What's love got to do with it?

Here’s an entertaining thought I had about Cylon love, though it turns out in advance that, based on comments by Jane Espenson, it is not likely to be true. Jane’s comments have been ruining my day of late…

I’ve always found it a bit strange that the Cylons decide they can only conceive if there is true love. With Ellen’s return, we see Ellen also believing that theory.

I thought it interesting to consider the “Earth” Cylons as a synthetic race. A race created to be an improved human, but not just in physical ways, but also in political ones. That presents a problem. If you have decided your creations will have strong minds and free will, you can’t tinker with their opinions. But you can change their biology. And one way that makes a lot of sense would be a system that stops them from conceiving unless both parents are in love, and even miscarries the baby if they fall out of love.

This would be a good form of birth control — no pregnancies from one night stands, or from rapes, or from any casual sex, and all children born in love. Love, after all, probably evolved as an inverse of this — parents fall in love because it is good for the baby.

This is particularly likely in a religious society. Some religions don’t like the obvious choice — give people complete on/off reproductive control. But they don’t like nature’s result which produces babies by accident without loving parents. (Their answer is sometimes to forbid sex outside of marriage, or birth control within it.)

Technologically, if you are designing a race and they have software minds that you are designing, it’s an “easy” thing to do. Even with our mushy natural brains we are starting to see patterns in brain scans and hormones that match when people say they are in love. For a synthetic brain, detecting it should be easy. In the male, this would release a phermone (or a digital signal if you prefer.) And in the female, the reproductive system would require both the detection of the male signal and the proper female state to conceive and maintain a fetus.

This is an interesting enough idea that one could imagine the designers of a new race wanting to try it. The final five, creating the 8 Cylons, would only need to tweak it a bit — the system would detect other colonial Cylon models and block conception there, but allow it for others. It seems as though it was easier with Saul, the Earth Cylon, so his phermone might still encourage it, better than Helo’s natural state would.

Now if this were true, Saul and Ellen’s infertility could be explained from either love or bad luck. Espenson says it’s just bad luck. I imagined it might instead be not because of Saul, but because Ellen had been incapable of loving him enough. She is certainly ready to play dangerous and manipulative games with him and her rival.

Espenson, however, says that Ellen simply is adopting the Cylon belief about the need for love. It suggests it isn’t real. It would not be real without being deliberately designed in. Which is a problem because if it were designed in, and in particular if it had been modified to make the colonial Cylons infertile with each other, you would think Ellen would know about it. But she doesn’t seem to. Espenson leaves more openings when it comes to the reason for the miscarriage — she dodges a question about it, but in a way that suggests this is not an issue resolved in the grand plan. It is possible that this modification could be the work of the OTG, and thus Ellen is not aware of it. Or perhaps even John made the Cylons self-infertile as a way to make them less human, but could not stop the curiosity about sexual breeding.

However, at this point they have cleared the way to make Hera unique and important again.


Most fans, like me, are amazed that Galen wants to abandon the fleet. For a while, I could see them thinking that they belong with the Cylons, that being what they are. However, now that they have learned that they are their creators, and that they created them in an attempt to bring peace and a union between them an humanity, this should be reversing any trends they have to drift to the Cylon side. Even for Tory. Both of them should be concerned about the fact that they will find themselves in love again if their memories return.

Anders has told them how important it is to stay, and it’s hard to figure why Ellen doesn’t know the same reason and share it. But most of all, Galen has far more in common now with the colonials than with the 3 Cylons he would live with. He has much to share with the other 4 but does not know it yet. So his decision to pull out (in the middle of repairs he promised Adama) is just plain strange, almost as strange as Adama arming the Baltarettes instead of just kicking the sons of Aires mob off the ship.

As to the slower, soap-opera feel of this episode: We did need to see Tigh and Ellen (and Six) have it out. In fact there’s a lot of huge stuff that has taken place that deserves some character reaction which they don’t have time for. The Final Five’s secrets, spilled out in an open medical bay with medical staff that were a little bit too professionally disinterested, should be causing major changes in everybody. (Could you sit by and at least not cock an ear as the very core secrets of the history of your society and the beings who killed all you love are spilled out?) They won’t have time for much more of this, so I guess it had to happen before the explosive episodes.

The Elephant in the room: The big secrets

The conversation that didn’t happen:

Adama: So, Ellen, you have all your memories and you’re on the side of humanity. Tell us all the secrets, please.

Ellen: I can’t do that Bill.

Adama: Well what about Saul, can you tell them to Saul?

Ellen: If I did the audience would hear.

Adama: Frak the audience. Tell him in an offscreen scene!

Ellen: I still can’t, because if you knew all the secrets, your actions coming up would not make any sense. You wouldn’t be shocked when they are revealed.

Saul: Ellen, when Anders had his memories, he said it was crucial we stay with the fleet. Why?

Ellen: I’m trying to trick you into thinking I want to leave the fleet, so I can’t tell you.

Saul: OK, so now that the trick is over and you want to stay, what was the important reason he remembered? What’s the miracle? What’s the Angels?

Ellen: The audience is listening.

Cottle: So you have worked on Cylon brains before?

Ellen: Of course. We had to reactivate our organic memory transfer systems. And I’ve built them from scratch.

Cottle: So can you help Anders?

Ellen: No.

Saul: What about figuring out how he got his memories back and seeing if we can find a safe way to do it on us?

Ellen: Not time yet.

Saul: Aren’t we going to learn anything in this episode?

Ellen: Well, we learn I’m still a manipulator. And a nasty one. And Sam will get his brain back. And Baltar’s messenger is back too. And Bill has gone crazy, arming Baltar’s sex-cult. What’s up with that?

Saul: You know all the secrets. Don’t ask me.

Well, we do learn a few other things. Starbuck and Pianos. Leobens don’t seem to vote in Cylon votes any more. Hera and Liam don’t get to start the new race. They don’t forgive you if your implanted programming makes you shoot Adama even if you got shot back. But on the whole I can’t say this episode will go down in the annals of great ones.