Chloroplasts are derived from cyanobacteria and have retained a bacterial-type genome and gene expression machinery. The chloroplast genome encodes many of the core components of the photosynthetic apparatus in the thylakoid membranes. To avoid photooxidative damage and production of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) by incompletely assembled thylakoid protein complexes, chloroplast gene expression must be tightly regulated and co-ordinated with gene expression in the nucleus. Little is known about the control of chloroplast gene expression at the genome-wide level in response to internal rhythms and external cues. To obtain a comprehensive picture of organelle transcript levels in the unicellular model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in diurnal conditions, a qRT-PCR platform was developed and used to quantify 68 chloroplast, 21 mitochondrial as well as 71 nuclear transcripts in cells grown in highly controlled 12 h light/12 h dark cycles. Interestingly, in anticipation of dusk, chloroplast transcripts from genes involved in transcription reached peak levels first, followed by transcripts from genes involved in translation, and finally photosynthesis gene transcripts. This pattern matches perfectly the theoretical demands of a cell "waking up" from the night. A similar trend was observed in the nuclear transcripts. These results suggest a striking internal logic in the expression of the chloroplast genome and a previously unappreciated complexity in the regulation of chloroplast genes.