So, to begin with this episode is a remake of the original series episode, The Living Legend, in which the Galactica encounters the Battlestar Pegasus, with Commander Cain being played by Lloyd Bridges. The plot of the episode is wildly different, beginning with the idea that Cain is a higher-ranked officer than Adama, and asking what stress that would place on the Fleet.
The survivor count goes up by 1,752 when Pegasus joins the fleet. Cain states that the ship took 700 casualties to this point, suggesting the ship’s full complement is around 2,460. The survivor total at the start of the episode is 49,605.
As a ship of the line, Pegasus has a full complement of Viper Mk. VIIs as opposed to Galactica’s mix of Mk. IIs and VIIs. Other differences between the ships are the Pegasus crew patch has a silver Colonial insignia where Galactica’s is gold, and the vast majority of Pegasus crew shown in this episode are male - Cain is the only female member of the crew who has a speaking role. This may be a coincidence, or it might be a commentary on the choices and actions the crew took in the aftermath of their escape from the Colonies.
Ron Moore also wrote an episode of Star Trek about an ethical conflict between a ship commander and an admiral called The Pegasus.
This episode ran heavily over-time and was the first to receive an extended cut on DVD. Scenes added include:
- Starbuck presenting her plan to rescue Sam Anders and the resistance left behind on Caprica,which was later shown in part in the “previously on” for Scar
- Adama tells Roslin a little of what he knows about Cain as they walk to the flight deck to meet her
Cain and Baltar visit Sharon in her cell, and Cain seems appalled when Baltar says they’ve gotten assistance from her by treating her like a human. Cain pointedly ignores her when she tries to talk to her
- There are scenes of the knuckledraggers getting supplies from Pegasus, and Gaeta being given a pile of discs, mostly star charts, computer upgrades, but also a copy of the ship’s media library to replace the data Galactica lost when they had to wipe and reboot from backups in Flight of the Phoenix- Gaeta asks if there’s any porn in the library.
- When Adama tells Starbuck and Apollo that they’re being transferred to Pegasus, he tells them to watch out, thinking that they’re (meaning Cain and/of the Pegasus crew) gunning for the pair. Apollo replies saying that he thinks they’re gunning “for all of us”
- Most importantly, Helo and the Chief don’t get to Sharon’s cell in time to prevent Lieutenant Thorne from raping her. The scene isn’t graphic sexually, but it is explicit and doesn’t pull punches. The broadcast version of the episode had a content warning in the ad break before the scene, and the extended edition goes well beyond that.
A plot excised during the writing process was that because Cain was resupplying Galactica but not the civilian ships, they would go on strike and refuse to give Pegasus tylium until Cain provided parts the fleet needed to repair some ships. A core element of this plot would be further exploring Cain’s refusal to recognise Roslin’s position of President, and therefore Commander in Chief.
In an interview, Leah Cairns (who played Racetrack) told of an amusing moment during filming where Edward James Olmos walked off-set, thinking there was a break, but they were actually setting up for a shot that was going to be a closeup on Cain and Adama, and Michael Rymer called for action without realising that Olmos was gone. Michelle Forbes began her lines, and at the appropriate moment James Callis stepped into the frame instead of Olmos and delivered the right lines in a near-perfect impression of Adama’s voice and demeanour. the continue the whole scene, never missing a beat until Mary McDonnell started giggling, and setting off much of the people on-set. Rymer stomped out from the video village onto the set to give out about everyone laughing - and only then discovered that Olmos wasn’t there and the take was ruined from the get-go.
During interviews, Olmos, McDonnell and Aaron Douglas were all asked about the rape scene, and their replies were all supportive of the scene, especially because it wasn’t romanticised, that the violence and ugliness were important because they wanted to portray how sexual assault is a major problem and that it is highly traumatic. McDonnell and Douglas both said they felt it was important that the scene was so upsetting. Douglas also called out the hypocrisy where violent content is far less objectionable than any sexual material, and Olmos said that the show would delve further into controversial and intellectually challenging material, so anyone upset by the rape story should stop watching now for fear of further upset.
When the knuckledraggers discover that Gina has been repeatedly sexually assaulted, the show is very clear to show Cally’s reaction, as she had to defend herself against such an assault in the episode Bastille Day.
We learn more about Pegasus’ escape from the colonies in the TV Movie Razor, which puts a lot of events we’re told about in this episode into context.
This is one of the finest episodes of Battlestar Galactica, leaving aside a masterfully tense mail plot, it’s incredibly thematically rich as well. Pegasus is the broken mirror held up to Galactica, and Cain is almost Adama’s evil duplicate. It’s basically a callback to that scene between Roslin and Adama in the miniseries where she tells him the war is over. Cain never had that, she’s still fighting back even though before this moment, she thought there were fewer than three thousand people left. Cain is on a driven mission of revenge, and is willing to do anything to obtain her pound of flesh - and what we learn in Razor makes those choices even worse.
But at the same time, Cain isn’t entirely wrong in her assesment of what’s happened in the Fleet since they escaped Ragnar Anchorage. The idea that you should try and maintain the government as it was before the fall of the Colonies is insane, it doesn’t work when your population is around 50,000 and there’s much bigger problems to hand. Of course, this is a central theme of the show, but it’s quite brave to have someone come in and tell the cast and the fans that what they’ve been watching for 2 years is bullshit.
The other thing to look at is the sexual assault sequence. It’s the ultimate moment of contrast between Pegasus and Galactica. The Pegasus crew have no problem talking about what they’ve done to Gina, because they’ve dehumanised her. Cally, the Chief and Helo react the way they did because for one reason or another, they’ve humanised Sharon (especially the latter two, I’d argue that Cally angrily shooting Boomer was humanising her too). It’s the argument the show has made - are the Cylons, especially the human-form ones human, or human equivalent? The reason Sharon’s rape/attempted rape (depending on which version you’re watching) is so brutal and so horrible is to suggest that they are. We’ve seen more of the Cylon world than anyone on the show, so we’ve humanised them more than anyone on Galactica has at this point.
Ultimately, the end of the episode, as Pegasus and Galactica prepare to fight, we see Adama make a choice, and it’s to reinforce his role as the Patriarch figure for humanity. He’s ready to get the Chief and Helo back by force of arms if necessary, and in doing so he’s also defending Sharon. This is the turning point in Adama’s own acceptance of the humanity of the Cylons.