Top Ten Episodes of “Battlestar Galactica”

Six years, four seasons and over eighty episodes later, the story of the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactica” is complete.  Whether you loved it, hated it or are somewhere in the middle, it’s good to know the series went out on its own terms.

“Battlestar Galactica” went from an idea that was initially scoffed at by many fans to one of the most acclaimed shows of the past ten years.   Along the way, we had the ups and downs, but in my mind these are the ten episodes that really stood out from the six year run of Ron Moore’s influential and acclaimed series.

Please note that the opinions expressed here are just that–opinions.  You may agree, you may disagree. But in my mind, these are the episodes that made viewing “Galactica” such a pleasure for four seasons.

10.  “Downloaded”
“Galactica” gives us our first real look at the internal side of Cylon politics.  And it’s a fascinating look .   We learn a lot about what it means to be a Cylon and to download over and over again.   It’s the first of several season two episodes on this list…

9.  “Revelations”
It took ten episodes for the rest of the fleet to find out who four of the five final Cylons are.   And the impact is everything we’d been waiting for…and more.   The scene with Adama smashing mirrors and breaking down at the revelation Tigh is a Cylon is not to be missed and should be reason enough for Emmy voters to be ashamed to have overlooked Edward James Olmos all these years for at least a best acting nod.  Then, you get the fleet getting to Earth and it’s a desolate, radioactive wasteland.  In five minutes, we go from pure hope to feeling like you’ve been kicked in the gut…and that’s what “Galactica” was all about.

8.  “Pegaus”
Ron Moore mines one of the original series’ most popular episodes and does it even better.   Moore changes the game by having Admiral Cain outrank Adama, thus throwing the stutus quo into chaos.   Seeing the sacrifices both sides have had to make to keep running and alive is compelling and a fascinating examination of our characters and our assumptions about them.   The longer cut of the episode on the season 2.5 DVD set only adds layers to this one.

7.  “You Can’t Go Home Again”
When her viper crashes, Starbuck is trapped on a planet with a wounded Cylon Raider.  Meanwhile, Adama and Lee risk the fleet to find Starbuck before the Cylons find them.   The homage to classic “Galactica” with Starbuck using the trick of waggling the Raider as she comes back to the fleet is a nice touch.

6.  “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2″
The biggest game-changer in history and a cliffhanger that left everyone speechless.  Moving the story forward one year, this one kicked off the New Caprica arc and the Cylon occupation.  And while the final twenty minutes are superb, it’s easy to forget that the events leading up to it are also a superb culmination of season two’s storylines.  Baltar is elected president, the missing nuke is finally brought into play and the Six from the “Pegasus” gets her revenge.   It lead to the longest gap between new episodes…and one of the hardest to endure.

5.  “Scar”
It’s be easy to insert “Maelstrom” here as the definitive Kara Thrace episode.   And while that one is good and gives the entire final season a fascinating story arc, the story of Starbuck and Kat vying to take out a veteran raider nicknamed “Scar” is a far better exploration of the Starbuck character and psyche (at least at that moment in the series).

4.  “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1 and 2″
The first season comes to end with a bang–literally.   Character tensions that have been bubbling all season come to a boil.   The opening teaser in which no dialogue is spoken is masterful.  But it’s only a moment’s pause before pieces start falling into place and then the rug is pulled out from under us.  The cliffhanger of Adama being shot while the fleet is in chaos left us hanging, begging for more.  Luckily, SciFi only made us wait a few weeks for more–the shortest wait for new episodes in “Galactica” history.

3.  “The Oath/Blood on the Scales”
These two episodes are so intertwined, it’s hard to separate them.  After six years in space, a mutiny breaks out on-board “Galactica” led by Tom Zarak and Felix Gaeta.   These two episodes showed how the series combined superb action work with character drama that is second to none.  The scene of Laura Roslin swearing vengeance on Tom Zarak is not to be missed.   This two parter was the highlight of the final run of episodes.  The final episodes may have given us the answers, but this one gave us everything we loved about the show all in one two-part package.

2.  “33”
While the mini-series was good, it wasn’t exactly a home-run.   So, the first episode of the series had to be good.  Many of us (myself included) tuned in that first night cautiously optimistic for what the show might be.  Right out of the gate, Ron Moore told audiences this wasn’t your old school “Galactica.”  The story of the Cylons attacking every 33 minutes took this series to a new level.  The crew was running ragged, sleep deprived and at wit’s end.  The bleak, unflinching look at the attacks told everyone that this “Galactica” was playing by a new set of rules.

1.  “Exodus, Part 2″
This one earns a place in my top ten just for the atmosphere drop alone.   One of the single most thrilling moments in the history of the show.  But that alone doesn’t make for the top spot.  After the longest gap between new episodes in the show’s run and one of the biggest game-changing cliffhangers in the history of television, “Galactica” brought the New Caprica arc to a stunning conclusion with a story that was insightful for not only the action but the characters.   This episode shows exactly what the show could be when it was at its absolute best.  And this was the series at its absolute best.

Comments

  1. GazerBeam says

    You know, I have no quibbles with this list. There’s so much good in this show, it’d be easier to pick a “worst” list (I’m looking at you, Black Market), than a best list, but the 10 here are/were definitely the high points of the series.

    -GB-

  2. matt says

    I would disagree with the order but the list as a whole I think is good. Its somewhat telling that Daylight isn’t on the list. While I enjoyed it, its not the best that series put out.

  3. says

    This list might just be perfect, except for Scar. I’m not a big fan of that episode. And I thought all the stuff back on Caprica when Kara goes off with Helo and Anders and all that was the best Kara material.

  4. says

    I was actually just telling my wife this morning that “33” and “Exodus part 2″ were the 2 best episodes. No lie. But I’d forgotten “Scar” – that one was great.

    • Robby says

      I was just thinking of my favorite episode after having just watched Exodus Part 2 on netflix, and I too was debating between 33 and Exodus Part 2.

  5. Mungai says

    How does Crossroads not make the list? Baltar is innocent, Kara comes back from the dead, and you find out 4 of the Final 5. Part two was easily one of the best season endings for any television show.

  6. Michel Daw says

    Agreed. 33 is tops. I set the bar for the series, which it sometimes rose above, but often fell below (The Woman King, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

  7. says

    “Downloaded” was the first episode that made me stop and re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about the Cylons.

    It also was the catalyst behind me writing the essay “The Machinery of Love”, which is in the “So Say We All” collection from BenBella.

    I’m not sure if I would have included Scar in my personal Top Ten, but there you have it.

  8. Zack says

    Nice list. One quibble, though. The mutiny two-parter consisted of “The Oath” and “Blood on the Scales”. “No Exit” was the info-dump episode with Ellen.

    Also, as Season 4 eps go, the mutiny arc was fun, but “Someone to Watch Over Me” was pretty darn great. I’m also a “Daybreak” fan, but maybe that’s just the afterglow.

  9. Tighclops says

    Good list, but I’d definently have some changes on mine. I’d kick Scar out in general… good episode, but nowhere near top 10 qualiy. The Oath / Blood on the Scales would have to go for me too. I’d replace Pegasus with Ressurection Ship 1 / 2 (seriously, Lee floating in space watching the RS battle in RS II = one of the best moments in the series)

    I’d kick out “Revelations” for “Sometimes a Great Notion” myself, but that’s a tougher choice.

    I think it’s fair to put “Act of Contrition” with “You Can’t Go Home Again”… those two are just as intertwined as “The Oath / Blood on the Scales”

    And personally, I can’t imagine seeing a BSG top 10 list without Unfinished Business! I’d be hard pressed not to put in “He That Believeth in Me” too, largely because it has one of the best space battles in the series.

    I do agree with above comments that it is telling that Daybreak doesn’t make the list. Great ending to a great show, but its not one of the best episodes of BSG.

  10. Inter Alia says

    Great list! I’d replace Pegasus with Resurrection Ship I & II, and put in Crossroads (at least Part II of that) instead of You Can’t Go Home Again, but otherwise, I’d agree. Nice to see Downloaded on your list. I’d also give The Passage an honorable mention. Kat’s sacrifice, her “let me tell the Admiral” moment, and those last few scenes—in sickbay, in the pilots’ ready room, and in the memorial hallway—just great stuff.

    As for Scar . . . really, that and 33 are my two favorite episodes. I think it was the best of the Starbuck stories, it had a great “lower decks” kind of feel to it, and most of all, it had that moment at the end where Starbuck acknowledges that she really does remember the names of all those comrades they’ve lost in battle. Also, you see her jab Kat about not wanting to be forgotten—the only thing Starbuck herself is afraid of (which makes her visit to Kat’s photo on the wall in Revelations all the more touching).

  11. xlynx says

    Good list!

    The intensity of 33 was great. The daily grind of a never ending battle. The sleep deprivation!

    I enjoyed Kara’s resourcefulness in ” You can’t go home again” and when Lee realises it’s Starbuck in the raider you share the CIC elation. A memorable quote is when Adama tells his son “had it been you, we’d have never left”.

    Exodus pt II – I love how it was a surprise attack and the surprise was not spoiled: “All hands, brace for turbulence”. What? :) Another memorable scene was Adama realising it was all over: “Men, it has been an honour”. I really thought that was it, as we see Galactica getting pummeled and the camera panning out to the mournful music. I love how this scene leaves Galactica visibly scorched and buckled for the entirety of the remaining seasons.

    I also quite liked :

    s01e10 The Hand of God – Attack on the tylium mine, Starbucks “outside the box” battle tactics.

    s02e01 Scattered – Galactica loses the fleet, flashbacks to Tigh & Adama “You watch me. I’ll have my own battlestar one day”.

    s02e11-12 Resurrection Ship – (continuation of Pegasus) – Galactica and Pegasus going head to head, the most sensational battle scene in the series, the parallel assassination stand-down.

    The opening to Season 3 also comes to mind. To the Armenian vocals of “A Distant Sadness”, we see a mustache bearing Adama throw down the strategy table raptor and storm off in anger and frustration. We see a haggard and one eyed Saul in his cell, and the macro style video of a detonator being hurriedly wired up. It was so surreal and different to what we’d seen up to this point.

  12. Dana says

    Everyone can come up with their own order to the top 10 list, but what I look for is episodes I think of when I think BSG, and you nailed everyone i thought of except 1. 9/10 aint bad.

  13. TS says

    Don’t really agree with the list. Personally I think “Unfinished Business” the non-extended version, is the best episode of them all. And I consider Scar to be one of the lesser episodes, I won’t say the worst, because there really are no bad ones.

  14. Lily says

    It’s impossible to pick 10. It really is. But Oath/Blood On The Scales and Exodus are the top ones that come to mind when I think of how mindblowing this series was. On the flip side you have episodes like Sine Que Non and Daybreak Parts 1,2,3 which all had very heartfelt moments (Sine Que Non – Adama waits for Laura in the raptor) Daybreak (the line and who volunteers and who doesn’t). These are just as worthy moments

  15. dug says

    I’m just kind of surprised no one at all has mentioned “Sometimes A Great Notion” for any spot on this list. This episode had some of my favorite moments of the entire series – Kara finds and burns her body, Duala’s suicide, the scene in Tigh’s quarters with the story of the fox hunt from Kesey’s book. I know the guys are always bringing in influence from das boot, mutiny on the bounty and let us not forget that scene in resurrection ship (?) with lee floating in space watching the battle, great stuff, but the use of kesey’s novel as source material and how pertinent it is to the story really struck home for me. it’s the perfect allegory for what these survivors have been through.

  16. Adam says

    Honestly wasn’t a big fan of ‘Scar’ although a part of that was I still had the bad taste of ‘Black Market’ in my mouth. I would replace it with ‘Resurrection Ship Parts 1 and 2″

  17. Colonel Biff says

    ‘The Eye Of Jupiter’ ranks highest for me. It has a higher than usual level of tension and drama. The scene where the Cylons bring Baltar onto Galactaca is particularly intense, and the exchange between both sides was top-notch production in all aspects. The scene where Boomer tells Athena that Hera is alive is equally intense and well-produced. Except for the first couple of episodes, season 3 started a bit slow, but this episode brought me back in, and I once again felt invested in the story arc of finding Earth. Even more so than before. There are so many great episodes (and a few that are just okay), but ‘Jupiter’ stands out as the best of the many pinnacles of BSG.

  18. joehatcherson says

    Just getting into this series and so far i’m completely taken by it. I randomly decided to watch an episode (Scar) and I gotta say it had me hooked. This Starbuck character deeply intrigued me, and now I’m making my way through the entire series in order.

  19. Jose Gonzales says

    The fact that so many episodes would legitimately qualify as top ten material speaks to the greatness of this series. So many gut-wrenching, heart-rending moments and episodes gathered into one series! Hear hear for Crossroads part II!!

  20. Doug Reed says

    How could you forget Flesh and Bone? Heck, I’d nominate the entire first season except possibly Tigh me up, Tigh me down – and even that was pretty good.

    Some other nominees, IMO: Flight of the Phoenix (I dare you to find a better Tyrol episode), Resurrection Ship, The Captain’s Hand (other than the Hand of God, one of the better Apollo episodes). Maelstrom should definitely be up there, Crossroads, Razor, and I could go on.

    That’s the problem, you see – BSG was so fraking good that you can’t possibly pick 10 best. Although I would willingly stipulate that 33 was the best of the entire series.

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