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No Exit Notes

Time for a whole bunch of notes on No Exit, and the newly revealed “Cavil as Mastermind” backstory.

First I will be critical. I am not fond of it. Not simply because it was not my pet theory, and not for reasons of science of plot consistency, but for reasons of character. There were many who offered that the Final Five, like Boomer were planted in the colonies with fake memories. They argued that since the bio-Cylons were only created under 40 years ago, Tigh at least had to be that way. I argued that the Five were thousands of years old, so this was no issue. Turns out we were both wrong and both right. They are thousands of years old but also young with fake memories at the same time.

Why don’t I like this? Because we, as the audience, invested in these characters, especially Tigh and Tyrol. They are not like Boomer who we viewed as an artificial memory construct from the start. We got to know them on the human side. It was OK for them to have more history, and to learn new memories. It is not OK for their human lives to be partly fake. Based on what we have seen, Ellen gets her memory back and goes from being fleet skank and manipulator to genius scientist. From selfish trickster to a confident, dominant, caring and loving mother/creator. Some of her old whimsy is there but it is subsumed. That may be how it has to be, but it is as though our old characters are dead because they never were real. I am sure that many aspects of personality will remain as the characters change but it won’t be as good. And I am bothered because I didn’t feel there was a need to write the story in a way to make their early lives invented.

Cavil’s Master Plan

We now learn that rather than being the secret string pullers, the Five were Cavil’s victims, killed and reprogrammed from Cavil’s spite. There’s more to this story yet to see, some we may not see. It now seems likely that it was Cavil who programmed the others with their compulsion not to think of the final five. However, the programming of the raiders biological brains, including instructions not to attack the Final Five, didn’t come from Cavil. Cavil may have given the other 7 some more programing, however. In particular, possibly he gave them programming not to see real Earth. He knows where it is, but they keep not seeing it.

The Centurions made a deal with the Five to get biological bodies. What’s not clear is in what sense the Centurions moved their minds into such bodies. On the one hand, we hear that John was raised as a boy. On the other hand he refers to himself having been a slave of humans. How are the memories mixed? Surely the Centurions didn’t stop their war for a promise that new biological Cylons would be created completely independently — or that later those new Cylons would enslave the older ones. They must have expected that their own minds would move into biological bodies. (This is interesting since some of them have memories of being Tamara Adama.) So is John part Centurion, part new being? Why was that acceptable? John has decided it is not, of course, and wants a metal body. Does he want to return to a metal body?

There were more than 8 Centurions, of course, and so they would all want bodies, and would not want to become slaves. Did John abort a larger program after he killed the Five, and put the inhibitors onto the Centurions? He is the one who is most afraid of the inhibitors being removed, and without them, the Centurions are very happy to put bullets into him. The others don’t seem to know this early history, they may be less guilty. But Cavil says several times that removing the inhibitors will have tremendous consequences.

Cavil seemed much more rational before. He was ready to not worry about the search for Earth (a place he already knows about) and suggested they just try to be great machines. Now this appears to be manipulation. He’s a bit crazy, which annoys me. I don’t like crazy bad guys. I prefer my bad guys to be understandable.

One True God

Now that we learn that Ellen has been prisoner and Cavil has been pulling some strings, it is clear that Cavil is not pulling all of them. Another string puller is out there, behind the supernova at the Algae planet, the wakeup and battle at the Ionian Nebula, the Starbuck vanish/return and the Virtual Beings. Presumably this is the Cylon god.

Anders recounts that Ellen changed her mind about the Centurions when she learned they had developed monotheism. She is a monotheist herself, and I doubt she got that from the Centurions, but instead identified with them when she learned it.

We learn that the Five got virtual beings of their own which warned them about the upcoming war. This made them work to redevelop resurrection and put a ship in orbit. So this god goes back quite a ways, presumably back to Kobol too.

We now have a plot problem with the Temple of Five/Temple of Hopes, however. Ellen says they changed it to show their faces on their sublight trip back from the ruined 13th colony. But that took place well after the 12 tribes left Kobol. So why do the 12 tribes have legends of “the temple of the five priests of the one whose name cannot be (spoken)?” Those legends would have had to come later, and somehow faster than the Five themselves in their lightspeed ship.

Ellen says they had nothing to do with the nova, however. That must have been god, she says.

Daniel

We will certainly hear more of Daniel. When Anders says the name, Starbuck asks “are you sure you got the word right?” She is not trying to make sure he didn’t say Kara, which sounds nothing like Daniel. She wants to confirm he really said Daniel. It seems really strong that Daniel is a name she recognizes. Many speculate it’s her father. (Though there is still a case for her just trying to make extra sure 7’s name was not Kara.)

A single Daniel copy lived, and made John jealous. When they were going to make his whole line, John “poisoned his fluids” and “corrupted his DNA” in a way that “can’t be undone, unlike boxing.” It is implied but not confirmed that the new copies are dead, but the original is not said to be dead.

No, he’s not the source of the virtual beings, as they show up 2,000 years ago. At least not the only source. But I am confident we’ll see more of this one. While he’s not old like the others, he might very well be one of the string pullers involved in some of the events that can’t be attributed to Cavil, including Starbuck’s destiny. It may have been him appearing as Leoben in Starbuck’s visions. He may be working to undo all of Cavil’s plans in some mysterious way. In fact, we could attribute much of the hidden events to him if we had not learned that the Final Five got visits from Virtual Beings on the 13th colony 2,000 years ago.

John’s body

We are told that Cavil/John’s body is a copy of Ellen’s father, also named John. So while the elder John was also a Cylon (of sorts) this goes against RDM’s early promises that the Cylon body forms are archetypes, not taken from humans. Well, John Sr. was not human, but I think we can now consider that the bodies of the 8 Cylons may come from other sources, including the 13th colony, Kobol, and real Earth too. This starts to explain a scene of Tricia Helfer in 21st century real Earth that’s been making the rounds. A 21st century woman could have been the model prototype for somebody on Kobol, and then later for Six.

Orion is back

This time, as Boomer and Ellen flee the base star, we see Orion, Sirius, Castor and Pollux very clearly and framed in a deliberate way between the arms of the base star. This can be no accident. Orion is the most recognizable of all the constellations, and they are putting it front and center. So Cavil’s base star is in the solar system. Is it possibly “The Colony” — the secret base known only to him and the final five where their equipment is stored? Perhaps the location of the beach he played on as a child?

More on sublight travel

Part of me is thrilled to see sublight travel in the show. Sublight travel doesn’t work for a space-opera where bad guys chase you across the galaxy, but it is a requirement for hard SF, and rarely seen outside it. It does mean the Ionian Nebula makes no sense any more, but we’ll get to that in the future.

Sublight travel is not impossible (unlike FTL) but it’s very hard. It requires immense amounts of energy. Especially if your payload is a whole colony. While we probably won’t see anything about this in the show, a likely scenario is that the 13th colony was colonized not by a colony ship, but by a tiny ship, containing the downloaded minds of the Cylons who founded it. Such a ship can be very tiny.

On board the ship would be the minds in storage, some very small robots, and the tools to create biological growth tanks. Some of the minds would inhabit the robots and build the tanks with local materials to grow biological bodies, which would then get inhabited to build the new civilization.

It would be cool if this was how the 13th colony was built, and also how Kobol was colonized as well. And it makes it easier to explain a disconnect with the mother worlds.

We now must ask who developed FTL travel? It could be the colonies, though they don’t seem up to it when more advanced planets like Kobol and either Earth did not. It could have happened on Kobol after the 13th tribe left.

This might suggest one plot: People on Kobol wanted revenge on the 13th tribe for something, but didn’t do it as a sublight revenge mission is not practical or pleasant. But when FTL came, they decided to pay a visit and destroy it. However, that doesn’t mesh with Anders’ story that after the war they felt it important to go spread the message of “love your AI children and keep them free” to the 12 colonies.

Sublight travel puts more constraints on a writer, which is good. But it does mean you run into problems you can’t fix by fiat. The naming of the Temple of Five above is an issue. (Possibly the date of the exodus from Kobol will be different than 2,000 years ago, but it’s hard to place it after Ellen’s arrival there.)