I'm still not over... Chief and Boomer's tragic romance on 'Battlestar Galactica'
Here at PopWatch, we’re reminiscing about the pop culture moments that we still can’t get over — no matter how much time has passed.
“How many of us ended up with the people we wanted to be with? Got stuck with the best of limited options. And why? Because the ones we really want, that we’ve really loved, are dead, dying, turned out to be Cylons and they didn’t know it.”
So says Chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) as he mourns his wife’s death. But he isn’t talking about losing his wife — he’s talking about “the one that got away.” It may be cold-hearted, but in the apocalyptic universe of Battlestar Galactica, he’s kind of right.
It’s been almost 10 years since the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica premiered on the then titled Sci-Fi Network. It was a time when network names made sense, quality sci-fi drama aired rather than just sharks in tornadoes, and geeks exclaimed “Frak!” with only a few confused glances as repercussions. Battlestar Galactica is largely responsible for my overwhelming love for science fiction, but it is also responsible for my greatest TV-related heartbreak. SPOILERS ahead, but really, it’s been 10 years. The Ronald D. Moore sci-fi drama set, interestingly enough, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, includes the usual hallmarks of space operas like hyperspeed starships, killer robots, and epic journeys to mysterious planets. But it also features some of the most complicated, poignant relationships ever to be dramatized on TV. To me, the most heartbreaking — and there are a lot to choose from (Starbuck and Apollo! Billy and Dee! Adama and Roslin!) — is the tragic tale of Chief and Boomer.
Chief and Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park)’s romance is a significant part of the show’s first season. Boomer’s slow realization that she is actually a sleeper agent for the enemy Cylons is dramatized in her relationship with the human Chief. Not to mention that their secret affair is already looked down upon as it goes against military protocol for an officer like Lt. Valerii to be involved with someone who is enlisted like Tyrol. Boomer is finally outed as a Cylon as her programming dictates her to assassinate Commander Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos). Both Chief and Boomer are detained as Cylon spies, but Chief distances himself from Boomer, denying that he is a Cylon as well as rejecting their feelings for one another. He puts the final jab into their relationship, curtly stating, “Software doesn’t have feelings.”
They are finally separated when Boomer, in the style of Lee Harvey Oswald, is assassinated by Chief’s crew member, Cally (Nicki Clyne). Boomer dies in Chief’s arms, professing her love for him in her dying words. Despite his last words to her, he grieves for his lost love, which is further complicated with the addition of another Sharon Valerii, later known as Athena, who returns to the Galactica, carrying Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett)’s child.
Time passes; they both move on in their new lives. Chief marries Cally — the same Cally that initially killed Boomer — and has a young son. Boomer is resurrected and returns to the Cylons. In attempts to embrace her new life as an outed Cylon, she becomes an underling for evil Cylon mastermind Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell). As far as Chief is concerned, Boomer is as good as dead. As far as Boomer is concerned, her life as a human, and with Chief, is gone.
But wait — it is later reveled that Chief is a Cylon, one of the Final Five Cylons left to be discovered. His wife dies. His son is revealed to be the biological son of a human officer, Lt. Brendan “Hot Dog” Costanza (Bodie Olmos). Boomer defects from Brother Cavil and flees with Ellen Tigh, one of the other Final Five, to the Galactica, where she knows she’ll be immediately arrested. (She did try to assassinate Adam, after all.) And so, past the heartbreak and confusion they have endured, the star-crossed lovers reunite, but because it’s BSG, there is no such thing as a happy ending.
Whenever I want to torture myself and give myself a good cry, I head to Netflix and play “Someone to Watch Over Me,” episode 18 from the fourth and final season. They imagine their life together as it could have been — married with a beautiful home on the idyllic Picon and a daughter of their own. When President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) agrees to hand over Boomer to the allied Cylons who are sure to kill her as a traitor, Chief helps her escape. But he then realizes that it was a ploy to allow Boomer to kidnap Hera, Athena and Helo’s Cylon-human hybrid child, and bring her back to Brother Cavil. Was it just a manipulation, or does she still care about him as she used to? Chief breaks down, returning to the projection of their life, searching for their “daughter” — only to find the house, and his heart, empty.
In the end, Boomer saves Hera from Cavil’s experiments and accepts her final death at the hands of scorned mother Athena. Chief ends the series roaming the new, prehistoric Earth alone. I can’t decide if Chief or Boomer’s fate is more tragic — all I know is that it is still traumatic to me. There’s a reason Portlandia included a sketch about binge-watching Battlestar Galactica. It makes you crazy, but it hurts so good.