This is the 28th in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘Maelstrom’ And ‘The Sun Also Rises’” here.
Season Three’s finale revolves around Baltar’s trial for collaborating with the Cylons. The trial provides catharsis for the rag-tag fleet, albeit not as Pres. Roslin intended. A trial meant to affirm humanity’s civilization revealed instead how thin that veneer of civilization has become.
The proceedings barely resemble an American trial. Lawyers avoid asking questions without knowing the answers – a precept violated regularly here. And even if one allows for one of Baltar’s defense team becoming a witness, relying on Apollo to deliver a key monologue impromptu is preposterous. It works only because the audience wants to hear Apollo restore humanity’s moral compass.
The notion of a Bob Dylan song floating in the galactic aether is also incredible, but perhaps necessary. The writers sought to convey a shared hallucination seemingly familiar to those who heard it, yet still elusive. The off-kilter version of the familiar song communicates these qualities to the audience in ways an original tune could not.
Roslin dreams of chasing Hera through the Opera House. Hera’s mother Athena also chases the child.
Lt. Gaeta informs Adm. Adama the fleet is 12 jumps from the Ionian Nebula, their next marker to Earth. There remains no sign of the Cylons.
At Joe’s Bar, Col. Tigh attempts to tune in a song on the radio. Anders briefly hears the music.
Prior to Baltar’s trial, the prosecutor Cassidy (Chelah Horsdal) refuses to add charges based on Roslin’s vision of Baltar and Caprica Six together before the attack. A woman visits Baltar in the brig, asking him to bless her sick child. She is among several to have done so.
The fleet makes its next FTL jump. Racetrack remains behind in a Raptor, watching for Cylons.
At Baltar’s trial, Cassidy focuses on the 5,192 humans lost on New Caprica while Baltar collaborated with the Cylons. Lampkin’s opening argument requests to enter a guilty plea and condemns Baltar; he uses the angry agreement in the courtroom to demonstrate the trial is an exercise in mob justice.
The Cylon fleet appears near Racetrack’s ship. Racetrack escapes to Galactica.
On Roslin’s order, Tigh questions Caprica Six about a possible tracking device. She reveals that the Cylons discovered the fleet’s refinery ship has a unique energy signature. Tigh is distracted by the song he hears. Caprica Six, prodded by her mental Baltar, begins discussing Ellen’s death. Tigh and Six exchange blows.
Tigh then testifies at Baltar’s trial. He is drunk and seems worse because he hears the song no one else does. Lampkin gets Tigh to admit that as the insurgent leader on New Caprica, he killed Ellen and he would say anything now to see Baltar dead.
At Joe’s, Anders hears the song.
Roslin testifies that Baltar signed the death warrant for her and 200 others. Apollo cross-examines her about the hallucinogenic chamalla extract she used to treat her cancer. Roslin confesses she is taking chamalla again because her cancer recently returned.
Later, Apollo suggests to Adama the refinery could be used to lead the Cylons away from the fleet before adjusting its energy signature and rejoining the fleet. Adama is open to the idea.
Adama then berates Apollo (falsely) for using Ellen’s death to humiliate Tigh and serve Baltar, a traitor who does not deserve a trial. Apollo resigns his commission after Adama questions his integrity. Dualla leaves Apollo over his role in the trial.
Tory loses her temper during a press conference regarding Roslin’s cancer. Roslin tells Tory, who has not slept and looks disheveled, to compose herself.
In his quarters, Tigh presses his ear to the floor and wall, concluding the song “is in the frakkin’ ship.”
Anders and Tory hear the song during a tryst. Tyrol is awakened by the song and hums it on the hangar deck. Anders, who has enlisted in flight training, hears Tyrol; they agree it seems like a childhood memory.
Apollo advises Lampkin to seek a mistrial based on Adama’s biased comments. Baltar says he cannot endure another trial.
Tigh alerts a skeptical Adama about the song as a security problem.
At trial, Gaeta falsely testifies that Baltar signed the death warrant without resisting. Lampkin decides against cross-examining Gaeta, telling Baltar it would be futile.
The perjury leads Lampkin to request a mistrial based on Adama’s bias. Apollo resists testifying about the private discussion with his father.
Instead, with Adama’s support, Apollo explains why he thinks Baltar deserves an acquittal. Apollo notes that virtually everyone has been forgiven for everything, from Adama’s coup against Roslin to her pardon of everyone but Baltar after the exodus from New Caprica. Humanity is no longer a civilization; it’s a gang on the run. Baltar is the scapegoat for their collective shame and guilt.
By a 3-2 vote, the judges find Baltar not guilty. The courtroom erupts in chaos. Adama later reveals to an upset Roslin that he voted for acquittal.
As the fleet jumps near the Ionian Nebula, Roslin feels faint and the entire fleet suffers a power outage. While the crew rushes to restore power, Baltar – unsure of how to survive after his acquittal – is taken in by a group including the woman who visited him in the brig.
Caprica Six dreams of the Opera House, meeting Baltar and Hera near the stage. Looking up at the balcony, she sees the glowing figures of the Final Five Cylons before awakening.
Amid the confusion, Tyrol, Tigh, Anders, and Tory hear the music and recite the opening lyrics from “All Along the Watchtower” to themselves. They meet in the gymnasium, realize they share the auditory hallucination, and conclude they are Cylon sleepers.
When power is restored, Galactica’s DRADIS shows the Cylon fleet approaching. The outage prevents the fleet from escaping. Pilots, including Apollo, scramble to their Vipers. Tyrol, Tigh, Anders, and Tory also return to their duties.
Heading into battle, Apollo breaks off to make contact with an unidentified ship detected in the nebula. He intercepts Starbuck (heretofore presumed dead) in a Viper. Starbuck tells Apollo she has been to Earth and will take them there.
The camera pulls away from the battle to show Earth in the cold distance of space.