THE RETURN OF STARBUCK

Written by Glen A. Larson

Original Airdate: May 4, 1980

On the Galactica, Dr. Zee tells Adama he has had a dream of a great warrior named Starbuck. Adama, recognizing the name, asks Zee to tell him his dream. Zee begins to speak: Starbuck and Boomer are in a battle with Cylon raiders. Starbuck is hit and can't make it back to the Galactica. One surviving raider is damaged and is going to crash. Boomer sadly has to leave Starbuck behind to warn the fleet to stay away from that area. Starbuck flies to a planet and ejects from his ship moments before it crashes. The Galactica is under heavy attack from Cylon forces. On the bridge, Boomer implores Adama to go back for Starbuck. Adama painfully tells him they can't afford to go back with the Cylons all over them.

Starbuck sets off to have a look at the planet. He is in a rocky, desolate area with no food or other sign of life. He calls it the planet Starbuck. Soon, he discovers a crashed Cylon raider from the space battle. The Cylons are all dead. He uses parts of their ship to set up a shelter in a cave. After a few days, he decides to rebuild one of the Cylons for companionship. He succeeds in restoring the Cylon, but the Cylon tries to kill him. Starbuck shows the Cylon that he can deactivate his circuits any time he chooses, so the Cylon agrees to a truce. Starbuck calls the Cylon "Cy."

After a few days of card games with his new mechanical companion, Starbuck gets bored and hopes for human companionship, so Cy goes out and, the next morning, returns with a very pregnant woman. She doesn't speak for a week, and Starbuck tells her his life story, including the way he was a womanizer. When she finally does speak, she asks, "Starbuck, would you die for me?" Starbuck is shocked and angry that she didn't speak to him for so long. Her name is Angela. She is vague about her origins. She tells him that the homing beacon on the Cylon raider was activated for awhile and so other Cylons will soon come, therefore they must build another ship. Starbuck and Cy manage to build a ship that is half-Colonial and half-Cylon. Then Angela has the baby. She tells Starbuck that the baby is his spiritual son. She also says that she knows he is ready to make a change, to give up his selfish ways. Finally, Angels says that he must prepare for Judgment Day, the day of reckoning.

The next day, a Cylon raider lands and three Cylons come toward them. Starbuck puts Angela and the baby in the craft and launches it, knowing that without him the life support will last twice as long. Starbuck then finds himself trapped, but Cy joins with him. Cy destroys two of the Centurions, but the third shoots him. Starbuck blasts the last one, and runs to Cy, but it's too late. Cy dies in his arms. Angela stands on a cliff nearby and says, "I judge this mortal to be good. So very good."

The small ship eventually finds its way to the Galactica, where a small child is found on board. That child is Dr. Zee. Adama tells him that his dream was real.

For a more in-depth synopsis, be sure to read Matthew Wharmby's review of this episode.


This is undeniably the best and most popular episode of Galactica 1980. It is even better than most of the episodes of Battlestar Galactica. What is there not to love about this episode? There are so many outstanding scenes: Adama's chilling reaction to Dr. Zee's mention of Starbuck; Boomer's heartwrenching goodbye to Starbuck, Adama explaining to Boomer that they can't go back to find him; Adama saying his farewell to Starbuck; Starbuck's rationalizations about how the planet belongs to him; Angela's words, "Starbuck, would you die for me?"; Starbuck sacrificing his chance to return to the fleet to give Angela and her baby a better chance; Starbuck's goodbye to Cy. The list goes on. Best of all, we see growth in Starbuck's character! A true classic to be treasured for all time by Galactica fans.

This episode is based on an earlier script written for the second season of Battlestar Galactica that never happened. The main differences are that a regular woman appears (not Angela), and Starbuck is eventually rescued by Boomer. The only thing believed to have been taken intact from the early script is Starbuck's dialogue with Cy. While that would no doubt have been a tremendous episode, it still would not have come close to being as great as this one is. The reason why is very simple. One of the problems with creating dramatic and suspenseful stories in any weekly series is that the viewer knows the hero will ultimately prevail. For example, when Starbuck is accused of murder in Murder On The Rising Star, there is little in terms of suspense because it is a foregone conclusion that Starbuck will be vindicated, just as it is a forgone conclusion that Starbuck isn't going to die in The Young Lords when he is hunted by the Cylons on the planet Attila. In the beginning of The Return Of Starbuck, it is quickly established that Adama doesn't know what happened to Starbuck and that Starbuck never returned from the mission where he was shot down. As a result, in what is most unusual for any action/adventure television story, the viewer sits through the entire episode knowing that Starbuck isn't going to make it! This makes the story much more gripping and intense than virtually any other episode of either series. The grim reality of Starbuck's eventual fate is all reinforced by Angela's question "Starbuck, will you die for me?" and her warnings of disaster, telling him that he must prepare to make "the final judgement." Of course, we do not actually see Starbuck die at the end of the story. Larson leaves Starbuck's fate ambiguous, especially since an intact Cylon raider is left nearby. Having Starbuck die would have been a gutsy and innovative move, but the ending shown is really for the best. The beauty of the ending is that it lets the viewers make their own interpretation of Starbuck's fate. If one goes with the idea that a single person alone cannot fly a Cylon raider, then Starbuck could have easily died on the planet. Many fans don't consider Galactica 1980 to be canon for the original series, except for this episode. With the interpretation that Galactica 1980 didn't happen, Starbuck could possibly have flown the Cylon raider back to the fleet, returning to Apollo, Adama, Sheba, and the other original characters. Much Galactica fan fiction over the years has interpreted the episode in this manner.

This episode was originally titled Starbuck's Great Journey, then changed to Starbuck's Last Journey, and finally to The Return Of Starbuck.

The footage of Starbuck and Boomer battling Cylon raiders was previously used in the Battlestar Galactica episode The Young Lords.

Who Angela is we are never really told, but the key seems to be in her name. She must belong to the mysterious "angels" on the Ship of Lights from the original series.

The original script of this episode has missing scenes left out of the final cut. To see them, click here.

A sequel to this episode called The Wheel Of Fire was written but never produced. It is an outstanding script and better than most of the produced episodes of Galactica 1980.

Cy's voice is different from any other Cylon shown in either series.

There is no mention of Apollo in this episode; it seems to give the impression that he is already dead.

In the opening teaser, Starbuck talks to the deactivated Cylons and says, "Okay, I've had it with you three! You're all on report! I'm sick and tired of this silent treatment!" This scene never appears in the episode.

Dirk Benedict has said he treasures this Galactica 1980 episode more than any of the episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

Although Glen Larson regrets doing Galactica 1980, he is extremely proud that he was able to do this episode.

This story cleverly manages to insert the required educational dialogue in a way that is relevant to the plot.

If you want to nitpick, there are a number of plotholes: How did Starbuck's viper and the Cylon raider crash so close to each other? How is Starbuck, who is not a technician, able to repair a Cylon Centurion? How are Starbuck and Cy able to build a ship without any real tools? I have come up with a possible explanation for all of this. Perhaps Angela, who may have had god-like powers, was helping all of these events along.

Blooper - Starbuck uses Earth time instead of Colonial time when he tells Cy he has "the mentality of a two-year old." The correct term should have been "a two-yahren old."

Rex Cutter (Cy) played the Cylon Centurion named Red-Eye in the Battlestar Galactica episode The Lost Warrior. He played the Cylon Centurion named Centuri in the Galactica 1980 episode The Night The Cylons Landed.

This episode was available from Good Times Home Video a number of years back, but it may no longer be. For anyone interested in buying it, it is available at a video store called Neet-O-Rama at 93 W. Main St, Somerville, NJ 08876. Their phone number is (908) 722-4600. You can also contact them at www.neetstuff.com. It is important to know that the official title of the video is simply "Battlestar Galactica", not Galactica 1980 or The Return Of Starbuck. You need to be careful so you don't accidently get the original pilot movie. It has a red orange box.

Although this is the last episode of Galactica 1980, the producers had started shooting The Day They Kidnapped Cleopatra when the series was cancelled.


Galactica 1980 Episode Guide

Enter Sheba's Galaxy