How to Watch "Battlestar Galactica"

Recently I’ve been rewatching “Battlestar Galactica.” On a rewatch, I feel like it’s a very long haul. And I’ve now seen a lot of people cruise through the first couple seasons then get bogged down in, say, season three. It’s quite a bit of TV! For a non-fanboy or non-fangirl, it can get tedious. Reordering the Star Wars movies made so much sense; the so-called “machete order” for Star Wars (IV, V, II, III, VI, skipping “Episode One”!) is a work of genius. So I began to wonder, not so much about order, but: how can we chop down “Battlestar”? The answer: pretty easily. (DON’T KILL ME, FANS!)

But yes. You can skip up to 18 of the show’s 75 episodes. That’s 24% of the series! (Or if you’re really ambitious, you can skip 22 episodes!)

For completists, very good suggestions have been made about where to insert the various miniseries and webisodes. (Another version here.) I am including those where appropriate. But guess what? “Battlestar” isn’t best served by completism.

Here’s the watch list, shaded by must-watch, can-watch and eh-don’t-bother. There are some special groupings that you can omit as well. We’re going to do this in two versions: in the first part, a guide for first-time watchers, with no spoilers. And after that, I’ll make my case.

A disclaimer: If you skip episodes, you will not just be saving yourself time, yay, but you will also be missing information. In the vast majority of skippable episodes, there is likely one important backstory or plot point or piece of information. For the most part, you’ll be fine. Every once in a while you’ll be like “Oh hey what happened to that person?” or “Hey where did that thing go to/come from?” But guess what: that kind of happens anyway, even if you don’t skip. It’s a big series! And it’s a TV show. Sometimes people, in the age before DVRs, missed episodes and everyone lived. But it’s important that you don’t think you can skip a bunch of episodes and totally NOT notice. Anyway: ONWARD!

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SPOILER-FREE
IT IS SAFE TO READ BELOW HERE IF YOU WANT TO WATCH THE SERIES AND HAVE NOT YET.
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If you want to jump to the annotated version for people who’ve seen the show already, let’s go.

SEASON ONE

Miniseries, parts one and two. (Technically called Night, Part 1 and Night, Part 2.”)

1.1 “33”

1.2 “Water”
If you’re feeling gangster, you could pass this. No one should skip an episode this early. (20 episodes later, you’ll maybe wish you had!

1.3 “Bastille Day”

1.4 “Act of Contrition”
I like this one; you should probably take it but you can leave it.

1.5 “You Can’t Go Home Again”

1.6 “Litmus”
I would only skip one of these two. Of the two, I think I’d skip….

1.7 “Six Degrees of Separation”
… This one.

1.8 “Flesh and Bone”

1.9 “Tigh Me Up, Tigh me Down”

1.10 “The Hand of God”

1.11 “Colonial Day”

1.12 “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1″ and 1.13 “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2″

SEASON TWO

2.1 “Scattered”

2.2 “Valley of Darkness”

2.3 “Fragged”

2.4 “Resistance”

2.5 “The Farm”

2.6 “Home, Part 1″ and 2.7 “Home, Part 2″

2.8 “Final Cut”
You’ve been in a long unskippable series! In part because the episodes were so tied together. Sometimes it was a bit of a slog, I know. Now, this one is a very beautiful episode; and it’s a nice palate cleanser, but it’s not necessary.

2.9 “Flight of the Phoenix”
Also a pretty episode! Has a backstory you can live without.

2.10 “Pegasus”

2.11 “Resurrection Ship, Part 1″ and 2.12 “Resurrection Ship, Part 2″
These get their own color because they’re a different kind of animal. You can skip 2.10, 2.11 and 2.12. This would be a mistake probably, just on the principle of viewing pleasure. But you don’t actually need them, in terms of overall plot. You can skip right to 2.13 from either 2.7, 2.8 or 2.9. Are you in a huge hurry? Then you could skip from 2.7 to 2.15, 2.16 or even to 2.17. BUT it must be said: I would find the show worse for not having enjoyed 2.10, 2.11 and 2.12.

2.13 “Epiphanies”
This is totally possible to skip but it sets up something that happens like, a million years later. (I don’t mean that timeframe literally, don’t panic.) So don’t be annoyed when that happens.

2.14 “Black Market”
Any revelations that occur in this episode are handled again later.

2.15 “Scar”
Eh.

2.16 “Sacrifice”
This is a not particularly great episode but is not terrible.

2.17 “The Captain’s Hand”
This is a good episode but not needed.

“Razor”
I agree with the nerds that, if you are going for completism, this is the appropriate time to watch “Razor,” which is nice if you just skipped a couple of episodes particularly, AND which is a bit longer than the episodes, so it provides a nice variation.

2.18 “Downloaded”
A must-watch. Skiping directly here from 2.13 to 2.14 works out really well actually!

2.19 “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1″ and 2.20 “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2″
Um yeah, this is important.

SEASON THREE

3.1 “Occupation”
Uh yes.

Webisodes: “The Resistance”
Nerds say you should watch this at the end of season two. I disagree; I think it should go here.

3.2 “Precipice”
Oh my God.

3.3 “Exodus, Part 1″ and 3.4 “Exodus, Part 2″
Hello?

3.5 “Collaborators”
This episode, surprisingly, is not strictly necessary; you can skip right to 3.6 with no ill effects. I like it however.

3.6 “Torn”
This one actually plays a lot better without 3.5 before it!

3.7 “A Measure of Salvation”
Not strictly necessary but not uninteresting.

3.8 “Hero”
This is something of a standalone. It’s a good one! But.

3.9 “Unfinished Business”
If you skipped 3.5 and 3.8, this episode is way more satisfying, and works a lot better!

3.10 “The Passage”
Not terrible or annoying; just skippable.

3.11 “The Eye of Jupiter”
I actually hate this episode and find it annoying, but it does play better after 3.9. And it is important.

3.12 “Rapture”
Essentially part two of the previous. Mandatory.

3.13 “Taking A Break From All Your Worries”
This is totally worth it just for the acting.

3.14 “The Woman King”
Annoying standalone. Pass!

3.15 “A Day in the Life”
If you are in love with the main characters, as you should be, you’ll appreciate this episode. There is no forward movement however.

3.16 “Dirty Hands”
This is a good episode but largely unnecessary.

3.17 “Maelstrom”
This is a good update from 3.9. Now…. an important thing does occur in this episode? But you’ll just take it for granted if you bypass.

3.18 “The Son Also Rises”
Largely important.

3.19 “Crossroads, Part 1″ and 3.20 “Crossroads, Part 2″
Very very important.

SEASON FOUR

4.1 “He That Believeth In Me”
Yup.

4.2 “Six of One”
Mmm hmm.

4.3 “The Ties That Bind”
Hoo boy.

4.4 “Escape Velocity”
Still greedy to get to the end? Go on, pass this puppy!

4.5 “The Road Less Traveled”
Aaah.

4.6 “Faith”
Nuttiness!

4.7 “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?”
Big stuff!

4.8 “Sine Qua Non”
*Braaawwnngh*

4.9 “The Hub”
By this point, you’ll be so happy you skipped some of the early episodes!

4.10 “Revelations”
*Screaming*

4.11 “Sometimes a Great Notion”
It’s important to remember here that a really long time passed between the airing of 4.10 and 4.11! People were freaking out.

“The Face of the Enemy”
These were also webisodes, and people say you should watch them here. I did not!

4.12 “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”
Yuppers.

4.13 “The Oath”
A smooth continuation of 4.12.

4.14 “Blood on the Scales”
Part three, essentially. Now: you technically could skip 4.12 through 4.14, but what would be the point of that?

4.15 “No Exit”
You want answers? Here are some.

The Plan
People say you should watch this here. It makes sense! It is an extended flashback; if you can’t handle that… then don’t!

4.16 “Deadlock”
*Hnerf!*

4.17 “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Are you enjoying yourself? Then watch it! Are you anxious and impatient? Skip it! You’ll miss a plot point that just won’t matter. But…

4.18 “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”
Hoo boy.

4.19 “Daybreak, Part 1″ and 4.20 “Daybreak, Part 2″
Well, here we are. You did it! And you saved yourself hours of your life.



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IN WHAT FOLLOWS, THERE BE SPOILERS.
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Here is the annotated skip list, for people who have already watched the series.

SEASON ONE

Miniseries, parts one and two.
Obvs. From the genius opening to the stage setting to the role establishment, A+.

1.1 “33”
Absolutely. Battlestar on the run, cylons attacking every 33 minutes. Good stuff.

1.2 “Water”
All that happens is Boomer suspects she’s a cylon and there’s an explosion on-board Galactica. Zzzs. That being said, no one will skip an episode this early. (20 episodes later, you’ll wish you had!)

1.3 “Bastille Day”
Important! Introduces Tom Zarek, lets President Roslin talk about forbidding slave labor, Zarek’s prisoners take hostages, and presidential elections are promised.

1.4 “Act of Contrition”
I like this one; you should probably take it but you can leave it. This is a Starbuck episode, and there’s lots of flashbacks about Zak Adama, so it sets a lot of background for the Obama LOL FREUDIAN SLIP, ADAMA family/love triangle (love quadrangle?) issues to come. Also has the Doc telling the President her cancer is inoperable.

1.5 “You Can’t Go Home Again” This is the one where Starbuck learns to fly a cylon raider.

1.6 “Litmus”
Dicey! Number Five (Aaron) sneaks onto Galactica and sets off a bomb. Also this is the big scary investigation into the events of episode 1.2, but weirdly, you don’t need to have seen 1.2 to make it work! Meanwhile, back on Caprica, this is when Helo “rescues” Sharon from a 6. Honestly? SKIP IT. The whole “trapped on Caprica” plot draaaaags on.

1.7 “Six Degrees of Separation”
Haha, this is when a 6 shows up and is like “Gaius Baltar destroyed Caprica”! And then Baltar goes to the brig and then it all gets cleared up and nothing happens and the 6 disappears. There’s nothing wrong with this episode—but anything you can do to have less Baltar in your face is worth it. SKIP!

1.8 “Flesh and Bone”
Oddly, this episode does not move things forward much but should absolutely be watched, mostly because it’s a Starbuck episode—and it introduces the Two, Leoben. It also moves forward the Sharon story importantly, both on Galactica and on Caprica, ta da!

1.9 “Tigh Me Up, Tigh me Down”
Well, shouldn’t be skipped, as it introduces Ellen Tigh, and is actually a funny episode. If you want to go hardcore, you’ll miss nothing by skipping it though!

1.10 “The Hand of God”
This is the one where President Roslin becomes a prophet and there’s lots of space action, seizing a tylium planet from the cylons.

1.11 “Colonial Day”
All politics all the time; gets Baltar elected as vice-president. On that basis, I’d say skip it—but it’s also where, back on Caprica, Agathon finally finds out Sharon is a cylon.

1.12 “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1″ and 1.13 “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2″
Well you can’t very well skip a season finale.

SEASON TWO

2.1 “Scattered”
And you can’t very well skip a tasty season return from a cliffhanger!

2.2 “Valley of Darkness”
More resolution, more chaos, action, cylons aboard Galactica.

2.3 “Fragged”
Hmm, you pretty much have to continue the through-thread here; this resolves the people stranded on Kobol since 1.10, and also has Tigh declaring martial law.

2.4 “Resistance”
This is when Starbuck meets Anders on Caprica! Also the martial law issue is dealt with.

2.5 “The Farm”
Cannot possibly skip the episode where Starbuck wakes up in a mysterious hospital. Also, Roslin splits the fleet.

2.6 “Home, Part 1″ and 2.7 “Home, Part 2″
Starbuck returns. With Other Sharon. And they all go to Kobol with the arrow of Apollo! And figure out what it does!

2.8 “Final Cut”
So, you can completely skip this one. It’s worth it artistically, in that the ending is phenomenal, and introduces a new character (special guest star!). But you get to that character anyway eventually, and you don’t need the whole episode to get her. Still, this one is highly pleasurable.

2.9 “Flight of the Phoenix”
Chief starts building the stealth fighter; Sharon saves the ship from a cylon viral attack. Nothing wrong with this episode at all. It’s simply unneeded.

2.10 “Pegasus”
Well, yes, The Pegasus shows up.

2.11 “Resurrection Ship, Part 1″ and 2.12 “Resurrection Ship, Part 2″
So! This is tricky. This is the whole Pegasus-Galactica plot. You can skip 2.10, 2.11 and 2.12. This would be a mistake probably, just on the principle of viewing pleasure. But you don’t need them, in terms of overall plot. You can skip right to 2.13 from either 2.7, 2.8 or 2.9. TECHNICALLY, you could skip from 2.7 to 2.15, 2.16 or even to 2.17. I would find the show worse for not having enjoyed this three-episode tangent however.

2.13 “Epiphanies”
In this, Roslin is dying, “peace activists” are sabotaging Galactica’s ammunition, Baltar goes to visit the Six, and Sharon’s fetus saves Roslin. Then Baltar gives the 6 a nuclear warhead??? Bizarre. I’ve never understood that. I suppose you have to watch it for Roslin’s salvation. You will survive if you don’t.

2.14 “Black Market”
Hmm. The one important bit of information is that Roslin remembers seeing Baltar on Caprica with Caprica 6. Apart from that, this episode is useless. Guess what, there’s a black market. Go figure.

2.15 “Scar”
So there’s a cylon ship named Scar. Also, Lee and Starbuck make out. That’s it.

2.16 “Sacrifice”
Another standalone episode: terrorists take over the lounge in Cloud Nine! VERY skippable, but not bad.

2.17 “The Captain’s Hand”
The abortion episode. Lee becomes the captain of Pegasus. Baltar announces his run for presidency. This is a TOTALLY good episode but you can do without.

“Razor”
I agree with the nerds that, if you are going for completism, this is the appropriate time to watch “Razor,” which is nice if you just skipped a couple of episodes particularly, AND which is a bit longer than the episodes, so it provides a nice variation.

2.18 “Downloaded”
A must-watch. One reason to skip episodes to move faster is that it takes far too long for us to get a look at things from the cylon side. Skiping directly from 2.13 to 2.18 works out really well actually!

2.19 “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1″ and 2.20 “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2″
The election nears; the rescue mission to Caprica; Cavil is introduced; the election comes; a year passes. I mean, obviously, yes.

Webisodes: “The Resistance”
This is where nerds say you should watch the 10 short webisodes documenting life on New Caprica. They’re like, three minutes each.

SEASON THREE

3.1 “Occupation”
Are you kidding me.

Webisodes: “The Resistance”
Nerds say you should watch this at the end of season two. I disagree; I think it should go here.

3.2 “Precipice”
Oh my God.

3.3 “Exodus, Part 1″ and 3.4 “Exodus, Part 2″
Hello?

3.5 “Collaborators”
E’rybody back on Galactica! Bad times. This episode is not strictly necessary; you can skip right to 3.6 with no ill effects.

3.6 “Torn”
This one actually plays a lot better without 3.5 before it!

3.7 “A Measure of Salvation”
Resolves 3.6. Not strictly necessary but not uninteresting.

3.8 “Hero”
A man from Admiral Adama’s past appears in a space ship! I like this episode but it’s in no way necessary.

3.9 “Unfinished Business”
So this is the episode where everyone gets in the boxing ring and has flashbacks to their love lives on New Caprica, basically. It’s actually rather startling that they waited so long to address what happened in the long gap. So good news! If you skipped 3.5 and 3.8, it works a lot better!

3.10 “The Passage”
So all the fleet’s food gets contaminated and they have to fly through some terrible bit of space (why? Never really got that) to get to the other side and make more food. I like this episode because I like the pilot Kat, but it’s not necessary in the slightest.

3.11 “The Eye of Jupiter”
This is when they stop at this planet (“for food”) and find this temple and the cylons want in on the temple too and there is trouble. Weirdly I hate this episode but it’s kind of a tentpole. It’s good after 3.9.

3.12 “Rapture”
Essentially part two of the previous. Mandatory. (They box the Threes! Boo!)

3.13 “Taking A Break From All Your Worries”
So this is mostly about Baltar returning to Galactica. This is really worth it just for Laura Roslin freaking out on him.

3.14 “The Woman King”
Lord. This is the one where the Sagittaron refugees are victimized. Pass!

3.15 “A Day in the Life”
This is Admiral Adama’s wedding anniversary episode. Cally and Chief get stuck in a malfunctioning airlock. There are some charming Roslin-Adama moments, which of course are never to be missed… AND YET. Not a very good episode.

3.16 “Dirty Hands”
This is a good episode but largely unnecessary; it’s a Chief episode, which is always “yay,” and largely about labor. It also sets up the messianic Baltar a bit.

3.17 “Maelstrom”
Starbuck episode. Is a good update from 3.9, the boxing/relationships episode. Also weirdly, Leoben does this whole “Ghost of Christmas Past” with Starbuck and Starbuck’s mom. How/why? (Head injury.) This episode is… unnecessary. There’s lots more crazy Kara in the future! I KNOW that this is where Starbuck disappears! But yup: they play the tape in the next episode.

3.18 “The Son Also Rises”
The terrorism preceding Baltar’s trial. Pretty important.

3.19 “Crossroads, Part 1″ and 3.20 “Crossroads, Part 2″
DUH.

SEASON FOUR

4.1 “He That Believeth In Me”
Kara returns.

4.2 “Six of One”
Um yeah, chaos!

4.3 “The Ties That Bind”
Oh man, this is the one where Adama sits at Laura’s bedside and reads to her, oooof. And then… Cally.

4.4 “Escape Velocity”
Attack on Baltar’s commune. This one has its annoyances but is mildly important.

4.5 “The Road Less Traveled”
Leoben and Kara in spaaaaace.

4.6 “Faith”
The end of Kara’s mission.

4.7 “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?”
BIG STUFF. Kara returns with a baseship. Laura and a hybrid. (*Inception noise*)

4.8 “Sine Qua Non”
Yeah, this stretch is all action all the time. (Also: Adama waiting for Laura! My heart!)

4.9 “The Hub”
By this point, you’ll be so happy you skipped some of the early episodes! Time to unbox the Threes! Roslin in space! Balthar confesses!

4.10 “Revelations”
And how. (They land on… earth.)

4.11 “Sometimes a Great Notion”
(It’s important to remember that a really long time passed between the airing of 4.10 and 4.11!) Anyway, welcome to Earth, it sucks! And the final cylon….

“The Face of the Enemy”
These were also webisodes, and people say you should watch them here. I did not!

4.12 “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”
Yuppers. Laura goes jogging. A mutiny coming.

4.13 “The Oath”
These events stem from the events (Gaeta + Zarek) started in 4.12. Battle on board!

4.14 “Blood on the Scales”
Part three, essentially. The coup turns uglier. And… ends. Now: you could skip all THREE of these episodes together; but what would be the point of that? Why are you watching this anyway????

4.15 “No Exit”
A very large dose of cylon history. You want answers? Here are some.

4.16 “Deadlock”
Mommy’s back.

“Someone to Watch Over Me”
The piano player. Eh. You could skip it! You’d be confused later about how Boomer gets off Galactica, but you wouldn’t really care! Are you enjoying yourself? Then watch it! I mean you probably should. Skipping something this late is nutty. But are you anxious and impatient? Skip it!

4.18 “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”
Abandon shiiiiip.

4.19 “Daybreak, Part 1″ and 4.20 “Daybreak, Part 2″
Well. Here we are. (Heh.) So… for those of you who HAVE seen the show, many of you feel like you can skip the finale. I hear you! But really, would you have NOT watched this? You had to! But… I feel ya.