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THE HAND OF GOD

John's Review


Five stars out of five.

They saved the best for last. The Hand Of God is arguably the best episode of Battlestar Galactica, and my personal favorite.

No doubt about it, The Hand of God is Galactica at its best. Donald Bellisario shows the other writers how it's done, pulling out all the stops with this one. Both the script and the performances are stellar. Never before have the characters been portrayed in such a powerful way. Although there is nothing innovative about the plot itself (The Galactica battles the Cylons again), there are enough things going on that make this story extremely engrossing.

This episode is fascinating from start to finish. Visually, it is a treat as we get to see the inside of a Cylon basestar's landing bay for the first time. We also get to see Cylon Centurions boarding their ships for the first time. And the Celestial Observation Dome is a marvel, as is Apollo's analogy that being inside it is like riding in the Hand of God.

What makes this story especially memorable is the culmination of a story thread that has been running since War of the Gods. In that episode, we see the first hint of romance between Apollo and Sheba. Nothing happens in the other episodes following, although Anne Lockhart does a good job showing, in a subtle way, Sheba's emerging feelings for Apollo.

Kudos go to both Anne Lockhart and Laurette Spang for winning performances. Sheba's confrontation with Apollo inside the Cylon raider and Cassiopea's argument with Starbuck in the landing bay are incredibly moving, providing each actress with her stand-out moment of the series. It really gives the viewer a chance to appreciate the range of Anne and Laurette. Women on this show were usually stuck in the background; this episode placed demands on each actress they rarely had to face. Give each one credit for not dropping the ball. Fortunately, they are both aided by outstanding dialogue from Bellisario. Of course, Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, and Herbert Jefferson, Jr. hold up their end as well. Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer clasping hands in the pilots barracks (with the accompanying music score) powerfully expresses the bond of their friendship more than words ever could.

Extra congratulations go to Donald Bellisario who also directed this episode. His use of slow motion twice during Starbuck and Apollo's battles with Cylon Centurions make the scenes much more intense and suspenseful. Let's face it. Thanks to ABC's family-friendly censors, the Cylons often looked like a joke (Remember The Young Lords when Starbuck and five children wiped out an entire Cylon garrison?). If Starbuck and Apollo's shootout scenes had been shown in real time, there would have been little (if any) impact.

Another reason The Hand of God works so well is because the Cylons were not featured in the previous seven or eight episodes. Glen Larson wisely saw that the constant reusing of the same space battle footage was hurting the stories and thus moved the Cylons into the background after Fire In Space. So much time has passed since then that the Cylons seem revitalized. There's nothing spectacular about the dogfight between the vipers and raiders or the slugfest between the Galactica and the Cylon basestar (since it's the same footage seen in previous episodes), but the story is compelling enough that the viewer doesn't seem to mind.

If there is one flaw with this story, it is the idea that Adama would attack a Cylon basestar and risk the fate of the entire human race just for the sake of wreaking some vengeance. This is the same man who told Commander Cain, "I'm not interested in military victories. I'm interested in saving lives. What few of them are left." It would have worked better to have a scenario where the Galactica simply could not backtrack and thus was forced to attack the Cylons. Still, it is a minor flaw in an overall outstanding script.

It is extremely frustrating that we never see a follow-up to Apollo and Sheba's relationship since this was the final episode. For fans who would like to see some kind of continuation, there are some fan fiction stories that I highly recommend. Galactica 1988: Ten Years Later contains a story called My Father's Daughter which takes place immediately following the events of The Hand of God and is quite simply the best Sheba story I have ever read. Three other novels, Second Coming, Joint Maneuvers, and The Race For Earth also explore Apollo and Sheba's relationship and are outstanding. These books are available from Clean Slate Press.

The other story thread left dangling is the deal Adama made with Baltar to set him free on a planet. Had the show gone a second season, it is likely that Baltar, once marooned, would have eventually been rescued by the Cylons and resumed his pursuit of the Galactica.

Best Moments

Apollo opening the chamber of the Celestial dome; Sheba confronting Apollo inside the Cylon raider; Starbuck and Cassiopea getting into an argument; The Cylon Centurions boarding their ships; Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer clasping hands in the pilots barracks; Sheba and Cassiopea watching the Cylon raider launch from the Celestial dome; Starbuck and Apollo barely escaping the command center as the explosive charges destroy its scanners; Starbuck and Apollo managing to convey who they are (despite having lost the transmitter) by waggling the wings of their Cylon raider; and Apollo accidently clicking a switch as he leaves the Celestial dome which reveals a transmission of the Apollo 11 landing!

Best Lines

Colonel Tigh: (pointing at a model of a Cylon basestar in the pilots barracks) She carries three hundred fighters. Has two long range mega pulsars... here... and here. And over a hundred defensive laser turrets. She's an orbiting killer… capable of destroying ever ship we have… including the Galactica.

Starbuck: (to Boomer) That's what I like about the Colonel... his optimism.


Sheba: (to Apollo) Did you ever think about the fact that maybe two people who snap at each other for no reason are doing it to avoid their real feelings? I've thought about it quite a bit. (She gently kisses him)


Starbuck: (to Cassiopea) Yes! I do understand! I just don't see the sense in dwelling on what might go wrong! It's a lousy way to live. (She stares at him a beat, then they embrace and kiss.) I'll be back… I promise.

Cassiopea: (crying) You better. 'Cause if you're not... I'll kill you.


Boomer: Whatever happens, don't lose that transmitter. It's the only way we'll be able to tell you from the Cylons.

Starbuck: Well, if we do, we'll just waggle our wings.

Boomer: You would.


(In the Celestial dome as Starbuck and Apollo's Cylon raider takes off)

Cassiopea: Why did I ever have to fall in love with a warrior?

Sheba: I don't know.


(As a Cylon raider approaches the Galactica)

Boomer: No! Don't fire! It's them!

Adama: How do you know?

Boomer: (smiling) They're waggling!

Tigh: (bewildered) Waggling?


To sum it all up, The Hand of God is the best episode of Battlestar Galactica. It works wonderful as a season finale, but as a series finale? Unfortunately not. While a great story, it does not provide any kind of closure to the Galactica's quest to find the lost Thirteenth Tribe of the planet Earth. What it does do, more than any other episode save War Of The Gods, is show the incredible potential that Battlestar Galactica had as a series. It helps the viewer to imagine the incredible spectrum of stories that could have been written had the writers been given more time to develop scripts or, even better, if the network had went with Glen Larson's original proposal to do a series of movies before making it a weekly series.

The Hand of God, more than anything else, leaves the viewer hungry for more episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Unfortunately, there never were more episodes, so The Hand of God wound up being the last. Still, out of all the episodes that aired, if there was any one of them that should have been the last, THIS IS THE ONE.

Somehow, five stars just doesn't seem enough.


This was apparently written to be a final episode. It aired nearly a full month after Take The Celestra and a week after the cancellation of the series was announced.

The script of this episode has missing scenes left out of the final cut. Click here to see them.

It is forgivable, but a little hard to believe that Adama would risk the fate of the entire human race just for the sake of destroying a single Cylon basestar.

The central core of the Cylon base ship is actually a mockup of the Skylab space station. It is possible those scenes were filmed in Houston.

What an amazing coincidence that Apollo is involved in the discovery of the Apollo 11 transmission!

Sheba and Apollo express their true feelings for each other. Had the series continued, this surely would have been explored further. Sheba's feelings for Apollo are acknowledged in the later original Berkely novels, but unfortunately nothing ever evolves. It gets frustrating; at the end of BG12: Die, Chameleon!, Sheba almost decides to have a fling with Croft! Ugh!

When Starbuck and Apollo take off in Baltar's Cylon raider, Sheba and Cassiopea watch from the Celestial dome chamber. Cassiopea says, "Why did I ever have to fall in love with a warrior?" Sheba answers (thinking of Apollo), "I don't know." This is not a missing scene, but it has been edited from the version that occasionally airs on the Sci-Fi channel, so many fans may not be aware of it. This is a very powerful scene which erases any doubt that Sheba is in love with Apollo. Also missing from the Sci-Fi channel version: In Adama's quarters, Adama and Baltar shake hands after agreeing to their deal.

This is the only episode that shows Cylon Centurions boarding their ships.

Apollo says that the Galactica was launched more than 500 yahrens (years?) earlier.

Boomer's expertise in long-range communications is revealed.

Richard Hatch, Herbert Jefferson, Jr., Anne Lockhart and Laurette Spang have said The Hand Of God is their favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica.

Footage of the Gold Leader Cylon interacting with other Cylons was used in the Galactica telemovies Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack and Conquest Of The Earth.

The Cylon raiders seen docked in the landing bay of the Cylon basestar are actually the original Monogram models which are still available today.

Would the Cylons really use such a long ladder to get to their command core? Wouldn't an elevator have been more practical? Budgetary constraints may have been the reason the long ladder was used.

Blooper 1 - The planet the Cylon basestar rises up from is different from the cratered planet that Starbuck discovers. This is due to using stock footage of a Cylon basestar next to Carillon from the pilot.

Blooper 2 - When Boomer sits behind Starbuck and Apollo in the third seat of the Cylon raider, the position of his arm suddenly changes when seen from a different angle.

Blooper 3 - Although the scene where Starbuck and Cassiopea argue takes place after the scene where Sheba confronts Apollo inside the Cylon raider, both scenes are meant to occur at the exact same time. Unfortunately, Sheba walks out of the Cylon raider too early into Starbuck and Cassiopea's conversation.

Blooper 4 - When we see Starbuck and Apollo inside the Cylon raider as they fly towards the Cylon basestar, the empty chair in the center behind them is turned to the left. Unless it is a swivel chair, this is a flub.

This is the only episode of Battlestar Galactica that does not have any guest stars.

The model of the Cylon base star that Tigh uses during the war meeting is the same model that was used for special effects scenes.

Dirk Benedict has said that the cancellation of the show taught him a big lesson about show business. One day he was a big TV star with his own parking space, and the next day he was a nobody! He had left some personal items in a locker in the studio and the security guards wouldn't let him on the premises! He had to make a bunch of phone calls to different people in order to get permission to enter. Years later, after Benedict's hit series The A-Team was canceled, he once again couldn't get back onto the lot!


Regular Cast

Capt. Apollo		Richard Hatch

Lt. Starbuck Dirk Benedict

Commander Adama Lorne Greene

Lt. Boomer Herbert Jefferson, Jr.

Athena Maren Jensen

Cassiopea Laurette Spang

Col. Tigh Terry Carter

Baltar John Colicos

Boxey Noah Hathaway

Flt. Sgt. Jolly Tony Swartz

Rigel Sarah Rush

Omega David Greenham

Dr. Salik George Murdock

Dr. Wilker John Dullagham

Brie Janet Louise Johnson

Ensign Greenbean Ed Begley, Jr.

Giles Larry Manetti

Cpl. Komma Jeff MacKay

Imperious Leader Dick Durock

Patrick Macnee (voice)

Lucifer Felix Silla

Jonathon Harris (voice)

Guest Cast

None


Battlestar Galactica Episode Guide

Enter Sheba's Galaxy