Battlestar Galactica

Season 1 Episode 17

The Man with Nine Lives

Aired Sunday 7:00 PM Jan 28, 1979 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary


Aboard the Rising Star, one of Starbuck's gambling schemes is salvaged when he meets an old con man named Chameleon who hints that he might be Starbuck's long-lost father. Chameleon is using the con in order to seek refuge on Galactica from a trio of Borellians who are on a blood hunt for him in revenge for a past con.


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  • Starbuck meets a man who claims to be his father, while Borellian warriors begin a blood hunt that will lead to the Galactica itself.

    This episode does some fine work with character development -- we learn a little bit about Starbuck's past, the character of Chamelion played by Fred Astaire is very entertaining, and a little conflict occurs between skeptical Apollo and his over-eager best friend.

    The Borellians, while interesting, are a little too cliche for my taste -- it's the first time we've really seen any real diversity of tribes in the fleet, and yet they just turn out to be evil warmongers. Likewise, the conflict between Starbuck and Apollo seems a touch contrived -- couldn't Starbuck have waited for Tigh to say that there *is* no Chamelion registered on the fleet?

    But all in all, there is a definite sense of suspense as the Borellians follow their trail, and Fred Astaire does a great job with his role.moreless
  • Another classic episode of the original series.

    It's unfortunate that the original BSG took so long to find its stride, but "The Man With Nine Lives" was one of the best of the entire show. First, it is notable as being perhaps the first episode of the series not to include the Cylons in any way-- and by turning the plot inward, we are finally able to get more than a glimpse of life in the fleet.

    While on leave from duty, Starbuck and Apollo meet up with a conman named Chameleon that claims to be Starbuck's father in order to escape pursuit by some rather gruff-looking humans who he had scammed in the past. But what makes the episode shine is the character moments, Dirk Benedict and Fred Astair play perfectly off of each other and Mr. Astair did an absolutely amazing job riffing on Starbuck's mannerisms and attitude so that you really believed they were related. Excellent work, all around. (Except for the gruff-humans who seemed completely out of place. We could have done just as well here with a less "alien" antagonist.)

    It's a shame this wasn't followed up on before the series conclusion, but episodes like this really make the series fun to watch.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Starbuck: (to Chameleon) Now, about that betting system, are you sure that flaw can't be worked out ?
      Chameleon: Positive, unless you cheat...
      (Adama raises hand to his forehead in exasperation)

    • Starbuck: (to Chameleon) No one but my father would be crazy enough to fire lasers in a launch tube!

    • Cassiopeia: I'm going to extract a neural cell.
      Starbuck: A brain cell? From my head? And it isn't dangerous ?
      Cassiopeia: Only if there's nothing there to extract.... heh

    • Starbuck: (to Chameleon) I'm Starbuck and this is my conscience, Apollo.

    • Maga: (to Taba) You are a warrior of the code. A Noman, whose very name strikes like a scorpius at the heart of others for we alone survived in the land of the Magus sun and the endless sands and we alone shall survive this trek through the stars if we keep the code.

  • NOTES (2)

    • This episode makes two prescient uses of technology, one that is surprisingly correct and one that is not. First, early scenes on a transport (which closely resembles a modern aircraft) show passengers with television-like screens embedded in the seats in front of them. This is many years before such screens would actually exist on airplanes. And second but less accurately, the episode revolves around a "paternity test" technobabble which they explain requires the extraction and comparison of brain cells. (Of course, DNA had been discovered in the 1950s and it is unclear why the writers would have invented new technobabble for it.)

    • Supposedly, Fred Astaire sought his role on Battlestar Galactica because one of his grandsons liked the show and asked him if he could be on it.