I tend to stay clear of fandoms of shows I like because, yeah, they can be pretty toxic. People get offended about the weirdest stuff; I don’t like bacon, and I swear, I might as well have said I murdered puppies for fun. Basically, what I’m saying is I had to go look this shit up to see who was everybody’s least favorite. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a consensus on who was Most Awful, but the person who is possibly the closest to winning that title would either be Lee or Ellen Tigh. Since I already declared Lee my Least Favorite, I most definitely can not use his ass.
As I rewatched the series, I can honestly say that I get the Ellen hate. I really do: she’s manipulative and scheming, uses her sexuality to get what she wants, and unfaithful to a man who adores her completely. But I 100% love Ellen Tigh. From the first dinner she shares with Tigh, Adama, Lee, and Roslin (“Boo! Did you see their faces??”) to reuniting with Saul on the new Earth, she was riveting. While she loved Saul, she loved herself, first and foremost, and was willing to do anything to preserve her place in the world. When she was revealed to be one of the Final Five, a whole other part of her personality reactivated: the maternal love she had for life, both Cylon and human. But what’s so fascinating about that is she didn’t stop being the person she was before. Oh, no. She integrated the seemingly opposing sides, becoming both, simultaneously existing as the horny maiden and the wise crone.
She was also incredibly intelligent and creative. She had been the one who figured out how resurrection worked, ensuring the survival of the Cylons, when Tyrol, as tirelessly as he worked on the concept, had failed. And the fact she was a woman wasn’t commented upon, similarly to how Starbuck, another woman, was the best fighter pilot in the fleet. It just was fact. That, to me, is a big deal, because, too often, a person’s gender is a defining feature of their role in a story instead of simply a section of who they are.
Oh, and I would be remiss to omit this bit: she is a mature woman. How many characters of her age do you see on television who are as sexually voracious as she is? As complex and complicated? As characterized beyond her relationship with her significant other? Only a few come to mind (Siobhan from Orphan Black, for example), and it’s a shame. The film and TV industry isn’t know for its kindness toward women over thirty, and they could really learn from watching characters like Ellen.
Now, she is a shit-stirrer. Her behavior drove her husband to drink, and she, more often than not, was looking for an angle to improve her status. But this very aspect of her kept the story moving. You just knew you could count on her to raise the stakes, simply by walking into a room. She’s one of the more self-aware individuals within the story’s universe with clearly defined motivations, and she rarely, if ever, displays any remorse for the fallout of her actions, because, at her core, she believes in herself. Without Ellen, Battlestar Galactica would have been a lesser series, and I firmly believe that.