Queer fans of Battlestar Galactica, the Sci-Fi Channel’s postapocalyptic drama chronicling the struggles of a human race to find earth after a group of machines called the Cylons destroyed their home planets, have noticed one thing missing from the series: a gay character. To the casual viewer it should seem odd that a fictional universe founded on post gender ideology like Galactica would shy away from pushing that cultural hot button—considering the show includes such progressive characters as Laura Roslin, who becomes a woman president (presumably not the first) after the attack on their home world, with no one questioning her leadership. Similarly, Galactica’s captain, Lee “Apollo” Adama, unabashedly becomes a sex object for viewers whenever he struts his six-pack in a tiny towel that always seems to malfunction when the camera is on. The show also conveys a decidedly liberal bias in often criticizing the war in Iraq and the Bush administration in general. For example, this season’s opening episode found the humans under a Cylon occupation, being forced to understand the Cylon culture’s concept of god and religion while rebelling and killing Cylon soldiers.
Whatever the reasons for not playing the gay card, allow me to speculate who among the Galactica spaceship crew may be hiding in the intergalactic closet. I’m betting it’s Lt. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), the tactical officer on board who has been giving Cylon collaborator Gaius Baltar the sexy eye for a long time. I’m calling it now since we're on the verge of the season finale and the show has made it clear his sub-plot is going to deal with a secret he’s harbouring.
But I’m not the first to wager on Gaeta’s sexuality. During a radio interview in Portland, Ore., Galactica lead Katee Sackhoff, who plays the masculine Starbuck, was asked which character on the show she thought was gay. Sackhoff responded, “We think it’s Gaeta.… The blooper reel from every single season has Gaeta always hitting on someone [who is] a man.”
My gaydar first went off during season 1 when a Cylon agent in disguise told the fleet that Baltar was responsible for the attack on the home world, furnishing a photograph depicting him bombing a military base. Asked to authenticate the photo, Gaeta found himself befriended by Baltar, who approached Gaeta in the restroom and whispered how much he appreciated his help in trying to clear his name. Gaeta’s response? “Thank you, doctor. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
Up until that moment, Gaeta’s admiration for Baltar—having studied genetics in college, he was a strong admirer of the doctor’s work in genetic engineering—seemed innocent. But this encounter suggested he had more of a crush on him.
Later, after the photograph appeared to be real and Baltar was convicted of treason, Gaeta comes rushing to him in his prison cell to tell him the photo was fake after all, and that he’s able to prove it by running additional tests on it. When Baltar thanks him, and asks him why he would go out of his way to help him, Gaeta responds, “I just knew you could never have anything to do with that attack.” Mm hmm.
Another moment that made me question Gaeta’s sexuality was during season 2’s presidential run between President Laura Roslin and Baltar. Roslin, who was desperate not to let Baltar win the presidency, tried to rig the election, only to be foiled when Gaeta noticed some of the ballots were invalid because Baltar’s name was misspelled. Baltar ended up winning the election, and Gaeta left colonial duty to become his right-hand man, where he carried out all of Baltar’s questionable decisions.
Most recently, in this season Gaeta was seen tossing and turning in bed after Baltar was imprisoned again for treason, and he eventually goes to visit Baltar in the middle of the night. By this point, every character on the series has realized that Baltar has been collaborating with the Cylons and offer him no sympathy. But not Gaeta—refused entry by the prison guard, he is obviously heartbroken and walks away with his head down. As the episode progresses, Baltar begins to mock Gaeta on a secret he knows about him.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Gaeta is the only character on Battlestar Galactica to lack a romantic counterpart. Sure, he’s danced and talked with some of the fleet’s girls on occasion, but these interactions were mere seconds long, and nothing in them suggested anything more than superficial interest. The only character he has formed any kind of relationship with is Baltar.
Gaeta has been a background character for much of the series and has never had a plot centred around him. Now that he is stepping into the spotlight with his secret-related sub-plot, I’m guessing much is going to be revealed about him in the coming weeks.
Maybe the secret has nothing to do with his sexuality. But if the writers blow over all these hints in favour of revealing Gaeta as a Cylon agent sent to help Baltar during his trials, I for one will be extremely disappointed. The writers have the opportunity to play the gay card in a way that isn't flashy or a cry for media attention. Battlestar Galactica is the first series on television that makes it a point to say that sex and gender aren't important. Having a gay character and not making his sexuality a big deal would be ground breaking.