Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Final Analysis Part 2

Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series

Final Thoughts Part Two:

What Worked:

Baltar vs. Adama vs. Imperious Leader vs. Lucifer

A treacherous computer dressed in stereotypically ethnic East Asian clothing.  And we're supposed to take him seriously?

A treacherous computer dressed in stereotypically ethnic East Asian clothing. And we're supposed to take him seriously?

This was a four-way struggle for power for control within the Galactica Universe. Lucifer feels resentment over being passed up for the title of “Imperious Leader” after the previous Imperious Leader was destroyed at Carollon. It would be through Baltar that Lucifer would see his chance to increase his odds on being ‘selected’ as the next Imperious Leader – natural selection or not. And, given the chance, Lucifer would usurp Baltar’s position to do so. Baltar, meanwhile, is somewhat bitter over the previous Imperious Leader’s double-cross, and uses the current Imperious Leader’s generosity in an attempt to usurp power for his own means. Whether it means destruction of the remaining Colonial Forces or the Cylon Alliance (or both) remained to be seen.

The Cylon "Imperious Leader" on the throne.  How does he get down from there?

The Cylon "Imperious Leader" on the throne. How does he get down from there?

For the Imperious Leader, destruction of the humans has been a millennia-long war which almost ended in victory, but has since turned into a debacle. Although the Colonial forces have been routed and their home planets decimated, there is still a single Battlestar on the loose. The previous Imperious Leader used treacherous methods to bring about the destruction of the Colonies, but was unable to finish the job because of Adama. Because of the reach of the Cylon Alliance, he uses Baltar to pursue the humans. But whether he trusts Baltar completely is another issue altogether.

Adama attempting (and failing) to convince his idiot Commander-in-Chief that the Evil Robots are about to do something "Really Evil."

Adama attempting (and failing) to convince his idiot Commander-in-Chief that the Evil Robots are about to do something "Really Evil."

Commander Adama, whose warnings went unheeded, now shepherds the remains of humanity on a lonely quest – to find the mysterious 13th Colony, known as Earth. Although his ship is as powerful as any that the Cylons have in their arsenal, he cannot go toe-to-toe with them – they have the ability to refuel and repair anywhere, whereas he cannot; they can rearm and call for reinforcements, and he cannot. So he must pick and choose his battles as they come; his ship is the only one able to withstand a Cylon assault of any magnitude. But such is little consolation for Adama.

The Mythology of Kobol

Welcome to Egy-...excuse me?

Welcome to Egy-...excuse me?

The background of Kobol has been muddle enough that it can possibly be read as Legend. Much of the traditions of the 12 Colonies stems from Judaism and Christianity, but does not identify itself through either Earth-bound religion.

Yet, the idea behind the Gemons, the Arians, the Taurans, the Capricans, the Sagons, and the others is still rather intriguing, even though much of the show focused on the Capricans.

The Ideas Behind the Cylons

A Cylon conveniently lands on the planet to cause a poignant death scene in the final act of "Lost Planet of the Gods."

A Cylon conveniently lands on the planet to cause a poignant death scene in the final act of "Lost Planet of the Gods."

Far too often, the ‘good guys’ of the show would have to fight against their own “superior” creations when the robots/cyborgs decided that their “masters” would no longer enslave them. Not too often, however, is the overall plot one of “Something other than humans developed them, they were conquered by their own Robots, now they seek ‘perfection’ of the Universe,” or something along those lines.

Also, the Cylon power structure actually turned out to be something of interest to me. In essence, it works like this: Imperious Leader, then the IL-Lucifer Series, then the IL-Spectre Series, then the Gold Cylon or Centurion Leader, and then the Silver Centurion. When Baltar was given command of a Basestar, he was also given Imperious Leader Tactical Command powers. In other words, when he required their resources, the IL-series Cylons reported to him. I’m sure the Centurion Leader Golds also reported to Baltar, but we never see Baltar interact with one. But since “The Young Lords” establishes the IL-Spectre having Administrative Command over the Gold Centurion Leader, it can be inferred that Baltar would also have command over the Gold Cylons, too.

What Failed:

A Typical Battlestar Galactica (Original) Episode:

Apollo and/or Starbuck are on patrol when they encounter the Plot Point ™of the Week.

Aboard the Galactica, there is tension. Adama must calm the populace.

o Which results in a confrontation with the Council; AND

o One of the members will call for Adama’s resignation;

Apollo will and/or Starbuck will want to propose a risky idea, over Tigh’s objection

o Which will work; OR

o Apollo ends up risking his life, and Starbuck rescues him;

The Cylons and/or the Evil Humanoid of the Week™ will then terrorize the local human population:

o Of which (many, if not all of) the sympathetic cast members will be blonde-haired.

If he hasn’t had a scene by this point, Apollo will ask Boomer to do something not really relevant to the A-Plotline;

o At which point we will never see him again; OR

o He will be incapacitated for the rest of the show;

Adama will express concern over the situation, but will be interrupted by his foster grandson Boxey;

o Where he will assure Boxey that all will be fine; OR

o Cassiopeia will take of him; OR

o Boxey somehow joins the mission; and Muffit will perform a feat to save them all;

[If a Cylon-based plot] Baltar will reveal that all is going according to plan, AND

o He will order the final part of the trap sprung; AND

o The Cylons will attack en masse; AND

o Will somehow end up in a trap of the guest star’s making;

§ Because the guest star had a leaning towards the Colonial Warriors all along.

The Enemy will have one last trick that could win the battle

o But will be thwarted by Apollo and/or Starbuck in the end.

Starbuck

Lt. Starbuck meets Cassiopeia for the first time.

Lt. Starbuck meets Cassiopeia for the first time.

…Or, to be more precise, the overuse of his character and the assignment of character traits. Apollo calls Starbuck, “The Best Warrior in the Fleet.” We also learn that he was an orphan from a very young age, and survived by his own means for a very long time. When he met Apollo’s family is not clear; however, the two of them act as if they have been friends since childhood. He also started a relationship with Athena, but based on the events of “Take the Celestra” it is not clear when it actually did start.

Starbuck’s relationship with women is a sore point with me. Not because of Starbuck’s ‘studliness’ – when you consider how many women Starbuck juggles at once, but that his behavior is tolerated (and in some cases envied), especially by the women whom Starbuck dates. He said in “Take the Celestra” that he once loved Aurora and found himself somewhat lost when he could not find her on Caprica after the Cylon Armageddon. So, then that means that his relationship with Athena, which was supposed to be serious, could not really be one, could it? And also, consider that he starts immediately on Cassiopeia in the days after the Massacre, with Athena apparently being the possessive jealous type, when did he have time for Aurora?

The Starbuck-Athena relationship also soured because of Maren Jensen’s feud with Glen Larson – and “Take the Celestra” was a way of attempting to cleanse the audience of Athena’s relationship with Starbuck.

Apollo

Captain Apollo

Captain Apollo

Apollo was supposed to be the over-arching “hero” of the show. Incorruptible, Brave, Intelligent, and never one to back down from a challenge, his steadfast leadership was supposed to be the counterpoint to Starbuck’s brashness, hotheadedness, and extreme risk-taking.

But, like most things within Galactica, things were taken a little too far. Apollo was only shown to be off the deep end once (during the episode “Baltar’s Escape”), and even then the concerns that Apollo had were well-founded. In any other instance, all of his hunches were correct; his instincts always pointed him in the right direction; his concerns were always valid; and any beliefs he had were always the ones necessary to get them through the day. Whether it was against the Council, Colonel Tigh, the Cylons, the Alien of the Week, or even the Prince of Darkness himself, Apollo was never shown to be wrong about anything.

Also, if Starbuck isn’t around, the sympathetic woman of the show will gravitate towards Apollo, even to the point where she may even try to sabotage a mission to keep him by her side.

If there is an episode where Apollo is not the best, then there will be a moment where Apollo will get to perform comeuppance against that person.

Apollo: Gary Stu?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I’ve made allusions to Galactica’s version of this pairing, and it still stands pat. At first, they paired the two with Boomer, but he was reduced to background noise right after the series started filming “Lost Planet of the Gods.” Then, Sheba was supposed to be “Calamity Jane” and join the boys on missions and such – but that got thrown by the wayside. In fact, the Apollo/Starbuck/Sheba trio only goes on 2 patrols – once during “War of the Gods” and in the final episode “The Hand of God.”

As I stated before, while Battlestar Galactica had an ensemble cast, the bulk of the show was spent on Starbuck and Apollo, with Adama thrown in the mix. Everyone else on the show was hit or miss.

Tigh

An emotional Colonel watching his homeworld being destroyed by Cylons.

An emotional Colonel watching his homeworld being destroyed by Cylons.

Despite Terry Carter’s best attempts at giving this character dignity, he could not overcome the damage that had been done to him by the writing and production staff. The only time he was ever allowed to have a thought of his one was when he was chewed out by the “Woman Council Member Who Doesn’t Know Better,” and only to get Apollo and Starbuck to do something. Other than that, he was never allowed to think or act independently, was never shown to be right about his caution, and was always wrong when dealing with Apollo, Starbuck, and Adama.

This is not how you write an executive officer. Especially if your XO is a person of color.

Boomer

Lt. Boomer.

Lt. Boomer.

Any goodwill I had towards the writing of this particular character was lost by “Fire in Space” and “War of the Gods.” He was treated marginally better than Colonel Tigh by the writers in comparison. Unfortunately, the fact that they made Boomer “The Car Thief of Caprica” would turn out to be Strikes one AND two for me. Strike Three came when Boomer made a deal with the Devil to win at a game of Triads.

Over the course of the series, Boomer never saved Starbuck or Apollo from any kind of personal danger – ever. I don’t count the events in “The Long Patrol” because it was incidental – and they had Boomer ready to shoot “the cute kid.” On top of this, if Apollo and/or Starbuck had a hare-brained hunch to go after one another OR the enemy to prevent further destruction, Boomer would be ORDERED to remain with the squadron (to ‘take command’) while they go off on their adventure.

For the Triad games, Boomer would be paired off with some nameless stiff (this is where ensemble character development would have helped matters) while Apollo and Starbuck beat him continuously. Also, Boomer never wins at Pyramids, either. AND while on missions, Boomer never seems to be able to contribute anything of substance, despite any special training or experience he has vs. Starbuck or Apollo.

Boomer, as a character, had promise, but it turned into a disheartening experience by the end of the season.

Boxey

Boxey, as his mother succumbs to her wounds on Kobol.

Boxey, as his mother succumbs to her wounds on Kobol.

Boxey was supposed to be the one who brings in the kids to watch this show. After losing his father and his daggit (“Space Dog”) during the Cylon Armageddon, he is befriended by Apollo and his family. After being nearly killed by the Cylons and Ovions on Carollon, Boxey finds himself being drawn to Apollo as a father figure (which leads to even more ‘mutual’ attraction between Serina and Apollo). After experiencing joy in seeing his mother re-marry – and to a guy Boxey approved of – he would experience another heartbreak when his mother would die from her wounds during a Cylon attack on Kobol.

Beyond this, Boxey would try to enjoy a child’s normal life aboard the Galactica. And yet, the writers would try to find ways to get Boxey (and Muffit) to tag along with the landing party, just so he can get into hi jinx with his Android Space Dog. Then, when it comes time for the Hot Laser Action™, there was always a convenient measure to insure that Boxey is out of the picture (usually through Jolly, Cassiopeia, or friendly alien children nearby).

However, he was unceremoniously discarded after “Greetings from Earth” and never seen again. While I did not approve of Boxey being treated as “the special kid” because of his step-father and grandfather’s special status within the fleet, simply dropping Boxey from the roster did not do anything for the show positively, either.

Co-Starring Sheba as “Calamity Jane”

Anne Lockhart as Sheba.  Direct predecessor to Colonel Wilma Deering of Larson's other Sci-Fi show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century."

Anne Lockhart as Sheba. Direct predecessor to Colonel Wilma Deering of Larson's other Sci-Fi show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century."

One does not want to believe that a new semi-permanent role was created in order to ‘spice up’ the show. In the case of Battlestar, it does leave one to wonder, however. Sheba, as played by Anne Lockhart, was supposed to make a new ‘Viper triumvirate’ with Apollo and Starbuck, as they head out on missions and get into hi jinx. This idea was apparently scuttled after “War of the Gods,” as her appearances as a Viper pilot were cut immensely. As a matter of fact, Sheba never received much in terms of a story after “War of the Gods.”

I have sometimes referred to Sheba as “The New Toy,” in a somewhat derogatory manner. This is not out of disrespect for Sheba, or Anne Lockhart, but rather my disdain for a writing staff that often got caught unprepared and overstressed. As a result, many of the episodes were derivative of each other, rehashing general plot structure, and supporting cast members were treated as little more than background noise. When Sheba came along, Boomer was the first to feel her presence, as he was no longer shown anywhere near the cockpit of the Viper. However, Sheba found herself out of the picture soon afterwards, which was a bit of a surprise.

All it means in the end is that there was too much juggling going on, and it just happened to be that the People of Color and women in general got very little out of it.

And I have a stretch of road over a span of water in New York I need to unload quickly.

The Viper Squadrons

Colonial Vipers

Colonial Vipers

There were supposed to be four different squadrons aboard the Galactica at the start of the series: Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green squadrons. Apollo is supposed to be the Strike Captain (or Leader) of Blue Squadron. Starbuck and Boomer serve as Flight Leaders. Jolly and Greenbean are senior members of the squadron.

When we meet the Pegasus, their squadrons are integrated into the Galactica after Cain decides to take on 3 Basestars head-on. Thus, Silver Spar Squadron makes its debut as Galactica Squadron. And, apparently, Bojay leads that squadron – and Jolly was transferred to it.

In my opinion, what should have been the structure of the Galactica: Apollo as Strike Captain and the Colonial equivalent of Carrier Air Group Commander (or CAG). He could also serve as Blue Squadron leader. Starbuck as Green Squadron Leader, Boomer as Red Squadron, and Jolly as Yellow Squadron leader.

Baltar’s Greed for Cylon Power

Count Baltar.  When he stopped being duplicitous and started acting like a typical black hat bad guy, Galactica (the show) suffered because of it.

Count Baltar. When he stopped being duplicitous and started acting like a typical black hat bad guy, Galactica (the show) suffered because of it.

Baltar started out as someone who allowed his greed for power and riches to get the better of him. It would be because of him that the Cylons would be able to destroy the Colonies. But, while he double-crossed the Colonies, the Cylon Imperious Leader double-crossed him. In the original movie, this was supposed to be where Baltar gets his come-uppance…and death at the hands of the Cylons. For the new TV series, 3 minutes of new filming, new Robert Macnee voice work and clever editing changed that.

The Baltar of “Lost Planet of the Gods” is the Baltar that would have worked the best for the grand scaling that Galactica attempted. This Baltar is the one that you are sure is “Evil,” but you just aren’t sure what his motivations are. You know you shouldn’t trust him, but is that entirely true?

Unfortunately, Baltar would become a cardboard cutout villain afterwards, wanting nothing more than to destroy the humans and gain favor with the Cylon Imperious Leader. The Baltar of “Lost Planet of the Gods” would make a brief re-appearance in “War of the Gods,” only to revert back to cardboard cutout afterwards.

Widowers Anonymous:

Want cheap drama?  Kill the wife!

Want cheap drama? Kill the wife!

In times of war and destruction, there will be a large number of families that are destroyed. However, in terms of significance to the plot and or character conflict within Galactica, the number of wives and mothers portrayed as dead (or end up dying) within the series is large. However, when compared to the number of times husbands and fathers are portrayed as dead (or end up dying), the numbers turn up much worse for women. In fact, while 2 wives die at the hands of the Cylons while saving their husbands, there is no reverse or equivalent situation occurring within the series. Ever.

As I have tried to stress on many occasions, things add up – watch the math being computed. And this is one section that Battlestar Galactica comes out on the poor end of the equation.

The Final Analysis:

In terms of a general storyboard structure, Battlestar Galactica was a show with much promise. But, as I have mentioned time and time again, my disappointment comes not from the structure of the show, but the execution. The Athena-Cassiopeia battle over Starbuck was a monumental waste of celluloid. Apollo being always right was, and is, the worst decision made by the production staff. Not learning much about any crew member not named Adama, Starbuck, or Apollo is a sad thing to behold. A lack of people of color among the “aliens” is a sad sight, and Galactica’s Blonde-casting only made things much worse.

The special and visual effects were only somewhat bothersome; the reuse of visual effects shots and lack of full attention to detail is only because of lack of production time and no NLE (Non-Linear Editing) technologies available. Also, since Universal, in their infinite wisdom, chose not to re-master the original Battlestar Galactica, the “errors” are very prevalent and visible throughout the series like motion sticks and control arms being visible in the SFX, a wobbling basestar or two, and other such problems.

From what I understand based on the cast and crew interviews of the time, Battlestar Galactica was literally being written on the spot for many of their episodes, and this rush writing shows in the end. With writing the episode as it is being filmed time and time again, the stress of the moment will invariably show a trend of what the writing and production staff feels is the “best bet” for a successful episode – which ends up like the outline listed above.

What this means is that Battlestar’s main weakness is that the show turned formulaic without even realizing what kind of formula it wanted to follow in the end. Battlestar Galactica established the possibility of a grand, ambitious scheme with “Saga of a Star World” and “Lost Planet of the Gods,” as well as the possibility of several different character and plot conflicts coming from several different directions. Much of this would be lost with the next few chapters (The Lost Warrior, The Long Patrol, The Young Lords, Gun on Ice Planet Zero, The Magnificent Warriors). By the time “The Living Legend” hits, the original ideas of Galactica – as well its grand-scale ambitions – were found by the wayside. After a short side trip with “Fire in Space,” these ideas found some new ground in “War of the Gods.” Once again, however, the original ideas were quickly pushed aside (Greetings from Earth, The Man with Nine Lives, Murder on the Rising Star, Experiment in Terra, Baltar’s Escape). In fact, in this second batch of episodes, not one of them featured the Cylons in any way as the villain to be dealt with.

By the time “The Hand of God” comes around, Battlestar Galactica, in terms of what the show started at, had lost everything that it had worked so hard to create. Which is a shame; much of what it tried to accomplish would have been considered epic, but required more stability in order to achieve its goals. This was something that Universal had not given Galactica at any point, and it shows with many of the episodes the kind of rushed work it had to do in order to meet the schedule.

In Conclusion:

There are two sides to Battlestar Galactica. The Up-Side, which consists of Saga of a Star World, Lost Planet of the Gods, The Living Legend, War of the Gods, and the Hand of God; and The Down-Side: Everything else. The Up-Side, based on the list, consist of episodes which attempt to make Galactica into an epic space adventure on a grand scale, with heroes, villains, brokered alliances, conflict, joy and pain. The Down-Side, on the other hand, gets mired in concepts that have very little to do with the premise as put forth in Saga of a Star World, and spends too much time attempting to push certain characters to the forefront to the detriment of everyone else.

In the end, Battlestar Galactica (Original) is like a playoff team that just barely found itself edged out of a berth in the final championship game, needing only a few tweaks and maybe one small change of focus in order to get to the next level.

This entry was posted in Battlestar Galactica (TOS) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Deconstructing Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series – Final Analysis Part 2

  1. Steven E Kostrna says:

    Who plays the second guest star actress on Battlestar Galactica take the Celestra.Because I wold like to know? they haven’t mentioned her name in the story.

  2. Brian says:

    In defense of the Original Battlestar Galactica. The episodes you liked were some of the ones written for the series. With the huge hit that Star Wars was fast becoming the Powers that Be wanted BSG in production. It was originally slated as a Mini Series to pilot the show for a next season release. The shows you mentioned were scripts in the works for the next season. IT was rushed into production and we were left with filler scripts which were rewrites of The Towering Inferno, The Magnificant Seven, Shane, etc to fit the BSG universe, or worse, hastly slapped together scripts used to fill out the season. It also strapped the FX budget and we were left with stocked canned footage for every episode, mostly reused since the Pilot “Saga of a Starworld”. I would loved to of have seen what could of have been if we had been given time for the show to fully evolve. I love TOS BSG, and while I fully ackowledge the problems are there and there is plenty of 70’s TV Cheesy to it, it was still a great show that had huge potential we will never see.

    Thank you for your honest review of the series, and your equally honest review of the new show, Galactica in Name Only.

  3. David Rivas says:

    Whos is the Actress in the original Battlestar Galactica who had the braided hair and always said “Blue Suadron Launched”.

Say What You Mean - And Mean What You Say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s