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Daybreak, Part One

I must admit I am a sucker for flashback scenes like these. Seeing the characters who have been beaten down back in the civilized part of their lives, and a glimpse of the world that was. Though I have to feel that with so much to be resolved, these scenes could have been put in some slightly earlier episodes to paint the picture. All these flashback characters — the regulars except Eight, plus Sam — are about to reach dramatic fates, including death next week, and we’re being given some things to help understand their character. We’ve seen shots of flashback scenes for Saul and Ellen and more of Bill.

The Flashback of Baltar and Six has two meanings. We see Baltar as we expect him, though still caring for and resenting his father. And we seem to see Six being genuinely nice. But we forget, because it has been so long, that Six is doing this only to get into Baltar’s life. Her plan, back then, is to betray and kill Baltar Sr., Gaius, and everybody else we see in these scenes. So what have we learned about her?

The question of the Colony was resolved, not as I had predicted. For those interested in some newer screen caps and updates, these can be found in the Colony Geometry thread. It’s a giant space station, even bigger than we thought (even when we thought it was big.) Check out the screen capture to observe 3 tiny base ships in the image. One commenter suggests that it is no coincidence it is around a singularity. This is something which has the power to destroy it, in theory. That’s harder than it looks. First of all, naked singularities are now not believed to exist. But in any event, a singularity offers a giant gravity well. It actually requires quite a bit of effort to take something in high orbit and move it to lower orbit. You have to dump a lot of energy. If you are coming in from outside, you could fall right into the well, but once you are in orbit you have a lot of angular momentum.

I still like the virus plan, though we may not get it. I do expect there to be several fronts of attack, and I expect Cavil to be able to counter all but one of them, the one that finally gets him. They need to do many things — rescue Hera, defeat Cavil, liberate the Simons and Dorals from Cavil’s lies, and militarily attack the Colony and its supply of base ships. (I have to wonder, shouldn’t Simon and Doral be saying, “how the hell did we forget building this place?” Maybe Cavil has let them partly in on things.)

A flashback for Sam was surprising. After all, he’s not exactly at the level of the other characters, though of course he has become a plot device. This supports the idea that he will use his new control of Galactica to strike the military blow, using it. He will be the perfect weapon. Can we doubt that we will see him make the perfect shot, perhaps even the perfect catch?

I have no read on the symbolism of Lee and the bird. Any thoughts? This has to be symbolic. Lee’s roof is even the first shot of the episode on Caprica, though we don’t know it then.

Roslin’s fountain scene, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, was well known to fans since students there took photos of it. Some had hoped it was a scene from their future home, but she’s not getting there. I do suspect she may get to look at it from space, Moses-like. It is curious that Roslin saw her mother in Faith while the defining tragedy in her life is about her father and sisters.

But with all that, surprisingly little on our mysteries, including the famous opera house. Kara’s work on the tune suggests it might well contain coordinates for the new home.

The Colony is certainly nowhere near real Earth. There’s no black hole very near us, let alone a naked singularity.

And I was really expecting Baltar to join the volunteers. Perhaps that would be too pat. But he needs to do something for his redemption soon. The string-puller, who gave the Colony coordinates to Sam to give to Adama, has big plans for Baltar still, and also wants the battle to happen.

How would I end it?

How will the two part final episode go down? There are many good possible predictions, but nobody on the outside truly knows.

But given the constraints that the ending is sad and dark, here’s how what I would want to see. Not what we necessarily will see.

  • The Final Five will die, in the course of saving humanity and uniting humanity and all the Cylons except probably Cavil. This is a classic rule of tragedy. They had good intentions, but spawned evil in spite of them, and so they will die making it right.
  • There is not enough time for the “string puller” to appear as an on-screen character, but…
  • The string puller will provide some expository explanation of things, speaking through head characters to everybody who has had a head character. She will announce who she really is. Baltar will see her has a Six. Six will see her as a Baltar. Roslin will see her as an Elosha. Starbuck will see her as a Leoben and/or her father. Adama will see her as the first Hybrid. The Final Five will see her in the form of the messengers they saw 2,000 years ago.
  • Most of it will be shown as a Six explaining things to Baltar, but interspersed will be clips of the same story being told to the others.
  • Baltar and Caprica Six will work together with the Final Five and create a computer virus which infects the ships of Cavil’s factions to disable them. In addition, this virus will remove the inhibitors from Cavil’s centurions. This will help redeem Baltar for his role in allowing such a virus to be inserted into colonial systems.
  • One of the Final Five, Sam, will pilot the Galactica against Cavil’s forces and crash it into them. This may play a role in planting the virus, which may be done by the others in the final Five.
  • When Ellen goes out on her suicide mission to recruit the Simons and Dorals, Bill says to Saul, “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?” (Ok, not really.)
  • For added irony, the lobotomizing of the raiders should interfere with their ability to defend the Colony. (Though not too ironic as unlobotomized raiders would not attack the F5.)
  • Baltar lives because he needs to play a role in saving Hera and raising her to be the first of the joined generation.
  • Athena and Helo die. But before they do, they become convinced either by virtual beings, or by the Final Five, that it is god’s plan that Baltar and a Six raise Hera.
  • Boomer dies saving Hera from Cavil and getting her partway out.
  • The head-beings explain who the Lords of Kobol were, and what happened when the 13th tribe was expelled, and when the rest were expelled 2,000 years later. Their fate may be revealed.
  • The head being reveals that the Lords of Kobol were once humans on the ancient homeworld of humanity who developed A.I. and elevated themselves to godlike status. They took their Children with them and settled on Kobol after a man-machine war, and lived with a paradise among them. The String Puller herself was a woman on the ancient home. Her DNA, in archives has been re-used from time to time, most recently by the Final Five to make one of the 8 Cylons they made.
  • She reveals that even the humans are artificial, though much closer to original humanity than the Cylons. Starbuck had to die and be recreated to show them that even humans like her are children of God.
  • The Simons and Dorals, given the full scoop about their creation by the Final Five, rejoin with the rebels. Cavils are mostly killed by Centurions and fleet forces. All Cylons and humans are now united.
  • The String Puller reveals that this union was the goal of all the troubles and mysteries. She appears to Starbuck as her father and shows them the way to a new, blue planet. Roslin dies in orbit over the planet.
  • The fleet settles on the planet. It is the real Earth. On it are ancient ruins of the Pyramids, Mt. Rushmore, New York, all destroyed for many thousands of years, but the planet is inhabitable. The date is revealed. A.D. 8,000.
  • Baltar and Six will raise Hera, along with the combined and united Cylons, Centurions and humans, who vow to make more like her and end the Cycle.
  • Cut to a street in New York. A.D. 2009. We see a Six, but slightly different, in her red dress. She has just receieved her PhD in Artificial Intelligence. She’s out on the town, celebrating. She purchases a copy of Electric Ladyland by The Jimmy Hendrix Experience. She smiles.

(As noted, some of the things here are based on constraints and information that has leaked out. I would not do the final scene in New York that way, and I think making Baltar in charge of Hera doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s been predicted so much, which means Helo and Athena have to die.)

Airlines should sell an empty middle seat for half price

Coach is cramped, but not everybody can afford business class. In addition, there are airlines that require fat people to purchase a second seat if they can’t fit into one. Fortunately I am not in that department, but it seems there is an interesting alternative that might make sense for all — selling half of a middle seat, for half price (or less) to somebody wanting more room in coach.

The idea, of course, is that two passengers want this extra room. So if sold at half-price, the airline effectively is selling that seat for full price. In fact, since they don’t have to provide any services for that missing passenger — nor carry the weight and luggage or offer miles — they could and should sell the guaranteed empty middle for less than half, perhaps as low as 1/3rd.

On the other hand, half the time there would be an odd number of passengers buying half a middle, which would cost the airline half a fare on half the flights. They might need to bump the cost slightly to account for this.

Of course, ideally these would be rows where the armrest is able to go up fully so it doesn’t stick into you even if you recline, though not all airlines do that.

Now there is a bit of gamesmanship to be played on flights that vary widely in load. After all, if a flight is not that loaded, the middle seats will be vacant anyway, and no revenue would be lost by offering the guaranteed empty seat. I can see two strategies for selling in these conditions:

  • The passenger pays full-bore (say 40% extra) for the seat. However, if the flight is light enough that many middles are empty, they pay nothing. The passenger always gets value for money and never feels they paid for what others got free.
  • The passenger pays a lower fraction, based on how often it’s truly needed. Say it’s needed only half the time. Pay 20% extra, and always get the empty middle, but no refund even on an empty plane. (Perhaps give “whole row” preference on really empty flights.)

Which would you prefer? Of course if you feel comfy in a full coach cabin, you would not desire either.

Passengers of course would be strategic, and look at the seat map to see how loaded the plane is, and buy the premium only if the flight is filling up. The airline may or may not wish to allow upgrading an existing ticket because of this.

This is also something that could be offered for miles instead of cash.

As you may know, many airlines already do this for their elite passengers, only filling the middle between two elites if the flight is completely full. Promotion to premium legroom sections (which United offers for cash) could be combined with this. A seat in United’s Economy Plus with an empty seat next to you gets much closer to Business Class in terms of space, though it still lacks other comforts.

Update: The question came up of full fights with sold empty middle seats. If a passenger has bought this because he can’t fit in a single seat, there are few options, unless the passenger they want to add is very small, like a child. However, if the passenger bought the seat simply for extra comfort, but still can fit, they could sell it back to the airline for whatever can be agreed on. The airline could offer cash, business class upgrades, or free half-seat upgrades on future flights, and many passengers might take it. After all, anybody who purchased such a half-seat is the sort who would find a business class upgrade valuable. This might be arranged in advance. For example, the fare rules might say, “The airline, at its discretion, can fill the empty middle seat with a passenger of below average size in exchange for compensation X.” A ticket where the seat can’t be filled, no way, no how, could cost more, but still a lot less than the option they offer today of purchasing an entire seat.

When I fly with my companion, of course, we usually book aisle and window with empty middle between us. If they seat somebody there, we let them have the window. There are tricks to try to otherwise get that empty middle.

Like premium economy, airlines could make money from selling these guaranteed middle seats to business travelers whose companies have a rule that they won’t pay for business class, but will pay for improved economy seating.

Some other options might include a focus on putting somebody as small as possible in the seat, such as an unaccompanied minor.

Some of this also touches on a different problem I will address in a future blog post. Airlines should, if they can, avoid seating two large people in the same pair or trio of seats. While I am sure I’ll get claims of “the fatties deserve this for not curbing their appetites” it’s a hard problem to solve, since everybody, thin or wide, would want to get tagged as wide to avoid having a crowded row. More on this later.