Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Most Paused Moments In Battlestar Galactica

When the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" series rolled out in 2003, it quickly became clear that this was much more than just a typical outer-space action series. Drawing on the 1978 series of the same name as its source material, the military sci-fi series surpassed all expectations of what a sci-fi show was capable of. Critically heralded for its realism, nuanced characterizations and portrayals, and thoughtful exploration of social, political, religious, and military issues in a post-9/11 world, the series was called a "ripping sci-fi allegory of the war on terror" by TIME and a "significant piece of television" by the Los Angeles Times.

"Battlestar Galactica" spotlights survivors of a near-annihilation of the human race living on 12 planets in a distant galaxy following an attack perpetrated by the Cylons, a race of sentient artificially intelligent beings created by humans that rebelled against their enslavers. Over the course of a pilot mini-series, four seasons, and two movies, "Battlestar Galactica" followed their journey in search of respite with the fabled 13th tribe, believed to have settled on a planet called Earth. The beautifully complex story is enhanced with nuanced performances, an exceptional leitmotif-layered score from composer Bear McCreary, gorgeous visuals, and mythological and religious elements that offer clues and subtext.

With a "Battlestar Galactica" reboot and movie on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get caught up and freeze frame all the details you missed the first time. Grab your gun and bring in the cat for the most paused moments in "Battlestar Galactica." So say we all.

Baltar sees Head Six for the first time

Living through an extinction-level nuclear apocalypse that you caused with your own woefully poor judgment would be enough to deep fry any gray matter that managed to survive the blast radius. That's why it comes as little surprise when the world's dumbest genius, Gaius Baltar (James Callis), starts to see a vision of his Cylon superspy girlfriend (Tricia Helfer) as he is about to board Boomer and Helo's Raptor and escape from the nuclear wasteland he inadvertently helped to create (Pilot Miniseries, Episode 1).

Despite having sacrificed herself by throwing her body over Baltar to save him from the blast, the blonde beauty — who is later revealed to be Model Six — appears amongst the crowd in a contoured cherry red dress as Gaius takes a final look before boarding the craft. The moment happens so briefly that it's easy to miss, but throughout the duration of the series, she appears regularly as his constant invisible companion and manipulates his behavior. Although Baltar's self-sacrificial flesh-and-blood Six has already revealed there are multiple copies of each Cylon, it's unclear whether the enigmatic vision fans call Head Six is real or a hallucination. Baltar would spend much time questioning her true nature, at one point wondering desperately, "Is she an angel or is she a demon? Is she imaginary or is she real?" ("Taking a Break From All Your Worries," Season 3, Episode 13). Gratefully, the writers never fully answer that question, ultimately leaving the question up for countless hours of delicious interpretation.

The Cylons board Ragnar Station

If McCarthyism taught the world anything, it's that when the enemy can be anyone, paranoia tends to run rampant, turning neighbors against each other and undermining social stability. This is certainly true in "Battlestar Galactica," thanks to its keen exploration of modern military-political ethics. In a pivotal reveal at the end of the miniseries, viewers learn that anyone in the fleet could be a Cylon soldier, amping up the stakes going forward.

To save his own skin, resident Cylon expert Gaius Baltar fingers Aaron Doral (Matthew Bennett) as a Cylon on a wild guess — an act that leads to the reporter getting abandoned at Ragnar Anchorage. As the officers unceremoniously drag Doral into the armory — despite his desperate cries that he's not a Cylon and they're leaving him to die — it looks a whole lot like Baltar has just condemned an innocent man. This makes the eventual revelation that he is indeed a Cylon even more stunning.

But as the Cylon recovery team boards Ragnar Station after the Colonial fleet's escape, Doral's heritage is not the only revelation. As the boarding party decides their next steps, the camera pans from Cylon to Cylon, revealing three Sixes, three Leobens, a Doral, and in a final, shocking reveal, a copy of Boomer. This pause-worthy moment leaves the audience going back over every Sharon scene in their heads while wondering how many more enemies are hiding in plain sight among the fleet. 

The memorial photo

Memorial images are crucial to any group that has suffered unfathomable loss, and it's hard to imagine anyone in the Colonial fleet could have remained untouched by the unimaginable suffering in the pilot episode of "Battlestar Galactica." As the series progresses, many of the fleet's images come together in the Galactica's memorial hallway, which serves as a shrine to the dead throughout the series. But there's one image that pops up both on Laura Roslin's wall and in the Galactica ready room, where many of the pilots touch it briefly before heading out on Viper patrol. The black-and-white photo can be tough to make out onscreen, but it's worthwhile to hit pause and take a closer look.

Upon inspection, the photo contains an image of a Colonial soldier kneeling before the annihilation of one of the lost colonies. In a deleted scene from Season 1, Episode 1, "33," Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) receives the original image as a gift from another ship's captain, who offers the photo "on behalf of the people of Aerilon." The image, a note explains, was taken mid-attack in the Aerilon capital and is placed in a frame with the words "Lest we forget." According to "Battlestar Galactica" co-creator Ronald D. Moore via a now-archived developer's blog on SciFi.com, the image was meant to evoke a sense of heroism in the face of loss (much like photographer Thomas Franklin's famous photo of firefighters at Ground Zero on 9/11). It's just one of the countless production details that add layers to this complex and beautiful series.

The Olympic Carrier's final moments

"Battlestar Galactica" is a master class in moral relativism, with the twists and turns of the plot constantly forcing the Colonials to make decisions that could be judged harshly from another perspective. One of the clearest examples of this takes place in "33" (Season 1, Episode 1), which finds the Colonial fleet relentlessly pursued by Cylons, who appear like clockwork every 33 minutes, forcing the exhausted fleet to jump and wait for the next attack.

With the already thinned military deprived of sleep for the better part of a week, things are starting to look bleak for the refugees. After one jump, they temporarily lose track of the Olympic Carrier — a passenger ship carrying more than 1300 civilians — and when the ship reappears, it is armed with nukes and heading into the fleet. Together, President Roslin and Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) agree to shoot it down — an order Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) questions but complies with. 

During the remainder of the series, the ship comes up again a few times as a decision that never settled well with the fleet's collective conscience. Viewers are left to consider Galactica's version of the trolley problem: whether it would be morally justifiable to shoot down innocents to save thousands more. But if there really was no one aboard the Carrier, the question becomes moot. It's worth pausing moments before the ship is gunned down to see whether Lee (Jamie Bamber) is right and there are passengers aboard the Carrier before the vessel's demise.

Ellen Tigh's changing photo

Of all the power couples of "Battlestar Galactica," XO Saul (Michael Hogan) and his wife Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) have one of the most toxic twin flame relationships among the fleet. It's clear almost immediately that the couple's dynamic is not entirely healthy when the hard-boozing officer casually burns a photo of a pretty blonde with a cigar in his quarters mere seconds before getting word of the Cylon attack on the colonies (Pilot Miniseries). When the presumed-dead Ellen Tigh later resurfaces in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" (Season 1, Episode 9), eagle-eyed viewers will notice that she's not the same woman seen in the original photo.

In fact, when the scene is replayed in the "previously on" segment, the photo Saul burns has been changed and features a longer-haired Kate Vernon instead of the original image. If you pause to compare the images, you'll see a photo of executive producer David Eick's wife, Jennifer Birchfield-Eick. You'll also notice a bit of foreshadowing in the red circle that appears on Ellen's eye, as noted by technology writer Brad Templeton, who speculated about Ellen's Cylon nature months before it was revealed in "Sometimes a Great Notion" (Season 4, Episode 11).

Ellen's Cylon detector results

After his dazzling technobabble-laden bluff about Doral's Cylon status, Gaius Baltar inadvertently locks himself into the role as the Colonial fleet's "resident Cylon expert" and a commitment to developing what Head Six refers to as "The Amazing Cylon Detector." Although the ethically slippery doctor manages to develop one with the help of his imaginary girlfriend, there seem to be problems with its efficacy stemming largely from two issues: producing one result takes 11 hours, and Baltar habitually lies about the results anyway.

Shortly after telling Boomer (Grace Park) her beta test results are a "very, very bright green" in "Flesh and Bone" (Season 1, Episode 9), Baltar's detector gets its first real workout with Ellen's appearance in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down." Since the Cylon detector can only conduct one test at a time, fleet command tensions come to a humorous head with Scooby-Doo door-style shenanigans that see Baltar variously asked to test Adama, Ellen, Adama, and Ellen again. When Ellen's results appear, they're worth a double-take, since — as Head Six notes – everyone is green these days.

Laura's vision of Kobol

"Battlestar Galactica" has as much to say about religion and faith as it does about military and government, with the entire series revolving around a complex mythology as unseen forces guide, coerce, and push the human race to shape events. For Baltar and Starbuck, this pressure comes from not-so-imaginary friends. For President Laura Roslin, it comes in the form of some very unusual medicinal side effects as she hallucinates everything from snakes to architecture — all visions that tend to line up with scriptural prophecy.

The moment that turns Roslin into a full-blown religious convert occurs shortly after the discovery of a habitable planet ("Kobol's Last Gleaming: Part 1," Season 1, Episode 12). While surveying aerial images with her aide Billy Keikeya (Paul Campbell) and priest Elosha (Lorena Gale), the others see 2,000-year-old ruins, while Roslin sees an inhabited city — presumably a vision of the city as it once was. When she describes her vision to Elosha, the priest breaks out her sacred text and declares the leader has seen "the forum in the opera house in the City of the Gods on Kobol." This discovery leads to the understanding that the fleet has found Kobol, which is the first of many revelations about the history of the 13 tribes. Pausing the video at just the right point gives a Laura's-eye-view of the opera house.

All the Sharons on the Basestar

One of the beautiful things about "Battlestar Galactica" is the show's ability to tell a story from multiple perspectives, eliciting empathy for characters that could easily be stock villains in another story. One of the finest examples of this is through Cylon model Number Eight — particularly through the foiled stories of the two Sharon copies, Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and Sharon "Athena" Agathon. While proto-Athena is on Caprica breaking the news to Karl "Helo" Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett) that he's about to be a robo-daddy, Boomer is struggling against her programming as a sleeper agent aboard the Galactica. The turmoil drives her to extreme mental anguish and self-harm, but she simply can't conceptualize the reality that she's a Cylon, despite successfully sabotaging the Galactica's water supply and later finding explosives she planted on her own Raptor.

But just as Adama said, "Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore." Boomer's moment of truth comes when she volunteers alongside Racetrack (Leah Cairns) to plant a nuclear warhead above a Cylon Basestar in "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2" (Season 1, Episode 13). While aboard the ship, Boomer has to get out of her Raptor to manually release the weapon, leaving a terrified Racetrack to wait inside. Seconds after liberating the warhead, Sharon encounters about a dozen or so birthday-suit-clad Eights who call her by name. In one of the most spine-chilling moments of the series, one Eight tells her in a Stepfordian tone, "We love you, Sharon, and we always will."

Starbuck returns

As Baltar notes during the Battle of the Colony, humans and Cylons are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of birth, death, rebirth, destruction, escape, and more death. All of this has happened before, viewers are often reminded, and it will all happen again. And yet one of the series' most stunning resurrections still managed to be a mind-blowing plot twist when Starbuck — presumably dead in a fiery crash witnessed by Apollo while on patrol on a gas giant ("Maelstrom," Season 3, Episode 17) — resurfaces in another part of the galaxy two months later with no sense of how much time has passed.

Starbuck is only missing for two episodes, but in this period, enough time has passed that the Adamas have begun to process her loss, her personal effects have been auctioned off, Sam has become a viper pilot, and the fleet has traveled to the Ionian Nebula ("Crossroads: Part 2," Season 3, Episode 20). As they jump into the Nebula, a whole lot of freaky business goes down. And after the Vipers are launched, Apollo goes after a bogey on his radar only to find it's his long-lost pal Starbuck. The moment has viewers pausing to see if it's really Starbuck or a Cylon imposter. And a few frames later, the sight of the Vipers against the Nebula backdrop is one of the coolest scenes in the series and more than worthy of screensaver status.

Starbuck's mandala

"Battlestar Galactica" is full of clues and hidden treasures from start to finish, making it one of the most rewatchable sci-fi series of all time. And one of those clues appears in Starbuck's apartment on Caprica as a cryptic art piece the pilot painted on her wall. Trapped on Caprica after Sharon jacks Starbuck's raptor, Helo and Thrace take a pit stop by the hotshot pilot's old apartment (Season 2, Episode 2, "Valley of Darkness"). As they settle in, Helo can't help but notice the chaotic apartment is covered in paintings, and even Starbuck's walls serve as an extra-large canvas.

The colorful art is interesting enough at the moment, but its significance becomes apparent later in the series when Helo recognizes the mandala from Starbuck's wall in a temple on the algae planet ("Rapture," Season 3, Episode 12). He confirms his suspicion with a photo of her apartment, which reveals the image known as the Eye of Jupiter with a poem scrawled next to it. The image turns up again in "Maelstrom," and if viewers take time to pause the episode, they can check it out in detail and read the accompanying poem for possible clues. But they probably won't find any because at the end of the day, it seems to be a fairly straightforward love poem. The mandala, however, holds much more meaning, showing up as a signpost on the way to Earth when the algae planet's sun turns nova.

The final Cylon is revealed

The mystery surrounding the Final Five Cylons is one of the most enduring and captivating puzzles in the series. With the big revelation of the Ionian Nebula, four of the five are revealed at once, confirming something Chief seems to have secretly feared about himself all along. But it isn't until the allied fleet finds Earth that the final Cylon is revealed. As the rebel Cylons and Colonials explore the wasteland, four of the Final Five experience memories and visions of their life there 2,000 years ago. Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) sees his own bomb shadow against what once was a market, while Anders finds part of the guitar he played there on the day they died. Interestingly, this is a memory Tory (Rekha Sharma) recalls as well.

Alone, Saul wades into the sea, where he is overcome by a vision of his final moments on Earth like the others were. In the past, he sees a vision of himself in the apocalypse as he follows the sound of a familiar voice. In his dream, Tigh sees his death alongside Ellen, who tells him in their final moments that everything is in place for their rebirth. The revelation comes as a shocker, especially given her recent death at Saul's hands on New Caprica, making it one of the most pause-worthy moments in "Battlestar Galactica."

Starbuck discovers Starbuck's body

After Starbuck's sudden and mysterious return after she was presumed dead for months, it's hardly surprising that the fleet is suspicious of her popping back up in another sector of the galaxy with no explanation of her whereabouts and no sense of time's passage. Worse, by Chief Tyrol's account, her Viper looks identical but is not the same ship. Nonetheless, after passing a medical examination, Kara manages to make an uneasy transition back into the closest facsimile of normalcy available under the circumstances. But even Starbuck doesn't quite seem convinced of her own humanity.

While aboard the Demetrius, Starbuck even tells Sam that everything feels and tastes different and far away since she returned to the fleet. "Like I'm watching myself, and I'm not really experiencing it, not living it. Like my body's just this alien thing that I'm still attached to," she says ("The Ties That Bind," Season 4, Episode 3). Like Boomer before her, Starbuck eventually gets her own horrific identity crisis confirmation while following a Colonial signal on the nuclear wasteland Earth ("Sometimes a Great Notion"). Accompanied by a Leoben copy (Callum Keith Rennie), Kara traces the signal to the wreckage of a Viper bearing the same number as her own and the corpse of a pilot with her dog tags, wedding band, and hair. It's a chilling moment that leads Starbuck to ask, "If that's me lying there, then what am I?" It's one of many in an episode that's full of dark moments and disturbing revelations.

Ellen Tigh is alive

After learning that Ellen Tigh is the final Cylon, Saul has to come to terms with the fact that after thousands of years together, he brought her life to an end as a consequence of her selling out the insurgency on Cylon-occupied New Caprica. It's a heartbreaking twist, especially with the realization that the Resurrection ship has been destroyed. But if Saul and Ellen's love survived not one but two nuclear apocalypses, it can surely survive a little poison. 

And indeed, it does, as is revealed in a flashback on "No Exit" (Season 4, Episode 15) when Ellen's consciousness downloads to a Resurrection Ship shortly after her death, her memories now complete. There, she is greeted by the sadistic Cylon leader John Cavil (Dean Stockwell), who delights in her suffering and resents her for creating the Cylons with human shortcomings and weaknesses. It's exciting enough to see Ellen's rebirth and realize she is alive, but her 18 months aboard the Baseship with Cavil reveal that she's much more complex than the manipulative, sultry, toxic wife of an XO she seemed to be during her days aboard the Galactica.

Kara's coordinates

After the countless losses experienced by the Colonial fleet and rebel Cylon alliance — including the loss of their dreams of joining the 13th tribe on Earth — the allies struggle to find meaning in a world where despair is like water. When Adama asks for volunteers to help recover Hera from the Colony, more than enough soldiers and civilians heed the call. They're even joined by a fair number of rebel Centurions, who mark themselves so that they're distinguishable from Cavil's Centurions.

After a brutal battle and a short-lived truce, the Galactica is irreparably broken and barely hanging on when the recently deceased Racetrack posthumously launches her nukes, sending the Colony and the Galactica toward imminent doom via a naked singularity. On Adama's orders, Starbuck executes a blind jump using numbers derived from the music, ultimately leading the fleet to a familiar blue marble in the Sol system. On his blog, composer Bear McCreary shared the story of how he composed Kara's coordinates using the diatonic scale after consulting physicist Kevin Grazier. Fans and music geeks who want to take a closer look at the numbers can pause the episode just before Starbuck jumps the Battlestar.