The last episode of Battlestar Galactica is widely heralded as its best. I agree with this sentiment as The Hand of God is my favorite episode. It is also the favorite episode of Richard Hatch, Herbert Jefferson, Jr., Anne Lockhart, and Laurette Spang.

It's not hard to see why. 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) 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.

To end this, I will leave you with some missing dialogue from the original script of this episode that, for some inexplicable reason, was not in the final cut. At the very end in the Celestial dome, as Apollo climbs down from the chair, he slips and Starbuck catches him.

Apollo: Thanks.

Starbuck: You're the only guy I know who would fall out of the Hand of God.

Now is that a great line or what?

The Hand Of God

Battlestar Galactica Episode Guide

Enter Sheba's Galaxy