Katee Sackhoff Reflects on the 'Battlestar Galactica' Finale 10-Year Anniversary & Kara Thrace's Fate
"Goodbye, Kara. You won't be forgotten."
Lee Adama's final words to Kara "Starbuck" Thrace — spoken just moments after she mysteriously disappeared into thin air, bringing her story to a close — have proven true. Ten years after Battlestar Galactica's last episodes aired on the Syfy channel, Kara and the show that brought her to life have remained as relevant as they were when the miniseries premiered.
We chatted with Katee Sackhoff about the 10-year anniversary of the "Daybreak" episodes, where she sees Kara fitting into today's pop culture world and what she's been up to in 2019.
So, March 20 marks 10 years since Battlestar’s final episode aired on SyFy. Have you watched, or re-watched, the finale since then?
Katee Sackhoff: I haven’t, actually. It occupies this beautiful space in my memory where the last few episodes are a mixture of what actually transpired on-camera, behind the scenes, emotionally — it’s all of it wrapped up into what those last two episodes mean in my own memory, and it’s probably a completely different thing that ended up on film.
Do you have a favorite memory from filming the last episodes, or the last season?
I thoroughly enjoyed filming the scenes with Michael Trucco: the scenes when Kara was saying goodbye to Sam. When I read the final episodes, I was a little sad that it seemed like Starbuck was just gone. I really wanted her — not to wrap her up in a perfect little present with a great little bow on it, but to, in my own mind, give her an ending where she was still someplace. So, I actually changed the dialogue at the end. Michael Trucco and I both did. We shifted it just enough where it made you think that she was going with him, and they were going to be together on the other side. To me, that was really important for Starbuck. To give her something that was final, but had a little bit more peace to it.
Oh, definitely. That was always one of the most striking moments of the finale for me — when she gives him her dog tags and he says, “See you on the other side.”
Yeah, and it was one of those things where the relationships between Apollo and Starbuck and between Kara and Sam were very different things. Apollo was, by all means, probably her soulmate. But that didn’t mean that he was her partner, and I think that Sam and she complemented each other very well.
There was a part of Starbuck that Apollo never accepted, never liked. He almost loved her “in spite,” instead of “because.” And I think Sam loved her “because.” I think he loved every aspect of her, and Apollo never could do that and be that for her. So I think she fit better with Sam, and for her to have ended up with him, at least in our minds, was something I really enjoyed.
At the time, some fans were confused about what happened to Kara. Do you still get asked about Starbuck’s fate?
Yeah, it’s the most common question I get asked. Or “What do you hear?” But the other question is “What was Starbuck?” and it’s like, “I don’t know, guys!” I never had that conversation with Ron Moore. I was at a point in my career, fifteen-plus years ago, where I thoroughly enjoyed being just a performer. And for me, when it was written, it was one of those things where I didn’t ask a lot of questions. For me, taking more creative control and questioning why characters do things was something I came into later in my career.
So I never really asked what Kara was, I just went to work and I did it. I don’t know what she was! [Laughs] I know that she died, and I know that who she was at the end was not who she was in the beginning, and I know that when she crash-landed on that planet, that was Starbuck and she was gone. Starbuck, as we knew her, was gone. But we also know, based on what the story was, that she had to die in order for the new one to come and save humanity.
As you were filming the final season, did you give much thought to how Kara’s story would end? What kind of ending did you want for her?
I did. I had said to Ron Moore from the beginning, “Please don’t have her walk off into the sunset with Apollo.” That’s the one thing I didn’t want. I wanted to know that Kara was going to be okay, and that she was someplace, and that she was loved. That was the thing that she was craving her entire life, was being accepted and being loved. She had that with Sam. She had that with a lot of people, but I think with Sam it was pure and [she was] completely accepted. I think that’s what I wanted for her. Really the only thing that I said was “please don’t have someone save her.” Like, please don’t have her wake up and realize she didn’t die. We didn’t want that moment where you snap your fingers and realize it was all a dream. I just wanted to know that whoever she was, was safe somewhere.
One of the things I love about Kara is that she was, and is, an excellent example of a nuanced, complex female protagonist on a sci-fi show. Where do you see her legacy living on in TV today?
One of the reasons I always gravitated toward science fiction was because that was where women were the most thought out, and they had the most layers and they were the most interesting and multidimensional. Starbuck was just that. She was, more than fifteen years ago, a character that was gender-neutral. She was a character who there were really no rules for, and the audience accepted that. I think that is why she still speaks to so many girls, and boys, and women and men. She is literally a character for everyone because she is whoever you need her to be for you, and that’s where I think she still fits.
Battlestar Galactica has a powerful legacy in the sci-fi world. Why do you think it’s remained relevant over the years?
I truly believe that Battlestar Galactica was lightning in a bottle. Not to say that this hasn’t happened before and can’t happen again — of course it can. But I think that it was very timely. I think that because of what we were going through and everything in our society, I think that Battlestar, because it was disguised as science fiction and because at that point people didn’t take science fiction very seriously, it was very easily dismissed as “oh, it’s just fluff. It’s sci-fi.”
So Battlestar Galactica was able to be very current, very topical, and very important. It asked hard questions. I think that the sad irony is that all of the things we were going through as a society in 2001 and during Battlestar Galactica are things we’re still continuing to go through right now. Nothing changes, it’s just a different day. We’re continuing to make the same mistakes over and over and over again, so Battlestar Galactica continues to be relevant.
Do you still keep in touch with your Battlestar co-stars?
Every single one of them! We’re literally family. I talk to Tricia (Helfer) almost every day. I see every single person from the cast as much as possible.
What are you up to now, in 2019? I’ve heard you have a new Netflix show coming out soon…
I do, I do! It’s called Another Life and it’s coming out within the next six months. It is one of the things that I am producing right now, and as an artist, it is truly humbling to be able to contribute to the creative process not only as an actor, as a performer, but in more than one way. Especially with Netflix. The level of talent they have over there is extraordinary, and to be able to be over there is impressive. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a dream come true.
In this era of revivals and show continuations, could you see a BSG reboot happening? And if it did, would you want to be part of it?
Listen. It always happens. It’s funny when you start to think of shows from my childhood — not to bring up 90210 and Luke Perry, god rest his soul. But to think back to when I was 12 or 13 years old and Luke Perry was my first crush on television, to have them rebooting it not only once, but twice, and now with some of the original cast — nothing is impossible.
BSG was such an important part of my career that I can’t imagine not wanting to do that, but at the same time, I don’t know. I would never say never, but I’ve transitioned so much as I’ve gotten older. So I don’t really know what I would do.
Looking back on ten years, 15 years since Battlestar Galactica started and ended, what does the show mean to you now? What does the character of Kara mean to you now?
She means everything to me. I never dreamed that a science fiction show where I took over the role from a guy would be the thing that made it so I was never forgotten. I think that that is a gift that keeps on giving. It was the best thing that could have happened for me.
I came of age and grew up playing Starbuck, and she became not only a role model for me — for her strength, and her conviction, and her honesty — but for so many other people. So for me, that’s what she means. I found my voice as Katee by playing her, right along with the fans. She changed my life. I’ll be forever grateful for the show, and the creators, and the fans for accepting her.