The mythology of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica evolved over time. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick may have known they were headed for Earth when they first started sketching out the 2003 miniseries, but the road that took them there had as many twists and turns for the creators as it did for the humans and Cylons they were guiding. "The Plan," an 111-minute DVD movie filmed immediately after the series finale before the sets were struck for good, represents a successful and immensely satisfying effort to tie the entire series together by following the early course of the conflict from the Cylons' point of view.
The Real Story Behind What the Cylons Did
Cannily, rather than write it himself Moore passed the drafting of "The Plan" on the invaluable Jane Espenson, a key writer/producer for the show's fourth season. (She had previously worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer starting with the third season, winning a Hugo Award for "Conversations with Dead People" in 2003.) As part of the team who brought Battlestar to its climax, yet one who had not been present at the beginning, Espenson was the perfect choice to glean a throughline of continuity from all that went before and explain, in retrospect, what the Cylons thought they were doing when they destroyed the Twelve Colonies and then attempted, unsuccessfully, to annihilate the survivors.
"The Plan" covers the time period from shortly before the colonies' destruction up through the execution of the two Number Ones (otherwise known as Brother Cavil, played by Dean Stockwell) that took place (at the time, off screen) just before the end of season 2. Along the way it opens up the backstory on some of the key Cylon-related turning points of the first two seasons, and adds new events not seen during the original series.
"The Plan" could have been an opportunity for a great deal of revisionist ret-conning, but in fact the story is carefully constructed not so much to alter long-familiar events as to see behind them. Boomer's assassination attempt on Commander Adama, for example, is explored in its planning and aftermath, and then revisited again as Galen (Aaron Douglas) ponders the reasons it played out the way it did. Through the nexus of this event we gain a sharper understanding of Boomer (and Galen) than we did when we watched the shooting itself.
Sharply and intelligently written, with some dry humor and revealing dialog, "The Plan" is also beautifully directed by Edward James Olmos and features excellent and haunting music by the maestro of the original series, Bear McCreary (who deliberately oriented the score toward the more "primitive" instrumental sound heard more often in the first seasons).
The special effects are also, of course, outstanding: though "The Plan" is a character-driven story there's some excellent sci-fi visuals as well, including shots of the colonial fleet being disabled and destroyed, and gorgeous before-and-after shots of Caprica, Virgon, and some of the other colonies. (Some of these shots were no doubt useful for the spin-off prequel series, Caprica, for which Espenson is the head writer and show-runner; in a way "The Plan" not only ties up the old series but forms a bridge to the new one, as when it shows Ellen Tigh getting toasted at a topless bar on Picon.)
The success of "The Plan" is ultimately down to Dean Stockwell, whose work here is even more of a revelation than his consistently compelling work in the original series. The storyline of "The Plan" follows the two Number Ones from start to finish: they separate at the beginning as they pursue their own roles in the genocide they've planned, and are reunited at the end. In the interim, as one of them attempts to complete the plan amidst the colonial fleet and the other moves among the rebels on Cylon-occupied Caprica, Stockwell delivers a matched set of engrossing performances that tell us more about the Cylons' motivations and failures than all those reams of exposition foisted on us in the final season. For my money Number One is probably one of the most fascinating characters in all of Battlestar (a friend of mine once said this was partly because he's the only Cylon with a sense of humor), and here in "The Plan" the long-hidden virtuoso of Battlestar's origin story now finally takes center stage for a coda that is in fact the show's true swan song.
Also notable is Michael Trucco as Sam Anders. Trucco here is given a chance to consolidate a character that sometimes seemed to be conjured up in ad hoc chunks during the original run. Sam's journey as a desperate resistance fighter on Caprica is not only more interesting in light of his much later revelation as one of the Final Five Cylons; it also sheds an unexpectedly revealing light on Number One and his plan.
Grace Park does some of her best work here as Boomer, the sleeper agent who becomes increasingly conflicted. Rick Worthy, previously used very sparingly as Number Four, is unexpectedly given new dimensions as well.
Those looking for lots of face-time with the major human characters are out of luck: most of the non-Cylon leads, like Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) are seen only peripherally in footage from the original episodes, and some (like Laura Roslin) are not seen at all. (Lucy Lawless, as Number Three, is also seen only for a few seconds in archive material; and though she's present in new footage there's not much for Tory Foster to do, since her character only became important later.) The only human to get much screen time, in fact, is Giana O'Neil (Lymari Nadal), an engineer working for Galen who also happens to be unwittingly married to a Number Four.
But that's fine. It's the Cylons' turn to tell their story, and as a resolution to the long, convoluted, and not-always-clear opus of Battlestar Galactica it's both fitting and welcome.