One of this writer and science fiction fan's most vivid memories of Battlestar Galactica's first season was the survival story of Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on a nearby moon separated from the surviving human fleet.
The Red Planet visual aesthetic and vibe of Battlestar Galactica, Season One, Episode 5, You Can't Go Home Again following Starbuck's narrow escape from a Cylon battle in Act Of Contrition (E4) left an impression. Visually the creators of the episode nail it. With her Viper destroyed Starbuck is forced to abort to a nearby moon parachuting in along with a sole Cylon Raider also damaged in the attack. The creators take us into the world of the enemy and Kara's own determination.
With her Viper out of flight commission and her oxygen running out (once again dramatically racing against the clock as the fleet did in 33), Starbuck works desperately to get the Cylon Raider back in service to escape the moon and return to the Galactica before leaving the sector.
One of the most intriguing sequences visually comes in the form of the realization by Starbuck that the Cylon Raiders themselves in the new series are completely filled with bio-mechanical guts rather than actual centurion pilots. In a nice bit of mythology building for the new series versus the old is discovering that the spacecrafts for the Cylons are essentially alive. They are bio-engineered to operate without Centurions as it was in the original show as we so vividly recall the trio of centurion pilots in the original craft. It's a clever evolution and avenue for the new series.
The Cylon Raiders themselves are a slick, crescent moon-shaped craft in the new series, though nothing quite matches the design of those classic Cylon Raider originals. Still, the face of the new Raider pays homage to the old Cylons in appearance. They are of a simple design and effective and easily as sleek as the classic vessel, just not quite as a appealing in their lack of detail.
One of the most interesting sequences is Commander Adama snapping at Colonel Tigh out of desperation and seeming guilt over the loss of Starbuck particularly following his unresolved exchange with her in Act Of Contrition. It's a powerful moment and one that reflects his love for Starbuck and his love for the pilots and crew of his ship.
One thread in this first season that continues to underwhelm is Karl Agathon or Helo with Sharon running about Caprica in a survival mode of their own as they try to determine a way off the planet. It's simply not especially gripping and those roving Cylons look just unimpressive with over a decade and half of aging computer animation. A revisit of the series wouldn't hurt in time.
You Can't Go Home Again displays a battle of wills between the military arm (Adama) of the fleet (though there are some intense and compelling moments between Tigh and Adama internally) and the civilian leadership (Roslin). Both are at odds and continue to set up the ongoing human conflict within the fleet of hawks and doves. Adama sees the needs of the one in Starbuck, personal as it may be, outweigh the needs of the many. This is clearly the grittier flipside of that selfless Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan outlook when Spock declares "The needs of the many outweigh" the needs of the few "or the one" which is the antithesis of the events in question here.
Upon introspection Adama and the crew prepare for jump to the next system, but not before Starbuck, operating inside of Cylon gore, makes it back to the Galactica.
The final scene between Starbuck and Commander Adama brings us full circle to those initial heart-wrenching moments in Act Of Contrition between the two. The paternalistic Adama ameliorates the falling out and repairs their bond by underscoring Kara as family with a kiss on her forehead relieved she is alive and back on board. With Zak gone this family may not be able to go back home the way it was ever again, but the bonds they form aboard the Galactica will continue to bring them home to each other. Family will endure in yet another form.
You Can't Go Home Again turns out another solid entry in the series first season and delivering closure on a high note, relatively speaking, one of the more optimistic of the series. It was also a highlight for the character played memorably by actress Katee Sackhoff.
Writer: Carla Robinson.
Director: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (Raised By Wolves, The Terror, Invasion, Falling Skies and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).