Geek Trivia: Space-Opera Singer

Takeaway: What are the lyrics to the faux-aria musical piece "Battlestar Operatica"?

Both critics and science-fiction fans revere the new Battlestar Galactica television series broadcast by the Sci Fi Channel. Perhaps's Nathan Alderman described the series best as a "refreshing balance of theology, politics, characterization, and GIGANTIC KILLER ROBOTS."

It's an unlikely combination that earned the show a Peabody Award, as well as a loyal following of viewers (this Trivia Geek included). So what's with the screwy mixed-service officer ranks?

BSG, the fandom shorthand viewers have adopted, is so less-than-enamored with cliché science-fiction conventions that it's broken with one of the seminal sci-fi/space opera tropes: Treating all military officers like sailors in a Napoleonic navy.

Yes, there is a military, with its stalwart flag officers, can-do technical grunts, and daring fighter jocks, but the ranks that these characters answer to are neither army nor navy, but something in between. There are admirals, which outrank commanders, which outrank. . . colonels?

Here's how series co-creator Ron Moore breaks down the BSG officer ranks in one of his blog posts:

  1. Admiral (navy rank)
  2. Commander (navy rank)
  3. Colonel (army/marine rank)
  4. Major (army/marine rank)
  5. Captain (all-service rank)
  6. Lieutenant (all-service rank)
  7. Lieutenant (junior grade) (navy rank)
  8. Ensign (navy rank)

Note that there are no mitigated ranks, such as lieutenant commander, lieutenant colonel, or second lieutenant. The only real "missing" rank is that of general. There are also no apparent flag grades, with all admirals being equal.

It's less tidy in the enlisted ranks:

  1. Master Chief Petty Officer
  2. Chief Petty Officer
  3. Petty Officer First Class
  4. Petty Officer Second Class
  5. Petty Officer Third Class
  6. Specialist
  7. Deckhand
  8. Recruit

Moore also notes that the Colonial Marines use a different rank system "which conform[s] more closely to the traditional enlisted marine ranks, with sergeants, sergeant majors, etc."

It all sounds pretty serious, doesn't it? In truth, BSG does project a somber, gritty tone onto the screen, but that doesn't mean there isn't some snarky, geek-worthy humor lurking under the hood.

In Season 1, Episode 9, "Tigh me up, Tigh me down," an operatic soundtrack underscores a particularly portentous scene. If you didn't recognize the particular aria, don't be surprised—composer Bear McCreary wrote it especially for that episode. Dubbed "Battlestar Operatica," this faux-epic has some notably humorous lyrics, provided you speak Italian.


What are the lyrics to the faux-aria "Battlestar Operatica," written specifically as a subtle in-joke for an episode of the new Battlestar Galactica television series?

Composer Bear McCreary gave permission to the Battlestar Wiki Web site to reprint these lyrics, which we quote below.

In Italian, the lyrics are:

Maledetto sia tuo cuore Cylone
C'è una tostapane nella tua testa
E porta tachi a spillo
Numero Sei ti chiama
Il rivelatore Cylone impone
La tua ragazza è un tostapane
Maledetto sia tuo cuore Cylone
Ahimè, disgrazia! Ahimè, tristezza e miseria!
Il tostapane ha un bel vestito
Rosso come la sua spina dorsale ardente
sussura Numero Sei:
"Per tuo commando"
Maledetto sia tuo cuore Cylone

This translates in English to:

Woe upon your Cylon heart
There's a toaster in your head
And it wears high heels
Number Six calls to you
The Cylon Detector beckons
Your girlfriend is a toaster
Woe upon your Cylon heart
Alas, disgrace! Alas, sadness and misery!
The toaster has a pretty dress
Red like its glowing spine
Number Six whispers:
"By your command"
Woe upon your Cylon heart

McCreary has employed or composed a number of other lyrical pieces for BSG, almost all of them in languages other than English. The main title theme is in Sanskrit, and both Latin and Sengalese have shown up elsewhere in the show.

And he isn't above giving a nod to the previous incarnation of BSG either. The new "Colonial Anthem" offers a new take on the original Battlestar Galactica TV show's theme music. That's not just a nice tip of the cap—that's harmonious Geek Trivia.

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The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the September 27 edition of Geek Trivia, "A star in the (un)making." TechRepublic member gfisher pointed out my own inability to navigate an astronomic semantic trap.

"'. . . Charon (Pluto's largest moon). (Pluto has two other moons, Hydra and Nix—both discovered in 2005.)' 'Moon (n): any natural satellite of a planet.' By the accepted definition, Pluto has no moons."

Allow me to quote Homer in my response: "D'oh!" You're right: Now that Pluto is no longer a planet, the objects which orbit Pluto are now officially satellites—not moons. Great catch, and keep those quibbles coming.

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The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who's duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.

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