Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Eight: The Living Legend

On a scouting mission on the outer edges of space, Apollo and Starbuck find themselves under attack by a pair of ships that turn out to be other colonial Vipers. However, both Apollo and Starbuck are out-flown by their counterparts and are nearly shot down. What they find out is equally astounding: Another Battlestar, known as the Pegasus, survived a major battle years ago which was presumed destroyed. The captain of the Pegasus is Commander Cain, known as the greatest living military mind of the Colonies.

Troubles for Starbuck continue when he finds out that Cain had a prior relationship with Cassiopeia; one which has been rekindled by Cass when she found out that Cain was indeed alive. There has also been bad blood between Cassiopeia and Sheba, who happens to be Commander Cain’s daughter, because of Cass’ relationship with Cain.

As word of Cain’s return spread throughout the fleet, morale improved drastically. A first strike was proposed to take a set of Cylon tankers. Blue Squadron from the Galactica and Silver Spar squadron from the Pegasus attack a fuel convoy and take out the Cylon fighter escorts. But the mission would turn into a failure when Commander Cain destroys the Cylon tankers.

When Cain proposes that the Battlestars attack and take Gommoray – a Cylon Capital – Adama immediately objects to leaving the civilian fleet defenseless. Adama orders Cain to divide a portion of the Pegasus’ fuel reserves to distribute to the ‘dead’ fleet to get out of the quadrant. Cain protests the order and refuses to comply. Adama relieves Cain of duty and orders Tigh to divide the Pegasus fuel.

When the Galactica shuttles in to begin the process, the Pegasus pilots, led by Sheba and Bojay, block their efforts. Things come to dangerous precipice when the stonewalling Pegasus pilots threaten to draw their laser pistols – and Apollo and Boomer preempt them by drawing their own. Before any shots are fired, the alert is sounded and everyone scrambles.

Aboard the Galactica, Adama’s worst fears are confirmed when the scanners showed a Cylon force as large as the one that destroyed the fleet (in Saga of a Star World) was approaching their position. Cain sees the error of his tactics and launches towards the Pegasus to surprise the Cylons. Baltar, leading the attack personally, manages to cripple the Galactica, but is repelled by a surprise attack by the Pegasus.

Cain proposes that the Galactica and Pegasus immediately strike Gomorray and move to take the Cylon fuel at the dump. But, to do this, they would have to take out the anti-air defense grid with a small strike team. Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, Sheba, Bojay, and Cassiopeia are chosen for this mission, and Cain proposes to use the Pegasus to draw the Cylon fighters away.

Meanwhile, Baltar, realizing he has the power of 4 Basestars’ worth of fighters at his command, decides to attack the Galactica. When he learns that the Imperious Leader is on the planet, he sees this as his chance to become a hero amongst the Cylons. Cain moves the Pegasus towards Baltar’s task force, and confusion takes hold of the quadrant. Although Bojay was injured during the jump, forcing Cassiopeia to take care of his wounds, Apollo and the others managed to knock out the air defenses. This allowed the Galactica’s vipers, led by Jolly, to conduct strafing runs to physically knock out the gun emplacements. The shuttles soon arrived on the planet to begin stealing the fuel from the depot – which forced Baltar to launch the fighters and defend the planet.

Cassiopeia takes Bojay to one of the shuttles and has him transported aboard the Pegasus. Cain, however, has other plans; he wants to take the Pegasus and take on the Basestars head on. Blue Squadron and Silver Spar Squadron launch to punch a hole in the Cylon fighters, but the attack severely damages the Pegasus and Sheba’s viper is damaged during the battle. After being bailed out by Apollo, they return to the Pegasus and Sheba is taken care by Cassiopeia. Cain continues on his collision course, but Apollo’s quick thinking allows the medical staff to transport all of the wounded on to shuttles back to the Galactica.

As Cain continues towards Baltar’s task force, the Cylon fighters that were headed for the Galactica turn around and head back to the Basestars. However, they would not arrive in time to turn the tide of the battle back to the Cylons. Starbuck and Apollo, however, decide to assist the Pegasus in battle by destroying the Basestars’ missile launchers and larger gun emplacements; thus reducing the odds of the destruction of the Battlestar.

Cain and the two Basestars are locked in combat, with the Pegasus’ missile complement turning out to be the edge it needed. The final explosion of the second Basestar, however, leaves the outcome of the battle in doubt, as the Pegasus no longer appeared on the scanners. Given Cain’s ability and luck in previous engagements, the Galactica crew considers it doubtful that the Pegasus is actually destroyed. In the meantime, Adama has welcomed Sheba to the family.

Review and Thoughts:

This is another one of those middle of the road chapters that was such a big deal when it was first released, but upon retrospect missed so many different angles that could have been played out on screen.

Missed Connections and Emotions:

The Pegasus crew had been in deep space for the last 2 years after the disastrous battle at Molecay. The Colonial 5th Fleet was destroyed and the Pegasus was presumed lost along with the other Battlestars. When the Pegasus crew realizes that they had been fighting a battle that had largely been irrelevant in the grand scheme of things – Cain admits that he was perplexed that there had been no Cylon basestars pursuing him and never really questioned why…or made his way back to the Colonies – there seems to be no realization on the part of Cain or his crew that they were the last vestiges of the Colonial humanity left in the stars.

Also missing was the emotion in realizing that their friends and family back home were dead – as well as their homelands destroyed at the hands of the Cylons. And, aside from Cassiopeia for Cain, no one on the Pegasus crew seemed to make a search for any possible survivors on the over 200 ships in the civilian fleet.

Commander Cain’s Earth Template:

This one should be obvious:

General George S. Patton (as portrayed by George C. Scott in the movie "Patton")

General George S. Patton (as portrayed by George C. Scott in the movie "Patton")

General George S. Patton.

Much like Adama is supposed to be the pragmatist General Eisenhower, Cain is the risk-taker…and glory-seeker. General Patton was known for unorthodox tank strategy and battle tactics, as well as being out near the front lines very often. Patton carries a “command baton” (for lack of the proper term at the moment), as does Cain. And, despite the often sheer lunacy (on the surface) of his plans, his men, for better or for worse, follow him.

Sheba – Incomplete Template:

108-sheba01

Sheba was supposed to be Superwoman Viper Pilot extraordinaire. While not necessarily a pilot with the stereo-typical “feminist chip on her shoulder,” care was taken not to allow her to have any existing romantic relationship with someone already aboard the Pegasus. The closest to any kind of relationship she has, romantic or otherwise, is the one she shares with Bojay (her wingman) and Cain (her father). When she goes out on missions, she braids her hair up so that it will all fit inside of her helmet.

Lt. Sheba - with Braids

Lt. Sheba - with Braids

Sheba and Bojay – Best Pilots of the Colonial Warriors…Not.

One of the highlights of this chapter was the beginning sequence where Apollo and Starbuck were unable to shake their pursuers and Sheba and Bojay, who were milli-centons from blowing them both out of the sky. The underlying message that episode was trying to send was that, “Sheba, a woman, had out-flown Apollo, a slightly older and more experienced man.” Then, when the Cylon escort ambushed Blue Squadron and had to be bailed out by Silver Spar – with Sheba bailing out Apollo personally, this was supposed to provide the “Sheba is better than Apollo” reinforcement. Thus, “Girl Power in effect.”

However, when the Cylon fighters attacked en masse, Sheba was hit by Cylon fire and bailed out by Apollo. Also, Sheba was not quite as confident about her abilities during this particular attack. This scene was supposed to be a preamble for the requisite “must be taken care of by the woman she hates” scene which would be coming soon after. But the tactics of the Pegasus Squadrons vs. those of the Galactica made me look at the situations in general:

The pilots of the Pegasus are probably better individual pilots than their Galactica counterparts. This is probably because of the number of sorties that the Pegasus launches against the Cylons are far greater than those of the Galactica. With that being said, the Pegasus pilots never faced more than a basestar’s complement of fighters at any point beyond Molecay. This is the important part – because the Pegasus pilots never faced more than 100 fighters at any one time, flying tactics that you can use against a small force don’t work against larger forces. You don’t fight one opponent the same you fight ten at once, or vice-versa.

Another Wife and Mother Thrown Under the Bus:

It is interesting to note the number of times in Battlestar Galactica that women and mothers have died as part of the plot for the show or episode in question, versus the number of times men and fathers for the same reason:

Adama’s wife – And mother of Athena/Apollo/Zac.

Serena – Wife of Apollo, Mother of Boxey

Mother of the Warrior Children of “The Young Lords”

Leeda, Croft’s wife, in “Gun on Ice Planet Zero”

To this list, we now add:

Cain’s wife – And mother of Sheba.

While this may be part of the “reality” of the Cylon war, the only men/fathers who died as part of the plot point was Thella’s husband, the Colonial warrior, in “The Lost Warrior.”

This may be misogyny, or not. But, like the Blonde-casting of many of the episodes previous to this, it is a case of going to the well far too often.

Baltar – Cardboard Cutout for Evil

Baltar - Personally Leading the Cylon Attack

Baltar - Personally Leading the Cylon Attack

There were some changes in Baltar’s basestar, which in real life were to cut down on SFX/VFX, but could be described as Baltar taking a more hands-on approach to command. First, the Seat of Power, which is normally 20 feet high, was reduced to less than 4. Second, the Imperious Leader’s throne room, which is opulently barren except for the Seat of Power, was modified. Third, the Seat of Power was moved to the Cylon Command center within the basestar. This made Baltar’s method of commanding different from other Cylon commanders.

Unfortunately, Baltar has gone from a man whom you questioned his allegiance – is he a human that wanted power or destruction of the Cylons or does he want revenge for his betrayal? – to a Cylon-like human that just wants to destroy Adama, expand his power and reach, and be known as the hero “against the Humans.” And, since he is evil, he is looking for any advantage to overthrow the Cylon Imperious Leader.

This was not the Baltar of “Saga of a Star World” or “Lost Planet of the Gods.” That Baltar, while not without his own faults, was much more interesting. This Baltar is a cardboard cutout villain that you are more apt to find on the 1980s TV Action Shows penned by Larson (and fellow 80s Action writers Stephen J. Cannell and Aaron Spelling).

Cylon Idiocy at its Finest:

The Cylon Imperious Leader decides to visit the Cylon Quadrant Capital on the planet – to commemorate the re-opening of the base. What strikes me as odd is this:

First, Bojay, Sheba, and Cain all say that they have been “living” off of this base for quite some time – and every time they build the base, the Pegasus comes around to knock it down. Considering that the base has been attacked repeatedly, wouldn’t it be prudent for the Imperious Leader to keep a Cylon Basestar in orbit around the planet…or at least in the area?

Second, when the Imperious Leader does arrive, why does he take a Cylon Transport Ship, instead of his Flagship? Wait, I already have that answer: Because while 3 baseships and 300 fighters on Gammoray would mean Cain could go hare-brained on a plan and get around it, having a Basestar already in orbit around the planet would mean curtains for the humans.

As I said, idiocy at its finest.

Colonel Tigh:

Someone tell me why he is on this show again? He got the lowlight of the show over Lt. Boomer this time, but not by much. It should be noted that he is one of the few people who didn’t fawn over Commander Cain’s return. And when he heard Cain speak, it only served to confirm his suspicions that Cain was an overhyped blowhard who lived off of his past glories – and not really caring about the fact that last remnants of the Colonial races were in ships that ran out of fuel and the basestars chasing them were less than a stone’s throw away.

But the lowlight comes with Adama giving Tigh the command of the Pegasus, where yet another crew blithely ignores him – to the point where Cain announces his return to command of the Pegasus, a big cheer erupts on the bridge.

Shafted. Again.

Lt. Boomer:

Boomer, like Tigh, continues to be ignored. He flies in his fighter and we don’t see much of him. He goes on the “dangerous” missions and he doesn’t do much. He never comes up with any plans on his own, never gets to take any initiative, doesn’t save Apollo, Starbuck, or anyone else, and (obviously) he doesn’t get the girl.

One of the things that bothered me was at the end of this episode – Starbuck and Apollo once again go off on a mission to perform some daring deed…and once again Boomer has to “stay behind” to keep things in order.

Shafted. Again.

The Battlestar Pegasus:

The Pegasus is about as diverse as the Galactica. You have a black male senior bridge officer who serves as launch control (Rigel’s job with Omega’s rank); a black female senior officer (and she doesn’t have hair doused in lye; her hair is curly and natural, with a style you would see more often associated with men); as well as a few other black men and women in non-speaking roles strewn about.

Final Rating:

[Cautionary] 5.0 out of 10. Once again, Larson and Company do a commendable job in background noise diversity. The Cain vs. Adama plotline would have made more sense if the Cylon War had not ended in such a massacre. Sheba and the rest of the Pegasus crew were supposed to be the crew created as an opposite of the Galactica’s more cautious and prudent crew, but since it was made apparent that no one except for Cain had any ties whatsoever with the human survivors, their counterpoint to the Galactica gets lost in the shuffle.

To get the Cassiopeia/Cain/Starbuck kerfuffle, another wife and mother had to be thrown under the bus. This has happened now in a total of 5 times in the first 8 chapter arcs. The well has since been dried up for using this crutch, as it no longer highlights the human cost of war as much as it is used to morally cover a romantic plotline in this series.

This is something that needs to be changed in order for this series to move forward.

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4 Responses to Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Chapter Eight: The Living Legend

  1. Lerone Lee says:

    Both series could have been better. T.O.S. was just what it was at that time. The situation where cheers erupt on bridge of the Pegasus erupt when Cain announces his return and the blatant disrespect of Col. Tigh would not be tolerated in real combat situations. And the all out standoff between the two battlestars in the reimagined series would not stand in the eyes of any real president . Both series could done a little better with deversity ok the original series could have done a lot better. But think about , it was the 70’s. however the reimagined could have done a lot better since there was only one race,the human race. We could have stand to see a lot more bridge officers ,pilots and fighter pilots of assorted hues. And however came up with the idea for Lt. Anastasia Duallo to shoot herself needs to shoot themselves. And don’t get me started about Sci-Fi’s decision to end the series.

  2. Heavy Armor says:

    Lerone,

    You make some good points here.

    I disagree on the diversity aspect. The original version left alot to be desired, even with the character of Lt. Dietre (from Lost Planet of the Gods). Unfortunately, the re-imagined version doesn’t even have a character like her. The women of color (Dualla, Elosha, Tara, Boomer/Athena, Lorrain) all fall into one of the 5 tropes of sci-fi for women of color (in my Support Analysis section), and the men of color are either weak-willed, or Cylons, or pimps, or prisoners on a barge.

  3. Pingback: Serving Justice » Leadership with a small L

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