If you guys have seen my site, you’ve probably realized that I am a huge fan of the re-make of Battlestar Galactica that launched in 2003. But in all fairness, it took a while for this show to catch on with me. I remember back in 2002 when I heard about the upcoming relaunch of BSG, the first thing that went through my head was, ‘Oh this is going to be just as lame as the original. Why are they even bothering.’ For that reason I didn’t watch the mini-series or season one when they first aired. Yes, you read that right, I was not originally on the BSG bandwagon.
I was home on summer vacation from my freshman year of college when I finally gave the show a try. My Dad had watched the mini-series and season one and was telling me how great the show was. Since I was unemployed for a good deal of that summer I gave it a chance. The mini-series was slow burning but at the end I was having a lot of fun.
33 Minute Mark
What really got me hooked though was the first episode of season one entitled 33. The basic gist of this episode was the the remnants of humanity had escaped the Cylon massacre but they were running for their lives as the Cylons attacked them every 33 minutes. I thought this episode was brilliant with edge of the seat excitement and trying to figure out humanity would escape. At the same time this episode really highlighted one the main differences between humanity and the Cylons. The Cylons had no breaking point; as machines they could just keep coming while humans gradually began to weaken and fall apart. 33 was a great episode for getting hooked on the show.
From that point on I was hooked. I watched all of season 1 in about 1.5 days. Now here is where you might need to beware if you haven’t seen the show I’m going to talk about a couple of the cliffhangers. The season 1 finale was hell on me. William Adama has been my favorite character in the series and to see him betrayed, shot, and at death’s door made for a cliffhanger that was ridiculously intense for me. Luckily, I only had a few months before my favorite show would return to TV. BSG became famous for me with its mid-season and end of season finales. They always had big cliffhangers. And of course the then SciFi channel would put the show on break for a minimum of 6 months before the next episode would air. It was like a punch in the gut at the end of season 2 when the Cylons invaded New Caprica, and it was a long 12 months trying to figure out what would happen to the remnants of humanity.
Season 3 was probably worse in the cliffhanger factor. Not only had 4 of the final 5 Cylons been revealed but the fleet was trapped in nebula and somehow Starbuck had returned from the dead! I had another almost year to sit there and wonder how all this had happened. What was the significance, had I missed the clues that hinted that Chief Tyrol was a Cylon? How was it possible that Saul Tigh the biggest toaster hater in the fleet was a Cylon? And also, how the hell could Kara Thrace return from the dead, was she the 5th and final Cylon?
And if you thought that was bad, they really ramped it up for the season 4 mid-season finale. After years of looking for Earth, humanity and the Cylons put aside their differences to avert another armageddon. In doing so they find the way to Earth courtesy of Starbuck and her Viper. Its a joyous moment and you’re left thinking everything is coming to a good close. Finally the remnants of the 12 Colonies will have a home. The crew is celebrating and the ‘Old Man,’ Admiral Bill Adama, is able to recover from the sense of betrayal he has received after discovereing his best friend is a Cylon.
Then, the remnants of humanity land of the surface and find a devastated nuclear wasteland. The supposed paradise of Earth is instead a death sentence to anyone who would dare settle on the planet. At humanity’s landing site there are shattered buildings and broken bridges. The cityscape is eerily similar the cityscape of New York City and in fact the broken bridge looked strangely like the Brooklyn Bridge. Had the crew of Galactica found our Earth after a nuclear disaster? We were left with this cliffhanger for a year before some of the answers started to trickle in. And even then we were left with a good deal of questions.
When BSG returned again, I was excited. This was going to be the end, according to the promos during the course of the season “all would be revealed.” The writers had done a great job of seeding little bits of the plot throughout the series that would finally be answered. An example being the Opera House vision shared by Caprica 6, Roslin, and Athena. The meaning behind that and the explanation of why Hera was so special would be coming soon. But before that could happen the end of the world had to happen again.
After finding a nuclear devastated Earth all hope was lost within the fleet. Even the strong willed Bill Adama was lost. The combination of the destroyed Earth and the betrayal of his best friend had shattered him. On board Galactica the military discipline that had been so rigidly in place vanished with the hope of the Old Man. Not only that but Starbuck finds her own dead body on the surface of Earth leading the viewers to ask, what the frak is she? Needless to say when BSG returned it came back with a bang.
Despite President Laura Roslin’s absence as the president the fleet is able to continue forward in hopes of finding a new home. It is at this point that tensions with the allied Cylons reach a boiling point. Some of the humans within the fleet will not abide the Cylon presence anymore. The Vice President of the Colonies, Tom Zarek, with assistance from Lt. Gaeta on Galactica stages a coup to overthrow the government. Admiral Adama is forcibly removed from command and the Quorum of 12, BSG’s version of the Senate, is executed. Bear in mind, this is happening in the midway point of the 2nd half of season 4. Needless to say this kind of action was incredible to watch despite it’s stretching over a few episodes. Eventually Adama regains command of his ship, and executes the leaders of the coup before imprisoning the other military members who participated.
But it is at this point we come to another sad realization. Galactica, the last of the Colonial Battlestars, protector of the remnants of humanity is dying. At this point a viewer like me is thinking, ‘What the hell, how are they going to get rid of Galactica?’ This is enough to shatter what is left of Bill Adama’s confidence and he becomes a broken man. His ship is dying, the woman he loves is dying, and nothing makes sense anymore. Its enough to shatter anyone and its brilliantly shown by Edward James Olmos. Olmos makes it so that a watcher can clearly see the pain Adama is in as his world falls apart around him. Honestly, its just brilliant. At the same time, I’m feeling a little lost trying to imagine how things will continue.
Adama goes to extraordinary efforts to save Galactica, but not even Cylon technology is enough to save the worn and battle-weary Battlestar. The decision is made, reluctantly, to abandon ship. However before the ship is destroyed the Cylons kidnap the human/Cylon hybrid Hera. Desperately her parents beg Adama to do something to help them save their child, but Adama denies this request.
Later as he tours Galactica one last time and views the memorial to all the people lost during the war. Discovering a picture of Hera with her parents his face set to stone and the old Bill Adama returned as he set forth with a purpose. The entire crew is called down to the hanger bay where Adama stands before his crew and offers an option. One last mission for Galactica, a volunteer mission to rescue Hera and bring her home. It is expected to be a one way trip, a suicide mission, but part of the crew volunteers to join in and Galactica has one last fight left in her. Bear in mind, this part happens in part 1 of the 3 part finale. After part 1 we are left with a week to go, holy crap how are they going to do this? How is Galactica going to survive attacking a Cylon colony?
Needless to say, crew of Galactica is able to save Hera but at a great cost of lives and resources. As Galactica is being pummeled by the colony they are forced to flee with no jump coordinates. Starbuck finally realizes her purpose gleaning the significance of the music that has been played throughout the show since season 3. The musical notes are coordinates in space. She enters the coordinates into the computers and Galactica jumps, escaping a near certain death. This jump however is the last one Galactica will ever make, in the words of Col. Tigh, ‘She broke her back.’ Whereever the crew has gone this is as far as the damages Battlestar will go. The camera cuts to space as we see the battered Battlestar passing over a crater pitted surface dropping pieces of armor to the surface. But then the camera pans to this….
Earth! Holy crap they had found Earth! For a nerd like me, I lost it. After all the tragedy maybe, just maybe, humanity had found a home. But, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, the writers always found a way to turn something perceived as positive into something that could monumentally alter the fleet. But at this point I had no idea what they would do, all that mattered is that BSG might actually get a happy ending. In all honesty it was from this point on I was a little less satisfied with the finale.
The remnants of humanity land on the planet in Africa. Upon searching the planet they find humans… humans in the early stages of development. These
humans are still hunter-gatherer tribes, far less advanced than the humans that had escaped the fall of the 12 Colonies. At this point the argument is made, that it was all of humanity’s technology that caused their downfall. The best way to live would be to start fresh and abandon all the technology that had caused the fall of the colonies. The decision is made to follow this route, in an attempt to prevent another future apocalypse. All of the humans and human Cylons will move to the surface the technology and starships will be flown into the sun.
On the surface Laura Roslin lies dying, her cancer finally getting the better of her. Bill Adama takes her in one of the few remaining shuttles to view the planet. While flying she silently passes away having successfully guided humanity to Earth. Heartbroken Bill Adama places his wedding ring on her finger. The scene shifts to Adama finishing grave on a hillside. He sits on the hill as the camera pans across the horizon speaking to his lost love about how he will build their cabin on that very spot. In my mind, this is where the show should have ended, with Bill Adama finally getting his quiet retirement and some peace.
Instead we shift thousands of years to the future, to modern times where Ron Moore, creator of the rebooted BSG makes a cameo. He folds a magazine with an article about Mitochondrial Eve and fossilized remains of a woman they believe it to be. And who is that girl? Its Hera the human Cylon hybrid. Humanity is descended in part from machines in today’s world! Not only that but technology has again advanced to a point where sentience might be possible. The two angels appearing as Baltar and 6 debate whether this time humanity will get it right or whether the past will repeat itself. Both admit they don’t know and the series ends.
Wow, so humanity is in fact descended from machines? Who would have thought that! In my mind the jump ahead to the future was unnecessary but it highlights just how important Hera was and how we are all descended from the people we had grown so attached to throughout the show. What amazes me to this day is how all of this came from a remake of a 70s TV series meant to emulate Star Wars.
However, the storyline alone isn’t what made this show great. I’ll touch on it a little bit because I’m sure you guys are probably getting tired of my fanboy rant. The cast assembled for this show was fantastic. Especially Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. These two shined in their portrayals of Admiral Adama and President Laura Roslin. The fact that neither of these incredible actors got a single Emmy nomination is nearly criminal. There were times during this show where EJO carried the show with his incredible acting. McDonnell was perfect in her portrayal of the reluctant president who will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of her people. And these are just the two characters I favored the most. The rest of the ensemble cast was also phenomenal. I don’t think there was a bad actor in the whole group of them.
The series might be over, but my love of it will probably never end. I know that sounds incredibly corny, but its true. This show was phenomenal in my mind for a variety of reasons. I love how they kept me on the edge of my seat for years. It was an amazing journey to watch and see how all the characters changed over the course of the series. BSG became famous with me for how it could basically punch me in the gut with a new revelation and twist and I would have to come back to see how it ended. BSG made it fun to be a Science Fiction fan again and at the same time it almost made it mainstream. For the type of show it was it got incredible ratings and publicity. Very few shows like this were deserving of being so highly praised. Have you heard of any other Science Fiction show winning a Peabody Award? It was a hell of a ride watching all of Battlestar Galactica, at times it was gut wrenching, other times edge of the seat excitement.
I have the entire series on Blu-ray and fully intend to do a re-watch from start to end at some point. For those of you that haven’t seen the series, watch it! It’s worth your time. And fear not, theres a chance we might get some more BSG goodness. Just recently a made for TV movie was released entitled The Plan. Edward James Olmos wants to do more movies taking place on Earth. At Comic Con he said, “I’ve actually written an entire script already on exactly what happened to him [Adama]. Let me put it to you this way: When you next see Adama, he will be in a rustic log cabin, and there will be a knock on the door. And it will be his old friend Col. Tigh saying, ‘We have a problem.’ And that’s how the journey begins.” If it happens, who knows but I’m holding out hope for more and hopefully you all are too!
EDIT: This article first appeared on Tom Baker’s blog Morning Erection as the first in his guest blogger series. If you enjoyed it, swing by his site and let him know I sent you.