Thursday 7 February 2013

Battlestar Galactica Part Two: Why It's My Favourite Sci Fi TV Show

Why Battlestar Galactica Is My Favourite Sci Fi TV Show

So in Part One I covered a little bit of the history and differences between the original 1978 show and the 2003 re imagined show, in this post I'll discuss the characters and in part three the elements and theme of the 2003 series, summing up why Battlestar Galatica is my favourite Sci Fi Tv show. I realise some readers may have been living under a rock, in a cave, on the moon, with their ears plugged and their eyes closed (Simpsons Ref, lol)) and as such have not seen the show or all seasons, so I will try not to drop any spoilers.


I can't recall ever watching a show where almost all of the characters were seriously flawed or had serious issues. The above picture a la "Last Supper" should... no, does say it all. The characters are all inexplicably tied to one another, have issues that affect one another giving the show a family feel despite the fact there are two sides out to destroy the other.


Anyone who had a grumpy old grandfather or uber serious old uncle that rarely cracked a smile, was chief of keeping everyone in order when parents weren't around or just didn't care about the little things... that's Ewdward James Olmos' portrayal of Commander Adama. Adama admitted himself that he wasn't the best father and was a lousy husband, but he was a soldier first and foremost.

A battle hardened veteran and combat pilot, colonial citizen from Tauron (we don't get the in depth until the spin off Caprica, but as his back story relations between the diverse worlds were contentious with discrimination being very pervasive) the colony of his origins was at the bottom of the class ladder.

Approximately three years before the Destruction of the Twelve Colonies, the Colonial Admiralty ordered then-Commander Adama and the Valkyrie to test the Cylons' military disposition with a covert (and illegal) surveillance mission across the Armistice Line. When the Stealthstar reconnaissance craft was discovered by the Cylons and damaged; Adama ordered the Valkyrie's weapons batteries to shoot it down to prevent its capture. These events precipitated his transfer to the fifty-year-old Battlestar Galactica as a graceful swan-song to his career before returning to haunt him three years later.

Since Adama fought in the first Cylon War, his past experiences with the Cylons left him with a healthy distrust of sophisticated computer systems and heavy automation, knowing the Cylons could use electronics as part of their offensive repertoire. He decreed that Galactica's computer systems were never to be networked, and even though Galactica had Baltar's CNP program installed on its systems
In the first episode, we learn the Battlestar Galactica is in the midst of being converted into a museum ship, complete with decommissioned Viper star fighters.

While serving as a  public relations executive, the Cylon clone Number Five mockingly mentions that the reason Adama didn't allow computers to be networked was due to the throwback to the old fears, siting Galactica as antiquated, but thanks to Adama's standing orders, the outmoded, aging Galactica was spared from Cylon infiltration attempts that crippled and subsequently destroyed much of the Colonial Fleet
on the morning following the decommissioning ceremony, when the Cylons launched a surprise attack bombarding the Twelve Colonies with nuclear weapons and destroying the majority of the Colonial Fleet (who were unable to mount an effective counterattack due to Cylon infiltration of the Colonial ships' Command Navigation Program (CNP)

Adama is a trusted and loyal friend, a hard assed father figure (unswerving dedication to those serving under him) stickler for the rules military officer and veteran pilot who I tend to think of as a more solemn and more human (flawed) Captain Picard with family issues. He's not opposed to bend or even break the rules if backed into a corner, which is why his stern disposition was often (but not always) tempered by the appointed president of the surviving fleet.


At the time of the attack on the Colonies, Roslin was the Secretary of Education under President Adar. After Roslin successfully defused a large-scale teachers strike, Adar demanded Roslin's resignation ending their affair, citing the fact that he wanted to use force against the teachers in order to intimidate the other unions on Caprica from striking.

Roslin refused to resign vowing to fight for her job as she left for a doctor's appointment and the decommissioning ceremony for the Galactica. After her doctor told her that she has breast cancer and a year to live, Roslin attended the ceremony, and left just before the Cylons attacked the Twelve Colonies. During the attack, Roslin is informed that she is the highest ranking surviving member of the Presidential line of succession (43rd in line of succession) and is sworn in as President.

Her first actions included organising all FTL-capable ships together and convincing Commander William Adama to abandon a (pointless) retaliatory attack on the Cylons. President Roslin and Billy Keikeya, her aide/press secretary/chief of staff, established a working office space aboard her transport, renamed Colonial One. She immediately clashes with Commander Adama, the ranking Colonial military officer. They make an uneasy truce* 

(note* I would like to point out another difference between this and the earlier show, the fact Adam lied about knowing the location of Earth during his "so say we all" speech to the troops, something he admitted to a suspicious Roslin, with the justification "the people need hope, something to believe in, work towards")

It’s their first secret binding them together, and Roslin agrees to keep it as long as Adama lets the people have a government. Adama is not thrilled, but as long as Roslin stays out of military business, he’ll "think about it." (That was the beginning of a friendship that would eventually blossom into something more) Adama agreed he will lead the military and the fleet's ships while Roslin will preside over the fleet's personnel and look after the civilians' well-being. 

Despite remarks of having "a teacher" serve as president in the beginning, Roslin proved to be an equal match for Adama due to having to deal with the pain and discomfort of living with a terminal illness, oft times surprising him and those under his command by being the "tough one" or "hard ass", and by the close of the first season, the soft-spoken Roslin had become a formidable and often ruthless leader who not only authorises the use of torture against Cylon agents, then orders their deaths by way of "airlocking." (earning  the nickname Madame airlock)

During the first season, Roslin treats her illness through the use of an herbal (hallucinogenic) drug called chamalla and begins to experience visions, which coincide with certain prophecies contained in the ancient scriptures of Kobol. She comes to believe, based on the prophecies, that she is the spiritual leader of the Colonials and will lead the fleet to Earth.

These beliefs begin to heavily influence her decisions as President, including sending Starbuck  back to Caprica against Adama's orders, in order to retrieve the mythical Arrow of Apollo in accordance with the prophecies. As a result of this action, Commander Adama has her removed from power and thrown in the brig for breaking their agreement and interfering in military matters.


Kara Thrace bears some parallels to the original 1978 Starbuck character: Both are portrayed as hot-headed and cocky fighter pilots, considered the best in the fleet, but with a tendency to challenge authorities and get into trouble. Both are avid gamblers and enjoy drinking, smoking cigars, and sex. Both have crashed and been marooned on a deserted planet, using a downed Cylon ship to make an escape. Both are best friends with Apollo, whereas Kara had a relationship with Apollo's late brother Zak (mirroring the original Starbuck's on-and-off relationship with Apollo's sister Athena) affecting her relationship to Apollo and Zak's father Adama.

Right from the getgo after going for her morning (?) run, Kara is drinking somewhat heavily while playing cards (and winning rather ungraciously) when Lt. Tigh makes a comment regarding her call sign and her stint in the brig as a cadet, she retorts with the question "how's the wife?" Tigh throws the table aside "Western" style and earns a pre-emptive "stopper" punch to the jaw, and throws her in a holding cell. Where the original Starbuck was a slick, well-groomed ladies' man, Kara appears more rugged and grimy and is described as "the broken warrior, a young, idealistic soldier who has been fighting for all the right reasons, but has lost something along the way.

Kara Thrace had intended to be a professional Pyramid ball player until her knee gave out. She eventually joined the military, where she found more acceptance than she had felt at home as an abused child with a piano playing father who left the family when she was a child. Adama loves Kara despite her flaws and considers her something of a surrogate daughter.

Starbuck keeps her secret about Lee Adama's brother Zak (that he died in a Viper because she as his trainer allowed him to fly although he didn't have the skill) buried inside until after the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies, straining her already unstable relationship with Lee. Later in the series (through an Avatar posing as Loeban) we learn Kara has been running from her past (abused child) just as she has been running away from death for her entire life with the implication she will eventually have to confront her fears and her "destiny" (showing the fleet the way to earth).


Right from the start, Apollo appears as the uptight Caprican (higher class)Officer who gets on the Chief for having to pilot his ship in manually, when the Chief advises Apollo that most of the automated (networked) systems had been disabled by order of the Commander, his reaction to the very mention of his father lets viewers know he is a man with father (and grandfather) issues.

His father (Adama) strongly encouraged both he and his brother Zak to enter the Colonial Fleet and become Viper pilots. Unfortunately, Zak was not a natural pilot like his brother and father, and was killed in an accident after being awarded flight status, for which Lee held his father responsible and never forgave him for.

With Kara, the uneasy longing that couldn't be pursued even after his brother's death was a constant source of friction in their "Moonlighting" style 'you know they're going to eventually get together but don't want that arc to be used up too quickly' relationship. Lee's strained relationship with his father also caused him to become a strong supporter of Colonial President Laura Roslin, who often butted heads with William Adama. Roslin, unfamiliar with the military, appoints Lee Adama to be her personal adviser.

Upon joining Galactica's crew as CAG (Commander of the Air Group) Apollo was a bit of an outsider but proving himself as more than just the "old man's son" after several missions earning the respect of his fellow pilots and soon becoming a respected member of the crew. It's not until his father is shot by sleeper Cylon agent Boomer that his love for his father ever becomes clearly evident.

However, that father-son relationship sours following the death of Kara Thrace. While both grieved, Lee was visibly shaken by the death, while Adama does his best to move past it. When Adama realizes his son has become unhinged by her death, he pulls him from flight duty and assigns him the task of heading up the security detail for the defense attorney of Gaius Baltar, whose trial Adama considers to be little more than a public relations exercise.

Lee suspects his father is being overprotective, not wishing to lose him as he did Kara. After two assassination attempts on Baltar's latest lawyer, Romo Lampkin, the culprit is discovered. Adama then reinstates Lee as CAG, not wanting to expose him to the dangers of more potential assassination attempts.

It is perhaps his father's more than occaisional reference to his grandfather's toughness as a lawyer that eventually leads Apollo to hang up his wings to pursue Colonial law after reading some of his grandfather's law books, and believes he could assist Lampkin prepare the case. Adama resists, but Lee refuses to resume his duties as CAG, and joins the legal team, leading to a role in politics as the Caprica Delegate to the Quorum of Twelve.

Following the disappearance of President Roslin aboard the defecting Cylon basestar, Lee searches for an alternative Presidential candidate to the still-divisive Zarek (the actor who originally played the part of Apollo in the original series) After a tense confrontation with a despairing Romo Lampkin, Lee accepts his candidacy, then is inaugurated as the Acting President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol (we'll leave it there for Apollo, again don't want too many spoilers ie. Pegasus)


A charismatic genius and womanizer, Dr. Baltar is initially portrayed as a self-serving opportunist, but becomes a braver and more caring character over the course of the series, expressing regret for having been "a profoundly selfish man."

Baltar is initially an atheist, but ultimately converts to the Cylons' monotheistic religion with the not so gentle guidance of Caprica Six whom he sees as a powerful figment of his imagination that no one else sees nor hears. She became part of his consciousness after she died saving him during the nuclear attack. Theories abounded from her being a manifestation of his guilty conscience (she used his access to the highly classified Colonial defense mainframe to deactivate the Twelve Colonies global security network enabling the attack) to him being a Cylon.

Although the visions of Number Six manipulates Baltar through his fear of discovery (and bullying) she lends him an edge by granting him knowledge of certain situations (the Cylons are using a tracking device to follow and attack the fleet) The resurected model of Number Six who had seduced him on Caprica later experiences similar visions after her consciousness was downloaded into a new body. Whereas Baltar experienced visions of her, she experienced visions of him. Both visions acted in similar ways: they were more fashionable, confident in demeanour and seemingly crueler than the person they were based on and often manipulated the affected party against his or her own species.


Perhaps the babeliest babe of all space babes, Canadian actress and model Tricia Helfer knocks the part of fem fatal, lady in red, ultimate vixen out of the park and into the atmosphere in her numerous versions of the Cylon clone Number Six, including Head Six, Caprica-Six, Shelly Godfrey, Gina Inviere, Natalie Faust, Lida and Sonja. Six is a seductive, statuesque Cylon infiltrator and the
 first example shown of a new generation of Cylons capable of adapting to human form and emotions (appearing on Caprica before the attack, showing disturbed facial expression after killing a baby) 

Caprica uses her feminine whiles to seduce Baltar while helping him with his work on the Colonial defense system, then reveals her true nature to Baltar informing him that the Cylons will use the militarys computer secrets that he gave her to infiltrate and disable the Colonial defense systems, the Colonial military ships, and attack the Twelve Colonies. When the Cylons launch their attack and destroy most of humanity, Six uses her body to shield Baltar from a blast during the attack, saving his life and sacrificing hers.

Afterwards, residing in Baltar's head since the destruction of the colonies, "Head Six" appears as a figment of his imagination, invisible to everyone else. She often appears suddenly and without warning, often advising and instructing Baltar. While she usually appears to him as part of the real world, occasionally he interacts with her in an imagined but persistent dream-like setting within his mind, and also appears able to physically affect him in the real world, suggesting this phenomenon might be caused by either a computer chip implant or insanity over his guilt. 

After an MRI-like "brain scan" reveals no sign of a computer chip or any other foreign object in his brain, this briefly leads Baltar to think he has gone insane, but concludes this is impossible given Six's knowledge of events unknown to him. 

A stark difference between the Galacticas is the fact the 2003 Cylons believe in a singular god in contrast to the human polytheistic faith. This manifestation of Six in particular is extremely religious and constantly attempts to convince Baltar to believe in the Cylon god, and to accept his part in God's plan or will. 

Later, the Six copy is downloaded into a new body and nicknamed "Caprica Six" by fellow Cylons. While she is viewed as a hero within the Cylon civilisation for her complete success in her mission to compromise the colonies' defenses, she retains her sentimentality and expresses some regret at her actions, as evidenced by her constant visions of Baltar. This "Head Baltar" acts as a critical counselor and manipulator to her in the same way Head Six does for the real Baltar. 

Saul Tigh
Saul Tigh is a line officer assigned as executive officer on the Galactica serving under his friend and advocate Commander Adama. When Kara passes him in the hallway during her run in the opener, we see Tigh leaning with leg up taking a not so covert swig from his flask. Tigh is gruff and sometimes rather unlikable (to the crew not us) responding to Adama's observation of his abruptness saying "If the crew doesn't hate the XO, then he's not doing his job." That's out Tigh.

Back story - As a teenager, he was serving on the Brenik when it was boarded by Cylon Centurions. The bloody hand-to-hand shipboard combat that ensued left him with mental scars lasting for the rest of his life and convinced him that, although they are machines, the Cylons truly hate the human race. He is also frequently able to anticipate Cylon tactics from his considerable combat experience. 

He has struggled with alcoholism for much of his life, a problem that seemed to stem from Post traumatic stress disorder connected to his memories of the First Cylon War and his depression after he was mustered out of the fleet and divorce from his unfaithful wife (who makes a surprise return later in the series and fosters his less admirable traits after getting his drinking under control) 

Despite this, he has excellent tactical skills and is fiercely loyal, especially to William Adama. But
while Roslin is in the brig for interferring in military affairs, Adama is shot and left in a comatose state leaving Tigh in command. Not possessing Adama's sensitivity or regard for the civilian population, finding them almost impossible to deal with. He makes a few bad decisions including keeping the press and Quorum of Twelve from seeing Roslin, when he finally allows them to visit thinking her unstable manner would reinforrce his position of authority, she appears lucid and reveals she has cancer, weakening his authority further.

Perhaps Tigh's worst decision is his declaration of martial law and dissolution of the Quorum of Twelve. Like many of his poorer decisions, it is spurred on by Ellen.
In Part Three, more heroes, villains,Sci Fi elements and theme of latest Battlestar can also follow me on!/

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