I’m now rewatching the revamped Battlestar Galactica for the first time in many decades. I am thinking about doing a comprehensive recap/rewatch for the show in the future, if time allows. It is a show whose virtues have surely become larger over the years but whose flaws have also more notable. Certainly it is a series that is still worth viewing, if just to join in on the endless debate concerning the controversial end.
Among the odder things about the series is that it consists not just of regular seasons and episodes, but also TV movies, on line webisodes and spin-offs. The mass of substance, and the dearth of one easily-available “complete franchise” box collection and variable loading availability has made following the series and viewing it more complex than it actually needs to be. This manual should – ideally – make the situation clearer:
The show’s production order is probably the best viewing order too, since this is the sequence the series initially aired in and is what most people viewed the series in. This also best protects after spoilers and critical plot revelations.
Battlestar Galactica viewing guide
The Mini-Series (2003)
When BSG was rebooted in 2003, it first returned as a pilot mini-series consisting of 2 90-minute episodes. This was initially released alone on DVD. Later on, it was integrated into the US Season 1 DVD box set but not in the UK Season 1 DVD box set. For UK DVD watchers, the mini-series still has to be purchased individually.
Season 1 (2004-05)
103: Bastille Day
104: Act of Contrition
105: You Can’t Go Home Again
107: Six Degrees of Separation
108: Flesh and Bone
109: Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down
110: The Hand of God
111: Colonial Day
112: Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part I
113: Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part II
Season 2 (2005-06)
202: Valley of Darkness
205: The Farm
206: Home, Part I
207: Home, Part II
208: Final Cut
209: Flight of the Phoenix
211: Resurrection Ship, Part I
212: Resurrection Ship, Part II
214: Black Market
217: The Captain’s Hand
219: Lay Down Your Burdens, Part I
220: Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II
Webisodes: The Resistance (2006)
Between Seasons 3 and 2, NBC requested that the BSG team produce ten short “webisodes” to advertise the yield of this show. The manufacturers agreed and filmed ten brief segments which, when combined, form a 24-minute “prelude” to the third season. But a legal dispute over pay for the webisodes (which also influenced studio-mate series The Office) caused delays in production. Because of this, The Resistance was issued only in standard definition (also on the Blu-Ray release) and with a minimum of post-production. But they do set up the state of play at the beginning of the third season. They’re included in the Complete Series Blu-Ray set in most territories, however (under the distinctive features for Disc 2 of Season 3).
Season 3 (2006-07)
303: Exodus, Part I
304: Exodus, Part II
307: A Measure of Salvation
309: Unfinished Business
310: The Passage
311: The Eye of Jupiter
313: Taking a Break From Your Worries
314: The Woman King
315: A Day in the Life
316: Dirty Hands
318: The Son Also Rises
319: Crossroads, Part I
320: Crossroads, Part II
TV Movie: Razor (2007)
Produced as a straight-to-DVD particular between the fourth and third seasons, Razor was a 90-minute TV film set towards the end of the next season and enlarged on the backstory of the battlestar Pegasus. A set of webisodes set during the First Cylon War preceded Razor, but these have been integrated into the incident itself on the home media releases.
Season 4, Part 1 (2008)
401: He That Believeth in Me
402: Six of One
403: The Ties That Bind
404: Escape Velocity
405: The Road Less Travelled
407: Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?
408: Sine Qua Non
409: The Hub
The fourth season of Battlestar Galactica was announced as being the final. But, SyFy postponed transmission of this season by several months because of problems caused by this 2007-08 Writer’s Guild of America Strike. They then split the last season in half, airing the 2 halves a year apart. Although that gave more time for post-production, it caused great irritation from the fanbase.
Webisodes: The Face of the Enemy (2008-09)
All these webisodes were produced between the two halves of Season 4. However, due to some slight confusion, they are set between Sometimes a Great Notion and A Disquiet Follows My Soul instead that right between the 2 halves of the year. That is because Season 4, Part 2 was originally supposed to end with Sometimes instead of Revelations, but it had been determined that Revelations made for a more shocking cliffhanger. Fortunately, the webisodes do not contain any significant spoilers for Sometimes. They are not included on either the US or UK DVD sets, but can be located on the Complete Series Blu-Ray set.
Season 4, Part 2 (2009)
411: Sometimes a Great Notion
412: A Disquiet Follows My Soul
413: The Oath
414: Blood on the Scales
415: No Exit
417: Someone to Watch Over Me
418: Islanded in a Stream of Stars
419: Daybreak, Part I
420: Daybreak, Part II
421: Daybreak, Part III
Season 4 was never released as one whole. Instead, the first half was listed as “Season 4” and the second half as “The Final Season” on DVD releases.
TV Movie: The Plan (2010)
The Plan was created as an attempt to handle enthusiast concerns that the Cylons had never really had “a plan” (as described in the opening to each episode of the first 3 seasons), and effectively presented everything that occurred in the first two seasons from the Cylon POV. However, fan answer to the TV film was muted, particularly coming after the conclusion of the series as a whole. The Plan is not a part of the Complete Series Blu-Ray set and needs to be bought individually.
Season 1 (2010)
101: Pilot, Part I
102: Pilot, Part II
104: Reins of a Waterfall
106: There is Another Sky
107: Know They Enemy
108: The Imperfections of Memory
109: Ghosts in the Machine
110: End of Line
113: Things We Lock Away
114: False Labour
116: The Dirteaters
117: The Heavens Will Rise
118: Here Be Dragons
Caprica is a prequel series to BSG, occurring fifty-eight years years ahead of the mini-series. It depicts the production of the Cylons and the sequence of events that led to the First Cylon War. Although cancelled prematurely, an elongated coda at the final episode does indicate the way the story would have resolved and the war would have begun. Caprica is readily available on DVD, but hasn’t yet been released properly on Blu-Ray at the UK or USA. Oddly, complete collection box sets around Blu-Ray are accessible from France, Germany and Sweden.
Blood and Chrome (2012)
Blood and Chrome was a proposed second prequel series, occurring sixteen years following the events of Caprica and forty-two before the events of the mini-series. The planned series would have covered the last two decades of the First Cylon War. However, the show was never left leaving the pilot as a stand-alone TV film.
Seeing BSG in chronological order will likely be fairly confusing. BSG is dependent upon backstory revelations delivered at key points in the storyline and viewing later series and TV movies could result in significant spoilers. Therefore, this is only really recommended as a rewatch test.
This is the (rough) show timeline, sans spoilers.
c. 4000 BF (Before the Fall): The Thirteenth Tribe leaves Kobol to colonise Earth. The semi-canon comic book BSG: The Final Five begins.
c. 3600 BF: The Book of Pythia is written.
2000 BF (1,942 years before the events of Caprica): The remaining Twelve Tribes depart Kobol to colonise the Twelve Colonies.
58 BF: Caprica takes place. The epilogue to Season 1 takes place several years later.
52 BF: The First Cylon War begins.
42 BF: Blood & Chrome takes place.
40 BF: The First Cylon War ends. The flashbacks in BSG: Razor take place.
30-20 BF: The flashbacks in BSG: Occupation (episode 201) take place. The semi-canon comic book BSG: The Final Five ends.
c. 6 BF: The flashbacks in BSG: Hero (episode 308) take place. Dialogue in this episode suggest it is more like 1-2 BF, but this was a continuity error.
0: The Fall of the Twelve Colonies. BSG: The Plan begins. BSG: The Mini-Series takes place.
0-1 AF (After the Fall): BSG: Seasons 1-2 and the remainder of The Plan and Razor take place.
2-4 AF: BSG: Seasons 3-4 take place.
The chronological viewing order of the franchise is therefore:
Blood & Chrome
BSG: The Mini-Series
BSG: Seasons 1-2
BSG: Razor takes place between Season 2, Episodes 17 and 18.
BSG: The Plan takes place betwen the mini-series and Season 2, Episode 20.
BSG: The Resistance webisodes
BSG: Seasons 3-4 (Part 1)
BSG: The Face of the Enemy webisodes
BSG: Season 4 (Part 2)
One additional point to consider (alluded to above) is Battlestar Galactica: The Final Five. This is really a four-issue comic book written by show scriptwriter Seamus Kevin Fahey. Most of the BSG comics are non-canon, but The Final Five is intriguing because it was directly dependent on the ideas and theories developed by Ronald D. Moore and the remainder of the production team whilst they had been likely the final few episodes of the series (particularly the backstory-heavy episode No Exit). This comic novel starts over 4,000 years before the rest of the series and tells the story of Kobol, the Thirteenth Tribe, the colonisation of Earth, what happened there and the later activities of the Final Five. Although I would hesitate to choose the comic book as canonical, it surely gives us our best look at exactly what was going on in the deep backstory of this series, since the writers and producers were conceiving it.