Well, readers could not help themselves from talking about 33, the first episode, due to a mention I made in yesterday’s topic. So it is time to write out some analysis of both that episode, and the general question of whether circumstances in the show demand that somebody has an FTL radio (over and above the FTL jump ships.)
The colonies certainly don’t have an FTL radio. And I suspect the writers do not intend the Cylons to have one either. The hidden string-puller (one true god) may be intended to have one.
Of course, all parties have jump ships. With a jump ship you can send a message FTL by putting it in a ship and jumping. While the colonies can’t jump anything smaller than a raptor, the Cylons probably have a small robotic probe which can jump with messages.
Using FTL jump ships for messages works fine, though it is expensive, and you can only send a message to somebody if you know exactly where they are right now. To make that work you need a constant stream of ships relaying data, so you can know where they are and where they go if you want to send them a message. Expensive, but it can be done. However, you can never get a message to a lost ship, unless it is sending message drones back to you to pick up the messages. A recent revelation, that the jump field is dangerous to use inside a ship, suggests that such message drones would need to be fired out of a ship, and then would jump. It is possible, in theory, that Cylon technology is sufficiently better than they could send a jump drone from inside a ship.
To recap 33, the Cylons are chasing the fleet. The fleet jumps, and exactly 33 minutes later, the Cylons appear. The fleet scrambles to jump away before the Cylons can close for the kill. It’s draining, and happens hundreds of times.
The real clue comes on the last jump. Before that jump, a message comes from the Olympic Carrier that a scientist on board has information about a traitor in the fleet. Baltar of course fears that it means him. As the fleet jumps away after Cylon attack, the Olympic Carrier does not make the jump. And the Cylons don’t arrive. 3 hours later, the OC arrives. When asked, they say their jump drive failed, and the Cylons didn’t destroy them for unknown reasons. They fixed it, and jumped. Baltar, afraid of being discovered, pushes for contact to break off. The OC radio is jammed, but they are told to stay away from the fleet. They approach the fleet and ignore hails. Nukes are detected on board. Then, 33 minutes after the OC appeared, the Cylons appear. Apollo and Starbuck destroy the OC, and the fleet jumps. They are not followed.
Let’s explain possible explanations for this:
Cylons are in control of the OC from the start.
If cylons control the OC, there is no reason for the 33 minute delay. The Cylons would receive the new jump coordinates, and would relay them in milliseconds to the Cylon fleet. (Unlike vipers, Cylon raiders can jump.) The Cylon fleet would arrive at the rag-tag fleet seconds after it jumped, and if it wished, destroy them.
There is a Cylon agent on board the OC, who can send FTL messages
The Cylon agent would not be on the bridge to receive the encrypted coordinates. After the fleet jumped, the Cylon agent could look at the stars, and determine where they fleet was. They would then have to send an FTL message (or drone) back to the Cylon fleet. One can imagine reasons why this process and the FTL message add up to 33 minutes. This explains the fact the Cylons don’t make the jump the OC misses, and arrive 33 minutes after it does.
The Cylons can track where the OC jumps to, but only the OC, due to some “leak.”
Much later in the show, Six suggests the Cylons are able to track a radiation signature from the Tylium ship through jumps. In this case, it seems to take 6 hours, not 33 minutes, but it’s a different ship. When the Tylium ship is sent on a decoy course, the Cylons follow neither it, nor the fleet. Instead they are waiting (or jump immediately into) the spot in the Ionian nebula that the fleet jumps to.
If the OC has such a signature, and it takes 33 minutes to track it, this explains events. The Cylons just waited for it to jump. In this case it was an innocent ship, and Lee and Kara killed 1,000 innocents.
However, this does not explain the OC’s radio silence, refusal to stay back, and the presence of nukes on board it.
Plus it’s a pretty amazing coincidence that the one ship they can track is the one that fails to jump, and the one that happens to have Baltar’s potential accuser on board.
The Cylons can track all colonials when they jump
It has been a major assumption in the show that you can’t track a ship through a jump. While that is obviously not 100% true, possibly the Cylons can always do it. If so, it doesn’t explain why they don’t just jump in 33 minutes even after the OC fails its jump, and destroy the OC.
This concept also demands the concept below, of a cat and mouse game.
The Cylons are only playing at chasing the fleet
Ellen remarks to Cavil that, in spite of many opportunities, he has tortured his creators but not killed them (permanently or temporarily.) We learn he wants instead that he does not want to kill them. He wants to give them a front row seat to an apocalypse, to teach them how bad humanity is, and have them apologize to him. As such he never really wants to destroy the fleet and kill his creators. He wants to torment them.
Many fans will resist it, but this seems to imply the whole chase was a big game. This includes the chase of 33. You’ll see below why many factors suggest that the Cylons do in fact always know where the fleet is.
Cylons take over the OC when it fails its jump
When the OC fails to jump, the Cylons take it over, arm it with nukes and jump it. They may or may not kill the passengers in advance. In this case, however, there is no reason for the Cylon fleet to appear around 33 minutes after the OC arrives. The Cylons will know the coordinates, and could jump with the OC. Or they could jump in advance outside of dradis range. They could send the OC in, with nukes, and see if it is able to get into the fleet and blow up the nukes. If it fails, they could then jump in for ordinary battle. Instead they jump in at the worst time, making the fleet suspect the OC and destroy it. In addition, they continue the message about Dr. Amorak, whom Baltar fears will finger him.
Without FTL (radio or drone from inside ship) the only plot that makes sense, perhaps, is the one of cat and mouse, with the fleet always trackable. However, this still involves putting a nuke on the OC as part of the game, to make the fleet destroy it, to make them show their inhumanity.
The real answer probably has to be a combination of things. The Cylons are playing a game and also plant the nuke and take over the ship in the final round, for example. Realize that the Cylon god, talking through head-six, seems to be involved in the game, and the transmissions from the OC about Doctor Amorak. (Don’t forget that the highly mysterious Shelley Godfrey Six claims to have worked with Amorak.)
Cylon downloading presents a problem. Do the Cylons have an FTL radio in their heads? If not, how do they update their minds back to the resurrection hub on a regular basis? In particular, how do they transfer when Leoben is put out the Airlock. Or Boomer is shot by Cally? Or Cavil is put out the airlock? Without an FTL transmit ability, you need one of the following:
- The Cylons are always tracking the fleet. They keep a ship outside of dradis range to receive any downloads.
- There is a store and forward relay inside the fleet, perhaps on Galactica. It receives the downloads and relays them during the next meeting with the Cylons. Problem is, Boomer’s download is shown as immediate, and there is no Cylon contact.
- There is FTL in their brains. Pretty impressive if it’s nowhere else. It does seem to have a range limit.
- The Cylons are tracking the fleet, but slowly. When they get to where it is, they go out in space to hunt for download signals and record them.
Finding the fleet and other things
The Cylons find the fleet at interesting times. For example, when D’Anna produces her documentary in Final Cut a Cylon raider arrives on a suicide mission to pick up the video. How does D’Anna signal that raider to come, if not FTL? Why does it need to get close enough to be seen to pick up a signal if the downloading signal can be picked up?
Bulldog also finds the fleet when it should not be findable. We are told he found the coordinates in the database on the captured raptor. But the way the fleet jumps, its location should not be in any raptor or anything else that can be captured. If a raptor containing that information were captured, it would be changed. Again, his finding the fleet is a Cylon game, and the only way they could know is via FTL or being able to always follow it.
Boomer and Ellen also find the fleet on their escape. Again, they must always know where it is, or have a way to find out where it is, for which only FTL radio makes sense.
The new viper that Starbuck appears in has a locater which is able to track a beacon in her old viper, on the 13th colony far, far away. That has to be FTL if it’s real. Alternately, it is not really receiving the signal, but faking it. However, when they get to the colony, it appears to really track the signal.
And then there’s the waiting Cylon fleet at the Ionian Nebula. Understand this is not any sort of tracking (unless they can do it invisibly and instantly.) And it’s not just a guess on where they are going, because thy are in exactly the right spot, light-seconds away at most. A nebula like that is a huge place. You could only end up in attack position if you knew exactly where the fleet planned to jump. This requires not just a cat and mouse game, but one tied more deeply into fleet computers, able to get the location quickly. The fleet would not have known its jump target until it calculated the jump, and it did so with no Cylons anywhere around to receive any signal of those coordinates. How could they have been there at the target location?
One explanation would be a signal (FTL) from the string-puller to the Cylon hybrids, who control the actual jumps. That string puller is there, as it has dropped off Starbuck in new viper at exactly the right location and time.
The Head Characters
Baltar’s head six is a messenger from the Cylon god, as are other virtual characters such as the Elosha Roslin sees in jump space. How are the messages transmitted to Baltar’s head? Is god a computer hidden on Galactica? If so, he has to also be on Kobol as Baltar sees Six there too. And Roslin sees her Elosha in jump space. The Hybrids get their messages form the Cylon god all the time, too. How are they getting them? Is the Cylon god something that can put a fragment of itself into Baltar’s brain and the others’ brains too?
Plus the string puller seems to put the music into the heads of the 4 Cylons as they approach the nebula. It either does this via FTL, or has some presence in the fleet holding a part of its mind.
Of course, the Cylon god could be supernatural, and thus able to do FTL communication because of that. Whether supernatural or not, and whether any other characters have FTL radio, I suspect the writers do think the string-puller/god is able to communicate FTL.
You can explain just about everything without FTL radio. But you certainly have to make things pretty convoluted in a lot of ways to do it. And the Ionian nebula ambush is very hard to explain. (Along with the power outage that takes place the moment they arrive.)
From the Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog