Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (review)

Plan? What Plan?

They did keep telling us, all through the four seasons of Battlestar Galactica, that the Cylons had “a plan,” but we never really got the details. Sure, we assumed that the plan was to destroy humanity — that much was obvious — but was there more to it?

Turns out, not so much, really. The writers really were making it all up as they went along. Which is fine — that’s how lots of writers of long-form fiction work, and it often forces you to be really creative when you find that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. And The Plan — debuting on SyFy tonight at 9pm Eastern and already available on DVD in Region 1 — is still sorta fun anyway, even if it doesn’t actually delve into the planny plannishness of the Cylons: as an ultimate clip episode, as a very fan-fiction-y look at events of the series from a new perspective. (If there’s one thing that has characterized science fiction as a filmed genre in the last ten years or so, it’s that it seems to be taking a helluva lotta cues from the compulsions that are responsible for fan fiction.)
Now, The Plan — directed by Edward James Olmos and written by Jane Espenson — makes no sense at all if you haven’t seen and just about memorized the four years of BSG. You’re totally left to wonder, if you don’t already know, how Dean Stockwell can be on a spaceship in space plotting some sort of nefariousness, and at the same time down on a planet plotting other, perhaps connected nefariousness. There are a few brief mentions of copies and duplicates and such, but most of the fun here comes not in the retelling of stuff we already know but in the filling in of a few blanks in the huge narrative gaps a years-long series inevitably creates. And some of those gap-plugging answers just lend themselves to asking more questions. That’s The Plan of Battlestar Galactica, I think: Ron Moore just keep making fill-in-the-blanks movies that raise new issues and need to be answered with more movies that fill in the blanks yet raise more questions, and so on into infinity.

There are some intriguing notions about the inadvertent human influence on the Cylon skinjobs: when you hang with your enemies long enough, you stop seeing them as enemies. So there’s the Simon, the No. 4 model skinjob (Rick Worthy), who loves his human family, including his wife, Giana (Lymari Nadal)… despite Cavil’s (Dean Stockwell) disgust at the thought. (I like how Giana’s remark about how she’d never met anyone from Simon’s childhood touches on the questions we’ve had about how the skinjobs integrated themselves into pre-apocalypse colonial society, or didn’t, without actually resolving too much; there’s fodder for another movie.) One of the Leobens (Callum Keith Rennie), after relating to a Cavil that Kara “Starbuck” Thrace learned how to fly a Cylon raider from inside, starts to doubt that Cylons are favored in God’s eyes. And even one of the Cavils himself is full of uncertainty and misgivings about the attack on humanity and all the human deaths. (Back before the attack, though, he was gleeful, and curious to witness a nuclear holocaust, which is disturbing but oh-so Cavil-like.)

We see some of the resistance Sam (Michael Trucco) is leading back on the devastated Caprica, created around the core of his pyramid ball team, which had been training in a remote mountain camp when the Cylon attack came. It’s cool and all, but it does raise new wonderings in my head. I’ve always thought that there must be millions of survivors across the colonies — civilization would be destroyed, or at least thrown back into a dark ages, but plenty of people will have survived — and the Sam/Caprica segments only pour a lot of fuel onto the fire of that notion: clearly, life is going on on the colonial worlds. Not fun life, not pleasant life, but life nonetheless.

So, here’s an idea for another movie… or, hell, even another series: What is going on on Caprica, Picon, Tauron, and the rest of the colonies? How are the survivors pulling themselves together? If we’re to accept the finale of the series — that 150,000 years later, we are the descendents of the colonials who landed on Earth — then doesn’t that mean that, who-knows-how-many light-years away, we have cousins on those worlds who will have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and reestablished their civilizations, too?

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Sun, Jan 10, 2010 11:44pm

Have you seen the Caprica pilot?

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 12:19am

Saw The Plan on BluRay a while back, it was a nice BSG fix.

I have really become a huge fan of Jane Espenson (excutive producer and writer of The Plan) and look forward to the Caprica series. She’s a real talent in the SciFi world.

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 12:37am

Have you seen the Caprica pilot?

Not yet, but I’ve got the DVD. Hope to get to before the series premieres on SyFy.

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 1:08am

Long-form fiction creativity or not, if you’re going to START your series with the assertion “…and they have a plan!” you really ought to at least figure out what that plan is. Helps the show to avoid the “pulling it out of our ass” feeling.

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 5:43am

Didn’t Jane Espenson write for Buffy? I remember liking her episodes. Maybe I should give Battlestar Galactica a go if she’s involved. . .

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 10:30am

Jane Espenson wrote for Star Trek Deep Space 9, Battlestar, Gilmore Girls, Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, and a host of other shows.

Yes, you could say I’m a big fan :)

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 1:17pm

I think the idea of this movie is to show that though the cylons (or rather Cavill) initially had a plan, this plan goes right out the window as soon as the cylons start to interact for great lengths of time with the human survivors.

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke once wrote “No plan survives contact with the enemy”, which clearly describes what has happened to the Cylons.

It also nice to see that the end of The Plan coincides with the moment in the series where the “and they have a plan” statement was no longer used during the intro.

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 2:31pm

I guess there are enough gaps there to make fanfiction authors and roleplayers happy for decades! B)

John Anealio
Tue, Jan 12, 2010 6:21pm

It wasn’t great, but it was nice to dip back into the BSG universe. I appreciated that they gave #4 an actual storyline. It was nice to see that character fleshed out a bit more.

Joe Schmoe
Joe Schmoe
Thu, May 29, 2014 3:53am

I liked “The Plan” because I am a big BSG fan as well as the DVD only cost me $1.98. But it is definitely a fan movie, great for filling in the backstories but little to offer someone who isn’t a fan