In Season 1 Episode 1 “33”, we see the Pilots of Galactica touching a photo of a lone soldier — kneeling in utter defeat surveying a scene of total devastation in front of him — as they file out of the Pilot’s Ready Room. This photo has become known by the description used by the BSG Production Department as the “Unknown Soldier” photo.
Ronald D. Moore explains the origin of the “Unknown Soldier” photo in a Q&A response from his, now defunct, Ron Moore’s Blog Section on the old Scifi channel Battlestar Galactica website.
There was a scene cut from “33” where we saw Laura being given her copy of the photo along with a card that said it was taken on the roof of the capitol building on Aerilon during the attack. The photo was inspired by the famous shot of the fire-fighters raising the flag at Ground Zero that became iconic. I thought the Colonies would have their own version of this — a snapshot taken in the moment that becomes a symbol of the day they can never forget and of all they had lost. The photo itself is of a soldier falling to his knees — possibly shot or simply overcome by emotion — as he stands on the rooftop over looking the devastation of his city, while the Colonial flag waves at the edge of frame. The inscription below the photo on Laura’s plaque reads, “Lest We Forget” in itself a reference to the inscription on the watch presented to John Wayne’s character in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.†
The original base photo for the image was taken at the Vancouver Film Studio’s helipad situated on the roof of building C. This was the building that housed the Battlestar Galactica production offices. The photo clearly shows the Vancouver Film Studio flags in the background along with the “Kobol” flag (which was later rotated and moved to the right) flying above the soldier’s head.
In the following image, the dot is the “Unknown Soldier” and the arrow illustrates the direction the photo was taken.
Six composite test photos were created to figure out which cityscape and element composition would work best for the “Unknown Soldier” image. As you can see in the first comp test the original background showing the studio is replaced with CGI rendering of Caprica from the opening credits.
The second major comp test shows an unused CGI shot of Caprica used as the background. The final version of the image used this cityscape but the flag was moved to the right side and heavy smoke effects were added to the city to make it appear decimated.
So, “Who is the Unknown Soldier?” you may ask.
Season 1-4 Battlestar Galactica Second Unit Director/Production Manager and webisode Director Wayne Rose posed for the “iconic” photo. Wayne directed more than sixty episodes for the series. In 2009 at the second BSG auction Wayne sat down and autographed copies of the unknown soldier photo for auction attendees.
The “Unknown Soldier” photo seen in the Pilot’s ready room from the Season One episodes was lost or stolen sometime during the time of production and was replaced in later episodes with the photo that eventually went to auction in 2009. Slight differences between the photos are evident. The Episode “33” the photo has a white photo border, three short strips of 1.5″ wide masking tape, wrinkles on the lower left portion, and heavy faux aging. The following is the one sold at auction.
Wayne is outfitted in the Colonial Marines costume to depict the Aerilon soldier.
The rifle seen in the photo at Wayne’s side is the “SEBURO MN-23” which appeared in the manga series “Dominion Conflict One: No More Noise” written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. This BB gun kit was made by Poseidon (Dai Nippon Giken Co., Ltd.) but was quickly discarded by Production as it could not fire blank rounds.
Click the following image for a larger version of the “Unknown Soldier” photo from the 2009 auction as signed by Wayne Rose.
† Moore, Ronald D., “Q&A”. Ron Moore Blog, http://blog.scifi.com/battlestar/archives/2005/01/index.html, 30 January 2005.