When it first appeared, unassumingly, as a three-hour miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel back in 2003, no one expected Battlestar Galactica would turn into such a phenomenon—well, at least those unfamiliar with the genius of creator Ronald D. Moore. Dropping “frack”-bombs, the often-uttered expletive on the show, has become an instant cool-cred affirmation. (Hearing it come out of Loralei’s mouth on Gilmore Girls was probably the best use yet.) Now with part two of the fourth (and final) season set in motion, we can look back and see the metamorphosis of our favorite cylon and human fleet-mates as they pave their way to Earth, and salvation.
Believe it or not, Battlestar Galactica, with all its talk of robots and disparate planetary worlds, has always featured the human state as its main propulsive force, breaking down the psyche into magnified, dissectible parts. Each character, whether human or cylon, has struggled in their pursuit to survive, or just find love. Caprica Six, played by the breathtakingly sensitive Tricia Helfer, has long desired a child and sat on the sidelines while Athena (Grace Park), also known as Number Eight, was the first cylon to give birth. Now, surprisingly pregnant with Saul’s (Michael Hogan) child, Caprica Six is glowing. This miracle may not mean much to the humans, but this is what cylons have sought after since their incarnation: to spawn from their own kind.
Harboring the first pure clyon baby, things start to get interesting for Six—regarding the expansion and survival of the cylon race. In essence, the cylon’s only real struggle is to become human: They walk, talk, sound, and feel just like us, but they haven’t been able to propagate the way we can yet…or die (a clyon’s “soul,” upon death, is downloaded into a drone model aboard a remote resurrection ship and revived, rendering the act of death irrelevant), and as we all know, to be human is to die. Caprica Six may have everything she wants inside her womb, but she’ll never truly be human, no matter how hard she tries.
In the premiere episode of the season, we find the crew of the Galactica, and the rogue cylons, on the burnt-to-a-crisp terrain of what we have come to know as Earth. Looking for salvageable artifacts and signs of life from a long-gone civilization buried under rubble, things start to become quite evident to the cylons. The Chief (Aaron Douglas), still dealing with news that he is in fact one of the “final five” cylons, sees a flashback of himself in a vividly crowded street market on Earth. With all senses and memory in tune, he recalls a time and place of sweet leisure and serenity—though, now, ravaged nuclear fallout is all that is left remaining as these forgotten cylon memories begin to surface.
And finally, with all the hype and waiting, the fifth cylon is revealed via Saul’s flashback. His wife, Ellen (Kate Vernon), who he killed back on New Caprica for fraternizing with the cylons, happens to be one herself; they are one in the same—pure cylon. Stringing us along with the slow revelation of the “final five” throughout last season, the writers have managed to hold on to viewers with this titillating cliffhanger, but the end result is sorely uneventful and unexciting. What happened to the provoking, game-changing moments Battlestar Galactica is known for? The high-ranking Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) could have made a much more challenging selection as the fifth cylon. Picking a character as inconsequential as Ellen, though, comes off as simply convenient.
Still, it’s quite startling to see the always-steadfast Dee (Kandyse McClure) take her own life after a blissful encounter with her husband Apollo (James Callis). The cylons have pledged lasting annihilation of the human race (the nuclear bombs set off on Caprica in the initial miniseries is just one example), and people are going mad and lines are being drawn. Fear and paranoia run amuck aboard the Galactica, as this ongoing, deathly cat-and-mouse chase between humans and cylons has made many crewmembers jump ship. Felix (Alessandro Juliani), usually the most loyal member of the fleet and who was the first to find Dee with blood seeping from the bullet wound, recognizes that not all members of the government and crew may want to put their confidence in the hands of the cylons—no matter how many peace treaties are signed. This is where the final season takes shape, as we see Felix secretly meet with Vice President Zarek, played by the righteous Richard Hatch, to overthrow the orders of Admiral Adama and the latent, cancer-stricken President Roslin (Mary McDonnell). Sharing the same penchant for mutinous behavior displayed by the murderous coup of the cylon Sixes and Eights in the first half of the season, the humans begin to engage in their own civil war within ranks, eager to free themselves from all cylon-affiliation.
This ensemble of players, above everything else, is what makes Battlestar Galactica come to life. And being its last season, we get to see some often-sidelined yet commanding actors, like Juliani and Hatch, take center stage. At its melodramatic best, Battlestar Galactica unflinchingly exposes our deepest flaws as humans, yet the continuing prospects of redemption allow these characters (and the viewers) to remain steadily afloat.