The character of Kara Thrace was controversial from the beginning. When the creators of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries first announced that the character of Starbuck in would be a woman, fans went balistic.
In the original Galactica from the late 70s, Starbuck (portrayed by Dirk Benedict) had been a guy. Not just a character who happened to be male, mind you. He was testosterone personified: a gifted, but recalcitrant pilot. He was brash, arrogant, a heavy drinker, and a gambler. Virtually every episode included a sub-plot that made light of his reputation as a legendary womanizer.
How, then, could that character be translated into a woman?
Enter Katee Sachoff, the 26 year-old actress from Oregon who, until the miniseries was actually aired, may have been the most reviled woman among hard-core science fiction fans. Sachoff’s Starbuck turned out to be every bit the brash, drunk renegade that Benedict’s character ever was. Indeed, because the new Galactica attempted to portray a more “realistic” human condition, Sachoff had the liberty to take the character to darker places that would not have worked in the campy 1970s series, which looked and felt like a not-so-cheap Star Wars knock-off.
As a result, one always had the impression that Sachoff’s Starbuck was driven by a painful, tortured past. She was a perfect “Starbuck” for a series that is focused – almost every week – on the question of whether there is hope for the human condition.
And it may be that we are about to find out that she was too perfect. Perfect to the point of being indispensable.
For those of you who don’t yet know, in the 2004 reincarnation of Galactica, Starbuck is now dead.
Really, truly dead apparently. All indications, from the producers, from the cast, and from Sachoff herself, is that the character has taken her own life.
She will return in one form or another, that much is certain. However, it is unlikely that she will ever join the cast on a regular basis as a member of the crew. More likely, she will either resurrect or reincarnate, becoming integrated into the larger mythology of the program as a figure of spiritual significance, but making only the occasional appearance.
And therein lies the problem for the producers of Galactica. Starbuck’s death may well serve the mytharc that is being developed by the show’s producers, but it will hardly serve the development of individual episodes. I fear that, as they begin to formulate Starbuck-less episodes, the producers and writers will very quickly learn that they have made a grave mistake by removing this very well-portrayed, complex character from the mix.
The result? I think one of two things will happen:
1. The show will wrap-up fairly quickly – in the fourth, if not a fifth season, playing out in fairly short order the mytharc which has now taken Starbuck out of the mix OR
2. The show will bog down in a seventh or eight season, and lose much of its dramatic momentum, as well as its reputation as one of the best shows on TV.
In short, the final stages of the story now seem to be firmly in play, and the ultimate effectiveness and credibility of the series depends on whether the network and the producers will have the courage to finish the story and pull the plug when there is still a lot of money to be made from the franchise.