Don't keep secrets when "It's the Characters, Stupid"

Moore famously declared, when composing the end of the BSG story, that “It’s the Characters, Stupid.” He wanted to focus on what happened to the characters and their story, and the plot and mysteries took second place.

I can understand that philosophy in writing. However, I do believe that if this was truly the case, the right thing to do is not create giant mysteries for the audience.

Some of the best stories out there have revealed their ending early on. (Some are even non-fiction so you know the ending in advance anyway.) With the ending known, the story becomes about how we got there, rather than wondering where we are going. As such the story moves its focus to characters and away from big mysteries.

If this story was to be about how Hera became mitochondrial Eve (and in the end, that was the root of all the elements of the closing) then the best thing to do would have been to reveal that right up front. Play out that scene in New York with Ron Moore getting the inspiration for the story early on. Show the ancient Earth as being out there. (They did show us Earth at the end of season 3, but it was modern Earth due to poor communication with the graphics dept.)

Or, if you want to have the shock of finding ruined 13th colony Earth, reveal the truth after that.

The show had lots of big mysteries. Many people enjoyed it for these mysteries, but if the show is really about the characters, the mysteries were a mistake. And we still would have puzzled over them. Fans would have spent hours discussing just how they get to Earth, and just why there is no record of them, and how they could possibly have interbred and other things. While watching the characters have their journey.

It becomes clear that the whole ending is just there for the Eve plot. All the controversial parts of the ending, the ones that make no sense, are driven by it.

  • We currently date Mitochondrial Eve at 150,000 years ago. So that is when they arrive. 50,000 years ago (Great Leap Forward) makes far more sense otherwise.
  • For this to be true, they have to have been able to interbreed with the natives. And so the ridiculous ability to do so, explained as a miracle from god.
  • To have no record of their arrival they have to have discarded all their technology and ships. I haven’t read any critic who thinks this story was credible.
  • To have no record of their culture, it also had to vanish, which means they mostly got wiped out.

All these things that we fans have complained about are driven by this one cute little trick, “Hera is a sort of Eve.” Sadly, alien Eve is one of the more clichéd story lines of golden age SF. Editors even got tired of it. Moore gave it a twist, the synthetic (God and Kobolians together) Eve arriving and breeding with the natives, but it’s still a pretty poor, and unoriginal plot twist. It doesn’t justify having to tear apart so much that was good in the show.

A lot of fans are not understanding mitochondrial Eve very well either. Here is an article about her, and here is a later post on this blog about Mitochondrial Eve.

Might be scientific

some kind of genetic memory passed down from the Cylons via Hera. Granted, that's bogus science too, but at least it's an extrapolated scientific explanation.

Actually, given Hera is in some way machine (or construct) I don't think we can call it bogus science. I mean, how do we know what bio-tech would pass on genetically to offspring?

Genetic Memory

Well, I agree, but I wasn't sure what the reaction would be from some of the Hard SF types.

I'm not against the idea in

I'm not against the idea in principle. I'm just not sure it was executed well or the right thing for BSG. There's been a similar problem with the new Terminator movie. I figured, the suprise ending of Marcus terminator chassis being skinned with the dead John Connor was doable but some people didn't like that. On reflection, I agree. It would destroy the essence of John Connor for a fashionably surprising ending. There's other issues such as the tech direction and timeline that I'm not happy about but I'd rather settle for a merely good movie than no movie.

I'd settle for the answers

I'd settle for the answers to:

x = ?
y = ?

He could have picked...

Feudal Japan and had it matter at much which is it don’t matter.

I like the idea of the

I like the idea of the genetic memory, but choosing to throw it out because it's bogus science is exactly what's wrong with scifi today. Why does scifi today have to be theoretically possible or scientifically accurate for some people to enjoy it?

It doesn't. It is just a

It doesn't. It is just a very small segment of the sci-fi fan population, which is pretty apparent by the 10:1 ration of good to bad reviews of the finale. At this point it is pretty obvious the argument is a bunch of people who want Star Trek trying to invade the BSGscape.

ratio is better

The actual ration is about 3 or 4 to 1

I've looked at quite a few polls and I lump the indifferent with the bad and very bad when it comes to peoples opinions on the show....especially the finale. (which is what most people will remember down the road)

roughly 30 % did not like one or more things about the finale and quite a few thought the show made a turn for the worse after midway
through season 3.

Of course that means a lot of people really liked it, including me but I don't think it's without its flaws. The main difference between
my opinion and those who thought the finale and series was excellent is that I acknowledge it had flaws.

Of course the show has

Of course the show has flaws. Writing a tv show like this is not easy, it's not like a book or a movie, where you have the beginning, the middle, and the end all written and edited long before anyone sees it.

If you look at the Terminator tv show, the writers already know where they can and can't go with the characters, and they don't even have to come up with an original ending, yet so many people talk about how supposedly wonderfully written it is.

Our known past vs. our possible future

I am one of those who can't really enjoy the whole genetic memory/collective unconscious aspect to this story. Look, I fully understand that in any show with far-fetched science -- FTL, artificial gravity, and more -- picking and choosing which science is realistic can seem foolish. Of course one must suspend disbelief to enjoy this kind of story.

But for me, suspending disbelief about FTL, etc. and suspending disbelief about genetic memory in this story are very different. And that difference is between what I know has NOT happened, and what I can at least marginally allow could possibly happen in the future.

Regarding FTL, I can say to myself, "OK, I know that FTL is really unlikely to EVER be possible in the future, but I suppose I can pretend that we might someday discover how to radically circumvent the laws of physics as we understand them today."

But it's a lot harder to suspend my disbelief about strongly implausible elements in a story that asks us to re-imagine our own, real history -- and that is what Ron Moore is asking us to do in order to enjoy the full impact of his story (according to him, the whole "collective unconscious" preservation of the Colonials' world is pivotal to the end not being a nihilistic one). The moment he brought the story sharply into our own real past, I found myself kicked out of that fantasy world of "OK I could imagine that maybe happening someday." I find it much harder to disregard the unrealistic science when the story inserts itself so firmly into our own real world.

Do not misunderstand my argument. It is not about the scientific plausibility of FTL vs. genetic memory; I suspect both are about equally unlikely to be possible in the real world. It's about how easy or difficult it is to personally disregard that criteria in these two very different dramatic contexts.

All that said, I'll make a deal with those of you who think I'm a pedantic killjoy: I won't call you unintelligent if you don't call me unimaginative :-)

Robot blood. That is all.

Robot blood. That is all.

Completely agree

Until you prove to me what can and cannot be passed through robotic procreation, the idea this is impossible if foreign to me. At some level there is nanotech involved in our genetic fiber (in BSG terms) which means I can't say something wasn't passed down through the ages like a ghost in the machine, because I have never analyzed "robot blood", nor have I ever had the opportunity to study robot offspring.

You Are 100% Right...

Suspending disbelief about FTL is completely different from genetic memory... Because FTL is theoretical, genetic memory on the other hand, to some degree, exists in nature.


Jung is just about as believable as Freud. Maybe humankind survived due to Oedipus complex inbreeding, too.

Past and Future Endings

I think understand the distinction you're making. Is it correct to say that if BSG's ending had taken place in the far future where life on Earth was restarting all over again then you'd be OK with the genetic memory idea? OF course, then you'd have to buy into the idea that humans evolved *again.*

I make a distinction between RDM's "collective unconscious" explanation and my own genetic memory idea. The former is a Jungian concept, but at least the latter attempts at a scientific extrapolation.

because it would be called

because it would be called fantasy instead or "the bible" or "X" add your own foundationless glib nonsense title. usually good SF is;

A) Not written by Joss Whedon
B) written by actual scientists or writers with a good working knowledge of it,
C) therefore has a good proportion of scientifically based material consisting of theories/models of a current theoretical basis (by the way are you managing following this?)
D) Like in good fiction of all types : a consistent and logical story line/narrative or plot
E) They do not use "deus ex machina"
F) have some scientific accuracy to suspend disbelief enough for the reader/viewer.
G) SF is not an overall blanket term meaning anything can happen.
H) If what purports to be SF doesn't consist of these categories it is not SF and should be prosecuted under the trades description act. (BSG fails on several of these points now i believe)
I) You can't get away with the "get out of jail free naturalistic SF clause" as it is a meaningless term within itself. What the heck is naturalistic SF? What use is a 5 legged horse?

RDM speaks in the SciFi forum

I was checking it out this morning.

I was astonished by the pissing contest MrsRon got into with a couple fans.

That pissing contest has

That pissing contest has been going on since season 1. I love how those same people who "hate" everything about the show made it through every episode. They must have really disliked Moore's vision to keep on watching like that.

Haha, really? I only read

Haha, really? I only read Ron's comments.

I've previously commented on

I've previously commented on the similarities between BSG and other works, including Evolution by Stephan Baxter, and Rama Revealed by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. The originally drafted scene in Galactica's CIC where Tigh kills Cavell is another "echo". In the movie Fire and Ice "Darkwolf and Juliana had been lovers in the past, and that Nekron was Darkwolf's son from his relationship with Juliana. This was meant to provide Darkwolf with his motivation for fighting Nekron and Juliana, as well as explaining why in the end only Darkwolf could defeat Nekron." (Quote: Wikipedia.)

It has all been plagiarised before. It will be plagiarised again.

Rethinking My Criticism of BSG

Brad, I have had a week to think about the ending of BSG and I have some thoughts that may not have been posted here before, or perhaps not together like this.

The original Battlestar Galactica seems to me to have been created from four forces. First, the 1970s was a time when there were a lot of movies about UFOs starting with Chariots of the Gods in 1970, theorizing that earth has been visited/influenced by aliens. Secondly, the 1970s saw the popularization of the disaster movie. Third, Star Wars brought about a strong interest in producing new science fiction programs for TV. And finally, Glen Larsen looked to his Mormon faith, which has references to lost tribes, the council of twelve, and a star called Kolob, for inspiration.

Out of this mish-mash of influences came a difficult proposition. That humanity originated on an alien world, and that the ancient Greeks (and to some extent, Egyptians) were a product of this settlement. Of course a little study of what was known of human origins even in the late 1970s would have shown this premise to be absurd. However, for one hour of escapism from the late 1970s America, one could easily suspend our logic to enjoy Battlestar Galactica.

Forward to 2003, and in an era when comic books and 1960s and 1970s movies and series were being remade and updated, BSG is born. The only problem is, that absurd, illogical premise. For whatever reason (out of deference to fans, Richard Hatch, whatever), enough of the original plot was preserved that the plot would probably never quite make sense. Added to this, instead of having the adventure of the week or aliens, this show had very, very long story arcs. Our attention was kept by the teasing out of mysteries, that often did not fit with the backstory from the original 1970s show.

Having thought this through, I think it was really overly ambitious to expect the creators of the new BSG to get the Colonials in the end to our Earth yet make it mesh with the premise of the original BSG. They delivered on this in perhaps the best way they knew how.

One area that I felt was particularly disappointing is that the world that the Colonials lived in was pretty much identical to our current world, including fashion and technology, with the exception of space travel, anti-gravity/artificial gravity, and the creation of AI. Those of us who are great Star Trek fans expect our sci-fi to take us to another time and place where society, fashion and technology are different from ours. What BSG did, though, was fuse great special effects with great storytelling, while leaving out many of the carefully thought out technology, linguistic, and cultural ideas we would expect from a sci-fi show trying to be reasonable.

BSG, much like its 1970s predecessor, reflected the time it was written in: it originated in something like the 9-11 attacks and the questions about terrorism, religion and a clash of societies. As the series was renewed for new seasons, it struggled to continue to resonate with current events, and as the plot grew more complicated and the constraints of its absurd Greek Gods backstory became evident, the task of tying all the loose ends together to satisfy the fans became too much.

In the end, I think we should applaud BSG for delivering its characters to Earth as promised, keeping free of aliens, and giving us divine intervention lest we drive ourselves mad trying to figure out how people 150,000 years ago and a million light years away looked and lived just like us. Well done.

i liked the ending -- here's why

At first I did not like ending the show on our earth in the past. But upon reflection, I like the idea that 150,000 years ago, the surviving humans and cylons settled on earth.

Here's why:

1. We know it's the end.

The survivors settled on "earth" and lived in fairly basic conditions, procreated, interbred with the primitive humans (I'm sure Baltar was the first to do this, or Hot Dog). And that was that. We can safely assume that they broke the cycle. Had the show ended in our future, we could not make this assumption.

The fact that the centurions left and, we can assume, did not return, further substantiates this. I know it's not impossible that this happened, but I think it's clear this was the intent of the writers.

2. People lived happily ever after in anarchy.

Think about what it would be like to live on a 747 for four-plus years. Other than the one-year interlude on harsh New Caprica, these people never went outside, breathed fresh air, or had space to move around. Those on Galactica operated under tremendous stress and monotonous daily routines. Those on the other ships apparently just sat around all day, for years (other than the tillium refiners, which is hardly an ideal alternative). For everyone, death was everywhere.

And they lived this life in the immediate aftermath of a genocide in which virtually everyone they knew was killed and their entire civilization completely destroyed. I would imagine all suffered from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression.

So I think, after going through all that for all those years, the chance to "return to nature" and live a simple, organic, outdoorsy lifestyle would seem by far to be the most appealing. Look at what technology had done to them -- why would they want to even try to recreate their old lifestyles? Maybe if they'd found this planet after a few weeks. But after 4-5 years? They'd been changed by the journey too much to ever go back.

Also, I'm sure living in close quarters would make more than a few people want to find a nice plot of land in a remote area and not have to deal with formal government or even the basics of community ever again. Just look at their experience on New Caprica under President Baltar... Tyrol was ready to lead a worker revolt when the cylons showed up.

In choosing to disperse and be alone, the people chose anarchy. They had the space and the resources to avoid the need for institutional structures to ensure survival, and they took advantage of it.

Finally... It may also have been the case that they had no choice. Basic supplies might very well have been exhausted and a few old ship's hulls and wiring were not going to help anyone much.

3. It's fun to speculate what knowledge they were able to pass down.

I understand the abstract technical limitations in play here, and that this involves a little imagination.

The same could be said for FTL, gravity in space, and where all of Cottle's cigarettes came from.

But it is fun to imagine what knowledge they might have been able to pass along... Consider, for instance, that there were families in Spain who centuries ago converted to Christianity from Judaism during the Inquisition but for generations thereafter still retained odd family rituals, such as lighting Shabat candles in the basement, even when they no longer knew what the candles were for or the origins of this tradition.

Stories, artifacts, songs, religion -- all could have passed down fragments of knowledge and explain why some Shakespeare was being read on Galactica, the names of the Greek gods, the engineering of the pyramids, Mayan astronomy, and etc.

I find it strangely comforting to think that the characters, while they never recreated their old civilization, had the chance to pass on, in Lee's words, the best parts of themselves... Namely, their knowledge.

Anyway... I liked the finale. I think that a long-running TV series faces significant obstacles to develop and create the kind of comprehensive, consistent vision and technical accuracy needed for the kind of sci-fi some folks might have wanted. Far easier to do this in a novel or even with a movie. TV shows are too long, and subject to too much evolution over the course of their production run, to expect writers to enslave themselves to original plot outlines or spend the bulk of their time after the first season explaining every single frakking question that may have arisen during the first handful of episodes.

Finally, there were a few things I didn't understand:

1. What did Bill Adama mean when he said he didn't have much time left? Did he fly away like that and never see anyone again? And if so, no goodbye scene with Tigh? And is he going to build that cabin by himself?

2. Will some of the people still see each other, or is everyone going off by themselves?

3. Wait... Lee wants to be an explorer now?

4. Did the final five all get their memories back during the battle?

5. Kind of odd the way Cavil killed himself. I would have liked to have seen Tigh get him for frakking his wife.

6. Very depressing end for Tyrol, who started off as one of the most decent characters in the show (going back to the miniseries) and ended as one of the most disturbed and self-destructive. I would have liked a happier ending for him.


Good points

You make some good points. I'm slowly coming around to the ideas presented in the finale. My disappointment now lies in the the plot points they missed the target with, forgot or that went completely unresolved. Your posts, Josiah, have been few-- but have been extremely insightful and I look forward to more when 'The Plan' airs. I'll be off this site for a while until then, but I might pop in from time to time to see if Brad's got any new blogs on BSG. I'll see you in the fall.

The only thing I didn't like

The only thing I didn't like about the ending was the 150 thousand year time frame. You can't imagine what they may have passed down to us, other than genetics, because we already know that humans even just 40 thousand years ago didn't have written language, knowledge of science, even there tools and methods of hunting were relatively unchanged from 150 thousand years ago. To date, even the oldest known cave painting is only 30 thousand years old. They went back too far just to use the Mitochondrial Eve. Hera should have been nothing other than the person who brings Humans and Cylons together...

If I was gonna end it in our past, I would have had them show up 40 thousand years ago, and maybe play up the fact that our human history was basically really stagnant for the first 100 thousand years or so, so we ritualistically buried our dead, big whoops, so did Neanderthals, and they did so over 200 thousand years ago, long before we're known to have come around. 40 thousand years ago is around when our ancestors truly began to advance, and start developing a truly unique culture that involved art and imagination just for the sake of imagination, those cave paintings were art and they were stories, and after 120 thousand years of human existence they showed up virtually out of nowhere. There is evidence that we started cultivating on a small scale nearly 30 thousand years ago...

Whether you go Mitochondrial Eve, or go genetic memory, over 100 thousand years passes between the arrival of the fleet and any meaningful advances in human technology and culture with the 150 thousand year arrival... That is just too much time in between.

Too much time

Agreed. We know that written language could not have been the mechanism to pass down, for example, the Kobolian > Greek mythology, so any cultural transmission of the Colonials' culture would have been verbal. Even if Lee and co. did somehow teach language to the natives, 145,000+ years is a very long game of telephone. It's hard to imagine any recognizable level of detail surviving to comparatively modern times (i.e. the ancient Greeks).

And none of the above even takes into account the actual history of human language and civilization; the evidence to date suggest that for at least 100,000 of those years, we were in fact pretty darn primitive.

If it wasn't conscious, cultural transmission, we're left with a mystical/religious collective unconscious idea...or Mishen's idea of a sentimental Starbuck popping up from time to time throughout human history to re-introduce those idea. Frankly, I find the latter fantasy more satisfying :-)

I don't meant to kick mud on Josiah's post -- I always welcome reading his thoughts and in large part I see where he's coming from. It's just this 150,000 time frame that kind of mucks things up for me. It's ironic that RDM chose this time frame in order to make the Mitochondrial Eve premise scientifically plausible (sort of), but in so doing required a religious, mystical explanation for how Colonial culture survived to this day.

Lost Civilizations.

A friend of mine thinks that maybe stories of lost civilizations, like Atlantis and Lemuria, could make up for the time. It could, from a story point of view, had RDM chose to go there, but the head Six and Baltar didn't mention anything of it, insinuating that it was a straight line from them to us, they would have probably mentioned it when comparing us to Kobol, Caprica, and Cylon Earth, so ya can't even really go that route to try making sense of that.

fuck you, brad, you fat

fuck you, brad, you fat piece of shit.

why 150,000 years works

I can appreciate some of the technical and artistic issues that arise in ending the show 150,000 years ago, particularly with respect to what, if anything, might have been 'passed down' by our Human-Cylon ancestors.

First, the significance of Hera as the missing link or common ancestor (i.e., mitochondrial Eve) can't be understated in terms of the overarching theme of the series. This seems to be why 150,000 years was chosen, and not some other, closer time period.

Hera as the common ancestor means the cycle is definitively broken. The age-old dichotomy of man and machine cannot exist when we descend from the first Human-Cylon offspring. In other words, there is no longer any difference between man and machine. Now, this does not mean that we cannot begin the cycle anew. But it does mean that the cycle that dated back at least to Kobol is broken.

This assumes, of course, that the Cavil faction was completely destroyed in the show's last battle. There are some questions about this, such as base stars that might have jumped away and whether a few nukes from a raptor could destroy something so big... (And it may be that the greatest damage that was done was when Galactica jumped away while partially inside the Colony.) In any case, I think the writers' intent was fairly clearly that the Cavil faction is no more.

This also assumes that the "good" Centurions that took over the last base ship don't come back. Again, Ellen's line about letting them go free seems to indicate the intent of the writers here was to allow for a clean break and no future return.

So, regardless of the technical issues raised by placing Hera as Eve, they are not as important as the symbolic effect this has of resolving the central theme of the show. And I would argue that since this is a TV show, symbolic acts like that are the only way resolving a central theme can be achieved. It has to be fairly simple. After all, this is the arts. Men used to play women in Shakespeare plays, and the audience went for it... BSG is not a National Geographic documentary about Dr. Leakey.

Second, as far as what knowledge could have or could not have been passed down, I think we need to keep in mind just how much time we're talking about here.

I would argue that a lot could have been passed down, and a lot could have been forgotten, and that these are not mutually conflicting theories.

150,000 years is a vast amount of time. It would only take a few generations for any accurate memory of 30,000 odd survivors to slip away and be replaced by rituals, customs, and other practices that could quickly evolve in ways unrecognizable to the survivors or be forgotten completely.

The BSG humans and cylons and their descendants could have maintained a society that in archeological terms would appear quite primitive to the Dr. Leakeys of the world, but in fact was quite sophisticated, for thousands of years, for tens of thousands of years, without any hard record or actual knowledge surviving to this day.

Alternatively, who's to say that some kind of secret society didn't develop that passed certain kinds of information down for thousands of years that later became the basis of civilizations in Egypt or South America.

Either reality, or both, could have occurred. The beauty of the ending is that we have space to speculate and imagine.

Third, what about the similarities between today and the 12 Colonies? Was that because of knowledge that had somehow been passed down? Did Baltar make sure to teach all his children how to tie a Windsor knot and ensure they pass it down for generations?

Importantly, I think we must remember that the similarities of life on the 12 Colonies to our time today were not developed because the writers wanted to end the show 150,000 years in our past with a clear line of evolution and heritage.

Rather, the similarities (such as neck ties, cars, buildings, language, etc.) were designed to make the show's messages and themes relevant to our non-fiction world. In other words: the writers wanted us to look at the 12 Colonies and say, 'hey, that could be us.'

Or at least, 'that could be us, in a weird, polytheistic Canadian kind of way.'

In any case, the point was not to create a space-born utopia, like Star Trek, where all our current problems were solved and the real challenges came from Kahn, Klingons, Romulans, and Q.

Rather, the miniseries aired less than two years after 9/11, and the goal behind the similarities, to me, was to tap into those emotions and those themes.

So I just don't buy the concerns over whether it's accurate to say they could have passed down knowledge or not. It's not material. They might have, they might not have, and in any case 150,000 years is such a long time, the only real point was to convey the genetic unity of Human and Cylon and show the cycle was, indeed, broken.

Now, this does not excuse some of the loose ends and inconsistencies left in the show. But again, I would maintain that a tv show is a terrible place to expect such unity and consistency. The writers are writing a drama, not a text book, and they're subject to all kinds of production and financial issues that it's probably amazing they even get a coherent script out each week. I think you have to interpret all such inconsistencies through the lens the show itself provides, and not through external frames of reference. Otherwise, you're going to be disappointed.

Finally, I would just add that, while on balance I think BSG is one of the better sci fi shows ever created, Ron Moore seems to be headed into George Lucas territory. Every interview and appearance he makes... he seems just a little too impressed with himself. He deserves a lot of credit. But really, while he's been good, he's not Bill Shakespeare, and I sincerely hope, for all our sakes, he doesn't think he is.

I disagree. We have a very

I disagree.

We have a very good knowledge regarding how our prehistoric ancestors lived, and that existence was stagnant for over 100 thousand years. RDM wants there to be a link between the colonies and us, more than just genetic, but cultural, and we know that there was nothing there. There is no evidence of some forgotten knowledge from 100 thousand years ago, not even something as simple as a cave painting exists that is remotely that old, no evidence of language or writing, nothing, no pottery, nothing, just the same basic stone tools. We find these 100+ thousand year old burial sites that consist of the persons belongings, with all those belongings being virtually identical to the belongings of someone buried 5000 years earlier or later. To claim that a human colony came from another world and passed on it's rituals and culture, and that those rituals and culture were forgotten over time, still needs to be backed up with evidence... And the evidence we have of human civilization from 40 to 150 thousand years ago is one consistent trail of primitive tools, weapons, and a lack of writing and language, or any type of scientific understanding of the world around them. This isn't the space tech stuff or the astrophysics theories, this stuff that we already know enough about to say "No, that is not how things happened".

And Hera doesn't make the cycle completely end. Humans made Cylon robots that destroyed them, Cylon robots evolved to become "human" and then made Cylon robots that destroyed them, and us, the human/cylon hybrids, have developed relatively advanced robotics, we have already fought thousands of wars, and are now employing robotics and computers to do it for us, we have robots that clean our pools, sweep and mop our floors, clean our cars, build stuff for us, and not to mention exploring our world and alien worlds for us, we have computers in virtually every aspect of our lives to make life easier, which can be turned on and off at OUR will... You sure that this cycle has been broken?

Worrying Trend

I've noted a worrying trend of people confusing Battlestar Galactica's story with the real world. It's a story that's plausible and attractive on one level but still a story. It's fiction. These characters don't exist. These things never happened. So, why are some people writing about it like Battlestar Galactica is our history or a similar scenario is what will happen?

I've noted that trend, and

I've noted that trend, and have disagreed with it. This is totally different, RDM wanted the show to end with it being real, not tv real, but REAL, something that could have actually happened, that is why he says he didn't use the ending where the fleet of ships were buried under those ancient spiral mounds found around the world, and discovered, because it couldn't possibly be real, we already know there are no ancient space ships under them. That is where he messed up with the 150 thousand year time frame, we know enough about the people who lived 40 to 150 thousand years ago to know that they were not given some forgotten knowledge from alien humans... To the contrary they don't have any real explanation of how those people developed into sophisticated pyramid builders, and people who had an incredible knowledge of astronomy.

Versions of Reality

Lots of stories could've happened with a lot of ifs and buts. Maybe if he'd explain the poor science or happy clappy lets go native routine it would be more credible, or is he going to fall back on saying it's narrative shorthand? If you want "real" fiction I suggest people read anything by Sven Hassel.

Ron's a natural attention seeker and charismatic, and can be a control freak and sociopathic. He span a load of bullshit and came off the rails now wants everyone to swallow the new line and get with the programme. I figured, his earlier comment about being like Adama was nonsense. If he's anyone, he's Baltar. He later said so himself.

Another inconsistency of Ron's is his saying that BSG could be picked up again later. I agree, it's possible. Then he says a movie can't happen because of the way it ended. Pardon? This is a guy who just wants to people to believe his version of the truth even if that screws everyone else. Sorry, but I prefer my version of "real".

None of that bothers me

None of that bothers me really, because I would have rather seen Ron not be as accessible to fans as he has been.

A lot of the anger and disappointment some fans have is based on "Ron said this and then did that", Ron shouldn't have said anything! It wouldn't have changed certain inconsistencies, but it wouldn't have left fans feeling so betrayed. But I really don't think it's Ron's fault, we live in a day and age where people actually think they have a right to know what a piece of art or literature will look or sound like before it's done, they wanna know the story before it's told, and especially in this day and age of the internet, they feel there is no excuse for the artists to not regularly talk to fans, because of how simple it is to get on a computer and talk directly to them. If this was 15 or 20 years ago, Ron would have done 2 or 3 short TV Guide interviews, with little detail, over the course of the series, and the show would have been better off for it, because a lot of fans would have been able to overlook certain things, and wouldn't have felt lied to. Ron built up assumptions and expectations, but it's because internet fanboys demanded it.

I used to write music, if I was writing music at the relative level Ron does tv shows, and I had millions of fans wanting to know what this sounds like and that sounds like, and wanted to know what direction my mind was going, without telling them to go fuck themselves, I would have told them to go fuck themselves. Painters and sculptures don't let them see their work before it's done, songwriters don't let people hear their songs before their done, novelists don't let people read their novels before their done. Fans will already have expectations, there is no reason the make them greater, cause it only bites you in the ass... I said months ago that if Ron didn't end the show how FANS wanted it, it would hurt him (not like that was some great prediction), I would be shocked if Caprica retains more than 75% of fans.

There's a good spread of

There's a good spread of perspectives, here.

Ron played with fire and got singed. He bigged the show up and got chummy. When he didn't deliver on the promise and people felt his comments were manipualtive his polls took a dive. Been there. Done that. Yes, people can get the wrong idea or be too sensitive but you have to take responsibility for yourself. As the saying goes: "Life gives the test first and the lesson afterwards". It hurts but you have to get through that. I think, there's too much hype and excitement generally. While leaders may blame the crowd they really need to get a clue themselves. A better approach, here, can better direct the crowd. Win-win.

I agree with you but....

Ron Moore is a writer, and coming from a stand point of a someone who enjoys literature and the art of writing, he fell flat on his ass.
He said that he came up with the idea of the finale 2 years ago. If he had the idea for the ending then, why did he screw up with loose ends and major plot holes?
Yes, writing a TV show is much different from a play, novel, short story, or movie because you don't get the time to rewrite and edit what you have written. But he gave himself two years to go over what he was writing with a fairly large group of writers and spent time at writers retreats. Did they just smoke up at those times and put off the plot?
As Brad mentioned about moore, he said "it's about the characters", but without a strong supporting plot, the characters feel weak and underplayed, unable to reach full potential.
The reason most people, like me(I never read any articles), who feel betrayed and cheated of a good ending is because we were denied a good story. This show was amazing before season 4.5 because the ease of the story, the immersion, the dark flaws of humanity played out so well. I feel that RMD throwing those good elements out just for a simplistic Eve ending, is cheap and wholly distasteful. HE could have kept all the other end points, the back to basics, nature bit, and it would have a been great. I loved that part of the finale and the quote by Lee. But as I said, having it in our past and the "god did it" bit, felt cheap.
After the mutiny, he could have done so much more to wrap it up better, but he didn't. He could have gave a reasonable explanation for Kara, He could have explained Daniel in a reasonable way.
On the Daniel, 7th cylon part, I think he should have thought it out some more before the end. He should have been able to recognize that little hole that he has had from season one and filled it in with a bit more then a pebble conversation.
RMD should himself, rewatch all of the series and maybe then he might see what he has done, and how he could have done it to tie it up better.

Well you say the series was

Well you say the series was amazing until season 4.5, others say the series started sucking midway through 3, still others think the series was always lame after the mini series, and others loved it the whole time... Who is right?

With the story happening in our past, and using Hera as the mitochondrial Eve, he is making each and every human alive today directly related to the Humans and Cylons, that was his aim. If he makes the show in the future, there is no real relationship between us and the Cylons, they are totally irrelevant to us and our existence. In addition to that, Hera has Cylon qualities that can explain away something like the culture being passed on thousands of years later. I don't necessarily agree with the whole thing, but I can appreciate where he was going with it in his thinking, I found nothing cheap about the concept. The future ending, something I originally wanted, that to me would have been cheap, looking at it in hindsight. Are there issues regarding the zodiac and all that shit, stuff that people say pointed to the show being in our future? Yeah, but we know nothing is stationary in the cosmos, we know that solar systems move, it's 150 thousand years in the past, and the location of the Cylon Earth, in relationship to our location, or the location of those constellations, was never disclosed, it is not impossible for that zodiac to have been seen from a planet outside this solar system 150 thousand years ago... Is it unlikely? No more unlikely than anything you wanted to see happen, because what you wanted to see happen still involved killer robots chasing humans across space.

And regarding the use of god and religion, and all that... Also not cheap. The real world has religion and faith, and has events that can't always be explained using science. In addition I like the fact that Ron didn't explain every little thing, it allows the viewer to use their own imagination, it allows the viewer to insert their own set of beliefs, it becomes more intimate.

It's fiction, you're allowed to use your imagination, not just a science or history textbook, to work out explanations.

Most of what you said is OK

Most of what you said is OK with me, but the fact that he left so much open to interpretation when it could have been explained within the contexts of what RDM wanted, feels cheap. It is always a good thing to leave things open and to have a cliffhanger at the end, but to leave things half explained is bad. He seems to have made it so the end ties up the only certain points and leaves other things hanging, when it seemed like they had a major importance. Animal Farm by George Orwell had an open ending, we don't know exactly if they did anything after they saw the humans with the pigs, so we are left to guess. Everything else in that story is explained and detailed. What RDM did was cut short many aspects of the plot, which if explained, would have made the whole experience much more satisfying.

With respects to religion, it is a major part of human history and human imagination since it is a product of our imagination and thought processes. Now to have the plot tied up with "god did it" is very lacking. I love stories that have miracles in them form time to time, but not to have god be there. In this story, god is pulling many strings within the journey, but other then that he lets it be. god could have intervened just as much during the the genocide, or on the first earth and stopped the cycle, but it makes it so the it continues it some aspects.

As I said, I liked the ending, just not it was approached. Major points in the story ended up only being minor compared to other points that seemed to be minor before, and that just doesn't sit well with me.

No one is mistaking BSG for

No one is mistaking BSG for the real world. We know it's a story. We know it's fiction. We know the characters don't exist. We know these things didn't happen. But BSG tries to mesh itself with our world. It's a fictional version of our world, yes. But that is a difficult task to get right.

Mistaking it for the real world

But as you say, Moore said his goal was to generate a strong connection to our reality. He thought the best way to do that was to make the Cylons be our ancestors.

But he got it backwards. As you say, BSG is not our world. Cylons were not our ancestors. With a story set in the future, the writer often is saying, “This is what our world could become. This starts in our real world and I extrapolate a possible future for you.” To me that’s a real connection. You are supposed to mistake it for the real world.

When you set SF in the past, you have two options. One is alternate history — this is not our past, but another one that might have been. The other, also popular, is “secret history” where you paint a past that could be, but the differences from our known past are secrets, unknown to us for some reason. An example of other attempts at this would be X files or Stargate or Baker’s “The Company” stories.

Moore was hoping for secret history. He thought that made his story more relevant. I would prefer he had not tried this, and the reason is I knew it would be pretty much impossible to pull off in a consistent manner. And it was not. But even if you like secret history stories (and I actually have enjoyed many) you want them to be pulled off well. The big secret must make sense, and here it does not.

Secret History

Had they not used MSNBC footage, it would be ambiguous which of the Earths were our Earth. Parallel evolution of the same species is mind-bogglingly unlikely, but having both worlds so identical to have the same TV channel on both worlds would only make it more unlikely.

You're right, we are dealing with secret history, so we have to look at our own real history to see what impact the events must have had, as secret history gives a (fictional) explanation of how we got to where we are now. Had the Colonials reached our planet at around the end of the last ice age we could say "Ah, they kicked off the neolithic revolution". There would have been some change as a result of their arrival. But arriving when they did means that they had no measurable impact. If they farmed, they farmed for such a brief time that if left no evidence. Tools didn't change, so they simply adopted the crude stone tools of the paleolithic humans around them.

He wanted to have one impact, making Hera mitochondrial Eve. But all that tells us is that the descendants of the Colonials managed to survive and reproduce, and that their we are descended from them, at least partially. I think it was pretty clear that we are also descended from the cavemen too.

The Colonials must have died out in many places, however. Their maps show that they settled in Australia and in the Americas. Since there is no evidence of human habitation of these areas for well over 100,000 years after the events of the finale, the Colonials must have died out there.

That's one other thing that bothered me about the finale, it had a feeling of despair. The only people who seemed upbeat were Athena, Helo and Hera. Everyone else just seemed to have an attitude of "It's over, lets just lay down in the grass and die."

Interesting quote from old RDM podcast

Hey, Brad, I heard this quote today when catching up on older RDM podcasts. First let me bring this quote back up, often touted here once upon a time as proof that Ron Moore was going to have Earth as the homeworld and the story in the future:

"I don't have a direct answer for this question yet. There are a couple of notions rolling around in my head as to how we reconcile the very real fact of evolution with the Galactica mythos, but I haven't decided which approach to take. However, it was a fundamental element of the orginal Galactica mythos that "Life here began out there..." and I decided early on that it was crucial to maintain it."

Now here's a quote from one of the very first podcast commentaries:

"The original Galactica series began with this short prologue in the main title sequence voiced by Patrick Macnee, which began 'There are those who believe that life here began out there.' And he proceeded to talk about that some people believe that the pyramids and the Mayan civilization and other, [b]you know, ruins of past civilizations on Earth were either built or aided in some ways by ancient astronauts- this was an idea that was very current in the 1970s- 'Chariots of the Gods' was a bestseller, there were, you know, 'In Search Of,' with Leonard Nimoy explored that issue many times. So the idea that there were past visitors to Earth that were either human beings from some other part of the galaxy, or were true aliens who came down and helped us and influenced our development in some way, shape or form was something that was built into the original series. As we approached 'Galactica," the new version, I decided pretty early on that I wanted to keep that part of the mythos.[/b] I didn't want to play it too heavily u front in the miniseries or the first couple of episodes because I felt it was more important to establish the characters, sync into the world, set up what kind of storytelling we were doing and really hook the audience into the show before we sort of start introducing these grandiose mythological concepts."

From the podcast for "Hand of God," dated 3-17-05.

I remember realizing that the quote from the blog often talked about here was a bad sign for those of us who wanted the show to be in the future, and you said that he simply applied the phrase to a Kobolian perspective, and I argued that turning the backbone of the original show and turning it into a throwaway line does not = "crucial to maintain."

So all along we had the answer that he intended for "Life here began out there" to mean the same thing as the original show. I find it interesting to look back at things like this and ponder how I would have looked at the show differently had I read this. I realized awhile back that if the makers of the original series were really cashing in on the Chariots of the Gods craze, they probably weren't saying all of humanity came from outer space, but that another race of humans came down sometime in the past to Earth. But I may be wrong I always noticed that of all the times Ron Moore talk about how things were done in Star Trek and how he wanted to do things differently (and reading between the lines, these things really seemed to bug him), he never talked about the bad science from the show (and despite how some Trekkies might howl, TNG did indeed have a lot of bad science).

I think that though he always intended it to be the past, he didn't have enough of the mechanics worked out and perhaps hadn't even yet decided to have the Thirteenth Tribe Earth be a completely different planet from our Earth. I think the backbone of this is Moore's approach to writing (which he is very open about) is that you can write something, not know what it means, and figure it out later. I think the Tomb of Athena was a "Figure it out later" thing that was later botched. I guess if asked he'll say that the sky over the first Earth of 150,000 years ago and our Earth today had identical star patterns, even if they're made up of different stars.

And looking at it from another perspective, I remember saying that you shouldn't put too much stock into what he was saying in the blog post because if he truly knew that this show was set in the future and Kobol was not the homeworld, because if that was definitely the case he would have been giving away a huge spoiler to those who could suss out the meaning. I was right that he didn't mean it was in the future- but then in an expanded version of essentially the same statement, he pretty much torpedoes several fan theories- and I never heard this repeated anywhere in the four years and three days until the finale aired. Don't you find that surprising? I do. I always thought that the crux of this blog post was flawed, as the people like yourself, Michael Hall, and how I used to be. formed a very small portion of the audience, as opposed to the near-universal theorizing about Daniel, which is the situation when Moore felt it was widespread enough that he should say somthing. But still, you'd think something that significant would get repeated in the fan community more often.

I'm not trying to stick a finger in your eye three months out- I genuinely find this discovery very interesting and wanted to share it with one of the few people who would be interested. I am glad that Moore did it the way he did (if he had to do it). We know how the pyramids were built, and such. All of the "evidence" of ancient alien visitation is not uniform across time and the world, which it would be if there was any truth to it. The ideas are contemptuous of science and academia. But by placing it in the far distant past and having it be a sort of racial memory thing- again, if he HAD to do it, that's the best way.

And it raises the interesting question- yes, Moore did say he also considered having them land in ancient Greece and inspire the Greek myths, but I get the feeling that by deciding to keep an idea from the original show that permeated the then-current pop culture and doing it so drastically different from how it was written, it seems to show that he doesn't think those ideas hold any water but that he felt he had to include them for sake of continuity with the original show.

By the way, an excellent book about ancient astronaut nonsense is "The Cult of Alien Gods" by Jason Colavito. It postulates that the writing of HP Lovecraft is the forebearer to ancient astronaut theories. Lovecraft's language was so evocative that the idea that creatures like Cthulhu were intended to be advanced aliens is often lost, and it also deconstructs and destroys the theories of individual advocates of such theories, such as Erich Von Daniken, Zechariah Sitchin, Graham Hancock, etc. Order it if you can't find it in stores.

Well, I wish I had heard that as well

Considering how much the debate went on about this question, I am frankly shocked to never have seen such a podcast answer brought up. Had I known about it, I would have accepted it, though it would have diminished my opinion of the quality of the show and its writing. The Chariots of the Gods thing was a 70s popular pseudo-science fad, and was indeed part of what was seen in the original show — but very clearly something well worthy of reimagining. If he can make the Cylons into sexy models, he can certainly change that element of the show if he wishes.

As to the question of whether the way it was done was the best way to do the Chariots of the Gods theme of the early show, I would strongly disagree. Charged with doing this, I would have done the following:

  • Kobol would have been populated by ancient humans. Either because they had an “Atlantis” that rose and fell, or because some alien force — even a god or godlike being — took humans from Earth and populated Kobol.
  • That force could have still led the lost tribe of humans back to Earth in the ancient past. Of course they could interbreed.
  • I would have worked a lot harder sewing the seeds of a luddite movement keen on abandoning technology.
  • I would have had non-luddite factions who go back out into the galaxy with the centurions, who make a treaty never to return to Earth
  • Or I just would have made reasonable explanations as to why the colonial civilization on Earth vanished without a trace. It’s hard, but doable.
  • The Tomb of Athena would have indeed shown the secret ancient home. I would have left out 13th colony Earth but it could still be included.
  • I would have had them land about 40,000 years ago, responsible for the “great leap forward” and installing elements of their culture in ours. A Cylon could still be the most recent common ancestor with a bit of tweaking of Australian DNA.

Now truth be known I would change more than that, but if forced to follow that plot, it could be done.

When I say he did it right

I just mean the broad strokes of the idea- after all, they didn't have the Colonials teaching the people of Earth how to build pyramids, they didn't make the Nazca lines. It's that he did it in a way that kind of has a real contribution (like it or not, he has said without the COlonials and Hera like on Earth would be very different today) lost to the mists of time, but it's there.

Like I said, how he did it implies he does not actually believe in ancient astronaut theories. I would find it too difficult to write something like that I don't believe is true.

Tell me if you've ver noticed this- doesn't there seem to be a subtle bit of racism in Von Daniken's theories? I don't recall him ever talking about Stonehenge, just monuments built by... dark skinned people.

Von Daniken

I don’t pay much attention to Von Daniken. But the “reality” of what we saw in the show as there was no connection between them and us. Their DNA, including mitochondrial DNA, is identical to that of the native humans, so they contributed nothing there that can be detected today. What Moore says happened is that they contributed some sort of “collective unconscious” which leads to things like Bob Dylan rewriting Anders’ song “All along the Watchtower” and Shakespeare writing of a pound of flesh etc. This is, of course, complete bullshit.

What didn’t happen, however, was their gods becoming the Greek gods (we know how the Greek gods “evolved” from simpler Indian forms) or their tribe names becoming our names for the Zodiac — not directly. It was all, we are told, this collective unconscious. In other words, pseudo-scientific nonsense.

Which is a great disappointment when the connection could have been a real one — ideally by setting in the future, but even setting in the past. People have pulled off “secret history” stories where a hidden society with more advanced knowledge guides our culture or evolution. But that’s not what we got here.

The missed opportunity of the Great Leap Forward is annoying. Here we have something that actually is unexplained in human pre-history. Why was there a relatively sudden flowering about 50,000 years ago? Something like Moore’s story could have fit well there. (Though they must not go to Australia or the Americas.) The GLF is not a settled theory, but it’s enough of one to do a story.

So you take the story that humans are taken from Earth by godlike aliens, put on Kobol, build a high-tech society, it goes through cycles of man/machine war, falls and rises, and eventually the remnants come back to Earth 50,000 years ago and provide language, culture and basic tech (and some synthetic DNA if you like) before fading away. That’s a much better story than Moore’s.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

His name is Brad Templeton. You figure it out.
Please make up a name if you do not wish to give your real one.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Personal home pages only. Posts with biz home pages get deleted and search engines ignore all links
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options