci-Fi Channel
Original Airdate: 27 January 2006
Cast: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park
Creator: Glen A. Larson
Developer: Ronald D. Moore
Writers: Mark Verheiden
Director: James Head
In my review of "Resurrection Ship Part 2," I noted that Lee Adama was still somewhat of an enigma as far as the audience is concerned. "Black Market" provided an integral piece of the puzzle posed by the character's seeming death wish with the revelation of a lost love before the war. While doing an excellent job of redefining Apollo for the audience, "Black Market" is a bit of an anomaly in terms of the show's consistently high caliber of story telling. At once, it answers questions raised by "Resurrection Ship" while failing to bring the audience resolutely to its table.
Regarding the continued development of Apollo, the episode is a complete success with a great skeleton torn out of his closet that redefines the audience's expectations for the character. It also provides a nice nod to the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA with a look at the legalized prostitution amidst the fleet. On the DVD commentary for THE WEST WING's second season opener, creator Aaron Sorkin remarked that a writer should never front load the details of a character's backstory until a story cries out to explore the material. Ronald D. Moore and his writers have nicely adhered to this dictate with episodes like "Act of Contrition" and "Epiphanies" completely redefining character interactions by delving into the matters that most characters keep close to the chest. "Black Market" does the same for Apollo and the final scene, with Bill Adama's intuitive remark, likely signals a new era in Adama family relations.
The failing of the story centers on the black market concept not really hitting a home run from the outset. As is made evident by Lee Adama's decision to monitor rather than wipe out the illegal trade, the fleet's underworld is a necessary aspect of the Colonial economy. Rather like Mr. Garibaldi's ongoing desire to space all the lurkers in BABYLON 5's Downbellow, President Roslin's agenda has no basis in reality and somewhat undermines her rationality as a leader. The fact that everyone in the fleet seems to know where to go for illegal trade weakens Apollo as a character since he must seek out information that seems to be common knowledge. Granted, the sale of children for purposes unsuitable for broadcast standards and practices is a last ditch effort to apprise the audience of the serious nature of the crimes aboard Promethues. Still, this revelation comes a little out of left field as the episode was seemingly centered more mundane criminal infractions. The caged children reads rather like someone thinking, "We still need to make these guys really despicable" as the fourth or fifth draft of the script was in progress.
Much of the episode's menace is courtesy of Bill Duke, soon to play the sinister industrialist Bolivar Trask in X3. Duke's formidable presence and ease of access to even the Commander's quarters aboard Pegasus underscore the danger of individuals within the black market, if not the existence of such a trade in itself. The fact that he worked on a ship called Prometheus is a nice touch, evoking the Titan of Greek mythology who gifted fire to man. On the whole, "Black Market" is still better than most of the programming on TV. The character development for Apollo is great, but the script is a little light on its internal logic.

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