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I ask because the creators of the show claimed that you can.

Before the premiere of the Battlestar Galactica episode "Sometimes a Great Notion" (the start of Season 4.5), the Sci-Fi Channel aired a special that recapped the recent events of the series. It went through several plot points, particularly that one of "The Final Five" Cylons was still unaccounted for and that the plot twist from the previous episode, "Revelations", was that:

The crew had found Earth, but it was a lifeless wasteland.

The special in general seemed catered to new viewers. In fact, the creators at one point were on-screen and specifically said that new viewers could definitely jump on at the upcoming episode. They said that Battlestar Galactica was a three-act story and that this was the third act. To further the point, they said that if you've never seen the show before, this was is a great jumping-on point and that it could be thoroughly enjoyed.

Well, I took them up on their challenge (and even watched a re-run of "Revelations"). I knew the gist of the show, I knew what a Cylon was, and I knew the general state of affairs. But I remember being confused by the episode's cliff-hanger: one of the remaining Cylons was…someone who I had never seen before. I'm pretty sure that the recap special didn't mention this person, or if it did, I didn't remember it.

Because I was completely lost at the ending, I decided not to continue with the series. But I'm wondering now: did I have just a bad experience? Is it possible to start watching Battlestar Galactica at Season 4.5 and understand the rest of the series, as the creators claimed? Or were the creators just saying it in an attempt to con new viewers into giving their show a healthy Nielsen rating boost?

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    Highly not recommended. I've seen the series and the details in the storyline and the big reveals are THE reason to watch it. Jumping straight to 4.5 will reveal all the secrets. – Coomie Aug 22 '16 at 6:38
  • Depends on what you mean by "understand". Not everything that happens in seasons 1-3.5 is relevant in the grand scheme of things, but character details certainly add to one's understanding to why people do what they do. For example, you'd miss the relationship between Starbuck and Lee (and Leoben, Sam, everyone for that matter) and would have a lesser understanding of her dialogue and actions. I'm sure the abridged version would make sense, but the first 3.5 seasons include a lot more than filler. – The Middler Aug 22 '16 at 7:59
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    I don't see how this can be anything but opinion based. Some people may be okay with just a recap, others will say you need to see it all. – cde Aug 23 '16 at 0:07
  • @cde There seems to be quite a few questions, many of which are highly upvoted, about whether or not you can start at a later part in a series or if you need to watch it from the beginning. It's not clear to me why those would be on-topic and this one would not. – Thunderforge Aug 23 '16 at 0:29
  • I don't think those are good questions either, but films do tend to be much more stand alone than serial tv shows (as opposed to Monster of the week shows or anthologies). Something like BSG has so much lore and interpersonal drama that you would miss jumping on a few seasons in. – cde Aug 23 '16 at 0:35
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I'm a bit at loss, since I don't know what the recap went over, but I think you could generally understand it.

However, even the Opera House reveal sequence would be lost on some, if they hadn't seen (or the recap hadn't gone over) Kobol's Last Gleaming Parts 1 & 2 and/or know that besides Gaius Baltar, other characters start to have dreams about the Opera House too that play into the revelation sequence in the final episode of the series...

As to whom you are referring to, I presume you mean

Ellen Tigh

Since I didn't see the recap, because I was watching the whole series live at the time and didn't need it, I can't attest to if this character was mentioned or not, but they probably should of been because,

In season 3, viewers learn that Ellen gives [a] Cavil (Cylon model #1) information, in exchange for her husband Saul's freedom. When he finds out that she compromised his life for the resistance against the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, he feels he has to do something about it. He poison's Ellen and kills her. Therefor she was thought to be dead.

One reason they may not have gone back over that particular part of the season 3 story line was possibly because it may have been too telling, as there were several good theories as to whom the last member of the final five could be. And the shock of the reveal wasn't so much that the character didn't embody some cylon traits, but rather that this character turns out to be much smarter than they previously appeared and that the ramifications between this character with several other characters (Saul, Cavils, Caprica 6, and Bill) was quite impactful, because of what transpired since that indecent.

Other subplots that might be hard to fathom would be plots that fed into the Cylon #8's plots, specifically the significance of "Boomer's" redemption arc and Galen's connection back to her.

Other than that, I would think you could generally get the gist and feel for the ending, even though surely one would get much more out of, if they were familiar with all of it.

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