Ltc. Jackson Spencer

The battlestar Galactica’s CAG during her last deployment is Jackson “Dipper” Spencer, CF. The Miniseries script specifies neither a name nor rank, but the Viper he flies off the Galactica has a nameplate for MAJ JACKSON SPENCER “DIPPER,” whence the CAG’s name and presumed rank has entered the lore.

Accordingly, The Racetrack Chronicle refers to him twice as Major Spencer. But in the waning days of the deployment chronicled in part two, “Galactica,” I reference Spencer receiving a promotion. That’s to accommodate the fact that in the Miniseries (which coincides with the following chapter), Spencer wears the bright, shiny rank-devices of a newly-minted Lieutenant Colonel rather than those of a Major:

There are a few ways to think about this, but my own view is that Spencer should be treated as a recently-promoted LTC for his short life on screen.

To be sure, I doubt that it was intentional, and the pins are clear for only a few frames, but canon is a gestalt that includes unintentional and even unintended elements. Still, it’s worth considering how this seemingly-contradictory costuming datapoint made it onto the screen.

An in-universe explanation could be that the Viper flown by the CAG was not his own, and so the name and rank on its plate don’t pertain to him. Plausible, perhaps, given the stand-down, and given that other characters in the Miniseries fly planes with other names on them. (Starbuck, if memory serves, flies Raymond “Raygun” Lai’s plane. It was the first to hand.) But that explanation’s unlikely, because the CAG climbs into that Viper at the peak of Colonial civilization. And in any event it’s unattractive, because that would leave us with no canonical name for the character.

An IRL explanation is that the pin was a costuming mistake. It was early in the show, the script didn’t specify a rank, so the props department went one way, costuming another; who’s gonna notice?” And, to be fair, I’ve argued that we must make allowances for mistakes and artistic license, and so we could just say “well, it was a mistake, they gave the actor the wrong pins.” (Worth noting on that point is that the scripted sequence in which the Armistice Officer ages through the ranks was shot, according to RDM, which would suggest that rank-devices proper to both MAJ and LTC were already imagined and fabricated for the Miniseries.)

But why would we do that in this case?

To be sure, we shouldn’t invest costuming mistakes with canonical significance. But we shouldn’t rule out acquiring new information and in-universe texture from costuming, either.

The crux is: What’s a mistake? Something on-screen that seems to introduce information contradicting established canon may be a mistake. I can point to two examples of clear mistake in BSG, both involving Colonel Tigh. In a scene in season one, Tigh wears the ship pin from his dress-uniform in place of his wings, and in a scene in season four wears Adama’s jacket, including latter’s rank-devices. Neither of these scenes should be taken as introducing canonical novelties or tension; they’re just production mistakes. No big whoop.

But it introduces no canonical tension if the CAG is wearing LTC rank-devices, even if he was flying the correct plane and was, for the preceding deployment, Major Spencer. At the time of the Miniseries, the Galactica is concluding her deployment. The CAG, like much of the crew, is moving on; he is literally leaving the ship right then. That’s exactly the time when we would expect a promotion to come in. It’s also a time when we would not be surprised if it’s not a priority to repaint the nameplate of a recently-promoted officer who won’t be flying that Viper again.

Thus, it seems to me that the most elegant solution, one that preserves all the canonical information presented, is to say that Jackson Spencer was a Major for most of his tenure as the Galactica’s CAG but was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in the days or weeks before the events of the Miniseries as he prepared to leave the ship for his next assignment—which is exactly what I reflect in the Chronicle.

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