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Thesis: Gaius Baltar is the worst. I need some primary sources
May 29, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Battlestar Galactica: There is no fictional character I hate more than Gauis Baltar. Two part question about media/fan reaction to him.

UGH HE IS THE WORST. First part of my question: any good blog writing, message boards, articles, etc about him? I specifically looking for rants ripping him apart, but I would also be interested in analysis of his character, or even defenses. I'm at the beginning of season 3, but I'm not super averse to spoilers.

Secondly, I am only watching the show for the first time now, but was familiar with it when it was airing, as I had friends were into the show, and I visited blogs that also sometimes discussed it. I also was big into Veronica Mars at the time, and there was a fair amount of overlap between those fandoms on boards I visited. During this time, I never ever heard of Baltar. I heard of Adama and son, sexy lady Starbuck, Roslin, the Cylon who was also the host of Canada's Next Top Model, and was vaguely aware of some human/Cylon love triangle. But I never, ever heard of Baltar, which is weird, because to me, he's clearly the protaganist of the show. He's in almost every episode, and we see more from his POV than any other character. Am I just misremembering? Did the actor/character get much press coverage when the show was out? If not, why?
posted by Ideal Impulse to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's been a few years, but I remember reading the recaps on Television Without Pity religiously after each episode. They definitely discussed Baltar the most, since I agree he's the protagonist.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:54 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I forgot to add that I really liked Strega's recaps (only season 1) and thought Jacob's recaps were way, way too "oh my god I've never read a book and all these ideas are so DEEP."
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:58 PM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


You hate him more than Joffrey from Game of Thrones? Or the comic book version of The Walking Dead's Governor? Wow.

Anyway, I think this thread at the SyFy forums will give you the catharsis you seek.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:19 PM on May 29, 2013


Can you say more about what kind of analysis you are looking for? Do you hate him because you think his character is poorly written, ill-conceived, divergent from canon, etc. or do you hate him because his character is evil and he's a really bad guy?

The answer to this will make a difference in what sources I recommend.
posted by OrangeDisk at 4:32 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the character is well written, but a unbelievably self-centered coward who makes terrible, terrible decisions and he has never been called out for them. And I should add, I think the actor who plays him is amazing.

I don't watch a ton of TV, so maybe I don't have much to compare him to? Plus, someone like Joffrey who is straight-up evil is at least enjoyable to watch. Baltar just makes me angry and uncomfortable when he's on-screen.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 4:38 PM on May 29, 2013


Perhaps this isn't exactly what you are looking for, but you might want to check out Ronald D. Moore's podcasts about the episodes, especially the Baltar-centric ones.

(I like Baltar a lot, and I think most of what he does make sense, except for giving Gina the bomb. If I recall correctly, the podcast basically indicates that was mostly plot convenience. I think in Season 4 you may have a different perspective on him.)
posted by spaltavian at 5:30 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW I am almost done watching the last season myself, and I despised Baltar at first, because he is indeed infuriating... But he's become one of my favorite characters from the show, as flawed as he is. Wait and see. You may or may not agree, but having the man in the mix does keep things interesting, at the least.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:36 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the character is well written, but a unbelievably self-centered coward who makes terrible, terrible decisions and he has never been called out for them. And I should add, I think the actor who plays him is amazing.

I agree with you, and I felt this never changed in the show. I also felt that there's a lot of weird fan-love for the guy, and I never saw a lot of response that came close to how I felt.
posted by jeather at 5:48 PM on May 29, 2013


If you're only at the start of season 3, just wait, he gets called out in the show, and there is a lot of discussion about his motivations from both perspectives. It probably won't make you like him any morethan you do now, but you may dislike him less.
posted by markblasco at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's some sites I have in an old Evernote note from when I watched the show. They delve into Baltar and James Callis (warning: spoilers):
The Baltarstar Blog
I hate Gauis Baltar with an unrelenting passion
Why Gauis Baltar is the real hero of Battlestar Gallactica
Thank you to James Callis
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, I hate him too. I watched the whole series, and I never thought of him as the protagonist, just a fringe figure who manages to fuck shit up supremely.

I have no academic sources, only my perspective.

(The Chief is my fav, hands down.)
posted by duvatney at 10:45 PM on May 29, 2013


I agree with you, I hate Baltar.

But...

Once he learns that there are Cylons who think they are human, for a bit there he is really interesting. If he's human, he's the worst villian, but if he's cylon he might just be a hero. Watching him flip back and forth in his self-view was fascinating.
posted by BeeDo at 7:24 AM on May 30, 2013


One more data point: Gaius Baltar was pretty much the only thing that kept me watching the show all the way through to the end.

It's so rare that television gives you a genuinely bad person without making him straight-up implausibly boringly EEEEEVIL. Baltar is self-centered, cowardly, amoral, short-sighted and full of pride, and all of his actions make sense from his point of view. He behaves like a (deeply flawed) person, not like a cardboard cutout.

Joffrey is boring; he's just a bloodthirsty psychopath. Meh. It's difficult to conjure up any genuine hatred for him, because he doesn't feel real at all; you always know he's just going to do the EEEEEVILest thing because he is EEEEVIL, even when being EEEEEVIL goes directly against what should be his own interests.

Baltar, by contrast, you can really loathe, because he is actually trying to do the right thing -- it's just that his idea of the "right thing" doesn't mesh with anyone else's. He wants to be a hero, he wants adoration and adulation, but he wants even more to stay alive and safe and wealthy and to get laid. That's a lot more interesting to me than good guys in white hats over here, bad guys in black hats over there.

(I found BSG a very frustrating show at times because it felt like half of the writers were trying very hard to give the characters complex motivations and put them in situations where the "right" thing wasn't always clear, or competed with some other faction's "right" thing -- and the other half were just falling into the same old same old good guys vs. bad guys cliché.)
posted by ook at 8:01 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't offer you primary sources, but I will say that if you are only at the beginning of Season 3, I would wait before you go seeking out too much.

I don't blame you at all for feeling the hatred for President Baltar (I mean, what the hell, voters of New Caprica) right now, but Baltar has a hell of a ride ahead of him yet and any good analysis of his character will take all of his other incarnations into account.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


(spoilers ahead, but not giving away a huge amount) Baltar is an absolutely wretched shell of a person, but he serves an important purpose in the narrative of the show. The world is full of people like him, but more importantly, most people have an unsavoury side. Baltar is a convenient villain others can point to despite their often-hypocritical actions, and continue to occupy the high ground. Yes, I rigged an election, but only to prevent that jerk from winning. Yes, I declared martial law and tried to overthrow the president, but have you seen what a dick Baltar is?

Pay particular attention to the contrast between him and Roslin and Zerrick. They are all Machiavellian in their own way, and when you stop and really watch them, determining who is on the side of the angels isn't as simple as it looks.

The question of Baltar as a scapegoat becomes a clear part of the narrative later in Season 3.
posted by dry white toast at 8:38 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that struck me very strongly about Baltar (I watched the series in what seemed like one sitting, by the way, over a period of two weeks, so my understanding of the series is necessarily impressionistic), was that he was one of the few characters in TV with whom I strongly identified. George Costanza was another. They are caricatures of the venality, cowardice and vanity that I can clearly see in myself. For that reason, I find him very difficult to watch, but equally difficult to dismiss.

A speech later on in the series that includes the phrase "because we don't like you very much" is one of very few times that I found myself wishing a character would say something, and then found them saying it.

On the other hand, I do have difficulty with most of the other characters. The most dangerous of them all, for example, is Laura Roslin: constantly vacillating, perpetually seeking a moral (or moralistic) justification to follow her sentimentality. But then I don't really have much sympathy with the pall of militarism that hangs over the series. And on the whole, apart from the unfortunate genocidal thing, the Cylons seem to be much better human beings than the humans themselves (which I thought was the point). I wish we'd seen a lot more of Cylon society.

But I think Baltar is what human beings are, for better or worse. In Baltar's case, sadly, it's not usually better. I'm sure if I'd had access to nuclear codes I'd have condemned the species too. I'm only grateful I don't have that sort of access to dangerous information. It would have been nice if, later in the series, he'd become less of a fraud, but then it would have been nice if I could have, too.

James Callis said in some Con panel I saw online something about how the character's denouement panned out that suggests he hates Baltar at least as much as anyone. Can't say what, because spoilers.
posted by Grangousier at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ideal Impulse: I think the character is well written, but a unbelievably self-centered coward who makes terrible, terrible decisions and he has never been called out for them
You mean, except by everyone in uniform, President Roslin, her staff, several cylons, and most of the civilians (outside of the short span of the election he won)? Because, honestly: hating on Baltar is pretty much a 24-hour thing after Season 1... for the exact reasons you mention.

In fact, they play this up intentionally to drive sympathy for the character. Gaius Baltar is the embodiment of all the petty parts of Everyman, all at once. There's literally no evil there, beyond his passive willingness to let others come to harm to save his own skin. That repulsive lack of admirability is what makes him such a compelling, yet unlikable, character to me.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2013


Another aspect is that the worst thing Baltar (or anyone else ever did) was 1) an accident, 2) not really his fault 3) out of love.

You've haven't seen a lot of pre-attack Baltar, but he's a jerk under a lot of pressure. He's not a moster, just very selfish and desperate to obscure his origins.

Then he, for the first time in his life probably, falls in love and for the first time since he was a child, doesn't have the upper hand in a relationship. So, out of love, this guy who never follows rules breaks what seems to be a minor one, and it ends the world.

The one time this guy reached out to actually connect, it's the worst thing ever. Most of his later awful deeds are covering for or reacting to the orginal misdeed that was debateably not his fault.

We are left with a prideful man, who is heartbroken and so scared that he's basically having a nervous breakdown every day. The only qualities he sees in himself are his intelligence and his ability to lie. He feels he is forever servered from the rest of humanity. Baltar could have been a boyscout, Apollo times 10, from the attack on. And it wouldn't have mattered, because he would never be forgiven for the attack. He doesn't have a lot of incentive to be a good guy at this point, because he believes he is beyond redemption, and if his secret is ever found out, they'll kill him on the spot. (Remember when he tells Boomber that there are worst things than death? He's talking about himself, obviously.)
posted by spaltavian at 10:43 AM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


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