Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter One: Saga of a Star World

On the eve of a day in which the war between the Cylon Alliance and the 12 Colonies would end, the Imperious Leader, along with Count Baltar, spring the endgame of a devious trap; Using the humans’ willingness to pursue peace, the Cylons attack the Colonial Fleet gathered at the armistice location, Scimitar, and destroy all but one Colonial Battlestar – as well as all twelve of the human colonies (which happen to be represented by the signs of the Zodiac).

As the humans regroup, Commander Adama, the last surviving member of the Quorum of Twelve, organizes the remaining humans and informs them of a fabled 13th Colony…Earth. As they begin their journey, Baltar is seemingly on the end of his – the Imperious Leader, having no intention of letting Baltar have a planet of his own, places him into custody and has him sent back to the Cylon home planet for public execution. Imperious Leader hatches a new plot, where the humans land on the planet Carollon, where a paradise would await them. As the humans relax and find themselves sated, the Cylons would finish them once and for all.

Adama sees through the plot and diverts his viper fighters elsewhere. When the Cylons attack the Galactica, the Vipers re-appear and destroy the attacking Cylons. The ensuing firefight on the surface of Carollon, however, ignited the vast Tylium deposits on the planet, turning it into a giant explosive device. Thinking and acting quickly, Apollo and Starbuck lure the attacking Cylon Basestar to Carollon’s lower atmosphere, where the planet’s destruction also destroyed the Basestar, and the original Imperious Leader.

The new Imperious Leader summons Baltar, and releases him on a condition that he “negotiates” with the humans for their subjugation. To this end, he is given a Basestar of his own, along with a Lucifer-class Cylon adviser to assist in his efforts.

Review and Thoughts:

Overall, I had forgotten what kind of impact this episode had on me. The whole idea of relentless pursuit at the expense of discretion is on complete display. President Adar – Relentless in the pursuit of peace leads to the destruction of the Colonial fleet and the colonies themselves. Baltar – Relentless pursuit of power and greed leads to his own colony being destroyed – and his death in the original movie. The Imperious Leader – Relentless pursuit of the destruction of the humans in battle leads to its own destruction.

Things to Watch for:

At around 05:50, there is a launch of 2 Vipers. To show how much editing (and the use of NLE) changed VFX techniques; there is a shot of 2 Vipers, one of which is executing a barrel roll. At 05:56, there is a shot of a Cylon fighter – which should not have been there.

In the first shot of the 3 Cylon Basestars, before they begin their attack on Colonies, the Basestar on the far right wobbles for about a second.

The destruction of the Atlantia was executed somewhat well. Because we are still dealing with real models instead of CGI, the Galactica model stands in for the Atlantia. So, while watching the Atlantia die was epic for its time, at this point, it is actually not as spectacular in terms of VFX abilities as even the destruction of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek III (which came out about 5 years later, but having a budget somewhat on par with Galactica’s total TV budget). Meaning, we don’t get to see the Atlantia torn apart and on fire (as in “dramatic dying scene”) before she is destroyed.

The destruction of Carollon reuses many of the same elements as the destruction of the Atlantia. From Adama’s initial reaction to the flashes of light (complete with the same bridge crew member running up the stairs) to the final sparks of the explosion – although the camera is zoomed closer to the explosion to mask this final fact.

Colonel Tigh:

It is clear that he is going to be the highest ranked “Black” person on the show. However, it isn’t really clear what his role on the ship is. At first, it would seem like Tigh runs the tactical operations of the ship and battles while Adama gives the general orders. However, this is not the case. Part of the issue, as I see it, is that the writers focused in too much on Bridge Officer Omega. Upon subsequent viewings, Bridge Officer Omega had too large a part to play as far as lines and roles within this episode. And, of course, Omega is white.

Sadly, while Terry Carter did what he could with the script, Colonel Tigh was not allowed to have an original thought of his own, a strategy that he could concoct on his own, and rarely had information or advice that advanced much of anything. I have a vague recollection of Tigh dressing down Starbuck when he and the rest of the pilots boarded the Galactica ready to chew out Adama for leaving the battlefield – and none of the pilots had any knowledge of the colonies being destroyed at this point. However, I do not remember if this was in the original movie version or the novelization only.

Lt. Boomer:

I would like to think that there was not a concerted effort to make Boomer look bad, but despite Herbert Jefferson’s best efforts, the writing for Lt. Boomer was not very kind to him. In fact, the first time we catch Boomer in action, he is being chased by a Cylon warship and has to be bailed out by Jolly. The second time he has any appreciable screen time is during the Cylon’s attack on the Atlantia. Boomer’s shots go wide of the Cylon warship attacking…and has to be helped by Starbuck. This is slightly balanced by what is going to be the usual “show the pilot, cut to the VFX, destroy a Cylon ship” routine we get to see throughout the series. In Boomer’s case, he gets to save Starbuck’s tail when he is unable to shake a Cylon fighter during the Carollon battle.

The Galactica Crew:

Other than Boomer and Tigh, we see one other Black male worker on the bridge. He will show up twice in the episode. There is also a Black male fighter pilot sitting at the Pyramid game when Starbuck wins the pot (before Battle stations happens to be sounded). Other walk-ons – a black male senior bridge officer and an Asian male Colonial Warrior – and the nondescript Asian male warrior is shown quite a bit without a speaking part. He will be seen on the front of the “Transport car” that sends the warriors to the Viper launch bays. And, since a show like this uses a lot of stock footage, expect to see him a lot.

The First Council:

One African-American on this council. There is also a man who is supposed to be an Arab-like person (complete with the whole “Lawrence of Arabia” head and face covering). There is also a man of Japanese descent (I believe) who is seen for a moment. The members of the council, for the most part, are also Battlestar Commanders. They all get blown to smithereens with the exception of Adama and Baltar.

The Second Council:

The second council loses all of the diversity of the first one in short order, leaving the new council filled with old, stuffy white men. The only balance here is the fact that this is a council filled with idiots – to set up the conflict of “Adama vs. the Council” to continue an internal conflict among the human race as well as the human conflict versus the Cylons.

The Battlestar Crews:

Of all of the battlestars, only the Atlantia had scenes besides VFX. And the entire crew, unfortunately, has no one of ethnic origin. The other battlestars were only shown during the introduction and their final battle.

The Population of the Survivors:

There is a greater than expected diversity among the populace of survivors. They get treated equally here because outside of the initial “objections” over Cassiopeia, the survivors themselves are all walk-ons.

Final Rating:

[Cautionary] 6.4 out of 10. There is some diversity of the cast, but most of it is of the non-speaking category. However, at least there are many survivors from the first massacre and subsequent attack within the episode, and none of them met a “heroic” death.

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