Themes of Battlestar Galactica, Pt III
December 8th, 2006
After Unfinished Business, almost any episode would feel like a break, and in many ways, this week’s The Passage is a more straightforward Galactica score. However, I did get to write one new theme, for Kat’s descent into depression and ultimate redemption. Kat’s theme was cobbled together, almost cannibalized, from elements of different themes I’ve written for the series, in order to help connect her personal struggle with the bigger problems facing her shipmates, even the entire fleet.
But rather than go into too much detail about The Passage, I’ll present instead a third collection of themes written for Battlestar Galactica.
For a show that set out to avoid “themes,” Battlestar Galactica has certainly ended up with quite a few. The first two parts in this series (Part I and Part II) covered most of the themes that you’ll hear on a regular basis. Even though the themes presented here don’t occur as often as some of the others, I think they are still very noticeable and memorable. Indeed, some are among my personal favorites.
This extremely simple melody was written for the first episode, 33. Featured at the climax of the story, it was set against Apollo’s reluctant decision to pull the trigger and destroy a ship he suspected contained innocent civilians (listen to the chorale at the end of The Olympic Carrier from the first season soundtrack):
It next appeared as a whisper in Act of Contrition, played briefly in a flashback as Lee places wings atop his brother Zak’s coffin. And again in Hand of God as Lee improvises an attack strategy that ends up winning the battle.
I next tried to incorporate it where Lee mutinies against Tigh in Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Pt II, but it lacked the ferocity and energy the scene required, so I abandoned the approach. Lee’s theme is inherently melancholy, and less malleable than Starbuck’s theme, which can be adapted freely to fit many moods.
As a result, I put Lee’s theme away, saving it for the right moment. That opportunity came in Black Market, an episode that expanded Lee’s back story, giving us information about a lost love he left behind. This melody became the musical glue for every flashback, culminating in a re-orchestration of the original version from 33 for the climax where we learn that she was killed during the nuclear attacks.
- 33, Act of Contrition, Hand of God, Black Market
- Two Funerals (s1), Battle on the Asteroid (s1)
- Of the seven principal character themes, this is the most seldom heard.
Kara and Anders Theme
We struggled with the end of The Farm, especially the scene where Starbuck says a tearful farewell to Anders, and promises she’ll come back some day. Leaving the scene dry, or playing it relatively sparse, deprived it of any emotional impact. And over-scoring risked making the whole story arc feel hammy and forced, too operatic. I walked that very fine line and created this melody:
I arranged this for string quartet. While this ensemble was later featured in Scar, Torn and Hero, this was the first time the string quartet had been used on Battlestar Galactica for scoring purposes (the two whimsical quartets in Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down were used solely as “source music”).
When I wrote this theme for Kara and Anders, I assumed it was a permanent farewell and didn’t realize that Anders would be returning to the show down the line. As a result, this theme makes several recurring appearances throughout the second and third seasons.
- The Farm, Scar, Lay Down Your Burdens Pt I
- A Promise to Return (s2), Scar (s2)
- This theme is almost always played by the string quartet.
This tune for brass and choir was originally scored for Col. Tigh’s ominous declaration of martial law in Fragged. This scene was a pivotal turning pointing in a multi-episode story arc that allowed Tigh to evolve as a character, beyond his role as Adama’s second-in-command. I wanted to create a musical idea that would represent both his strength and loyalty, as well as his unpredictable and dangerous nature:
Once the “martial law” story line ended about half way through the second season, Tigh’s presence on the show diminished. Naturally, this theme followed suit and disappeared for the majority of the season. However, I found it very useful in scoring the opening episodes of the third season, where Tigh finds himself a prisoner in a Cylon holding cell and eventually becomes leader of the human insurgency.
The military hymn-inspired tune continues to haunt him throughout the third season as he struggles to adjust to life back in the fleet. However, it has yet to be stated as boldly as its initial appearance in Fragged.
- Fragged, The Final Cut, Occupation, Precipice, Hero
- Martial Law (s2)
- Features virtually the only use of orchestral brass in the entire score.
Roslin and Adama Theme
This melody is a simple waltz, inspired by traditional Celtic ballads and is as close to a “love theme” as you’re going to get on Battlestar Galactica:
Most of the music on the show retains a certain stoicism and ambiguity, but this tune is unabashedly lyrical. Originally composed for gentle scenes between Laura Roslin and Bill Adama in Resurrection Ship Parts I & II, it became an obvious thematic marker for their strained and subtle relationship.
I use this one as sparingly as possible, to retain its impact. Aside from a single quotation at the end of Lay Down Your Burdens Part II, it wouldn’t be heard again until third season’s Unfinished Business.
- Resurrection Ship I & II, Unfinished Business
- Roslin and Adama (s2), Roslin Confesses (s2), Adama Falls (s3)
- The sole use of acoustic (non-electric or amplified) fiddle in the score.
I wrote this as a love theme for Tyrol and Sharon’s secret rendezvous in Litmus. Their scenes were the perfect place to plant the seeds for a beautiful, lush love theme which could be developed as their relationship continued. This simple tune, (in Lydian mode for you music nerds like me), was performed on an alto flute, using its bottom register for the characteristic, dark tone a regular flute can not achieve.
I really liked this theme but, because I don’t read the scripts in advance, I didn’t realize that this was virtually the end of their screen time for the rest of the season! Their few remaining scenes together had no need for music, especially a lyrical love theme like this. So, it went away for a long time.
To my pleasant surprise, it resurfaced a full season later for the finale of season two, Lay Down Your Burdens, Pt II. Tyrol had mysteriously beaten his friend Cally within an inch of her life and went to her hospital bed to apologize. The producers wanted to suggest a genuine tenderness between the two of them, despite the obvious strain on their relationship. I was even asked at the spotting session: “Do you have some kind of love theme for Tyrol?”
So, this tune came back! And has since been used throughout season three as a theme for Tyrol and Cally.
- Litmus, Lay Down Your Burdens Pt II, Occupation, Day in the Life
- This melody is one of only two themes on the show consistently performed on a classical, orchestral instrument.
So Say We All,