Ladyghosts of TV Past: Battlestar Galactica Mini-Series Pt. 1

Last week, we said goodbye to the ladies of Firefly with Sara B’s recap of “Objects in Space.”  As hard as it is to say goodbye to Zoe, Inara, River and Kaylee, I think the women of Battlestar Galactica are about the best follow-up we could come up with.

Instead of sticking to one or two recappers for BSG, right now we have six.  We’ll be rotating through the episodes, with each of us taking two episodes each for the first season, then we’ll pause to discuss the season as a whole (like SlayBelle has done with Buffy) before jumping in to Season 2.  We’re all attacking our episodes in our own style, so this should be a really interesting way to address the series.

Battlestar Galactica is a “re-imagining” of the television show of the same name that aired in the late ’70s.  Classic BSG was not without its charm, and is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it, but when former Star Trek: TNG and DSN scriptwriter Ron D. Moore took hold of the idea, he turned it into something unlike anything we’ve ever seen on TV before.  Get comfy, we’re in for a long, bumpy ride with the crew of the Galactica and the Cylons pursuing them across the galaxy.

The Cylon War is long over, yet we must not forget the reasons why so many sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom. The cost of wearing the uniform can be high … [after looking at crowd] but sometimes it’s too high. You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we’ve done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.

~Commander William T. Adama at the decommissioning ceremony for the Battlestar Galactica.

Old Starbuck and Apollo

The re-imagined BSG started with a two-part miniseries which originally ran on December 8-9, 2003 on what was then called the Sci-Fi network, affectionately “Skiffy.” Nearly a year later, in October 2004, the weekly series premiered. From the moment news of the mini broke, a large, passionate and sometimes slightly feral fandom developed.

New Starbuck and Apollo

BSG was unlike anything else many of us had ever seen on television, and at least in the first season, everything meshed.  From the spectacular (and mostly unknown in the U.S.) cast, to the feature-film quality special effects, to the incredible score (created by Bear McCreary), to the tight scripting, everything worked together.  And Starbuck was a woman.

The mini-series opens at Armistice Station in deep space, where we’re informed by the handy text that humans created Cylons to serve the humans, but the Cylons revolted.  After the Cylon War, the Cylons disappeared.  Each year, the humans send a representative to meet with the Cylons at Armistice, but until now, the Cylons have never shown up.   We see the Fleet officer sitting alone at his desk, prepared to be alone for quite some time, when two large, shiny, not-really-friendly-looking robots enter the room, followed by a really hot blonde.  The really hot blonde kisses the Fleet officer, after asking him if he’s alive.  We back away to an exterior shot, where we see a big honking Cylon Basestar blow the bottom half of the station clean away.  Fleet officer is still kissing the blonde, the ship continues to fire until we see the entire station blown to smithereens.

Meanwhile, we get our first shots of the real star of this show, Galactica herself.

Unaware of what’s going on at Armistice Station, the crew of Galactica is preparing for a decommissioning ceremony to turn the old girl into a museum.  We meet the deck crew, led by loyal, devoted and slightly naughty Chief Tyrol, as he presents Commander Adama with a restored version of the commander’s old Mark II Viper, and a picture from Adama’s early days in the fleet.  We meet the commander himself as he roams the passageways of his ship, practicing his speech for the ceremony.  We also meet Starbuck, aka Lt. Kara Thrace, as she’s jogging through the same passage as Adama.  They have a cute exchange we’ll hear again:

Adama: Starbuck, what do you hear?

Starbuck: Nothing but the rain, sir.

Adama: Then grab your gun and bring in the cat.

Later, we see another side of Starbuck, when she’s playing Triad with the X.O., Saul Tigh.  We learn that Starbuck is as poor a winner as Tigh is a loser rather quickly, when she schools him with “Full Colors” leading him to overturn a table and her to punch him in the face.

On Galactica, we also meet Raptor pilot Boomer, her navigator Hot, Hot Helo, Cally the adorable deck hand and a room full of pilots.

On the planet Caprica, we meet three key characters: Gaius Baltar, Number Six and Laura Roslin.  Gaius is a narcissistic genius who’s inadvertently given complete control of the Colonial defense mainframe to what appears to be the same really hot blonde who blew up Armistice Station.  This ends badly, but you probably know that already.  Laura Roslin is the Secretary of Education and a liason to the Galactica ceremony on behalf of President Adar.  When we meet her, however, she’s in her doctor’s office, where she receives terrible news we’re not going to know for a few hours yet.

 

Secretary of Education Laura Roslin

The really hot blonde comma Cylon killing machine also has a moment on Caprica, as she strolls through a marketplace on her way to meet Baltar.  She stops to talk to a mother of a young infant, and fusses over how small and fragile the baby is.  When the mother turns away, really hot blonde breaks the baby’s neck.

 

Do not hire this woman to babysit.

Meanwhile, back on Galactica, the commander’s son, Capain Lee “Apollo” Adama, arrives to participate in the ceremony. In the mini-series, Lee is kind of an asshole. He’s also smoking hot, but that’s neither here nor there. Lee has a history with Starbuck, and is holding on to some unresolved anger at his dad following the death of his brother, Zak, two years earlier. He’s at the ceremony because he was ordered to be, and takes the opportunity to yell at his dad and have a fight with Starbuck, while she’s stuck in hack for “striking a superior asshole.”

The ceremony goes off without a hitch, with Lee flying his father’s restored Mark II.   We get a few notes of the Colonial Anthem, which just so happens to be the theme to the original Battlestar Galactica series.  Secretary Roslin meets Commander Adama for the first time, and they spat about technology.  As the party is breaking up, Secretary Roslin’s ship, Colonial Heavy 798, is escorted on its way to Caprica by Apollo, who bitches about how old his dad’s Viper is.

On Caprica, the Cylon attack has begun.  The Cylons are dropping thousands of very large nuclear warheads across the twelve colonies and destroying the Battlestars and their respective fleets one by one.  Galactica‘s communications officer, Felix Gaeta, informs Adama that news reports are beginning to come in about a Cylon attack.  Galactica springs to life, after a few moments of confusion.  The deck crew are on fire, getting all the birds ready to go as the CAG (Captain of the Air Group) prepares the pilots.  They head out to face the first round of Cylon Raiders (the scariest looking f’ing ships I’ve ever seen, I might add.) swooping in on Galactica.

On Caprica, Gaius is in his apartment getting the real story from really hot blonde, who tells him there are twelve Cylon models, and that she is Number Six.  Then she tells him to get down and his apartment explodes as a warhead goes off outside.

The Cylon ships disable the Colonial Vipers as soon as they are within range, and take out the whole group in seconds, minus Boomer and Hot, Hot Helo, who manage to get away before the Raiders can disable their system.

This is why I told you not to get attached.

Cylons are scary motherfuckers.

Adama pulls Starbuck from hack and sends her to get pilots and the collection of Mark II Vipers (the fighters that were destroyed were all Mark VIIs) ready to go into the air.   Chief Tyrol knows what to do, and orders that the fighters first be moved to the other side of the ship, as the launch bay closest to them has been converted into a gift shop.

As Boomer tries to steer her Raptor and Hot, Hot Helo out of danger, they’re hit and Helo takes a bit of shrapnel in the leg.  Boomer’s forced to cut her engines and coast to Caprica, where she hopes to land and fix her ship. There’s a particularly great shot of Caprica from space, surrounded by the skeletons of several Battlestars, the shadow of a Cylon Basestar and the surface of the planet being lit up with nuclear warheads.

Back on Galactica, Adama addresses the crew with the grim news so far.

Meanwhile, the news hits Colonial Heavy 798, and Secretary Roslin steps up, as she is wont to do, and takes responsibility for telling the rest of her fellow passengers that Caprica and three other colonies have been nuked. The crowd is upset, and Roslin puts everyone to work turning the ship into living quarters.  The poor man’s Kevin Spacey (a reporter named Aaron Doral) is upset that Roslin has put herself in charge. Roslin puts him in his place quickly, as she is also wont to do, and sends him to the cargo area to turn it into living quarters.  Roslin’s adorable assistant Billy is there to help.  The pilot is able to get her a connection to the Ministry of Defense, where she learns President Adar might still be alive, and that the humans have offered an unconditional surrender, which was not acknowledged by the Cylons.  As this conversation goes on, a pair of Raiders finds them, and Apollo saves that ass, but takes serious damage.

Boomer manages to land on Caprica, where she and Helo witness six more nuclear blasts as she’s trying to repair the ship.  As they’re finishing up, they’re approached by a large group of survivors.

On Colonial Heavy 798, where he’s landed his broken fighter, Lee is approached by Doral who tattles that Roslin is trying to be the boss of him. Lee investigates, realizes Roslin is the shit, and brushes off Doral.

Back on Caprica, Helo is shooting stuff to keep the survivors from mobbing them.  Boomer agrees to take three adult survivors and all the children with them, and they begin to arrange a lottery to choose who can go.

On Galactica, the older Vipers are ready to launch, and we get the first HOLY SHIT AWESOME shot of one shooting out of a launch tube.  After a few false starts, we also get to see Starbuck fly, and she takes out a few Raiders before one launches an array of nukes at the Galactica.  The pilots stop two of the three, but the third hits, destroying a big chunk of one of the bays, trapping over one hundred of the deck crew inside.  Tyrol is guiding them out when Tigh decides to close it off and vent the whole pod to stop the fire, which will kill many of  the trapped crew.  Tyrol argues, but is outranked.

On Caprica, Boomer chooses the lucky survivors who are getting a ride back to Galactica.  Baltar is among the mob, and he nearly trades his number with an elderly woman so he can take her place.  Hot, Hot Helo notices him in the crowd just before Baltar scams the old lady, and offers him his seat.  Hot, Hot Helo wants “one of the greatest minds of our time” to live in his place, because he’s as noble as he is hot.  That will come up again.

On Colonial Heavy, the pilots start picking up an automated signal, which Roslin informs them was created to be used in the event most of the high-ranking government officials were dead.  She asks them to send back her personal code, and retreats to the back to sit under a blanket for a minute or two.  Apollo approaches her and asks where she falls in the line of succession, she tells him she’s 43rd, and that she knows all of the people above her.  The pilot comes back and hands her a piece of paper.  She says “We’ll need a priest.”

Roslin is sworn in as president of the colonies, in one of the greatest transformative scenes ever.  Starting with her voice waivering and her hands shaking, Roslin physically becomes the president as she gives her oath.

On Galactica, 24 people escaped the fire and 86 did not.  Tigh informs Adama that they can dock at Ragnar Anchorage to re-stock the munitions and repair the ship.  Tyrol goes to Adama, upset that Tigh couldn’t wait 40 seconds to get his men out.  Adama tells Tyrol that he would have made the same choice.

After investigating Ragnar, Tigh learns it’s three days away and the entire Cylon fleet is between Galactica and it.  Adama goes balls out and plans a FTL (faster than light) jump to save a little time.  It’s been quite some time since Galactica has jumped anywhere, so everyone is understandably nervous.  Adama learns that nearly all of the rest of the fleet is gone, and Adama takes over Command.

Colonial Heavy 798 says fuck it, call our asses Colonial One, and then learns that Adama has ordered everyone to meet at Ragnar.  Roslin says fuck it, and orders Apollo to tell Adama Colonial One is going to go rescue some people first.  Roslin throws rank, and earns Apollo’s everlasting respect.

Adama is pissed.  He orders them back, Lee says “neener” then all hell breaks loose when another pair of Raiders finds them.  Apollo asks permission to go below, and then we see Colonial One explode on Galactica’s DRADIS as Adama calls Lee’s name.

Originally, I was going to talk about both parts of the mini-series in this article, but as we’re already topping 2500 words, I’m breaking it up into two.  Join me next week as we continue our adventures with the Colonial Fleet, the civilians they’ve rescued and the Cylons who want to blow some shit up. Special thanks to @Monchichi for her gorgeous screencaps!

 

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[E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

17 thoughts on “Ladyghosts of TV Past: Battlestar Galactica Mini-Series Pt. 1”

  1. BSG is one show I have a hard time going back and re-watching because I know how I feel about the characters starting out and I know how I feel about them at the end. The difference and the reasons for it then make me unreasonably angry. It’s been a couple years since I tried, though. Maybe I’m ready now.

  2. This is crazy. I JUST (yesterday) thought, what is wrong with me, I love sci-fi, I have a month’s free Netflix, why am I not watching Battlestar Galactica right now? And then I did.

    I’m excited to see Persephone recaps! Especially different styles, because I’ve only seen miniseries + 2 episodes but I can tell this is a show that can be approached from a lot of different angles.

  3. There are so many things I can and will discuss about this show, but I need to start with the fact that I had forgotten how terrible Starbuck’s mini-series and first season hair was.

    Yeah, I’m shallow. Tell it to Hot Hot Helo if you have a problem with it.

    1. What! No way. I hereby stand to defend Starbuck’s hair, from mini-series to series finale.

      When I first started watching BSG, I immediately loved that Starbuck is a kick ass heroine with short hair. Sure, it’s not THE most flattering cut, and certainly improves over time, but I like that the show’s creators didn’t feel the need to “balance out” Starbuck’s tomboyishness and military prowess with an obviously feminine personal style.

      Additionally, I enjoy the way her hair in many ways tracks her evolution as a character, from her being all about fighting because it’s all she knows how to do, to, well, the spiritual and emotional development that we can talk about as these recaps progress. :)

      But in general, I think it’s interesting that for once we have a female character whose hair changes, sometimes dramatically, in correlation with the twists of her storyline; this is something I notice a lot with male characters (someday I’ll write something about the tie between shaving and Big Moments), but that off the top of my head, I don’t recall seeing much for the women.

        1. I actually had my hair nearly Starbuck short when I first started the mini-series in December 2009, which is yet another reason I loved her style right from the get go.

          And within the BSG universe, both Bill Adama and Colonel Tigh shave just prior to Big Life Moments/Decisions. Outside of BSG, there is, of course, Conan’s strike beard, as well as one of my favorite examples: Jack Bauer shaving off his trauma beard after deciding to go back to kicking ass and taking names on behalf of CTU.

      1. I agree, Anna! It’s so rare that one gets to see a female protagonist presented as feminine without the usual trappings of girliness, and Kara’s hair went a long way toward forming a picture of the character. Her attractiveness doesn’t come from having long hair and big boobs and looking dainty- she’s hot because she has swagger, fantastic aim and major attitude.

        And it speaks volumes of the beauty of Katee Sackhoff that she’s gorgeous no matter what her hair is styled to look like.

  4. Its hard to read the recapp without thinking about where those characters end up — Gaeta and Tigh in particular. I had a moment in season 3 when I realized that Tigh had become my favorite character and I was blown away by it — you would never have expected his arc from where he starts on the show.

    I wanted to note that Starbuck wasn’t the only gender-reversed character. Boomer was too, but Starbuck got most of the notice.

    1. It was hard to write it, too! I have this same issue with TWW. I know these shows so well, and I’ve watched the whole series so many times, it’s hard not to let all my feelings and ideas from later episodes and seasons come out in the writing. I was going to mention the Boomer gender switch, too, and I forgot.

      There’s just so much I could write about this show.

  5. Two things, until maybe I add like seven or eight more. First, the scene where the “hot blonde” kills the baby, and the screen cap of her walking away. That is, I think, foundational to where the story is going. The look of confusion, pain, and regret on her face. Especially regret. Something quite amazing to see so early in the story, but such a good foreshadowing. The storytelling of this show is incredible. I’ve said this before, but BSG is one of the only things on TV/film that I wish I created, or at least had a hand in. It’s brilliant (for the most part).

    Second, the scene where we are introduced to the crew and ship. The technical approach of the actual filming is actually quite similar to a scene on Firefly (the episode escapes me at the moment) where we are introduced to the crew/ship. It rolls, continuously, through the ship (on Firefly it’s one cut, on BSG it looks like maybe two? Either way it’s a long, well-orchestrated shot). I believe, if I recall correctly, River is running around on the ship (playfully), and here we have Starbuck running. I don’t know if the parallel is on purpose, but it’s a fantastic way to show the contained size of a ship, as well as the variety of people and their connectedness to each other and the ship.

    Lastly, which makes three I know, if you look at the ship outside the window when Roslin is in the doctor’s office, it’s Serenity.

    1. “That is, I think, foundational to where the story is going. The look of confusion, pain, and regret on her face. Especially regret. ”

      Do you think that’s regret on her face? I thought it was empathy. Six has always loved us and that was her tragedy. Love can be pretty terrible when it comes right down to it.

      Serenity shows up in the fleet a number of times, as well as some other famous sc-fi ships. The Enterprise is in there too. And the space station from 2001.

      1. Oh good. Nerding out. Love it. I do think it’s regret, and as the story develops it seems to me that’s something she experiences pretty deeply. But definitely her regret stems from her empathy towards humans rather than say a selfish regret for recognizing losing something she could have used/experienced (though that’s in there too).

    2. Late to reply here, but I remember reading Ron Moore saying that that scene was really controversial (infanticide!) and they would have cut it if it weren’t for the way Tricia Helfer played Six walking away from the scene – that look, that emotion, is all her.

      And yes, the ship visible through the class window/skylight, is Serenity. The Enterprise is also visible in a later scene among the Fleet (I love these little nerdy easter eggs).

  6. “You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.”

    Bill Adama, speaking the truth about life, the universe, and everything. This quote seems particularly apropos in consideration of Osama bin Laden and how he came to be such a devastating pain in our collective asses.

    1. BSG is incredibly rich in allegory, much of it modern-day too (just wait till we get to “Flesh and Bone”). Just one of the reasons why I love it so much despite wanting to shake Ron Moore for screwing up and writing himself into corners sometimes.

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