REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

BSG: The Plan is ©2009 NBC Universal, all rights reserved
BSG: The Plan is ©2009 NBC Universal, all rights reserved

It seems like we just can’t seem to stop saying goodbye to Battlestar Galactica. Perhaps the defining science fiction show of my generation, BSG’s post-finale swan song has included a bevy of cast appearances, an issue of the complete series on DVD and Blu-Ray, a recent Bryan Singer-helmed feature film announcement, and now, an upcoming two-hour television movie event. Battlestar Galactica: The Plan takes viewers on a journey of the events that transpired two weeks before the Cylon colony attacks, and their subsequent war with the humans, all from the Cylons’ viewpoint. Compiled with a combination of new footage and key plot highlight clips over the course of the show’s run, The Plan is designed to be the ultimate retrospective with a different perspective. review + trailer under the “continue reading” jump.

Review: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan Grade: B

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan begins twelve days before the cylon attacks, with the nuclear codes Cylon Model Six (Tricia Helfer) cajoled Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) into giving her getting handed off to Cylon Model One. From the first plot point, it is clear that this is the retelling of Battlestar Galactica as the Cylons’ story, and the humans are bystanders. It is one of many that fill in abruptly left off or missing scenes (Cavil desperately ordering Boomer (Grace Park) to shoot Adama, Caprica Six rejoining the other Cylons after her conversations with Baltar aboard the Galactica, exactly what was Ellen Tigh doing before her reunion with Saul). The fun of this movie is not in any new material or storytelling. It’s that every look, every gathering of those slowly revealed to be Cylons during the show’s run carries more weight. “When Battlestar fans see The Plan, they’re all going to have to go back and watch the series again,” said Edward James Olmos. The visual effects and imagery are stunning—worthy of a feature film. The first full ten minutes of the movie (not for the faint of heart) are dedicated to the nuclear holocaust, destruction and aftermath of the attacks on the colonies. While the miniseries prelude to Battlestar didn’t dwell on the attacks, The Plan does, to an uncomfortably and necessarily detailed degree. Another favorite visual was two Cavil cylons floating hand in hand in outer space post-airlock, with gorgeous cosmos CGI imagery so rare in the mostly interior series. The movie is also chock-full of humor and irony, often of the

bawdy kind. Who knew skinjobs were so funny? The price of admission, however, is for Dean Stockwell’s performance as Brother Cavill. I’ve always felt he was the most conflicted, complex of all the “original” models and this film serves as his star turn. He is everywhere—at once a priest on the Galactica, a resistance warrior on New Caprica, scheming on the baseship—and everything. It’s equally fun watching him boiling with frustration that The Plan isn’t coming to fruition, snapping at his fellow Cylons, and every sardonic aside in-between.

“This [movie] is for the fans,” remarked Eddie Olmos after a recent intimate Hollywood Plan screening. “This is for all the fans that were around since the beginning.” It is both a strength and weakness for the film. While in-the-know die-hards will laugh at the cheeky inside jokes and reveals, The Plan serves as neither an introductory primer nor promises to answer in-depth questions raised thematically by the show. For example, what is “The Plan”? The Cylons declare nuclear war on the thirteen colonies, eviscerate humanity, and take their rightful place as a sole existence under the watchful eye of their one true God. But this much we already knew. “The colonies of men lie trembled at our feet,” Brother Cavil declares to the other Cylon models, but never answers why, or where and how the nuclear holocaust was conceived. Indeed, this devotion to the Cylon God, contrasted with humanity’s heathen polytheism, served as the central ideological schism between the two races, and raised complex, thought-provoking questions throughout Battlestar’s run. The conflicting, multi-layered view Cylons have of humans (and vice versa) was not as in-depth as one would hope of a vehicle designed to give us a purview into their psyche. John Cavil, who had infiltrated the New Caprica resistance, couldn’t kill Starbuck when he had a clear shot at her, but mercilessly knifes an orphan human boy who befriends him on the Galactica. Why the discrepancy? Did Caprica Six really love Baltar? Conversely, the struggle the Cylon Doctor Simon (Rick Worthy) undergoes—and the tenderness towards his human wife that he retains—is powerful, and sheds new light on this previously mysterious model and his hospital torture scene with Starbuck. Although the Missing Five each get a very brief flashback to their previous Cylon life, any intrinsic cognizance of their true nature comes down to looks and conincidental glances during pivotal moments we’ve already seen. Granted, it is fun to rewatch them knowing what we know now.

On top of the strong visual imagery used in the storytelling, the production values are outstanding. A big kudos to writer Jane Espensen, now showrunner of the forthcoming Caprica (ScriptPhD review), for the intricate script. It’s not easy to weave in the major Cylon moments of the series (the attack, the human resistance, Boomer shooting Adama, etc.) without coming off as disjointed, gimmicky or bloated, and she does it masterfully. Likewise, Edward James Olmos directs this movie as only someone so intimately familiar with the material can. Reshot scenes on New Caprica and supplements to Galactica footage felt seamlessly in place, as though rewatching the series again in real time. He called the making of The Plan “an extraordinary journey and the actual final piece” to the series. We at join Mr. Olmos in appreciation of this coda.

But now, it really is time to say goodbye.

The Battlestar Galactica: The Plan trailer:

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan releases on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 27, 2009. The movie will premiere on the SyFy Channel sometime around 2010

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