Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff Unknowingly Prompted Starbuck's Fate

battlestar galactica's katee sackhoff unknowingly prompted starbuck's fate

Battlestar Galactica Katee Sackhoff Kara Thrace Starbuck close-up

It's hard to pick just one favorite character on the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica." One especially beloved member of that ensemble though, is Kara Thrace/Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff, known these days for "Star Wars"), the hotshot pilot with a spiritual side and self-doubt to match her strength. She's at the center of the series from the beginning and ultimately becomes the lynchpin in one of its more ... metaphysical storylines.

In the pilot mini-series of "Battlestar Galactica," the android Cylons wipe out the 12 Colonies of Man. So, the eponymous Galactica and a handful of surviving ships set out to find a new home while dodging their Cylon pursuers. The thrust of the series is this makeshift fleet's search for Earth, mythical home of the thirteenth tribe of man. In the end, Starbuck leads them there, sort of.

In season 3 episode "Maelstrom," Kara dies piloting her Viper (a space fighter jet) inside a gas giant. Her comrade/lover Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) tries to dissuade her, but a tearful Kara flies into the eye of the storm like she must meet her destiny. The season 3 finale "Crossroads" ends with Starbuck returning, Viper and all, light years away from where she died and telling Lee she knows how to find Earth. She finally brings everyone to their new home in the "Battlestar Galactica" series finale, "Daybreak," and after a last talk with Lee, vanishes into thin air. Her mission is complete and she must leave for a second and final time.

The "Battlestar Galactica" writers didn't have a grand plan. The writers' room was collaborative and part of that approach meant playing the story beats by ear. Starbuck's death and resurrection, in particular, was spurred by a simple suggestion from Sackhoff herself.

Starbuck's Destiny On Battlestar Galactica

battlestar galactica's katee sackhoff unknowingly prompted starbuck's fate

Battlestar Galactica Starbuck's apartment Mandala Eye of Jupiter

At the end of "Battlestar Galactica" season 1, Starbuck travels back to Caprica (one of the 12 Colonies). In season 2, episode 2, "Valley of Darkness," she hides from Cylon patrols in her old apartment. On the wall is a circular mandala made of four layers: a yellow outermost layer, a red outer ring, a blue inner ring, and a yellow-red center.

In "Valley of Darkness," it's just there to shed some light on Starbuck's hidden artistic side. It only becomes significant halfway through season 3 (in episodes "The Eye of Jupiter" and "Rapture"), when the humans and Cylons discover a temple that could lead them to Earth. Inside

battlestar galactica's katee sackhoff unknowingly prompted starbuck's fate

Sackhoff noticed the similarity and took her questions to writer-producer David Weddle (according to "So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Battlestar Galactica" by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman). Weddle didn't have a clear answer (because he and the writers didn't know yet), so Sackhoff put forth an idea (recounted by Weddle):

"Katee said, 'You know, I think that in light of seeing this mandala, and in light of knowing I have some other destiny' — because [co-creator Ron Moore] had talked to her about that — she said, 'Maybe there's something in my past. Maybe there's an event in my past that seems innocuous, never seemed important, but now in light of my mandala on the temple, I interpret it in a whole dif­ferent way.'"

Weddle brought the idea to the writers' room and it wound up being combined with a planned episode where Kara and Lee fly over a gas giant planet discussing their "fraught relationship." That episode became "Maelstrom."

Why The Battlestar Galactica Writers Decided To Kill Starbuck

battlestar galactica's katee sackhoff unknowingly prompted starbuck's fate

Battlestar Galactica Callum Keith Rennie Leoben Katee Sackhoff Starbuck Kara Thrace Maelstrom

In "Maelstrom," Starbuck has dreams of herself in her apartment; she desperately paints over the mandala onto her wall, trying fruitlessly to erase it from her mind. She's extra unsettled when, while scouting the gas giant, she eyes a vortex with the same color pattern as mandala. She's compelled to fly into it and meet her destiny, and does so in the episode's climax.

Weddle said the initial idea of linking Starbuck's mandala with the planet was to explore "this whole theme of her always tiptoeing up to the edge of death." Moore, though, felt the episode needed more of a punch than just Starbuck defying death once more: "You know, it just feels unsatisfying that in the end, she's just going to figure out a way to beat this thing. She's just going to come out smelling like a rose like she always does; it just feels like it's about nothing."

Then, someone suggested that Starbuck actually die in that storm. In their "So Say We All" interviews, Moore recalled one of the other writers' throwing it out, but Weddle remembered Moore pitching it himself. In either case, the writers jumped on the idea. Not for the shock value of killing off a lead, like a lesser series would, but to help Kara's journey take its final shape. (Weddle noted that the death and rebirth of Starbuck is Christ-like and she does wind up as the fleet's ultimate savior.)

It's rare you see a show further a character's journey by killing them off, but "Battlestar Galactica" was that rare show.

Did Starbuck Really Die On Battlestar Galactica?

battlestar galactica's katee sackhoff unknowingly prompted starbuck's fate

Battlestar Galactica finale Daybreak Kara Thrace Starbuck Katee Sackhoff Jamie Bamber Lee Adama Apollo

Moore and co. worked hard to sell the illusion that Starbuck really was dead, down to briefly removing Sackhoff's name from the opening titles and initially not looping in the rest of the cast (They had to relent when Edward James Olmos, who played Galactica Commander Adama, led a charge against Sackhoff's "dismissal" from the series). Moore calls this, in hindsight, "one of the stupidest things" he did during the show.

"You're right at the cusp of social media and the internet starting to ferret out spoilers from shows. Various plotlines are getting blown online for the first time. This is becoming a thing that none of us had ever had to deal with before."

Sackhoff always knew Kara would return, though — but did she? Something the show never quite answers is whether Starbuck in season 4 was Kara resurrected, or an angel of God using her visage. While compiling an inside look at the final season of "Battlestar Galactica," I got to speak with Sackhoff and she had an answer. To her, Starbuck fulfilled her destiny in "Maelstrom."

"I do believe that [Kara] died on that planet. I know that she did — that, to me, was very clear. What else was clear to me was that she had to die in order for people to find a new home. In my belief, what that meant was that Kara knew she had to leave for an angel of sorts to take her place to lead people to Earth."

Fate is a powerful theme in "Battlestar Galactica," and just one of the many ways it stands out from other science-fiction. A common refrain in the show is that, "All of this has happened before and will happen again." But even if "Battlestar Galactica" ends up remade again, there will never be another Starbuck like Katee Sackhoff.

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Read the original article on SlashFilm.

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