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By James Teitelbaum | October 27, 2009

For several years, the opening titles of “Battlestar Galactica” reminded us that the evil Cylons, destroyers of the human race, had a Plan. Although this piece of data was dropped from the credits in later seasons, fans always wondered what The Plan was. Series continuity seemed to indicate that the only plan was to exterminate the humans, which the Cylons more or less accomplished during the mini-series that preceded Galactica’s first season. In fact, when the Cylons discovered that five of their twelve variant “models” were actually living among the humans, fighting for the humans, and believing that they were in fact human, the Cylon plan seemed to be more or less tossed out the airlock. The Cylons then began putting more energy into fighting each other than into chasing the rag tag fleet of remaining homo sapiens around the galaxy.

But still, fans of the show wondered: what was this Plan? If it was anything other than “kill all the people,” this was never made clear. Thus, the new “Battlestar Galactica” telefilm, “The Plan,” would have been a prime opportunity for exolaining The Plan, as well as clearing up a few loose ends that were left hanging during the series, and providing some much-needed ret-con to tighten up a few holes in the Galactica mythology.

At the Chicago Comicon (formerly Wizard World Chicago) this past August, Edward James Olmos (who stars as Commander Adama and directed “The Plan”) spoke passionately and at length about how proud he is of “Battlestar Galactica,” and about how he would portray the character of Adama for the rest of his career if he could. He certainly had the Comicon crowd eating out of his hand (even during his 20-minute digression about race issues), and the buzz for “The Plan” – a precious new piece of “Galactica” for those suffering withdrawal after the end of the series – was palpable.

It is with heavy heart, then, that I report that “The Plan” can be described in a mere five letters: “a mess.”

The story begins shortly before the events of the original 2003 “Battlestar Galactica” mini-series, and essentially recaps the first series of the show, but from the perspective of the lead Cylon, Brother Cavill (Dean Stockwell). Several versions of Cavill (the Cylons are endlessly cloned) argue amongst themselves, laying groundwork for things that happen in successive seasons of the show. We also see what those characters who became known as the “final five” were doing before their characters became significant (in later seasons), but only the footage of Sam Anders (Michael Trucco) is in any way interesting. This is an interesting concept, but unfortunately, there is basically no story here, at all.

The first of many unforgivable errors here is that this film assumes prior knowledge, and a rather deep knowledge at that, of the entire first season of Galactica. Scenes in “The Plan” take place weeks apart, they reference events in many different episodes of the series, and they never stop to explain why characters pop in and out of jail, kill each other, sleep together, or perform any other action. Even a fairly serious Galactica fan would be advised to re-watch the first season before attempting to make sense of “The Plan.” Casual fans or newcomers will be completely lost.

On top of this, characters come and go from the story with little reason, almost as if making cameos were part of the actors’ contracts. Jamie Bamber, as Lee Adama, pops in for one gratuitous scene, which looks like it was B-roll footage taken from an old episode. Katee Sackhoff (as Starbuck), is viewed sitting in a prison cell with no explanation of who she is or why she is there. Later, she is suddenly with Anders. Even the major players such as Olmos himself, and Michael Hogan as his right-hand man Colonel Tigh only seem there because without them it wouldn’t be “Galactica.” The scenes with Anders and Cavill are among the only ones that have any real value in “The Plan.”

Overall, the entire production feels like a combination of a clip show and a collection of deleted scenes hastily edited together. Upon reflection, it seems that this footage could be redeemed only in one possible manner: edit it into the original episodes. It’s true. Dropping all of the most relevant scenes from “The Plan” into the original first-season episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” would indeed enhance those episodes in certain ways. Upon viewing the entire arc of the series, Stockwell’s character(s) and Trucco’s character would then become more substantial, and certain things that happen later in the series would seem less forced. This is also true in the case of Cylon number four (Rick Worthy), who was introduced in season two and then vanished until near the end of the series. His scenes in “The Plan,” were they included in original episodes, might give the character more consistency.

However, as it stands in “The Plan”, we never do find out what this Plan is (unless it remains “kill all the people,” which is more or less actually stated in the show). We also come no closer to understanding the backstory or relevance of the “final five” (which was hastily spewed forth in a single bewildering episode of the fourth season of Galactica, after years of buildup). We also are not treated to any sort of satisfying stand-alone narrative. So, as either pure entertainment, or as a chance to clarify, repair, or enhance the Galactica lore, “The Plan” is epic only in its complete failure on all counts.

Oh, wait, there is one cool thing here: a character who identifies himself as John (but whom most fans will take as being the orphan Boxy), gets some closure, and it totally rocks. But that is by no means enough to redeem this wasted opportunity.

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