Battlestar Galactica: The Plan is a direct-to-DVD film for Battlestar Galactica that promises to answer one of the more obvious questions from the series run: what exactly was this "plan" that the Cylons had, as referenced endlessly in the first couple seasons? Fans have been waiting a long time for this particular story, as told from the perspective of the Cylons. But as the old saying going: while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers.
So it is with "The Plan".
After the second season episode"Downloaded", which represented the beginning of the philosophical changes within the Cylon that would ultimately lead to their civil war, I noted in my review that it was fundamentally flawed. Caprica Six and Boomer had come to an epiphany that the original Cylon "plan" was wrong, and that they had to find a new path for their people. The problem was simply this: without a solid understanding of what the original Cylon direction was, any such epiphany carried little weight. Context is king.
The context was confusing because the actions of the Cylons were often contradictory. The overwhelming suggestion was that the Cylons wanted to wipe out the human race once and for all. However, they never seemed to take the necessary steps to achieve that goal after the initial annihilation was completed. The survivors were hunted down, both on Caprica and the Colonial fleet, but there was never the kind of relentlessness that could (and, story-wise, should) have led to a Cylon victory.
More to the point, the various hints from Head-Six and others, right down to Starbuck's experience at the Farm, made it seem very possible that the Cylons wanted to cut the human population to a small but manageable size to eliminate a threat, while keeping enough alive to conduct the breeding experiments. After all, the Cylons conducted their experiment between Helo and Sharon/Athena over the course of the entire first season. The inability of the Cylons to reproduce was a vital concern.
That dichotomy was never explained, even though the creation of Hera was always treated as an important plot point for the series. And all those hints over the course of the series that the Humans and Cylons could only survive together eventually paid off. That being the case, the Cylon "plan" didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, even if it was only valid up until the point that the plan changed in "Downloaded".
So this particular film needed to address that issue. If the goal was to explain the Cylon "plan" and fill those plot holes with reasonable explanations, then the story would have to delve into the motivations of the Cylon leadership structure prior to the attack on the Colonies and make sense of the actions that took place afterward. Not so much what happened on Galactica alone, but rather, the various activities seen on Caprica: the Helo/Sharon experiment, the Farm, and so forth.
In that regard,"The Plan" is a spectacular failure. It completely ignores the many inconsistencies within the Cylon agenda as it was depicted, and instead tries to simplify the Cylon"plan" and align it with the genocidal verve of the Cavil models. Some minor complications are added to the equation, but on the whole, most of the elements of the story were items that needed little or no explanation.
According to this story, the Cylon "plan" all evolved out of Cavil's desire to punish his parents, the Final Five. He sent the Final Five to live among the Colonies to see how humanity's sins justified the judgment of their creations. He believed that the Cylons were meant to finish the war that the Final Five had brought to an abrupt halt without mercy. As far as he was concerned, he expected the Final Five to be resurrected among their "children", ready to acknowledge that they were wrong.
But that was already clear from the fourth season of the series itself. It didn't need to be explained. What needed to be explained was the divergence from Cavil's perspective. Surely there were many more copies of Cavil back with the Cylon fleet and Occupation forces after the attack. Why not focus on the debates between those versions of Cavil and the models that wanted to experiment with the survivors to foster reproduction? That would have allowed the writers to reconcile the various Cylon activities that didn't fit the "destroy all humans" mold.
Instead, we got a story that served to connect the dots. All of the Cylon activities in the first season on Galactica were revealed to be the product of one Cavil's orchestrations behind the scenes, culminating in his conversation with Chief Tyrol at the end of the second season. While it does make all of those seemingly disparate acts more substantial, it also doesn't change very much.
After all, the end conclusion is that the other models, even with Cavil's urging, couldn't follow their orders because, like the Final Five, they came to love humanity. Cavil didn't understand the powerful nature of love, because it was something he associated with humans, and therefore something he sought to reject. It makes sense, given what we know happened and what we know of Cavil.
But that only makes the error in focus more obvious. Cavil's lack of understanding of love, and the difference between Cavil and the other models, would have fed beautifully into debates within the leadership of the Occupation. The models that oversaw the Helo/Sharon experiment could have justified their activities in spite of Cavil, thus placing that subplot within a clearer context.
The writers had the perfect means of making that happen. The Cavil that wound up with Anders and his resistance group could have been in regular contact with the Cylon Occupation forces. In fact, it's hinted that the Cavil on Caprica is in contact with them. So why not shift more of the focus on Cavil's debates, especially when Caprica-Cavil ultimately decides that the plan to exterminate humanity was flawed? For that matter, it's never entirely clear why or how Caprica-Cavil changes his mind; he just seems to do so in order to align with what was seen in "Lay Down Your Burdens".
I will give the writers and Olmos credit for taking what could have been a glorified clip show and weaving it into a suitable story. Like Razor before it, it manages to tell a side-story without too many contradictions to the original material. The approach is confident, the effects are spectacular, and most of the new footage matches the original footage very well. But Razor promised to tell the story of Pegasus and did so. "The Plan" tells a good story with a near-perfect lead in Dean Stockwell's dual-Cavil performance, but it makes a point to dance around its stated purpose.
So the bottom line is that "The Plan" doesn't actually address the elements that it should, and instead seems to justify the improvisational nature of the series (and therefore, the apparent discontinuities) by pointing out that the Cavil on Galactica was forced to improvise. In other words, the point of "The Plan" is there was no plan. That makes the title about as misleading as it gets.