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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
Battlestar Galactica: Experiment in Terra Battlestar Galactica
"Experiment in Terra"
TV episode
Written by Glen A. Larson
Directed by Rod Holcomb

Apollo is chosen by the Beings of Light to save the planet Terra.

Read the complete story summary at the Battlestar wiki site

Didja Know? 

The title of this episode is probably a reference to the 1962 film Experiment in Terror.

Edward Mulhare guest stars as John in this episode. He will go on to have an important supporting role in another Glen A. Larson production, Knight Rider.

Didja Notice?

At the beginning of the episode, Commander Adama speaks into his journal that it has been 7 sectars since the escape of the prisoners in "Baltar's Escape". This is the only time "sectar" has been used as a unit of time; previously it was an unknown unit of distance in space. Possibly it was miswritten in the script and was meant to be secton, about 1 week. The later novel Rebellion implies that the term "sectare" is the equivalent of a day.

At 3:00 on the DVD, a brand name can be seen on the bottom of the warbook display in Starbuck's Viper. It is Tektronix, a company known largely for its electronic test and measurement equipment. The company provided much of the display equipment for the series.

After being abducted by the Ship of Lights, Apollo meets one of the Beings of Light, who calls himself John and says they are "brothers...of a sort." Considering Apollo's young brother, Zac, had a seeming encounter with a Being of Light in "Daughter of Elysium", with hints that his fate was intertwined with the Beings of Light, and his subsequent death on his first mission in "Annihilation", might John somehow literally be Apollo's brother, i.e. Zac, in an aged and spiritual form? (Zac will himself later appear to Apollo as a Being of Light in Armageddon.)

John tells Apollo that the real Charlie Watts is currently being held captive on Lunar 1, but he'll eventually escape. This story is told beginning in "Lunar Won".

At 8:38 on the DVD, as Apollo approaches the planet Terra, we can see that it does actually appear to be Earth! Notice the North and Central American continents visible through the center of the Viper's canopy.
Terra

After incarcerating Apollo/Charlie in a cell at 18:16 on the DVD, the guard demonstrates the effectiveness of the force field door of his cell to discourage escape attempts. But the demonstration is really there for the benefit of we the viewers; Colonel Watts would already know how the cells work! And why do so many science-fiction shows like to depict force field doors on cells anyway? It seems like it would be much more practical to use solid doors that would still work even in the event of a power outage! (To give BSG credit, the cells on the fleet's prison barge do have solid doors.)

The building used as the Presidium on Terra was shot on the abandoned grounds of Expo '67 in Montreal, Canada (also used as the dead city on Paradeen in "Greetings from Earth" Part 2). This building is now Le Casino de Montréal. 

On posts behind the desk of the President of the Nationalists are two horse busts. There is also what appears to be some kind of Terran (probably Nationalist) flag, but we never get a good look at it. Another Terran flag is seen at 32:11 on the DVD, but  is actually a Colonial flag (seen in "Deathtrap"). At 32:17, three flags are seen, but at least one of them (the yellow one) is another Colonial flag (also seen in "Deathtrap"). Nationalist flag? Colonial flag flags

The series' confusing use of the term "light-speed" continues in this episode. When Adama orders the fleet to proceed to a certain rendezvous point while the Galactica veers off to Terra, he orders the Galactica to increase to light-speed. It is implied that the fleet generally travels at sublight speeds when Colonel Tigh points out that it has been some time since the battlestar was pushed to such a velocity. But travelling at sublight speeds all this time would realistically mean that they wouldn't even leave their own star system for years! Some fans (including myself) have chosen to reinterpret the rare references to light speed as references to hyperlight speed; in this reinterpretation, the fleet normally travels at the speed of light with occasional use of hyperlight velocities.

At about 22:24 on the DVD, one of the production cameras can be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen as Starbuck walks up to Apollo's Viper.

The officers of the People's Nationalist Force are wearing helmets that are obviously just motocross helmets!
People's Nationalist Force

Recognize the voice of the lead officer pictured above? He was portrayed by John DeLancie, best known for his appearances as Q on the various Star Trek series! I guess Q decided to flit around in the BSG universe for a bit.

In a bit of dialog obviously intended to inform the television viewers, Starbuck dictates into his comm unit that in his first encounter with Terrans, his weapon is set for stun. This is so we, the viewers, won't think he's just coldly killed 9 people to escape capture! Notice that a single shot from Starbuck's gun renders the entire group of officers unconscious.

The novelization refers to Luna 1 through 11. Since "luna" is Latin for "moon", does that mean there are actually eleven moons in the Terran system? Are they all moons of Terra? Or are some the moons of other planets in the system? Do these moons have atmospheres that support life? Or are they dead moons with completely enclosed bases of inhabitants?

Apollo's speech in front of the Presidium isn't very convincing! Earlier it seemed like the Beings of Light intended him to tell the Presidium what he knew about the Eastern Alliance's attacks against Paradeen and takeover of Lunar 7. But when he gets his chance to speak in front of the Presidium, he talks about how he's from another galaxy where they learned freedom must come from strength. Imagine someone saying that in front of the U.S. Congress or the U.N. Who would believe him?

    Presumably the big map in the Eastern Alliance war room is intended to represent land masses on Terra. Unlike the images of the globe we saw earlier in this episode and the Terran symbol seen in "Greetings from Earth" Part 2, these land masses do not look like the continents of Earth.
  
This scene may be intended as a subtle homage to the war room scenes in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
The big map 

Notice that when Starbuck launches his Viper back out into space to contact the Galactica, his helmet is white like the rest of his uniform even though he didn't have the helmet with him when John touched him and transformed his clothing!

Battlestar Galactica: Experiment in Terra Notes from Experiment in Terra, the novelization of "Baltar's Escape" and "Experiment in Terra", by Glen A. Larson and Ron Goulart

(The page numbers come from the 2nd printing, paperback edition, published May 1984)

Pages 57-end cover the events of "Experiment in Terra".

As in the novelization of "Greetings from Earth", author Ron Goulart here seems to prefer using many Earth terms over the traditional Colonial ones in this novel. He uses Earth names for Colonial people in many cases and terms such as dog, Holy Crow, and bon voyage. Perhaps because the book is about the possible discovery of Earth by the fleet, he wanted to lean the reader into thinking so by slipping in Earth words and phrases.

The book gives Brenda and her father the last name of Farris rather than Maxwell as presented in the episode. She's also described as dark-haired rather than blond. Also, Stone is called Storm here.

When Starbuck arrives on Terra, he meets a redneck robot named Will/F, whom he calls Willie. This leads him to a cave where Willie and the rest of his robot pals, plus a couple oddball humans, live outside the general influence of the Nationalist government. Willie helps Starbuck rescue Apollo, General Farris, Storm, and Brenda from their holding cells in the Complex.

In chapters 18 and 19, the doctor who examines Apollo at the Complex on Terra is referred to as Dr. Horning. In later chapters, he's referred to as Dr. Hocking! (In the TV episode's end credits, he is listed as Dr. Horning.)

Page 102 reveals that Terra has lost Luna 1-11 to the Eastern Alliance.

On page 131, Starbuck mentions bananas. I guess that's one fruit the Colonies had in common with Earth!

In the novel, Storm turns out to be a traitor to the General and the rest as he tries to give away the location of their temporary hideout in the robots' cave.

On page 138, President Arends mentions having Fireside Chat telecasts. The term "Fireside Chat" is borrowed from the radio broadcasts delivered by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his tenure in the White House from 1933-1944.

On page 143, John appears in Starbuck's Viper while he's flying out of Terra's atmosphere, "in the narrow extra seat". What extra seat? A Viper seats just one person! 

Memorable Dialog

brothers.wav
we're only in a position to advise.wav
what an excellent idea.wav
amnesia.wav
he's quite an attractive fellow.wav
felgercarb.wav
contemplating violence.wav
drop it.wav
the fear of God.wav
this is not Earth.wav

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