iWINuFAIL's Best of Television: Battlestar Galactica

I started this segment of mine a while ago, and did an super-review of "24".  Since then, I have started a segment for "Lost" and "Deadwood", but both times didn't go through with it.  

Recently, I watched Battlestar Galactica on Netflix, after hearing Jon and Dan rave over it several times.  I said before that "24" was probably my favorite show ever.  Well, after watching the finale 2 nights ago, I think that may have changed.

For those who don't know, here is a basic overview of the story.  Humans inhabit 12 planets, called "colonies".  In order to make their lives easier, they created the cylons, a robotic race designed to do their dirty work.  The cylons rebelled, and were eventually fought to a stalemate.  Fifty years later, the cylons unleash a surprise attack, destroying all 12 colonies with massive nuclear strikes, as well as the entire human fleet.  The only remaining ship is the Battlestar Galactica, a massive-yet-outdated warship scheduled to be scrapped.  Forced to protect the remnants of humanity, the Galactica, as well as a small group of civilian ships, set out to find a new home, with the cylons in pursuit...

If you have not seen the show, but are for some reason reading this, I highly recommend you consider going now to watch.  The miniseries that begins the series is okay, but the first real episode is true TV genius.  LOST fans especially take heed, as the two share many themes and similarities, though Galactica doing better just about everything LOST tried.

So to start everything off, here is my ranking of the show's four seasons:

4: Season 3

This is so difficult for me, because every season has major ups and downs.  The fact is, the first and last 2 epsiodes of the season are some of the best I've ever seen.  Ranking this season the lowest is not so much that it's the worst as it is the "least best".  The New Caprica storyline was both shocking and exhilirating, and who doesn't love chubby Apollo?  Gaius's trial and the reveal of four cylons are great moments.

Your honor, as Jesus Christ I object.

Unfortunately, several of the middle episodes got to be quite annoying, with far too much filler and not nearly enough substance.  The scenes dealing with the fallout of New Caprica, as well as the return to normalcy (if you could call it that) were great.  However, those featuring Baltar's imprisonment with the cylons, as well as Apollo/Starbuck drama, were either too boring or soapish.

Best Episode: Exodus II

Rating: 8.7

3: Season 4 (+ Razor)

Of the seasons, this is the hardest to grade.  There were some truly TERRIBLE moments, and quite a bit of frustration, especially when it came to getting answers.  And what the fuck is the deal with Starbuck?  I realize a big part of the show is it's metaphysical aspects, but I refuse to believe she was just a spirit sent to lead them to Earth.


On the reverse of this, were some amazing storylines and scenes.  The evolution of Baltar to some prophet-like being, while still remaining a self-absorbed ass, was great.  The attack on the cylon colony had the best action of the series.  The reality about Earth, the Final Five, and the truth of man's origins, were all spectacular.  And Gaeta's rebellion...let's just say as soon as I watched those two episodes, I watched them again.

As for "Razor" it was a great diversion from the main story, giving us a deeper understanding of one of the series' greatest characters.

Best Epsiode: The Oath/Blood on the Scales

Rating: 9

2.  Season 1 (+ Miniseries)

After watching the three-hour miniseries that begins Galactica's journey, I was intrigued, but not wholly excited.  The potential was there, with an interesting story and great action, but the acting felt wooden, and some scenes overbearing.  But as soon as I watched the first episode of the season, "33", they had my attention.

Mankind's last hope...

Quickly, major events began to unflod, showing me the show was not just about the title ship, but the others in the fleet and their effect on the whole.  The introduction of Zarek put a new spin on the series, and Helo's journey on Caprica was captivating.  The episodes involving Starbuck, whether revealing her role in the death of Adama's son, or interrogating a Cylon prisoner, showed Katee Sackhoff at her best.

"Hand of God" was a fantastic showing of what the series could give us on the action front, and the finale introduced the operahouse, which would be a key point for the entire show.

Best Epsiode: 33

Rating: 9.4

1.  Season 2

Galactica at it's grittiest and most awesome.  On the heels of seaon 1's shocking conclusion, the fleet rebounds against their resident cylon, eventually resulting in her "death".  Almost immediately after, a new number 8, Helo's baby-mama, joins the crew and is taken prisoner.  This causes some great first half of the season drama, as both try to prove she is on the human's side, culminating in some fantastic (and very questionable) decisions.  Alongside this is Tigh, who attempts to lead Galactica in the Commander's absense, only to show everyone he isn't cut out for it.

"Downloaded" gives the viewers a look at the cylon side of events, including their rebirthing process and politics.  Caprica 6 is a fascinating character, and her hallucinations of Baltar are a great mirror to the scientist aboard Galactica, and show that the cylons have more humanity than we give them credit for.

The middle of the season if absolutely superb, with the appearence of Pegasus and it's leader, Admiral Cain.  Her presence, however brief, created some on the tensest and most jaw-dropping scenes on the show.  

Now THAT'S a Battlestar!

The final leg of the season, dealing with the election of a new president, are amazing for showing the audience how low some of these characters are willing to go.  And the end of the season, a one-year leap in time following a devastating explosion and relocation, is an outstanding way to top things off.  How could they make it even better?  Oh, maybe with cylons showing up and enslaving them.

Best Episode: Pegasus/Lay Down Your Burdens II

Rating: 9.7


Now that we've ranked the seaons, let's rank the characters.  Instead of doing good vs. bad, because it can be hard to define the lines on this show, I've decided to do Humans vs Cylons.

Top 5 Cylons

5.  Helen

Before she was a cylon, Helen Tigh was the destructive force in her husband's life.  If you thought Colonel drank a lot, get a load of this gal.  Her looseness and bipolarity made her great fun to watch, even if it made you uncomfortable at times.  When she was revealed as the "Final Model" she went from a rowdy drunk to a semi-leader of her race, as the only one who could truly remember the destruction and recreation of the cylons.

4.  Boomer/Athena

I'm not doing this just because they are the same model (8), but because of how well they contrast eachother.  At the beginning of the show, one is a cylon agent, the other a sleeper agent who tries everything she can to remain loyal.  Athena, Helo's wife, is slowly woven into Galactica's crew, going from prisoner, to untrusted resource, to confident, to respected member.  Boomer on the other hand, constantly straddles the line, and can never seem to choose a side, causing many viewers to question her true motives.  The final confrontation between the two women is a great scene.

3.  Cavil

The only truly 'evil' cylon.  Or is he?  For most of his time we see him, Cavil refuses to adopt the notion that Cylons could become like their creators, stating clearly that they are mere machines. Cavil won't even accept the Cylon religion, as doing so would give him something in common with humans.  However, in the series finale, and perhaps at times before that, we see he IS capable of reason, and is only trying to ensure the survival of his people, by any means necessary.

2.  Caprica 6

The harbinger of humanity's destruction is actually far more complex than we are initially shown.  In "downloaded" we see for the first time that she is deeply troubled by her actions, which resulted in the near-extinction of an entire race.  Her relationship with Baltar, and later the colonel, and finally Baltar again, make her one of the most intriguing characters in the entire series.

As great as Cap6 was, one cylon was even better...


1.  Colonel Saul Tigh

Colonel Tigh is a great character, Cylon or not.  An alcoholic, angry, yet effective exo of Galactica. While he largely failed when in a position of leadership (early season 2), he was a mastermind as the head of rebels on New Caprica.  His relationship with Starbuck leads to some great scenes aboard the ship, but the best is that he shares with Admiral Adama, which borders on hero-worship.  The scene in which Tigh reveals himself to Adama as a cylon is the best between the two.

Calling Colonel Tigh the best Cylon in the show isn't fair, for two reasons.  For one, he is without a doubt one of the best characters on the show...Period.  In fact, I would put him at number four overall, behind the top three on the 'humans' list.  The other reason it isn't fair is because, even after discovering the truth, I never thought of him as a cylon.  I knew him too well, his pain and suffering, triumphs and failures.  Tyrol and the others were a shock, sure, and it was wierd to look at them and think "cylon", but with Tigh I couldn't.  He was still, and will always be, the Exo of Galactica, and Admiral Adama's Best friend.


Top 5 Humans

5.  Laura Roslin

She could be insufferable at times, but there is no mistaking President Roslin and her impact on the lives of the people aboard the fleet.  Her win-at-all-costs attitude often clashes with her deeply religious nature, which often manifests itself in the form of a huge ego.  It may have been predictable, but her relationship with Adama was executed perfectly.

4.  Admiral Cain

Though she only appeared in three episodes in the middle of Season 3 (plus Razor), Cain was an exceptional character.  Her role in crafting both Starbuck's and Apollo's futures in the fleeshowed her to be one of the most influential people on the show.  Her rivalry with Adama, culminating in the two nearly killing eachother, was great.

3.  Kara Thrace "Starbuck"

Galactica's resident badass, Starbuck is the manliest person in the crew...and she's a chick.  The best pilot by far, Starbuck could be a great leader if she knew how to follow the chain of command.  The war between her and Tigh was always great to see, especially after the New Caprica events.  And while I never bought into her romance with either Lee or Anders, her daughter/father relationship with the Admiral was spot on.

2.  Admiral Adama

I was so close to naming Adama the number one character.  He is certainly the most important character, and it's very hard for me to put him at 2.  A capable leader, who cares deeply for his crew, Adama's cold, harsh demeanor in and around the CIC tell us that, as much as he may like the people on his ship, he would send any one of them to their death in order to save the rest.  Never is this seen more than in "The Eye of Jupiter", when he is prepared to nuke a planet where dozens of troops, including his son, Starbuck, and several others are located, in order to prevent the cylons from gaining an important artifact.  When not in war mode, we see the admiral truly has a big heart, weighed down by the many hard decisions he had to make.

So if not the Admiral, who is the fleet's greatest character?


1.  Gaius Baltar

Rant and yell all you want, Gaius is the best character on the show.  Aside from being the catalyst for humanity's desatruction, Gaius has enormous impact on the Galactica fleet.  How enormous?  His decision to land on New Caprica resulted in the enslavement of thousands, and many of them were killed.  And how did the cylons find them?  They followed the trace of a nuclear weapon set off on the fleet which killed 10,000 people.  A weapon provided by Gaius to a woman he KNEW was a cylon.

Gaius is self-centered, narcissistic, and a huge womanizer.  For all of his genius, it only seems to land him in more and more trouble.  Gaius sleeps with everyone he can, whether they be cylon, human, or whatever.  The only reason he takes on the role as the leader of a religious group is to be surrounded by beautiful, loving women.

Yet for all of his faults, Gaius is a good guy.  He is ravaged by guilt for what he did, even though he sees himself as more victim than traitor.  He even wants to be revealed as a Cylon, so this way destroying the colonies would make him a hero of one group, rather than a traitor to the other.  Whether it's Adama, Roslin, Apollo, or Caprica 6, Baltar's relationships each display a different facet of his personality, each more intriguing than the last.  And for every mistake he makes, Gaius ultimately steps up, and helps to save the fleet, as well as save Hera.


That was a lot to write, and my hand is getting cramped.  But I'm going to push onward, and close this with:



5.  "I  Know how to Farm" (Daybreak Part 3)

Gaius abandoned his heritage, even changing his accent, so that he wouldn't be considered a simple Farmer like his father.  Baltar resents the idea that he should be condemned to a life so emaningless and demeaning, so works tirelessly to become a respected scientist.  However, on New Earth, there is no need for his genius, so he decides to commit himself to provide for he and Caprica 6...by farming.  The look on his face when he utters that final line, as he breaks down in tears while Caprica holds him, is an unbelievably touching moment.

4.  Another Battlestar! (Pegasus)

Though nobody knew how it would play out, the elation aboard Galactica when Pegasus jumped into range was palpable.  There was no way we could imagine what would come of it, including a standoff between the two battlestars, and that's part of what makes the scene so great.  It may have ended in near-disaster, but the appearence of the ship was a moment of true joy...and hope...for the fleet.

3.  Olympic Carrier Not Responding (33)

"33" is arguably the best episode of the entire series.  The crew is forced to jump every 33 minutes to escape the pursuing Cylons, and have been at it for over 200 hours.  Five days without sleep is a long time.  When one ship doesn't maake the jump, only to mysteriously reappear later, tensions get even higher.  The carrier doesn't respond when called, and the crew has no way to know if it is simply a malfunction, or a Cylon trap.  Forced to play it safe, Apollo and Starbuck shoot it down.  Though we don't know if they already were, the 1,300 aboard the ship were now asuredly dead, a fact accentuated by Roslin crossing them off her "survivor" count.

2.  Mutiny (The Oath/Blood on the Scales)

Felix Gaeta was one of the best characters on the show, and just missed being part of my Top 5. His growing hatred of Cylons boils over when the Admiral begins collaborting with them, and he forms a pact with Tom Zarek.  Together, the two begin a mutiny, Gaeta using his place in the CIC to control the crew of Galactica, as Zarek executes the Quorum aboard Colnial One.  When order is restored, Gaeta and Zarek are condemned to death by firing squad.  Before the sentence is carried out, Felix spends a few moments with Baltar, whom he served for a while as VP.  Gaeta claims he hopes people will someday understand him, something Baltar can certainly sympathize with.

And the number one moment in BSG history is...


1.  EVERYTHING on New Caprica (Lay Down Your Burdens-Exodus II)

I didn't want to be so general with this last one, but it was impossible to find a single moment that stood out.  SO I'm going to talk about all of them.

On the heels of a devastating nuclear explosion that kills 1/5 of the survivors, the newly elected Baltar gives the order to occupy New Caprica, and immediately slumps down.  The next shot sees him rising from the same position, though now with different lighting.  Then we see "one year later" flash on the screen, and the camera pans to reveal a series of thousands of tents-New Caprica City.

Just 15 minutes later, the cylons appear in great number, forcing Admiral Adama to abandon the coloniests, swearing to return.  The allusion to General MacArthur is perfect.  Baltar's surrender as centurians move through the camp was a sucker-punch of a season-ender.

The scenes involving the resistance led by Tigh, along with those of Kara with Leoben, add to the brevity of the situation.  Though he may have been terrible as the commander of the fleet, Tigh's perserverence and hatred of all-things Cylon (oh the irony...) make thim the man for the job.  And the use of suicide bombings are a great way to make the audience feel uncomfortable about cheering for these people.

Galactica's triumphant return to save the humans is a stunning piece of CGI.  Jumping into the atmosphere, the ship quickly begins to plummet towards the ground.  Those pilots that remained aboard th ship quickly launch in mid-fall aboard their vipers.  As soon as all are in the air, Galactica jumps again, into orbit.

Finally, with his father's ship about to be destroyed, Lee Adama jumps in with Pegasus, after initially refusing to go back.  Severely outnumbered, the still powerful ship manages to hold off the cylons long enough to allow everyone else to escape.  Once they do, Lee and everyone else jump away aboard a Raptor, as Pegasus crashes into not just one, but TWO BASESTARS, taking them out.


There it is, my uber-review of TV's greatest scifi series ever.  If you disagree with me on anything, feel free to write in the comments, there is nothing I love more than debating good television.  Okay, there are things I love more, but you get the point...

Solifluktion's picture

I absolutely love BSG :) I don't even know why I started watching it (I guess I was bored and looking for some SciFi) but "televisionwise" it was the best thing to happen to me :)

Oh and great article btw, even though I prefered Starbuck over Adama and the "All Along the Watchtower Scene" over the ones you named ;)

John Tarr's picture

"33" is arguably the best episode of the entire series

This is my favorite episode by far. Glad you brought it up. Reminded me a lot of the numbers and countdown room in Lost.

I also like what you wrote about the New Caprica section of the show. One of the show's strongest points was how diverse the setting and plot could be from episode to episode, without losing the threads of the main plot. 4 seasons stuck on a spaceship could get mighty repetitive.

Gaius Baltar is definitely one of my favorite characters in television history. The show would not have been nearly as amazing without him.

Amazing review. I can't believe you reviewed this entire series so succinctly. I think listing some of the cylons that stay hidden until season 4 might have spoiled the surprise for some people.

iWINuFAIL's picture

I know this is full of spoilers for people who haven't seen the show, but I did make sure to pont out that there would be major spoilers in the teaser.  I try to find a good balance between spoiler/spoiler-free when I write these, but it's hard to give a comprehensive overview of a show unless I do.

Maybe when I do one for LOST (I'll get to it eventually), I'll try to make it more friendly to epople who haven't seen the show.  This way, I can use it to entice new viewers, rather than just appealing to those who have already watched.

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