Battlestar Galactica #111: The Plan

"You can't declare war on love." "I think I just have."
SO SAY WE ALL: The destruction of the Colonies and the next 281 days from the Cylon perspective.

REVIEW: As a concept, I wasn't really sure we needed a 2-hour movie recapping the events of BSG's first two seasons through the eyes of the Cylons. There was, in that move, a certain bowing down to the nerdiest elements in fandom to plug holes in continuity fans had obsessed about and which had never been explained. I mean, who cares how Shelly-Six managed to elude Galactica's marines, or who Caprica-Six met after Baltar gave her access to what she needed, or how Tori survived? The way the series was written, elements that seemed important became less so and were left ambiguous. It was fine. But the writers did find a STORY in there which made The Plan more than just an opportunity for effects wizardry (seeing many Colonies for the first time - cost-effective since the mattes could be used for the Caprica series anyway - or showing the attack from the special effects point of view - I mean, the Cylons', even the Caprican Universal logo is a treat). After all, the first two seasons' opening recap always told us that the Cylons... had a plan. What was it and more importantly, how was it derailed? This really became A Tale of Two Cavils.

Cavil did tell us his plan, or his ambition at least, when we caught up to Ellen downloading aboard a Cylon ship after New Caprica. But that left a lot of holes. And now that we know what was going on, we can go back. It was important in the series as first run to keep some mystery as to Cylon plans. We couldn't know WHO was a Cylon before we were ready and things and people had to be introduced in an organic way (especially since the WRITERS had no PLAN, and none of this stuff "existed" until later). So in the days before the Fall, there are really two Cavil Primes working in tandem at the top of the Cylon hierarchy. They are all-in when it comes to destroying humanity to the last person, and can't wait for the Final Five to download post-nuclear holocaust and eat their words. But one Cavill wants to get a preview. He tracks Ellen down to a nudy bar in Picon (yes, this movie has nudity) where, in a friendly flirty chat, she admits she's never learned a lesson in her life! In her lustiness, he recognizes that she HASN'T suffered or been embittered against the rest of humanity in the way he'd hoped, and when she survives the initial bomb blast, he's the one who takes her to the fleet where she'll keep asking for Saul in her delirium, but he'll prevent the news to get to Tigh as long as possible. And he'll set himself up as a fleet priest from where he'll be running the fleet's Cylon cell.

So all the early Cylon actions are down to him and his group. Doral 2's suicide vest. Shelly's attempt to discredit Baltar. The Cylons tracking the fleet's position. And of course, Boomer's sleeper agent shenanigans. She is revealed to have had a trigger that reverted her to her Cylon self so Cavil could discuss missions with her - the water tank explosion, for example, and eventually, the assassination attempt on Adama himself - but she admits that her human overlay is powerful, and that she's happier as a human, and that she can't trust herself because of it. Cavil gets push-back from his whole crew. Boomer's in love with Tyrol (which he finds amusing and perhaps distressing since he's the only one who knows the Chief is Final Five, annnnnd he has a physical relationship with Boomer that really starts here). Shelly goes soft on Baltar because she shares her sister's admiration of him. Leoben becomes obsessed with Starbuck after she manages to fly a Cylon raider (which is presented as the origin of his feeling that she has a destiny, with proper visions only delivered to him after he attacks her during the interrogation). He's letting D'Anna do her own thing. There's an extra Six, posing as a prostitute and useful to give Shelly continuity cover, and she's loyal, but derisive of his leadership when everything keeps going belly up. Doral is loyal too, but a disappointment because of his limited, bureaucratic mind (the bit where he thinks he looks completely different from the other Doral because he's wearing teal is hilarious). And then there's a Simon we didn't know existed, but who was referenced early on...

This Simon is the husband mentioned by Giana, a knuckledragger seen in the Miniseries (who intuited correctly that the Chief and Boomer were having an office romance). All we know of him from that early conversation is that he's a medic, and that's all it took for the writers to weave a story about Simon into the plot, and ask Lymari Nadal (Olmos' real-life spouse) to return to shoot more scenes. We discover that Simon is in the fleet, but avoiding Cavil's calls to action, and it's because he's married this woman and is being a father to her child, and that's become more important to him than the Plan. Again and again, Cavil goes to him and asks him to commit acts of terrorism, and in the end, he chooses to commit permanent suicide (out of range of a Resurrection Ship) rather than destroy the Cybele where his family lives (though it's played in such a way as to make you think otherwise until the last minute). Giana will eventually find out Simon is a Cylon model and wonder if his suicide wasn't a heroic act after all, which in turn ties into the Chief 1) forgiving Boomer for the assassination attempt as she was a much better shot than that, and 2) his dreaming of his own suicide because he's afraid he's a Cylon too (again reframing his scenes with his priest, Cavil Prime). Cavil's frustrations stem from Galactica being a massive spoiler to his Plan, but he's wrong. That's not it. He just can't see the pattern emerging like Leoben can.

Meanwhile, on Caprica, Other Cavil tracked down Anders at a Pyramid training camp, and this becomes one of the main threads of the film. We know a lot about Anders' story second-hand, in the things he told Kara and Helo, but we see them enacted here. The sports team becomes a squad of freedom fighters. They do hit and runs attacks. They lose people and Anders feels responsible. A Simon acts as team doctor and Brother Cavil sticks around as their resident priest. We knew all this without seeing it play out. What's more interesting is that Simon is frustrated that Cavil won't just lead the resistance group to the slaughter (or the slaughter to them). What he doesn't know is that Anders is Final Five and that he's promised Cavil a confession. Is HE ready to download back? Again and again, Cavil hits a wall with him. Anders will not stop caring for his people. Will not stop caring for Kara even if she's presumed dead. And absolutely won't buy into the line of guff his "priest" tries to sell him about forgiving the Cylons. THIS Cavil comes to understand what the problem is, the flaw in the Plan, so he's more that willing to take the Cylon Heroes' message of a truce back to Galactica. And he'll get boxed by Cavil Prime for his insight.

The flaw is Cavil's inability to understand love. Though ostensibly driven by what he perceives as a lack of parental love, he's just not built to understand what it is. He feels hates and unwanted because he doesn't see that Ellen or Saul loved him. But as the first model, there was something lacking. His resulting sociopathy has birthed a Plan that's mathematically perfect, but doesn't take into account the personal side. Leoben loves Kara. Six loves Baltar. Boomer loves Tyrol. Anders loves Kara. Tigh loves Adama. Simon loves Giana. Sharon loves Helo. He can't control any of that, can't even see it. So he will lose. Cavil Prime's defect is manifest in odd sequences where a young boy takes refuge in his chapel, a boy he wants to shoo away, he then shows pity to, and finally stabs. The episode never tells you one way or the other, but I don't believe the kid is real. Like Lampkin's cat or Kara's father, he is an angelic manifestation, or a vision, or for Cylons maybe a subconscious "projection". He is a way for Cavil - who's name is really John, as is the kid's - to work out his feelings. Like him, the boy is an unwanted child, and in the end, he murders him after the boy has brought him an equally suspect fresh apple (shades of Genesis). This is Cavil coming close to the answer (when he gives him food and shelter), but then rejecting the notion by destroying his inner child, the "boy" Ellen alludes to when they are brought together in Season 4. It's a metaphorical suicide that finally becomes real only in Daybreak. It is THIS unrepentant Cavil that continues to lead the Cylons, who doubles down on a genocidal agenda, and who loses it all.

The Plan could easily have felt like a clip show that goes through the motions, patching up continuity and showing things we already knew happened from dialog. But like Razor, which did the same with the Pegasus history, it has its own story to tell as well. And it ISN'T all that concerned with continuity plugs, because it leaves several. Did Boomer leave the hatch open for Doral in Litmus? Who cares? Was the Olympic Carrier under Cylon control, or did Lee and Kara really destroy a ship full of humans? That one is better left ambiguous or else it derails the emotional through-line of these characters. So there's just enough there for nerds, but it's not entirely slavish to their questions.

CAPRICANADA: The Blue Moon bar on Picon is played by Maxine's in Vancouver. The Cylon base where the Centurions collect spare parts is set at the Justice Institute in Maple Ridge. Capilano Park in North Vancouver is where the forest scenes were shot. The Resistance Base was the Northlawn Building (part of Riverview Hospital) in Coquitlam (a different place than was originally used; Riverview Hospital was the exterior of the Farm, seen again here). As with many Caprican scenes, Simon Fraser University is used, in this case for Six and Baltar's meeting (at one of the entrances). The bridge from which the Resistance watches the Cylons is the Cleveland Dam Bridge in North Vancouver. The Pyramid training camp is in North Vancouver's Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. The cluster bomb we see detonating does so over what appears to be Vancouver; the General Motors Place and BC Place Stadium are particularly visible. Anders' wireless seems to be a Centrios product, which is sold by The Source in Canada. Shelly's glasses have Venus Eye Design V-07 written on the inside, so it's of Canadian manufacturing.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Some of the matte paintings created for the destruction of the Twelve Colonies will be used on the Caprica series, but not always match the Hybrid's designation of them (Tauron City will use Libron, for example). In the wake of the nuking, Ellen and Anders both say "This has happened before", the shock giving them a subconscious sense of their former histories.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include Simon and part of the team arrive at the training camp for the first time and more of the game; more of Ellen and Cavil's flirting and her describing Saul as unforgiving; Anders walking away from camp as he confessed, and later being found by Jean (that's how they find the 5s burying bodies); Boomer staring at the elephant but being haunted by her love for the Chief; Cavil implying he will use Boomer to assassinate Adama; Anders and Jean happy to see Cavil returned after going missing - he tells them about the Cylon War Heroes and selling a lie about reparations to convince Anders; then Boomer and Caprica visiting Anders' camp and luring a number of rebels away, but Centurions attack and kill many against the Heroes' wishes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High
- A fun writerly experiment becomes an exposé on the series' top villain, what made him tick, and what proved his downfall.

While I am committed to doing Caprica and Blood and Chrome, these reviews will take a 10-week break to free up some space for reviews of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Starting next week!

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