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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
Battlestar Galactica: Die, Chameleon! Battlestar Galactica
Die, Chameleon!

By Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published May 1986)

Intent on abandoning the caravan, a mutiny takes place on the fleet ship Eureka; meanwhile, space pirates capture both Colonial and Cylon members to become unwilling participants in an interstellar reality show.

Read the story summary at the Battlestar Wiki

Notes from the BSG chronology

The details in this novel tell us that the story takes place some time after The Nightmare Machine.

Page 47 reveals that Starbuck's relationship with Cassie has cooled in the time since "The Man With Nine Lives". This may suggest to us that the story takes place some time after the so-called Season Two BSG comic books published by Realm Press since they also feature a seeming cool-down of the Starbuck-Cassiopeia romance (and a possible renewal of one between him and Athena). Also, the Starbuck-Cassie relationship still seems to be strong in the final episode of the TV series, "The Hand of God", so it must be after Season One.

In Chapter Two, Lucifer muses that it seems an eternity since he had been off Baltar's basestar; the last time he is depicted off the basestar is in "Collision Course".

Didja Know?

This book reintroduces Chameleon (Starbuck's father), last seen in "The Leiter Side of Life".

Didja Notice?

The planet on which the reality show takes place is said to have an unpronounceable name, but translates as "The Joyful Land".

On pages 3-4, the humans in the fictional drama playing itself out on Imagescan, viewed by the family in the Joyful Land, fight against aliens with metallic bodies, using weapons that fire blue rays. This may be a "fictional" representation of the Cylons, gleaned from the same source from which the Image Lords obtained the heroic character of the Starbuck; recall that the Cylons' laser weapons in the TV series also tend to have a blue coloration to the beams. 

On page 9, the Image Lords are described as having gray skin that appears to be peeling in large strips, have no noses, are hirsute, and have four arms. However, the cover painting of the book depicts a scene within of an Image Lord holding Chameleon hostage and appears quite dissimilar facially from the description. Notice that that the alien depicted on the cover has a nose and does not appear to have strips of skin hanging from its face or body.

Page 11 reveals a Cylon-controlled planet called Trillius.

Page 11 also continues the suggestion that Lucifer has his soul housed in his left shoulder, as stated in The Nightmare Machine, rather than in his right as stated in the novelization of "Lost Planet of the Gods".

Page 12 reveals that because of the fiasco involving the Imperious Leader in The Nightmare Machine, the rumor in Cylon channels is that Baltar may soon be stripped of his command and replaced by a proper Cylon.

Page 14 reveals that Spectre is still an aide to Imperious Leader, a position to which he rose in the course of The Nightmare Machine.

On page 16, Spectre is described as having skeleton-like fingers. This is different from the description of Lucifer's fingers as tendril-like in The Nightmare Machine, even though both Lucifer and Spectre are IL-series Cylons, though different models. Of course, being mechanical entities, they may have interchangeable parts.

Page 18 reveals that Lucifer has developed a new technique for bypassing manual entry on a keyboard when commuting with Cylon computers; he is now able to essentially communicate telepathically with them.

Page 18 reveals that Spectre has acquired a new outfit, even more garish than his previous, to go with his new, prestigious position.

Also revealed on page 18 is the phrase, "Greetings in Cylon splendor" as part of Cylon ritual on ceremonial occasions.

Page 24 reveals that most of the Vaileans who joined the fleet in The Nightmare Machine have requested combat positions and many have proven to be among the best cadets Apollo has ever taught.

One of the Vailean cadets, who plays a prominent role in this and the next two Thurston novels, is named Hera. Likely the name was borrowed by Thurston from the Greek goddess who was the wife of Zeus. In the BSG2000 series, Hera was the name of one of the Lords of Kobol, for whom the child of Helo and Athena would later be named.

Page 27 reveals that Starbuck is trying to cut down on his cigar habit.

Page 30 reveals that "rag-tag fleet" has become common slang among the population of the ships in the caravan.

For his reconnaissance team to the Eureka, Apollo decides to take Croft and Sheba. He says Sheba has experience dealing with insurrections. When was this? We have seen no story dealing with her and any insurrection. Was there one aboard the Pegasus in her time there?

Page 32 reintroduces Croft, not seen since "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" Part 2 and reveals he has been made commander of the prison barge since his loyal performance on that mission.

Page 35 seems to suggest that Jenny is the general CWO (Chief Warrant Officer) on the flight deck of the Galactica and not just the one on Starbuck's flight crew as implied in The Nightmare Machine. This makes more sense than assuming that every pilot has their own CWO (though the next novel, Apollo's War, goes back to referring to her as Starbuck's CWO!).

Page 36 suggests that there is an arrangement for either Apollo or Starbuck to remain on the Galactica when the other goes on a noncombat mission, as backup. However, this does not seem to particularly hold true in the BSG adventures we see in various media.

Page 38 reveals that the garments worn by the Borellian Nomen are made from the hides of animals native to their planet. (In the later novel Armageddon, their is discrepancy as to whether the Nomen are native aboriginals of Scorpius or Caprica.)

Page 38 introduces two Borellian Nomen not previously seen: Brega and Lingk. Likely, the name "Lingk" is a reference to "missing link" since the Nomen are somewhat Neanderthal-looking. Maga and Bora are also reintroduced in the book, but the young Taba is strangely missing. Perhaps he has been banished at this point for his lack of discipline in "The Man With Nine Lives". It is not explained here how the Nomen were recaptured after their escape on the Eastern Alliance destroyer in "Baltar's Escape", but, in the later story "Apollo's Journey" Part 1, Maga, Bora, and Taba are all once again found incarcerated on the prison barge, and  dialog (and an editorial footnote) in "Apollo's Journey" Part 2 reveals that the three were recaptured near the lunar moons of the planet Terra in an unchronicled tale.

Page 38 reveals that Maga has called off the blood hunt for Chameleon. Page 86 reveals that Apollo negotiated the end of the hunt in exchange for the release of Maga, Bora, and Taba from the prison barge.

Page 44 reveals that legend states the medallion worn by Commander Adama was originally forged on Kobol. This implies that the medallion is thousands of yahrens old.

On page 45, Cassie reveals to Starbuck that Chameleon is his father.

Page 50 reveals that Viper pilots are not allowed to keep intoxicating beverages in the cockpit, by Apollo's order. Uh, yeah, I would think that would go without saying! But the narrative goes on to say that at one time, a little nip was allowed to stir the fighter pilots' spirits!

Referring back to the pyramid card system he had worked out in "The Man With Nine Lives", page 50 says that Starbuck had spent many nights in his bunk working with his calcutronic scan to work the system. Presumably, a calcutronic scan is something similar to what we would call a calculator.

Page 51 states that the livestock ship is named the Agro. The nickname of "agro ships" has previously been applied to the three agriculture ships of the fleet (now down to one after the destruction of two of them in "The Magnificent Warriors"). "The Man With Nine Lives" implies there is a separate livestock ship from the agro ship, so possibly that is the Agro named here. The standard agro ship left over after the events of "The Magnificent Warriors" is referred to simply as Agro Ship 9 in "War of the Gods" Part 2.

On pages 50-56, the narrative gives us a synopsis of the events of "The Man With Nine Lives". Pages 56-57 give us a sort of epilog to it, as Starbuck reflects on the meetings between him and Chameleon shortly after.

Part of the epilog described above has Chameleon telling Starbuck about a dream he had in which he saw Starbuck alone, abandoned, on an unpopulated planet. This may be a reference to the events of the Galactica 1980 episode "The Return of Starbuck" in which his Viper is shot down over an unpopulated desert planet and the fleet is forced to move on without him to escape the pursuing Cylons.

Page 60 reveals that Croft and his late wife Leda had spent their most romantic vacation on a planet called Khelana.

Page 65 reveals that the Eureka has an anthrobiology lab which contains living specimens of animals from the Twelve Colonies as well as from worlds the fleet has visited in their exodus. I'm not sure the designation is quite apt since the prefix "anthro" means "having human qualities". "Zoobiology" might be a better term for the lab described here.

Chameleon tells Apollo on page 66 that he worked on one of the foundry ships before transferring to the Eureka.

Page 79 reveals that the short and feisty Ensign Giles is often referred to as the mini-Starbuck for his daring in both combat and romantic matters.

On page 83, Lucifer feels a stirring in his artificial soul when he again contemplates the idea of joining the human side in the war.

On page 121, the Starbuck-worshipping Chandra grabs his discarded cigar from the ground and drops it into his Colonial gun holster which she also carries. But the Colonial holsters can be seen to be open ended at the bottom in several episodes of the series, so the cigar should have just fallen right through!

On page 128, Starbuck uses the phrase "phony as a seven-sided cubit." Colonial cubits are rectangular coins, so they technically have 6 sides. The phrase here is inspired by the American phrase, "phony as a 3-dollar bill".

As Commander Adama dictates into his log in his quarters, the recording device is referred to as a voicerecorder.

Starbuck makes a deal with the consortium of Image Lords to play Lucifer at pyramid. If Starbuck wins, all of the enslaved people go free. If he loses, the Image Lords can have his life. This is similar to the deal that Captain Kirk strikes with the Providers in the Star Trek original series episode "The Gamesters of Triskelion".

At the end of the book, in order to randomly decide what coordinates he should take his stolen shuttlecraft towards, Chameleon pulls out a pair of Scorpian dice, described as having many tiny sides to them. Some d10's?

Unanswered Questions

Is Lucifer really dead? He is reactivated, through much work, by Spectre in Surrender the Galactica, but most of his memory has been wiped out by Spectre. Might Lucifer's secret "soul", housed in his left shoulder, allow him to return to his former personality? Or might he have made a backup of his old memories before death via his telepathic communications abilities with the Cylon computers? Lucifer is seen again in the later Richard Hatch novels and the Maximum Press comics, but is a loyal Cylon again, with no suggestion of the hidden soul described in the Thurston novels.

At the end of the book, young Chandra decides that if Starbuck doesn't return to the Joyful Land someday, she will go out and find him. Did she?

At the end of the book, Chameleon escapes from the pirate ship by stealing a shuttle. He doesn't know which way to go in order to find the fleet, so he rolls some dice to randomly choose what coordinate direction he should head. Did he ever make it back to the fleet? Chameleon is not seen again in any subsequent adventures.

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