Every Main Character In Battlestar Galactica Ranked Worst To Best

Like many modern TV dramas, the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica" series featured a large cast of regular, recurring, and continuing characters. Such shows are almost an embarrassment of riches, so much so that determining who's a "main character" is tricky business, especially when narrowing that down to roughly 14 names. 

For example, Doc Cottle's a fantastic personality, but he's never explored or fleshed out. Anastasia "Dee" Dualla is a constant presence but not given much personality. Romo Lampkin's fascinating but doesn't play as major a role as others. And Sam Anders has a frak-ton of screen time and is key to the finale of the series, but he just doesn't pop the way so many other characters do.

Are the main characters the ones performed by the stars listed in the opening titles? What about those who played multiple roles? Are main characters determined by screen time? Importance to the main story arcs? Their influence, or some combination thereof? With all that in mind, here's a ranked list of 14 "Battlestar Galactica" characters with the most interesting personalities, complicated problems to solve, and who significantly drive the main story forward. Regardless of screen time or cast billing, they made an impact.

D'Anna Biers (Number Three)

In a space show without aliens, the most alien beings on the show are the all-too-human Cylons. And if any Cylon model can be called fanatics, it's the D'Anna's. Very few Number Threes appear on the show but they all seem cut from the same cloth, behaving as if they have superiority over the other models and glibly defying the orthodoxy of consensus. D'anna's act as they see fit, regardless of what others think. 

The D'Anna (Lucy Lawless) who concerns the story most is the one who chose to pursue the truth about the Final Five Cylons, even when that meant repeatedly and painfully killing herself and resurrecting in order to get glimpses of that forbidden knowledge. She ultimately got her answers at the Temple of Five but died in the process.

For this violation, her entire line (potentially millions), are all "boxed" for the danger they represent. This throws Cylon society into disorder because the even number of remaining models (six) are evenly split making plurality an impossibility and leading to the Cylon Civil War. So serious is this that only D'Anna is unboxed and resurrected in a desperate attempt to mediate an end to the conflict, and thus she is the one and only Three to survive the destruction of the Resurrection Hub. D'Anna herself is so distraught at the revelation that "Earth" is a radioactive wasteland that she chooses to remain on it and die alone. Sometimes the search for the truth leads to dark places, as even more significant characters prove.

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Tom Zarek

A political activist and terrorist who believes the end justifies the means, Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch) is a continuing threat to the stability of the fleet. On the surface, he may be seen as a revolutionary fighting an unjust system, but for all his high-minded political thinking and writing his primary concern is for himself.

Zarek occasionally does the right thing but not necessarily for the right reasons. He pushes for the reinstatement of the office of vice president in order to attempt to occupy it. Early in the fleet's journey, he supports President Laura Roslin's (Mary McDonnell) escape from military imprisonment but that's more about standing against military rule than standing for anything. He opposes the Tigh-imposed martial law only to later urge mutiny leader Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) to impose martial law on the fracturing fleet. He's always in the game to do what will result in his own power and influence.

Zarek's coup d'état is where his true colors are fully revealed when he orders the execution of the entire Quorum of the Twelve when they refuse to support his presidency. For these treasonous acts, he joins Gaeta before a firing squad. While never really utilized to his full dramatic potential, Zarek was an important and memorable character in the Galactica saga: a man who is not so far removed from the heroes in terms of morally questionable choices made, representing how easily others might cross the line.

Rear Admiral Helena Cain

Of everyone on this list, Rear Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) has by far the least screen time but her impact on the overall story and her characterization — and her prominence in one of the series' best episodes — makes it impossible to exclude her from this list. She's the anti-Adama.

Cain is what happens when a military leader forgets their duty to the people they are sworn to protect. Whatever she was before the Cylon attack, Cain became a monster after. When her first officer refused to carry out one of her orders, she summarily executed him on the spot. Where Admiral William Adama's (Edward James Olmos) Galactica supports and protects its ragtag fugitive fleet, Cain's Pegasus stripped a small fleet of civilian vessels of parts, resources, and weapons. She forcibly drafted personnel for those ships, and her crew killed two families who resisted. Cain then abandoned the defenseless ships. 

Additionally, when Cylon agent Gina Inviere was discovered aboard the Pegasus, Cain condoned repeated sexual assault of her as part of interrogation. Cain's assassination at the hands of the abused prisoner was poetic justice. The long tail of Cain's short stay in the series is the discovery and subsequent destruction of a Cylon Resurrection Ship, which posthumously leads to the discovery and destruction of the Cylon Resurrection Hub and the mortality of the Cylons.

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Caprica Six

While many Number Six Cylons appear over the course of the show, the one we spend the most time with and who has the most significant impact is Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer). She was instrumental both in the success of the Cylon attacks on the Colonies and later in changing Cylon attitudes towards humans which plays out through the series.

Despite her espionage, her love for Gaius Baltar (James Callis) compelled her to not only reveal herself to him but to shield him from a nuclear blast. Upon her resurrection, she questions if the Cylon plan to exterminate humankind is necessary or wise or even God's will. Like fellow "hero of the Cylon" Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Grace Park), she is in danger of having her consciousness "boxed" for going against the orthodoxy of consensus. Instead, she and Boomer are key to turning a majority of Cylon models to embrace the idea of benevolent supervision of the surviving humans. Six then questions this when the humans violently fight back.

Her ability to love leads her to help Sharon "Athena" Agathon (Grace Park) liberate her kidnapped daughter. She is also attracted to and even becomes pregnant by another Cylon — Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan). That her pregnancy fails almost to the moment that Saul refuses to join her and his fellow Final Five Cylons in abandoning the fleet, suggests that love is critical to successful Cylon procreation. When initially reunited with Baltar she is disappointed with how little he's grown, but their final reconciliation brings her arc to a satisfying conclusion.

Felix Gaeta

Mr. Gaeta is a character whose fall from grace is one of the most heartwrenching of the series. At the start, he's a loyal, motivated officer whose technical abilities save the day on several occasions. But his descent stems from his close connection with Gaius Baltar. First, he assists Baltar in developing a Cylon detector, then disproves evidence implicating Baltar in espionage, and finally uncovers evidence of election rigging, thus enabling Baltar to assume the presidency.

It's Gaeta's role in the Baltar Administration on New Caprica where it all starts to go wrong. Disillusioned by Baltar's inefficacy and then complicity with the Cylon occupation, he becomes an anonymous source of tactical information for the Resistance. During the Colonial escape, and back on the Galactica, he very nearly kills Baltar. He even perjures himself in an attempt to have Baltar found guilty of war crimes.

But it's the alliance with the rebel Cylons that is the beginning of the end for Gaeta. After losing a leg in a standoff, the human-Cylon alliance, and the revelation that members of the Galactica crew are Final Five Cylons, he snaps, partnering with Tom Zarek to stage a coup and a mutiny. It all unravels because Gaeta wants to do the right thing and put Adama on trial instead of putting a bullet in his head, which permits Adama to take the ship back. For this, Gaeta pays the ultimate price and is executed for treason. A truly tragic fall.

Sharon Boomer Valerii (Number Eight)

Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Grace Park) is the most compelling of the Number Eight model Cylons we meet because she's got arguably the most traumatic arc. She's a loyal member of the Colonial Fleet whose world turns upside down when she begins to have memory lapses and then discovers that she is a Cylon. Before she can even come to terms with this, her unconscious programming causes her to attempt to assassinate Commander Adama even as her deep feelings for him and the Galactica crew cause her to botch it.

After her death and subsequent resurrection amongst the Cylons, she is an outsider, feeling more human than Cylon. This almost results in her being "boxed." With fellow Cylon celebrity, Caprica Six, she helps persuade a majority of Cylon models that the destruction of the human race is a mistake, and she becomes one of the leaders of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica. But her love for humanity is undone by the Resistance on New Caprica and she concludes coexistence with humans is impossible.

She's wracked with jealousy for Sharon "Athena" Agathon for effectively taking over her life on Galactica. In the end, she's even disowned by her fellow Number Eights for siding with the anti-human Cylons. Her ultimate tragedy is that she is a woman without a country. In the end, she proves herself to be truly moral, saving the child Hera from Cylon vivisection, a final choice that includes accepting the terminal repercussions of her past mistakes.

Ellen Tigh

Her character has the biggest personality flip of any in the series, and yet she remains 100% true to herself throughout. Hard-drinking, attention-seeking, and promiscuous, Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) lights up the screen. She's the Lady Macbeth of the show, who believes that her husband should command more respect, fueling his alcohol abuse in the process. She constantly tears Saul down even as she builds him up.

For all of her selfishness, though, she loves Saul dearly, so much so that on New Caprica she has sexual encounters with a Number One Cylon to try to win Saul's release from imprisonment. But the cost of this is betraying the Resistance, which that group punishes by death, and she is poisoned by Saul to save her from a more terrible death at their hands.

This being "Galactica," the twist is that she is one of the Final Five Cylons, and when she is resurrected at the Cylon Resurrection Hub she awakens with her previously repressed memories restored and is almost an entirely new person ... to us. But all versions of Ellen are consistent, as when she votes with the other Final Five to abandon the fleet with the rebel Baseship's Cylons largely to spite Saul, who had a relationship with and impregnated Caprica Six when he believed Ellen was dead. In the end, she's key to breaking the cycle of conflict with the Cylons. But most of all she's a hell of a lot of fun.

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Colonel Saul Tigh

An ardent anti-Cylon, Colonel Saul Tigh's the hard-ass's hard-ass. He's the man you want to have at your back, but not necessarily someone you want to follow. He's loyal to a fault, but those faults are numerous. He's short-tempered, has a drinking problem, and holds grudges. Where Adama may make despicable choices out of necessity, Tigh sometimes makes them out of bitterness or misguided loyalty, as when — as acting commander of Galactica — he dissolves the Quorum of Twelve and declares martial law, or later enables a plan to rig an election.

His dark side really comes to the fore after the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, where, as a leader of the Resistance, he condones suicide bombings despite their collateral damage. He's unafraid to get his hands dirty, as when he poisons his wife, Ellen, before the Resistance on New Caprica executes her for collaborating with the Cylons. Similarly, he then joins the secret tribunal, The Circle, and is complicit in the execution of one Cylon collaborator and the near execution of Felix Gaeta.

Discovering that he himself is one of the Final Five Cylons doesn't change him much, and he chooses to stay with the Fleet despite a majority vote of the Final Five to abandon it, leading his resurrected wife Ellen to speak the hard truth when she accuses him of loving Bill Adama more than anything, even her. She's right, of course, and we love him for it.

Lee Apollo Adama

In a deleted scene from Season 4, Episode 5's "No Exit," Roslin tells Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber), "My one concern about you is that you're so hell-bent on doing the right thing that you sometimes don't do the smart thing." That's Lee to a tee.

The most consistent and interesting thing about him is that he's objectively the most moral and pragmatic character, the one who will go to the mat to do what's right and stand up for the truth, no matter how unpopular doing so will be. He sides with President Roslin and attempts to prevent her arrest when his father has her arrested for interfering with military matters. He even takes up the cause of defending Gaius Baltar in a show trial calculated to have his head.

But that doesn't make him a boy scout, as when he impulsively marries Anastasia "Dee" Dualla (Kandyse McClure) after Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) marries Anders (Michael Trucco) as if to prove he doesn't need her. Lee ought to have been a standout leading character, the hotshot pilot with family issues who wants to be his own man but isn't sure how to go about charting his own course. Instead, he often comes across as rudderless, going wherever the wind takes him. Heck, Apollo and Starbuck really ought to have been a "Lethal Weapon"-esque buddy team: he was a Roger Murtaugh to her Martin Riggs, but alas, this never happened.

Kara Starbuck Thrace

Nothing exceeds like excess, and "Excess" may as well have been Kara's callsign. TV shows often have a problem with "Swiss Army Knife" characters, on whom the writers focus too much and give too many abilities. On "Star Trek" it was Mr. Spock. On "Happy Days" it was Fonzie. On "Galactica" it's Starbuck. She's a hotshot pilot, she's a tough as nails pugilist, she's a crack shot with handguns, she can rip a Cylon Raider's meat brains out and fly it, she's got a special destiny, is key to finding both the devastated Earth of legend and the planet they come to name Earth — oh, and she ends up being (probably) an angel. While Laura Roslin is the most Moses-like figure here, it's Starbuck who literally takes them to the promised land. She's too much of a good thing.

Fortunately, this being "Battlestar Galactica," she's got personal flaws for days which keeps her interesting. For much of the series, she's impulsive and self-destructive. She drinks and gambles too much. She throws herself into relationships and sexual encounters with abandon. She's obdurate, obstinate, headstrong, insubordinate and a fracking pain in the ass. But this is why we love her ... or love to hate her.

Chief Galen Tyrol

Chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) is the "knuckledragger." Despite being lower rank than the pilots whose ships he maintains, he has no compunction with giving them a piece of his mind. This everyman aspect comes to the fore in his role as president of the Colonial Workers Alliance union, fighting for better working conditions on both New Caprica and back in the fleet. Tyrol's a "make it happen" sort of guy, so when lost for a purpose he cobbles together the stealthy Blackbird craft. He's a member of the Resistance against the Cylon occupation of New Caprica — and in its aftermath the secret tribunal known as The Circle — but throughout he remains true to himself, insisting on evidence and not guilt by association.

Both before and after the revelation that he is one of the Final Five Cylons he is prone to acting on his emotions, often with disastrous results. He starts the show breaking rules about fraternization as Boomer's lover then fails to warn anyone of her suspicious behavior. Even after Boomer's death, his feelings for her resurrected-copy remain conflicted, and in trying to save her from execution he unwittingly aids the abduction of the human-Cylon child Hera. His mid-series marriage to his subordinate, Cally, is conflicted and ends in tragedy. His final rash act nearly dooms a fragile ceasefire with the Cylons, when the revelation that Tory Foster killed his wife causes him to snap her neck. He may be a Cylon, but he's human to the core.

Gaius Baltar

Gaius Baltar is consistent from the first episode to the last: a charismatic, womanizing, self-serving, amoral, cowardly opportunist who will do anything to save his own skin and get ahead. Even when he occasionally does the right thing, you're always left questioning his reasons. He's a tortured soul who lives with the guilt that his weakness (as regards Caprica Six) allowed the Cylons to destroy the Colonial Fleet, the Colonies themselves, and literally 99.999% of humanity. For much of the series, he lives in constant fear that someone will learn the truth and expose him. Early on he questions his own sanity and identity when confronted by the "head Six" whom no one else can see. Has he got a Cylon chip in his head? Is he a Cylon himself? 

A brilliant scientist and raging narcissist, he proves an ineffectual leader when he succeeds Roslin as President of New Caprica, and his quick capitulation to the Cylon occupation eventually leads him to be put on trial for war crimes. Even so disgraced he forms a cult of personality complete with groupies. Baltar's gotta Baltar.

All that said, the character becomes a bit inexplicable in the back end of the show, where it feels as if the writers really didn't know what to do with him and just opted to regress him a bit in order to keep the character active. That misstep prevents him from topping the list.

President Laura Roslin

The best characters are often those who are forced to take on challenges far outside their comfort zones and learn whether they've got the right stuff. The character who exemplifies this is Laura Roslin, who comes out of the saga's starting gate the most handicapped. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she barely has time to begin processing her own mortality when she is thrust into the presidency and becomes responsible for what's left of the human race.

In a show where every surviving human life is uprooted, Roslin stands out because of the responsibilities she accepts. Knowing she's dying, she could have easily stepped down from political office. Instead, she chooses the harder path, shouldering the burden of the survival of the human race regardless of personal cost.

Throughout she is forced to make impossible choices that go against her beliefs. Politically shrewd, she's as ruthless as Adama when she sees the necessity. A staunch supporter of personal autonomy, she chooses to ban abortion in order to prevent the human race from dwindling further (it's never suggested that she bans contraception). A fervent believer in democracy, she condones election fraud in an attempt to deny Baltar and Zarek from seizing power. A staunch anti-Cylon, she comes to embrace the rebel Cylons who join the Fleet and support their having representation in the government. She's an incredibly tough cookie, a force to be reckoned with.

Admiral William Adama

If looks could kill, Admiral William Adama could wipe out entire Cylon fleets with a scowl. Stoic, often a model of surface calm, his emotions boil beneath the surface, and when the floodgates open it's not a trickle but a torrent. His anger is epic and his despair is crushing. He's a military man through and through and will do whatever he feels necessary to safeguard his ship and the civilian fleet it protects. Like Superman, the only way to hurt him is to hurt the people he loves.

Despite his gruff and taciturn nature, he has a weakness for those members of his crew he's grown close to, and this saves as often as it wounds him. He repeatedly forgives Starbuck for her various mistakes and insubordination, treating her as the daughter he never had. He mourns the death of "Boomer" after she attempted to assassinate him. He even comes to accept Tigh despite him being a Cylon. In fact, he often seems closer to this found family than his actual son, Lee, for whom his feelings vacillate between extreme pride and crushing disappointment. 

This all-too-human weakness sometimes leads him to take extreme and unacceptable risks, such as when he abandons his command of the Galactica to wait, alone in a Raptor, for the return of the rebel Cylon Basestar which carries Roslin. He's tough as nails but has as soft an underbelly as anyone, and that makes him a great character — the best "Battlestar Galactica" has to offer. So say we all.

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