Litmus (Battlestar Galactica)

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Battlestar Galactica episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 6
Directed by Rod Hardy
Written by Jeff Vlaming
Original air date UK: November 22, 2004
US: February 11, 2005
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"You Can't Go Home Again"
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"Six Degrees of Separation"
Episode chronology

"Litmus" is the sixth episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series. In the episode, after a Cylon suicide bomber gains access to Galactica, an independent tribunal is appointed to investigate. The inquiry comes to focus on the relationship between Chief Galen Tyrol and the Galactica copy of Boomer, who is still a Cylon sleeper agent. When Commander William Adama is called before the tribunal, he disbands it, calling it a witch hunt. Tyrol ends his relationship with Boomer when one of his subordinates is jailed following the inquiry. On Caprica, Helo rescues the Caprica copy of Boomer as other Cylons look on and conclude he loves her.


In "Water", Galactica-Boomer unknowingly sabotaged Galactica's water supplies and placed explosives on a Colonial Raptor; Tyrol covered for her in both instances.[1] In "You Can't Go Home Again", Colonel Saul Tigh ordered Tyrol to end his relationship with Galactica-Boomer, and Caprica-Boomer was seemingly captured by Cylon Centurions.[2]

The human fleet[edit]

A Number Five copy boards Galactica with a group of civilians and detonates a suicide vest, killing three people and wounding 13. Adama grants the Galactica master at arms, Sergeant Hadrian, broad authority to investigate the infiltration and the other recent security breaches. Despite her concerns that Hadrian's inquiry may become a witch hunt, President Laura Roslin announces the appointment of the tribunal and discloses to the public for the first time the existence of the humanoid Cylons.

At the time of the explosion, Tyrol was meeting secretly with Galactica-Boomer despite Tigh's order. Three deckhands, Cally, Jammer, and Socinus, provide Hadrian with conflicting, false accounts of Tyrol's whereabouts during the bombing. Tyrol also lies to Hadrian during her investigation.

Starbuck speculates that the Cylons were targeting Gaius Baltar's secret Cylon detector project. Head Six later confirms this to Baltar but insists he continue the project, threatening him physically.

At the tribunal, Boomer lies about her relationship with Tyrol and her whereabouts during the bombing. Hadrian tells Tyrol that a hatch leading to a small arms locker, where a Marine guard was found dead, was found open. Boomer told Tyrol earlier that she used this hatch to reach their meeting place, but Tyrol lies, saying he had no idea how the hatch could have been left open. Confronted with the deckhands' contradictory statements, Tyrol invokes his right against self-incrimination. Socinus confesses to leaving the hatch open deliberately to aid the Cylons and insists that, "whatever happened, it was me," and Tyrol had nothing to do with it.

Adama and Roslin discuss the tribunal's report. Adama expresses doubt regarding Socinus's testimony. Roslin intuits Tyrol is hiding something, but Adama remains confident in him. Hadrian calls Adama before the tribunal and accuses him of compromising the ship's security by allowing Boomer and Tyrol, whom she describes as "Cylon agents", to continue their affair. Adama refuses to participate further in the inquiry, calling it a witch hunt. Hadrian orders the Marines to return Adama to the witness chair, but they instead obey Adama's order to confine Hadrian to her quarters. The inquiry is closed despite a tribunal member's protest that Adama lacks the authority.

In a press conference, Roslin attributes the open hatch to negligence by Socinus and announces that he has been imprisoned. This moves Tyrol to confess the truth to Adama. Despite Tyrol's insistence that Socinus lied to protect him, Adama refuses to release Socinus, saying he committed perjury one way or the other, and demands better conduct from Tyrol. Tyrol meets with Boomer and ends their relationship. He asks whether she left the hatch open; she refuses to answer.


Caprica-Boomer's apparent capture is revealed to be a ruse to test Helo's feelings for her. As Boomer watches with a Number Five and a Number Six, Helo heads for Cylon forces to attempt a rescue, confirming to the Cylons that he loves her. The Five and Six beat Boomer so Helo will think she struggled. Under cover of night, Helo destroys a Centurion and "rescues" Boomer as the Five and Six look on.


On his blog, executive producer Ronald D. Moore asks, "Was it wrong for Adama to dissolve a legally constituted judicial tribunal... simply because he sensed it becoming a witch-hunt or was he actually protecting the larger concepts of justice?"[3] as one of a series of difficult political questions he felt Battlestar Galactica asked during its first season. He poses the question as one for valid debate and does not suggest an answer.[3]

Amanda Keith of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group compares Tyrol to Adama. Though Tyrol runs a tight deck, he also has a soft spot for his subordinates, as evidenced by his toleration of his deckhands' illicit distilling. Like Adama, he also inspires profound loyalty; hence what Keith calls Socinus's "boneheaded move".[4]

Susan A. George writes that the narrative of Tyrol being involved with a deceptive, dangerous woman (Boomer) and being nearly destroyed by her fits into the tradition of film noir. In George's view, Boomer threatens "male authority and the hierarchical command order".[5] Commenting on the scene in which Six chokes Baltar, threatens that he must finish the Cylon detector, and then kisses him, George observes a "mix of sadism and eroticism... characteristic of the femme fatale."[5]


Simon Brew of Den of Geek praised the episode, calling Adama's refusal to release Socinus and insistence that Tyrol bear the consequences of his bad actions "quality writing and thinking".[6] Susan Tankersley of Television Without Pity gave the episode an F, calling the tribunal "hamfisted" and commenting, "The fact that [Hadrian] was very nearly right [about Tyrol and Boomer] is completely overshadowed",[7] a point Keith echoed. Keith said the episode has "some surprising gems" but is overall "largely flawed".[4] Writing retrospectively in the middle of the series's second season, Jacob Clifton of Television Without Pity said he liked the episode, comparing it favorably to the second-season episodes "The Farm", "Final Cut", and "Scar"; he gave the last of these an A-.[8]

Connections to other series elements[edit]

  • The episode shows some aspects of the Colonial legal system, including a right against self-incrimination. Hadrian says Tyrol's invocation of this right is evidence against him,[9] but Adama indicates this is contrary to Colonial legal precedent.[10]
  • During her conversation with Baltar, Head Six reveals that the Cylons do not know about her.
  • During his discussion of the tribunal with Roslin, Adama reveals that his father was a civil liberties lawyer.
  • Roslin's release of a mugshot of Leoben Conoy in this episode allows the fleet to identify and detain a Leoben copy in the episode "Flesh and Bone".[11]
  • A scene deleted from the first-season finale "Kobol's Last Gleaming" shows Tyrol securing Socinus's release from the brig and berating Socinus for his actions in "Litmus".[12] Socinus is shown serving on Tyrol's Raptor in "Kobol's Last Gleaming".[13]
  • In the second-season episode "The Farm", Caprica-Boomer reveals the reason behind the Cylons' interest in Helo's feelings for her: unable to reproduce themselves and unsuccessful in attempts at forced breeding human-Cylon hybrids, they thought love might be the missing ingredient.[14]
  • In the second-season episode "Pegasus", Admiral Helena Cain cites Adama's closure of the tribunal in denying his request for a jury court-martial for Helo and Tyrol.[15]
  • In Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, it is revealed that Adama was the true target of the bombing.[16]


  1. ^ "Water". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 2. 14 Jan 2005. Sci Fi.
  2. ^ "You Can't Go Home Again". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 5. 4 Feb 2005. Sci Fi.
  3. ^ a b Moore, Ron (1 Apr 2005). "Battlestar Blog: A Debate Worth Having". Sci Fi Network. Archived from the original on 27 Mar 2009. Retrieved 15 Aug 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Keith, Amanda (31 Oct 2009). "Battlestar Galactica: Litmus". Los Angeles Newspaper Group. Retrieved 16 Aug 2011. 
  5. ^ a b George, Susan A. (2008). "Fraking machines: desire, gender, and the (post) human condition in Battlestar Galactica". In Telotte, J. P. The Essential Science Fiction Reader. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 159–76. 
  6. ^ Brew, Simon (11 Aug 2009). "Battlestar Galactica season 1 episode 6 review: Litmus". Retrieved 15 Jul 2011. 
  7. ^ Tankersley, Susan (Strega) (16 Feb 2005). "The Chrome Scare". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 15 Jul 2011. 
  8. ^ Clifton, Jacob (8 Feb 2006). "Meet the Fokker Dreidecker". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 7 Nov 2011. 
  9. ^ Minute 21:00.
  10. ^ Minute 29:00.
  11. ^ "Flesh and Bone". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 8. 25 Feb 2005.
  12. ^ Battlestar Galactica DVD, season 1, disc 5, "Kobol's Last Gleaming" deleted scenes.
  13. ^ "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 13. 25 Mar 2005. Sci Fi.
  14. ^ "The Farm". Battlestar Galactica. Season 2. Episode 5. 12 Aug 2005. 38:08 minutes in.
  15. ^ "Pegasus". Battlestar Galactica. Season 2. Episode 10. 23 Sep 2005. Sci Fi.
  16. ^ Olmos, Edward James (director) (2009). Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (DVD). 

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