BG4: “The Road Less Traveled”
May 3rd, 2008
SPOILERS AHEAD: The Road Less Traveled is an important episode because it simultaneously brings together several significant story points from the past and sets in motion events that will prove pivotal in the future. The episode focuses on Kara and her crew aboard the Demetrius, so the Starbuck Theme…
… and the Starbuck Destiny Theme…
… are both featured frequently in the score.
Until now, Kara’s Destiny theme has always been performed by a solo erhu (with one subtle exception hidden in the score to He that Believeth… I’ll give you a hint, it’s in a scene that Kara’s not in). The erhu is featured prominently throughout this episode, but it plays both themes. And occasionally, the duduk or bansuri will play melodic elements of the Destiny theme. The intended result is that the two themes began to blur together, becoming harder to indentify individually.
The best example of Kara’s two themes at play comes in Act 3, during her scene in the brig with Leoben. When the music first enters, the duduk and erhu together state the Starbuck theme.
When Leoben leans forward and speaks of her childhood, the music changes as his words get through to her. This season, Kara has struggled to come to terms with her destiny. The woman she was before her supposed death may perhaps be gone forever. Her two themes represent both sides of her internal conflict. During this chilling conversation with Leoben, they intertwine and bounce back and forth, almost becoming one. The duduk and erhu split, the former playing statements of the Starbuck theme, while the latter plays Kara’s Destiny theme. The two melodies weave back and forth, in an almost fugal framework as Leoben’s words break down her defenses.
Gaius Baltar is another character with multiple themes, both of which are explored in this episode. In the last act, Gaius seeks out Tyrol and asks for his apology. His character often has sinister motives, which makes scenes like this (where he is genuinely vulnerable) all the more moving.
His honesty is evident as he says “I have committed unconscionable crimes,” and at this moment, the score sneaks in with the Original Baltar Theme, which dates all the way back to Season 1:
The tone of the scene shifts when he brings the focus back to Cally, confessing that he would have liked to have known her better. Here, the score returns to a subtle statement of the Spiritual Baltar Theme, first introduced in the season premiere: a mantra-like progression of C#, G7, Bm and A9.
Unlike Kara’s themes, which are musically unique, the two Baltar themes are very closely related. Indeed, the Spiritual Baltar Theme includes a complete quotation of his Original theme. And, this scene provided the perfect opportunity to represent a microcosm of Gaius’ journey thus far, from a selfish bastard who thinks only of himself, to a person who genuinely cares for his fellow man.
The Final Four theme returns again in The Road Less Traveled, first as Tory speaks with Tyrol in the airlock where Cally died.
However, one of my favorite occurrences of the Final Four theme thus far in season 4 is during Anders’ conversation with Leoben in the brig. Leoben asks “What is the most basic article of faith? That this is not all that we are.” Thus begins a chilling exchange where Anders suspects that Leoben may know he’s a cylon. While Leoben’s intentions are not overtly stated (big surprise there, right?), the Final Four Theme, combined with its signature electric sitar and tabla backdrop, provide a subtle underline to Anders’ paranoia.
The Road Less Traveled ends with a very energetic 3/4 taiko pattern, which for lack of a better name, I dubbed the Mutiny Riff. It’s not a theme, and it’s only featured in two episodes, but it did come to represent the rising tension between Kara and her crew.
It first appears at the end of Act 3, as Pike steps forward to call for a mutiny. Helo puts him in his place, but the problem is far from solved.
At the beginning of the episode’s final scene, Helo grapples with the realization that even his wife believes that Kara should be stripped of command. During their exchange, listen for several statements of the Helo Theme:
Even though its more of a series of chords than a real theme, it underscores not only the tension, but Helo’s internal struggle between his code of ethics, his loyalty to Kara and the facts on the ground.
Kara enters and before long the tension rises. As Helo firmly states “Galactica’s standing orders are clear,” the Mutiny Riff sneaks back in, adding a frantic urgency to the dialog. Kara relieves Helo and turns to Gaeta, who also refuses to follow her. Here, the stakes are raised, and the Mutiny Riff begins to accelerate, growing faster and faster until it reaches a break-neck pace, leading to the cut to black and the words Galactica fans hate to see at moments like this: “to be continued.”
But, fear not. We’re going to pick right up where we left off next week, where the Mutiny Riff is expanded into a full action scene.
On a side note, a few days ago I finished composing what is probably the greatest piece of music I’ve ever written for this series. I can’t talk about it now, but you’ll hear it soon.
So Say We All