High Definition: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan
Today marks the release of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on DVD and Blu-Ray, and for a couple of hours, the show’s fans can relive the best sci-fi show in TV history from the perspective of the Cylons who almost completely annihilate humanity. Without answering the series’ biggest unresolved questions (like, what exactly was Kara Thrace?), it certainly adds a layer to the show’s first two seasons.
There’s a singular villain at work here, the #1-model Cylon on Galactica, John Cavil, played by Dean Stockwell. And the only reason humanity wasn’t immediately extinguished is because he can’t wipeout the sympathies of his fellow Cylons. It’s love he’s at war with, and love proves to be a worthy challenger. The #2 becomes obsessed with Kara Thrace and her unique destiny. The #4 is married with a step-daughter and kills himself rather than taking part in the genocide. A #6 and a #8 both fall in love with humans and conspire to bring about peace with humanity. Only the #5s seem to share Cavil’s imperviousness to mercy, but it’s fortunately matched by an incompetence. Even Cavil’s #1 counterpart on Earth comes to believe that the attack on humanity was a mistake, a belief Cavil threatens to box him for.
This new perspective reinforces the complexity of the show’s final two Cylon-centric seasons, when the black/white nature of humanity-versus-machines grew all shades of murky gray. The series’ final resolution came from the brave and difficult step of trusting your enemy and bargaining in good faith in the most extreme circumstances—a twist that gained the notice of the UN, which hosted a panel with Galactica producers Rondald D. Moore and David Eick and stars Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, exploring themes of human rights, terrorism, children and armed conflict, and reconciliation between civilians and faiths.
“Watch Battlestar Galactica if you want to learn how to reconcile with your worst enemy,” Olmos, who directed The Plan, told Paste yesterday. “Every Palestinian, every Jew should have to watch Battlestar Galactica. Every Irish person and every English person who have ever fought each other for hundreds of years should have to watch this program.”
And The Plan gives even more depth to that part of the Galactica mythology. The Cylons contain all that’s best and worst about humanity. All the models partake in the holocaust. Nearly all experience compassion, care and regret. They also experience jealousy, rage and deceit. Even Cavil’s careful manipulation stems from wanting to be loved by his creators more than the frail humans he was modeled after—the particularly human failing of envy. But even this model who murders an orphan child in cold blood is shown to be capable of redemption—one of his fellow #1s is moved by Anders’ love and comes to recognize his own corrupt motivations.
For a series whose twists and turns were slowly trickled out over four years, The Plan reveals a lot of the hows and whys, fleshing out the “skin jobs,” as it were. As I’ve written before, with no aliens in the lonely expanse of space, Battlestar Galactica is a show about what it means to be human. That’s just as true in The Plan, where all the main characters are machines.