The original Battlestar Galactica, airing in 1978, ran for 24 episodes. It focused on a group of survivors displaced from the Twelve Colonies when attacked by a cybernetic race known as the Cylons. People escape in ships and grouped around a large carrier – the Galactica – as they travel to a rumored Thirteenth Colony called Earth.
The follow-up series, Galactica 1980, began as a 2-hour movie before running 10 additional episodes. This show wasn’t as well received as the first series and was quickly canceled.
However, in 2003, when the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) authorized a revival via a three-hour mini-series, it was an immediate hit. The 2004 series ran for 4 seasons with 75 episodes. Movies and webisodes were made to accompany it and a 19-episode prequel series called Caprica aired for a short time.
No matter what adaptation you watched, Lieutenant Starbuck made a huge impact on you. The Dirk Benedict version was dashing and charming and had an affinity for beautiful women and cigars. In the reboot series, Starbuck was changed to a woman – full name was Kara Thrace – and played by Katee Sackhoff. The main difference in the role was to portray her more as a soldier, struggling internally with finding her place in the universe, but Starbuck always has a place in our hearts.
Here are 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Starbuck.
16. The Original Starbuck Was A Terrible Pilot
Starbuck is called on many times to pilot a Viper for various reasons. From escort to reconnaissance missions, Starbuck has often been praised as “the best pilot in the fleet.” But for being “the best pilot in the fleet,“ Starbuck has a knack for showing otherwise.
In aired episodes of Battlestar Galactica (the original series), Starbuck crashes a Viper four times. These episodes are “Saga of a Star World”, “The Return of Starbuck”, “The Young Warriors”, and “The Long Patrol.” In one episode, “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero” Starbuck crashes a shuttle. And that’s just what we’ve seen.
He frequently got himself in difficult situations while using the Viper in a space dogfights, causing detrimental damage to the ship. He’d have to crash land on planets. In many of the unproduced scripts, this happened quite regularly.
15. Original actor Dirk Benedict Refused To Be In The Remake
Dirk Benedict was a harsh critic of the Battlestar Galactica remake and stood by his remarks when he learned the revival was greenlit and a woman would replace him as Starbuck. He felt “emasculated”, though his co-star from the original series, Richard Hatch, found the gender change “a compliment.”
Some other comments were, “The remake wasn’t the show I made.” And “When you do Star Wars you don’t turn Han Solo into a girl, Hannah Solo.” Benedict has also criticized The A-Team remake with the same fervor. He did appear in a super short cameo in The A-Team, but had said he regrets it.
14. Katee Sackhoff’s award-winning female Starbuck
Every TV version of Battlestar Galactica has at least has been nominated for some awards. But it wasn’t until the 2004 revival premiered that the franchise began racking up wins, starting in 2005.
Battlestar Galactica’s awards and nominations include Primetime Emmys, Golden Globes, Young Artist Awards, AFI Awards, and even a Grammy. Most of Battlestar Galactica’s wins and nominations are for visual effects, directing, and writing, but many of the main actors have been nominated at least once.
For her role as Starbuck, Katee Sackhoff has accumulated several nominations for the role from 2004-2009. These others included the Scream Awards and SFX Awards in the U.K. Her only win was a Saturn Award in 2006. Dirk Benedict was never nominated for playing Starbuck.
13. Don Johnson Was Almost Starbuck
The 1978 version of Battlestar Galactica was produced and made by Universal Television and created by Glenn Larson, and neither have direct relationships with the ABC network. Universal casted Dirk Benedict in the role, but ABC wanted Don Johnson. Larson felt Don Johnson was too short, and ABC felt Benedict wasn’t handsome enough.
Benedict thought the role of Starbuck was a dream part on a show with good characters. He auditioned for the part on a Friday and was prepared to go back to his home in Montana, but on Monday he received the wonderful news.
Apparently, Universal called the top executives at ABC and “used some colorful language” to convince them to let Benedict on the show. And as the show when on, Starbuck became one of the more successful and popular characters on Galactica, which annoyed ABC executives.
12. The secret meaning behind Starbuck’s tattoo
In the season three episode in the revival series, “Unfinished Business”, Starbuck proposes and marries Samuel “Longshot” Anders. The episode is not one of the favorites of the revival series since Battlestar Galactica did not have the best of luck doing flashback episodes.
But Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Anders each have tattoos as visual reminders of their wedding vows. The tattoo is a combination of a Phoenix wing and wedding band with a small Caprica symbol near the bottom of the wing.
On Starbuck, the tattoo is on her left bicep and tricep. On Anders, the tattoo is on his right bicep and tricep. When the two tattoos are merged together at the wedding ring portion, it forms one image, as if a full-bodied Phoenix is about to take flight.
11. Dirk Benedict Was Not Fond of Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck
Besides his dislike for the show, Dirk Benedict also found Katee Sackhoff’s version of Starbuck reprehensible. But it was more for the decision to change the character to a female version rather than an issue with the actress herself.
When the Battlestar Galactica remake was announced, Benedict was not afraid to share his opinion. “I played an iconic character,” he said in an interview, “but they turned him into a girl!” Benedict’s general advice to Hollywood in reference to thoughts of a role’s gender change was “Create another character instead.”
10. Everything Named Starbuck Together
Despite Dirk Benedict’s hatred for the remake of Battlestar Galactica for years after it came out, he ultimately tossed away those negative feelings about the show. In 2011, to show there was no hard feelings, Benedict and Katee Sackhoff posed for pictures at a popular coffee shop.
In the photos, Benedict and Sackhoff each hold a cigar, which partially defined their characters’ looks. Sackhoff appears to be drinking an iced coffee or something similar while Benedict enjoys a hot beverage. In one of the pictures, which may have been taken early in the series, Benedict is handing Sackhoff a cigar, which might indicate he’s offering one to her for the photo opportunity and maybe to tell her he’s over being mad about the revival.
9. Katee Sackoff’s Thumb Ring influenced the character
With Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck came personal incorporations due to her life outside the show before she was cast.
The three tattoos she sports have minimal bearing on the show. The first is one on her right forearm that says “bona fiscalia” in Latin, which means “public property.” This one can be seen in many episodes.
The second tattoo is the Chinese symbol for “choice,” which is rarely seen. The last tattoo is a cross on her shoulder. Whenever the shoulder needs to be exposed, the tattoo is covered with bandages since Battlestar Galactica doesn’t have Christianity.
8. Saga Of Starbuck’s Cigars
One of Starbuck’s visual quirks is his fondness for cigars. You can see him puffing away in almost any situation – piloting a Viper, hitting on women, and playing the card game Pyramid.
In the original vision of Starbuck’s character, he wasn’t supposed to smoke cigars. In fact, he wasn’t supposed to smoke anything. But Dirk Benedict, having begun smoking cigars at the age of 10, had the character holding, smoking, or gesturing with a cigar so much that ABC executives became angry.
ABC threatened to fire Benedict because of it. However, fans loved the fact Starbuck smoked cigars. It gave him an arrogant, but charming countenance. When ABC learned about the overwhelming positive reaction to the cigars, the network told Benedict to smoke them as much as possible.
7. Cylon Cameo On The A-Team
In the season 2 episode “Steel”, The A-Team was filming at Universal Studios, and Dirk Benedict saw a person lumbering around in a Cylon suit from Battlestar Galactica. Benedict suggested filming a quick scene with the Cylon walking by. At first, the director was against it, but they did it anyway, and it turned out to be a great nod to the science fiction series.
In the ten second or so scene, the Cylon walks by Benedict/Face, who gives it a curious look. He silently points to the Cylon as if to say, “Wait a minute, I’ve seen that thing somewhere before.” No lines are spoken, and no other characters from The A-Team saw what happened.
6. Dirk Benedict’s surprising inspiration for Starbuck
Actors and actresses typically make characters their own any way they can. But sometimes, a starting point in necessary, including modeling a character after another actor or actress or another character in a TV show or movie. The actor does such a good job, it’s hard to know the source character until they mention it.
For Starbuck, Dirk Benedict played the role as an indifferent fighter pilot. In an interview with Starlog, Benedict said, “Whenever he was called to fight, I made him act like he didn’t want to go.” The writers quickly noticed that and eventually wrote Starbuck that way. Starbuck was the kind of guy who wasn’t really bad – he just had some shameless habits.
He “was also influenced by James Garner, who was doing Rockford Files at the time.” Benedict was huge fan of the actor and played Starbuck as the “reluctant hero.” To Benedict, that was much more fun than the straight-arrow hero.
5. Original Starbuck Becomes A Guardian of the Universe
A scripted titled “The Return of Starbuck” was written for the second season of Battlestar Galactica, but was adapted for Galactica 1980. Doctor Zee, a young, intelligent science advisor tells Commander Adama of a dream he had about a great warrior called Starbuck. Years ago, Starbuck and his patrol partner are ambushed by Cylons. Starbuck’s Viper is damaged, and he won’t make it back and tells Boomer to warn the fleet. He stays on a planet, helps Angela escape, and is left alone, his fate unknown.
In the sequel to this episode called “The Wheel of Fire”, The Ship of Lights appear and captures Troy and his ship. After waking, Troy is met by Lieutenant Starbuck, who was thought lost and dead fourteen years prior. Starbuck explains that he advanced to a new plane of existence, and he became a crew member of the ship of the Guardians of the Universe.
4. Revival Starbuck’s Unknown Future
With regards to the Battlestar Galactic revival series, producer Ronald D. Moore left Starbuck’s storyline open and the future of the Viper pilot vague on purpose. Starbuck represented a force of the universe that was annoyed with the term “god,” and her ending was not defined in any specific way except for the literal journey she took on screen with her resurrection story.
Moore stated, “I felt, as I went into the finale, that the more I defined exactly what she was, the less interesting she became.” Moore wanted the ending as ambiguous as possible without letting down fans of the show.
3. Starbuck’s Own Comic Series
In 1995 and 1996, Starbuck starred in his own Battlestar Galactica comic. The 3-issue mini-series was published by Maximum Press, who had also done other mini-series based on the show as well as a monthly series that abruptly ended in the middle of a third story arc.
The comic takes place during a battle between the Galactica ship and the East Alliance Destroyers. Starbuck’s Viper must land on a prison colony, where he’s discovered by the Western Nationalists. He agrees to help them free their leader, Joseph.
The main artist on the series was Hector Gomez, who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics – and the writer was Robert Place Napton. Rob Liefeld – the creator of Deadpool – was also involved on all 3 issues. He was a cover artist for Starbuck and co-wrote issues #2 and #3.
2. The Name Starbuck Was Inspired By Moby Dick
The name Starbuck was inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The Pequod is the name of the ship Captain Ahab runs on his famous “hunting” trip to catch the great white whale. His chief mate, or first mate, is Starbuck, who is the only one of the crew who objects to Ahab’s insane quest.
The name is the only thing the character from the novel and the TV show share. The Starbuck from the book is an intellectual Quaker. He’s thoughtful, and yearns to get back to his wife and son in Nantucket.
Starbuck in the TV show is an accomplished pilot that is known for gambling and smoking cigars. He’s notorious for seeing more than one woman at once and becoming unfocused when a gorgeous woman walks by him. He may be perfect for flying Vipers, but he’d never make it on the Pequod.
1. Starbuck Gets Carried Over
Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980 had plenty of characters to choose from when it was decided to revive the franchise in 2003. But what made sense to the new creators and producers was to bring back a few of the main individuals from the original series, especially the popular, fan-favorites.
Of all the characters from the original series and Galactica 1980, only Adama, Apollo, Boomer, Tigh, Baltar, and Starbuck returned for the remake. Boxey made an appearance in the mini-series in 2003 and in one episode of the revival.
It’s clear those six main roles were vital to the operation of the fleet, and there was no reason not to include them. And Baltar was a great adversary for Adama and the other characters Most importantly, Starbuck was such an engaging character in the original series, and for the most part, the writers and creators kept Starbuck the same, except for the gender swap.
What else didn’t you know about Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica? Let us know in the comments!
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