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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the Battlestar Galactica episode "You Can't Go Home Again", which originally aired on February 4th of 2005.
Previously on Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck reveals to Adama that she played an indirect role in the death of his son. During a training exercise the Cylons appear and the guilt-ridden Starbuck takes on the enemy, the short battle ending with her Viper plummeting onto a hostile planet.
Like all good shows, Battlestar Galactica is ultimately about family. While it’s easy to get caught up in the cool technology and epic space battles, the true heartbeat of the show is found in the relationships between the characters. What defines a family often extends beyond bloodlines, especially with the depleted numbers that humanity currently has. We’ve already seen President Laura Roslin assume a motherly role with Lee Adama, creating an interesting power struggle with his father, who happens to be the commander of what remains of the military. Lee also shares a sibling-like bond with the hotheaded Starbuck, partially-fueled by the fact that if not for his brother’s death she would have been his sister-in-law. And Commander Adama himself views Kara Thrace as the daughter he never had, and despite the fact that she has recently broken the old man’s heart her potential death is too much for him to accept.
The episode opens with Hotdog, the only eyewitness to Starbuck’s plight, being rescued by Boomer. He reports to the Adamas that her Viper was indeed spinning towards a hostile moon located close by. While the scene itself isn’t anything more than exposition it’s worth nothing that Hotdog is played by Bodie Olmos, son of Edward James Olmos who, of course, portrays the elder Adama.
The mere possibility that Starbuck might have survived the crash is enough for the Adamas to launch an intense search and rescue mission, despite the overwhelming odds that finding her is nearly impossible. The planet she has crashed on doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere, and since it's standard procedure for pilots to fly with just a 48 hour supply of oxygen they have just under two days to locate their friend.
Meanwhile on the planet Starbuck awakens to find herself being pulled towards a cliff by her parachute, and even though she’s able to free herself before going over she suffers a nasty knee injury after smacking into some rocks. As always she’s fully aware of her situation and knows her breathable air is running out, and with no way of communicating with the fleet she begins searching her foreign surroundings for some way to escape.
Not only does the search for Starbuck yield no results, it's wrecking havoc on both the Vipers and the fleet’s fuel supply. While Roslin initially supports the rescue operation she quickly sees how devastating it is to their already-limited resources, and pleads with both Adamas to put the fleet’s health before that of Starbuck. Both men refuse to see the reason she offers though, and for the first time in the series we see a glimpse of Commander Adama’s potential for obsession. His stubbornness is, of course, not only fueled by his love for his surrogate daughter, but also by the guilt he feels for his role in the accident that stranded Starbuck on the planet. While it’s difficult to blame Adama for how he handled the revelation that Starbuck had put his son in a position that ultimately cost him his life, there’s no question that it was what drove her to make the suicide run against the Cylons. An act of contrition for a past sin.
Back on the planet Starbuck finally caches a break when she stumbles across the Cylon Raider she crashed into on the previous episode. Savvy as ever, she realizes that since the Cylons are cyborgs instead of robots that they must have some kind of oxygen source on board, and it isn’t long before she’s tapped in to the enemy's air supply. With that taken care of she gets to work on analyzing the enemy ship to see if she can pilot it off the hostile rock she’s stuck on.
By this point the 48 hour deadline has come and gone, and while Commander Adama initially refuses to give up the search he eventually accepts Roslin’s perspective. He orders the fleet to jump, but before that order can be executed a Cylon Raider shows up on their radar. Lee heads out on an intercept course, and once he reaches the enemy ship he finds it behaving erratically, eventually flying in formation with him. He gets a look at the underside he finds the Raider labeled STAR and BUCK on each wing, and after guiding her back to the Galactica is reunited with his friend. In the ship’s medical wing Starbuck and Commander Adama make peace with each other, as both parties realize just how important their respective relationships are to them. Forgiveness is a common theme on Battlestar Galactica, and given how much pain and suffering we’ll witness before the curtain falls it’s nice to have these moments to look back on.
The Caprica storyline finally feels like more than an afterthought, getting more screen time in “You Can’t Go Home Again” than in any episodes so far. While it doesn’t necessarily advance Helo and Robo Sharon’s story that much, it delivers a nice action sequence with some solid suspense. Helo is making breakfast while Sharon sleeps in, but finds his cooking interrupted when a pair of Cylon Centurions show up. In a brilliant display of filmmaking its a toaster that gives his presence away as a pair of bread slices pop up at the most inopportune moment. “Toaster” is of course the slang nickname given to the Cylons, making the sequence both funny and exciting to watch. Helo survives the encounter but is knocked unconscious in the battle, and when he wakes up his companion is missing. He remains ignorant of the fact that Sharon is one of the enemy, and takes off to search for her.
“You Can’t Go Home Again” is yet another strong episode of Battlestar Galactica, not only as a stand alone chapter but in how it sets up relationships that will pay off in the future. The Roslin-Adama dynamic is of particular importance here, while the two have for the most part found common ground we once again see them disagree over policy. Adama comes across as a hypocrite here, it was just a few episodes ago that he preached to Roslin about the importance of making decisions that benefit the collective, not the individual. His obsessive search for Starbuck stands in contradiction of his prior perspective, a fact not lost on President Roslin.