Childhood Favorite Reborn.
As a not-quite 12 year old kid in the fall of 1978, I became a huge fan of the original “Battlestar Galactica”. I watched the series religiously, often sticking a tape recorder by the TV speaker to record it for later playback (VCRs were new in those days, and prohibitively expensive). I even remember going to see a slightly truncated two-hour theatrical version of the pilot movie multiple times (with “Sensurround”… a subwoofer carefully hidden behind the screen to make the low-end audio rumble). Cut to 2003. I’m in my 30s, preparing to watch the 2003 reimagined miniseries of “Battlestar Galactica” with considerable skepticism. Well, by the end of that first hour, I was hooked. Writer/producer Ronald D. Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica” (BSG) would became my favorite TV show of the new millennium to date. I would also get my wife and most of my friends hooked on it as well (my off-air VHS tape of the miniseries got a lot of circulation). There was a year-long gap between the miniseries and the debut of the first season, so there was plenty of time to get people to watch the mini before the actual show arrived. When season one was finally broadcast, we would all take turns hosting “BSG nights” at one of our houses every whenever a new episode debuted. This happened through most of the series run, with all of us gathering at my house for the 2009 finale, “Daybreak.” No television show since has ever had the attention of so many friends of mine at once. BSG was magic.
Taking a look back at nearly five years I’ve done this column, one subject I’ve been conspicuously quiet on is the 2003-2009 reimagining of “Battlestar Galactica.” I’ve discussed the the original “Battlestar Galactica” and even its uglier sibling Galactica 1980, but for some reason I’ve never got around to covering the pride of the Colonial fleet—Ron Moore’s brilliant reimagining, which reshaped Glen Larson’s family-friendly Star Wars-inspired TV series into a hard-hitting, at times brutal piece of socially relevant post-9/11 entertainment. I think the reason for the delay is because I have so much to say about this show that I’m afraid I can’t fit it all into one column. But here I am, attempting to impossible, starting with the 2003 miniseries that brought the franchise back in a bold new way.
At three-plus hours, even the miniseries was too big for a single column, so I’m chopping it in half; examining part 1 now, and part 2 very soon (look for it five days or so from the publishing date of this column).
******BATTLESTAR-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!******
The Miniseries, Part 1.
The miniseries opens with text informing us of the great Cylon War, which was fought 40 years earlier. We learn of a four-decade silent armistice that has existed between the Twelve Colonies of humanity and its would-be cybernetic usurpers. This was a new twist–the Cylons were no longer the robot offspring of alien lizards; they were humanity’s creation gone wrong (very interesting–an Oppenheimer twist to the story). We then see an original series-style Colonial shuttlecraft arrive at a lonely, unmanned armistice station located between the twelve worlds of humanity and Cylon space.
A single human officer (Ryan Robbins in age makeup) is unexpectedly met by a pair of sleek new robotic Cylon Centurions and a mysterious, statuesque blonde dressed in red (Tricia Helfer), who wonders aloud if the armistice officer is alive. He utters a quiet, shocked “yes” before she asks him to ‘prove it’ by kissing her passionately. During their awkward embrace, the station is nuked by a bat-wing Cylon fighter craft (which are now fully-automated spacecraft instead of piloted vehicles). The armistice station is destroyed, and the 40-year peace between humanity and Cylons is instantly shattered…
Note: Actor Ryan Robbins, who played the armistice officer, was only in his late 20s at the time, was aged (somewhat unconvincingly) by makeup since there were deleted scenes which showed his arrival at the armistice station, every year, for nearly 40 years—with the Cylons no-showing each time. There is also a picture on his desk of a woman and child actor Connor Widdows, who plays Boxey. It’s later inferred that Boxey is the son (or grandson) of the ill-fated armistice officer. Robbins would later appear, sans age makeup, as resistance fighter “Connor” in the third season.
After a rousing main title played over taiko drums, we are led on a virtual tour of the soon-to-be-decommissioned battlestar “Galactica,” an old warship from the Cylon War which is set to be converted into a museum. Preparing for the decommissioning ceremony, we see Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) reading his notes for a speech he is to deliver later on that afternoon. As he strides through the corridors, Adama is briefly met my his hotshot young pilot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), who is busily jogging her way through a crowd of touring visitors led by a press officer Aron Doral (Matthew Bennett). Along the commander’s walk, we also meet Adama’s troubled alcoholic executive officer Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) and straight arrow duty officer Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani)—a study in contrasts.
Note: Richard Gibbs does the music for the miniseries, which was (for the time) a very unconventional space opera score, eschewing Star Wars-style symphonics for a score that is more influenced by Peter Gabriel’s “Passion” album (Gabriel’s soundtrack music for “The Last Temptation of Christ”); according to the DVD audio commentary, Gabriel’s “Passion” was often used as temp tracks during post-production as a musical ‘guide’ for Gibbs. Many of the vocals in Gibbs’ music were written in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, which gives the music a timeless, mythical quality. This unconventional style of space genre music would be greatly expanded upon in the later series (2004-9) by gifted composer Bear McCreary (“The Walking Dead”), who also did some incidental music for the miniseries as well.
Arriving on the battlestar’s only remaining functioning hangar deck (the second hangar deck is now a gift shop/tourist area), Adama is met by his deck chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) who presents his commander with a retirement gift—his old “Mark II” Viper fighter craft, fully restored to flight status for a ceremonial flyby later on. Just as Adama expresses his gratitude, he is presented with one more gift—a framed photo of a much younger Adama and his two sons, Lee and Zack. An emotional Adama is humbled, and thanks Tyrol’s deck gang for the honors.
Note: As in the original, Adama’s son Zack (or Zac, as he was in 1978) is killed. In the 1978 version, we saw Zac (then played by future rockstar Rick Springfield) killed by the Cylons, but his death now occurs in a flight training accident several years earlier (and offscreen) in the miniseries. More on that later…
Note: The Mark II Viper is a sleeker, smarter updating of the original 1978 Vipers. The Mark IIs are smaller and more agile, using reaction control jets to better maneuver in the hard vacuum of space, as do real spacecraft (something the older versions never accounted for). If you look closely during flying scenes, you may notice that the air-intakes on the craft’s rear engines remain closed when the ships are flying in space—which makes sense, since there’s no air.
Later on, we see a card game below decks between Kara, a drunken Col. Tigh, the chief Viper pilot (John Mann), rookie Raptor pilot Sharon “Boomer” Valeri (Grace Park) and her electronics officer Karl “Helo” Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett). The card game quickly becomes personal between Kara and Tigh, who are bitterly antagonist towards each other—each knowing exactly how to push the others’ buttons. As Tigh berates Kara for her disorderly conduct, Kara brings up the colonel’s cheating wife and marital issues. After Kara gloats over winning a hand, Tigh goes nuts, knocking over the card table in a drunken rage. Kara decks the older man, and is immediately thrown into the brig by him. Adama later talked his exec into not pressing charges, since Tigh had started the fight. A sobering Tigh grudgingly obliges his old (and best) friend.
Note: Another big change between the old series and miniseries involves naming. TOS BSG had characters with single names, such as Starbuck, Apollo, Boomer, etc., whereas the new series would reimagine these old monikers as ‘callsigns’ (pilot nicknames, a tradition of the US navy). Nice way to keep some of the goofier names, while giving them some real-world legitimacy as well.
On the planet Caprica, the capitol world of the twelve colony worlds of humankind, Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) gets some very bad news; she has breast cancer, and her prognosis isn’t a good one. Struggling to get on with her day, Roslin then boards a trans-colonial flight to rendezvous with the Galactica, where she will be representing the cabinet of Colonial President Adar in the ship’s decommissioning ceremony.
Secretary Roslin is met aboard the flight by her young aide, Billy Kekeiya (Paul Campbell). The captain announces that the flight will take some five hours, and a distracted Roslin excuses herself to the ship’s washroom. In relative privacy, she feels the lump in her breast as the reality of her pending mortality hits her hard—she uses her brief time alone to enjoy a healthy cry.
Note: It’s an interesting notion to have science fiction deal with more traditional medical problems like cancer. In science fiction shows like Star Trek, cancer would be something quickly healed with the wave of a glowing tipped device from Dr. Crusher’s medkit, but in the BSG universe, cancer and faster-than-light space travel may not be mutually solvable. We humans have tiny computers that fit in our pockets, rovers on Mars and global communication satellites, yet our fragile bodies are still vulnerable to the common cold.
Back on Caprica, we see an exact lookalike of the mysterious blonde woman, aka “Six” (Helfer) who was killed on the armistice station. Six is elegantly dressed as she walks along an outdoor bazaar, where she sees a woman with her baby in a stroller. Asking the young mother if she can hold the baby, the mother agrees. As the baby cries in her arms, Six coos to the infant, assuring him that he “won’t have to cry much longer.” Those words alarm the mother, who politely takes her baby back into his stroller. As her husband calls out to her from another shop at the bazaar, the young mother is momentarily distracted. Six reaches into the stroller for the infant, and then leaves. With her attention turned back to her baby, the mother is horrified to realize that Six has broken the infant’s neck! The mother screams for help, as Six quietly flees, blending into the crowd.
Note: This scene is deeply disturbing, and is typical of the kind of no-punches pulled approach that Moore took with this reimagining of ABC’s more family-friendly 1978 version. The 1978 series worked well enough when I was 12, but Moore’s version is the one that resonated much more with me at age 37. It felt as though the core concept of the series had ‘grown up’ with me. No longer trying to overwhelm audiences with lavish visuals (as the original had), the new version adopts a grittier, handheld, almost quasi-documentary approach to the material.
The murderous Six then pays a visit to her lover, renowned cybernetics genius Gaius Baltar (James Callis), who is giving a TV interview from his home (foreshadowing how we do video conferencing in the current pandemic-era). After the interview, Six and Baltar quickly get naked for an afternoon of wild sex in his posh bachelor pad with a beautiful lakeside view. Six presses the otherwise engaged Baltar into confessing his love for her. Placating her with a lie, she mounts him, and we see Six’s spine begin to glow a very unnatural shade of crimson through the skin in her bare back…
Note: The sex in the miniseries is a far cry from the considerably more chaste kissing of the 1978 original, and the glowing spines seen in both the miniseries and first season (as the humanoid Cylons approached orgasm) were forgotten (or ignored) later on.
Cutting from hot sex to the cold of deep space, we see Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber), the pilot son of Commander Adama, preparing for a manual landing aboard his father’s ship to participate in the decommissioning ceremony fly-by business. Apollo is puzzled by the order for a “hands on” manual approach. Upon landing, he is met by Chief Tyrol, who tells the young captain that there are no automated landings aboard the old battlestar, per Commander Adama’s orders. Apollo seems irked at the very mention of his father’s name, and it’s clear there’s no love lost between them. Tyrol, who clearly has great affection for his commander, takes a visible disliking to the commander’s snootier son.
After his meeting with the younger Adama, Tyrol makes clears his hangar deck for an unstable landing by rookie Raptor pilot Boomer, who returns from a recon probe aboard her ship. Pilot Sharon (aka Boomer) and her copilot Helo are met by Tyrol, who loudly berates Sharon for her sloppy landing. As others on the flight deck smile and turn away, it’s clear that Tyrol’s dressing down of Boomer (soon to be literal) is just well-rehearsed foreplay. The two lovebirds then make their way to a secluded tool bay, where they begin frantic, forbidden, against-regulations sex (to be clear, Sharon is Tyrol’s superior officer, so sex between them is a big no-no).
Note: I have to say, watching the miniseries for the first time, it seemed like the excessive sex in its first act was less about character motivations and more about “let’s see what we can get away with now that we’re no longer a 1970s family show.” I’m not exactly a prude about such things in my entertainment, but it was almost comical how often characters were doing the horizontal tackle in the show’s first half-hour.
Back on Caprica, we see Six and Baltar strolling along the clean streets of the metropolitan Caprica City (Vancouver), as the arrogant Dr. Baltar crows about his new navigational program, now being used in most of the colonial fleet. Six deflates his ego a bit by reminding him that she rewrote half of his algorithms. Not fully reprimanded, Baltar reminds Six that allowing her such deep access gave her “company” an illicit advantage in the contract bidding war. Changing the topic, Six presses Baltar about matters of religion—which he despises. Baltar essentially tells Six that religion is something for primitives or emotional cripples. Disappointed by his lack of spirituality, Six leaves Baltar’s company, telling him she’s “meeting someone.” Feigning jealousy, she leaves his side and approaches an off-camera face, telling them, “It’s about time. I wondered when you’d show up.”
Cleverly cutting to a shot of a 1978-era Cylon Centurion in the Galactica’s converted starboard hangar bay-turned-museum gift shop, as Laura Roslin’s flight lands in the functional port hangar bay. Upon landing, Roslin and Billy are met by press liaison Doral and Commander Adama, who immediately rejects Roslin’s suggestion that he install an integrated computer network as an automated tour guide for visiting historians and students. Adama reminds Roslin that a lot of people died aboard the Galactica during the Cylon War because humanity let its cybernetic offspring become too intelligent. When Roslin accuses him of being a computer-phobe, he tells her there are many computers currently in use aboard Galactica, but they are not networked. Realizing where Adama is coming from, Roslin relents, and withdraws her request.
Note: If you look carefully at some of the objects in the starboard hangar bay gift shop, you may spot many Easter eggs from the original series, including a globe of the planet Carillon; the planet featured in the climax of the 1978 pilot, “Saga of a Star World.” There are also models of Cylon base stars and other visual references strewn about (you can spot them a bit easier with the HD 1080p resolution of the Blu Ray release).
Elsewhere on the ship, Lee visits Kara down in the ship’s brig. Smugly, he asks her what’s the charge “this time.” She smirks, and replies, “Striking a superior asshole.” After the awkward greetings, we learn that Kara was engaged to marry Lee’s younger brother, Zack, who died in a training accident while earning his wings as a Colonial pilot. We also learn that much of Kara’s self-destructive behavior is borne out of guilt, since she was Zack’s flight instructor as well as fiancée. Asking if Lee has visited his still-grieving father, Lee tells her he hasn’t. Lee still resents his old man for pressuring Zack into flight school. Kara presses, and it quickly becomes uncomfortable for both. Kara tells Lee to go away, because she’s feeling the urge to “strike another superior asshole.”
Lee then gets into his dress uniform for a photo session with his father for the press, since Lee is going to fly in a ceremony to inaugurate the Galactica’s retirement into a museum. The uncomfortable meeting between the estranged father and son is exasperated by Doral, who asks if the two can put their arms around each other. After the press leaves, Adama tries to engage Lee in a heart to heart, but Lee doesn’t budge, still nursing his grudge against his father for his role in Zack’s death, not realizing (or preferring not to realize) how much Zack’s death deeply wounded the elder Adama as well. Grievances are refreshed, and Adama coldly dismisses his unyielding son…
Note: It was a bold choice to make Lee “Apollo” Adama somewhat unlikable right out of the box, instead of the instantly heroic Apollo played by the late Richard Hatch, who would later guest-star as antihero Tom Zarek in the series. Lee Adama has a king-sized chip on his shoulders, and it gives him a clear arc for the miniseries as the Adama men are emotionally reunited later on, after Lee learns that it was Kara who was directly responsible for Zack’s accidental death (more on that in Part 2).
Later, we see a large crowd assembled in the hangar bay museum for the ceremonial flyover, led by Lee Adama in his father’s old Viper Mark II. The squadron effortlessly glides over an immense glass-paneled ceiling in the hangar deck, wowing the assembled crowd. Doral takes to the podium to introduce Commander Adama, as the commander prepares to give his speech. Starting with his lines about the Cylon War we heard him mumbling to himself earlier, he begins to stray off script, telling the crowd that that sometimes the price for wearing the uniform is “too high.” He also questions humanity’s right to “play God” when it created the Cylons, and that perhaps the war was the price humanity paid. Adama goes even further, telling the crowd that we still commit many of the same sins that led to the war in the first place, wondering aloud whether humanity is truly worthy of survival. His words are carried to the pilots participating in the flyover as well. The end of Adama’s daring speech is met by stunned silence and slow applause, initiated by Laura Roslin. Roslin will soon depart the Galactica aboard her spacecraft, with Apollo flying his father’s Mark II as a ceremonial escort back to Caprica.
Note: The theology of the miniseries is notably different from the series that followed less than a year later, as the producers hadn’t yet laid all the groundwork for Colonial culture in the pilot. The miniseries makes references to a single ‘God’ while the 2004-9 series changed Colonial society into a polytheistic culture, with references to multiple gods and goddesses, many of whom are named after Earth’s own gods of Ancient Greek mythology (Zeus, Artemis, Athena, Apollo, etc).
Back at Baltar’s lakeside estate on Caprica, Baltar is awakened in his bedroom by Six after a mid-afternoon tryst with a young woman. With a dead-eyed stare, Six coldly tells the woman to “get out” (echoing a line from 1984’s “The Terminator”). After she leaves, Baltar sheepishly tries to explain himself, but offers only meek apologies for his lack of character. Six isn’t concerned with his excuses. She’s there to tell him that “humanity’s children are coming home.” Outside the expansive bedroom windows overlooking the lake, there is a flash. Six later explains to Gaius that she is a Cylon, the sixth of twelve humanoid models. She then coolly explains to a nervous Baltar how the Cylons have exploited the backdoors to the defense mainframe that her access to his work allowed. Soon, there are TV news reports of nuclear bombs raining upon Caprica, and presumably the other colony worlds as well. After each successive report, there is a flash, followed by static. It’s the end of the world. Not thinking rationally, Baltar frantically tries to call his lawyer, but Six assures him that won’t be necessary—in an hour there will be no one left anyway. Tearfully, Baltar pleads for his life as Six quickly uses her body as a shield against an incoming wave of debris from a nearby mushroom cloud.
Note: It’s never made clear exactly how Six’s lithe body protected Baltar from a massive, rolling cloud of radioactive debris. Presumably, she was killed in that blast as well (as was made clear much later on in the series), but Baltar shouldn’t have survived it, either. Oh well—the magic of entertainment, I guess. At any rate, it makes for an interesting visual as she pushes Baltar’s body below her waist for protection.
An orbital view of Caprica shows the planet being cratered by mushroom clouds, as radioactive debris rises into the upper atmosphere. In the Galactica’s Combat Information Center (CIC), Lt. Gaeta tears an incoming report off of an obsolete computer printer, and immediately relays the message to Commander Adama in his quarters: “Cylon attack underway–This is no drill.” Adama acknowledges, and reports to the CIC.
Note: Rewatching the miniseries recently for this review, I was struck by how much more imminent a threat cybernetic hacking has become in the 18 years since BSG premiered; hacks into government computers, retailers and even national elections have become serious, legitimate means of combat in this century. What was once thought to be little more than a temporary inconvenience in the early 2000s is now able to cripple power plants, governments and social order with hacks and use of disinformation spambots. Even today, I am continually amazed by the sheer number automated scamming calls I get on my iPhone in a single day…
The ship’s klaxons blare, as the Colonial fleet is prepared for combat. Galactica isn’t technically a museum just yet, so she answers the call as well. In the CIC, Col. Tigh wonders what’s happened as a sullen Adama quietly hands him the report. Tigh laughs it off, thinking the fleet is pulling a “retirement prank” on the old man, but Adama knows that it’s not. Adama orders Kara Thrace out of the brig. The Galactica’s ammunition has been largely stripped for the decommissioning, so the vessel is largely defenseless.
Note: There is a deleted scene on the miniseries’ DVD and Blu Ray sets where the ship ejects and detonates its weapons core, as part of the official decommissioning.
Aboard Roslin’s passenger liner, she gets word from Billy that something is wrong. A passenger with a shortwave radio confirms that something has happened on the colony worlds—the Cylons have returned after 40 years, and have launched massive nuclear attacks on all 12 human planets. Roslin, realizing that President Adar and most of the government cabinet are most likely dead, makes the grim announcement to the rest of the ship’s passengers. Meanwhile, Lee “Apollo” Adama is flying escort for Laura Roslin’s passenger liner during during the attack and is jumped by Cylon fighters. Lee manages to take out his pursuers and save Roslin’s craft, but not before a nearby ordinance explosion cripples his fighter and he is forced to make an unpowered landing in the passenger liner’s cargo bay.
Note: The news of the colony’s destruction, which is largely seen offscreen, has a deliberate emotional resonance with 9/11; the events of that day are very clear to me, even though I was on an opposite coast. I saw images on TV of people jumping to their deaths from the collapsing Twin Towers in New York City. “Battlestar Galactica,” despite being a science fiction show, well captures the angst of that day as many of us non-New Yorkers watched what felt like images from an apocalypse playing out on our television screens.
As the Galactica’s entire squadron of Mark VII fighters divert from their ceremonial flyby to face the incoming horseshoe-shaped Cylon drone fighters, Boomer and Helo are using their Raptor’s DRADIS sweep (Colonial equivalent of radar) to ascertain the size of enemy defenses; Helo counts only five fighters. Confident they can destroy such a small grouping, the Mark VII Vipers move in for the attack, and are immediately shut down when the Cylon fighters open their front visors to emit a pulsing beam of red light that cripples all Colonial defenses. The powerless Vipers begin to bump helplessly into each other, and the Cylons destroy the entire fighter squadron with a single nuclear missile. Helo and Boomer watch helplessly from a safe distance, before they too are hit by a round of ordinance. Helo takes shrapnel in his leg, but is still “present” as he shouts to his pilot Boomer, who is forced to turn off their ship’s power systems to avoid detection as they drift to Caprica for repairs.
Note: The Cylon fighter’s opening visor and red beam is not merely an homage to the original series Cylons’ red visor LEDs, but also to the robot “Gort” in 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, when the large menacing robot’s visor would open up to emit a destructive beam of energy before closing again.
In the Galactica’s CIC, Adama tells a reporting Kara Thrace that there is still an entire squadron of obsolete Mark II Vipers in the starboard hangar bay’s museum. It’s now up to Tyrol’s ingenious deck gang to get them working again. Starbuck helps tow the museum pieces into the active port hangar bay for prep and launch. After several stalled aborts, Kara is finally launched into space to face the enemy in one of the antique Mark IIs.
Kara faces the new bat-wing Cylon fighters, and the Cylons immediately their remote shutdown beam on the Mark IIs, only to realize that the obsolete fighter craft cannot be hacked by their new weapon. Kara goes to town on the enemy, spraying them with bullets, managing a small bit of payback for their heavier losses. Despite Kara’s best flying, an incoming nuclear weapon slips past Kara’s squadron and hits the Galactica’s port landing bay, causing massive fires inside of the ship as well…
The CIC quickly recovers from the shock of the massive radioactive blow from the nuke (“the armor hull plating kept out most of the hard stuff,” Adama comments). However, the fire in the port hangar bay is a problem on two fronts; the port bay is the only operable hangar deck on the ship, and the fire is also creeping dangerously close to the ship’s main fuel lines. If ruptured, Galactica will be destroyed.
With too many other issues that demand his attention, Adama puts Tigh in charge of the damage control units fighting the fire. Realizing the ship has only moments till the fuel lines are compromised, Tigh makes a hard choice over Chief Tyrol’s passionate objection: seal off the forward compartments of the bay, and vent it into space. Tyrol argues he has almost a hundred people trapped in that section, but Tigh is adamant, however, forcing Tyrol to vent the compartment into space—killing dozens of his firefighting crew. Within seconds, the fire is out, but eighty-odd people are instantly killed. A still-seething Chief Tyrol blames Colonel Tigh’s seemingly heartless order for the death of his people, but Adama reminds the chief that he would’ve done exactly the same.
Note: Another of the many ways this version differentiates itself from its 1978 predecessor is that the deaths aboard the ship are keenly felt. While the original series also had a story about a fire aboard the ship (the unimaginatively titled “Fire in Space”), we didn’t see charred bodies, nor did we see the anguished command crew forced to kill dozens of crew members in order to save hundreds more. Interestingly, both versions ended their respective fires by exposing them to the vacuum of space (the quickest way to end a fire in a manned spacecraft), albeit in very different ways. The images of charred firefighters lost in the Galactica’s conflagration also strongly evoke memories of heroic firefighters lost on 9/11.
On Caprica, Helo and Sharon are making repairs to their Raptor’s leaking fuel line when they are approached by a mob of Caprican refugees, each of whom demands a seat on the Raptor. Sharon and Helo fire their weapons to bring the crowd under control. Realizing they can take some passengers when the ship is repaired, Sharon and Helo preselect all children in the crowd go aboard first, with the remaining four seats to be decided by lottery. Baltar is in the crowd, where he begins to hallucinate a version of Six wherever he looks. Helo recognizes the brilliant cyberneticist and offers him his seat, realizing that if humanity is going to survive, it will need geniuses like Dr. Baltar. Sharon objects, but the decision isn’t hers to make. Helo gives his seat to Baltar, who makes his way into the Raptor as it is prepped for liftoff. Panicked Capricans lunge at the departing vessel, but Helo shoots one of them in the leg as a warning. As the craft rises into the air, a tearful Sharon looks down upon her friend Helo, who solemnly looks skyward towards the departing Raptor…
Note: The character of Karl “Helo” Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett) wasn’t meant to survive the miniseries, but he proved very popular when the miniseries aired. By the time the first season of the series went into production, a subplot was added to show Helo’s struggle to survive in a post-holocaust Caprica. The character would eventually rejoin the fleet in the second season, after Kara disobeys orders and retrieves survivors left behind on Caprica. The characters of Helo and Sharon (another version of Sharon, anyway) proved vital to the finale of the series (“Daybreak,” Parts 1, 2 and 3) which aired in February of 2009.
Back aboard her passenger liner, Laura Roslin learns that the entire cabinet of President Adar’s government has been destroyed in the attacks upon the Colonies. As the last surviving cabinet member, a shaky-voiced Roslin arranges for a priest (Lorena Gale) aboard the vessel to swear her in as president of the Twelve Colonies. Taking command of their immediate situation, Laura decides to take the newly-minted “Colonial One” out to search for stranded spaceships left in transit between worlds during the attacks.
Note: The scene of Laura Roslin being sworn in as Colonial President was staged to echo the images of Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as President of the United States aboard the confines of Air Force One, following the assassination of then-president John F. Kennedy.
In the cockpit of Colonial One, the pilot receives an urgent message from the sole surviving battlestar commander in the Colonial fleet–Commander Adama—and he orders all combat units, including his son, to report to Galactica for a counterattack against Cylon forces. Adama manages to reach Lee aboard Colonial One and orders him to report back on the double. Lee, as stubborn as his father, refuses the order; telling his father that he’s currently engaged in rescue operations on the direct authority of the Colonial President.
Note: Since Lee’s real mother is presumed dead on Caprica, Laura almost unconsciously assumes the role of the nurturing parental figure. Lee’s conflict between Laura and Adama is similar to the tug of war some children feel between conflicting or divorced parents; the need to please one parent often means actively defying the will of another. Throughout the run of the series, series’ leads Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell were the parental figures of “Battlestar Galactica.”
Adama is furious that his son is “taking orders from a schoolteacher” during a time of war, but Lee is insistent. Before they have time to argue further, both parties spot an incoming Cylon fighter, headed directly for Colonial One. With his Viper Mark II out of commission, Lee asks Roslin for permission to go below decks. A nuclear missile is fired from the Cylon, and it’s rapidly closing on Colonial One’s position. Wide-eyed with horror, Adama watches the missile’s position on his DRADIS console and screams over his headset, “Apollo—Lee! LEE!!”
There is a burst of light and Colonial One is seemingly enveloped by energy. Adama looks down in despair, having just watched Colonial One disappear from DRADIS contact.
End of Part One.
The Shape of Things to Come.
Needless to say, the first two hours of the miniseries (90 minutes without ads) had me hooked. Everything I’d assumed about it was dead wrong. This wasn’t some watered down retread of a 1970s cult TV classic—Ron Moore and coproducer David Eick took the bare skeleton of the original idea and created something almost entirely new. 2003’s BSG miniseries was hard-hitting and socially relevant to the post-9/11 age. Ron Moore chafed at the limits of what he was able to do within the trappings of Star Trek (Next Gen and Deep Space Nine), but now that he had his own space mythology to explore? He took it and ran with it. In the new BSG series’ bible (writers’ guide), Moore said he wanted nothing less than a total reinvention of the space opera genre. It’s clear that even in the first two hours of the miniseries, he achieved that goal.
The first half of the two-part miniseries saw thicker action as the colonies and colonial fleet are destroyed, while the second part would lay more of the foundations for the series that eventually followed. I will continue this write-up/analysis of the “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries in Part 2, including a few photos from my own close encounters with the cast of the show.
To Be Continued…
“Battlestar Galactica” can be streamed via Peacock.com (free), TubiTV.com (free) and Amazon Prime Video. To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States are just over 565,000 as of this writing. Meanwhile, several vaccines have been developed and inoculations have began in earnest (I myself have already received my second shot of Moderna vaccine), but it will take time for a healthy level of global immunity. Even with vaccines, the overall situation is not fully safe. Many questions remain regarding the coronavirus variants, or if vaccines fully prevent unwitting transmission from an asymptomatic carrier. So for the time being, please continue to practice social safe-distancing as often as you can, wear masks in public, and avoid overly crowded (and unmasked) outings as much as possible. If fully vaccinated, some gatherings and less-crowded social events are possible. Take care, follow CDC guidelines and be safe.
So say we all!