Spoiler Alert: Season 3, Episode 4, Exodus (Part 2)

Lee Adama defies Admiral Adama's orders and uses the Battlestar Pegasus to rescue Galactica from certain destruction. Galactica and Pegasus are under fire from four Basestars.

What was the reasoning behind sacrificing Pegasus (as opposed to sacrificing Galactica)? Galactica is a significantly older Battlestar and clearly inferior in technical capability to Pegasus. From the wiki:

As a Mercury class Battlestar, Pegasus is substantially newer, larger and more powerful than Galactica. It is nearly twice the size, but only carries around half the crew due to greater automation.

Pegasus has vastly superior weapons, flight decks, and armor compared to Galactica. Its forward weapons battery can devastate a Cylon basestar with a single salvo. It is armed with large anti ship KEWs, anti fighter/missile batteries and nuclear weapons. It has much larger flight decks than Galactica, two on each side of the ship for a combined total of four flight decks. Pegasus had four fully operational squadrons of Vipers at the time it encountered Galactica, and automation systems that allowed the production of new Vipers to help replace Galactica's losses. Unlike Galactica, Pegasus had flight simulators on board to facilitate the training of new pilots.

Pegasus' raptors could have been used to evacuate the crew aboard Galactica instead. Why not sacrifice Galactica instead? (besides the fact it's the eponym of the series)

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    Cause lee is a moron? – user16696 Jun 5 '15 at 15:41
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    The higher technology was known by the cylons, and compromised by them. With a little lead-time the pegasus is a paper-weight. While it is older, and more person-intensive, the Galactica is also resistant to the hacks that paralyzed the fleet while the colonies were initially crushed. – EngrStudent Jun 5 '15 at 20:33
  • @EngrStudent I didn't think of that. Great point! But, as I understand, if the computers weren't networked, the battlestar would be safe from Cylon hacks. – Huey Jun 5 '15 at 23:44
  • I hated that part. Yeah, the show was about the Galactica but still. – BBlake Jun 6 '15 at 12:55
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    @JeremyFrench I thought you were asking about the 2004 series ("I remember in the original series (...)", so you obviously know what happened in TOS), and my comment was about the fate of the Pegasus in the reimagined series, where the Pegasus destroyed/critically damaged a Basestar with the opening salvo, rammed to death another, and the debris (flight pod) crashed another Basestar and numerous Raiders. – Petersaber Jun 29 '15 at 7:58
up vote 20 down vote accepted

On the surface of it, there isn't a very rational in-universe reason to sacrifice Pegasus rather than Galactica. With the software vulnerability that began the entire series patched, one cannot even make a good argument that Galactica's relatively primitive, un-networked systems are preferable in the running fight against the Cylons.

We are therefore left to consider less-than-rational in-universe possibilities (after all, human beings do not always make rational tactical decisions); and several out-of-universe ones.

In-universe, Lee Adama clearly felt a need to redeem himself a bit, both from his desultory behaviour after the colonization of New Caprica, and from his insistence on not joining in the rescue effort that he did, in the end, join in. This could have led him to make a spur of the moment, "I'll show them!" sort of decision with his ship that, while not really very sensible, was in character for Apollo.

The truth is that Apollo was probably not qualified, objectively, to command a Battlestar. He had no experience in large-vessel operations, let alone command, and had probably not received much training in a formal sense, either. He received the posting through a combination of attrition and nepotism that everyone accepted at the time because there weren't a lot of good alternatives. However, his receiving that command was more or less the equivalent of taking a Naval Aviator and putting him in command of the USS Nimitz, without any additional training or time as a ship-side officer, and expecting him to know what he was doing.

In this case, Apollo did with his Battlestar what we've seen several times he'd been willing to do with a Viper -- put himself directly in the line of fire to protect others -- without thinking through the questions of whether Galactica would have served exactly as well and made more sense to sacrifice.

So much for in-universe speculation. Out of universe, there were two reasons that make a certain sense:

  • The show is, after all, Battlestar Galactica. It probably wouldn't have confused the audience all that much if suddenly the namesake ship were no longer around -- by that point, most people watching the series were in it for the long haul, not tuning in randomly. But it still might have just felt wrong to the showrunners.
  • The entire Pegasus arc is inspired by a similar, if shorter arc in the Original Series, which ultimately led to Pegasus being sacrificed so that Galactica and the fleet could escape. In that case, Pegasus went missing, and could conceivably have turned up intact later if the series had not been cancelled, but the basic point is that the source material also made Pegasus the sacrifice. In retrospect, this was not necessarily a brilliant idea in the Original Series, either, as Commander Cain's military experience was invaluable, even if he did disagree a lot with Adama, and he disappeared along with his ship. So there, too, it seems to have been an emotional decision by the commanding officer (in the original series, Cain) to err on the side of bravura without really thinking through the strategic repercussions.

In the end, the modern Battlestar Galactica series can be seen as one long parable of how humans and humanity often make terrible decisions and then have to live with them. In that context, the sacrifice of Pegasus, while not a strategically brilliant move, at least fits the theme.

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    Thanks for the answer, it made me realise that it is indeed very fitting with Lee's impulsive not-too-rational behaviour. Exactly what I was looking for. – Huey Oct 4 '15 at 1:49
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    Glad I could help! I just started rewatching the series and was reminded in particular of what an emotional and psychological mess Apollo really is, and thus realized I had an answer that was at least somewhat more satisfying than some of the comments. – Michael Scott Shappe Oct 4 '15 at 14:43
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    I would add a couple of things to this - First it's more like an F-18 pilot then an F-16 pilot, and in fact there used to be a statue in the US Naval Code that required Aircraft Carrier Captains to previously have been Naval Aviators. Secondly, it's highly likely that because of the additional automation on the Pegasus, the Galactica was simply not able to be sacrificed in a way that would ensure the survival of a majority of it's crew as the Pegasus was. And we know also that the dwindling population of humanity is a concern by this point. – Mark Mar 16 '16 at 11:49
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    @Mark That's a good point about F18 vs F16 and the fact that Carrier COs are required to have been aviators...but presumably they also go through some fairly rigorous training, and time as a ship-side officer on their way up to CO. Apollo pretty much got none of this. – Michael Scott Shappe Mar 16 '16 at 16:54
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    There's another reason - Galactica and her experienced crew, especially Adama, are a symbol that unites the fleet. Pegasus was a powerful ship, but only a ship that tagged along, while Galactica is the backbone the entire human race has been supported by. Without Admiral Adama's leadership and Galactica to rally around, the fleet could potentially break up and/or fall into despair, dooming the human race. And it's not a secret that humanity is very symbol-minded (pun intended) – Petersaber Jan 8 '17 at 10:58

I recently binge watch BSG and I think I understand why the Pegasus was sacrificed...

First off, once it entered the battlefield, it seems the Cylons turned their full attention on the Pegasus, which allowed the Galactica to recover all it vipers and jump out. The Pegasus entered the battle without any vipers and was obviously a more tempting target for the Cylons. I would hope(since Apollo did leave all his viper behind to protect the fleet) he also removed as much as he could from the Pegasus in terms of equipment and other supplies.

Second, even though the Pegasus was bigger, it did not mean it had to means to provide a lot of living space since it was fully automated. Since the Pegasus was new and automated, it was still vulnerable to Cylon hacks. It is safer to go with something less technologically advanced, and as old as the Galactica to ensure it was fully protected from Cylon technology.

Lastly, the show was called Battlestar Galactica, in which the ship itself is the stage for all the human drama and it needed to remain apart of the story till the very end. It also served as the protector of humanity and the Pegasus was just a reminder of humanity's arrogance.

  • also Galactica was more or less fully manned. Pegasus probably only flew in with a minimal crew that could likely fully evacuate. Sure, had Appollo not first objected to the plan, they could have spared Pegasus instead or even made it out with both ships. Then again, I found this back and forth only human. Adama is clever, but he doesn't know everything and it was a risky plan so it's understandable he got convinced to "play it safe" by leaving one Battlestar with the remaining fleet. – Darkwing Oct 13 '17 at 1:23
  • Furthermore, Galactica had its starboard side converted into living quarters. Vipers and raptor cannot launch from that side due to that (they're housed and launched via port side). If they wanted to replicate those living quarters on Pegasus, there's no telling how much work, and how much functionality would've been removed from her. – ackmondual Oct 17 '17 at 17:25

It was military necessity. Lee left the Pegasus vipers to protect the fleet, so he jumped to New Caprica without any, leaving him with only a few realistic scenarios:

  1. Galactica had it mostly under control, so Pegasus could blast a basestar and give support, then jump out. Would work if two or at most three basestars were present
  2. Galactica was already lost but the battle continued, so Pegasus could take the remaining vipers and save what it could of the colonists. Again, two or three basestars at the most.
  3. The battle was already over and lost, so jump in and jump back to the remaining fleet and continue on.
  4. The scenario that actually happened. With four basestars it was probably the best possible outcome.
  • You might want to include some ways in which losing the better of the two warships would be considered the 'best possible outcome' – Daishozen May 23 at 21:46

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