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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
Battlestar Galactica: The Nightmare Machine Battlestar Galactica
The Nightmare Machine

Novel
By Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published December 1985)

Lucifer invents a device that projects uninhibited emotions in humans and Baltar takes advantage of it to cripple the Galactica.

Read the story summary at the Battlestar Wiki

Notes from the BSG chronology

This story is difficult to place in the chronology. Although not stated specifically, details in the novel generally seem to suggest it takes place some time in between "The Living Legend" Part 2 and "War of the Gods" Part 1. But then, there is one vague mention of "the lights that appeared to inform [Adama] of Earth's coordinates," which would seem to be a reference to the orbs of light that appeared in the 2-part "War of the Gods", however, this conflicts with details in the TV series such as Baltar's imprisonment within the fleet after the events of "War of the Gods" Part 2. In addition, the next published novel, Die, Chameleon!, which clearly must take place some time after Starbuck meets Chameleon in "The Man With Nine Lives", is presented as taking place not long after the events of The Nightmare Machine. With the conflicting continuity, I've decided to ignore the suggestions that the novel takes place between "The Living Legend" Part 2 and "War of the Gods" Part 1 and place it in the "Beyond Season One" portion of the chronology.

At this point in the chronology, Baltar has been reunited with his Cylon allies in, as seen at the end of "There Will Be Blood".

Didja Notice? 

On the cover, Starbuck is wearing his holster on his left hip and wielding his blaster in his left hand. But, as seen in the TV series, Apollo is the left-handed one, not Starbuck.

The Colonial terms for time measurement are frequently misused in this novel (and Thurston's other three original BSG novels) as compared to the generally established definitions. Here "centons" often seems to stand for months instead of minutes. "Microns" often seem to represent hours but other times seem to be the proper "seconds" (or sometimes minutes). Weird.

On pages 1-2, Starbuck and Boomer use their "Boom-boom" and "Bucko" nicknames with each other, as they did in Thurston's novelization of "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" (The Cylon Death Machine).

For some reason, Starbuck and Boomer's Viper squadron is referred to as Red Squadron on page 2 instead of the usual Blue Squadron as in the series. In "Chess-Players of Space", Adama also refers to the group as Red Flight.

Page 4 suggests that Starbuck does not smoke his cigars while in the cockpit of a Viper. However, we have seen him do so in some of the comic books stories and novelizations.

Page 6 reveals that Jolly and Greenbean have been wingmates and buddies for quite some time. On page 67, Jolly uses the nickname "Greeny" with him.

Page 8 suggests that Baltar has continuously lost weight with each setback he has suffered in his quest to destroy the Galactica.

   On page 9, Greenbean tells his Cylon tormentors that the Galactica is currently in the Omicron sector. "Omicron" is the name of the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, and now analogous to the current Latin alphabet letter O.
   Since the sector has a name, it would seem to be a region of space that is somewhat familiar (if only from star charts) to the Colonials. On page 10, we learn the sector is home to the planet Vaile, a distant human colony that is known to the Colonials. The presence of Sheba and Bojay in the Galactica crew tells us this story takes place some time after "The Living Legend" Part 2. Since it is stated by Commander Adama and others that the fleet has not encountered the Cylons from the time of "War of the Gods" Part 1 until the final episode "The Hand of God", it would seem this story must take place in the short time between "The Living Legend" Part 2 and "War of the Gods" Part 1. Again, as stated in "Notes from the BSG chronology" above, I've chosen to ignore these continuity queues, which conflict with other queues, and place this story beyond the first season of BSG.
   The Omicron sector is also named in the unproduced first season script "I Have Seen Earth" (you can read the full script here.)

Page 9 mentions that Baltar had considerable wealth back in the Colonies (his wealth is explained more fully in "There Will Be Blood").

Page 12 describes Lucifer's rescue of Baltar from the executioner's sword, seen in more detail in the novelization of the 2-part episode "Lost Planet of the Gods".

On page 16, Baltar makes a reference to "the cloudless Cylon skies". Perhaps this means the Cylons have the power of weather control? Since the Cylons are mostly metal, it does seem like they would prefer sunny, dry weather.

Page 17 indicates that Baltar's forces have captured a fairly large number of Galactica pilots over time, who are kept prisoner on the baseship.

On page 18, Baltar uses the phrase, "What in God's twelve worlds". This is presumably a reference to the Twelve Colonies.

The nightmare machine for which the novel is named is called LEADER: Lucifer's Emotional Adjustment Device--Extensive Range.

On page 18, Lucifer mentions Cylonate crystals and Borallian (sic) touchplates, devices for storing data. Presumably, "Borallian" is meant to be "Borellian", a reference to the race of Nomen introduced in "The Man With Nine Lives".

Page 20 describes Lucifer has having tendril-like fingers. This is different than the depiction seen in "Search for Sanctuary" Part 2, in which Lucifer's hand appears almost organic-looking, with four fingers. Of course, being a mechanical entity, Lucifer may have interchangeable parts.

Page 24 suggests that it is Athena who speaks to "each and every" Viper pilot that launches from the Galactica. But we have seen in the TV episodes that it is usually Rigel whom they hear.

Page 25 suggests that Greenbean is thought of as an innocent among the Galactica crew.

On page 26, Apollo muses on why the Colonial towns of Vaile have not been hit by the Cylons, but neither he nor the inhabitants of the world know why. Page 10 suggests through Baltar's own musings that the Cylon computers have told him that the world was wiped out long ago.

Page 26 reintroduces Sire Uri to the drama. In "Trial and Error", Uri was sentenced to the Prison Barge for his betrayal of Commander Adama and role in the theft of ships from fleet. It is hard to imagine the scenario that allows him to be free again for this story (of course, obviously author Thurston was not following the storylines established by the Marvel BSG comic!).

Page 27 repeats that Sire Uri is from Leo, as previously revealed in "The Last Hiding Place".

It is hard to imagine that Sire Uri and his followers could feel so complacent about the Cylon threat that they would think the inhabitants of the fleet could be safe from them living on Vaile. Even though the fleet itself is said not to have encountered the Cylons for quite some time, Blue Squadron has just returned from a long range patrol where they encountered and battled a host of Cylon Raiders, so they know the Cylons are not far off!

On page 28, Apollo tells Adama that many of the Vaile inhabitants wish to join the fleet. The Commander agrees that they will take as many as logistics permit.

On pages 28-29, Adama wishes he could go back in time to warn the Colonies about the Cylon double-cross and prevent the virtual annihilation that followed. This essentially does happen, though after Adama's death, in the 4-issue comic book mini-series from Maximum Press, Journey's End.

Page 30 reminds us that Lucifer has created a soul for himself, as previously revealed in the novelization of "Lost Planet of the Gods". But it was said then to be housed in his right shoulder; here, it is his left. I guess he's ambidextrous!

Page 31 reveals that Greenbean was secretly in love with Serina before she died.

Page 38 mentions one of the foundry ships that manufactures Vipers for the Galactica, Hephaestus. Hephaestus is first mentioned in the novelization of "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero". "Hephaestus" is the name of the Greek god of fire and metallurgy.

During her reminiscences about dead Viper pilots on pages 43-44, Athena thinks of Gemi, the young, female cadet who had a crush on Starbuck in the novelization of "Lost Planet of the Gods".

Page 45 reveals that the C.W.O. (Chief Warrant Officer) of Starbuck's ground crew is named Jenny. (Perhaps this is the hot babe in form-fitting overalls seen on Starbuck's crew in the comic book adaptation of "Annihilation".)

Page 46 states that Greenbean is flying a Q series Viper. It is not revealed what details are specific to the Q series or if it is a different series than the usual Vipers seen in TV episodes.

On page 52, Starbuck is said to swear, invoking all seven levels of Caprican curses. It is not revealed what these levels are, nor what swear words are associated with them.

Page 61 suggests that it has been "quite some time" since Baltar's basestar had last sent a massive attack wave against the human fleet.

On page 66, Adama seems to wonder if he has "misread the lights that appeared to inform him of Earth's coordinates". This would seem to be a reference to the orbs of light that appeared in the 2-part "War of the Gods" and the entities of the Ship of Lights that left directions and vectors in the minds of Apollo, Starbuck, and Sheba. But Baltar is a prisoner of the fleet at that point, so he couldn't be chasing them in his basestar; of course, at the end of the novelization of "War of the Gods", the human traitor is mysteriously returned to the Cylons, even though he remained a prisoner in the TV series. Again, see "Notes from the BSG chronology" above for details on my decision to move this story to a later point in the chronology.

Page 68 reintroduces Cadet Cree, last seen in "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" Part 2.

Page 88 reintroduces the concept of the devil's pit, the lower levels of the Galactica which the engineers say is haunted, first mentioned in the novelization of "The Young Lords".

Pages 94-100 describe the time when President Adar first told Adama about Baltar's declaration of peace with the Cylons back in the Colonies. Adama was disbelieving of the armistice and of Baltar's reliability even then. Pages 102-104 retell a scene from "Annihilation" in which Adama and Adar again argue about the likelihood of peace with the Cylons.

This book reintroduces Specter, the IL-series Cylon who previously appeared in "The Young Lords".

Pages 109 and 153 suggest that the Imperious Leader has many eyes. In his general appearance however, Imperious Leader seems to have just two. Perhaps those two eyes are compound ones, like those of insects?

Page 120 reveals that Jolly has recently been on a diet, but it hasn't yet appeared to do much toward his weight.

Page 143 reveals that Adama's wife, Ila, had been half deaf.

In Adama's semi-comatose state, pages 144-146 depict him observing his wife watching the same news broadcast we first saw in "Annihilation" of Serina at the Caprica Presidium on the night of the Cylon assault.

Adama's semi-comatose visions include a scene of Ila dying in a blast by a Cylon Raider on the family home, her body later being recovered by local survivors for burial elsewhere. Of course, this doesn't match with Ila's survival of the attack on Caprica as revealed in "Derelict", but there's certainly no guarantee that his visions are of the actual event since he was not there originally to witness it.

Pages 152 and 153 seem to suggest that Imperious Leader's basestar has docked with Baltar's. This would make for an interesting double-basestar configuration, visually!

Page 168 recalls Starbuck's visit to an automated psychological therapy room in the novelization of "The Young Lords".

On page 172, the old man from the devil's pit refers to a Dagon nightcrawler. This is the first and only mention of such a creature in the BSG universe. It is also unknown whether "Dagon" is meant to refer to a planet or some other type of locale.

Page 174 reveals that Boomer has a special ability to move soundlessly when needed.

Page 194 describes Athena's Viper piloting in defense of Vaile as her first since the battle over Kobol (in "A Death in the Family") except for a few test flights. She did engage in a Viper battle with Enoch in "Ape and Essence", but that flight had started out as a mere test flight with Cassiopeia and Sapphire, with Starbuck leading.

On page 200, Dietra refers to herself as Di-di, possibly a nickname used for her by others.

On page 210, Lucifer considers someday defecting from the Cylons and joining the humans.

After driving off the Cylon diversionary attack on Vaile, Commander Adama has some long-range telemetry equipment left for their use in detecting future Cylon attack forces. Considering that the Cylons wiped out the 12 Colony worlds though, it seems unlikely to me that mere long-range scanning would prevent a Cylon victory there. 

Unanswered Questions

Why did the Cylon records state that the human presence on Vaile had already been wiped out long ago?

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