I finally caught up with the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica last week, so time to put my exceedingly tardy thoughts on this series and its mid-season cliffhanger down on virtual paper. Spoilers will abound, so avoid this if you still plan on picking up the series.

I was an enormous fan of the original BG when I was a kid; the big deal we made about its Sunday night broadcast is one of my earliest memories. I don’t remember a whole lot about it reliably, though I’ve seen many episodes again in repeats, and Wikipedia has refreshed my memory on much of it. I remembered enough to appreciate most of the tips of the hat to the original series; the original theme music as the Caprican anthem, the 2-parter when Starbuck crashed which was based on an original series episode, with the little wing-waggle thrown in as an acknowledgement; of course, the thoroughly enjoyable re-appearance of the old-school Cylons in the BG TV-movie, Razor. And one thing I remembered well, perhaps because so much of a Catholic’s early life is coloured by religious teaching, was the religious subtext the show had.

I assumed that in the modern age, this would be an aspect the re-imagined series sidesteps; much to my surprise, it became the centre of the show, with the allusions to Egyptians, Jews, Romans and Christians much thicker on the ground than they were in the old series. A daring, and thoroughly interesting choice. The series is solid but unremarkable in script dialogue, and has a few brilliant actors and a balance of journeymen. But the plot development has been outstanding. Not since The Sopranos has a show so consistently defied my predicitons and expectations (as opposed to Lost, where I’ve given up trying to predict or expect anything).

Most of the time, anyway; the “final four” only surprised me with the revelation of Sam. I liked how Sam being a Cylon neatly explains why the Cylons just up and broke camp when they had him and Starbuck pinned down during his rescue from Caprica, much more neatly than the Cylon explanation to the fleet, anyway.

This brings us to one of the major points of fan speculation; the identity of the final Cylon. Here you get to a scale-of-cast issue. Most choices – Gaeta, Dee, etc. – are just not prominent enough as actors or cast members. It has to either be an character we’ve never seen (but an actor of some status, a la Dean Stockwell and Lucy Lawless), or come as a major revelatory shock. Tom Zacharek (however it’s spelled) has long been a favourite candidate of mine; the actor who played the original Apollo turning out to be Cylon has a nice dramatic irony. Starbuck is a little too obvious, tied up with all the prophecies and what not, but she’s certainly a possibility. What sours that is the one thing I’m not exactly clear on; D’Anna said that the fifth isn’t with the fleet.

If she wasn’t lying – and I can’t see any reason why she would – that takes Tom and Starbuck off the table, and most everyone else. It leaves the possibility of a character we haven’t met, of course, but that’d be a bit of a let down, in my opinion. D’Anna also could have meant that the fifth wasn’t with the fleet because it was one of the people on the basestar with her at the time; discounting Athena, that means Baltar, Laura, and Helo.

Baltar, like Starbuck, seems too obvious, but his clear importance to their destiny would make a lot of sense. Helo would be interesting; once bullet-proof because of his relationship with Athena, we now have it confirmed in-universe that at least some Cylons can procreate, as Tigh and Caprica Six seem to indicate. That would mean that Hera was a full-blood Cylon, and the Chief’s kid is actually the first half-breed. Interesting, but Helo seems to fail the shock-test; he’s just not that major a cast member. Of course, Laura would be the jaw-dropper in that group, and I think it’s a strong possibility just for that reason.

Then we come to what I see as the last possibility, with the postulates already laid out; that the final Cylon is the entity or whatever that seems to appear both to Baltar and Caprica Six; Whedon obsession compels me to refer to this character as “the First”. This is the most mysterious character of the show; throughout the first season, we simply thought of her as something Caprica Six did to him; an implant she was using to communicate, maybe his own madness. But the more we saw of Caprica Six on Caprica, we realized that she was absolutely nothing like the Six that was always with Baltar. And then the bomb, when we realized that Caprica Six had her own version of the First, who appeared as Baltar but spoke in the same haranguing manner as Baltar’s shadow. This is my favourite candidate for the Fifth, a Cylon version unlike anything we’ve seen before; pure energy? A ghost in the collective unconcious, able to appear to the receptive and those adept at visualization, which we know both the Cylons and Baltar to be experts at? God? There’s just so many intriguing possibilities.

Finally, we come to the major surprise of the mid-season finale; the appearance of a blasted and wrecked Earth. It almost certainly is Earth just based on the few episodes remaining, as a resumption of the hunt seems impractical, and the constellations were right. So, is it past, present, or future? The old series, from what I can remember, implied that the 13th Colony were the founders of our own civilization, and the events of the series were happening in our present or very recent past, as in one episode they just missed intercepting Neil Armstrong’s broadcast from the moon; I also seem to remember that awful follow-up series having Cylons running around at Halloween, but would prefer to forget it. I supposed there’s a dim possibility that the new series is also in our present, and either we’ve nuked ourselves extinct, or somehow the 1-led Cylons got there first and wiped it. Both scenarios seem unlikely, and rather stupid, so I’m dismissing them. But honestly… there’s just not enough data to speculate with, past or future. I’m hoping for past, as I like the idea we’re all the descendants of mixed-blood Cylons and humans, but that’s a preference, not a speculation.

At any rate, it’s been a thoroughly entertaining series, and if it keeps up its unexpected twists, I’m sure all this speculation will look foolish come mid-March 2009. But it is fun to do.