This episode is the last of the season, and the last of the series, where we find that though the valiant crew of the Galactica have staged several victories against the Cylon Empire, they were no match for poor ratings.
The final episode begins with Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Sheba (Anne Lockhart) going on a double date with Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang), in what has basically become a science fiction Archie comic dynamic by this point. Apollo takes the group to the highest point aboard the Galactica, positioned directly above the main thrusters, to where a mostly forgotten Celestial Chamber is located. The room is a dome made of transparent tylinium and gives the viewer an unparalleled view of the stars, to Apollo “It’s like riding in the hand of God.”
Note: Apollo explains how there use to be many of these chambers on the Galactica, when she was launched 500 yahren ago, so this means they are flying around in a ship five centuries old. Call me crazy but that doesn’t seem all that safe.
While Apollo waxes nostalgic about the good ole days, when navigators would come up to one of these stations to verify the computers navigation information, Sheba notices something coming through on the ancient and unused Gamma Frequencies, the picture is in very poor quality but Apollo says it reminds him of the space crafts that the colonies used many yahrens ago. The group is excited about this discovery and they yank poor Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) out of bed to get his expertise on long range communications on the job. He isn’t able to clean up the picture much but he does deduce that either it’s a harmonic signal, which means it could be really close, or if the signal is at its original frequency then it could have been traveling through space for thousands of yahrens. So basically not very helpful.
Note: The transmission is of footage from the return of the ascent stage of the 1969 Apollo mission.
When they report their findings to Adama (Lorne Greene) he orders scans in the direction that the signal seemed to originate from, and once doing so a planetary system is detected in the direction of the transmission. Adama then orders a Viper patrol into the system to take a closer look. Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba start to explore the system when Starbuck detects a Cylon basestar rising into orbit from the third planet, and the trio immediately retreat back to the Galactica before the Cylons scans can spot them.
Colonel Tigh (Terry Carter) explains that they will have to backtrack a long way to get a fleet their size around the Cylons undetected, and Adama comes to the conclusion that the signal Apollo picked was just an elaborate lure for a Cylon trap. Apollo isn’t too sure of that, but Tigh re-iterates that, “There is nothing we can do but turn back.” Starbuck exclaims, “The must be another way.”
Adama believes that to cover this much space, in the hopes of catching the Galactica, the Cylon basestars must be spread pretty thin, so this lone basestar is a perfect target for a surprise attack, and Adama states “Even if we didn’t have the advantage, I’m tired of running“ and Tigh eagerly responds, “Adama, so am I.” This is a great scene with great actors, and if the series had maintained this level of writing the show may not have been cancelled. That scene is then followed by an even better one where after Apollo convinces Starbuck that the only way to win against a basestar is if the Cylon’s scanners are knocked out, ensuring that the Galactica would get in the first punch, which will involve Apollo and Starbuck flying into the basestar, while piloting Baltar’s seized Cylon Raider Our two heroes are shortly confronted by Sheba and Cassiopeia, neither of which are keen on the men they love going on a suicide mission, with Sheba angrily pointing out to Apollo, “You really want to get yourself killed, don’t you? Ever since you lost Serena you’ve taken every high-risk mission on the board. She was a very lovely woman, but she’s dead.” This is not the kind of dialogue we are used to getting on this show, and when Cassiopeia yells at Starbuck during their own tête-à-tête, that he doesn’t understand how she and Sheba feel, his cocky heroic swagger cracks a bit as he fires back, “Yes, I do understand! I just don’t see the sense on dwelling on what might go wrong. It’s a lousy way to live.” They lovingly embrace and Starbuck tells her, “I’ll be back, I promise.”
The raw emotion in that scene is just staggering, special kudos to both Anne Lockhart and Laurette Spang who do the heavy lifting here, but enough with the touchy feely stuff, now it’s time for some balls to the walls action. The Cylon raider that Apollo and Starbuck will be flying is outfitted with a beacon that will let the Colonial Vipers know not to blow them away, so of course during the mission that tracker gets dropped and smashed while running from come some Centurions. Not sure why they were carrying that beacon around, as it really only serves its purpose aboard the ship, but that is really the only complication that occurs, as things unfold pretty much as planned. Starbuck and Apollo join up with a Cylon patrol, one that flies them right into the basestars hanger deck, and then they make their way to the command center to place charges to blow up the scanners. The location of the command center provided to them by Baltar (John Colicos), who is told that if they win against the basestar he will be dropped off at the next inhabitable planet, with enough provisions to survive.
Boomer and Sheba lead their attack squadrons to draw out the Cylon raiders, while the Galactica swings around and comes at the basestar from behind. Apollo and Starbuck sneak around the Death Star, looking for the tracking beam controls…I mean sneak around the basestar looking for the scanner controls. The action packed finale is only hampered a bit if you tend to notice all the Viper/Cylon combat is recycled footage from previous episodes, and even the “slugfest” between the Galactica and the basestar uses footage from the episode The Living Legend where Commander Cain took on two basestars.
This was an excellent episode, with not only cool action but with some intensely worked emotional beats to it, and clearly an example of the great writing of Donald Bellisario, and not so much that of Glen A. Larson, who though a great “pitch man” was not a great writer. Thus the last Battlestar Galactica continues to lead its ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest… for a shining planet known as Earth. That is until the series is re-started in Galactica 1980, where though they find Earth it would have been a better idea to have turned around and gone back home.
For the index of reviews click here: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series
The Hand of God
Episode Rank - 7.5/10
If the show was to be cancelled at least it went out on a high note, and I hope you enjoyed travelling along with me through some of the good and goofy moments of this still very entertaining show.