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Saboteurs and Lovers: An Advance Review of "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan"

There are many copies. And they have a plan.

I feel a bit conflicted about Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, the nearly two-hour-long direct-to-DVD movie that's set roughly around the first two seasons of Syfy's groundbreaking drama series Battlestar Galatica.

On the one hand, I was excited to return to the dystopian world of human survivors and Cylon skinjobs, ahead of Syfy's planned prequel series Caprica (which launches in January), but on the other I can't help asking myself if this was a story that cried out to be told.

Battlestar Galatica: The Plan, written by Jane Espenson and directed by Edward James Olmos, doesn't really tred any new territory, per se. What it does offer is a different perspective on the events of the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica, from the POV of the Cylon attackers. It's through their eyes--both the Cylon skinjobs and the mythical Final Five--that we see the chain of events unfold, from the attack on the Colonies to the reunion between Sam Anders (Michael Trucco) and Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) on Caprica. Between those two narrative bookends, we see Cylon model Number One (Dean Stockwell) manipulate the other Cylons into carrying out various acts of sabotage and self-destruction while hidden among the ragtag human fleet.

It's Stockwell's One, operating under the guise of Brother Cavil both on Caprica and aboard Galactica, that provides the throughline for the plot, which is made up of pre-existing footage from the series along with original material. Even as two versions of his nihilistic line plot and scheme, each attempts to come to terms with the decisions they've made, watching the members of the Final Five for signs that they've learned from the cycle of destruction.

In addition to providing a glimpse behind the curtain into the Cylon perspective, the plot also focuses on what happened to each of the Final Five immediately after the nuclear holocaust that wiped out the Twelve Colonies: we see Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) gravely injured on Picon, Sam assume a leadership role of his group of resistance fighters, Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) deal with his impossible relationship with Cylon sleeper agent Sharon Valerii (Grace Park) even as he later must come to terms with the possibility that he too is not who he believes himself to be. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) and Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma) also appear briefly but the plot doesn't quite manage to ensnare their characters in quite the same way.

There's also the inclusion of a minor character from the original BSG mini-series, Gianna (played by Olmos' real-life wife Lymari Nadal), a widowed Caprican who becomes a member of the knuckle-draggers on Galactica and crosses paths several times with Chief. She also unwittingly enters into a relationship with a Cylon Number Four (Rick Worthy), calling himself Simon, and their romance provides one of the more tragic elements of the film. We're also given a deeper portrait of Simon himself, following the dual paths of two versions of his model, one embedded within Sam's pyramid team and the aforementioned one within the fleet, who is forced to choose between his duty and his heart. (Six and Leoben also get some moments to shine as well as we're given a look at some events from their specific points of view.)

In other words, there's a lot going on here. Which should be a good thing but part of the problem is that, unless you've very recently rewatched the first two seasons, it's virtually impossible to keep track of all of the various events which we're seeing from different perspectives this time around. The film seeks to provide some minor answers to some very minor moments, such as just how Six appeared to vanish off of Galactica after outing Baltar (James Callis) or how the Cylons managed to pass along information to Boomer when she was still a Cylon sleeper agent (hint: it involves a ceramic elephant) and unaware of her true nature.

The overall effect feels like quite too much has been shoehorned into a film whose running time is an hour and fifty minutes and which juggles numerous timeframes, characters, and events in order to compress roughly two seasons of storylines into a single film. There are some interesting thematic elements at work here, such as the series' underlying question about what it means to truly be human, and some insightful moral and philosophical debates about complicity, genocide, and penance. But, as faithful viewers of Battlestar Galactica know, much of this has been dealt head-on within the series itself, with entire episodes devoted to deciphering the Cylon mentality and mores.

Even as a die-hard Battlestar Galactica fan, I wondered if we hadn't already known about much of the Cylons' vaunted "plan" ahead of time and whether there weren't more intriguing untold stories amid the plot of Battlestar Galactica that would serve to further deepen the mythology and world of the series. We've seen Cylons debate the merits of genocide and whether they were right to spite their makers, we've seen them squabble and fall in love with humans, and we've seen them take moral stands that prove that there is individuality even among a line of mass-produced copies.

Unfortunately, it's those same elements that the film seeks to dramatize again, often with a sense of deja vu. Battlestar Galactica: The Plan isn't bad--there are some gorgeously shot sequences and some pretty thought-provoking moments--but it's also not nearly as revealing as it ought to be.



Battlestar Galactica: The Plan is available for purchase beginning tomorrow for a suggested retail price of $26.98. Or you can pick up a copy in the Televisionary store for $16.99.

Comments

OldDarth said…
The Plan proves the adage that some things are better left to the imagination. The Cylons were even bigger bumblers than imagined.

I remember folks joking about the Cylons not having a plan during the series run despite the, 'They have a plan,' tagline because it was never told in the show. Sadly, it turns out that was no joke. They WERE making it up as they went along.

Mark me down as finding this disappointing and worse, dull.

Some of the CGI is pretty dodgy too.
Heatherette said…
The concept is interesting but, from what you're saying, it does seem like they tried to do too much in a short period of time.

I wasn't that crazy about the finale and was hoping that this would sort of make up for it but it looks like that's not the case.
DarthRazorback said…
I thought the scenes with Sam on Caprica were great. Everything else seemed completely pointless. I have loved nearly everything about BSG (I even liked the ending of the series) but (outside of the Sam scenes) I hated this feature.
Unknown said…
I disliked the last two seasons so much that I'm no longer interested in anything BSG. I'm not even sure I'll watch Caprica, but if it's sufficiently distanced from BSG, I might try it out.
madbreak said…
Even if it lacked a bit in plot it was still great to watch especially if like me you prefer the cylons to the humans. Disappointingly it didnt include the actual debate and vote the cylons took to stop the genocide. It was just it had happened via 6 telling 1. It should have been a great central moment with the 8s only changing their minds to support a truce at the final moment. Opportunity lost. I think EJO might be getting a little too much EGO and starting to ruin things. He should stick to acting.

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