The Man with Nine Lives

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The Man with Nine Lives
"The Man with Nine Lives"
An episode of the Original Series
Episode No. Season 1, Episode 15
Writer(s) Donald Bellisario
Story by
Director Rod Holcomb
Assistant Director
Special guest(s) Fred Astaire
Production No. 50916
Nielsen Rating
US airdate USA 1979-01-28
CAN airdate CAN {{{CAN airdate}}}
UK airdate UK
DVD release 2004-12-28
Population survivors
Additional Info
Episode Chronology
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War of the Gods, Part II The Man with Nine Lives Murder on the Rising Star
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Listing of props for this episode
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An old con man, Chameleon, works his way into Starbuck's life to avoid being tracked down by blood-thirsty Borellians.


  • It has been twelve sectons since the Beings of Light gave Galactica the coordinates that presumably lead to Earth. The directions lack a reference to how long the trip is.
  • Starbuck can't wait to try out a new gambling system that he claims "can't lose."
  • Chameleon is on Canaris, a shuttle heading towards Rising Star. He watches a recruiting ad starring Omega. The show comes back on and the "Warrior of the Centar" being interviewed is Starbuck.
  • Zara asks how old Starbuck is. Starbuck reveals that he doesn't know how old he is because he in an orphan, found wandering in the thorn forests on Caprica.
TV Guide ad for The Man with Nine Lives
  • Chameleon pretends to be upset with the show, in order to avoid paying a transportation ducket to the attendant. He claims that he runs the news and interview shows for Inter-Fleet Broadcasting. The woman next to him seems rather impressed.
  • He says that there are thousands of civilians in the Fleet doing jobs just as important as the warriors, and those are the stories that they should tell. He claims that they should interview the attendant, telling him to go to the Comp-Tel Ship after he gets off duty so that Zara can interview him next. The ploy works, and Chameleon is able to bluff the flustered attendant into thinking he had already given him a transportation ducket.
  • Chameleon turns the broadcast back on, and Starbuck is explaining that his parents probably perished in the Cylon raid on Umbra. It was destroyed in a sneak attack in 7322, after which thousands of children were found wandering around in the forest, including Starbuck.
  • Aboard Rising Star Chameleon pauses outside the Astral Lounge, pretending to have lost his wallet. The woman he had flown next to, Siress Blassie, insists on spotting him the necessary funds. Chameleon agrees to take the money as long as she promises to return to his billet that night so he can "repay her."
  • Jolly and Boomer enter the Astral Lounge, and Jolly is immediately drawn to the dancers performing in the middle of the room. Boomer wants to go get some food, but Jolly is content to watch the dancers.
  • Starbuck believes that this activity will occupy those two for the rest of the furlon, and drags Apollo off to try his new gambling system.
  • Chameleon and Siress Blassie enter as the dancers finish their act. Everybody gets on the dance floor and begins dancing "futuristically."
  • Three hooded figures enter the lounge, and create quite a stir by their appearance. Boomer identifies them as being Borellian Nomen. Chameleon appears distressed at their coming. Boomer is surprised to see them, as they rarely mix with the Colonials. Jolly says that they don't, unless they are on a Blood Trail.
  • Boomer diffuses the tension in the room, the Nomen take a seat, and everybody resumes their activities.
  • Chameleon asks to be excused, as he has some business to attend to. Siress Blassie is worried he is interview a young, beautiful warrior, but he assures her that he prefers experience to youth.
  • The younger Nomen spots Chameleon and grabs for a laser bola off of his bandolier. They begin glowing and emitting a sound. Chameleon makes a break for it in the confusion.
  • Jolly orders him to disarm it, but Boomer explains that once armed they have to be used, or else they explode. He has 50 microns to use it before it detonates.
  • Boomer has him throw it at a vertical supporter. A red line appears between the balls when thrown, and the bola wraps around the column and explodes (relatively harmlessly).
  • Boomer claims that Borellian Nomen do not draw laser bolas by accident. The leader claims that he is young, and that the drink and the music excited him, and promises that it will not happen again.
  • Boomer agrees, because if they are to remain they will disarm themselves. The younger Nomen claims that it is against their Code to be unarmed. Boomer says he should have thought of that before he drew his weapon. The leader believes they should have known better than to mix with other colonists. He informs Boomer that they will await transportation back to their ship in the docking lounge.
  • Several ships are listed as destinations of the Canaris shuttle in the docking lounge.
  • Maga holds Bora responsible for Taba's actions, because Bora is related to the young Nomen. Bora accepts the blame, and vows that they will bring their prey down. Maga wonders what would have caused Taba to break the Code by drawing his weapon without thinking. Taba claims that he saw Captain Dmitri, but Maga is disgusted by Taba's lack of discipline. Maga says that Taba can apologize after he is punished, if he survives the punishment.
  • Apollo is anxious, but Starbuck is winning at the Pyramid table with their money. Chameleon sits down at their table. As Starbuck is dealt his cards, he uses a calculator at the table to work his system. Based on his system, he decides to "hover" (stay), and raises his bet. Chameleon appears to believe Starbuck is acting foolishly. He points out that although the odds are 3:1 against the dealer having a capstone, but if she does he can't win, and his system doesn't consider that. Starbuck reduces his bet, and the dealer reveals a capstone. Everybody loses, so Chameleon has saved Starbuck some cubits.
  • The Nomen are patiently waiting for their prey in the docking lounge.
  • Chameleon claims to have been working Starbuck's system back on Caprica while Starbuck was still in swaddling clothes. He used to be a professional gambler, but now he is a genetic tracer. He can reunite orphans with their relatives using genetic tests.
  • Chameleon had been badly injured in one of the earliest Cylon raids on Caprica. For five years after he was a traumatic amnesiac. After he recovered he learned that his wife had been killed in the raid, and his son had been lost. He's never been able to find his son.
  • Starbuck asks where and when the attack took place, and Chameleon tells him that it was at Umbra on Caprica. Starbuck "reveals" that he was orphaned at Umbra. Chameleon points out that over 3000 children were orphaned in that raid, so the odds of him being Starbuck's father are astronomically low. Starbuck is hooked, though, and wants to pursue the possibility.
  • Starbuck wants to run a genetic trace. Chameleon says that the waiting list is a yahren long, and he can't ethically move to the front of the list. He does have some alternate, less precise tests that could be run using equipment aboard Galactica. They order up a shuttle to ferry them to her.
  • Apollo runs into Boomer, who tells him about the incident with the Nomen. Boomer thinks the situation is resolved, until Jolly approaches to inform them that the Nomen haven't left as they had promised. The warriors go to investigate.
  • They begin to question the Nomen, and Maga invokes his rights as a human member of the fleet. Apollo accuses Maga of lying to Boomer by not leaving on the next shuttle, prompting Taba to again reach for his laser bola. Maga tries to stop him, and the warriors draw their laser pistols.
  • Taba claims that Apollo insulted Maga. Maga informs Taba that if that had been the case, Apollo would be dead. It is Taba that has insulted Maga, twice now, and he must now answer to the code. His laser bola bandoliers are stripped from him, and he is informed that his name will be stricken from the Roster of the Nomen. Maga hands Taba over to the warriors, claiming that Taba no longer exists to him.
  • Boomer still wants to know why they haven't left. Maga claims that the shuttle Canaris was full, and they are waiting for the next shuttle. Maga denies being on a Blood Trail, saying that they wouldn't be returning to their ship if they were still hunting.
  • Starbuck and Chameleon walk by on the way to the shuttle, and Chameleon eyes the Nomen warily as he walks past them. His plan to evade the Nomen appears to have worked.
  • Bora respectfully asks Maga why he handed Taba over, rather than fighting to the death. Maga acknowledges that while the Colonials are weak, they have superior numbers. The Nomen must have the patience of the Scorpius. They realize that they need to figure out a way to get aboard Galactica.
  • Omega comes on the view screen with a message urging anybody interested in serving in the military to contact Galactica.
  • Sheba, Boomer, Starbuck, and an unnamed female warrior discuss the situation on the shuttle ride to Galactica. Sheba feels that it is a miracle that Starbuck may have found his father.
  • Boomer realizes that the Borellian Nomen was looking right at Chameleon when he activated his laser bola, and that Chameleon might be the subject of a blood trail. If this were the case Chameleon might be looking for a way to get escorted off of Rising Star safely.
  • In the back of the shuttle, Chameleon is explaining how disappointed Siress Blassie is that he had to leave, but she understood given the circumstances. Starbuck, upon finding out that Chameleon had just met the Siress, believes that their similar prowess with the ladies proves their relation.
  • Cassiopeia runs the alternate (less precise) test on Chameleon and Starbuck. The immediate results indicate that they are from the same planet, are from the same tribe, and are related within at least ten generations. Starbuck is elated, but Cassie points out that there several people within the fleet that could match that closely. Both patients agree to run the more precise genetic trace immediately.
  • Adama holds an informal council with Sheba, Boomer, and Apollo over the possibility that Chameleon is conning them. Boomer reports that the Nomen left on the next shuttle as they promised, and the captured Nomen continues to claim that it was drink and excitement that caused him to activate the bola.
  • Sheba points out that if he is running a con, he would want to delay the genetic tests. Apollo is beginning to feel like an "equinus's atrum". Adama points out that they could have Col. Tigh run a discreet security check, or even confront Chameleon. Apollo doesn't want to call him a liar to his face, and opts to have Sheba contact Tigh about running the security check.
  • Col. Tigh welcomes a batch of prospective recruits to Galactica, then hands them over to Flight Sergeant Omega to escort them to their quarters. Among the new recruits are the Borellian Nomen.
  • Cassiopeia extracts a neuro cell from Starbuck and Chameleon in order to run the genetic trace. Starbuck is nervous about the procedure, but it is obvious that he is being a bit of a wimp about the whole thing.
  • Apollo comes in during the extraction and asks that Cassie hold up Starbuck so that they can have a word alone with Chameleon.
  • Chameleon remarks that Cassiopeia greatly resembles his wife (potentially Starbuck's mother). Starbuck confides that Cassie is the only woman he has considered getting sealed to (someday, maybe, when they find Earth).
  • Omega drops off the recruits in their quarters and instructs them to find a bunk. The Nomen intimidate another recruit into leaving them a bunk to themselves.
  • Corporal Lomas is in charge of the watch, and lets the recruits know that he is there to assist them.
  • The Nomen ask the Corporal the location of Lieutenant Starbuck, as they wish to thank him for saving their lives during the escape. Lomas informs them that he is located on Beta deck with the rest of Blue Squadron, but that they are not allowed to leave the area until their security checks are completed.
  • Boomer and Apollo take Chameleon for a drink in the Officer's Club. They explain their suspicions that he was using Starbuck in order to get a warrior escort. Chameleon admits that the Nomen might have been throwing the bola at him, because he ran a genetic test that proved that a child was not one of their nephews. However, he did not feel he needed warrior protection. Apollo apologizes for doubting him.
  • The Nomen approach Lomas asking for a private room to pray in. They claim that failing to pray in private is an unpardonable sin according to their code. Lomas explains that they are restricted to quarters until their security checks come through, but for the sake of religious freedom Lomas offers to let them use the supply closet. The Nomen knock out Lomas when he turns his back.
  • Starbuck encounters Apollo and Boomer in the hallway. Tigh runs into them, and begins to tell Apollo about the results of the security check on Chameleon. Starbuck takes great offense to Apollo and Boomer's doubt, declaring their friendship to be over.
  • After Starbuck storms off Tigh reveals that according to fleet records, Chameleon doesn't exist.
  • They take this news to Adama in Core command. They try to figure out what he wants. Boomer speculates that it is protection from the Borellian Nomen. Upon hearing this, Tigh asks for the location of the Borellian Nomen recruits. Omega tries to call the duty desk, but there is no response. A security team is dispatched to apprehend them. Starbuck and Chameleon are to be taken into protective custody.
  • The nomen, dressed as deck crew, ask a pair of warriors where they might find Starbuck. The male replies that he is on furlon, but the female says that he is back as she saw him walking towards launch bay alpha with a civilian.
  • Starbuck is showing Chameleon around the inside of a Viper cockpit. He demonstrates where the laser generators are, remarking that when they are activated the button on the control stick unleashes millions of voltons of firepower.
  • Starbuck says he's going to miss flying Vipers, but he's going to resign his commission in order to spend time with Chameleon to make up for lost time, helping Chameleon at his job as a genetic tracer.
  • Just as Chameleon begins to tell Starbuck what the "truth of the matter is," the Nomen approach. Chameleon ducks into the cockpit, and Starbuck jumps down to investigate.
  • The Nomen demand to know the location of "that jackal, Captain Dmitri." Starbuck says that he's alone, and asks what is going on. "A blood hunt," the Nomen replies, as both sides take cover. The sound of charging laser bolas can be heard.
  • They exchange bola and laser fire, missing their first volleys. Starbuck is knocked over by a near miss, losing his laser pistol.
  • Starbuck runs down the launch tube, and the Nomen pursue. Chameleon fiddles with the controls, arming the laser generators. Chameleon warns Starbuck, yelling "Son, hit the deck!" He fires the Viper's lasers into the launch bay, as Starbuck drops flat, then jumps and is blown clear of the tube.
  • Chameleon rushes to Starbuck's side, but Starbuck appears to be ok aside from the soot. The cavalry arrives. Apollo checks with Starbuck as Boomer and a pair of Blackshirts run down the tube to check on the Nomen. Boomer requests medtech assistance, as the Nomen have somehow managed to survive.
  • Starbuck explains that the Nomen are on a blood hunt for Captain Dmritri, but he doesn't know of a Captain Dmitri. Chameleon explains that he is Captain Dmitri, sort of.
  • Starbuck relates the story to Adama, how during one of his many occupations Chameleon discovered that the Nomen were hoarding supplies (enough parts to build a Viper). Chameleon posed as Captain Dmitri of the livestock ship, and the Nomen paid him to slip them enough livestock to live on for yahrens. When the Nomen discovered they had been conned they went on a blood hunt. Chameleon used Starbuck to get off of Rising Star.
  • Starbuck apologizes to Apollo and Boomer.
  • Cassiopeia happily informs Chameleon that the genetic trace is positive, and Chameleon is Starbuck's father. Chameleon asks her to tell Starbuck that it is negative, or else Starbuck will give up everything he loves in order to spend time with an old crook.
  • Cassie makes Chameleon promise to tell Starbuck the truth someday. Chameleon agrees, saying that it might be the day Starbuck gets sealed. Cassiopeia scoffs at the prospect of Starbuck ever getting sealed, but Chameleon lets her know that it might not be as unlikely as she thinks.
  • Adama asks if Chameleon is his real name. Chameleon says that it is. Adama is pleased, as they have been getting messages from the senior ship from a Siress Blassie. She has agreed to take full responsibility for Chameleon's rehabilitation. Chameleon is hesitant, but Adama orders it to be so.
  • Starbuck lets Chameleon know there aren't any hard feelings, and asks if he can stop by now and then to visit as friends. Chameleon is pleased, and is glad that Cassie has kept their secret. Starbuck offers to shuttle Chameleon to the senior ship.
  • They leave, having a good time talking about Pyramid systems, where Chameleon notes that he once knew a "three-handed dealer on Pineas."

Adama's Notes

It has been twelve sectons since Baltar's surrender and our encounter with the advanced race, the mysterious ones who gave us coordinates which presumably would guide us to the planet Earth. No reference of time seems apparent in the curious directions so it's impossible to know whether we can expect to find Earth tomorrow or many yahrens from now. But our scouts have located increased signs of the trail taken by our ancestors, the thirteenth tribe. In my heart, I feel we are getting close. Celebrations are everywhere. Our people's expectations grow with every passing centar. We've given our weary combat pilots time for leisure and rejuvenation. Food, water and hope.


History and Fred Astaire

  • In this episode is a bit of Hollywood history. Fred Astaire, who was famous for his dance numbers in the golden era of movie musicals, had been reluctant to dance in any productions for years, but made rare exceptions. "The Man with Nine Lives" is one such exception as he danced, albeit briefly. It also marks the last time he danced on screen.[1]
  • Anne Jeffreys did not have to audition for the role of Siress Blassie. She jumped at the role upon finding out that she would be acting with Fred Astaire. Coincidentally, she holds the honor of being the last woman to dance with Astaire on screen.[1]
  • Dan Barton, who had a brief role playing the crewman/"ducket taker" on the shuttle Canaris, notes that many producers and Universal higher-ups would visit the set just to see Astaire.[2]


  • According to Anne Jeffreys, the dress she wore in this episode won Jean-Pierre Dorleac an Emmy Award.[1]
  • Due to the lack of music in the dancing scene between Fred Astaire and Jeffreys, the timing was cued by Rod Holcomb.[1]
  • Barton also notes that the costume he wears in the episode, which was outfitted by Western Costume, was fitted over a two to three day period.[2]


  • "The Man with Nine Lives" is another episode set in the Fleet that not only introduces the Borellian Nomen, who return in Baltar's Escape, but also Starbuck's father, Chameleon.

Of Starbuck and Chameleon

  • Clearly, this episode is a kind of extrapolation of Starbuck's own life. One can imagine Starbuck, further along in years, still playing pyramid and dreaming up schemes, running from people he'd tricked, and mourning the beautiful wife of his youth. Chameleon clearly draws the connection when he compares Cassiopeia to his former spouse, and the story is set up for Starbuck and Cassiopeia to eventually get sealed. Although clearly a Starbuck-focused episode, we do see Boomer and even Jolly in this one, and Apollo has a bit of a role to play as well. Fred Astaire pulls off the part of Chameleon with aplomb, and it is nice to see him acting in this, one of his later roles.
  • It is apparent that "Starbuck" was a name given to him following the Cylon attack on Umbra, as Chameleon does not realize that Starbuck is his son by name alone.

The "Nomen"

  • The Borellian Nomen remain some of the best Galactica villains, and are in a way precursors to the honor bound Klingons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, complete with bumpy makeup, but this episode was filmed over a year before the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture where the bumpy headed Klingons first appeared. A broader back story is hinted at, with the mention of the honor 'code', the hierarchy within the group and the unique laser bola weapons.
  • Why the Nomen even dealt with "Captain Dimitri," who was not a Nomen, is a mystery given their belief-based superiority to humanity and related isolationist practices.

State of Colonial Record Keeping and Other Social Services

  • Of additional note is the obvious reality that the Colonies did not have a very stringent records keeping system on its citizens, even though the technology exists to make a foundation for such a system. While such systems may have existed early on, it is apparent that such a system was either dysfunctional or non-existent by the time the attack on Umbra occurred. The lack of such a system may be attributed to socio-political erosion caused by the Thousand Yahren War that affected various social services.
    • Furthermore, the various flaws in social services relating to record keeping became readily apparent with the events depicted in "Murder on the Rising Star," where Karibdis is able to avoid detection and virtually disappear. Were it not for Baltar's confirmation, Karibdis would have remained a free agent with no one the wiser.

Free Script

  • An early draft of this episode is called "The Furlon". A pdf copy of this script can be found here.


  • Why is Fred Astaire's character, Chameleon, pronounced Sha-ME-lee-on as opposed to Ka-ME-lee-on?
  • How many Nomen survived the Cylon attack on the Colonies?
  • Did any Nomen women and/or children survive?
  • Considering the size of the average Noman, how could one Viper assembled from stolen spare parts ferry all of them away from the Fleet to a habitable world?

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • After the Nomen ask for a place to pray in private:
Corporal Lomas: I don't know how you guys are ever gonna make warriors.
(after Lomas turns his back, and is knocked unconscious by Maga)
Maga: We are warriors.

Deleted Scenes

See: The deleted scenes from this episode.

Guest Stars

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Egnor, Mike (19 Feburary 2007). Anne Jeffreys GALACTICA.TV Interview (backup available on (in ). Retrieved on 21 July 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Egnor, Mike (5 May 2007). Dan Barton GALACTICA.TV Interview (backup available on (in ). Retrieved on 22 July 2007.