Fandom: Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Pairing: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace/Lee “Apollo” Adama
Blurb: Over the past several days I have been watching and re-watching Battlestar Galactica in an attempt to come up with one central reason, or even two central reasons, why I ship Kara/Lee. I can tell you that as far as divining only one or two reasons, I have failed, and rather spectacularly. So I decided to think instead about what drew me to the ship, and by extension its two central characters, when I first began to watch BSG three years ago. (Three years? Has it really been three years? Seems like yesterday, but that’s what we always say, right?)
I’ll do the full disclosure thing to start out with: I am a Kara girl. Always have been, always will be. Well, check the username! But in all seriousness, I am often unable to become interested in a movie or a television show unless there is a strong female character that draws me in, makes me curious about her, and makes me want to know where she came from and where she is going. It therefore stands to reason that when my ex-boyfriend wanted to get me into BSG, he showed me an episode which primarily featured Kara Thrace. He was betting that I would be intrigued either by her or by Laura Roslin (another strong female presence on the show), and he was quite correct.
The first episode of Battlestar Galactica that I ever saw was Season 2’s “The Farm.” “The Farm” is a Kara vehicle through and through. Other characters appear in it, but she is the main focus, and I found myself almost instantly hooked. The plot of the episode details Kara’s being shot during a gun battle with the Cylons (non-fans: robots who are at war with the humans on the show) and taken to a mysterious hospital, where she is treated by an apparently kindly doctor named Simon. Unbeknownst to Kara, Simon is a Cylon himself (non-fans: the Cylons assume human form, and are almost indistinguishable from actual humans) and the “hospital” is actually a breeding farm designed to use human women to help the Cylons reproduce — which is something that the machines cannot do biologically. When Kara discovers this fact, not only does she kill the Cylon doctor, she also blows the living heck out of the place and rescues herself! Kara is definitely not the kind of woman who sits around playing damsel in distress, so you can understand why I was initially fascinated by her.
The second episode of BSG that I saw also takes place in Season 2, and is entitled “Scar.” And that’s where Kara/Lee comes in.
Full disclosure again: I am a multishipper. Meaning that I like multiple romantic pairings in my fandoms rather than sticking exclusively to a single One True Pairing. “Scar” presented to me two pairings which would eventually become my main couples in the BSG fandom. One of them is Kara/Sam, Sam being a Resistance fighter Kara meets on the planet Caprica. And the other is Kara/Lee … which brings me to the subject of this manifesto!
I’d been intrigued by Kara/Sam ever since seeing “The Farm” — an episode in which they feature prominently — but “Scar” gave me another pairing. That is of Kara Thrace and Lee Adama. Kara is a pilot on the titular battlestar Galactica, and Lee is introduced early on in the series as one of her commanding officers: the CAG, or Commander of the Air Group. Right from their very first scene together, in the introductory Miniseries, you can tell that there is something between these two people. This isn’t just a senior pilot and his subordinate. No, they knew each other from before: as a matter of fact, from two years before, when Kara was engaged to be married to Lee’s younger brother Zak.
Now, there are all kinds of fanon interpretations about when Lee and Kara first met — at the military Academy and in flight school are the two most common tropes in fanfiction — but canon tells us that they did not know each other prior to Zak, and that when they did meet, the spark between them was almost instantaneous. That might sound like a messy situation to some, but wait … it gets better. (Or do I mean worse?) Kara met Zak when she was a flight instructor at the aforementioned Academy, and they began a relationship despite the obvious problems that might entail. Zak then asked her to marry him, and she agreed. Unfortunately, Kara wasn’t able to separate the personal from the professional, and it cost her: she passed Zak in his Basic Flight courses, despite the fact that he had no natural skills in the cockpit, and on his very first flight after obtaining his wings, he was killed. She passed him, as she explains to Lee in the Miniseries, because “[she] felt something and [she] let that get in the way of doing [her] job.” Meanwhile, Lee has spent those two years since Zak’s death blaming his father — with whom he is estranged — for the fact that Zak was even in flight school to begin with.
Kara therefore has more than a few guilt issues surrounding the Adama family, and it is for this reason (among many) that she is not easily able to acknowledge her burgeoning feelings for Lee. Lee, for his part, understandably feels that acting on the chemistry between them would represent disloyalty in the extreme to his dead brother. Kara suppresses her feelings for the remainder of Season 1, as does Lee, and even into Season 2 there is not a whole lot that goes on with this couple other than the sort of playful banter and wacky antics naturally present between best friends. I would learn all of the above background later, when I went to watch the series for the first time in order to prepare myself for the airing of Season 4.
But, as I was saying, my first exposure to them as a couple was through the episode “Scar.” In that episode, the pilots struggle with a particularly deadly Cylon Raider, which has been shooting them out of the sky and otherwise menacing the 50,000-odd survivors of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Kara is dealing with those guilt issues again, this time both in the form of the dead pilots — whom she feels she should have been able to train to better resist and outsmart the Raider — and in the form of the aforementioned Sam, whom she left on Caprica after promising to return with a rescue party.
What I noticed when I watched this episode was how Kara and Lee always seemed to be aware of each other. Even if they were not in the same room (and especially when they were), they always knew instinctively where the other was, what the other was doing. Lee was always watching her. And not in a creepy way, just in a “I’m concerned about you and I would like to help you any way I can” sort of manner. The kind of concern that a person might display for his best friend, but also the kind of concern he might display for someone he loved deeply and completely.
Of course, when I learned about their backstory, I was even more interested. I wouldn’t say that I like angst, necessarily, but I am interested in it. I think it provides far more potential for character development than does fluff. And if you want angst, the Kara/Lee pairing comes with a heaping bucketful. There is Zak. There is Kara’s innate fear of destroying someone else in the Adama family. Lee has guilt issues of his own — seriously, look up “guilt” in the dictionary and you will probably find his picture — involving Kara and his feelings for her and how much he adored his brother. Through all of this angst, we come to learn more about these characters, what makes them tick, what made them become who they are in the show.
If you want chemistry, they’ve got that too. There are scenes between them that will make you literally fan your television screen to make sure it doesn’t explode from the heat! Katee Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber, who portray Kara and Lee respectively, are two very attractive people both inside and out. There is physical chemistry in spades, but there is also emotional chemistry. They simply seem to fit well together. They play off each other and when they laugh and joke around, particularly in Season 1, it just makes you start grinning. Even when they’re fighting, even when they’re trading the most horrible verbal and sometimes physical barbs, you can see that fit. You can see how they push each other to become better people, though not always in the healthiest of ways.
If you’re looking for growth throughout a relationship and over time, Kara and Lee show it. I’ve seen some people argue that their relationship is fundamentally unhealthy due to the premise on which it is based — the fact that Lee was at one point going to be Kara’s brother-in-law — and due also to the ways in which they sometimes treat each other. I completely agree that there are aspects of their relationship which are not healthy. However, along with that lack of healthiness comes something that is very real, very visceral. They could be real people. Real people make mistakes. Real people say things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. Real people might occasionally throw a punch when angry. Real people avoid their true feelings sometimes. Real people hide the truth in an attempt to protect those they love, however right or wrong that might be. Real relationships and real people are complicated. And so are Kara and Lee.
But back to growth. They do grow. They do evolve. Their dynamic goes from one that is unhealthy in the extreme (in Season 3) to one that is more like the roots of this couple: based on friendship and mutual understanding and very hard-won trust. Both Kara and Lee do not trust easily. But once they have come through the stage in which their relationship was broken, we see that they are in a better place. They treat each other cordially. They rely on each other, depend on each other. Each has evolved to the point where she or he can be a support system for the other without messy personal grudges or other issues getting in the way. Now, some might perhaps rightfully point out that the handling of Kara and Lee’s relationship throughout the life of BSG was sloppy, that it lacked cohesion. A year or so ago, I would probably have agreed with these people. But now, I see it as an evolution. I see it as them working consciously to become better human beings. That’s progress.
I ship Kara/Lee because the characters as individuals draw me in. I ship them because they are fascinating to me as a couple. I ship them because I can see so many possibilities for them, because there are so many other ways they could have gone, and because exploring those other ways is really fun!
I ship them because they are real. They are two realistic people thrown into a nearly-impossible situation — the destruction of almost the entire human race — and forced to fight for their lives amidst a series of personal problems that should probably put them in therapy for at least a few years. Yet somehow, they emerge better people. Somehow, they make themselves work. They aspire to be better, even though they’d never admit it. They behave in ways you or I might behave were we faced with a similar scenario.
They are not the only couple I ship; I don’t think I could ever restrict myself to just one! But I love Kara/Lee. And I am proud to call myself a Kara/Lee shipper.
Fic Rec #1: Decline and Fall
Why This Must Be Read: This was the first-ever BSG and Kara/Lee fic that I read, so as you can imagine, it holds a special place in my heart! It is also one of the only pre-Miniseries fics that I’ve read. (Many Kara/Lee shippers are utterly crazy about pre-Mini fic — I can’t say I count myself among them, but to each their own!) elzed just gets it. She gets the tricky aspects of Kara and Lee’s relationship. She gets the ways in which Kara and Lee both cared for Zak — yet she also successfully navigates the tricky question of why they would simultaneously choose to betray him for each other. This story, while detailing an ostensibly alternate-universe event, feels so viscerally true that you’ll want to make it part of your personal canon after reading.
Fic Rec #2 Elect
Rating/Warning(s): R (implied sexual situations)
Why This Must Be Read: For some authors, alternate universe or future speculation fic is nothing but a blanket excuse to make the characters behave in ways completely out of character. Not so here. This story takes place near the end of Season 2, when the Colonial Fleet is faced with a serious fuel shortage and decisions to make about whether to settle permanently on a planet they have found. While parts of that scenario dovetail with canon, “Elect” is essentially an alternate universe tale. indigo419 weaves politics, questions of resources and interpersonal relationships into a well-written, elegant tapestry. The story composites Lee’s different sides — pilot, lover, politician — and shows one facet of how his relationship with Kara might have played out if given the chance. Terrific work.
Fic Rec #3: The Reality and Immortality of Things
Link: http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/921546.html (Part 1), http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/923242.html (Part 2), http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/925652.html (Part 3a) and http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/925866.html (Part 3b)
Why This Must Be Read: I’m not gonna lie, there was a lot of anger among Kara fans and Kara/Lee shippers after the BSG series finale (“Daybreak”) aired. Without giving spoilers, many folks felt that the ending Kara and Kara/Lee received was cheap, and that it did not do justice to these characters and to the way the series built them up. I myself was bitter for a long while, though that bitterness has eased with time and distance. The good news about the ending, whether you liked it or not, was that it gave rise to multiple “fix-it” fics, or stories designed to re-tell or remix the finale. All of those stories have something unique and interesting and different to offer, but “The Reality and Immortality of Things” is by far the best, in my opinion. It is itself a remix of another fic (“Song of the Open Road”, by elly427), though you do not need to have read that fic in order to understand this story. wisteria_ writes Kara so presciently that you start to think she must have climbed right inside Kara’s mind, for surely no other method could capture the character as well. This is almost like poetry, and it is to date the only fic I’ve read in any fandom that has made me actually, literally tear up.
Fic Rec #4: Contraventions
Author: leda13/LedaTreize on Fanfiction.net
Rating/Warning(s): M (sex — not graphic — and language unsuitable for kids)
Why This Must Be Read: What might have happened if Zak Adama did not exist? Or if his history with Kara had been different? Many fic authors have posed and answered that question, with varying degrees of success. This story is one of the best, if not the best, among those stories that I have read. Leda begins with the concept of Kara and Lee as two military folks looking for a break, from expectations and pressure and the lives that others believe they should live. They meet up under circumstances of casual sex, but as you might expect with these two, what is supposed to be “casual” ends up becoming anything but. The fic follows their relationship through the initial meeting, their realizations that they are more attracted to and in love with each other than casual partners ought to be, and how their feelings change and evolve up through the Cylon attacks. The intimacy itself is hot but understated — “smut” seems too crude a word to describe it. This story also gets brownie points from me for being another example of a wonderfully-executed and in-character alternative universe fic.
Fic Rec #5: Icarus
Link: http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/767774.html (Part 1), http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/771660.html (Part 2), http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/774746.html (Part 3), http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/784583.html (Part 4) and http://users.livejournal.com/wisteria_/820354.html (Part 5)
Why This Must Be Read: Theoretically, I could have composed this Shipper Manifesto entirely of fics written by wisteria_, because she is just that good. However, I did want to give other authors a chance, since we have some amazing writers in this fandom. ;) Anyway … this story is another one that I encountered very early on after I began looking for BSG fanfiction online, and it falls under the category of my favourite kind of fic: the kind that explores the ramifications and impacts of a single different decision by a particular character. Everything in canon remains the same up until the point of divergence, at which time the effects of the different decision can be seen spreading like small ripples and changing canon into alternate universe. The question asked in this case is: what if Kara had decided to leave her husband Sam in favour of Lee in mid- to late-Season 3? How would events have been dissimilar? How would they have remained the same? wisteria_ demonstrates that she is just as adept at writing from Lee’s point of view as she is at writing Kara; I particularly like how different their voices are, how the author takes time and care to distinguish one’s thoughts and feelings from the other’s. The fic also gives insight into how Lee might have coped with losing Kara, and does a fantastic job of portraying it. That’s something I feel we didn’t really get enough of in canon, so along with everything else, this is a great “fill-in-the-gaps” story.
Fic Rec #6: Something Pretty
Why This Must Be Read: Where would a Kara/Lee recs list be without a little smut? Well … I could confine this to very serious, analytical stories that have Something Important To Say and Shed Additional Light On The Characters, but hey, there’s no fun in that. Besides, it wouldn’t exactly be terribly representative of us shippers — we do love our smut. ;) And as far as smutfics go, this one is a classic. I don’t think you’d find a Kara/Lee shipper who’d willingly disagree with you. The premise might be fundamentally a little unrealistic (it seems unlikely given what we know of her character that President Roslin would institute mandatory repopulation and breeding programs), but that doesn’t make any difference to the bulk of the fic, nor to how enjoyable it is. This is Kara and Lee at their playful, bantery best. It also shows the depth of their friendship, how connected they are to each other and how each instinctively recognizes what the other needs and does their best to provide it. Of course, there is also smut. Lots and lots and lots of it. A reader once commented of “Something Pretty” that it may be the hottest fic not to involve any actual penetration, and I quite agree! Keep a window open and a cold shower handy. You’ll need it after reading.
Fic Rec #7: Ship to Ship
Rating/Warning(s): Not rated; probably about PG or an exceptionally mild PG-13
Why This Must Be Read: Alternate universe stories are all well and good, and I do enjoy them — as evidenced by the number of AU fics that appear in this Manifesto! But sometimes, you’re looking for another side to the characters. You’re looking for something that fits into the context of canon and doesn’t really try to change it all that much, just works with what’s already there. Something that you can believe might actually have been filmed had the show’s creators possessed the time and the budget. “Ship to Ship” is an example of such a fic. It takes place in late Season 2, after Lee has been given command of the battlestar Pegasus and Kara named Galactica’s CAG. On separate ships, the two maintain their close friendship through a series of phone calls that range from humorous, to sad, to excited, to joking and run the gamut of every other emotion in between. The story shows that despite how screwed-up their romance may have gotten, despite the fact that they have a boatload of difficult history between them, they always were and always will be friends first. And not only friends, friends who support each other, friends who are there for each other. She soothes his frazzled nerves about the new responsibilities he’s been saddled with. He teases her after she’s had a bad day. They both console each other on the occasion of Zak’s birthday. This is sweet, light, and evocative.
Fic Rec #8: Intra
Why This Must Be Read: Like post-finale fix-it fic and Miniseries fic, there is a glut of stories dealing with the time period directly after the Miniseries, the period during which what remains of human civilization is in danger of being overrun by the Cylons every thirty-three minutes. That danger coalesces into BSG’s first hour-long episode, creatively enough entitled “33”, and over the course of that episode viewers are introduced to their characters and their relationships … including, of course, Kara and Lee. The episode understandably sparked numerous fics, both right after it was aired and throughout the life of BSG, but if I had to pick just one 33-based story to take with me to a desert island, I’d once again have to return to svilleficrecs and her brilliant “Intra”. The fic is divided into a series of smaller sections, each headed with the number of the particular jump, and details the time period from Kara’s point of view. We get Kara/Lee friendship, Kara/Lee banter, Kara/Lee remembering Zak … and what “33” fic would be complete without the blowing-steam-and-exhaustion-off sex at the end? ;) (Okay, I exaggerate, naturally. I am sure there are plenty of “33” fics that do not include sex. I just haven’t run across very many of those!) An excellent portrayal of both characters, and well worth the read if you’re looking for fic set in this time period.
Fic Rec #9: Places to Stand
Why This Must Be Read: Here’s that full-disclosure thing again: I like babyfic. I know that there are many, many, many ways it can be screwed up and done badly. But that doesn’t mean the entire genre ought to be dismissed, in my humble opinion. When done right — and stars_like_dust does this one very, very right — it can be great, and it can teach us things about the characters that we might not otherwise have known. While this story is from Lee’s point of view, it is as much about Kara, and about her coming to terms with something she never intended for her own life: a pregnancy. There are no “magical kid can talk at three months of age!” or “woman realizes how much she really wanted to be a mother after all!” clichés to be found here. Every conclusion that the characters draw and every emotion that they experience is handled simply, honestly, and with grace. And when the decision comes at the end of the fic, it doesn’t feel cheap or like a cop-out. It feels earned. This is an example of the evolution of Kara and Lee I was talking about earlier on, the evolution that could have taken place (and did, to some degree) on the show. We see them rise above their petty conflicts to become something deeper. It’s babyfic, but it’s expertly-made babyfic.
Fic Rec #10: The Greater Good
Rating/Warning(s): R (for subject matter)
Why This Must Be Read: This too could technically fall under the category of babyfic, I suppose, if one were to be really pedantic about that definition. However, it is certainly a different sort than the kind mentioned above, and in so being, it is also extremely courageous. Abortion is such a controversial topic in our world, and few authors are brave enough to explore the various themes and issues that can arise when abortion is considered. Battlestar Galactica as a show flirted briefly with some of those themes and issues in late Season 2, when President Roslin makes a decision to outlaw abortion — her reasoning being that with less than 50,000 humans left alive in the universe, the species will need to begin to repopulate or risk becoming extinct. “The Greater Good” takes that theme a little further, examining through the eyes of Kara why a woman might wish to go against the law. Is the greater good of the title better served by giving birth and adding one more human to their dwindling numbers? Or should Kara focus on protecting those remaining 50,000 people by continuing to be a pilot, something she couldn’t do while gestating a baby? The answer may surprise you, in that the story does not take the proverbial “easy way out”. Of course, this is by its very nature a fic that may prove upsetting to some, so I encourage you not to read if you feel that the subject matter might be offensive to you. But if you do take the plunge, expect to find a well-written, well-thought-out exploration of the issues involved, one that does not pull any punches or hold any illusions about the complexity of the questions it raises.
I feel like I haven’t even so much as scratched the surface in terms of awesome fics that exist out there — or awesome authors, for that matter! There are so many amazing people and stories that did not make it onto this list and should have, but honestly, I wanted to keep it to just ten because otherwise I probably would have gone overboard and put in about a hundred! Consider this a sampling of the greatest, and I hope it whets your appetite to go forth and discover those awesome others!