Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 2.16 Sacrifice
Ronald D Moore's re imagining of the 1970's sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica set a gold standard, both for sci-fi and TV reboots. The darker, grittier re imagining, that saw a fleet of human ships fleeing the dreaded Cylons in search of Earth, won a whole host of awards and critical acclaims over its seven-year run. With the series looking to go through another quasi-reboot under show runner Michael Lesslie, we look back at the first reboot that defined the early days of twenty-first century television. Next up is season two's tragic Sacrifice...
Battlestar Galactica is one of those shows that felt hugely relevant in the early years post 911 and the war on terror. The gritty reimagining of the cult 70s sci-fi show was never afraid to tackle terrorism, war, trauma and politics, all while exploring the darkest aspects of humanity. Late season two episode Sacrifice is a strong example of what Battlestar Galactica does best; it might not be a stand out episode in a season packed with great episodes, but it does continue the post-Pegasus arc trend of looking at the impact the continued Cylon conflict has on the rest of the fleet.
In this instance, the story of guest character Sesha Abinell (Dana Delany), who's husband was lost in an off-screen Cylon attack several weeks ago and is now furious at Cylon prisoner Sharon being held in Galactica's brig. Her terrorist actions - holding guests on Cloud 9 hostage in exchange for the Cylon - may be wrong, but they are understandable. The Cylons have played humanity time and time again and now one has direct access to Admiral Adama. The threat of humanity's extinction is still very real.
All of which raises that age old dilemma of not giving in to terrorists, even when the lives of those closest to you are at stake. The is real emotional investment in keeping the hostages alive. Lee Adama, Anastasia Dualla, Ellen Tigh and Billy Keikeya are all prisoners, causing considerable stress and heartache for three of the most important members of the fleet. After all he has gone through, there is real pain in the idea that Admiral Adama could lose his son. For all their struggles, Saul Tigh still loves Ellen deeply. Billy is the only defacto family President Roslin has left.
There's plenty of great drama to be had, from Apollo going all John McClane in the early part of the episode, to Starbuck going undercover with disastrous consequences. Her mission is flawed from the start, resulting in a dramatic shoot out that sees Lee dying of a gun shot wound because of her impetuous actions. As the episode progresses, there is the very real sense that someone we know is going to die. Which makes Billy's heroics all the more tragic. His death, trying to take down one of the gunmen is ultimately senseless - that final shootout would have likely have resulted in the death of Sesha and her gunmen without his actions.
Paul Capbell's swansong on Battlestar Galactica is also his strongest episode; he starts Sacrifice demonstrating skill and intelligence in going up against Adama, a renewed confidence leading to his bittersweet decision to propose to Dualla. While they were a sweet couple in season one, the latest episodes have seen her growing attraction to Lee bring an end to that relationship. While her refusal to accept his proposal is heart breaking, it is the moment he catches Dualla and Lee on a date that crushes him. Being forced to help her save Lee is the final salt in the wound. He can never be the man Dualla wants, making his heroics a final, desperate move that backfired spectacularly. He dies trying to be Lee 'Apollo' Adama.
Any look back at Sacrifice wouldn't be complete without discussing the scene where Roslin visits to Billy in the morgue. Mary McDonnell is phenomenal once again, brushing Billy's hair back, clutching the wall as she struggles to keep herself standing; it's another superb bit of acting from Battlestar Galactica's strongest performer.
Sacrifice might not be the biggest, flashiest episodes of season two, but it is a well written exploration of the war on terror within the fleet and the impact the Cylon war has had on the civilians. Dana Delany is a strong guest lead as broken Sesha Abinell, fuelled with revenge over the loss of her husband, while Paul Capbell makes the most of his final, tragic episode.