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 appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Episode chronology

"Litmus" is the sixth episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series. In the episode, an investigation into a Cylon infiltration comes to focus on the relationship between Chief Galen Tyrol and the Galactica copy of Boomer, who is a Cylon sleeper agent in order to weed out other sleeper agents.


When a Number Five detonates a suicide vest aboard Galactica, Commander Adama commissions an independent tribunal to investigate security breaches and Laura Roslin finally discloses the existence of humanoid Cylons to the public.

The deckhands working under Chief Galen Tyrol give conflicting accounts to the tribunal in order to protect Tyrol, who has been having a prohibited affair with Boomer. The tribunal's lead investigator, Sargeant Hadrian, calls Adama before the tribunal and accuses him of compromising the ship's security by allowing Boomer and Tyrol to continue their affair. Adama refuses to participate further in the inquiry and has a pair of marines confine Hadrian to her quarters. The inquiry is closed, despite a tribunal member's protest that Adama lacks the authority.

The official conclusion is that one of Tyrol's deckhands, Socinus, had negligently left a hatch open leading to an arms locker. Feeling that his relationship with Boomer has led to the false imprisonment of his deckhand, Tyrol ends the relationship.

On Caprica, Caprica-Boomer's apparent capture is revealed to be a ruse to test Helo's feelings for her. 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.


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?"[1] 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.[1]

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 his confession to keeping the hatch open, what Keith calls Socinus's "boneheaded move".[2]

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".[3] 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."[3]


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".[4] 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",[5] a point Keith echoed. Keith said the episode has "some surprising gems" but is overall "largely flawed".[2] 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-.[6]

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,[7] but Adama indicates this is contrary to Colonial legal precedent.[8]
  • 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".[9]
  • 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".[10] Socinus is shown serving on Tyrol's Raptor in "Kobol's Last Gleaming".[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • In Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, it is revealed that Adama was the true target of the bombing.[14]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b Keith, Amanda (31 Oct 2009). "Battlestar Galactica: Litmus". Los Angeles Newspaper Group. Retrieved 16 Aug 2011. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Brew, Simon (11 Aug 2009). "Battlestar Galactica season 1 episode 6 review: Litmus". Retrieved 15 Jul 2011. 
  5. ^ Tankersley, Susan (Strega) (16 Feb 2005). "The Chrome Scare". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 15 Jul 2011. 
  6. ^ Clifton, Jacob (8 Feb 2006). "Meet the Fokker Dreidecker". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 7 Nov 2011. 
  7. ^ Minute 21:00.
  8. ^ Minute 29:00.
  9. ^ "Flesh and Bone". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 8. 25 Feb 2005. 
  10. ^ Battlestar Galactica DVD, season 1, disc 5, "Kobol's Last Gleaming" deleted scenes.
  11. ^ "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2". Battlestar Galactica. Season 1. Episode 13. 25 Mar 2005. Sci Fi. 
  12. ^ "The Farm". Battlestar Galactica. Season 2. Episode 5. 12 Aug 2005. 38:08 minutes in. 
  13. ^ "Pegasus". Battlestar Galactica. Season 2. Episode 10. 23 Sep 2005. Sci Fi. 
  14. ^ Olmos, Edward James (director) (2009). Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (DVD). 

External links[edit]