It was hard to eat or drink anything while watching Battlestar Galactica. Inevitably, something would happen that caused us to gasp. In addition to it being a choking hazard, it was also easy to spill a glass of wine when gesticulating wildly in shock.
Where Battlestar succeeded most was in subverting our expectations of what would come next. The writers were experts in this, and more than once, we thought we’d end up one place and then end up either completely the other end, or exactly where we thought -- just in an entirely surprising way.
In honor of this weekend’s Battlestar Galactica Marathon, and the fact that you’ll be able to watch EVERY EPISODE here starting on September 22, we put together this not-in-anyway-exhaustive and chronological list.
(Yes, we're doing 11, not 10 -- didn't see that coming, did you?)
We were supposed to think it was Baltar. The miniseries clued us in early that there was obviously a Cylon insurgent aboard the ship. Panicking about his hallucinations and general insufferability, Baltar framed some poor dude and put him out the airlock. (That dude would later, in fact, turn out to be a Cylon.) Gaius offered to make a Cylon detector he didn't actually think would work. He was a prime suspect, even to himself. And then, there it was at the end of the mini-series. Right under our noses - it was Boomer all along. The problem was, she wasn't entirely sure.
And then she found out.
By the end of Season 1, we all knew with certainty that Boomer was a Cylon. We had grown accustomed to watching her suspect it about herself. When she flew aboard a Cylon BaseStar, it was confirmed before her very eyes. The resurrections, the programming, the fact that there were other Cylons in the fleet - this was all in the future. All we had was Boomer to show us how hard it was to wrap your head around being someone else. Right when we thought it was safe to feel for her, her programming kicked in and she shot Adama. The screaming ensued.
The DRADIS picks up a ship and everyone freaks out. That's how a lot of Battlestar episodes start, so we get all keyed up. And just when we think, "Okay, we get it, action stations, set condition one, yes, they’re being stalked by Cylons at every turn,” it turns out to be the Battlestar Pegasus. With authenticated Colonial codes.
Second twist? It turns out that Adama is outranked – zoinks! The whole thing is pretty huge and eventually gave way to a pretty satisfying flashback event (Razor) that detailed the Pegasus' journey. It was one of the first times the show clued us in to just how big this universe really was. It was pretty exciting to know that a new story full of new characters could drop out of the sky at any moment. And that definitely kept happening.
In “Lay Down your Burdens” (Season 2, Episode 20), when all of the election results come down and Gaius Baltar is sworn in as President, his first act is to establish a colony on New Caprica. Just as he signs the order, Gina, a rogue Number 6, who was tortured and raped aboard the Pegasus, sets off a nuclear device and decimates a huge portion of the fleet. Laura Roslin had been marking the number of survivors and we'd been made very aware of that number. We knew that the fleet had been reduced drastically in an instant and were devastated for characters we hadn't met. That's how you do a good plot twist.
In “Precipice,” (Season 3, Episode 2), there are a couple surprises and most of them involve Lee. First, we learned that he and Dualla have gotten married, a surprise in and of itself. Thing is, though, in order to show that time had passed, the make up and costumers gave Lee about 30 extra pounds. He'd also become a negative crank who hated everyone's ideas. Jamie Bamber spent quite a while in the makeup chair to make it happen, and boy howdy was it effective as a weird and super realistic detail to show time passing.
A lot of people made choices on New Caprica during the Cylon Occupation that they wouldn’t have made otherwise. A lot of terrible things went down and along the way, people got hurt. By Season 3, Episode 4: “Exodus, Part 2,” just before they were rescued by Adama’s tactical maneuvering, Saul confronted his wife, Ellen. She'd been passing information to the Cylons and in the process she found a way to free Saul from prison. While she tried to explain her motives, she knew she was done for, and drank poison. Lots of debate on whether it was suicide or murder, but nonetheless, that was the end of Ellen Tigh. For now.
Starbuck’s death toward the end of Season 3 came as a shock. A big one. Apollo watched her ship implode -- and as an audience, we watched a beloved character enveloped in a white light and figured the actress was going off to do a movie instead of Season 4. But time and space are vast, and shortly thereafter, we had the carpet pulled out from under us a second time. In the season finale, "Crossroads, Part Two," Kara appears next to Lee, flying her viper. And she knew the way to Earth. It was a moment as weird as the series got. And her search for what happened to her would both haunt the character until the very end and remain somewhat a mystery to all of us.
It’s fair to say that Season 3, Episode 20: “Crossroads, Part 2” was the shockiest bunch of crazy we’d seen. While Kara Thrace was returning to the story, another pretty major series of events brought the house down. We’d seen Anders, Saul, Tyrol and Tory all spiraling out of control: who’s ever going to forget Laura Roslin telling Tory she couldn't be bothered to run a comb through her hair? And then, to Jimi Hendrix, we watched four characters we’d grown to love wake up to the reality of who they really were. Yup. Cylons. By the end of that story, we’d also learn there was one final Cylon we should look out for. Audiences finished the third season near exhausted by both the revelations and the questions the story was now asking.
By the time the final few Cylons had begun trying to figure out what they were supposed to be doing, they were developing new relationships and ruining old ones. As Chief and Cally reconciled in an airlock, he continued to keep his Cylon status from her. That's when it was clear to us that she deserved better. When she finally did find out, it was one secret too many and Cally made an attempt at both suicide and infanticide. It was Tory who ended up doing the final deed, sending Cally out the airlock and saving the child. Ultimately, Tory paid for it with her life. Everybody lost.
Another episode with a ton of surprises, “Sometimes a Great Notion” (Season 4, Episode 13) showed us the aftermath of the fleet finding a radioactive and uninhabitable Earth. With Lee and Dualla patching things up, there’s a moment where we see the hope in perseverance. Dualla seems okay. And then she goes back to the locker room and ends her life with a gun. The scene is such a jolt because it once again turned the world upside down in a way that only Battlestar could.
The 12th Cylon
The credits of the show had changed to say that there were seven known models, four models were in the fleet. And that there was a 12th Cylon about to be revealed.
And we waited.
We were very curious about who it would be and were even told it was coming in a specific episode that we all ran home to see. There she was. Ellen Tigh.
By this point, we'd grown accustom to this kind of thing, but Ellen's return came with a strange series of flashbacks: Saul and Galen in a world being destroyed that wasn't Caprica. When we learned that they’d all been reborn, we had to smile. Coming to what we knew was the end of the last season, we knew it was one more story we got to unravel together along the way.