Battlestar Galactica’s entire premise is based on the idea that man’s origins lie in the stars and not on Earth itself, kind of a “Screw you, Charles Darwin!” That idea is certainly nothing new as such books as Chariots of the Gods exposited such theories; powerful beings from space with godlike abilities even popped up in several episodes of the original Star Trek, so an episode where the crew of the Galactica run into some gods was kind of inevitable.
The episode begins with your standard space patrol, only instead of consisting of either Apollo or Starbuck running thing it is led by Bojay (Jack Stauffer) and three anonymous pilots, making this more or less a “Red Shirts” patrol. Silver Spar Squadron was about to return to the fleet when they encountered strange lights that fly around them at incredible speeds. The Viper pilots do their best to evade the strange “ships” but then a larger ship, one of pure light, appears behind them. They are given no chance to escape, as a sonic attack incapacitates them as well as their craft, and in a blinding flash of light they are gone. How can ships travel at such amazing speeds? Who could be behind such a powerful attack, and why?
Needless to say the Galactica is quite concerned when shortly after hearing a distress call from Silver Spar Squadron the ships all vanish from their scanners. While all this drama was going on Apollo (Richard Hatch), Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) are playing a game of Triad, a sport that is a mix of basketball, football and handball.
Boomer is a bit depressed, as his Blue team has never been able to defeat Apollo and Starbuck’s Gold Team, but before he can get too maudlin Colonel Tigh (Terry Carter) arrives to inform them all of an emergency meeting in the War Room. At the meeting they find out about Bojay’s missing patrol, and a seismic disturbance on a nearby planet, could all be connected. So Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba (Anne Lochart) are sent to investigate, because of course they are, no one else in the fleet can do much of anything. and we don’t see Boomer at this briefing, so I guess he went back to his bunk to cry over his lost game. When our trio arrives at the lifeless planet they are shocked to discover wreckage of what once must have been a massive spacecraft, but more surprising is they run into a survivor. He calls himself Count Iblis (Patrick Macnee), the lone survivor of an attack by his enemies, that he only describes as “Great Powers” and he has no idea how he survived the crash. Iblis immediately arouses Apollo’s suspicions because not only does none of their sensors detect him as a lifeform – which has to be a major red flag – he somehow managed to survive that crash without even getting his hair mussed.
Apollo gains more reasons to dislike Count Iblis as Sheba is clearly under his spell, and when they all return to the Galactica things get worse as Iblis begins to seduce much of the fleet, in one way or another. Count Iblis offers to use his infinite knowledge of the universe to help them find Earth, and he agrees to keep the fleet safe from those strange ships of light with one small caveat, that they must make him their leader. When Adama (Loren Greene) tries to get some straight answers about who Count Iblis is, and just what are these “Great Powers” that were pursuing him are, he gets vague answers like, “They are infinite and beyond comprehension.” This obvious bullshit puts Adama on edge, but the rest of the Council of Twelve eat it up with a spoon, especially when he promises to work three miracles; the first two being to deliver their enemy, and accurately plot the course to Earth.
He has already proven he has some power by making the crops on the Agro ship bloom rapidly, so as to feed the starving masses of the fleet, and then when Baltar (John Colicos) shows up on the Galactica for some kind “Truce Talk” it really seems that Iblis can fulfill his promises. What is frightening is that Baltar recognizes Count Iblis voice, as being that of the Cylon Imperious leader, but for that to be the case Iblis would have to be thousands of years old. The Council doesn’t seem to worry about stuff like that, and they sentence Baltar to life imprisonment. Iblis visits Baltar in the brig – walking through the locked door as if he were a ghost – and telling him that “All is not lost.”
Count Iblis proceeds with his campaign of winning over the hearts and minds of the fleet; using his powers to grant Boomer’s wish that his team would win against Apollo and Starbuck, and then throwing a major bender that gets half the fleet drunk. When the strange ships of light returns most of the pilots are too hungover to answer the call to battle stations, Count Iblis berates them for their condition and it’s only Adama arriving in time that prevents Apollo from trying to strangle the bastard.
Adama explains his theory to Apollo that those ships of light could be angels, and that the ship that crashed on that desolate planet could have consisted of a “Fallen Angel” and of course the Devil is exactly who Count Iblis is, and if you knew your Arabic you’d know that Iblis is Arabic for Satan, and would be way ahead of these guys. Adama sends Apollo, with Starbuck tagging along, back to site of that crashed ship to find some proof of just who Count Iblis is. Meanwhile a still madly infatuated Sheba follows our heroes, hoping to prove Iblis is a good as he is dreamy, but she is finally confronted with the truth of Iblis’ character, when he miraculously shows up and tries to kill her before she can find out the truth, but Apollo jumps in the way and is killed instead. Starbuck shoots at the Count but his laser blasts just pass through him, yet the blast does reveal his true visage.
Starbuck and Sheba load Apollo’s body into the shuttle for their sad trip back to the Galactica, but before they reach the Battlestar they are captured by the “ships of light” and brought on board. Turns out Count Iblis is only allowed to strike down willing followers, and that shooting Apollo was a big no-no to these other dimensional beings. When Starbuck asks why beings of such power would bother with the human race he is told, “You are now, what we once were. What we are now, you may become.” And because of his selfless sacrifice Apollo is returned from the dead, to become either Cosmic Lazarus or Space Jesus.
This was an excellent two-parter, with the confrontations between Lorne Greene and Patrick Macnee being the stand-out element here, and the seduction of Sheba by Count Iblis was also well done – as in super creepy – with both actors doing great work with their parts. The stuff with Baltar was kind of interesting, but him coming to the Galactica to get help because he himself was worried about the “Ships of Light” seemed a tad out of character. The only real complaint I have is that it is never explained why the “Angels” grabbed the Viper patrols in the first place, at the end they are all returned with no memory of the events, so what was the point? Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba are also returned with their memory a bit fuzzy, but they now also have exact co-ordinates to Earth embedded in their memories. So that was helpful.
For the index of reviews click here: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series
War of the Gods
Episode Rank - 7/10
This is easily one of the better stories in the series, and even though the idea of an advanced alien race possibly being gods or angels is nothing new this was still handled quite well, and a lot of fun to boot.