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THE RETURN OF STARBUCK

Written by Glen A. Larson

Directed by Ron Satlof

Episode Synopsis by Matthew Wharmby

PREMISE: We finally discover the fate of Lieutenant Starbuck - sort of. A tremendous episode, and a real tear-jerker.

An unsettled Dr Zee wakes Adama up in the middle of the night to report that he's just had a dream. Noticing his young confidant's uncharacteristic discomfort, Adama asks him to elaborate. In the dream, Dr Zee believes that he was not born in the fleet, which Adama informs him is true. Furthermore, the dream was not about him, but 'about a great warrior...his name was Starbuck'. Shocked and stunned at the mention of this long-buried name, Adama fairly demands that Dr Zee complete the tale.

Long ago, Starbuck and Boomer are on patrol, but are ambushed by a flight of Cylon raiders (this scene was lifted unapologetically from 'The Young Lords', but I'll let that one slide). The lieutenants manage to destroy two of them before the third angles up behind Starbuck and damages his viper severely. Starbuck is able to coax one last reverse thrust out of his ship and fire on the offending assailant, but only manages to wing him. Things look grim when Starbuck realises he won't be able to make it back to the fleet. Boomer pleads to follow him down, but Starbuck knows that a huge force of Cylon fighters is on its way to the Galactica. He tries to make light of the bleak situation; 'Give my love to Cassiopeia, and Athena... And, well, tell 'em not to sit around waiting. I might like it where I'm going.' but Boomer's eyes fill with tears. Finally, there is no choice but to separate, and Boomer heads for home.

Back on the Galactica in the midst of a heavy attack, Boomer begs Adama to let him go back for Starbuck, but Adama refuses. 'Take a look out there. We'll be lucky if we can save our fleet!' We see the commander's desperation as he almost sobs that 'Our enemy pushes us on, and on, and on...and until we're strong enough, or can find Earth and get help, then we can never stop, or turn away, or look back!' Having alienated Boomer into a surprising show of sudden bitterness, a broken Adama can only turn to camera and make his own sad farewell. 'Goodbye, Starbuck. I love you.... we all love you!'

Meanwhile, the protagonist of this episode is inching his way cautiously into the atmosphere of a planet whose readings check out, just in time, as one capable of supporting human life. Although he is coming down at an alarmingly high speed and bad angle, the old rogue still has time to wonder whether there'll be an advanced civilisation down there, ready and waiting to worship him. Down he comes, in a thunderous fireball.

Only now, ten minutes in, do the guest cast credits roll, as we pan aross a field of burnt, blackened wreckage and finally come upon the cockpit segment of Starbuck's viper, ejected at the last possible moment. Starbuck comes to, with a monster headache, and the business end of his ship blown to bits. All he can do is climb out, sling his survival pack over his back, and take the lie of the land. There are no people, no civilisations, and nothing but sand and barren rock on this desert planet, but Starbuck makes light of it as only he can. 'I decided to call the planet Starbuck... Why not? I discovered it. It was mine! All mine...'

Coming round a corner, Starbuck is stunned to find the wreckage of the Cylon fighter he'd shot down earlier that day. He pulls out his laser and approaches cautiously, but is relieved to find that none of the three centurions within are functional. Here's where he starts to have some fun, taking the piss mercilessly out of his downed enemy, who don't look so tough now. He's soon given a rude shock when he starts pulling the ship apart to build a rough shelter, and in doing so, knocks over one of the centurions. But it's still dead... and already we get the sense that Starbuck's not actually as happy about that as we might think.

As the temperature drops to freezing levels and the winds pick up, Starbuck gets his lean-to constructed against the nearest large rock to the crashed Cylon fighter, takes out his survival blanket from his emergency pack, and lights a fire using his laser (Bit wasteful of finite resources! Didn't they teach him how to rub two sticks together as a kid?) Still, it feels odd to him waking up on his own, without klaxons, without fellow warriors, and without anything to do. Another round of mocking the Cylons palls fast, and suddenly it comes to him.

With Dr Zee's voiceover, we see Starbuck slinging the centurions over his shoulder and lugging them one by one back to the shelter, where he spends a day and night cannibalising Cylon parts to put one of them back together. Finally, he's ready to set one going, caring not a whit that the first thing one of these Cylons is likely to do is kill him. He throws the switch... and nothing happens. Crushed with disappointment, Starbuck sags in despair - as the Cylon's red eye slowly gathers pace, and catches. The Cylon is functional! Starbuck is delighted, but as predicted, the first thing the huge centurion does is aim his pistol and declare 'Die, human.' Thinking ahead, Starbuck snatches the weapon out of the Cylon's grip, tells him he deactivated it, and then gives it back to him! He is therefore a bit nonplussed when the Cylon pulls the trigger anyway, and has to start thinking on his feet as the centurion rises and starts looking ugly. One throw of the power switch after another and Starbuck demonstrates how he can turn him off without a little bit of co-operation.

After the Cylon has managed to deter Starbuck from switching him off for good, he asks why Starbuck reconstructed him. Starbuck explains, rather wanly, that after three days alone, he decided he needed a friend. 'We are enemies,' the Cylon states flatly, not for the first time on this episode. 'We're cultural dissidents,' Starbuck rationalises, since there are only the two of them on this planet. 'That means our cultures don't get along, but that's in their world.' Finally Starbuck offers to teach the Cylon everything he knows about humans, in the process inadvertently christening the machine. 'Cy.. do you mind if I call you Cy?' And, giving in to urges he can't hide any longer (no, not those ones! Bear with me...), he offers to take the Cylon on in a hand of pyramid.

At the card table, improvised from the Cylon fighter's command seat and some assorted wreckage, Starbuck is fleecing Cy silly for all the pebbles and pocket change, while listening to some background. 'Eternal perfection and order is the goal of the Cylon Empire', Cy declaims proudly, but can't come back when Starbuck pillories them for just what they're going to do with the universe once they have it ordered, not to mention the distinct lack of love. Cy counters with a question as to whether this has anything to do with genders, but Starbuck wilts into considerable sadness when he realises the centurion is talking about women. All he can do is change the subject, but the Cylon is surprisingly astute at picking up Starbuck's moodiness. This theme is continued when he realises that Starbuck is cheating. A chill goes through our spines when we see Cy's helmet scanner stop dead - this is normally 'shoot to kill' mode and much to be feared, but we reckon Cy has found better ways to get to Starbuck's heart without the risk of being switched off. 'You are bored with me,' Cy scolds. 'My companionship is not adequate. You require a 'wo-man'.' And with the improbable promise 'I will get you one,' out he goes into the cold night!

Feeling guilty, Starbuck searches for the runaway centurion all night, but comes up empty - and suitably chastised, now realising that it is actually possible to hurt a Cylon's feelings. But his shame turns to shock when Cy strolls back in the next morning - carrying an unconscious, and pregnant woman in his arms! 'I am rapidly being surrounded,' he states, somewhat aghast, when Starbuck explains the concept of pregnancy.

With someone to talk to, Starbuck commences to do just that as the girl looks on, mute. The Cylon feels he has been somewhat relegated to the background, and demonstrates no small jealousy at the fact. But, out of nowhere, the girl simply asks Starbuck 'Would you die for me?' Angry, Starbuck rounds on her, but she remains enigmatic and obscure, refusing to elaborate on how she came to be on this planet. The shock factor is tripled when she starts referring to the impending baby as 'our child'. Frankly squirming at a paternity suit that for once, he has nothing to do with, Starbuck is distinctly uncomfortable, but Angela has already surprised him once. A crucial point left out of the filmed show is a scene in which Angela is blithely cooking vegetables she grew. We had already established that Starbuck's rations were running low, and Starbuck is astonished that she casually made vegetables grow, apparently instantaneously, out of useless desert.

She diverts him with instructions. 'We must prepare a vehicle for our child, Starbuck'. She refers to the emergency beacon on the Cylon fighter, and that some form of Judgment Day is coming. Starbuck presumes she means the Cylons, Starbuck is confused, but she is insistent. Whether Starbuck is willing to change seems to hinge on the whole operation, but it's not clear to him yet. At the moment, they must work together to combine the salvageable parts from both Starbuck's viper and Cy's fighter into a serviceable craft that will take them off the planet. Cy is jealous again when Starbuck plays up Angela's involvement in the building of the ship (which extended only to the suggestion of the project in the first place), but is soon called back when Angela goes into labour. An amusing moment had occurred when Cy rather looked forward to the baby's birth, as it meant 'we can have another pair of strong hands to help turn the generator'.

'Our way is better,' is Cy's only comment on the birth of Angela's son, but you can almost sense some pride in him when Starbuck offers to make him godfather. 'Special friend to the family, throughout life'. 'We cannot be friends,' Cy says, once again. The morning after the baby's birth, Starbuck is shocked to see another Cylon fighter landed close to the crash site. The Cylons have picked up the distress beacon! The sight of Cy looming large in the doorway of the lean-to frightens Starbuck - he is, after all, his enemy - but even though he draws his laser and aims it at the Cylon's heart when Cy says he must go to them, Starbuck can't shoot. Angela watches, a calm, knowing look in her eyes.

Starbuck hustles Angela to the completed hybrid ship and gets her and the baby inside, and only then can ask, almost in anguish: 'What did you mean by Judgment Day? Who's going to be judging me?' 'We all judge ourselves, Starbuck,' Angela replies, prompting another smart remark 'Well, I hope so, because I plan on being very easy on myself in certain categories.' However, it becomes clear that there is no room for Starbuck in the ship; not if the mother and baby are to make it back to the fleet's secret heading, at a location now six weeks distant, on the programmed oxygen levels (and at suspended animation at that). He still doesn't believe that he can't still get away 'Who says I'm not coming along?', but when the three Cylon occupants of the second ship appear and start firing on their position, he must make the ultimate sacrifice - and stay behind, launching the ship manually and letting Angela and the baby go. They soar off into the sky, gone forever.

Starbuck is pinned down by the Cylon laser fire, but is surprised to see Cy appear, carrying his own laser. 'I repaired it,' he says. As Cy marches out to greet the three centurions, Starbuck can't be sure whether he won't sell him out, especially when the first thing the Cylons ask is 'Where is the human?' He is persuaded soon enough when Cy fires on them himself, destroying the first two. The third gets off a crippling shot before Starbuck drops him, but Cy sinks to the ground, mortally damaged. Rushing out, Starbuck cradles the centurion in his arms, but can only stare in grief as the Cylon's life sinks away. His last words are a refutation of every programmed Cylon mantra he had been stating since they met. 'Not human... not Cylon. Friends...'

We see Starbuck's heartbroken face as he cradles his dead friend, the camera crane pulling high up into the sandy mountains. Yet on those same crags, Angela appears, but in ethereal form. 'The child is safely on its way... and I am ready to go home now. And I declare this mortal, to be good... So very good.'

Dr Zee's voice grows more disturbed as he recounts the progress of the pod towards the Galactica, containing the 'incredible gift' of a child from the stars. He realises that the dream was referring to him, and that he is the gift. 'Could I be Starbuck's son?' Dr Zee asks, shocked. 'And if I am, who was my mother?' 'The answer is still out there, amongst the stars,' is Adama's reply, truly at peace. But our own hearts break as we see the final scene of the entire series, as it turned out. Starbuck, still crestfallen with grief, sinks down onto a rock high in the mountains, his future uncertain.


John's Review

RATING: 5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding!)

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.

Director Ron Satlof recalls filming at Red Rock Canyon, "a horrible location." When they were scouting the location, it was nice and warm, and they thought it would be a perfect place to do the story. "But when we got there to shoot, there was a hailstorm and [the temperature] was in the 30s," he says. "The actress Judith Chapman had a little thing to wear, it was see-through and she was out there with her knees shaking, trying to act. It was unbelievable. We'd wrap blankets around her and say her lines and try to act before the shakes started. It was just horrible. It's what we do for television." Of Benedict's performance in the episode, Satlof says, "He had a kind of lovely egotism tempered by a flare of humanism...so I thought he was terrific. I liked him a lot."

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.


Matt's Review:

This episode leaves a lump in your throat even larger than when Starbuck wept at Apollo being brought back to life in 'War of the Gods'. As John says in his own review, it's made all the more poignant by the fact that we never do know what happened to Starbuck. He never did return, and all we can assume is the worst. If only the script for 'The Wheel of Fire' had been filmed. In it, Starbuck was revealed to have been taken on as an ethereal agent of the Ship of Lights, sent to help Troy out in a moment of need. Following on from that theme, Eric Paddon's mind-blowing and utterly loving 'Galactica 1984' trilogy extends it to such plausible levels that it should be regarded as canon. In this third part, entitled 'Remembrance of Things Past', Starbuck was only taken in the first place to save Apollo from a fate he chose against the evil machinations of Count Iblis, who had returned as promised to take Sheba's soul. The tests Starbuck encountered (refusing to shoot an enemy when apparently under threat, and particularly sacrificing his own life) were part of determining whether he was worthy of serving God, especially when given his own often imperfect attitude. Boomer's grief when airborne, and his bitterness towards Adama's broken powerlessness aboard the bridge, are powerfully portrayed. The music given to these scenes is tremendous. I'd always maintained that the music shone throughout, despite the low marks given to Galactica 1980 in general.

BITS & PIECES:

There are some continuity issues with this episode. Perhaps it's due to Ron Satlof, who otherwise does a commendable job, being unfamiliar with the rest of the series?

Cy's scanner eye is non-functional throughout much of the episode. This is a major error - we assume he's dead.

The viper battle's first thirty seconds were lifted directly from 'The Young Lords'.

If Boomer and Starbuck were both flying two-seat vipers, surely Boomer could have rescued him? Perhaps they ought to have emphasised that the Cylons were on the point of attacking the fleet in strength, and that any pause would have risked both of them AND the fleet. Adama's anguished refusal to let Boomer go back for him perhaps does the job, but we remember that in at least two previous Battlestar Galactica episodes ('The Lost Warrior' and 'The Young Lords'), half the plot was centred around the ways, means and ethics of going back to rescue fellow warriors.

Some of the missing scenes should have been left in - particularly why and how Angela came to be growing food. A note in the middle where Adama explains to Dr Zee Starbuck's reputation and popularity was also rather missed.

Where did Starbuck find a manual for Cylon maintenance? He was certainly referring from a printed textbook when he was putting Cy back together.

Starbuck breaking branches with his laser strikes me as a bit extravagant, given that we were made well aware that Starbuck was milking his accelerating poverty in food, clothing and energy resources. Perhaps the building of the hand-cranked generator solved his energy problems (and also enabled Cy to recharge his own shooter) Cy's hardly a weakling, why couldn't he have snapped them over his big metal knee?

Speaking of Cy's knees, they buckle when he sinks to the ground after being shot. Cheap armour!

You could tell this was filmed at the same time as Buck Rogers, as all the laser effects are in yellow.

Without a doubt, the most contentious issue of 'The Return of Starbuck' lies in Cy's voice, which has human overtones on top of the normal Cylon drone. I'll grant that this probably had to be done, just to get some sense of feelings into Cy, whose lines outstripped every previous piece of Cylon dialogue put together and then multiplied by three or four at least. You could chalk it up to incomplete construction at the hands of Starbuck, if you like (in one of the missing scenes, Dr Zee explained how Starbuck's subarctic parka gloves were making it difficult to work in the low night temperatures).

Cy (Group Leader Cyrus) is only the second centurion to reveal a name (the first was Vulpa, from 'The Gun On Ice Planet Zero'). Since only First Centurions, the officer corps of the line, appear to have names (if you follow the novelisations), this would explain his 'Group Leader' status. It may also underly his discomfort at Starbuck's mockery of the Cylon fighter's landing ('The manual did not compute'), which might mean that he was the commander (high seat). It may just be coincidence, of course, and probably is. (But it's not as romantic!)

That poor girl who plays a bridge officer has only one line and she blows it. 'First enemy wave taken back'? Should be 'turned back'!

RATING: Five stars (Outstanding). Why couldn't we have had more (any?) episodes like this? We honestly wouldn't have begrudged the slashing of the budget.


To read the missing scenes from this episode click here.


Matthew Wharmby's Hilarious Galactica 1980 Episode Reviews

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