As the Fleet approaches the Ionian nebula, four people, Saul Tigh, Samuel Anders, Tory Foster and Galen Tyrol, begin hearing fragments of strange music that only they can hear. The music becomes more distinct and distracting as the Fleet gets closer to the nebula.
Once the Fleet arrives at the Ionian nebula, the music reaches a piercing shrill. The Colonials affected not only hear the music complete, but begin to add lyrics as well. As the Fleet plunges into darkness, losing electrical power for reasons unknown, the music compels the four to meet in an isolated room.
The four are able to assemble the lyric fragments with the intact music to form a strange song. The musical experience is associated with a "switch going off" in the minds of the four, who suddenly become aware that they are Cylons. The source or cause of the music is not known, but Final Five Cylon Samuel Anders recalls that in a past life on Earth, he wrote the song and used to play it for the woman he loved and his friends (Crossroads, Part II, Sometimes a Great Notion).
At the end of the episode the song starts playing as background music for the viewers to hear. These are the complete lyrics that are sung:
- There must be some way out of here
- Said the joker to the thief
- There's too much confusion
- I can't get no relief
- Businessmen they drink my wine
- Plowmen dig my earth
- None of them along the line
- Know what any of it is worth
- No reason to get excited
- The thief he kindly spoke
- There are many here among us
- Who feel that life is but a joke
- But you and I, we've been through that
- And this is not our fate
- So let us not talk falsely now
- The hour is getting late
- All along the watchtower
- All along the watchtower
Several of the lines appear in dialogue throughout the episode:
- Anders: That song you're hummin'. What is that?
- Tyrol: Oh, uh. Ah you know I don't even know, it's just something I can't get outta my head. Some way outta here.
- Racetrack: Yo, Anders! Do you need a frakking invitation? Move it!
- Anders: Alright. No reason to get excited.
- Saul Tigh: You'll look into it? You'll look into it? I am here telling you there is Cylon sabotage aboard our ship.
- William Adama: Sabotage? With music?
- Saul Tigh: I know, I know. I can't quite understand it myself. There's too much confusion.
- Saul Tigh (to self, after Adama exits): There must be some kinda way out of here.
- Tory Foster (while washing her hands): I can't get no relief.
Since their awakening was precipitated by hearing this music, Anders, Foster, Tigh, and Tyrol become sensitive to mentions of music by others, believing they may be clues to the identity of the then-unknown member of the Final Five. These include Gaius Baltar using music as a metaphor for spiritual awareness (Six of One), an idea Virtual Six told Baltar of in his first vision of the Opera House (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part II), Number Two's description of a subtle music underscoring reality that only a few individuals, including Kara Thrace could hear (Faith) and Felix Gaeta singing to distract himself from the pain of his amputated leg (Guess What's Coming To Dinner?).
The music is heard again during a standoff between Galactica and the rebel basestar. It draws Tigh, Tyrol and Anders to Kara Thrace's Viper, which causes the three to believe there's something special about it. Thrace investigates their claim, and discovers a clue that ultimately leads the Fleet to Earth: a Colonial emergency locator beacon signal. Upon the Fleet's arrival at Earth, they land and survey a radiated wasteland of crumbled skyscrapers and a collapsed bridge  (Revelations).
Later Kara starts playing a song with the composer at the piano in Joe's Bar. It was a song that when she was little made her happy and sad. Hera drew a picture of some dots and gave it to her. Thrace realizes that the dots represent notes. She and the composer play the notes and they turn out to be The Music. Ellen, Saul, and Tory hear it and are shocked especially at the fact that Hera was able to draw the notes to it. The significance of this is unknown, but the composer disappeared during the song and it is indicated that he was some kind of vision of Kara's father. Though she is present to hear the song, and has regained her memories of her former life, Final Five member Ellen Tigh seems not to understand fully the implications of the song either and if she knows when they last heard it and in what context, she does not say.
After being fatally injured by a hull breach, a dying Eight's last words are "too much confusion". (Islanded in a Stream of Stars)
Later Kara tries to get answers from Anders, but fails and attempts to figure out some kind of meaning for it by assigning numbers to the notes, but that fails as well. Later, when she is ordered to jump Galactica away from the Colony and has no idea where the Fleet is, she gets an idea and uses the numbers from The Music (with The Music playing over the scene) as the coordinants to jump to, saying "there must be some kind of way out of here." She jumps Galactica there and they find a habitable planet for the Fleet to settle on that they name Earth.
150,000 years later, a new rendition of the song is heard on a radio on contemporary Earth. It is Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along The Watchtower".
- The music is, indeed, a version of Bob Dylan's song, "All Along the Watchtower," specially arranged by series composer Bear McCreary, the lyrics sung by his brother, Brendan McCreary (known professionally as Bt4) . The song is available on the Season 3 soundtrack.
- The song is apocalyptic in nature.
- Christopher Ricks has commented that "All Along the Watchtower" is an example of Dylan's audacity at manipulating chronological time: "at the conclusion of the last verse, it is as if the song bizarrely begins at last, and as if the myth began again."
- Several people have pointed out that Dylan's lyrics echo lines in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21, verses 5-9:
- Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes, and prepare the shield.
- For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
- And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed.
- ...And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground."
- The song is not intended to indicate that the Colonials have picked up an Earth communication. Series executive producer Ron D. Moore considers the song to be an invention created by a Colonial citizen in a curious parallel to what had or will develop on Earth. The series creators had intentionally avoided citing whether Battlestar Galactica occured in the series' Earth's past, present, or future. Moore offers that "things that happened on Galactica were tied into our reality here on Earth in some way, in the past or the future, or some other connection". In the series finale, it's revealed the events of the series transpired 150,000 years ago.
- Ron D Moore's point of view actually mirrors what Bob Dylan himself had said about his songwriting early in his career: "The songs are there. They exist all by themselves just waiting for someone to write them down. I just put them down on paper. If I didn't do it, somebody else would.'"
- Over 25 notable bands have performed cover versions of "All Along The Watchtower"; the definitive cover was performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Many people are unaware that his version was not the original .
- Bob Dylan has indicated that the events in the song's lyrics are "in a rather reverse order", beginning logically in time with the "All Along The Watchtower" verse and ending with the now-famous opening lines, "'There must be some way out of here,' said the Joker to the Thief." 
- The version used in the series omits the final stanza, though the full song (including this stanza) is included in the season soundtrack:
- All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
- While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
- Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
- Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl
- The rhythm of the Colonial emergency locator beacon's signal matches the rhythm of the Music.
- Coincidentally, the Jimi Hendrix version of the song -- which is heard at the end of "Daybreak, Part II" -- is also featured in the 2009 film version of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen, which was released only a few weeks prior to the broadcast of "Daybreak". The song also plays a role in the original graphic novel. The soundtrack for the movie has technically, 3 Bob Dylan songs. (All Along The Watchtower, Desolation Row, and The Times They Are a-Changin'.)
- The jump coordinates that Kara Thrace deduces from the music, 1123,6536,5321. If treated as the notes of a Phrygian mode scale, with "1" representing the root note, a tune is played identical to that which is heard as Thrace keys in the jump coordinates.
- The first four numbers of Kara Thrace's jump coordinates -- 1, 1, 2, 3 -- are the first four numbers of the most common Fibonacci Sequence (starting with 1, 1), where each number is the the sum of the previous two. The last four numbers in reverse -- 1, 2, 3, 5 -- are the start of another Fibonacci Sequence (starting with 1, 2).
- This is a Battlestar Wiki descriptive term.
- In the commentary podcast for "Sometimes a Great Notion", Ronald D. Moore explains that Anders wrote the song in the Galactica universe, and acknowledges that he and the writers & editors failed to adequately get that across to the audience.
- with which many viewers perceived a similarity to real-world New York City, as viewed from near the east tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, specifically the site of the Jehovah's Witnesses office building known as "The Watchtower"
- Bear McCreary's Blog (backup available on Archive.org) . (March 25, 2007).
- AV Club interview with Ronald D. Moore (backup available on Archive.org) . Retrieved on April 22, 2007.
- Sing Out!, October–November 1962
- Song Stats for All Along the Watchtower at DMBAlmanac.com (backup available on Archive.org) . Retrieved on April 22, 2007.
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has additional information on:
- Season 3 OST at Amazon, including "All Along the Watchtower"
- An analysis of "All Along the Watchtower" at Reason to Rock
- "All Along the Watchtower", sung by Bob Dylan, at iTunes
- "All Along the Watchtower", sung by Jimi Hendrix, at iTunes
- All Along the Watchtower at Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
- Analysis and commentary in “Of Duduks and Dylan: Negotiating Music and the Aural Space,” by Eftychia Papanikolaou. In Cylons in America: Critical Studies of Battlestar Galactica. Edited by Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall, Continuum, 2007.