Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Definitive Baltar Moments: Empathy

This is my banner at the Sci Fi forums. The reason I picked this one is that it emphasizes Gaius' skill for empathy, something that a lot of viewers tend to overlook. The banner is by khyron40k3, and you can see all of the banners by this poster on this page of the James Callis Appreciation Thread.

When I first saw the Pegasus episode and Baltar's reaction to Gina, I had this... epiphany, if you can all it that. It was a moment when I suddenly realized that I had misjudged Baltar. I had thought he's a complete narcissist with no empathy whatsoever. But what selfish motives can there be in helping a woman who's so wounded, so helpless?

Yes, it's a model Six and Gaius obviously can't really tell her and HeadSix apart. Yes, he later tries to kiss her when she's obviously not ready for it yet, and she has to bite him to get him off her. But still. After seeing him "not take sides" in the cylon war and look out for his own interest in everything, it means a lot that he cares about her plight and wants to help out. He's willing to risk his own position to show her love. I think it's a point where the character grows a lot.

I also think this shows that Baltar is not cruel. He caused for a lot of people to suffer, but we must remember that he hasn't seen a lot of suffering first hand. The kind of torture that Starbuck and Lee can casually bring on a stubborn prisoner is probably something Gaius "the bad guy" would not be able to do. When he sees a prisoner hurt, even before he sees who it is, he's appalled and filled with compassion. Compare this to Kara and Leoben in Flesh and Bone or Lee and Kara trying to get answers out of the prisoner in Colonial Day. Would they have helped Gina? Would Baltar have airlocked Leoben like Laura Roslin did?

So suddenly Gaius is very warm and able to feel real empathy for someone. I had to adjust my view of him a little. It's fun to mock his selfishness, narcissism, and overall self-love, but in the end, he grows as a character and becomes more likeable when he's compassionate. It makes him more complex and makes you question your idea of a "bad guy".

Also see this part of Nicole's Baltar/Six picspam. Baltar is so touched by Gina's plight that he's in pain himself.

Some of this is probably James Callis being the warm, compassionate person he is and bringing that into the role. I blogged about the Sci Fi Q&A earlier, but just a few quick quotes:

"What I really enjoy doing is showing Baltar who has compassion. Playing this.. I was gonna say, rather revolting man and at the same time being allowed to show, sometimes, the window to his soul...which shows that he IS thinking about these things and he DOES care for people, is... I'd say it's quite cathartic."

"The thing perhaps that Baltar has from me, that he did not have in the script, is warmth. He's quite warm. There are quite a lot of cold people on Galactica. And that warmth makes him sympathetic in some way, and gives him an understanding into...people, when he can be, if he can possibly think about them for one second, other than himself or his own reflection. So that's something that I think I've added."
I like that he brought this up, because I often feel that the military characters are a bit cold and distant. Even Adama, who admittedly cares more about people in general than Baltar does, easily comes off as gruff, unfriendly, and harsh (perhaps most of all towards his own son).

Baltar may be narcissistic, annoying and amoral, even "revolting" - but he's not completely without compassion. To me, this is one of the things that saves him a little and puts him on the side of "decent" people. It may be deep down, but he has a side to him that genuinely cares about other people.

Tricia Helfer talks about a Gina scene in a video courtesy of Forksmoker:
"At one point I just broke down and I just... It was one of the scenes where I reach for the apple and I pull it. Something just kinda... I just started heaving sobs at the end of the scene and I remember when they cut. They can't just let that go! Something came up from..somewhere, I don't know. I remember James coming up to me, and he just held me for a couple of minutes after the scene. And everybody in the crew just kinda... was giving us some space."

Awww, James! This quote speaks volumes of the emotional intensity of the scene and how much James and Tricia support each other. That really shows in their interaction as Gaius and Six and makes their scenes that much more enjoyable.


Anonymous said...

I don't have anything smart to add here, because you've already said it all so beautifully! I can only say that I totally agree.

Deniselle said...

Aww, thank you! It really means a lot coming from you. :)

Nicole Anell said...

I've been meaning to comment here forever -- great post, I could not agree more.

"Pegasus" was a turning point for how I saw him too, but I also think it was a change in his character -- it prompted him to take a stand and possibly put himself at risk for someone else. I wish I could find a link or something, but I remember an interview once where James said that was the first time Gaius had to act strong for someone.

I've never seen that Tricia Helfer clip before, thank you!! The piece you quoted both warmed me and broke my heart at the same time.

Deniselle said...

I'm glad you liked it. :)

I think I've seen that James quote; maybe it's in one of those scanned magazine articles? I'll look around for it.

Also watch part 2/4 of that Tricia interview - she's directly asked about James, and she gives a long and gushing response that I've been meaning to transcribe forever. It's here:

Wow, that's a long url, I hope it works. :D

Nicole Anell said...

The crazy thing is I HAVE seen that one part, when she talks about klutz!James and his son. <3 But somehow I never realized there were more videos from that Q&A.

Deniselle said...

It's a 4-parter, all of them are pretty much worth seeing. Tricia is just really sweet and down-to-earth, in fact much like James - no wonder they like each other! :)

The part about Josh is my favorite: "He has yet to smile when he sees me". I just imagine this incredibly cute kid frowning at her. :D