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Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Final Cut’ And ‘Flight Of The Phoenix’


This is the twelfth in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘The Farm’ And ‘Home,’” here.

Spoilers ahead.

If prior episodes have played as space opera, political thriller, or even dark comedy, “Final Cut” is a near-mockumentary about life aboard Galactica. “Flight of the Phoenix” borrows a title and theme from the 1965 film about people surviving after a plane crash in the Sahara by building a new plane from the wreckage.

When the episode aired, some critics thought the portrait of the crew redundant. In hindsight, after the major plot closure in “Home,” these episodes remind the audience that the fleet is in the grip of a rolling psychological crisis.

Moreover, the balanced, largely positive portrayal of military life is notable in light of the reputation the show would develop (as we will see) for metaphorically critiquing President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 war policies. The journalist protesting too much over the implicit charge of lacking patriotism is similarly striking.

‘Final Cut’

Journalist D’Anna Biers (Lucy Lawless) is preparing a report critical of the “Gideon massacre” (shown in “Resistance“) when soldiers escort her and her crew to Colonial One. Pres. Roslin and Cdr. Adama offer Biers the opportunity to make an “all-access” documentary about life on Galactica.

Biers films hijinx in the Viper pilots’ duty quarters. Apollo reprimands Kat for clownishly playing to the camera and escorts Biers from the premises.

Biers interviews CPO2 Dualla about her decision to join the military, which caused a split in her family that was not healed before the Cylon attack on the colonies. The cameras catch a heated dispute between Kat, deck chief Tyrol, and Starbuck about maintenance on the hangar deck. Pvt. Kelso (Kevan Kase) defends his role in the Gideon massacre and blames Tigh for sending the military to force resupplies in the first instance.

Biers begins an interview with Tigh by plying him with a drink. Tigh quickly concludes she wants to blame him for the Gideon massacre and storms out. Adama later apologizes to Biers for Tigh. She asks why Tigh was never charged; he cites the necessities of war and notes that no one truly escapes their command decisions.

Helo tells Biers that military training is meant on some level to dehumanize them, but that emotions never completely drop out. He then visits Boomer in her cell, only to discover she is bleeding due to some complication of her pregnancy.

Kat has a breakdown during an attempted landing, the result of taking stimulants to keep up with the demanding rotation for Viper pilots. In the sick bay, Kat tells Biers this is the first time she has been ashamed for disappointing her comrades. Biers also tapes Dr. Cottle treating Boomer (whose presence has been kept largely secret after Cally shot the original).  Adama demands that tape from Biers, who intentionally hands him the wrong cassette.

Galactica comes under Cylon attack, which Biers shoots from the CIC, while her crew tapes the action on the hangar deck. Biers observes Galactica’s effectiveness under pressure. When Biers previews her documentary (which uses the 1978 Battlestar Galactica theme music), Tigh thinks it is a hatchet job, but Adama thinks it is a great “warts and all” portrait. Roslin agrees and orders it shown to the entire fleet.

The report is also viewed by Cylons on Caprica, including the tape of Boomer. They marvel at human resilience and are thrilled Boomer and her child survive. One of the hybrid Cylons is revealed to be a copy of Biers.

‘Flight Of The Phoenix’

The episode begins with the mustering of a major Cylon force preparing to attack the rag-tag fleet.

Following a check-up, Dr. Cottle tells Roslin she may have less than a month to live.

Tyrol is depressed. After declaring a Viper scrap, he opts out of the party marking Cally’s release from the brig. He and Helo (who is being ostracized for his relationship with the Boomer copy) get into a discussion of Boomer that evolves into a fight.

Meanwhile, Galactica’s environmental systems begin malfunctioning. The ship also transmits a burst signal which may attract the Cylons. Lt. Gaeta and Baltar conclude the Cylon virus attack (in “Scattered” and “Valley of Darkness”) may have been more successful than they thought. This causes a blow-up between Gaeta and Tigh, another sign of deteriorating morale.

An exception is Tyrol’s decision to make an off-duty project of building a new type of fighter from scrap and scrounged parts.  Although met by skepticism from his crew, the effort gains volunteers, including Starbuck and Dualla (who helps configure the communications system). Even Tigh, who initially suggested to Adama that the project be shut down, sees the lift in morale and works a deal to have engines brought aboard in return for some of Tyrol’s moonshine.

(Another exception is the possible chemistry developing between Apollo and Dualla during combat training, even if their moment is interrupted by Billy.)

Meanwhile, Adama has Helo show Galactica’s computer code to Boomer. She confirms the Cylon virus has been learning the ship’s systems and has mutated to a point where it will soon be able to take over. Gaeta and Baltar recommend a cold reboot of Galactica from an uninfected backup. This will create a window where the ship is a sitting duck. Adama concludes he trusts Boomer insofar as she wants to live; he has her brought to the CIC.

A massive force of Cylon Raiders and Heavy Raiders is detected; Vipers are launched to meet the threat. Boomer opens her wrist with a knife and splices one of the ships fiberoptic cables into her arm. She directs the cold restart of Galactica while transmitting the virus to the Cylon fleet, disabling their ships and making them easy targets for the Vipers.

Tyrol completes his project when Helo suggests using carbon composite for its skin — which has the added benefit of making it stealthy, as proven in Starbuck’s test flight. At a christening ceremony, Roslin calls the “Blackbird” an “act of faith” in their future. And she is visibly moved upon learning the crew has named the ship “Laura.”