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`Battlestar' kills Starbuck, but how dead is she?

March 05, 2007|Denise Martin | Special to The Times

Oh, no, they didn't. They did not just kill Starbuck.

In a highly anticipated episode of "Battlestar Galactica" that was set to air Sunday, producers did what they've been threatening to do for several months: They killed a major character.

And not just any lead, but arguably the focal point of the show. (That's right. The "Battlestar" producers don't pretend they're going to kill off their protagonists to goose ratings like certain other prime-time show producers. I'm looking at you, "Grey's Anatomy.")

Starbuck, a.k.a. Capt. Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), went down in spectacular fashion, her Raptor blown to smithereens as she flies into a maelstrom.

The move had been widely speculated when news leaked that Sackhoff was finished with filming before the season finale. Many fans believe that Starbuck will be unveiled as a Cylon, the robotic race that appear as humans and are set on wiping out their human counterparts. Possible, of course, because Cylons regenerate after dying.

And she'll need to regenerate. Starbuck, more than any other character, is the manifested difference between the 1970s-era "Battlestar Galactica," a half-baked attempt to clone the "Star Wars" experience for television, and the current reimagining.

In the original version, the pilot Starbuck was male and about as brawny as Capt. Kirk. On Sci Fi Channel, Starbuck's a woman far more fierce, cocky and brashly sexual than any of the male soldiers fighting to protect humans from Cylons.

Played by Sackhoff, Starbuck is a maelstrom in and of herself. She's tough on the outside, anguished on the inside, drawn toward her dead fiance's brother, colleague Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber), and bent on exterminating the Cylons via the most violent means necessary.

Before the episode began, a highlight reel ran off the scattered clues that have all along pointed toward Starbuck being somehow different.

Three seasons into the show, we're finally allowed a glimpse at Starbuck's past in one of the series' most intensely personal hours. Her mother (guest star Dorothy Lyman) was physically harsh toward young Starbuck, telling her it was training because she was destined for better things. Years later, her mother is diagnosed with cancer. After her attempts to comfort her mother are rejected, Starbuck takes off forever. But now things are coming to a head. Images of the yellow, red and blue maelstrom appear everywhere to her, as do visions of Cylon Leo (Callum Keith Rennie).

It turns out what Starbuck craves more than violence, sex or revenge is forgiveness. She gets her chance during a routine refueling mission. Starbuck sees the image of the maelstrom. She flies toward it and suddenly she is with Leo. The two are at her mother's deathbed, and Starbuck, holding her mother's hand, gets her relief. Back in space, she calmly flies her Raptor toward the maelstrom and explodes.

With the online chatter that her character will be unveiled as a Cylon, or one of those "frakkin' toasters," Sackhoff has not been allowed contact with the media. Is it possible she'll return as one?

There are three more episodes left in the season. The loss of a lead character would finish off most series. In the case of "Battlestar Galactica," it feels like the first step toward one hell of a season-finale cliffhanger.

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