So Long, Starbuck. We Hardly Knew Ye.

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.

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9 Responses to So Long, Starbuck. We Hardly Knew Ye.

  1. iread says:

    This is the single most thoughtful post I have read on the topic of Starbuck’s death.

  2. I think there may be more to Starbuck’s backstory than has been told.

    1. Her mother was convinced that she had a ‘special destiny’.
    2. Her mother had fought in the first Cylon War on a jungle planet, or at least, had been stationed on a jungle planet (note: there is a time course discrepancy here, the Cylons hadn’t been heard from for 40 years, Kara was in her early 20s, so any contact between Kara’s mother and the Cylons would have to have been an infiltration — but the original Boomer was an infiltrator as well)
    3. Kara was a “natural” pilot, better than anyone else. While that is not indicative of any inborn difference due to her parentage, it does set her apart.
    4. Even the black male Cylon on Caprica treated her differently, and Leoban knew she had a ‘special destiny’ before he even met her. How would Leoban have even known about her before the Cylon attack, or that she was ‘special’?

    I propose that rather than Hera being the first human-Cylon child, Kara Thrace is the actual first human-Cylon child. Her mother was impregnated while in the military by a Leoban model, and Kara was the first successful cross between the two species. The 3s (Lucy Lawless’ character) were not informed of this, which is why Hera was so important to her. She had to ‘die’ to be reborn as part of her Cylon heritage, Leoban is trying to end the war between the humans and the Cylons and Starbuck is part of that plan. Starbuck is afraid of death, because she’s afraid of her Cylon side and knows subconsciously that ‘Kara’ as she knows herself may not survive the transition.

    Starbuck will be back. I agree with you that if she doesn’t come back the series is unlikely to survive, I think this is an example of the producers pushing things to the edge yet again.

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks, iread. Glad you stopped by.

    Darren- I like your theory. Plus…don’t forget: somehow, Kara was able to figure out how to pilot a Cylon fighter during the early stages of the series. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence.

  4. Uri says:

    Starbuck is the reason I watch BSG.

  5. Adoreya says:

    Darren you theory is sound. We still have no clue of who the Final 5 were. Starbuck could very well be one of those five or be the first hybrid child as you indicated. Thanks for your insight. I now have renewed hope that the writers know where they are going with this.

  6. Twice a fan says:

    I’ve been a fan of both the original show and the new. I’ve enjoyed a the part of Starbuck in both as well. I think Katee has done a great job. I also believe that the producers may have sounded the death toll for the series if they have removed the character from the future story lines.
    I have noted that this series has taken many liberties with the military decisions that Adama has made. Ones that military leaders would have to write off as acceptable losses that Adama doesn’t. Wasting fuel reserves looking for Starbuck in the first season is an example. The writing, while bringing to light the question of the survivalbility of the human condition has often lacked in logic. The writing off of the series’ possible most popular character is perhaps very logical, if she is brought back in some fantastic fourth season story arch. Failure to do so coupled with the extended production time between season three and four may well do to the aging battlestar what the Cylons haven’t been able to do. It will likely destroy it the series and any future incarnation.
    The actress that plays Dualla, was a victim of similar writing when her character was killed off in the final season of “Dark Angel.’ Unfortunately the long production time brings the story to this. No Starbuck, no show” It may not make it through the first part of season four but if the sensless death of Starbuck serves any purpose, it is the premonition of the demise of BSG.

  7. Gooch says:

    Well, now that season 3’s finished, this bit seems pretty pointless. But still, they can’t make STARBUCK a Cylon! If they do, I’ll shout. Although, I have always preferred Apollo, even when Starbuck seemed like the best character going. Can’t wait to see how they finish it, though.

  8. dBJedi says:

    Your so correct, they can’t kill Kara with out killing the show. I was reading this from;

    Warning some spoilers!!!

    http://www.buddytv.com/articles/battlestar-galactica/battlestar-galactica-season-fo-6253.aspx

    It makes sense, Kara’s ship disappeared inside a wormhole or some kind of rift. What they don’t go into, is how she made it back. If she said, “I knows were Earth is” brings to light that she went some place, where there was another mechanize for getting back.

    I can only surmise that the producers wanted a cliff hanger.

    Really Great Blog!!!

  9. Coffee Blog says:

    Starbucks 12 Oz Reincarnate…

    […] g integrated into the larger mythology of the program as a figure of spiritual s […]…

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