The Cylons did not have "The Plan"
Last week saw the DVD release of what may be the final Battlestar Galactica movie/episode, a flashback movie called "The Plan." It was written by Jane Espenson and is the story of the attack and early chase from the point of view of the Cylons, most particularly Number One (Cavil.) (Review first, spoilers after the break.)
I've been highly down on BSG since the poor ending, but this lowered my expectations, giving me a better chance of enjoying The Plan. However, sadly it fell short even of lowered expectations. Critics have savaged it as a clip show, and while it does contain about 20% re-used footage (but not including some actors who refused to participate) it is not a clip show. Sadly, it is mostly a "deleted scenes" show.
You've all seen DVDs with "deleted scenes." I stopped watching these on DVDs because it often was quite apparent why they were deleted. The scene didn't really add anything the audience could not figure out on its own, or anything the story truly needed. Of course in The Plan we are seeing not deleted material but retroactive continuity. Once the story of Cavil as the mastermind of the attack was written in season 4, and that he did it to impress his creators (who themselves were not written as Cylons until season three) most of the things you will see become obvious. You learn very little more about them that you could not imagine.
There is some worthwhile material. The more detailed nuking of the colonies is chilling, particularly with the Cylon models smiling at the explosions -- the same models the audience came to forgive later. Many like the backstory given to a hidden "Simon" model on board the fleet never seen in the show. He turns out (in a retcon) to be one of the first to become more loving and human, since we see him at the opening having secretly married a human woman, but we also don't forget the other Simon models we saw, who were happy to run medical experiments on humans, smile at nukes, and lobotomize their fellow Cylons to meet Cavil's needs.
We learn the answers to a few mysteries that fans asked about -- who did Six meet after leaving Baltar on Caprica? The shown meeting is anticlimactic. How did Shelley Godfrey disappear after accusing Baltar? The answer is entirely mundane, and better left as a mystery. (Though it does put to rest speculation that she was actually a physical appearance of the Angel in Baltar's head, who mysteriously was not present during Godfrey's scenes.)
We get more evidence that Cavil is cold and heartless. Stockwell enjoys playing him that way. But I can't say it told me much new about his character.
More disappointing is what we don't get. We don't learn what was going on in the first episode, 33 and what was really on the Olympic Carrier, a source of much angst for Apollo and Starbuck during the series. We don't learn how the Cylons managed to be close enough to resurrect those tossed out airlocks, but not to catch the fleet. We don't learn how Cavil convinced the other Cylons to kill all the humans, or their thoughts on it. We don't learn how that decision got reversed. We learn more about what made Boomer do her sabotages and shooting of Adama, but we don't learn anything about why she was greeted above Kobol by 100 naked #8s who then let her nuke their valuable base star. Now that the big secret of the god of Galactica is revealed, we learn nothing more about that god, and the angels don't even appear.
In short, we learn almost nothing, which is odd for a flashback show aired after the big secrets have been revealed. Normally that is the chance to show things without having to hide the big secrets. Of course, they didn't know most of these big secrets in the first season.
Overall verdict: You won't miss a lot if you miss this, feel free to wait for it to air on TV.
Some minor spoiler items after the break.
We do learn that it's not an accident that Sam's band of Pyramid players survives, as there is a Simon with them and a One joins early on. (We can imagine that the Simon was placed there by a One earlier on, since he doesn't do the obvious thing which is, as their team doctor, give them "radiation treatments" and poison them.) And we already knew it was no accident that Ellen made it to the fleet, though it turns out that Cavil played less of a role in it than we might think. He was there, and spoke to her, but it was colonial rescue crews that picked her up.
However, it now becomes clear that it's pure chance that the other 3 survive. Galactica was not always intended to survive as home to 2 of the Final Five. Tori survives through her own luck, when an ambulance lands near where he car is flipped by the nukes. Problem is with 40,000 survivors out of 10 billion, that's odds of 1 in 250,000 of surviving, and the odds for 3 particular people to make it are 15 thousand trillion to one against. These ridiculous odds are not uncommon in fiction of course, but they really suggested a simpler explanation -- that the Final Five had always been intended to survive. But alas, the opening scene tells us otherwise.
There is a brief line about how they Cylons are killing the humans on behalf of the centurions, who no longer are able to understand what is being done for them. This is quite odd, since first of all none of the humanoid Cylons had ever met the humans they are attacking (until they started planting themselves as sleepers) and the centurions made a truce with the humans and once were able to understand fully what was going on. Indeed, as we learn in Caprica they have human-derived minds. We learn nothing more about this and the motivations of the various Cylons.
Cavil is a bastard and we learn that even more. A long sub-plot involving a young boy serves no purpose but to remind us how cold he is. And inept. They are on board Galactica. A senior pilot is one of them. He has access to bombs. And this is the best they can do, even with recalcitrant operatives? They really wanted to wipe out Galactica and Adama and just kept failing? A bit hard to credit. One has to wonder why they didn't just use a raider with a nuke on board, and jump it right next to Galactica.
Shelley was also inept. If you will recall (and they show us again), Gaeta wonders why the pictures were so obviously faked. Gaeta suggests they wanted to be found out. But no, that is not what they wanted. They really wanted to discredit Baltar -- not that it made any difference. So why were the pictures so bad that Gaeta declares this.
For a clip show they left out the best line of a scene that was in the show. Cavil telling Tyrol, "I know you're not a Cylon because I'm one and I haven't seen you at the meetings." When this line was written, Tyrol had not yet been picked for a Cylon. Yet the line turns out to be wonderful, since of course Cavil is a Cylon, and Tyrol is one as well, but he would not have been at the meetings. But Cavil would (through retcon) know exactly why he isn't at the meetings.