Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Battlestar Galactica

The Ending of SYFY's Battlestar Galactica Explained

Let's look back at one of the most divisive sci-fi series endings of all time.

By Matthew Jackson
The Big Frakkin’ Battlestar Galactica Reunion Pt. 1 | SYFY WIRE REWIND

In 2009, after one of the most acclaimed and addictive sci-fi TV runs of all time (on SYFY no less!), Battlestar Galactica ended with the three-part series finale "Daybreak," concluding the story of the Galactica crew, the Cylons, and all the characters who'd spent so long fighting for so much. It was, as you may expect for one of the most-discussed shows of its era, an immediately divisive conclusion to creator Ronald D. Moore's complex and epic story, with some fans going so far as to call it one of the worst series finales of all time, and others praising it as the perfect ending to a great story. 

How to Watch

Catch up on Battlestar Galactica on the SYFY app.

Almost 15 years later, and there's still no shortage of discussion centered on "Daybreak," its conclusions, and what it all meant. So, whether you're just discovering Galactica for the first time, or you're a longtime fan just looking to revisit those old debates, let's take a closer look at how it all ended, and why Moore arrived at those conclusions. 

Background on the BSG Finale

Sifting through the entire massive plot of Battlestar would keep us here all week, so we're going to assume you know the basics and you've followed the story relatively closely up to this point. With that in mind, let's go over the most essential things you need to remember in the background of this episode. First, the Galactica itself is breaking down, leaving Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) to work on settling down with the rest of the fleet.

RELATED: The Best Sci-fi Shows Streaming on Peacock

Second, humans and certain Cylons have achieved an uneasy truce, while another faction of Cylons continues fighting humanity and working to ensure their survival at all costs.

Third, and perhaps even more importantly, the human-Cylon hybrid child Hera Agathon (Iliana Gomez-Martinez) has been kidnapped by Cylon leader Cavil (Dean Stockwell), with the goal of dissecting her in order to learn the secrets of her existence and ensure the future of Cylon reproduction. To get her back, Adama and company will have to launch a raid on "The Colony," the remaining Cylon stronghold, risking themselves in the process. Oh, and Kara "Starbuck" Thrace died and somehow miraculously returned earlier in the series, and her presence is still something of a mystery going into the finale.

The Finale: So What Happened?

With that background in mind, you know that the stakes have never been higher, with the fate of both humans and Cylons hanging in the balance. In terms of the actual plot, though, things are relatively straightforward: Get Hera out of the Colony, survive, and find a place for humanity to endure. 

Much of the three-part finale is devoted to the rescue mission, as Adama assembles a crew of volunteers to jump to The Colony and retrieve Hera. They're met with loads of resistance, but eventually a small band of humans gets on board, grabs Hera, and faces off with Cavil, who takes Hera back and demands to take her for dissection. In response, the Final Five Cylons (whose Whole Deal is way too complicated to dig into here, but they're important) offer a bargain: The humans get Hera, the Cylons get resurrection technology back, and the fighting stops. Cavil agrees, at first, but amid the transfer of data certain secrets dating all the way back to before the series premiere are re-exposed, and the Cylons continue the fight. In the chaos, Cavil eventually realizes there's no way out and commits suicide, while a complement of nuclear weapons brought by the humans is accidentally launched in the fray. The blast knocks the Colony toward a nearby black hole, taking Galactica with it, but not before Adama gives Starbuck the command to jump the ship "anywhere" to get them clear.

Now comes the part where things begin to veer away from a more straightforward military science fiction story and into the realm of something a bit more supernatural. When she gets the command to jump the ship, Kara mutters lyrics to "All Along the Watchtower" to herself, then enters coordinates that correspond with the melody. It's the same melody, you may recall, that Hera Agathon wrote out in the form of a child's drawing earlier in the series, which Kara and one of the fleet's remaining musicians were able to transcribe into musical notes. Of course, those notes didn't come pre-packaged with lyrics, which means Kara just pulled the words to a song from 20th century nonfictional Earth into her head from nowhere, used them as coordinates, and jumped the ship to...Earth. Our Earth.

Yes, Battlestar Galactica famously concludes with the reveal that the remaining Colonial fleet survivors arrived on prehistoric Earth and, not wanting to repeat old mistakes, decide to abandon all technology and intermingle with primitive humans, giving "the best parts" of themselves to this new planet, while leaving weapons of war behind. With this decision made, and the Cylons defeated, the remaining fleet is destroyed or abandoned in favor of a simple life on Earth, and the colonists spread out to settle down. 

Oh, and remember how Starbuck came back from the dead earlier in the season, then somehow found Earth through pure intuition? With that purpose fulfilled, she says goodbye to her friends, and literally disappears, the implication being that she was some kind of angel sent back to fulfill a purpose. 

And speaking of angels, the show doesn't end there. The finale's epilogue scene takes us 150,000 years into our present, where the "head" versions of Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer) walk among modern humanity as scientists announce they've discovered the "Mitochondrial Eve" from which all of the human race eventually flowed. The Eve, in this hypothetical case, is Hera Agathon, implying that all modern humans have both human and Cylon DNA in their bodies. 

Moving as angels or demons themselves through the modern world, Baltar and Six discuss this discovery, and debate over whether or not this society will, like the previous one, eventually become mired in world-ending destruction. Along the way, they reference "God," then note that the being or beings they're referring to doesn't actually like that name, before the show fades out, but not before we get a montage of our present-day relationship with technology which suggests another Cylon-style collision course.

Interpretations of the Finale

As you might be able to tell after reading it all out like that, some viewers weren't happy with the eventual conclusion of the show that some kind of higher power essentially guided humanity to their eventual new home and gave them the millennia-in-the-making chance to either destroy themselves again or do better than their forebears did. It felt, for some, a little too magical for a show that was often so grounded in military science fiction storytelling, but for Ronald D. Moore, it was always the way it should have ended up. 

During a Q&A reacting to the finale back in 2009, Moore had this to say about the show's final moments, and what the deal was with Baltar and Six: "I think they're both [angels and demons] ... We never tried to name exactly what the head characters were, we never looked at them as angels or demons. They seemed to periodically say good things or evil things, to save people or to damn people. There was a sense that they worked in the service of something else... that was guiding and helping, sometimes obstructing, sometimes tempting. The idea at the end was that whatever they're in service of is eternal and continues, and whatever they are, they too are still around, with all of us who are the children of Hera. They continue to walk among us and watch."

Moore has always stopped short of naming the figure guiding the whole story "God" or something similar, and has also generally steered clear of definitely explaining what happened to Starbuck that transformed her into some kind of supernatural being. What he did explain, though, was the use of "All Along the Watchtower" as a kind of grand cosmic theme that proved to be humanity's salvation.

"The notion is that the music, the lyrics, the composition is something divine, it's eternal," Moore said in the same Q&A. "It's something that lives in the collective unconscious of the show, it's a musical theme that repeats itself. It crops up in unexpected places, and people hear it, or pluck it out of the ether. It's sort of a connection of the divine and the mortal — music is something that people literally catch out of the air... Here is a song that transcends many different aeons and cultures across the star, and was reinvented by one Mr. Bob Dylan."

So there you have it. Battlestar Galactica is now streaming in its entirety on Peacock, for all your rewatch needs.