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Thomas Zarek, commonly known as Tom Zarek, was a political activist for more than 30 years before the Fall of the Twelve Colonies. He was a charismatic, eloquent and ideological political agitator who was incarcerated for destroying a government building on Sagittaron. His 20-year incarceration culminated in a sojourn on Astral Queen, an FTL-capable prison ship, whilst in transit to parole hearings. Assigned the prison number of 893893, Zarek is under consideration for parole at the time of the Cylon attack. He ends up becoming first the Sagitarion delegate to the Quorum of Twelve, the Vice President under Gaius Baltar, and serves as the President for a few days, before he returns Laura Roslin to power and becomes her Vice President. After leading a coup against the civilian government, he is executed for murder and treason alongside Felix Gaeta.
Zarek came from Sagittaron, a colony known to be mistreated by the other eleven Colonies. Through his experiences on that colony he became an advocate of freedom from slavery, and proclaimed himself a voice for the disenfranchised. Along with publishing a book that was virtually banned throughout the Colonies, Zarek actively sought to combat injustices with the aid of his group, the S.F.M.
Though some consider him a terrorist for his often violent tactics (which include the destruction of a government building that results in unspecified casualties), others see him as a freedom fighter and a hero. He believes in the efficacy of violence as a means of change, going as so far as to go to prison over a "matter of conscience" by refusing President Richard Adar's politically motivated conditional pardon (the conditions of the pardon being that he would publicly apologize and pledge to give up violence as a means of change).
Some of his fellow Sagittarons have an intense dislike of him, including Anastasia Dualla. Despite this, he became a public figure whose name had weight and almost became legendary, thanks to public opinion (TRS: "Bastille Day").
After the Fall of the Colonies
As the Cylons attack the Twelve Colonies, Zarek is on a prison barge called Astral Queen, headed to Caprica for parole hearings with several hundred other inmates. Hiding out in the atmosphere of Ragnar with the rest of humanity's survivors, the captain of Astral Queen suggests that the inmates be euthanized, but his wish is overturned by President Roslin's humanitarian decision to keep all of mankind's remnants alive (TRS: "Miniseries"). This leaves Zarek with time to plot his escape.
With the discovery of a planet that could replenish Galactica's lost water, Commander Adama, Colonel Tigh and President Roslin reluctantly decide to ask the prisoners to volunteer as badly needed manpower, under the condition that they would not be treated as slaves and they would agree of their own volition (TRS: "Water", "Bastille Day").
After Lee Adama's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the prisoners to help in the recovery efforts, Zarek's springs the prisoners' escape plan. The prisoners, under Zarek's command, usurp control of Astral Queen, and takes her crew and Galactica's visitors as prisoners. Zarek states his terms for release of the prisoners: the resignation of Laura Roslin and her administration, and the start of free and open elections for a new President. Zarek deems Roslin's presidency as illegitimate and illegal.
However, Zarek's aims are not in keeping with his demands; he wants a bloodbath to ensue, believing that all that people understand is violence, and that a bloodbath would destroy any credibility that Adama and Roslin have.
When the situation deteriorates near the point of catastrophe for all involved, Zarek, ready to sacrifice his life for his beliefs, is swayed by Lee Adama's promise that he would uphold the Articles of Colonization and hold open elections for a new president, once Roslin had served the remainder of President Adar's term (as dictated by the Articles and Case Orange), as well as give the ship over to the prisoners as a show of good faith (TRS: "Bastille Day").
Attempts for Political Power
With a degree of freedom obtained by the prisoners - including control of Astral Queen - Zarek engages in a steady effort to gain the goodwill of others of influence within the Fleet. This effort includes physical acts of support for other ships, such as fixing the air filtration system on the ship occupied by Marshall Bagott, a politician from Virgon.
Zarek's efforts result in a nomination as Sagittaron's representative on the Quorum of Twelve. From there, Zarek makes a bid for the position of vice president using the support of those he assisted, and possibly badgered (TRS: "Colonial Day").
While Zarek's attempt at the vice presidency fails after Roslin replaces the somewhat unlikeable Wallace Gray with the charismatic Doctor Gaius Baltar as an alternative candidate, Zarek makes it clear to Roslin that he will be standing against her in the elections. Zarek remains possibly the most powerful and popular representative in the Quorum of Twelve.
When he is interviewed by the press aboard Cloud Nine, he makes several comments consistent with a collectivist-oriented political ideology (TRS: "Colonial Day"). Whether these comments reflect Zarek's actual ideology, or if they are a cover he is using for his own purposes, remains unknown.
Breakaway from the Fleet
The schism created by Commander Adama's unlawful arrest of President Roslin and Colonel Tigh's declaration of martial law presents Zarek with an opportunity to convince others that Adama is after total control of the Fleet. Zarek likely sought to use Tigh's inexperience with dealing with the government and press against the military powers. Zarek and the Quorum soon learn of Roslin's terminal cancer, after Tigh permits the Quorum of Twelve to see her in Galactica's brig (TRS: "Fragged").
After the Gideon incident, where four civilians die, some crewmembers of Galactica orchestrate Roslin's escape. Lee Adama, knowing they would be hunted throughout the Fleet, enlists Zarek's assistance in secreting Roslin away from Tigh and Commander Adama (TRS: "Resistance", "The Farm"). Roslin is initially dismayed to be greeted by Zarek, but realizes that Zarek, no friend to Adama or Tigh, is "the enemy of my enemy."
Zarek and Roslin attempt to use appeals by recorded wireless messages to sway favor in the Fleet to return to Kobol. Zarek convinces Lee Adama at first to create a dissenting message against Galactica's rule, but Lee changes his mind (probably because he swore to his comatose father that it wasn't about them). After Roslin plays the "religious card" to sway support for her cause in the Fleet, Roslin and Zarek lead a separatist fleet back to Kobol to await Kara Thrace's return with the Arrow of Apollo, for use in unlocking the Tomb of Athena.
Zarek, with his associate Meier, plan to eliminate the young Captain Adama on Kobol, using the rationalization about Zeus's warning that any return to Kobol would "exact a price in blood". Zarek feels that removing the young Adama would create a political power vacuum, allowing Zarek to take the position as leader of the fractioned Fleet, while Roslin would remain president (TRS: "Home, Part I").
Zarek abandons the assassination plan when Commander Adama arrives on Kobol to mend fences with Roslin. However, Meier privately revises the plan outside of Zarek's knowledge, now with the goal of eliminating both Adamas by soliciting the help of the Caprica copy of Sharon Valerii that returned with Karl Agathon and Thrace. Unfortunately for Zarek, Sharon Valerii double-crosses Meier, killing him at the entrance to the Tomb of Athena. While none in the group immediately consider Zarek as a suspect in Meier's assassination attempt, Commander Adama remains guarded and leaves Zarek and several others outside of the Tomb under the watchful eye of Chief Tyrol while they unlock its secrets (TRS: "Home, Part II").
After the Fleet's Reunification
Zarek later gives Lee Adama information regarding the black market, initially claiming not to be a part of it because he needs to keep his hands clean, but ultimately points out that the black market does get supplies where they are needed. Nonetheless, Zarek mentions the central hub of the black market, Prometheus, a ship so lawless that it is practically "off the grid", as well as the name of a "businessman", Phelan. However, soon after Phelan's death at the hands of Captain Adama, Tom Zarek is seen walking through a crowd on Prometheus with one of Phelan's old henchmen in tow. It is unknown how much involvement Tom Zarek has with the organization (TRS: "Black Market").
Despite being the presumed opponent of Roslin in the upcoming presidential election, Zarek decides not to run against her because he realizes he probably won't win the election. However, he encourages Vice President Gaius Baltar to run in his place (TRS: "The Captain's Hand").
Baltar's Election Campaign
When Baltar announces his run for the presidency, Zarek assumes a position as his campaign manager. For all Zarek's personal political talent he has a hard time managing Baltar's campaign and faces the tough issue of whether Baltar is an electable candidate. After being trounced in the first debate by Roslin, Baltar's political future is in deep jeopardy and Zarek is left looking for a stronger wedge-issue other than Roslin's ties to the religious Gemenese. With the accidental discovery of New Caprica, an issue presents itself that they can get on the supposed right side of: the colonization of the newly found planet and a safe-haven from the Cylons. Zarek presses Baltar to pick up this issue and run with it and as soon as he does his political fortunes turn around dramatically. Like he predicted, the people rally around the idea of colonization; Baltar sails out of the final debate with a wide lead on Roslin (TRS: "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II").
With his job of campaign manager all but over on election day, there isn't much for Zarek to do but sit back and wait for the results to come in. When the initial tallies come in suggesting Roslin scored a remarkable come-back victory he says to Baltar that he's seen enough elections to recognize a fixed one. Baltar admonishes Zarek, maintaining that, whatever Laura Roslin is, she is above fixing an election.
Later, with Baltar as president, Zarek becomes his vice president.
The Occupation of New Caprica
After Baltar's surrender of the Colonial government, Zarek disagrees with the planned collaboration with the Cylons and is sent to a detention camp for four months.
Along with former President Laura Roslin, he and about 200 other dissidents are driven to the Pergamus Flats where they are to be executed by an order Baltar was forced to sign. After exiting the truck, Zarek asks Roslin directly whether she had attempted to steal the past election. After Roslin admits that she had, both agree that they wished she had succeeded. The group of detainees are soon faced with Cylon Centurions preparing to fire, and Zarek pulls Roslin back from the front of the crowd (TRS: "Precipice"). However, members of the resistance successfully prevent the execution.
Zarek attends the final meeting of the resistance to review the plan to escape New Caprica. Zarek and Roslin evacuate together towards their ships, though Roslin chooses to escape on Colonial One. Before departing for his own ship, Zarek gives a gun to Jammer and tells him to protect Roslin (TRS: "Exodus, Part II").
Presidency and the new Roslin Administration
After the escape of the colonists from New Caprica, Zarek assumes his office as President, succeeding the missing Baltar. He brokers an agreement with Roslin, whereby she is elected as vice president and he steps down, returning her to the office she has held since the Cylon invasion. She would then appoint him as Vice President to her. He asks her to give him a position in the new government and she offers this job to him herself citing his courage in standing up against Baltar. Unknown to Roslin and Adama, Zarek has signed into law an executive order authorizing a secret six-person group tasked to find, charge, try, and execute collaborators and traitors. Sometime after disclosing this to Adama and Roslin, Zarek does go through with his plan, allowing Laura Roslin to resume her role as president. Despite condemning his actions and pardoning collaborators who collaborated with Cylons on New Caprica (TRS: "Collaborators"), Roslin is true to her word and appoints Zarek as her vice president.
Genuinely afraid of the consequences of trying Gaius Baltar after his capture on the algae planet, Zarek argues with Roslin about instituting martial law throughout the Fleet during Baltar's trial, citing potentially dangerous and destructive civil unrest and work stoppages throughout the Fleet (TRS: "The Woman King").
When Cowen, the Caprican delegate to the Quorum of Twelve, dies, Zarek nominates the recently retired Lee Adama to the post, because of his dedication to finding the truth during the Baltar trial. In a benevolent attempt to keep the government from becoming a dictatorship, Zarek wants Adama on the Quorum to question some secretive decisions made by President Roslin. Zarek explains that this is not an attempt to manipulate Roslin in a malevolent way, but to deter her from the temptation of taking away the rights and power of the people for the sake of security. He acknowledges that he still supports Roslin and believes that even her most controversial decisions have been made for the good of the Fleet (TRS: "The Ties That Bind").
Several months later, Zarek finds himself in direct conflict with Lee Adama and his father. After President Roslin is taken away from the fleet by the rebel basestar (TRS: "Guess What's Coming to Dinner"), Zarek asserts his legal right as vice president to serve as acting president--an assertion that is ignored by Admiral Adama. The younger Adama, after backing his father's decision, convinces Zarek to give grudging approval to a search for another acting president--a search that ultimately puts Lee Adama himself into the position (TRS: "Sine Qua Non").
Post Earth/Coup d'etat
Following the discovery of a ruined Earth (TRS: "Revelations"), both Adamas advocate a plan for a permanent alliance with the rebel Cylons, a plan that will extend full citizenship and Quorum representation to the Cylons. Zarek angrily opposes the plan, and instead musters near-unanimous support in the Quorum for a law requiring prior permission from the people of each ship in the fleet before any Cylon is allowed to board. Admiral Adama retaliates by forcibly boarding Colonial One and placing Zarek under arrest. Adama compels Zarek to reveal the coordinates of a ship that had left the fleet in protest.
While in prison, Zarek meets with Felix Gaeta and wins his cooperation in resisting the Cylon alliance (TRS: "A Disquiet Follows My Soul"). Sometime later, Zarek is secretly freed from Galactica brig by Gaeta and several of Gaeta's co-conspirators. They are blocked from taking off in a waiting Raptor by deck chief Peter Laird, but Zarek kills Laird with a wrench before the latter can call for confirmation. Zarek returns to Colonial One in the midst of a stormy meeting of the Quorum led by Lee Adama. The vice president explains his surprise release as part of the admiral's decision to finally abandon democratic governance in favor of a military dictatorship: with democratic institutions such as the Quorum now cut off from power, Zarek is supposedly no longer a political threat and is therefore not worth keeping under arrest. While this is occurring, Gaeta's mutiny aboard Galactica continues until the CIC is secure and the senior staff are detained. Zarek calls Gaeta, and expresses his own surprise at the fact that Adama has not been killed (TRS: "The Oath").
During his and Gaeta's rebellion, Zarek uses violence to gain the power he wants. When the Quorum do not support him and order him to leave--addressing him as Vice President rather than President--he orders their execution by the marines outside the door. After the order is carried out, he summons Gaeta, who reacts in horror and says that now all they had were "lies and murder."
He acts as judge in a court-martial for Adama, finds him guilty of treason, and as he had intended all along, orders his execution. When Roslin calls from the Cylon baseship demanding that he and Gaeta surrender, he refuses, claiming that Tigh is dead already and that Adama is going to be executed. His call for Roslin to surrender in order to end the bloodshed infurates her to the point of turning the baseship's weapons on Galactica. Zarek wants to fight, but Gaeta tries to jump away, only to be foiled by Tyrol's sabotage of the FTL drive. Zarek is shocked by Gaeta's order to stand down all weapons. Seconds later, Zarek and Gaeta are arrested by Adama and his supporters, ending the rebellion.