I recently tried to start watching the Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined) series, and just had to stop after the first episode, "33", because I couldn't understand the logic.

Shortly, the story is that the spaceship battlestar galactica is hunted by Cylons, and to escape, the ship has to "jump" (Faster-than-light travel) in space every 33 minutes.

So the whole episode is about how the crew is fighting against sleep deprivation after 130 hours of this hunt.

Here is what I do not understand, and maybe it's just because I missed something or I'm just dumb, and then sorry for asking:

why aren't they taking turns for sleeping? Apart from people having very unique competence, why can't they altern their work with someone else of the crew? Do they have to be awake for each FTL jump?

I have the feeling that either I am missing something, or the whole episode is based on nothing, please enlighten me.

  • 32
    let me just say, if that was enough to put you off the show, you will be glad you didn't get to the stuff that was actually confusing...
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 20, 2015 at 23:57
  • 10
    Galactica was juuuust enough "sci" to not spoil the flavor, and overwhelmingly good "fi". Its much more a story about people than tech. That said, as a veteran while I can understand maybe why you might wonder this, let me assure you that its just not very easy to sleep while under constant harassing attack, knowing that you may be closing your eyes for the last time. That's why this is a good tactic. And we do it in real life.
    – zxq9
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:38
  • 3
    I watched the show a long time ago, but I think jumps were depicted as bumpy. I am not sure it would easy sleeping through one, even in normal circumstances. Dec 21, 2015 at 11:18
  • Even if they were taking turns sleeping, I can't see how it would have been any less stressful. Dec 21, 2015 at 13:16
  • 1
    BSG isn't a sci fi, it's a mythology set in a futuristic universe. You'll enjoy the show a lot more if you realise that.
    – Stephen
    May 9, 2017 at 6:14

4 Answers 4

  • Galactica is understaffed as it is
    Galactica was being turned into a museum when the Cylons attacked the Colonies. The ship does not have a full crew complement and while it's not a skeleton crew either, they have hardly anyone to spare. At least when it comes to the bridge crew and pilots or all those that need special training in general.
    They probably have enough people to do the day-to-day activities in shifts but not enough to man all critical stations in shifts while being almost constantly on alert. It's even worse for the pilots. They have to get out every 30 minutes to provide cover against Cylon raiders and they can't afford not to sent out every able pilot in case things get even worse.

  • The logistics are a nightmare
    Coordinating the entire fleet in 30 minutes and that over and over again is a very complex task. All ships need to be accounted for after each jump, than they need to give a report on their current status. The next coordinates have to be transmitted to all ships and Galactica has to check if every ships is alright or if they have to organize some sort of aid, like spare parts or maybe a replacement for a pilot. Whatever they need to keep all the ships going. They need a lot of people to get all this done.
    Engineering also needs to work overtime because the ships are not meant to jump again and again in such short order. It's a lot of stress for the machines and they need to be constantly checked and serviced. A failing drive is practically a death sentence.
    The deck crew is also seen repairing the fighters non-stop to keep them flight-worthy.

  • The psychological stress is huge
    Even if they could afford to send people sleeping, they would probably not get much anyway. If you have a doomsday clock ticking next to you that resets every 33 minutes you are unlikely to get much sleep. Because you can never know if next time something will go terribly wrong. That is the reason why all the other people in the fleet are so tired. They are probably too afraid to go to sleep and maybe never wake up again, or only for three seconds when their ship gets ripped apart around them.
    Even those that aren't exactly afraid might still prefer to stay awake and do something productive either in the hopes of making a difference somehow or just to keep themselves busy.

  • 4
    +1 for manning and psychological stress. This question is like asking "Why do infantrymen get tired in a patrol base? Can't they just get on 33% rest plan and call it good?" There is always too much work to do, both for yourself and for the group -- the Galactica is a ship, which means it is a massive live-aboard crew-served weapon which hosts other crew-served weapons and platforms. Complex stuff. I doubt anyone but the wounded (and few of them even) were lying in their racks during inbound aerial attacks aboard aircraft carriers in WWII.
    – zxq9
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:34
  • Plus there's always the worry that this time the Cylons will show up sooner somehow.
    – Roger
    Dec 21, 2015 at 14:37
  • @Roger True. Although they actually seemed more afraid that they would get slower and at some point they would not be able to jump out in time. Dec 21, 2015 at 15:34
  • 1
    I think it's also worth mentioning that the FTL jumps are clearly extremely uncomfortable for the humans aboard the ships. There's not a lot of description, but most of the crew seem to need to brace themselves for a stomach-churning, nauseating, dislocating experience every jump. This would probably make sleep a bit difficult beyond 30 minute power-naps.
    – s3raph86
    May 9, 2017 at 5:30
  • "It's even worse for the pilots. They have to get out every 30 minutes to provide cover against Cylon raiders and they can't afford not to sent out every able pilot in case things get even worse." This is the only part of any of the answers that addresses the core reason that the pilots had to be awake every 33 minutes. +1
    – DSKekaha
    May 10, 2017 at 18:12

It's pointed out by Baltar talking to "Head"-Six that there are limits. And while it is not spelled out I have always taken it that way: the FTL jump somehow interferes with a healthy sleep.

Baltar: Five days now. There are limits to the human body, the human mind. Tolerances that you can't push beyond. All those are facts. Provable facts. (Six caresses his hair. The people sitting across from him give him a funny look.) Everyone has their limit.


Later on in a discussion between the old man and Colonel Tigh:

Adama: Is this my ten minutes, or this yours?

Tigh: Yours. I took ten last time.


So indeed they take "power-naps" with the conclusion that this is not enough after five days.

Other than that it is part of the show that they're short on everthing, e.g. pilots to fly the Vipers, deck hands to fix the ships up in no time, and so on. So even if the could take shifts they would have to rotate too quickly.

Adama: Twelve more cases of nervous exhaustion, that makes sixty-one. Have the doc start pumping them up with stimulants and getting them back on the line. Pilots too. One out of every three, every other cycle.


  • 1
    Is there any evidence that indicates an inability for humans to sleep through a jump? Most jumps take place in space, so it's hard to be sure, but the few jumps we do see in an atmosphere seem like a violent and jarring experience.
    – T.J.L.
    May 11, 2016 at 19:07

There is no answer specified for it as I remember, but most likely there wasn't someone else that could take their place while they slept.
Also note that we don't see everyone being sleep deprived, only the non-replaceable people -those in the top of the command chain and the VIPER pilots - so most likely the ordinary soldiers aboard Galactica were getting enough sleep.

We should also take into consideration the fact that Galactica was being decommissioned (and being turned into museum) by the time that the new Cylon War broke out, so it might not have had a full crew complement. source: The Miniseries


At the first FTL attempt in S00E02, Cally says "I hate this part." at last 2 seconds of FTL. I think, on FTL they feel like dropping from high place.

  • Which would mean that sleeping during FTL is probably not possible
    – user4437
    Feb 3, 2019 at 2:08

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