I heartily recommend the first two parts of this four part Ronald Moore interview. Representative bit:
ES: I want to return to Colonel Tigh for a minute. When I initially watched—at least the first couple episodes of the miniseries—Tigh didn’t strike me as particularly sympathetic. There’s the question of whether he’s making the right call throughout his struggles with his wife and with alcohol, but overwhelmingly all the veterans I talked to identified most—and it didn’t matter whether they were officers or enlisted—they identify with Tigh. One wrote, “[Colonel] Tigh reminded me of one of my old flight chiefs…a tough Bronx Jew who retired a Senior Master Sergeant, as well as a couple other senior NCOs I knew. (Not coincidentally, most of them were functioning or recovering alcoholics). He might not have been PC, and he didn’t handle delicate situations well but when everything went to shit, he knew how to do his job and [do it] well.” Another veteran recalled “33”: “‘Yes, the Cylons keep coming after us time after time after time. And yes, we are still expected to do our jobs!’ That quote really resonated with me—it’s definitely the type of mentality you need to have to be an Army Ranger.” You see these diverse service members connecting with Tigh. Is he a military everyman?
RM: In a way. He was emblematic of a lot of different men I met when I was in ROTC in the cruise and other cruises and different environments that I was in over those years and some other experiences with my father being military-based now and again, and I just recognized that. There was something about those men that were deeply flawed, were really gruff, and were people that you didn’t want to mess with and you were kinda afraid of and didn’t know what they were capable of. They didn’t seem like they’d be recruiting poster types, but you knew that you wanted them with you in a fight, and you sensed everyone else needed them, too. I remember there being some gunnery sergeants I met in the Marine Corps that were—I don’t know if they became alcoholics; frankly, I wasn’t around them in their off-hours but they certainly gave off that vibe—were screwed up individuals, but everyone from the colonel down to the privates in that unit would definitely look to them as somebody who knew what the score was and who were the backbone of the unit. I was always struck by that—that the guys who really pull it together may not be very pretty and might be people that, you know, weren’t very PC and no one would hold up and say this is the model soldier, marine, or officer, but you know that doesn’t mean that they’re not good.
Tigh was a fabulous creation. If there’s a common thread that runs through the Golden Age of Television, it’s in the effective display of the travails of middle management; people who need to resolve the problems of those under them while mollifying those above them. BSG, the Wire, the Sopranos, the Office, and even Mad Men (to some extent) leap to mind in terms of effective depictions.
Of course, in this case Moore wrote himself into a corner and decided to wreck the character with the “Final Five” nonsense. Still, Tigh was one of the best parts of the series, and remains one of my favorite television characters.