Battlestar Galactica reached a whole new audience with its 2004 reboot that brought some big changes from what the series had been like in its original run, and it amassed a loyal following and critical acclaim despite only lasting for four seasons. As with any genre series with action largely taking place in space, fans had to suspend their disbelief and accept that there's more fiction than science in the sci-fi series, but BSG had a science advisor to weigh in on what could make sense and what couldn't. And according to that science advisor, he had a good reason for signing off on some of the show's "worst science."
Dr. Kevin Grazier is a planetary dynamicist who served as science advisor on Battlestar Galactica, as well as the series Eureka and films Gravity and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. He appeared in the Hollyweird Science virtual panel for this year's [email protected] event, and he shared a particular scene from a particularly game-changing episode that got his seal of approval despite not making any scientific sense. Grazier explained:
When I first got the script for 'Exodus Part 2,' the fourth episode of Battlestar Galactica's third season. There’s that part where Galactica does 'The Adama Maneuver,' or the belly flop, when it literally plummets through the atmosphere of New Caprica. And what I said, in my notes, was ‘There’s nothing about this works. Galactica would break up. I don’t care what it’s made of. Since we’re going to real science, no really weird materials, it would break up. It would break up. When the Vipers tried to launch, you would slam into that plasma sheath and they would just get shattered.’ All the details – it would tumble. There’s no amount of thrusters that’s gonna keep it from tumbling. I went into all the details. And then I finished with ‘Owing to the extreme coolness of this, go for it, because I want to see that.’ And do you know how many people complaints we got online? Zero. One of the worst science moments we had, but it was cool. And so people gave it a pass because it was cool.
Considering I didn't even know that "planetary dynamicist" was something a person could be until Dr. Kevin Grazier used it to describe himself, I will happily take his word that none of the science of the epic Adama Maneuver from "Exodus Part 2" actually worked. I can also agree that it was such a cool sequence that I wasn't exactly nit-picking about why Galactica didn't break up in its drop when watching the episode for the first time. When it comes to fiction, even for science consultants, apparently coolness can outweigh real-world logic!
And to Battlestar Galactica's credit, it's not like everybody on the show was 100% confident that the maneuver was going to work even in the BSG universe's science rules that would make no fracking sense in the real world, so there was plenty of tension as the massive ship seemed doomed to belly flop right down onto New Caprica unless everything went right. Just take a look:
As a show that included religious themes as well as science, Battlestar Galactica never tried to present itself as 100% adhering to the kind of science that advisors like Dr. Kevin Grazier would presumably suggest sticking with in real life. And Grazier was after all an advisor whose notes were not guaranteed to impact what actually made it to the screen.
Arguably the most important thing was for BSG to set its own rules and then stick to those rules. Sure, Starbuck's death and return at least seriously bent some rules, but that wasn't supposed to be the norm, and she was definitely the outlier among humans who were killed in the series. Plus, she wasn't exactly back among the living for good, considering how the series ended for her!
Whether or not the new take on the Battlestar Galactica universe that's coming to Peacock sets some new rules for its own science remains to be seen, and the project hit a setback back in March. It's worth noting that the developing series will be set in the same universe as the 2004 Battlestar, rather than a reboot like the 2004 series was of the original of the original 1978 series, so the same science rules should in theory apply. For now, as the wait continues for more Battlestar, you can always rewatch the 2004 series streaming on Peacock now.