On Nov. 24, Sci Fi debuts a two-hour television movie, Razor, set during the second season of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. (Battlestar Galactica is currently between its third and fourth seasons, making Razor a prequel of sorts.) It goes where few science fiction television shows or films have gone before by making a same-sex relationship between two female characters a crucial part of the story.
Note: This article contains some spoilers for Razor, as well as analysis of Battlestar Galactica episodes that aired in Season 2, but no spoilers related to the upcoming Season 4.
Although other science fiction series, including Firefly and Torchwood, have included lesbian or bisexual story lines, they have largely been one-episode encounters. Razor is different: A central character in the movie, Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) is revealed to have had an intimate relationship with Gina, aka Cylon model Number Six (Tricia Helfer), a regular character on the series.
That relationship ends tragically, and on the surface their story has all the hallmarks of a typically negative depiction of lesbianism. Admiral Cain engages in a same-sex relationship, only to be betrayed by her lover and ultimately killed by her. But though the character of Cain is yet another lesbian who dies on-screen, there is more to this tale than meets the eye.
Written by Michael Taylor and directed by Felix Alcala, Razor tells the story of Admiral Cain and her ship, Pegasus, which survives a surprise attack by the Cylons (a race of machines first created by humans) by fleeing blindly, leaving Cain and her crew to believe they may be the only human survivors left in the universe.
The movie is split in two interconnected story lines, one beginning right before these attacks, and one beginning 10 months later when Lee "Apollo" Adama, the son of Galactica’s Commander William Adama, is appointed the Pegasus’ new commander.
At the beginning of Razor, just before the Cylons attack, Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) begins a new job as Admiral Cain’s aide. Much of Razor proceeds from her point of view, giving viewers new to Battlestar Galactica an easy entrypoint into the series.
In the aftermath of the attacks, which leaves one quarter of the Pegasus crew dead, Cain rallies her troops by delivering a galvanizing speech:
I imagine you’re all asking yourselves the same question I am: What do we do now? Do we run? Do we hide? I think those are the easy choices. A philosopher once said, "When faced with untenable alternatives, you should consider your imperative." Look around you. Our imperative is right here, in our bulkheads, in our planes, in our guns and in ourselves. War is our imperative.
This speech is one of the earliest and boldest indicators of how Cain feels about choice. She follows a somewhat Kantian point of view: Her "imperative" commands her to behave in a certain way. She values rationality above emotion. And she believes her imperative is militaristic: to defeat the enemy.
Cain’s relationship with Gina, who is stationed on the Pegasus as a civilian technician, is revealed quite subtly when Cain holds a dinner for her chief officers, including Kendra Shaw. When Gina arrives, she and Cain kiss each other on the cheek, the only sign of their intimate relationship a lingering touch of Gina’s hand on the admiral’s shoulder.
But Kendra sees this, and later on when she is working with Gina to repair the ship’s computer, she alludes to it by suggesting that if Gina needs higher security clearance to finish their task, they could ask Cain. Gina quickly acknowledges Kendra’s unspoken question:
Gina: Here I thought we were being so discreet. I guess that’s hard when you truly care for someone. To satisfy your curiosity, we met a few months ago when I presented the plans for the retrofit. Spent a lot of time together working out the details, and I guess one thing led to the other. You seem so surprised.
Kendra: It’s just that Cain seems so self-sufficient.
Gina: She has needs, just like the rest of us. No one can survive entirely on their own. Trust me, Lieutenant, in the end we’re all just human.
Kendra and Gina’s conversation reveals two significant points. First, Gina’s statement that "in the end we’re all just human" speaks to her character’s consistent fascination with being human. Another copy of Number Six, known as Caprica Six, has a longstanding and complicated love relationship with human scientist Gaius Baltar. Though Caprica Six is different from Gina, both copies demonstrate great desire to understand humans and to claim human emotions for themselves.