The BattleStar Galactica Files (Ep 9) – The Hand of God

Welcome to the BattleStar Galactica Files! Sci-Fi (Syfy) Channel’s classic series that captured the fear and the paranoia of the post-9/11 culture. Hailed by critics and fans alike, BSG’s arcing, epic storyline, detailed character development, dynamite special effects, and top-notch acting makes it one of the best science fiction tales of our time. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Jamie Bamber led a top-notch cast through 4 short seasons of one of the best television shows ever made. If you’ve seen BSG then you know, if you haven’t, then do yourself a favor- every episode is on Netflix, and it was just picked up for syndication on BBC America!

[Warning: Spoilers! This is my attempt to sum up, review, and quantify BSG in layman’s terms]


The Hand of God

“Sometimes you have to roll the hard six…” – Bill Adama

Craps isn’t cards. In cards, typically a player strategically bases their bets on the power of the cards in their hand, as well as on the assumed power of an opponents’ hand. In craps on the other hand, everything is based on the roll of the die. While the odds are slightly higher in the player’s favor as far as bets go, there’s no bluffing the dice. Sometimes you just have to toss ’em and pray.

As season one of Battlestar Galactica draws to a conclusion, the outlook for humanity is grim. Having nearly been erased from the galaxy during the attack on the Colonies by their Cylon creations, the few remaining survivors are on the run- desperately searching for an ancient home called “Earth.”

One of the show’s greatest strengths is its ability to convey such stark realism in a completely fantastical situation. The universe of Battlestar is dark, violent, and brutal, all depicted through the eyes of the characters it follows. As military fiction it rivals classic naval dramas such as Das Boot or Run Silent, Run Deep in the sense that it basically focuses on the inhabitants of space-faring submarines. There aren’t any windows on the Galactica.

I’m not sure exactly what makes this kind of military drama so enthralling, maybe it’s the close quarters, or the constant threat of death- even from the environment around them. Maybe it has something to do with the never-ending pursuit or the fact that at any moment an enemy ship could appear and sink our heroes (or in this case send them hurling into space), but the writers do an excellent job of translating that submerged, submarine-like claustrophobia into a science fiction setting. There’s grainy camera filters, shadow-filled sets, blood, sweat, and tears in the world of our battered human survivors. The ever-lowering number on President Laura Roslin‘s whiteboard is a brutal reminder of the fact that it’s never been so vital to just stay alive.

Technology in the world of Battlestar Galactica is based on a type of fuel called tylium ore. Tylium is a volatile substance that is mined from asteroids and then converted into an inert yellow powder which every ship in the show uses to power their Faster-Than-Light jump drives. FTL drives are their only means of staying on the run from their Cylon pursuers, otherwise they’d be stuck puttering along through space.

As episode 13 opens, the 50,000 or so humans that remain aboard the ships of the fleet have found themselves stranded with only enough fuel reserves for approximately two more jumps. Commander Adama has pilots out in droves scanning for a source of tylium (luckily one of the civilian ships is a refinery, but that’ll come in later). Aboard Colonial One, President Roslin is still reeling from her encounter with the Cylon infiltrator, Leoben, who planted the seed of doubt in her mind when he whispered “Adama is a Cylon” in her ear. With flash bulbs snapping before her at a press conference, the Prez has a vision of a dozen snakes slithering across her podium… All the while struggling to keep her cool in front of the reporters from the fleet, who are hungry for information regarding the status of the fuel reserves.

The fleet is afraid. The truth of the Cylons is out: they look like humans now… and anyone could be an imposter. What’s worse is the damage they’ve done already: sabotage, blowing up improvised explosive devices, manufacturing fear and distrust in the fleet… the usual insurgency kind of stuff. Now remember that when Battlestar aired in 2004, America- in fact the world- was caught in the grip of fear by a mysterious enemy that no one really took the time to understand. The label “Terrorist” was slapped on everything that walked, talked, or breathed wrong, and people were flooding to supermarkets to buy duct tape, bottled water, and gas masks… don’t forget the gas masks. An enemy driven by blind faith in a god that is different than the norm, who uses brutal tactics to kill civilian populations and who hides in plain sight. An enemy that we see as so different from us that we treat them like animals, like things that only think they are human, to be lined up, humiliated, beaten, and tortured. An enemy who sees the continuation of our species, and our very way of life, as a deadly threat to their own. You picking up what I’m putting down here?

After the press conference, when Roslin tells her spiritual adviser, Elosha, that she’s succumbing to hallucinations about snakes, the priestess thinks she is pulling her leg. When Elosha figures out that Roslin isn’t, she becomes very serious. She tells her of a 4,000 year old text written by a woman named Pythia about a “dying leader who had a vision of snakes numbering 10 and 2… and who lead the survivors of humanity to the promise land… Earth.”

“The next thing you’ll tell me is you’re dying right?” Elosha jokes, but Laura isn’t laughing… in fact she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer before the attack on the colonies and has been fighting it all season long. She’d originally chalked her hallucination up to side effects of the medicine she’d been taking, but suddenly President Laura Roslin realizes she is the prophesied savior of mankind. That’s gotta be heavy.

Out in space, pilots Crashdown and Boomer (who is a Cylon sleeper agent secretly fighting her true “programming”) manage to find a nearby planetoid that is rich with tylium ore… however it is crawling with Cylons, who also use tylium to power their vehicles. When they get back, the decision has to be made whether to keep looking or to attack the secluded Cylon mining operation. You already know what Adama has to say about it.

What comes next is a brilliant re-creation of the Death Star attack in Star Wars. While Starbuck is stuck in the CIC with a bum leg (plus actor Katie Sackoff’s detesting of scenes filmed in the hot, cramped quarters of the Viper starfighters), it falls on Adama’s remaining son Lee to lead the charge. Most everyone in the fleet, including Lee, wishes Starbuck was flying lead, but Adama grounds her in a brilliant “Yes, but can you use your leg while pulling 10+ gees in a Viper?” scene. Probably one of the better scenes filmed in a weight-room.

The Hand of God, or so the episode is named, refers to not just Roslin’s revelation, but to the events that are so dramatically culminating toward the end of the season… oh, and to Gaius Baltar. Dr Baltar has been enlisted by Adama to create a gene-seeking “Cylon detector,” and is also haunted by the ghost of his Cylon ex-lover, the beautiful blonde femme fatale “6.” At first he thought she was a manifestation of his own guilt for letting the Cylons into the Colonial Defense networks, however he has started to suspect that 6 is more than just a projection of his own subconscious. He spends hours talking (amongst other things) to her while working in his lab, wandering the halls, or even in mission briefings.

Gaius gets pulled into the planning of the raid when he speaks up about the volatility of tylium before it is processed into fuel, telling Apollo that their strike should concentrate on the stores of raw ore- thus blowing up the facility and not the entire rock. Standing before a projected picture of the Cylon mining plant, blindly points a finger at a random structure, “There.” At this point in the story, Gaius has asked for forgiveness from 6’s “one-God,” and now asks for his guidance… all at the prompting of his imaginary girlfriend, who is most definitely not a figment of his imagination. Whether he likes it or not, Gaius Baltar has become the instrument of god.

Back on the irradiated capital planet of Caprica, Boomer’s old co-pilot Helo was left behind after he gave up his seat for Gaius Baltar. 36 days later as the fleet battles for fuel, Helo believes the Sharon (Boomer) that’s traveling with him is the same Sharon from Galactica… but she isn’t. She is a Cylon, and while she may have all of Boomer’s memories and experiences, she is a different clone. They’ve been on the run planetside for weeks trying to avoid Cylon patrols, taking anti-radiation medicine, and fraking down by the fire. In fact, Sharon is pregnant with Helo’s child, the first human-cylon hybrid, and the Cylons are aware of their position at all times… But there’s a problem. Sharon and Helo are in love. She knows what the Cylons want with her baby, and she’s not too happy about it, so they really go on the run.

The cylons chasing them are led by what passes for a celebrity in the communal, hive-like minds of the Cylons- the one they’ve dubbed Caprica 6. She is the 6 who went undercover with Gaius Baltar and gained access to the Colonial Defenses, allowing the Cylons to kill roughly 50 billion humans in the attack. When Caprica 6 died in the nuclear holocaust she woke up on the Resurrection Ship a hero to the Cylons, but she harbors a deep secret that she must hide from her Cylon brothers and sisters.

It is this dark secret that makes her an individual in a collective society. Cylons exist in only a few different forms, however it is unknown how many copies of each there are. To them individuality is dangerous. They see it as a fault of their human creators, one that breeds hatred, violence, and death. Only a handful of Cylons- Caprica 6, Sharon (Athena), and Boomer, know the secret which their brothers and sisters do not… They know what it is to love… And this knowledge will dramatically change the path of both  species.


Most of the information gleaned for these posts is taken from the good folks at Wiki and BSG Wiki.

Coming Up on the BSG Files:

The Planet of the Gods

The BattleStar Galactica Files (Ep 8) – Flesh and Bone

Welcome to the BattleStar Galactica Files! Sci-Fi (Syfy) Channel’s classic series that captured the fear and the paranoia of the post-9/11 culture. Hailed by critics and fans alike, BSG’s arcing epic storyline, detailed character development, dynamite special effects, and top-notch acting makes it one of the best science fiction tales of our time. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Jamie Bamber led a top-notch cast through 4 short seasons of one of the best television shows ever made. If you’ve seen BSG then you know, if you haven’t, then do yourself a favor- every episode is on Netflix, and it was just picked up for syndication on BBC America!

[Warning: Spoilers! This is my attempt to sum up, review, and quantify BSG in layman’s terms]


Flesh and Bone

“Each of us plays a role; each time a different role. Maybe the last time I was the interrogator and you were the prisoner. The players change, the story remains the same. And this time – this time – your role is to deliver my soul unto God. Do it for me. It’s your destiny… And mine… ” -Leobon Conoy aka NUMBER 2

When the Abu Ghraib scandal and Guantanomo Bay were plastered all over the news, and America was in over its head in two wars, network television was mostly steering extremely wide around reflecting anything negative in their programming… well… except for 24, and that’s not til next “files.” The Bush years were the years of the news stations, everyone was watching horrible news all day, and didn’t want to see it in their escapist fiction during primetime. Instead America was hooked on shows like Lost, The Office, and Project Runway… 

Other than the exploits of Jack Bauer and the gang at CTU, there was only one other show on television that was brave enough to show main characters water-boarding, torturing (not that the two are mutually exclusive), and executing prisoners of war… and I think you know which one I’m talking about. Onboard the Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck is given the loathsome duty of interrogating a cylon sleeper agent. At a time when America was so scared their neighbors were going to gas them they put duct tape on their windows, BSG was giving us a glaring mirror to look into. Starbuck, aka Kara Thrace, finds herself face-to-face with the extremist, genocidal enemy she’d feared now for months on end, Leoben Conoy… aka, number 2.

Leobon is one of the first cylons we meet on the show, and he is a slippery, silver-tongued devil of an infiltrator. During the mini-series, when Galactica jumps to the Ragnar Anchorage to refuel and rearm- Adama gets stuck deep within the bowels of the station with the man he doesn’t know is a cylon… in fact, no one even knows that cylons are able to take human form at that point in time. The number 2 is a pseudo-philosopher who challenges Adama’s beliefs during their time on the Ragnar station, and ultimately is called out as a “toaster” when he becomes extremely sick due to the radiation of the nebula around them (which only affects synthetic organisms, not humans).

When episode 8 of season 1 begins, President Laura Roslin is in the grips of an intense chamalla-induced dream (the mysterious medication given to her for her “terminal” cancer). She is walking through a misty forest at night, bathed in the white light of her sleeping gown, and she is unafraid. The bushes begin to move in the darkness, and figures start to dart between the trees. Laura doesn’t see the shadowy people running through the forest after her, instead she sees a cylon… Leobon Conoy, the number 2 that Commander Adama had spent a significant amount of time with in the first episode. He is shouting at her to turn around, there is danger, and she turns to see black-clad Colonial Marines running toward her. Laura begins to run, and Leobon catches her, quieting her as the marines run by… then he is sucked backward through the forest and disappears. When the President wakes up, she is told that there has been a cylon prisoner found, and it is Leobon… she immediately calls for his interrogation.

Starbuck arrives at the holding cell to see the prisoner, who is sweating heavily in the heat of the ship. Her and the watch commander notice that “it is sweating,” and muse on the implications of it. “Gods they go through a lot of trouble to imitate people… Why do you think they do that?” (Oh, that watch commander had no idea...) She enters the cell to find the machine with its head on the table, and asks it if it was sleeping… He sits back in the chair and says, “Praying…”

The humans of BSG are followers of a polytheistic religion, believing in “The Gods,” such as Zeus, Athena, and Apollo (not just great call signs for Viper pilots, if you delve deep enough- quick enough, you realize that the ancient Gods were just older-school Viper pilots who the humans deified during the last time this happened… WOAH). So when Starbuck tells Leobon, “I don’t thing the Gods answers the prayers of Toasters,” he responds with the first true identification of the monotheistic beliefs of the cylons- “God answers everyone’s prayers.”

As their interrogation continues, Leobon tells her that somewhere in the fleet there is a nuclear bomb ticking down, and it will explode in 9 hours. The true brilliance of Battlestar Galactica comes out seeping out of the screen at this point. Most of this is due to absolutely solid performances by Katee Sackhoff and Callum Keith Rennie, but the writing in this episode is just as good. The plot device of the nuke and the countdown really take second stage to the implications of the dialogue between Starbuck and Leobon… because by now we’re chomping at the bit to find out more about this “Earth” place… and that’s not reallt what this episode is about anyway.

Starbuck believes with every fiber of her being, that this machine before her, is just that… a robot created and programmed to do the things it is doing, like sweat, bleed, act like it is feeling pain, and finally… to drown. Water-boarding was the buzz-word du jour for many of the mid-2000 years, and this “reporter” remembers many other “reporters” undergoing the “simulated-drowning.” Well it’s not simulated anything, it’s postponed drowning… it’s slow drowning… there’s nothing simulated about it- it just doesn’t kill you right away. It’s wet, it’s bloody, and it’s disgustingly cruel, and yet with the threat of a timer-detonated nuclear weapon somewhere in the fleet (or so Leobon claims), Starbuck needs answers… all she’s getting from her prisoner is gibberish about fate and “seeing the universe for what it is, a river of time.”

It’s not until she begins to see this machine gasp and spit and struggle for life-saving air that cracks start to emerge in the black-and-white world of human-cylon relations… just as at the same time in America cracks where appearing in the black-and-white reality of our wars and the threat of terrorism… It’s not until we too see the pain and the fear in the eyes of the beings we believe wholeheartedly to be pure and unadulterated evil, that we begin to see ourselves in their own shoes. Starbuck looms over the cylon as it spits and coughs, her stern fists clenched by her own sides, her blonde hair hanging in her face, “You’re sick. You’re not a person, you’re a machine that’s enjoying its own pain.” She growls at it, believing that this thing that has destroyed her civilization, killed 50 billion people, and mercilessly hunted humanity across the stars, is messing with her.

It’s then that Leobon, through labored breathing, spouts the immortal words that spin the arcing mythology of BSG out across four more seasons: “All of this has happened before… and all of it will happen again…” Professing it is Starbuck’s destiny to deliver him to God, and also adds:

“…And I told you I had a surprise for you. Are you ready? You are going to find Kobol, birthplace of us all. Kobol will lead you to Earth. This is my gift to you, Kara…” 

Suddenly President Roslin bursts in and puts an end to the torture, hauling Leobon out of the cell and drying him off (escorted by black-clad Colonial Marines). She pleads with him to disclose the whereabouts of the nuclear bomb, and he confesses to having made it up to buy time. He, in turn, asks Laura to go easy on Starbuck for torturing him, “The military, they teach you to dehumanize people…” he says, even though he is a cylon (brilliant stuff here)… However Roslin has had enough of his lies and his “insidious ideas,” and orders him flushed out the airlock. In a flash of cylon speed he grabs Laura and hugs her, thanking her… and whispering to her that Adama is a cylon.

In a very poignant scene, Leobon is in the airlock standing behind a sheet of glass while Starbuck and the President discuss the merits of keeping broken machines around that “threaten your people.” He walks up and places his hand upon the glass, to which Starbuck capitulates, stating, “He’s not afraid to die, he’s just afraid his soul won’t reach God…” and places her hand on the glass. A single tear traces down the side of her cheek as the President signals to the watch commander, and he opens the airlock. Leobon, as in Laura’s dream from the beginning, looks up at her as the air is sucked from the room. He keeps the stare as he is sucked backward out the airlock and spins off into the frozen abyss of space. It isn’t until that moment that Laura realizes what is going on, that she had dreamt this, and she thinks maybe she missed something. Later she is talking with the Commander and it is obvious that the number 2 has planted a seed of doubt in her mind about Adama.

Starbuck later is seen praying to two small idols for the safe journey of her prisoner’s soul… her own preconceptions about the “toasters” shattered… and little does she know that now the number 2 is infatuated with her, and will chase her across the heavens for his own reasons.


This is really the point in time where the writers knew where they wanted to go with the show, and fought to get it done. Both plot-wise and social-commentary-wise, BSG begins to head toward a destination at this point in the show. While Adama has told the people he will get them safely to Earth, and the prophecies from the old world tell of a dying leader that will lead mankind to the promise land, it isn’t until the cylon number 2 tells Kara Thrace that she will find Kobol (the original home of humanity), and in turn, find Earth… that anyone actually (including the audience and the writers) believes it could actually happen... And it isn’t until this point that the “difference” between cylon and human begins to get murky.


Most of the information gleaned for these posts is taken from the good folks at Wiki and BSG Wiki.

Coming Up on the BSG Files:

Kobol and the Arrow of Apollo (aka This Has All Happened Before…)

The BattleStar Galactica Files (Ep 7) – Lost in Space

Welcome to the BattleStar Galactica Files! Sci-Fi (Syfy) Channel’s classic series that captured the fear and the paranoia of the post-9/11 culture. Hailed by critics and fans alike, BSG’s arcing epic storyline, detailed character development, dynamite special effects, and top-notch acting makes it one of the best science fiction tales of our time. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Jamie Bamber led a top-notch cast through 4 short seasons of one of the best television shows ever made. If you’ve seen BSG then you know, if you haven’t, then do yourself a favor- every episode is on Netflix, and it was just picked up for syndication on BBC America!

[Warning: Spoilers! This is my attempt to sum up, review, and quantify BSG in layman’s terms]


LOST IN SPACE (aka ’33’)

“Yes, we’re tired. Yes, there is no relief. Yes, the Cylons keep coming after us time after time after time. And yes, we are still expected to do our jobs!” – Executive Officer Saul Tigh

The Fleet

In the deep, cold, blackness of space, across the light-years in a galaxy not-so-far-far-away, the lost family of man is exactly that. A mere 60 ships escaped the Cylon destruction of the 12 Colonies, some 48,000 men, women, and children. A holocaust of barbaric proportions, across a dozen planets, and costing some 50 million lives.  Guarded solely by the Battlestar Galactica and its crew, the last remnants of humanity are trying desperately to out-run their attackers. Using Faster Than Light jump-technology (FTL) the escaping humans are left to fend for themselves against a relentless enemy, jumping over 238 times across the universe in search of the mythical planet Earth, only to be tracked by the Cylons every time.


Commander William Adama, captain of the Galactica (the sole remaining military presence of the 12 Colonies) has stretched his crew to the limit. After 130+ hours without sleep, “stims” are being handed out freely, and everyone is on edge. Every time, 33 minutes after they complete the jump, the cylons find them. Every time they jump, they set the clock to 33 minutes, and wait… Until after the 237th jump, the Olympic Carrier is lost. When the fleet makes the jump to the next coordinates, the Olympic Carrier fails to arrive behind them, and so do the Cylons.

33 Minutes Between Jumps

Nerves are on edge as the seconds tick by, and every last person alive stares at the clock wondering the same thing… are the clear? However, on board the Galactica and newly-named Colonial One (like Air Force 1), President Laura Roslin and Commander Adama are wondering something else… Was the Olympic Carrier under Cylon control? Was it the reason they were so easily tracked across the galaxies? The decision-makers and main players in the struggle to survive wait with bated breath for a sign of their pursuit… then it comes.

Olympic Carrier

When the Olympic Carrier suddenly appears, its captain claims to have urgent information on how the Cylons infiltrated Colonial Defense Networks prior to the attack on the Colonies (Much to the chagrin of one Dr. Gaius Baltar, who is desperately afraid of being found out). Adama is not convinced, and sets the clock for 33 minutes, scrambling Vipers to intercept the ship before it can rejoin the fleet. To make matters worse, the liner it emitting a nuclear signature and not responding to hails from Apollo, who is flying the intercept mission. Believing the Olympic has somehow been corrupted by Cylon agents, Adama orders the jamming of all communication with the liner other than signal light from the Vipers… however the liner does not change course, heading straight for the Galactica with a nuclear weapon on board.


No one is sure if the 1,345 people aboard the Carrier are still alive, and the loss of any more human life is not justifiable by President Roslin. As the liner gets closer, and the clock hits 33 minutes, the Cylons appear… confirming their worst fears that they were somehow tracking the ship as a way to follow the fleet. President Roslin, despite the fact that it lowers the survivor count to below 50,000, gives the hard order to shoot down the ship. Starbuck and Apollo reluctantly open fire, destroying the Olympic Carrier and possibly the 1,345 civilians on it. After the two Vipers make a quick “combat landing,” the fleet jumps away… and the clock is set again for 33 minutes. This time, however, the Cylons do not follow them.

We make mistakes, people die. There aren’t many of us left.– Commander William Adama

Boomer Wakes Up

Later, Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer ” Valerii awakens alone, soaked from head-to-toe, and shaking in an equipment locker on the Galactica. She doesn’t know how she got there, or how she ended up dripping wet. Scrambling, she finds her duffel underneath her chair, inside is a towel, dry clothes, and lots of explosives… Boomer panics, not knowing what is going on. She is convinced she is being framed for sabotage, and enlists the help of her secret lover, Chief Tyrol after finding even more explosives missing from a small-arms locker.


Meanwhile, due to Galactica’s nearly-perfect water reclamation systems, the fleet relies heavily on them for a fresh supply of water. Daily water transfers are performed by individual fleet ships, including the Virgon Express, a small liner. However during docking with the Virgon Express, a large explosion rocks the ships and begins to jettison the Galactica’s water reserves into space. After 60% of the fleet’s H2O supplies are lost, an investigation is launched, and Commander Adama (who was previously one of the only people in the galaxy who knew the Cylons had managed to take human form) confesses to President Roslin that he believes it is the work of a Cylon humanoid agent. They enlist Dr. Baltar to construct a “Cylon Detector” capable of examining DNA and weeding out Cylon agents.


Meanwhile, Boomer and multiple other Raptors are out searching various solar systems for water as the investigation on Galactica turns up only fear and mistrust in the crew. Chief Tyrol concludes that anyone could have taken the explosives due to lax security on board during the escape from the Cylons (believing whole-heartedly that his lover is being framed for sabotage).  However Boomer is not so sure.


During their Raptor flight, they jump near a large planet and scan it for H2O. Even though Boomer’s screens tell her there is water, her voice is trapped in her throat. She struggles to spit out the words, unsure of what is happening, and suddenly finds the remaining explosive strapped to her seat in the Raptor. On top of that, she finds herself physically unable to tell her co-pilot that her scan of the planet reveals water… desperate, Boomer fights her own personality, while her hand drops to the detonator switch, her finger on the trigger. Suddenly it dawns on her in a moment of horrible, sickening clarity… she can’t speak because of the same reason she has to physically restrain herself in order to not detonate the explosives, destroy the Raptor, and leave the fleet to die of dehydration… She realizes she is a Cylon…

"Boomer" and Chief

(Boomer’s struggle with her own secret Cylon “sleeper” personality is one of the defining moments in the series. In fact, the entire “sleeper Cylons” idea is truly what fuels the greatness of the first season. Made in 2005, at a time when our country was gripped with much of the same fear, BSG captured one of the defining moments in modern history… the realization that anyone around us could be an enemy agent in hiding (in our case, a terrorist; in theirs, a Cylon)… the realization that we weren’t safe in our own country, our own cities, our own homes.)


Most of the information gleaned for these posts is taken from the good folks at Wiki and BSG Wiki.

Coming Up on the BSG Files:

The Planet of the Gods