So promised the opening sequence of the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica. The implication was that the Cylons had a wider plan than that which was already evident: the destruction of humanity. And while that may have been true back on Caprica, where the Eight that would come to be known as Athena was manipulating Karl Agathon, back on Galactica, the Cylons were aiming much lower: destroy the fleet, download, get on with their perfect cybernetic lives back on the now conquered colony worlds. Except it didn’t quite work out that way, and nobody was more frustrated at that failure than the chief architect, the Cylon One, known as John Cavil.
The second of two Battlestar Galactica DVD movies, shot while the show was concluding production, The Plan is a retelling of those first two seasons from the point of view of the Cylons. We follow both those hiding in the fleet, and those on Cylon occupied Caprica acting as members of Sam Anders’ resistance movement. While Razor, which told the story of the Battlestar Pegasus from the day of the attack on the Colonies onwards was a complete standalone story, The Plan is a companion piece to the show as a whole.
While offering a sometimes surprising perspective on events we thought we already knew and understood, it can only really be appreciated by those with a thorough knowledge of the parent show and, as a result, the same applies to this analysis. Key scenes from early episodes are revisited through archive footage, sometimes, I suspect, using alternate takes from those originally broadcast and enhanced by newly filmed footage which illuminates hidden moments in the Galactica saga.
Many lingering questions, forgotten because of larger subsequent concerns, are answered. Who triggered Boomer’s programming and ordered her to lay explosives in the hold in Water? How did Shelley Godfrey shake the marines guarding her and escape Galactica in Six Degrees of Separation? And, most tellingly, why did Boomer try to kill herself before deliberately botching the assassination of Commander Adama in Kobol’s Last Gleaming? (“You put two bullets in his chest. Why not just put one in his head?”)
The opening quarter hour of the film is visually stunning and the closest we have witnessed the attack on the Colonies, in horrifying technical detail. A vast fleet of Basestars swarms through the skies above Caprica, disabling Battlestars and Vipers before pivoting into attack formation and casually releasing clusters of nuclear warheads on the cities beneath. The hybrid ticks off the tally of accomplishment, accompanied by our first glimpses of worlds whose names we have come to know over the last five years, yet never visited until now, “The farms of Aerilon are burning; the beaches of Canceron are burning; the plains of Leonis are burning; the jungles of Scorpia are burning…”
The attack over, the rag tag fleet on the run, Cavil begins to orchestrate an ongoing war from within, but his attempts are thwarted at every turn, frequently by a lack of commitment from his fellow Cylons – a Doral, a Leoban, a previously unknown Simon, and two Sixes, the one known as Shelley Godfrey and the other previously unseen, as well as the sleeper agent Eight known as Boomer. The only Cylon model absent in this film, the Three known as D’Anna Biers, is alluded to in one exchange of dialogue as “working in her own way” within the fleet.
There are some genuine revelations though not all are convincing, and while great care was taken to explain how four of the final five Cylons came to be where they were prior to the attack, and these four are well served by the story, the frustratingly brief inclusion of Tory Foster mirrors her incongruous introduction as Roslin’s aide late in season two. Surely as the Cylon we know least about, this was the opportunity to expand and explain her character?
There are other heavy handed moments, such as the flash inserts of each of the Final Five lying in resurrection baths as each character enters the story – surely at this point it can be assumed that the audience is sufficiently familiar to know who is and who is not a Cylon? Similarly, Sam Anders shouting off-screen for Helo is a futile moment, as any discerning viewer will know that Tahmoh Penikett was in Los Angeles filming Dollhouse at the time.
More strongly developed is the revelation that there was a Simon within the fleet, acting as doctor on the ship Cybele, with wife Giana O’Neill and stepdaughter. The introduction of a new character at the expense of sidelining an established player may appear poor judgement, but this relationship is one of the most convincing and moving in the whole movie, largely due to the performance of Lymari Nadal. Torn between the obligation forced upon him by Cavil and his genuine love for his wife, this is a different Simon from the cold Cylon surgeon who ran the breeding farms on the ruins of Caprica. Had this Simon successfully downloaded, his sway on the rest of the Fours could have prevented civil war by swinging the vote away from Cavil to Natalie’s supporters.
Simon’s decision to kill himself rather than his family, viewed alongside the failure of Boomer to kill Adama, points to a serious lack of determination on the part of the Cylons, and it is final and damning evidence that the entire crusade against humanity was a personal quest for revenge by a specific One, the Cavil on Galactica.
The destruction of the Sevens, the Daniel line, the boxing of D’Anna, and his manipulation of the Final Five, we already knew of, but when fellow One Brother Cavil suggests that the attack on the Colonies may have been an error and asks him “Have you learned nothing in all this time in this fleet?” he even threatens to re-engineer his own line. This same Cavil would one day say to Ellen Tigh, “I can’t wait to see what perfection looks like on the inside,” before arranging to dissect her.
For a character who declares in the opening moments of The Plan that she “Hasn’t learned any-gods-damned-thing,” Ellen, when she downloads and regains her memory of her Cylon identity, begins a remarkable transformation to a woman of composure who acts as a voice for the whole of the Cylon race she helped create, a greater journey than Cavil is able to make.
Had circumstances been different, Boomer, too, could have been as noble as Athena. By her own admission, “I’m happier when I’m human.” It is not only the Sixes and Eights that are drawn to humanity. Both the Hybrid and Simon separately comment that “Love outlasts death,” and Six warns “You can’t declare war on love.”
Love was the message of the One True God, as told so many times to Gaius Baltar, and there are hints that entity may have sent an emissary to Cavil, to entice him to bond with the humans, to see them more than a pestilence to be eliminated. The key trait of the “head” characters was that they could only be seen by those they chose to appear to – Head Six to Baltar, Head Baltar to Caprica Six – although they could physically manifest as they wished.
In The Plan, there is a child, John, who only appears in scenes with Cavil, each time seeking comfort and sanctuary, only to be rebuffed. As with so much of Galactica, there are no answers, only supposition, and the child may be a genuine war orphan, but consider if he was truly a manifestation of the One True God, how differently Cavil’s quest may have unfolded had he offered that child charity.
Follow the link for our interview with Galen Tyrol himself, Aaron Douglas