One of many beautifully rendered scenes from the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica. Admiral William Adama has fallen in love with Laura Roslin, President of the Twelve Colonies of Cobol. He hasn’t told her yet. He hasn’t even admitted it to himself, yet. But he is just about to. For the moment, he allows her to be an intimate friend, one with whom he’s made the habit of reading to her favourite yarns while she undergoes treatment for the cancer which will take her all too soon.
There are so many ways to tell a story. This is one of those perfect moments in storytelling. Not just because of the subtle use of seemingly unrelated text to speak aloud a character’s thoughts, but because it’s also a moment of realisation, a moment that propels a character forward.
A lesser actor may have simply read through this text, let the dialog do the heavy lifting. The words themselves are beautiful, and the sub-text for anyone who’s been following the story of these two characters is evident.
Edward James Olmos is not such an actor. He pauses, and reflects between sentences. Although he’s told Roslin they’re reaching a place in the book he hasn’t read yet, (earlier in the episode, Adama tells her he doesn’t read the endings of beloved books, because he doesn’t want the stories to end) he’s obviously read this far, and memorised it. This passage affected him in the past. Perhaps this is even the point at which he usually stops reading.
Reading it this time, though, he recognises something in it for the first time. Something in himself, in his relationship with Roslin. He looks at her, differently. And then at himself.
His raft has been taking on water. He’s felt despair all these years both adrift and constantly pursued. He’s emptied himself rather than feel the terror and the terrible decisions he’s faced and taken on. He’s soldiered on — he’s a soldier and that’s what you do
And then comes a moment, a moment when you’re not really paying attention, when you realise you haven’t been allowing yourself to feel, you’ve emptied yourself. Sometimes it’s the emptiness you finally see. But more often it’s the recognition that something else has entered the emptiness, something else has made it safe to feel again. A moment of transcendence. Often, that something else is love.
What makes this scene an example of great storytelling is the truth in it, the reality of it. The most powerful moments in our lives come to us sometimes in just this way. A moment out of context in which we see something of value we’d missed before. That moment when we look at someone else as if we’re seeing them for the first time, and in so doing see ourselves, our lives, our future in a whole new light.
You came into my life. Your presence fills it. It feels good.