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The Battlestar Galactica Model

article by Ben Lincoln


I started using the "Battlestar Galactica" model years ago while I was at university. This was well before the "reimagined" series began production, but in many ways the theory works even better in the context of that variation on the theme. I'll cover both the original and revised versions in order to provide a view into the evolution of the concept.

I'm a big fan of Battlestar Galactica (the new series more so than the original, nostalgia aside), but I am also going to simplify and gloss over a lot of the details in order to avoid boring people who aren't. There are minor spoilers included here, but I've tried to avoid giving away any major aspects of the newer series.

The Theory in the Context of the Original (1978 and 1980) Series

In the original series, the Galactica is one of many "Battlestars" - enormous space-warships which combine the functions of a naval battleship (or battlecruiser, heavy cruiser, etc.) and aircraft carrier. The ruthless Cylons lure the human fleet into a trap, destroying all of the other Battlestars in a single decisive blow. After crippling the human fleet, the Cylons lay waste to their defenceless non-military population. The few survivors flee in whatever starships they can find, and this "rag-tag fugitive fleet" begins following the Galactica into deep space in the hope of finding refuge.

In the middle of the first season, it is revealed that a second Battlestar (the Pegasus) also survived the Cylon assault, and this sister-ship of Galactica doubles the military capabilities of the fleet.

Setting aside alien robots and "the final annihilation of the life-form known as Man", the key aspect for purposes of this discussion is that (at least initially), the vast majority of resources are centered around a single super-powerful high-end general-purpose unit, which serves to tie together as many other cheap, specialized (and generally older/obsolete) units as is possible/practical. If the "lonely quest" seems to be progressing reasonably well, a second (or third, etc.) "super-unit" roughly equal to the first may be added.

In the television series, the other ships in the fleet mostly serve to carry the human survivors, as opposed to performing any military function. This is a detail that I ignore for purposes of this framework. Their equivalents in this model are far less capable overall than the component which serves as the "Galactica", but they all have something to contribute. Even if their functional contribution is low, they hopefully serve to strike fear into their opponents through sheer numeric superiority.

Some examples:

The Theory in the Context of the Reimagined (2004-2009) Series

Superficially, Ron Moore's remake is quite similar to the original. However, there are some important distinctions that can make it even more useful as a theoretical framework.

In this series the Galactica is part of an obsolete, decades-old class of space-warship. In the pilot episode, she has been serving as a museum/tourist attraction, with one of her two flight decks converted into a gift shop. The only reason this Galactica is used to lead the refugee fleet is that there is nothing better available - the newer Battlestars were vulnerable to a Cylon cyber-attack and easily destroyed.

Eventually the characters of this series also meet up with a second Battlestar (again called Pegasus). In contrast to the Galactica, this Pegasus belongs to a cutting-edge, top-of-the-line class.

Although it may seem like a minor difference, accepting that the initial strategy may use an older/less-than-ideal component as the centerpiece can make it possible to do something that would otherwise have to be delayed or discarded as an option altogether.

My Photography was the first application of this alternate take on the Battlestar Galactica Model. Buying a new digital SLR (particularly one intended for multispectral photography) was far beyond my budget. Fortunately, I was able to purchase a secondhand, older model for a fraction of the cost and modify it myself. I then used it to lead a rag-tag fugitive fleet of 20-to-40-year-old lenses on a lonely quest for photos, with the whole ensemble coming in at less than what a professional photographer (or dedicated amateur) would shell out for a single lens (let alone a DSLR body). There are certainly some limitations and shortcomings, but these are far outweighed by the simple fact that I wouldn't have been able to get into this type of photography at all via the other route.

I don't recommend this variation for use at a medium or large business, but in my hobby it has served me well.

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