Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

Battlestar Galactica The Plan poster

 

Put sim­ply, Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca: The Plan is a clip show done right, in dis­guise as an orig­i­nal movie for tele­vi­sion. What­ev­er else its intend­ed pur­pose, it must also do dou­ble-duty as a kind of coda, appen­dix, or post­script to the cel­e­brat­ed tele­vi­sion series (2004–2009). But is it one final cash-in, before the sets are struck and the cast scat­ters to the winds, or a noble attempt to address neglect­ed aspects of the com­plex mythos that many fans felt weren’t just­ly served by the con­tro­ver­sial final episode? Which, for the record, I loved for its audac­i­ty, while still sym­pa­thiz­ing with the con­tin­gent of fans that felt it strained plau­si­bil­i­ty and raised more ques­tions than it answered.

The Plan incor­po­rates footage from across all four sea­sons, seam­less­ly meld­ed with new mate­r­i­al writ­ten by Jane Espen­son, who wrote for the show dur­ing its fourth sea­son, and direct­ed by Edward James Olmos, who starred in the series as Com­man­der Bill Adama and helmed sev­er­al indi­vid­ual episodes. The DVD bonus fea­tures, while typ­i­cal­ly hagio­graph­ic, right­ly point out that Olmos obvi­ous­ly had an inti­mate knowl­edge of the full sto­ry arc as well as a strong rela­tion­ship with the entire cast, so he was prob­a­bly the best choice to helm The Plan. Curi­ous­ly, Exec­u­tive Pro­duc­er Ronald D. Moore is miss­ing-in-action from the cred­its and DVD bonus fea­tures.

Dean Stockwell in Battlestar Galactica: The PlanBroth­er Cav­il (in hat) and Broth­er Cav­il (not in hat) face their ends

In a nar­ra­tive con­ceit shared with the pre­vi­ous Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca spe­cial movie Razor (2007), key por­tions of the show’s con­ti­nu­ity are retold from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, in this case that of the Cylons, a frac­tious race of syn­thet­ic life­forms with a (shall we say) com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with their human cre­ators. All but one of the actors por­tray­ing the twelve Cylon mod­els appear in new sequences here (Lucy Law­less being the sole hold­out), join­ing some of the orig­i­nal human char­ac­ters (miss­ing James Cal­lis, Mary McDon­nell, Katee Sack­hoff, Tah­moh Penikett, and Jamie Bam­ber). Odd­ly, Pres­i­dent Roslin (McDon­nell) is the only major char­ac­ter to not even appear in archival clips, being very con­spic­u­ous in her absence. Per­haps the actress object­ed to the script, or demand­ed too much mon­ey?

I per­son­al­ly don’t believe the series prop­er nec­es­sar­i­ly need­ed to tell more of the sto­ry than the writ­ers chose to before its final episode (which is off-lim­its any­way, tak­ing place chrono­log­i­cal­ly after the events seen in The Plan). But if the goal of The Plan was to fill in some of the per­ceived gaps, it’s ulti­mate­ly unsat­is­fy­ing for not address­ing some of the tru­ly puz­zling mys­ter­ies, par­tic­u­lar­ly the still-unseen thir­teenth Cylon called Daniel and the true nature of Starbuck’s (Sack­hoff) death, res­ur­rec­tion, and sub­se­quent visions. What new plot infor­ma­tion and char­ac­ter insights we do get are nice, but inessen­tial. We see more of the Cylon sur­prise attack, with the human colonies destroyed one by one, but how does this expand the sto­ry beyond indulging in some CGI apoc­a­lypse porn? But to The Plan’s cred­it, some of the most tan­ta­liz­ing mys­ter­ies are prob­a­bly best left up to our imag­i­na­tions. Not with­out rea­son, fans spent the final sea­son won­der­ing how Star­buck could be any­thing but a Cylon, only to find she was some­thing else entire­ly. I would argue the writ­ers chose to not drag the mys­tery down into mun­dan­i­ty, like the fatal mis­take George Lucas made by pro­vid­ing a pseu­do-sci­en­tif­ic def­i­n­i­tion of The Force in Star Wars Episode I: The Phan­tom Men­ace.

Grace Park in Battlestar Galactica: The PlanBoomer, true to her name, is a tick­ing time bomb

So what is the epony­mous Plan? As we saw in the first moments of the orig­i­nal series, the reli­gious­ly-moti­vat­ed Cylon race attempts to total­ly anni­hi­late human­i­ty in one fell swoop. A small fleet of human strag­glers escapes, with a small num­ber of Cylons unwill­ing­ly trapped among them (sure­ly a frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tion for crea­tures who expect­ed to per­ish in the cat­a­clysm and be reborn in a heav­en free of humans). The major rev­e­la­tion of The Plan is that much of the vio­lent con­flict we saw in the orig­i­nal series was actu­al­ly a des­per­ate­ly impro­vised plan by this rag­tag cell of part­ly-unwill­ing sol­diers. Meet the new plan, same as the old plan: geno­cide. So we now under­stand these few Cylons to be a strug­gling ter­ror­ist cell.

The cen­tral char­ac­ters that dri­ve the action are a pair of Ones/Cavils (Dean Stock­well), whose pend­ing exe­cu­tion pro­vides a fram­ing device to the entire movie. Also sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand­ed are Anders (Michael Truc­co) and two very dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Four/Simon (Rick Wor­thy). We learn a lit­tle more about the hap­less Five/Aaron (Matthew Ben­nett), the expla­na­tion for his rel­a­tive insignif­i­cance in the show being that he is sim­ply a lit­tle dim, often serv­ing as an inept pawn of Cav­il. We learn how the Eight that lived as Boomer actu­al­ly func­tioned (she was a sleep­er agent who gen­uine­ly believed she was human, but was brought in and out of this illu­sion by Cav­il — with her human side even­tu­al­ly win­ning over). We meet an addi­tion­al Six (Tri­cia Helfer) who worked under­cov­er as a pros­ti­tute, con­tribut­ing lit­tle to the sto­ry beyond more T&A. Speak­ing of, The Plan fea­tures a great deal of gra­tu­itous full-frontal male and female nudi­ty, not moti­vat­ed by plot or char­ac­ter, and seem­ing­ly only there for tit­il­la­tion and a faux sense of real­ism.

Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica: The PlanEven the most diehard Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca fan may have trou­ble remem­ber­ing which Six this is

Most of left-behind Cylons become con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, or at least influ­enced, by prox­im­i­ty with humans. Anoth­er Cav­il is trapped on the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Capri­ca with Anders, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rever­ing him as a father of the Cylon race while chal­leng­ing his empa­thet­ic lead­er­ship skills. How they all sur­vive radi­a­tion poi­son­ing isn’t explained. The Capri­ca-bound Cavil’s mind rapid­ly evolves to the point where he becomes worlds apart from his bit­ter, cru­el twin in the fleet, who remains the sole Cylon pure­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the orig­i­nal plan.

Was the project mis­con­ceived? It is cer­tain­ly in keep­ing with the clas­si­cal­ly bleak Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca style and tone; a new char­ac­ter is a help­less lit­tle orphan kid, very out of keep­ing for a show that con­tin­u­al­ly rejects cute & cud­dly stereo­types, and I should have known that his fate would not be a good one. By design, The Plan is res­olute­ly intend­ed for diehard Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca fans with ency­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the show’s mythos. I con­sid­er myself a big fan, and have seen every episode, but there was much I hadn’t mem­o­rized, and about which I remain con­fused. For instance, I can’t recall if it was ever explained exact­ly why the so-called Final Five Cylons were implant­ed among human soci­ety to live as humans for sev­er­al decades, and why only one incar­na­tion of Cav­il knew of their exis­tence. It seems a mis­take to pro­duce a big-bud­get TV movie for a very nar­row audi­ence of super­fans that can remem­ber all this stuff, months after their favorite show stops air­ing. The Plan cer­tain­ly won’t attract vir­gin view­ers, as any­one inter­est­ed in the series would cer­tain­ly start with a DVD of the orig­i­nal 2004 minis­eries. I don’t even want to think about how The Plan must have seemed to any unfor­tu­nate view­ers who had nev­er seen Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca at all, let alone inter­nal­ized its mythos.

It’s hard to see how The Plan can be any­thing oth­er than the true end of the series. Get­ting this much of the cast back togeth­er for one TV movie must have been a real feat, so doing it again in the future seems unlike­ly. The pre­quel series Capri­ca (read The Dork Report review of the pilot episode) is set far enough in Bat­tlestar Galactica’s past that much of the cast can­not log­i­cal­ly guest star (although, upon reflec­tion, it might be pos­si­ble to see some of the Final Five, who might be liv­ing among humans at this point). So The Plan is most like­ly the end.


Offi­cial movie site: www.syfy.com/battlestar

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.