A Brilliant Piece Of Improv Produced Battlestar Galactica's Signature Line

The line, "So say we all" is a classic part of the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica" series. The show, which was based on the 1978 television series, aired on SYFY (then the Sci-Fi Channel) beginning with the two-part miniseries in 2003, followed by four seasons starting in 2004. It spawned the under-appreciated prequel series "Caprica" in 2010, and a spinoff called "Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome" which was first released as a web series in 2012, then as a television movie on the channel in 2013. 

There are no aliens in this show. The bad guys (and that is debatable) are the cylons: AI developed by humans who destroy the Twelve Colonies with nuclear bombs. The few survivors head off in ships to find the fabled Thirteenth Colony where they can start over. These humans try to use as little digital technology as possible (despite the spaceships) to keep the cylons from finding them, but some of those cylons are on the ships in disguise as humans. The non-cylon humans are led by William Adama, commanding officer of Battlestar Galactica, played by Edward James Olmos. One moment of improv from him not only brought audiences to tears in a time shortly after the attacks of 9/11, but gave the series its most memorable line.

'So say we all'

At the Battlestar Galactica Exhibit in Seattle in 2010 (via YouTube user grimley1977), Olmos spoke to the crowd about the first time the words, "So say we all" were uttered in the mini-series. Olmos explained that this was the very first day of shooting, and after a few hours of scenes with characters Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and the cylon Six (Tricia Helfer), they set up for a huge scene. This moment had hundreds of extras, and he explained that this was the first time they'd used the hanger set for the ship. He gives a speech to a devastated crowd who escaped the colonies and have no idea what to do next. They're mourning their loved ones and their homes, and as Olmos says, this was shortly after a rough time for America and the world at large:

"[W]e had just finished going through 9/11, and it was really not a healthy time. And so to be going into this world, this way, we're all kind of trying to get our footing. And our footing, it was really — nobody knew each other, so we're all kind of very depressed that we've been standing around for a couple hours waiting to do this scene."

'We will find Earth'

The group hadn't rehearsed yet, and Olmos didn't want to. He changed his blocking, standing in a different place, and had the crew move the cameras. He explained:

"I started to walk around, and it was so — everybody was so depressed. That hope was just gone, and so the hope was gone. And that's when I did the big line. You know, so I walked around the dead bodies, and I came up to the front, I came up to everybody, and then I just said, you know, 'We will find Earth, I promise you we will find Earth. So say we all.' And nobody said nothing. [...] It really united everyone in a way.  

[...] It would become a very, very strong single moment of hope, and that's what we knew right from the very first day — that the show was going to be something that we would never be able to understand."

That moment was incredible to watch. There is something about watching someone good and strong taking command after something devastating that speaks to us. It did then and having rewatched the scene, it does now. Maybe more so. It was a moment that defined the series and the sense of hope that it carried. 

A very real moment

Even creator Ronald D. Moore is quoted talking about the intensity of that moment of improv in the book "So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Battlestar Galactica":

"I had written it ['So say we all'] into the script as just a line, but in the moment on the set, when Eddie said "So say we all" to the cast, he thought that they didn't give him very much back. So he said it again. You can see it in the take; they all kind of glance at each other and go, 'So say we all.' And then he insists. He says it louder and he just pushed them and pushed them until it became this big thing on the soundstage. But it was just something Eddie came up with on his own in the moment, and then it became a signature line in the series after that. That was a big thing."

The moment is so moving, so full of the first spark of hope for devastated people. Perhaps it's time for a rewatch of the series? It's currently streaming on Peacock. Do note that the miniseries is listed separately from the full series, and you should absolutely watch that first.