Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘The Hand of God’ And ‘Colonial Day’

Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘The Hand of God’ And ‘Colonial Day’

Battlestar Galactica serves up two different types of excitement in a space opera and a political thriller.
Warren Henry
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This is the seventh in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Flesh and Bone’ and ‘Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down'” here.

Spoilers ahead.

Although Battlestar Galactica is considered a space opera, the series rarely offers it as blatantly as in “The Hand of God.” This episode shares a title with the original series’ finale and draws from the original series’ prophetic mythos. While paying homage to Episode IV of Star Wars, the episode also borrows from World War II dramas like Sink The Bismarck! (a personal favorite) in its use of a “big board” as a visual battle guide for the audience.

In contrast, “Colonial Day” serves up political intrigue and an assassination plot, very loosely in the tradition of films like “The Manchurian Candidate” (minus the brainwashing). The cinematic visual inspiration may be “Silent Running,” which featured a spaceship devoted to environmental preservation. And the historical allusion is to Middle East peace negotiations, in which seemingly minor moments like handshakes are the subject of political choreography.

‘The Hand of God’

Pres. Roslin holds a press conference announcing the fleet’s reserve of tylium fuel has dropped to five percent, which is enough for only two more FTL jumps. She appears distracted because she is also having a vision of a dozen snakes crawling on her podium. This vision may be caused by the chamalla treatment for her breast cancer – but is it?

Roslin consults Priestess Elosha (Lorena Gale), who tells her the prophet Pythia foresaw a leader who would bring humanity to a new homeland and had a vision of a dozen snakes. Elosha says the prophesied leader also had a “wasting disease,” but Roslin does not divulge her breast cancer diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Boomer’s Raptor locates an asteroid with a “mountain” of tylium, but it is crawling with Cylon forces who have established a mining base there. Cdr. Adama, Col. Tigh, and Apollo conclude their only real option is to seize the tylium from the Cylons while they have the element of surprise.

Tigh and Apollo formulate a plan for the operation. Adama invites Starbuck to critique it, based on her penchant for thinking outside the box. And critique it she does, urging them to use decoys that will make the Cylons’ own patrols and tactics part of the plan.

Starbuck and Apollo also consult Baltar on which building is likely to contain the unrefined tylium, as detonating that target would be most likely to destroy the Cylon base. Baltar sounds confident, but confides to his mental Six that he was guessing.

Roslin is briefed on the plan, using models deployed on the CIC’s “big board.” She approves.

Adama benches Starbuck from flying in the operation because her knee remains too weak. Both of them harbor lingering doubts about Apollo’s ability to lead, which annoys Apollo greatly.

Adama, Roslin, Starbuck, and Baltar tensely monitor the operation from the CIC. Although the Cylons initially take the colonials’ decoy bait, 50 more Raiders engage the Vipers launched from Galactica. The ensuing dogfight favors the Cylons; Adama orders the Vipers to return to Galactica.

But at Adama’s order, Starbuck directs that Apollo be informed “the back door is open.” Apollo then launches a second wave of Vipers hidden on a decoy freighter (a design from the original series). Adama confesses to Roslin that he did not brief her on this twist for operational security reasons because old habits die hard.

Apollo leads the assault on the Cylon mining base and – in a sequence reminiscent of a classic Star Wars trench run – uses the base’s conveyor tunnel to take him past fierce Cylon defenses and destroy the target Baltar designated. The entire base explodes spectacularly, to everyone’s joy and Baltar’s relief. In Baltar’s mind, Six suggests he is an instrument of God.

Lastly, on Cylon-occupied Caprica, Helo and the Boomer copy flee a squad of Cylon Centurions, which are led by a Six. Having seen his Boomer kill a Six, Helo begins to realize the Cylons are no longer merely a race of chrome “toasters.”

‘Colonial Day’

On the newly-repaired luxury ship Cloud Nine – which features simulated outdoor environments housed in geodesic domes – the media gathers for Roslin’s reconstitution of the Quorum of Twelve, a representative body of the colonial government.

To Roslin’s dismay, Tom Zarek (the terrorist/freedom fighter from ‘Bastille Day’) is named Sagittaron’s representative to the quorum. To Baltar’s dismay, he is named as Caprica’s delegate (though his angst lessens when Six reminds him that power can be an aphrodisiac).

Before the proceedings, the media speculates over which of the dignitaries will shake Zarek’s hand when he arrives. Tigh declines, but his wife Ellen accepts. Roslin also accepts, which Zarek deems well-played.

Also arriving on Cloud Nine is Valance (Alex Zahara), an assassin.

During the proceedings, Zarek objects that the agenda omits the election of a vice-president. At Six’s urging, Baltar seconds Zarek’s motion, to Roslin’s shock. Zarek runs for the post, while Roslin recruits an old political ally, Wallace Grey (Robert Wisden). As the campaign unfolds, Zarek argues everyone is going through the motions of their pre-attack lives when they should embrace collectivism.

Apollo and Starbuck wind up in a bar fight with Zarek supporters. During the fight, Valance’s briefcase springs open, revealing a handgun. Starbuck seizes the weapon and takes Valance into custody.

Apollo and Starbuck interrogate Valance, but fail to connect him to Zarek. When Ellen chats up Zarek in another bar, hoping to promote Tigh’s career, Zarek inquires about Valance – who turns up dead in custody, though it may be a suicide.

While Tigh, Apollo, and Starbuck debate the continuing assassination threat, Roslin seems more interested in listening to Baltar hold court with the media on the wireless. She cuts Grey loose and recruits Baltar to run for the vice-presidency. Baltar wins when Roslin breaks a tie vote.

At Baltar’s victory party, Starbuck impresses Apollo with her dress, being used to her casual care for her work wardrobe. Zarek again congratulates Roslin, and exchanges a suspicious look with Ellen. Adama and Roslin share a dance.

Meanwhile, Helo and his Boomer reach the Cylon transport base at Delphi. At nightfall, when they sneak onto the base to steal a ship, Helo sees yet another copy of Boomer, who is shot by his Boomer. Helo flees them both.

Warren Henry is the nom de plume of an attorney practicing in the State of Illinois.
Photo YouTube/Screenshot

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