Lee "Apollo" Adama
by Jamie Bamber
Lee "Apollo" Adama's complexity stands out even among the other emotionally torn Battlestar Galactica characters, all of whom exist in a chaotic universe.
At the start of Battlestar Galatica’s third season, Lee, an ace Viper pilot, commands the Battlestar Pegasus. He's also married to Anastasia Dualla (not his life's love, pilot Kara "Starbuck" Thrace), but he is not himself. He has gained weight. Having fled New Caprica, he and his father, Admiral William (Bill) Adama, have been forced into an impotent existence aboard battlestars that are ill-prepared to fight.
Essentially, Lee is feeling depressed and redundant. He has also experienced an undisclosed rift with Kara, which seems to be part of his malaise.
The fleet was forced to retreat from New Caprica before an overwhelming show of force by the Cylons. Thousands of humans are stuck on New Caprica, a fact that rests heavily on Lee Adama's shoulders; it was he who convinced his dad to flee the Cylons and abandon the settlers, at least until they can formulate a rescue plan.
Lee's a puzzle, even to himself.
For the most part, he is an unwitting pragmatist, yet he occasionally falls victim to his emotions. Lee operates in the absolutist world of the Colonial military, yet he repeatedly follows his own idea of justice, even if it means disobeying orders.
He's a cocky pilot, but a level-headed leader; a flirt, but not a womanizer; not too hot-headed, but he will sometimes mouth off to a superior officer. He thrives on competition and rises to every challenge.
Fundamentally Lee's an atheist.
Lee's callsign, Apollo, was a flight-school dig at his being the son of Adama (callsign Zeus), but also a tribute to his skill in the cockpit. Apollo is god of the hunt, which also explains Lee's "Good hunting" pre-flight send-off.
Despite his atheism, Lee values the colonies' religious texts, seeing them as colorful allegories with much to teach society. Like many, he's more than slightly perplexed about how the holy text "Pythia" seems to provide a map to Earth.
To find clues about Lee's conflicted nature, you have to look at his childhood.
His upbringing was much harder than most people would guess.
Lee's dad was absent a great deal. Even when he wasn't deployed, Bill kept some distance between himself and his small family, sometimes sliding into drinking binges with Saul Tigh.
edited for spoiler content
Zak was always more exuberant and easy-going, loved by all and, in Lee's eyes, preferred by his parents.
It came as no surprise to Lee when Zak fell for the Academy's hottest, most cavalier Viper pilot, Starbuck, a source of further envy for Lee who, in time, had to mask his own attraction to her.
Zak, his father's favorite, appeared destined for greatness in the Colonial fleet. Lee, however, knew that his brother wasn't suited to the rigors of flying a fighter—something Starbuck also knew. She skewed her official appraisal of his skills to give him the passing grade he needed to graduate from flight school. That decision eventually resulted in Zak's death behind the controls.
Zak's death completed the destruction of the Adama family. Bill and Carolanne were devastated. Lee blamed his father for insisting his sons enter military service. But Lee also blamed himself for propagating the military example his father had set.
It was at this point that Lee really began to question his vocation as an officer. He held the military at arm's length despite his undeniable talent and prospects. He rebelled and would not speak to his father.
He even nurtured ideas of resigning to open a bar on a beach somewhere, to start a new life away from the confines of his troubled upbringing. Lee longed, simply, to escape. The bitterness between his parents deepened and divorce followed.
In another life, Lee could have grown up with an arrogant swagger to be a cad and a free spirit but the prematurely heavy responsibility that he shouldered prevented what might otherwise have become a truly free spirit.
In fact, Lee's rebelliousness is actually given reign by his own internal moral compass, ironically probably inherited from his father.
When he gives guff to Executive Officer Tigh or disobeys an order, for instance, Apollo is only following his heart: a military act of rebellion but one in obedience to his convictions.
It's Lee's value as a dead-aim strategic thinker and cagey warrior that have given him leeway for his independence and outspokenness.
What little downtime Apollo has is always spent challenging himself, usually through boxing and books. But he really doesn't know what it means to be a man of his times. Even before the attack, he had little opportunity to pay attention to the life of popular or high culture, though if asked, Lee would say that he is at least acquainted with them.
spoiler edit…he might well have been less like his dad and more like his controversial grandfather—a famous criminal attorney, defending the depraved and innocent alike; here is where Lee's pragmatism and humanity come from, a man who acknowledged the sordid yet noble breadth of human experience without confining it to a uniform and orders. . . .
The truth is that his childhood and training have taught him that much of what occupies the personal hours of most people's lives is ephemeral and of low value. Lee is driven—and driven fiercely—by a desire to make a difference.
Apollo is surprised to find, during the course of the series, that he thrives on the challenge of war, and loves prevailing. His style of battle isn't as cavalier as that of Starbuck, whose cowboy methods he views as counterproductive. Lee keeps his eyes on the percentages a little more than she does.
As an officer, his skill lies in being a top Commander of the Air Group, or CAG, and a good man in a crisis. There is a real sense that with the renewed Cylon attacks, Lee comes into his own, putting aside his rebellion against his dad and the military, and instead focusing on how best to keep the fleet alive. It brings out the best in him.
Apollo believes that his short time as commander of the Battleship Pegasus was perhaps his finest. It was the biggest professional challenge he had addressed to that point. Beyond the experience it gave him, leading the Pegasus helped him reconnect with his dad as he had never done before.
Suddenly, William Adama is aware that before him stands his son, his equal and the fleet's future. Lee is deeply humbled by that respect.
But Lee's war is not a smooth path of progress and acceptance. The second season sees him seriously injured twice—once when Starbuck accidentally shoots him.
The other, more significant, time comes when his suit depressurizes completely as he floats, ejected from his destroyed ship, watching a momentous space battle. He's rescued moments from death, an end he seems to embrace.
His recovery from those injuries doesn't unleash second-chance euphoria.
Deeply disillusioned by the realpolitik practiced by the alliance of his father and President Laura Roslin, Apollo sinks into a sadness verging on the nihilistic. There's a emptiness in him now.
The fleet's surviving, but for what?
This depression also typifies Lee Adama. He experiences everything to the full and is not scared to be a thinker. Sometimes that cerebral quality leads him to dark places.
Fundamentally though, he feels a duty to others and to himself, and will tirelessly protect the last surviving humans.
I don't know if we can consider this canon since Jamie seems to allow fanon to bleed into his writing. (Actually, it seems a little fan-ficy in spots.) Jamie makes some statements about Lee and Kara and Lee, Kara, and Zak that seem to be pure speculation. Also, there are some glaring errors in the article. He spelled Lee's mother's name incorrectly. He says Adama's call sign is 'Zeus' and that's why he was nicknamed Apollo in flight school. And he puts his parents divorce at around the time of Zak's death. Huh? What happened to the second wife that, according to the timeline (which they like to frak up) Adama married just before re-entering the military?