Act of Contrition

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Act of Contrition
"Act of Contrition"
An episode of the Re-imagined Series
Episode No. Season 1, Episode 4
Writer(s) Bradley Thompson
David Weddle
Story by
Director Rod Hardy
Assistant Director
Special guest(s)
Production No. 104
Nielsen Rating 2.5
US airdate USA 2005-01-28
CAN airdate CAN 2005-02-05
UK airdate UK 2004-11-08
DVD release 20 September 2005 US
28 March 2005 UK
Population 47,958 survivors (No population change.)
Additional Info
Full Credits
Episode Chronology
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Bastille Day Act of Contrition You Can't Go Home Again
Related Information
Official Summary
R&D SkitView
[[IMDB:tt{{{imdb}}}|IMDb entry]]
Listing of props for this episode
Related Media
Photo Gallery @ BW Media
Promotional Materials
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When several Viper pilots are killed in a freak accident, Adama turns to Starbuck for help - but her involvement in the aftermath of the accident and in training new pilots causes the truth surrounding Zak Adama's death to finally surface.


On Galactica

  • It is Dwight “Flat Top” Saunders' 1,000th deck landing, which brings Galactica’s pilots down to the hangar deck to celebrate.
  • As the celebrations continue, a communication drone stowed on the hangar deck breaks loose from its restraints, falling to the deck and igniting its motor. The drone flies across the hangar, smashing into the celebrating pilots where it explodes, killing Flat Top and twelve others and putting seven more in sickbay.
  • As the surviving pilots prepare for the services for the dead, Kara "Starbuck" Thrace has flashbacks to her first meeting with William Adama, following the death of his son, Zak.
  • During the memorial service itself, she, Lee Adama and Bill Adama all have flashbacks – to Zak Adama’s funeral and (in Thrace's case) to her telling Zak he has qualified as a Viper pilot.
  • Following the service, Commander Adama asks Thrace to oversee the training of any new pilots they can find in the Fleet.
  • Thrace is initially hesitant, and the Commander guesses the cause is Zak's accident. He reassures her that his son’s death was not her fault – which causes Thrace to remember her admission to Lee Adama: that she passed Zak Adama through his basic training when he had in fact failed (TRS: "Miniseries").
  • She reluctantly accepts the duty, but memories of Zak Adama continue to haunt her as she plays cards with Gaius Baltar, oblivious to a conversation that takes place between Alex "Crashdown" Quartararo and Felix Gaeta concerning Baltar’s Cylon detector – a conversation that leaves Boomer very uncomfortable.
  • Elsewhere on Galactica, President Laura Roslin is examined by the ship’s medical officer, Doctor Cottle. His diagnosis is not good: her cancer is inoperable. Roslin decides that she wants to try alternative therapy using Chamalla extract – something with entirely unproven effectiveness.
  • Later, Thrace meets her first batch of recruits. They are all pilots – but none have ever flown a Viper. With no simulators aboard Galactica, the newbies – nuggets – are thrown straight into the cockpit of the real thing.
  • Their performance during their first training flight is hardly stellar, and Thrace is uncompromisingly hard on the first batch of recruits, washing them all out.
  • Captain Adama confronts her on her decision, and realizes it is caused more by guilt about Zak Adama than on the ability of the trainees. When she refuses to reinstate the trainees, he takes the matter up with Commander Adama.
  • Commander Adama initially supports Thrace's decision, but a misunderstanding between him and Lee Adama causes him to meet with Thrace to discuss Zak’s death.
  • When Starbuck tries to dodge the issue, Adama pins her down, and she admits the truth: Zak botched his final training flights, but she passed him because she was in love with him and they were engaged – but Zak really wasn’t the right material for flying Vipers.
  • Angered and hurt, Adama orders her to reinstate the trainees and to get out of his cabin.
  • Starbuck pilots Viper 1104 and leads a handful of the trainees on a training flight, about to begin a Thorch weave maneuver lesson when DRADIS detects a group of Cylon Raiders. Starbuck orders her nuggets to return to Galactica and enters the combat zone, initially unaware that Hotdog chose to stay as her wingman.
  • In the ensuing dogfight, Starbuck takes care of the Raiders (with Hot Dog's aid), but her Viper is damaged after dispatching (but not destroying) the last Raider, losing first her transponder and then complete flight control.
  • Hotdog's Viper is severely damaged, but he survives and awaits a SAR pickup.
  • Viper 1104 goes into a flat spin as Thrace and the last Raider (that's apparently dead) from the small squadron fall into the gravity well of a nearby moon. The moon's atmosphere eventually tears Viper 1104 apart, forcing her to eject.

On Caprica

  • Karl Agathon and Sharon Valerii are tracking the source of the signal they previously picked up out in the woods (TRS: "Water").
  • The signal leads them to a restaurant in the city, which has a radiation shelter under it, stocked with everything they need to survive — water, food, blankets — even anti-radiation medication.
  • Their arrival at the restaurant is observed by a copy of Six.


  • It is 48 hours since the prisoner uprising on Astral Queen.
  • Water replenishment ops are still underway.
  • Galactica has a remaining contingent of 40 Vipers on top of at least 5 Raptors (revealed in "Water"), but now only has 21 combat-ready pilots and a further 8 newbie "nuggets".
  • Cylon Raiders have guns of an apparently similar nature to those mounted on Vipers.
  • Zak Adama and Kara Thrace were engaged, and that led to her passing him for flight duty.
  • Adama's relationship with Thrace is not as long-standing as the Miniseries appears to suggest: they have only served together for two years.
  • Word is leaking out about Baltar's Cylon detector.
  • Karl "Helo" Agathon and "Caprica" Valerii still appear to be the only "people" left alive on Caprica. Neither seem in any hurry to get off the planet. (More humans are discovered in the second season episode, "Resistance")."
  • Small inconsistency in set dressing: The books on the shelf that covers the fallout shelter's entrance are rectangular.
  • Also of note in the bookshelf scene is that the books are all from modern-day Earth; several titles and covers can be read as the bookshelf falls over, including "The Final Diagnosis" by Arthur Hailey, and another book prominently displaying the Nazi swastika, and what appears to be a photo of Adolf Hitler, on its cover.
  • The Colonial military use what appear to be HumVees and Deuce-and-a-half trucks.
  • While the Viper is burning on entry into the atmosphere, the Viper's altimeter is going in reverse, indicating altitude gain.
  • Ron D. Moore states on the DVD commentary that the munition activation that kills several pilots was inspired by a similar event on the USS Forrestal in 1967.
  • Also according to the DVD commentary, the ejection sequence at the beginning of each chapter is an homage to The Right Stuff.


  • This episode emphasizes many of the goals set at the series' creation to make a sci-fi series that is grounded in realism. The logistical limitations on the Fleet are readily apparent: this episode highlights how difficult it is for Galactica to train new combat-ready pilots, as there are no reserve pilots and civilians with little or no prior flying experience are all that they have to work with.
  • Further, this episode shows that sometimes accidents simply happen on a battlestar: this is not a perfect, pristine in-story universe but a worn, run-down real world. The accident on the flight deck occurred not through sabotage or some sort of technobabble space anomaly, but simply because an old piece of equipment wore out.
  • The realism highlighted by this episode is again apparent in the climactic scene between Starbuck and Commander Adama, in which she reveals that she was responsible for his son's death. The dramatic situation it focused on is not centered around some sci-fi concept, but the interactions between people which could have occurred on present-day Earth. If the script for this episode were ported onto another series set on a modern-day Navy aircraft carrier, there would be few if any changes to it. It is a drama script, which happens to be set in space, which was one of the goals of the series.


Answered Questions

For answers to the questions in this section, click here.
  • Why does Major Sherman Cottle smoke, knowing full well the medical implications of cigarette smoking?

Unanswered Questions

None yet.

Official Statements

  • Ron D. Moore discusses Cottle's smoking:
    Moore: Because smoking is cool. Don't let anyone tell you different, kid. [...] Seriously, we're showing people doing what people really do and not all of their choices are smart ones. We smoke, we drink, we have sex with the wrong partners—we make lots of bad choices and some of them we do knowingly and in full cognizance of the risks and consequences. Dr. Cottle obviously knows the risks associated with smoking and he elects to do it anyway — that's his choice.[1]
  • Bodie Olmos talks about his most challenging day on-set:
    Olmos: Interesting[ly] enough, probably the first episode I was in, "Act of Contrition". I was so excited, nervous and amazed that I was on the show. That for me was a rough day, let me tell you! I could hardly sit still and the day seemed so long. I just wanted to be good, and make sure I knew what this character was all about, which is very difficult. I think it evolves. One minute you may think he is like this but then you see that he actually believes something else. So I was definitely glad to make it through that one.[2]

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • In Adama's Cabin, with Thrace and Adama, discussing comments made earlier by Lee Adama:
Adama: He said something else. That you might have been feeling guilty about something you did for Zak. What did you do for him?
Thrace: I don't know. You'd have to ask Lee.
Adama: I'm asking you.
Thrace: Well I don't kn- I, ah...I don't really know what he was talking about, so...
Adama: Don't fence with me, Kara. I love you like a daughter. I don't deserve that.
Thrace: Ummm...Zak...failed...basic flight. He wasn't a bad pilot, he just had no feel for flying...and, um, when it came to his final check ride he...busted...three of the test manoeuvres, and I should have flunked him, but I didn't. The bottom line is your...son...didn't have the chops to fly a Viper...and I killed him.
Adama: (following a flashback) You did it because you were engaged.
Thrace: (breaking down) Because I made a mistake...because I was just...I was so in love with him...and I let that get in the way of doing my job...and um, and he um, he just wanted it so much, and I...I didn't want to be the one who crushed him...
Adama: Reinstate the trainees to flight status.
Thrace: I will...but I just want you to understand...that I...
Adama: Do your job.
Thrace: Yes sir...
Adama: And walk out of this cabin...while you still can...

Guest stars


  1. Moore, Ron D. (19 February 2005). Ron D. Moore blog entry (backup available on (in ). Retrieved on 18 February 2007.
  2. Craddock, Lisa (20 January 2007). The SciFi World: Bodie Olmos interview (backup available on (in ). Retrieved on 18 February 2007.

External Links