Previously, on Battlestar Galactica…
In my previous column, I did a write-up/review of the first half of the 2003 reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries. Part 1 of the rebooted miniseries is definitely the more action-packed of the two, while Part 2 establishes the direction for the series going forward. Without further ado, let’s get right into the BSG miniseries second half…
******BATTLESTAR-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!******
The Miniseries, Part 2.
Part One ended with the destruction of the 12 colonies, the loss of the Colonial fleet (save for Galactica), a fire aboard the Galactica that killed over 80 crewman, and the apparent loss of the newly-sworn in Colonial President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) aboard Colonial One from a Cylon nuclear missile. Part One dealt with the traumatic loss of the colonies and their protective military fleet. Part Two deals with the fallout from those events, as well as the hard choices going forward—the choices that determined the course of the eventual series a year later.
Note: We would later learn that the battlestar Pegasus would also survive the destruction of the Colonial fleet in the 3 part “Pegasus” arc of Season 2, as well as the 2007 BSG TV-movie, “Razor.” The 1978 original series originally featured the survival of the battlestar Pegasus with a ‘Patton in space’ story called “Living Legend, Parts 1 and 2.”
Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), aboard the last surviving battlestar Galactica, just saw Colonial One, with his son aboard, disappear off the DRADIS screen. His oldest friend and exec, Col. Sigh Tigh (Michael Hogan) tries to comfort his clearly distraught commander, who quickly composes himself and orders the ship to resume its planned faster-than-light jump to the remote Ragnar Anchorage Weapons depot orbiting a distant gas giant planet.
Note: The brief moment where Col Tigh puts comforting hands on the shoulders of his old friend Bill Adama speaks volumes to their friendship. Despite Col. Tigh’s flaws (alcoholism, weakness, bad disposition, etc) he steps up during the crises of the miniseries, effectively making tough calls regarding the fire aboard ship, as well as taking a moment to comfort his grieving friend—as if he were transferring some of that newfound strength to the distraught Adama, who clearly needed it. A small, but profound moment.
The story then cuts to the returning Viper Mark II pilots, who’ve just learned their old ‘museum pieces’ are immune to Cylon hacking–the first drop of good news in an ocean of bad. We see Kara (Katee Sackhoff) landing her badly battered Mark II in Tyrol’s hangar deck, where she’s pissed at deckhand Prozna for failing to tighten a gimbal on her ship. Chief Tyrol (Aron Douglas) meets her anger with solemnity, telling her that Prozna, along with many others, is dead. Reassessing her priorities, Kara bites her tongue and asks how many were lost. 85 is the grim tally. Sensitive to the illicit against-regs romance between the Chief and rookie pilot Sharon (Grace Park), Kara asks if there is any word on Sharon, and Tyrol turns to stone—gruffly rebuking deckhand Cally (Nikki Clyne) when she later asks if he’s okay.
Note: This scene begins to deal with the losses, after the gut punches suffered by the characters in Part 1. Adama, in his earlier address to the ship’s crew, told them to “mourn the dead later,” and this is where they begin to do just that.
The Galactica is about ready to attempt its first faster-than-light jump in decades, as the crew of the almost-museum ship sets a course for the Ragnar Anchorage weapons depot. After navigation officer Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) inserts a set of keys into the navigation station, the entire crew braces for the jump, as we see Cally nervously sitting on the hangar deck saying, “I hate this part.” The landing pods retract, and the ship groans under the strain. We see a curious distortion of physical space, and in a massive flash, the ship folds spacetime itself; instantly arriving in orbit over the Ragnar Anchorage. The CIC crew begin handshakes and congratulations as the crew prepares to refill the ship’s depleted ammunition.
Note: The spacetime jump-distortion effect (which appears to make the characters and ship both stretch and shrink) is an old trick used most famously by Alfred Hitchcock in 1954’s “Vertigo” whenever actor Jimmy Stewart felt a rush of the titular sensation. The camera is laid on dolly track, and then pulls back slowly just as the lenses zoom closer. This trick was also used famously by Steven Spielberg in 1975’s “Jaws,” when Roy Scheider incredulously witnesses a shark attack in the waters off the beach. Much like Galactica herself, director Michael Rymer (“Queen of the Damned”) employs a few old tricks to tell his 21st century space epic. Rymer would become a semi-regular director of the later BSG series as well.
Cutting back to Colonial One, which appeared to be destroyed by a Cylon nuke, we see that Capt. Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) managed to save the ship at the last second by activating one of Galactica’s old electric pulse generators that were (conveniently) in the storage bay of Colonial One. After getting knocked to his feet by the blast, a quickly recovering Apollo tells President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and the ship’s pilot (Barclay Hope) that he managed to activate the pulse generator, which sent an electromagnetic blast; the blast tricked the Cylons into thinking they destroyed the ship. Since the Cylons retreated, it appears to have worked. Roslin tells Lee she won’t worry about asking followup questions and simply thank Apollo for “saving our collective asses.” She and Apollo then begin coordinating with the rest of their salvaged fleet rescued in transit between worlds, including a valuable tylium refinery ship (tylium was the name of the imaginary ore fuel from the original 1978 series, but it’s now pronounced “till-ee-um,” instead of “tye-lee-um”).
Note: On the audio commentary of the DVD, writer Ron Moore says that the technobabble Lee spouts to Laura about his triggering the electromagnetic pulse (thanks to a very convenient generator nearby) was something he wasn’t pleased with writing. Lee’s implausible-sounding bit of technobabble sounds like something from the mouth of Geordi La Forge rather than a character on BSG. However, as Adama might say, even the writers have to occasionally “roll the hard six.”
The sequence that follows the jump is a rare musical montage, but not the schlocky “Baywatch” kind where characters run in slow motion to a pop song. BSG’s take on the musical montage is far more somber, as the crew has a few moments of rare downtime to mourn the dead. We see Kara Thrace opening her locker in the crew barracks, pulling out a photo of herself with her late fiancé Zack Adama, and his brother Lee. Still thinking Lee is dead, she offers a prayer to the Lords of Kobol to watch after the souls of those lost, including Lee Adama. It’s one of the rare instances in the miniseries where we see the hard-drinking, cigar-chomping Kara show genuine vulnerability and pain. Actress Katee Sackhoff hits those painful emotional beats with power and authenticity. Reimagining the character of “Starbuck” as a woman might’ve been one of the best ideas of the reboot in my opinion (despite its unpopularity at the time), as it allowed for the casting of Sackhoff in the role. This version of Starbuck is much deeper and more complex than the Brett Maverick clone of the 1978 series.
Note: The “Lords of Kobol” is a religious reference used in the original series of BSG (TOS), which also worshipped these beings as demigods in their religion. TOS also had the twelve colonies being named after 12 of the 13 constellations in the Zodiacal belt of our nighttime sky here on Earth (the 13th Zodiac constellation being the often ignored Ophiuchus). Unlike TOS, which used the names more for their kitschy astrological value, the new series actually makes an intriguing mythology out of those 12 names, as well as their corresponding positions in Earth’s nighttime sky (see: Season 2’s “Home”). The Colonial birth planet of “Kobol” (seen at the end of Season 1 and in TOS) is an anagram of the name Kolob—a planet in the Mormon religion. It’s not hard to guess that TOS creator Glen Larson was a devout Mormon.
During this mournful montage (with haunting ancient Sanskrit lyrics played to a musical track called “The Dead” on the miniseries soundtrack), we also see the starboard landing bay museum ‘gift shop’ converted to a mass morgue for all the recovered bodies of lost crew. Landing Safety Officer (LSO) Captain Kelly (Ty Olssen) collects dog tags of the dead and walks up and down the rows of body bags assembled on the deck. Meanwhile, the Galactica orbits within the stormy upper atmosphere of the gas giant planet Ragnar as it successfully docks with the munitions depot in orbit over the planet. After achieving hard seal, Adama tells Chief Tyrol to “Get me some bullets, Chief.”
Note: Ty Olssen, as LSO Captain Kelly, offers a strong performance of grief in this scene without uttering a single word. His character would make it to the 4th season of the show, though he was used all-too sparingly.
President Roslin and ‘Captain Apollo’ (her preferred nickname for Lee Adama) tour the many ships gathered in transit from colonial space following the attack. One of the ships is a botanical cruiser, with live gardens in atmospheric domes attached to its outer hull. Aboard the ship, Roslin befriends a very young girl named Cami (Ginger Page). Cami is traveling with her grandparents, who aren’t doing well following news of the attacks. As Apollo works on an engineering survey of the surviving ships, Laura makes a promise to the ship’s captain (and to Cami) that their “needs will be attended to.” Unfortunately the botanical cruiser is one of several rescued ships that doesn’t have a faster-than-light drive. Later, back aboard Colonial One, Laura suggests transferring all persons from the sub-light vessels to the FTL ships as soon as possible. This order is complicated as several Cylon fighters arrive unexpectedly and rapidly close in on the civilian fleet. With no time remaining, Lee prompts Laura to make the first of many hard decisions to come. Realizing he’s right, Roslin orders the FTL-capable ships to jump to safety at the Galactica’s last known position at Ragnar—leaving the sub-light vessels and their passengers at the mercy of the Cylons. We see Cami blissfully playing with her rag doll, while Laura realizes she has willfully condemned the child to death (along with thousands more) as Colonial One and the FTL ships jump to safety.
Note: The miniseries gives us a hard look at the human cost of Laura’s decision. As the Cylons close in on the sub-light vessels, we hear the panicked radio chatter of the civilians aboard those ships, some of them hoping that Roslin and the others “rot in hell” for what they’ve done to them. The final image of the sequence is of little Cami, playing with her rag doll, just as the image flares to white—suggesting a nuclear blast. Once again, Ron Moore and director Michael Rymer pull no punches.
Aboard the Ragnar station, Tyrol and his deck gang turn on the station’s internal power and begin immediately loading the plentiful munitions onto Galactica. They also learn they have a surprise visitor on the station as well—a freelance arms dealer named “Leoben” (Callum Keith Rennie) who was planning on selling the station’s weapons to the highest bidder. The crew infers Leoben was trapped at the station when the attacks broke out. After the deckhands disarm Leoben, Adama boards the station and confronts the would-be arms merchant, who is sweating and pale. “You don’t look so good,” notes Adama. Refusing to negotiate for the station’s weapons, Adama tells his crew to resume loading them onto the Galactica. Tyrol’s deckhands stack some armaments too high on a pallet jack, and one of the grenades rolls onto the floor! The device goes live and detonates, fusing the doorway to the corridor where Adama was interrogating Leoben. Forced to work with Leoben for survival, Adama orders his crew not to worry about him and continue arming the ship… he and his newfound ‘partner’ will find another way out. As Adama forces him to walk ahead, Leoben laughs off the older man’s innate distrust and paranoia.
Note: The exact circumstances for Leoben being trapped with Adama in the corridor of the station are a bit contrived, but they also illustrate that despite the Galactica crew’s best intentions, they are capable of making all-too human mistakes. The Cylon “Leoben” model, of course, would be an ongoing character in the series later on as well, where he would show a particularly unhealthy interest in Kara Thrace, whom he meets in Season 1’s “Flesh and Bone” and later imprisons inside a bizarre domestic setup in Season 3’s New Caprica arc.
As the two are nearly at the end of their long walk around the station, Adama gets a very bad feeling about Leoben. Adama deduces that Leoben’s “allergies” are due to electromagnetic radiation from Ragnar rotting the silica pathways to his artificial Cylon brain. The facade is dropped, and Leoben comes clean; he is a Cylon in humanoid form, and even if Adama kills him, his downloaded consciousness will simply resurrect in a new body elsewhere. Feigning weakness, Leoben then unexpectedly grabs Adama by the neck, hoisting him off his feet. The fight soon turns very ugly, with the stronger, synthetic adversary seeming to have the advantage. Adama turns the tide by using the heavy, military-grade flashlight in his hand as weapon, beating the Cylon senseless with it. Even after Leoben is down, we see Adama savagely smashing Leoben’s head into a bloody pulp–with Cylon blood spattering across Adama’s enraged face.
Note: The fight between Adama and Leoben is very different the more sanitized, well-choreographed (and telegraphed) fights we see so often in traditional space operas. It’s vicious, brutal and ugly—more Martin Scorsese than Gene Roddenberry.
President Roslin’s fleet, including the tylium refinery ship, arrive at the Galactica’s position. Chief Petty Officer Dualla (Kandyse McClure) confirms to acting commander Colonel Tigh that the ships are ‘friendlies.’ Captain Apollo and the president meet with Col. Tigh in Galactica’s ward room to discuss the tactical situation. Right off, there is tension between military and civilian leadership, as the president orders Tigh to assist with rescue operations, transferring sick and injured to Galactica. Tigh is intransigent, insisting that he has a war to fight. Roslin tells him bluntly that the war is over—they’ve lost. It’s time to heal their wounds. Apollo intervenes, acting as mediator between Roslin and the military. He asks Tigh to to allow two (and only two) of Galactica’s disaster pods to aid in the transfer of sick and wounded. Tigh grudgingly relents. The embittered executive officer then orders Lee to report to the pilot’s ready room as the Galactica’s new senior pilot (aka CAG, or Carrier Air Group commander). As duty calls, Captain Apollo leaves the president’s side—for now.
Note: This is the first, but hardly the last time we see the civilian and military leadership clash in the series—it most famously reaches a head at the end of Season 1 when Adama orders Colonial Marines to board Colonial One and place President Roslin under arrest. Lee actually takes up arms against his shipmates to protect what he recognizes as the legitimate civilian leadership of the survivor fleet (a soldier’s first oath–to defend their nation’s constitution). Over the 4 season course of the series, Roslin and Adama eventually become very close—in fact, she becomes the love of his life. It’s a long and very interesting journey ahead…
After the ammo is secured aboard Galactica, a bloodied Adama returns to the ship with Leoben’s corpse, telling Col. Tigh the bad news—the Cylons now have the technology to make perfectly human-looking infiltrators. This bit of bad news is instantly classified to avoid panic. Despite the bad news getting worse, there is cause for optimism as we see a series of reunions taking place aboard the ship. Sharon “Boomer” Valeri (Grace Park) returns alive and embraces her star-crossed lover Tyrol in one of the corridors. She then introduces the Chief to a boy she rescued from Caprica named “Boxey” (Connor Widows). Boomer tells the chief to give the orphaned kid temporary quarters aboard ship.
Note: The character of Boxey was another legacy from TOS BSG. In the original version, Boxey (Noah Hathaway) was the son of single mother Caprican journalist Serina (Jane Seymour) who later married Apollo (Richard Hatch). Serina was killed early on in the series, and Apollo became a single father to Boxey. Even in the original series, the character of Boxey would make increasingly infrequent appearances over the course of that series’ single season, before finding new life as the adult renamed character of “Troy” (Kent McCord) in the mercifully short-lived abomination known as “Galactica 1980“. In the reimagined BSG, the slightly older Boxey (who looks closer to 11 instead of 6) only appeared in a couple more episodes before being written off the series for good. It’s assumed he found a permanent adoptive family elsewhere in the fleet, or perhaps he reunited with a surviving relative (?).
The reunions continue as Dualla is reunited with Roslin’s young aide Billy Keikeya (Paul Campbell), a face she met ever-so-briefly in Part 1 before the attacks began, as a lost Billy accidentally found himself in the officer’s washroom just as Dualla was partly undressed. She teased the young man at that time, but now kisses him passionately—grateful to see a familiar face among the survivors of this horrific holocaust.
Note: Strangers embracing was a reaction seen after 9/11, when survivors of the attacks in downtown Manhattan would simply hug each other—giving in to that primal human need to share grief. There are also the famous images from LIFE magazine as military service personnel kissed total strangers in New York’s Times Square when the end of World War 2 was formally declared.
Another reunion takes place on the Galactica’s port hangar deck as Lee Adama makes his way to see Kara Thrace, who is busy repairing her life-saving Mark II Viper. As a smiling Lee looks down, Kara pulls herself out from the undercarriage of the spacecraft and stands to meet her new CAG. Despite their clear relief (and joy) at seeing each other alive, they refrain from hugging, as there is still an odd tension between them… a combination of past grievances and a strong hint of sexual tension, with Lee feeling some measure of guilt for being attracted to his late brother’s fiancée. Kara laughs off Lee’s promotion, saying she wouldn’t want to be CAG–she’s not “a big enough dipstick for the job.” Lee then goes off to visit his dad.
Note: You could slice through the thick sexual tension between these two with the dullest of butter knives.
Up in the CIC, Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) is still being haunted by the persistent vision of his Cylon lover Six (Tricia Helfer), whom he’s seen nonstop since fleeing Caprica aboard Sharon’s Raptor in Part 1. Baltar, with his cybernetic expertise, is immediately making himself useful by purging his compromised navigation program software from the ship’s memory, as well as from the few remaining Mark VII Vipers. Lt. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) offers a sympathetic ear to the scientist, who barely hears the young officer over the sounds of head-Six’s taunting. Six draws Baltar’s attention to a familiar device at the bottom of the DRADIS console in the CIC: a small plastic object that he remembered seeing in her handbag on Caprica once. Immediately Gaius realizes that it might be a listening device or perhaps even a bomb. He could alert Gaeta and the others to its presence, but only at the risk of exposing himself, so he creates a scapegoat. Noticing the unfettered access of press liaison Doral (Matthew Bennett) in the CIC, he decides to concoct some connection between Doral’s presence and the device under the console.
Note: I much prefer the 2003 version of Baltar; a man driven almost entirely by greed, sexual appetite and other weaknesses, as opposed to the late John Colicos’ version in the original, who seemed to have some vague, ill-defined hatred for his fellow humans that never really made any sense. What did Colicos’ Baltar desire, anyway? To sit atop a throne as the only human being on a ship full of machines? That Baltar just never made sense to me, even as a 12 year old in 1978.
One more reunion takes place, and it’s a big one—Lee Adama and his estranged father. We see Lee, alone in Commander Adama’s quarters, quietly rehearsing what he might say, just as the elder Adama enters the room and takes his son into his arms without hesitation. Lee is just as glad to see his old man, and they dissolve into a heartfelt, wordless embrace between father and son. Lee, ever one to ruin a moment, looks like he’s ready to say something, but Bill Adama simply says, “Let’s save this for later, son.” The two of them let a rare perfect moment be.
With her Mark II Viper fully repaired, Kara prepares to take it on patrol beyond Ragnar’s upper atmosphere and look for Cylons. As she’s about to be sealed into her ship’s canopy, Lee reminds her that her mission is strictly reconnaissance; no heroics. She tells him her appetite for heroics died some time ago. Things soon turn both painful and awkward when Kara confesses to Lee that she is the one responsible for Zack’s death, because she failed to ground him for his sloppy flying technique which led to his death. Lee is taken aback, almost too stunned to speak, but he manages to ask, “Why are you you telling me this, why now?” Kara retorts, “It’s the end of the world, Lee. I thought I’d confess my sins.” With her secret finally out of the bag, she angrily slides her canopy shut and launches, leaving a speechless Lee behind…
Note: Interesting that Lee didn’t immediately go to his father with this newfound revelation of Kara’s, though Commander Adama would learn the truth about Zack a few episodes down the line in Season 1’s painful “Act of Contrition.” After learning of her role in Zack’s death, all the affection between the Commander and his crazy pilot Starbuck quickly evaporates (though it returns when Kara nearly sacrifices her life to save some trainees, redeeming her past mistake with Zack).
Baltar frames Doral as a possible Cylon agent, and a squad led by Captain Kelly places Doral in custody. The lies fly fast as Baltar, who had access to Leoben’s corpse, falsifies reports to corroborate a story about “tissue samples” he gathered discreetly in the CIC. He says that Doral’s own hair samples matched the synthetic markers found in Leoben’s corpse. Doral, handcuffed to the bars in his cell, desperately protests his inhumane treatment, but Tigh takes Baltar’s word over Doral’s pleading. Head-Six appears to Baltar, congratulating him on his deception, just as Baltar mentions to Tigh (almost in passing) that he noticed Doral was unusual paying attention to an “odd device” in the CIC. His framing of Doral is complete, and Baltar manages to evade justice while securing himself an invaluable position as a Cylon “expert” aboard Galactica. The device is later removed harmlessly from the CIC and handed over to Baltar for analysis. Col. Tigh orders that security-risk Doral be left behind at Ragnar Anchorage with food and water, but no chance of rescue.
Note: There is an inconsistency between the miniseries and the later first season; Baltar mentions in the brig scene that he’s already developed a unique tissue analysis method for detecting Cylons, yet early on in the first season, it’s revealed that no such “Cylon detector” exists, and he is forced to create one later on. Didn’t Baltar get called out for his claim of already having a foolproof means of Cylon detection?
In the ship’s ward room, Roslin finally meets with Commander Adama and she wonders aloud if the commander is contemplating a coup against her. Adama impassively refutes her suggestion, telling the new president that his sole priority is to repair the Galactica for a counterattack against the Cylons. Laura is amazed that both Tigh and now Adama fail to grasp the obvious. She reasserts that “the war is over… we lost.” President Roslin’s priority for the human race is to find a safe haven on a new planet somewhere, and have lots of babies—a chance for life over bloody payback. Adama noncommittally tells her he’ll consider her suggestions.
Note: While the miniseries sets up the typical ‘hawk vs. dove’ conflict between the military and civilians, Adama and Roslin’s relationship is far more complex in the series that followed, with Roslin often taking the hardliner reactionary position over Adama’s own admitted “soft touch.”
Kara’s lone patrol gives positive confirmation of a massive Cylon counterforce hovering just outside the protection of Ragnar’s upper atmosphere, where the Galactica and the civilian fleet are currently hiding. Back in the CIC, Commander Adama, Lt. Gaeta and Col. Tigh strategize over their next course of action. Adama realizes they have to engage the Cylons if they are to escape from Ragnar and look for a new home. While the officers present tactical options, Adama is momentarily distracted by the sight of Billy flirting with Dualla, and Roslin’s words begin to sink in; if the human race is to survive, they better start making babies. The war is over, and any attempt to reclaim the irradiated, destroyed 12 colonies would be a deadly exercise in futility.
Adama tells his stunned officers that they’re not going back to their home star system, and he asks Gaeta to discreetly plot a course to the Prolmar sector—an uncharted region far beyond known space. He intends to use Galactica and its Vipers as a distraction to engage the Cylons, while the civilian vessels jump to the prearranged rendezvous point in the Prolmar sector.
Note: It’s very refreshing to have a sci-fi commander/captain who’s big enough to admit when they’re wrong. Once Adama sees beyond his own bloodlust for revenge, he clearly sees that Roslin was right and he was wrong—simple as that.
Action stations! The klaxons blare and the Vipers are launched. Galactica then turns its heavily armed dorsal section towards the awaiting Cylon fleet—its defensive batteries providing cover fire for the Vipers as they engage single Cylon fighters. With the ship fully rearmed, she’s ready for combat.
Note: Some of the 2003 CGI effects are slightly dated, but this is only because I rewatched the miniseries on a 7 ft. projector screen. Using some of the cannon shell-perspectives pioneered in the Star Wars prequels, the battles of BSG also use shaky-cam and other tricks to give the audience a real sense that this is a space battle ‘documentary.’ Later episodes of BSG would even see an explosion ‘knock out’ a virtual camera somewhere in the fleet.
There are significant losses, as the ships in the civilian fleet begin to jump away. The goal of this attack is not to completely destroy the enemy Cylon forces, but only to stall them long enough for the fleet to escape. After most of the ships have jumped away, Vipers begin retreating back to Galactica, which is nearly ready to jump away itself until Lee’s fighter is damaged by Cylon ordinance. With much of his maneuverability gone, Lee sees a single Cylon warhead coming straight for the canopy of his crippled Viper…
That’s when Kara swoops in and blasts both the missile and the Cylon that fired it. With most of the fighters safely back aboard the ship, Kara and Lee are the last two pilots remaining in the battle. After a pep talk with Commander Adama, Kara flies off to ‘rescue’ Lee by colliding her Viper with his, locking their noses and wings together in a kind of fighter craft hug (metaphor?) She uses her craft’s engines to land both of their fighters aboard Galactica.
Note: The attack craft of the 2003 reboot use hard ammunition instead of traditional sci-fi lasers and other fictional weaponry. Firing any kind of live hard ammunition into the airless void of outer space, with no atmosphere or gravity to arc a bullet’s trajectory, would be unbelievably dangerous. Each post-combat zone would be a hazardous cloud of high-speed shrapnel and ammunition zipping past at thousands of miles per hour for who knows how long. Kessler syndrome at its worst.
With Lee as her unwilling ‘wingman’ (hehe…see what I did there?) Kara manages to crash-land the two locked Vipers onto the flight deck just before the entire flight pod retracts, and the Galactica jumps away to rejoin the civilian Colonial fleet.
Note: Starbuck and Apollo being the last two Vipers to return from the battle is one of the rare beats lifted directly from the 1978 pilot, where the original Apollo and Starbuck’s bluff caused a base-star to fire at the unstable planet Carillon, destroying itself. In the 2003 reboot, the goal is not to destroy a Cylon base ship, but merely to survive and see another day. The two pilots are there for each other, not some ‘ultimate objective.’ This is much more in keeping with the heavier sense of realism that permeates the BSG reboot.
The fleet is temporarily safe as the civilian ships surround the heavily armed mothership Galactica for their own protection. Colonial One hovers nearby as well.
Note: The number of ships in the new ‘rag-tag fleet’ went down from 220 in the 1978 version to a more manageable 60 or so in the 2003 miniseries, and some of those new ships would be lost over the course of the series (the Olympic Carrier and Cloud Nine, to name two examples). Many of the other ships in the civilian fleet were directly inspired by TOS designs, including the fleet’s mineral ship (several round, flat pods linked together with landing struts), the Rising Star (a luxury liner), the freighter Gemini and the Colonial Movers’ ship (the latter two vessels look like flying collections of railway box cars).
Aboard the Galactica’s starboard flight deck, the priest Elosha (Lorena Gale) leads the assembled civilians and military personnel in prayer for the dead bodies draped before them on the deck. She reads some comforting words from the “sacred scrolls” and ends her session prayer to the Lords of Kobol with a customary “So say we all.“ The assembled crowd mutters a defeated “So say we all” in response.
Note: “So say we all” is this universe’s equivalent of “amen,” which is used to conclude various Christian, Judaic and Islamic rituals in our own universe. “Sacred scrolls” was an indirect reference to the simian society’s religious records in 1968’s “Planet of the Apes.”
At the head of the crowd, Commander Adama is incensed by the faint response of those gathered in the hangar bay. He turns to face the crowd and once again shouts, “So say we all!” Eliciting only slightly more enthusiasm than Elosha, Adama shouts the phrase repeatedly, until the crowd is roaring it back to him in unison. Gesturing to the draped bodies on the deck, Adama asks, “These are the lucky ones… that’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it?” He then tells the dispirited survivors that there is a refuge, a safe haven unknown to the Cylons. Adama asks Elosha if she is familiar with the planet settled by the lost thirteenth tribe—the almost forgotten legend of a planet called “Earth.” Elosha is familiar with the legend, while Adama insists he knows where the planet is located. Piquing her interest, Adama reveals that Earth was a well-kept military secret, deliberately classified during the first Cylon War, some forty years earlier. With this carrot placed at the end of the stick, the crowd’s enthusiasm begins to transform into genuine hope. President Roslin smiles with the crowd’s newfound cheering, but remains skeptical.
Note: Commander Adama’s big reveal of Earth’s existence is a plot twist that occurred about a third of the way into the 1978 pilot, with Lorne Greene gently reassuring the gathered survivors that the legends of the thirteenth colony of Earth were true; that version of Adama genuinely believed that, as well. In this version, a much angrier and more passionate Adama is lying—and he later admits as much to President Roslin. The anger with which Olmos’ Adama addresses the crowd was an unscripted tonal change by the actor, who thought the extra zeal was necessary for his character to ‘sell’ this lie. It’s a smart choice that gives the scene a palpable energy it might’ve otherwise lacked. Adama also begins his spiel about Earth with a line from the classic series’ intro: “life here began out there…” That intro was spoken by famed actor Patrick Macnee (“The Avengers” TV series), who would voice TOS BSG’s Cylon “Imperious Leader” (a misuse of the word “imperious”) and the evil Count Iblis (“War of the Gods”).
After Adama’s rousing speech on the hangar deck, the feeling of renewed hope sparks others to try and make amends for past mistakes. Col. Tigh visits the pilot quarters to see Kara Thrace. Congratulating her on her flying in the last offensive, he then offers a meek apology for knocking over the card table and throwing her in the brig. He expects her to return the apology in kind, but he forgets this is Kara Thrace. Kara asks permission to speak freely, which Tigh grants; she then calls him a weak bastard, and tells him she’s not interested in reconciliation. Seething at the young pilot’s arrogance, Tigh angrily tells her she’s back on flight status—however long that lasts, he snorts, before leaving in disgust.
Note: In Season 3’s “New Caprica” arc, we see Tigh and Starbuck becoming old friends in the year following the settlement of their (temporary) new home. It’s almost as weird as seeing Kara with long hair and civilian clothing.
We then see Laura in Adama’s quarters, where the president confronts the commander about his rousing if misleading speech in the hangar deck. She tells him that she and President Adar had discussed the ‘legends’ of Earth, and that he knew nothing about it. So if the president of the colonies knew nothing about the location of Earth, it’s even less likely that a retiring military commander would as well. With surprising candor, Adama confesses that she’s right—he made the whole thing up. It’s not even to live, he explains; you have to give the people something to live for. She agrees to keep his dangerous secret as long as he agrees to respect her authority as leader of the civilian government. They agree on a handshake and that is the end of it—for now.
Note: I’ve always loved that conceit of both the classic series and the reboot; that our own world and its history are all part of some remote legend somewhere “beyond the heavens.”
After her confrontation with Tigh, we see Kara open her locker and pull out her photo of herself and the Adama boys, carefully un-creasing the image of Lee, whose part of the photo was folded back when he was angrier at him. Grabbing a stogie, Kara lays in her bunk and contemplates a possible future with her new CAG and almost brother-in-law…
Note: The photo’s corners are trimmed off, like all paper products in the fleet, because the production team joked that they had to “cut corners” wherever they could (get it? Cut corners…?). Katee Sackhoff also confirmed at a convention appearance that she was glad to see the cigars exit shortly after the miniseries, because they were (in her words) “disgusting.” We later see Kara smoke normal-sized cigarettes the few times the character actually smokes. I too, was also glad to see the cigars go, because the cigars seemed more a part of Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck, not Sackhoff’s Kara Thrace.
Lee and his father say their heartfelt goodnights to each other after a very long day, once again delaying (or ignoring) any potential conversations that might derail their newfound reconciliation (this would be short-lived as the series moved forward, sadly). Adama then closes the heavy hatchway to his quarters. Once alone, he finds a single mysterious note left on his table. The note has but a single typed line: “THERE ARE ONLY 12 CYLON MODELS.”
Note: In the post-series BSG-TV movie, “The Plan” (2009), we learn that the mystery note was left by none other than Gaius Baltar. This wasn’t exactly a bombshell revelation, since few survivors in the fleet at that time knew of the humanoid Cylon threat, and it was unlikely the Cylons would’ve given Adama such a hot tip.
Elsewhere on the ship, Gaius Baltar is having yet another in his ongoing series of conversations with the head-version of Six. Six accuses the weak-willed selfish man of trying to play both sides—as humanity’s savior and as a secret Cylon ally. Baltar stands up to his virtual tormenter, telling her, “I’m not on anyone’s side.” For once, he sounds as if he is being completely honest.
Life begins to settle into something resembling ‘normal’ for a post-apocalypse; Dualla once again passes Billy in the ship’s corridors, where the newly popular president’s aide is chatting with a group of women—Dualla smiles and walks away, only to have the smitten Billy chasing after her. In the pilot’s common area, Sharon and the others are enjoying a meal together as young Boxey sits down beside her. She gives the boy a cookie.
Note: As originally re-conceived by Ron Moore, the new Boxey was going to be more of a streetwise hustler—a young, would-be con artist, like a character out of Dickens. We see a hint of this when he backtalks Col. Tigh in Season 1, and to be honest, it just doesn’t work. Smart-ass kids and sci-fi are rarely a good combination. No offense to actor Connor Widows (who is blameless), but the character of Boxey just doesn’t fit this version of BSG. The rebooted Battlestar Galactica seems to work best when it does its own thing rather than forcefully integrate hand-me-down ideas from its predecessor.
A coda takes place on Ragnor Anchorage, where we see Doral and, like the Cylon Leoben, he is sweating and pale—turns out Baltar’s blind guess was right; Doral was a Cylon agent after all. The lock to the heavy doors of the depot is blown off by a pair of robotic Cylon Centurions (the same sleek models we saw at the armistice station), and in walks multiple clones of Leobens, Sixes and Dorals, arriving to free their ‘brother.’ The exiled Doral tells his Cylon siblings that the humans were preparing to jump far away before he was exiled. Six and the others discuss what should be done about the human threat. Leoben believes they need to be found and destroyed, otherwise they will return for revenge someday. Six and the others agree; revenge is human nature. Doral is concerned that it may take years to find them.
The other shoe drops when a single model of Cylon descends the ramp into the station and it is a copy of Sharon Valeri—Sharon is one of the twelve Cylon models! She then assures her fellow Cylons that the humans will be found…it’s only a matter of time. One of the Sixes turns to Sharon and replies, “By your command.”
Note: The phrase “by your command,” was what the Cylon centurions of the classic series used to say to their superiors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make much sense in context with the 2003 reboot, since the Sharon model of Cylon has no more authority over her kind than any other model. In fact, we later learn that the humanoid Cylons operate on democratic consensus, not an Imperial autocracy as we saw with TOS BSG’s “Imperious Leader.” Once again, the reboot of BSG falters just a bit whenever it tries too hard to forcefully integrate elements from the original for their own sake.
Unlike the three hour pilot of the 1978 original, the second half of the 2003 reboot’s pilot involved no trip to the planet Carillon, no carnivorous insectoid Ovions, and no four-eyed, dual-mouthed singing acts. In fact, one of the conditions for series’ lead Edward James Olmos to commit to the series was “no bug-eyed aliens”; he said if the writers ever introduced said bug-eyed aliens onto the show, he would fake Adama’s heart attack at the sight of it, and leave the series immediately afterward.
This was a genius clause which writer/producer Ron Moore was more than willing to accommodate, because it kept the focus on the most interesting ‘creatures’ of all—human beings and their cybernetic offspring. Anything else would just be so much Star Trek-style metaphor, and BSG simply doesn’t need that; the social/political/military conflicts between human and Cylon (or human against human) are metaphor enough for the conflicts of our own world.
Some might think that the second half of the 2003 pilot was “missing something” but I saw it as the calm after the storm that was the first half. Part 2 dealt with the losses, the aftermath and even the paranoia of Cylon infiltration of the colonial fleet—such paranoia has been very relevant in the years after 9/11 as well, when everyone suspected their neighbor of being a terrorist (see: Showtime’s “Homeland”).
The 2003 miniseries deals with these issues bravely and honestly, without need for heavily cloaked metaphors and bug-eyed aliens. While the series that followed had episodes that were arguably better than the pilot miniseries (“33” “Pegasus,” “Exodus”), that was largely because those stories were built on such a solid foundation. If there ever is another version of “Battlestar Galactica” on the horizon (as rumored), I sincerely hope that it builds from this mythology instead of rebooting the concept once again.
They got it right on the second try.
The Stars of the Battlestar.
As promised in my previous column on Part 1 , here are some of my personal pics I’ve taken over the years meeting the stars of “Battlestar Galactica” at various conventions. As a huge fan of this show, I have to say that meeting these talented performers in person over the years has been a terrific collective experience that I am only too happy to share!
San Diego Comic Con 2009 was rich for “Battlestar Galactica cast sightings, since it was the summer following the airing of the series’ finale “Daybreak” the previous February. I actually walked right by Edward James Olmos en route to the convention center from the hotel. I smiled as we made eye contact, and I had to practically bite my tongue not to say ‘hello’. But convention etiquette; there’s a time and place for these things (pro-tip: never bother a celebrity when they’re enjoying a private moment). The next day, my wife texted me from the Dealer Hall and told me Olmos was there at a signing. She already got his autograph, as well as the autographs of James Callis (“Baltar”) and Michael Hogan (“Colonel Tigh”). With the pressure of getting his autograph gone, I just wanted to say hello to the man, so I walked down in my Fred Flintstone cosplay (yes, I’m a bona fide nerd, and proud of it) and I waited for my turn in the queue. Right away, Olmos got a kick out of his Flintstone cosplay, and he warmly shook my hand with a broad smile. My Fred Flintstone cosplay gave a big laugh, too! In my brief, but memorable first encounter with Olmos, he seemed both warm and earthy. I would later run into him at WonderCon 2016, and I was surprised that he remembered the costume. Great guy!
I once attended a smaller sci-fi convention in Burbank in April of 2007. A few members of the Battlestar Galactica cast were there as well, including Katee Sackhoff (“Kara Thrace”) and Jamie Bamber (“Lee Apollo”). The two of them gave an entertaining panel. Sackhoff was a human dynamo; full of energy and cracking jokes. I’ve seen Sackhoff at multiple conventions over the year, and she is absolutely hilarious—a genuine crowd pleaser. Her energy level is off the charts, and I saw her plow through a massive line for autographs, yet she beamed an infectious smile for each and every fan, including my wife and I. You’d think each fan in line was her first. She even gave a hug to a fan’s little daughter as well. Katee Sackhoff is a sweetheart. If (post-pandemic) you ever get a chance to meet her and/or get her autograph? I highly recommend doing so.
I’ve seen both actors at other conventions, and yes, it’s always Bamber drop the American accent he did for the series (he hails from London). At the 2007 convention, he’d mentioned that his father was from Detroit, and that’s where his skill at doing an American accent came from. He admitted to being a bit tired that weekend, as he spent much of the previous week moving his wife and kids to Los Angeles (for the record, I loathe moving days, too!). That said, he was very accommodating to the long line of fans assembled to get his autograph, including a friend my wife and I took with us who was nursing a massive crush on Bamber at the time (she managed to behave herself…hehe). I would meet Bamber again at another convention a year later, and I got to ask his personal favorite episode (too many) and least favorite episode (“Taking a Break From All Your Worries”). Jamie Bamber was very much a gentleman.
The WonderCon convention in Anaheim also yielded a few “Battlestar” encounters as well. One of my personal favorites was meeting Kandyse McClure, the actress who played Petty Officer “Anastasia Dualla” on the series. In March of 2014, we met and had a moving conversation about her character’s arc on the show—specifically Dualla’s crushing suicide near the end of the final season. I asked about her research for the role, and she told me she spoke with psychologists and other mental health experts. As someone who lost a good friend to suicide in high school many years ago, I told McClure that her performance was both moving and very authentic, and she was visibly moved to tears! Just sharing that memory with her moved me as well (even if I was wearing my silly Fred Flintstone costume). Kandyse McClure is a lovely young woman. Also at WonderCon, I had the chances to meet Luciana Carro, who played Starbuck’s ill-fated rival pilot Louanne “Kat” Katraine, and “Ellen Tigh” herself, actress Kate Vernon (daughter of late character actor John Vernon). Both were very kind.
At Comic Con 2009, I was at a panel for “Caprica” (see: previous column on Part 1), when there was a surprise unannounced visit from Sharon Valeri herself, actress Grace Park, who took a seat next to writer/producer Jane Espensen (BSG, “Caprica,” “Jessica Jones,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Game of Thrones”). While I didn’t get the chance to meet Park, her appearance at the panel was very welcome—and I did get to meet Jane Espensen a year later at San Diego Comic Con 2010.
“Battlestar Galactica” can be streamed via Peacock.com (free), TubiTV.com (free) and Amazon Prime Video. You can also buy the complete series on DVD/Blu Ray via Amazon.com (prices vary). 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 567,000 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!