TELLY CLASSICS #1: Battlestar Galactica – “Exodus, Part 2”

Who made it?: Ronald D. Moore (executive producer/developer); David Eick (executive producer); Bradley Thompson & David Weddle (writers); Felix Alcala (director); SyFy/Universal.

Who’s in it?: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan.

What’s it about?: The Battlestar Galactica crew prepare to save what’s left of the human race on New Caprica, which is now occupied by their enemy – the dreaded Cylons.

Original air-date: 23rd January 2007 (US).

The story so far…

Set in a distant galaxy, where humans live on a collective of planets known as the Twelve Colonies, Galactica focuses on a war with a cybernetic race known as the Cylons. They launch an attack on the Colonies, destroying the planets and killing almost all human life. Only 50,000 people escape safely on civilian ships. The Battlestar Galactica appears to be the only military vessel to survive the onslaught. Under the leadership of Admiral William “Bill” Adama (Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (McDonnell), the Galactica and its crew lead the fleet on a mission to find Earth, evading the Cylons every step of the way…

Disclaimer: I have attempted to make this article as spoiler-free as possible for any non-BSG converts out there, although some plot points are raised. If you have yet to watch the show, what the hell are you waiting for? 

Battlestar Galactica was at its best with “Exodus, Part 2”, a perfect 40-minutes of television that blends exquisite writing, direction, acting and special effects into one of the most memorable episodes of any show…ever. Galactica produced many classics over its four season run, and trying to pick a favourite could be considered a thankless task. This was a show deemed important enough to be honoured with a special event at the United Nations (the only show in history to receive such an accolade). Put simply, there are at least twenty other episodes that could have made the grade. The fourth episode of season three is surely high on fan lists, however.

We find our characters on New Caprica, a supposed safe haven from the Cylons, which is now occupied by the enemy. The fleet has split into three factions – Admiral Adama and a chosen few aboard Galactica, his son Lee (Bamber) and others aboard Battlestar Pegasus, and those on the planet surface…that represent the last of humanity. As the episode begins, Lee is considering leaving his father and the human race behind in hope of finding Earth, while the crew of Galactica plot a rescue mission that could end mankind once and for all.

From the get-go, “Exodus, Part 2” raises the stakes. Weddle & Thompson, two of the best writers on the show, are adept at mixing substantial human drama with spectacle; one of BSG‘s many hallmarks. There is a sense of foreboding from the opening moments and even a character death before the main titles kick-in. Colonel Tigh (Hogan) is forced to make a difficult decision that would have unforeseen consequences.  He has his own story arc over the course of the episode (and the three that preceded it), which is both poignant and beautifully played by Hogan. He is, in some respects, the most undervalued actor in a cast which Stephen King called “the best ensemble on television”.

Most of the regulars get their chance to shine in “Exodus”. Callis’ now-legendary Gaius Baltar served as the shows comic relief when it was needed most, which only made his dramatic moments all the more memorable. In this episode, he runs the gamut from cowardly weasel to unwilling hero with amazing ease. As ever, his interplay with the comely No. 6 (Helfer) provides a nice counterpoint to the ensuing chaos. And this episode excels at chaos, slowly building the tension until Galactica’s arrival.

Fan favourite Chief Tyrol (Aaaron Douglas) leads the ground assault, which is an impressively mounted set-piece, incorporating live actors with numerous CGI creations seamlessly. Effects house Zoic handled the computer wizardry for every episode, and despite having meagre TV budgets to work with they always delivered blockbuster-level visuals. “Exodus, Part 2” really gave them an opportunity to showcase their talent.

The rescue is undeniably the highlight of the episode, if not the season (the finale aside). Adama is one of the most unpredictable lead characters in modern telly and his solution for liberating the civilians is both logical and bat-shit insane. Launching Galactica into New Caprica’s atmosphere, the Admiral never loses his composure as his ship careens toward the ground; burning up as Vipers launch to protect those below. Then Galactica jumps again, creating a vacuum from the sudden loss of mass…leaving a sonic boom and shock wave in its wake. Ask any Galactica fan about this moment and they’ll probably illicit a “frak yeah!” It’s notable for the sublime effects work as well as the WTF look on Chief’s face as Galactica plummets toward him. If nothing else, the rescue proves one thing: You don’t underestimate William Adama.

Helping to give the battle sequence a kinetic charge, is acclaimed composer Bear McCreary’s pulsating score. His cue “Storming New Caprica” represents everything that makes the Galactica soundtrack so Gods-damn perfect:

The action follows Galactica into orbit, which is bombarded by Cylon fire. For a moment, Adama admits defeat, as the vessel lies defenceless against the barrage. The writers cleverly fool the audience here; the sight of Galactica succumbing to the power of four Cylon base stars is a brief moment of panic in a show known for unpredictable plot-twists. And then Lee shows up with the Pegasus, blasting the opposition to smithereens, and saving them in a rather ingenious fashion (let’s just say he takes out two birds with one stone). It’s a victory…but at a cost.

In true BSG fashion, the characters are anything but safe after their return “home”. They are still at war, and they carry the scars of New Caprica with them; revelations that take much of season three to come to fruition. What I’ve always loved about the show is its logical progression from one episode to the next – everything has consequences. “Exodus, Part 2” is not only a pivotal episode for the characters but an indelible reminder of Galactica‘s technical excellence. This is a show as comfortable with philosophy as it is with pyrotechnics…and there isn’t anything else like it on television. Let’s hope the proposed prequel Blood & Chrome does its predecessor justice.

Best Scene:

There’s no doubt about this. You’ll believe a Battlestar can fall with style.

Best Quote:

A difficult choice in an episode filled with great dialogue, but the following exchange between Gaius and Cylon D’Anna (Lucy Lawless) gets right to the heart of Galactica‘s themes:

D’Anna: “What would you have us do, Gaius?”

Baltar: “Leave. Pack up your centurions, and go. Please. Go.”

D’Anna: “And then what? What would you do if we really just left you here? You’d live out your lives in peace and never trouble yourselves with thoughts of us again? Or would you raise your children with stories of the Cylon, the mechanical slaves who once did your bidding, only to turn against you? Killers who committed genocide against your race, the occupiers of this city until we just ran away? Would you tell them to tell the story to their children, and to their childrens’ children, and nurse a dream of vengeance down through the years so that one day they could just go out into the stars and hunt the Cylon once more?”

Baltar: “Blood for blood. Has to stop one day.”

Useless Trivia:

— “Exodus” was originally planned as one episode but the scale of the plot and the action sequences made that impossible.

— This episode won the 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Series.

— One of only two episodes in the series to feature all twelve humanoid Cylon models. The other is “Precipice”.

— Richard Hatch guest stars as Tom Zerek. He played Lee Adama in the original 1978 version.

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About Dave James

Editor-in-Chief @ SquabbleBox.co.uk. Film freak, music minion, professional procrastinator.
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