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Surviving Battle Scars
Monday, 19 February 2007

Chuck Norris talks about how things happening in his own life relate to some storylines on Battlestar Galactica. Somewhat a late bloomer to Battlestar Galactica he missed out on the first run and only discovered it when he was 13. Though he didn't go romping about in the yard pretending he was a Colonial Warrior, he did play his own version of Vipers ‘n Cylons over the years. 

Being somewhat new to this forum, I find myself amused, even entertained by all the references I see on the boards and whatnot that call up nostalgia to our first experiences as kids with Battlestar Galactica. Some talk of collecting action figures, others talk of reading the comic books. Still others reminisce about their crushes on Dirk Benedict or Laurette Spang or whomever. Others fondly remember romping about, playing "Vipers ‘n Cylons", zapping each other with imaginary laser pistols. How many of us, when we watch little Puppis emulating Apollo (after just having killed Red Eye), get the warm fuzzies as we remember doing the same thing? Ah, those were the days.

Huh, what days?

Not me. You see, I was something of a slight late bloomer to Battlestar Galactica. I didn't get into the series until I was almost 13. I didn't do a lot of that stuff. Sure, my Battlestar Galactica collection was (and is, mind you!) as robust as that of any devout fan. And okay, I may have wondered which female character I'd like to compare my next girlfriend to from time to time. But I didn't play with the toys. (I had ‘em, sure, but no, they went immediately into collector's boxes or were left in the original packaging). I didn't re-read and dog-ear the comics. They went into collection bags. The books I have also were taken very good care of.

Chuck Norris

Despite my self-proclaimed status as a devout fan of Battlestar Galactica, I didn't just dive right into Battlestar Galactica when it first premiered. I missed a lot of the first run, but was bitten, and bitten HARD, by the theatrical release. My friend Mike and I went to see it one Saturday. While I would learn that he was highly disappointed, because it was just a "modified" version of "Saga of a Star World", to me, it was an entire new universe opened before my eyes. It wasn't just good-guys-against-bad-guys as it was in certain other popular sci-fi thrillers of that day. For me, the characters resonated much deeper within me than that. They were characters I could grab onto and associate with. I felt for them in their plight, rooted for them in their struggle. Apollo was dead-on correct when he said to Serina (re: Boxey) that the best thing to do once you've lost the big one, is to win a few of the little ones. And I cheered right along when the Galactica would win her next "little one", be it the destruction of Carillon, the location of Kobol, or just keeping Starbuck out of trouble.

Since I had missed a good amount of the first run of the episodes during the fall of 1978, all I could really do was imagine...fill in the blanks...wonder about the back story of these characters and why they were who they were. What was perhaps more sobering, was that I began to notice a lot of subtle similarities between the various events and people in my life, and the various characters from the vintage Galactica. My own "Destruction of the Colonies" was the rather messy divorce that my parents had gone through just a few years prior to Battlestar Galactica's advent. In many different ways, Baltar's treason was matched, even surpassed, by that of my father. And my mother and I, left with almost no resources, had to set off on a journey to find hope and new life somewhere else.

We began this journey by moving in with my grandmother until we could get our own feet back on the ground. We were fortunate to have a large, understanding family (to me, these were my grandmother, my three aunts, their husbands or boyfriends, and other family friends). What's the best group of people to call on when you just lost the big one? Family, of course. You retreat into your heritage until you relearn who you are and why you're here. (Trip to Kobol, anyone?)

Chuck's mother and mother-in-law

We first few years were indeed rough, but over time, things improved. My mother would semi-jokingly remind me that I'd best behave, as I now had "five mothers". Each had the authority to deal with me as needed. Over the years, many of us lived under the same roof, as this or that aunt would move in or out depending on her marital or love life status. We would operate as a close but extended family unit, usually including the current significant others.

The Quorum of the Twelve had been formed!

It was no real mystery that as a youth I was very fond of the character of Apollo. I thought like him, and worse, I FELT like him. I led when I needed to lead. I followed when I needed to follow. I supported my mother in much the same heartfelt way Apollo reinforced Adama's leadership, at Council, at the helm, or in battle. I was intelligent and bold when I needed to be, but I was also an emotional creature who often "felt" his way through crises.

I think the only real difference between me and Apollo back then, was that I didn't go through his phase of death-wishing, as many fans point out (in him). Sheba and Starbuck at various points in the series point out that Apollo chose a lot of high-risk missions and such, probably with the implication that he'd hoped to die on one of them. No, I never sank to that. But I knew what it felt like to want to.

Com. Cain

Anyone that's known me long enough to discuss Battlestar Galactica with me knows that my favorite vintage episodes were "The Living Legend", and "Saga of a Star World". One of the earliest emotional appeals that Battlestar Galactica ever made to me that spoke to its desperation was its lack of resources. I hear Omega use the words "only surviving battlestar" and it cuts through me like a knife. I hear Athena announce that the Galactica has 67 Vipers ("25 of our own") and my heart sinks, thinking, "That's all!?" No way to build more, no way to get more, no way to even BUY more. Nope. Galactica is it. Once she's gone, it's over. The human race might as well not exist. (Confessions: I wore out some three copies of "Battlestar Galactica: The Photostory" because of this sentiment. And there are scenes in "Saga...", both mournful and joyful, which can still make me cry.)

But then, Apollo and his wingmate encounter two ships strangely similar to their own, only to learn that another Battlestar did indeed survive the Destruction, and that his very idol, Commander Cain, was at its helm. Imagine the burst of joy, the thrill of that much more hope, the inflation of his morale... THESE are what brings me to the TV (or now, DVD) to watch vintage Battlestar over and over again.

Com. Cain

That takes me back. I remember feeling very tapped in college. I was a chemistry major, doing fairly average, and really not yet set on where I'd go with a chemistry degree next. My grades were mediocre mainly because I had to work 30 hours a week just to keep making enough money to stay in school. (What? A fuel crisis, you say?) If I didn't work, there'd be no school next semester. I lived from hand to mouth all through my undergraduate years. A spontaneous suggestion came from a classmate (and good friend) of mine to look into the undergraduate research program. I filed away the thought until one day, out of spontaneity, during of all things, my Intro to Chemical Literature course, I decided to ask the instructor what he knew of the program.

I had never had this instructor for any other course; this was the first. I therefore knew him the least. But when I sheepishly asked the question to him of what he knew of the program, the discussion that followed easily mirrored Apollo's pure shock as the Pegasus comes into view before him. ("And we're certainly not dead, it IS the Pegasus...") I not only was recruited into the undergraduate research program but I was given a paying job (most positions were voluntary, for a grade only). I would learn that this fellow, previously unknown to me, was Associate Chair of the Department, as well as Director of a research institute. He had the rank, the temperament, the pride, and the success in "battle" to go along with it all. He was missing only the shoulder patch! I would jokingly refer to him as "Cain" all the way through my M.S. and Ph.D. studies, through all of which he would be my advisor.


You know, maybe I was a bit too old for romping about the yard, laser pistol in hand, shooting at that Cylon who looked more like a daggit. (Or did I just shoot my dog?) Maybe I was too old for strapping bed sheets around my neck and playing Colonial Warrior (However, I did twice take great pride in making fairly accurate Viper models from paper towel and bathroom tissue rolls...I will confess to that!) And maybe I was too old to even once in a while "fly" my Monogram Viper or Raider model through the sky. No, they just sat there, right next to my Galactica and Base Ship models.

But then, maybe I was just as "guilty" of playing Vipers ‘n Cylons in my own way....

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