Is Earth a vacant planet?

One of the big questions for viewers of BSG is “what will they find on Earth?” I’ve written before about how we can be pretty sure this is an Earth of the far future but this doesn’t tell us what sort of future Earth it is. Advanced? All-Cylon? Post-singularity? Or, quite possibly, deserted or ruined.

Some signs are pointing to the latter choice. A lot of hints tell us the ending of the show will be dark. That seems to rule out an inhabited Earth that welcomes the fleet. It might suggest an inhabited Earth that puts up a “No trespassing” sign and tells them to go away — because the colonials are really Cylons, and were booted off Earth long ago. (That doesn’t mesh with somebody taking Starbuck too Earth to show here where it was, though.)

It’s very clear that they are quite close to Earth. Recent episodes have routinely shown the unmistakable constellation of Orion in starfields. This is no accident, and puts them very close. (Orion is one of the few constellations that could be recognized at some distance from Earth along the line between Earth and Orion. But “some distance” is still not very far.) In fact, there is a technical flaw here. From such a close distance — a few hundred LY or so — their computers could readily find the place where the Zodiac is visible. You can download software for your own computer, like the free Celestia, that would let you see what the stars look like from all the nearby stars.

And the previews for next week —- mild spoilers again — show them over a blue-white planet, and then standing on a deserted planet. Previews are usually fake-outs, of course. Last week’s preview had a great fake-out because it was the character (D’Anna) doing the fake-out, not the preview editors. It seems too early for them to show us Earth, even deserted Earth, but it’s not out of the question since there are other big mysteries to deal with after that, such as why it’s deserted, and what the backstory of the Cylons and Final 5 (Original 5, really) is.

However, without making much of a prediction there, a dead Earth seems like the best match for a dark ending. Though presumably a still-habitable Earth, since otherwise would be really dark. But to live on it they must reconcile with the Cylons, half of which have switched back to “kill all humans” mode. Earth isn’t actually necessary once they reconcile with the Cylons, since if they did that, they know of a very pleasant planet (Kobol) where they could settle. Right now they seek a habitable planet where the Cylons won’t be trying to wipe them out.

The difference with Earth is that, as home of humanity and the Original/Final Five, it may offer the means to that reconciliation, though presumably after a bit of space battle and a lot of death. The Hybrids, and the Final Five, who have lived as humans, are pointed as as likely paths to the “two becoming one” the Hybrid predicted.

A populated and powerful Earth that can say “welcome home, we’ll kick Cylon butt for you” just isn’t in the cards. But they’re so close to Earth now that an advanced Earth would probably have left signs in the area. So a vacant Earth seems more and more likely.

(One theory has suggested that Earth is vacant because the “13th tribe” was an expeditionary force that went back to wipe out the homeworld that had ejected them. This is somewhat interesting but I can see many other reasons for Earth to be vacant. While this 13th tribe is dated 2,000 years before the exodus from Kobol, it would be interesting to imagine the effort to wipe out Earth as part of the schism on Kobol.)

Time loop scenario?

I have posted a few months ago on this blog my view that this BSG series will reveal a time loop scenario.... I know Brad you are not very fond of time travel but the dark ending in last episode with an earth destroyed and highly RADIOACTIVE contaminated as well as clues scattered along several episodes only lead us to this scenario otherwise BSG should end now... AND I PERSONALLY WOULDN'T LIKE SUCH AN ENDING FOR A HIGHLY POPULAR SCI-FI SERIES
SO TO START WITH:
1. 'The all happened before and will happen again '
2. Kara being the harbinger of death
3 The final five existence
As suggested by the script Cylon technology at least in the form of the final five existed in Earth very long time before the 12 colonies 'manufactured' or actually re-invented Cylons....
Most probably the 13 tribe many years ago made an exodus FROM NUKED EARTH TOGETHER WITH CYLONS TO COBOL...and not vice versa
Hybrids (FIRST CYLONS TO BE BUILD post earth exodus) are aware of things to happen ONLY up to KARA FINDING EARTH characterizing her as a harbinger of death.....Can you guess why? BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT SHE ACTUALLY FOUND EARTH WHEN BOTH SHE AND THE CYLON RAIDER CRASH LANDED ON EARTH (PAST EARTH) THROUGH A WORM HOLE....
Most probably earth beings analysed at least the technology from the destroyed Cylon raider and by doing so they created the first cylons....Somehow civil war or cylon rebellion destroyed earth and a few of both cylons and humans(or maybe ONLY CYLONS-radioactive RESISTANT- made the trip to cobol carrying with them the knowledge of things that will happen in the future(BUT ONLY WHAT KARA KNEW TILL ENTERING THE WORM HOLE). (All happened in past and will happen in the future...)
Kara was the harbinger of DEATH FOR HUMAN KIND as most probably all humans died after earth's nuclear war and only cylons made the exodus to kobol.....
FIVE cylons were programmed by the humans (or only the cylons?) to be guardians of the future CORRECTING this TIME LOOP that started the disaster. They downloaded from body to body through time just to reach the crucial time (they knew it from KARA) and by knowing her they were unconsciously placed around her!
The great irony of all if Baltar is the fifth cylon would be that all the disaster started from one of
those that were send to guard the future....
Of course all time travel scenarios have weak points....The five could just kill Kara ( OR HER MOTHER OR HER GRAND-GRAND MOTHER and end this loop)..
I would very much like to see BSG end with Adama, Tigh Roslin Kara Baltar, Helo Athena, De Ana and Caprica 6 as well as many of the missing dead characters living and working together somewhere in the USA unaware of their alternate existence after all corrected

Terra Prime

I don't think the planet they landed on at the end of the midseason finale was Earth. I think it's the re-imagined series version of Terra Prime that we saw in the TOS episode "Experiment on Terra." Except in this version, the experiment failed and the Colonials arrived after the nukes were fired -- in TOS they arrived just before and averted it. Two of the scenarios possible are (1) part of the 13 Tribe stopped on this planet (I'll call it Terra) on the way back to Earth, or (2) the contingent who left Earth initially stopped at Terra on their way to Kobol and some people settled there. I think they'll find a few people eking out an existence on Terra, as well as a clue to find a close-by Earth since they're only a few light years away.

Wherever you go, there you are

If the planet is in the right place it's difficult to see how it could be anything other than Earth. I just think people are getting a bit scattered over this one. People can grasp at any old straw no matter how ludicrous if they're knocked flat on their ass and I can't see how this is different. People where expecting some wonderland and didn't get it, and are left trying to force their opinion onto reality. Knocking a square peg into a round hole doesn't work, and Ron's challenge to the characters of the story and audience is, probably, for them to get over themselves. Wherever you go, there you are.

It is certainly Earth

There can be no doubt it’s Earth, and I have to take some pride that my prediction was spot-on, though I thought it more likely that it would be habitable rather than uninhabitable. But the constellations match, we saw a picture of the planet at the end of Season 3, we saw Starbuck’s picture of it and the yellow moon.

Those of you who read this blog should not have been surprised at the vacant Earth. I’ll blog a bit more about it shortly. I do not think time travel is involved, or at least would be disappointed if it is. This is, as I’ve said since day one, the far future. I hate time loops where the characters created their own past. It’s so cliche. Though I agree with the attraction some people feel for them because of the too-accurate predictions. Those predictions stop me from counting it out, alas.

Could be Earth; Could be Terra

It could be Earth and the dark ending to the series has them settling on Terra. However, when you look at the shots of the Big Blue Marble from Crossroads at the end of Season 3, we could clearly make our North America, specifically Florida. This is not the case with the Big Blue Marble shots at the end of Revelations. Also, there's nothing really in the remnants of the city we saw at the end of Revelations to indicate that it's a specific Earth city. I need something more definitive than bridge rubble. The head of the Statue of Liberty would have been way too derivative, but they could have shown a more obvious clue than what we saw.

So, I still think they've located a colony founded by the Thirteenth Tribe. This colony, I'm calling it Terra Prime, likely was settled when the 13th left the other tribes at the same time the Temple of Five was built. I'm interested to see your planned post on Revelations. Here's mine.

I tend to agree with Brad.

I tend to agree with Brad. There's only so many ways you can read star positions and they all point to the planet being Earth. I figure, the surprise of it being a wasteland has thrown people a bit so they're obsessing over an explanation that justifies their pre-existing notions. There's also obsessing over the landing location when the rest of the world, including yours truly, doesn't have that same investment. Both are egotistical from a plot and nationality point of view.

What's both puzzling and annoying is how the Final Cylon is being strung out. I'm still not completely sold on the idea it's either Baltar or Starbuck, and seeing Adama and Roslyn put at risk with a stand-off on the Basestar makes their candidacy for the role less likely. I figure, Baltar and Starbuck are opposites who flank the core plot that's emerging around Hera. I can appreciate how Baltar is the prime cadidate but there's been so many lies and misdirections I'm beginning not to care.

From the point of view of experiencing the narrative, Ron is making the audience feel like a bunch of losers. The cup half full and a surprise around every corner thing is great but it's wearing thin. I'm British, so am used to more gritty and less formulaic drama. It can be good but having your nose rubbed in it is as bad in its own way as the signposted happy endings of Hollywood. It's been a great to so-so ride. I just hope there's a pay-off because I'm beginning to feel a bit used at the moment.

Then why not show us some

Then why not show us some definable, recognizable feature of Earth, like they did Crossroads? It's just weird that they went to the trouble to show North America then but not now.

Suspicious

I won’t pretend it’s not suspicious. But it can also be explained by how rushed the close of the episode was. You will not find the right constellations anywhere else but this solar system. If it were terraformed Mars or the Moon, the gravity would be wrong. It could be terraformed Venus — but why?

In particular, the reason I guessed right about ruined Earth is because it makes dramatic sense. It’s hard to do the story well if Earth is populated, at least with any level of advanced beings. So it has to be in ruins. So why a fake-out planet?

I absolutely agree that it

I absolutely agree that it makes dramatic sense for the Colonials and Cylons to encounter a ruined planet right about now, and even for them to think that it's Earth. I'd even be happy with a storyline that showed this was in fact Earth, but then they go onto settle on Terra Prime -- or whatever RDM chooses to call it -- the 13th colony. One or the other need to be destroyed. Settling on Terra Prime with an actual destroyed Earth would satisfy the "dark" ending Edward James Olmos has been quoted as saying.

Using the reasoning that this episode was rushed, and that's why we didn't see some definable characteristic of Earth doesn't hold up, because they've already created the CGI from Crossroads. If they were rushed, they could have just used those 3D models. The main reason there aren't any definable characteristics is so that we all obsess about it until January. They've left it open to take the story is either direction. As far as a recognizable characteristic yanking us out of the story -- they've already done that with Crossroads.

All that being said, over thousands of years the constellations drift due to precession of the Earth's rotational axis. If their only reference point is from Earth (such as the map in the Tomb of Athena) from about 5,000 years earlier, then the sky would have changed in that time. You'd hope they'd have equipment sophisticated enough to recalculate, but it does make me wonder. Case in point, as recent as 1793 the Pole Star was in Draconis, and now it's in Polaris. You've already brought up Alpha Centauri, and that the only real difference in the constellations from that vantage point would be the presence of Sol. Combine those two things I could see some kind of miscalculation happening.

Anyway, this has been a great discussion. I really enjoy your blog. I can't believe we have to wait until next year for the back half of the season.

Two ruined Earths?

I can’t say that having a ruined fake-out Earth, to be followed by a discovery of the real ruined Earth doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. In BSG 1978, they did come to a fake-out planet “Terra” and it was a fun episode but this is not the same show.

So while the lack of the final “for the audience” confirmation does leave things in the open, I feel that because the ruined Earth is the right result, I’m going with the assumption that this is Earth. For the constellations to match and it not be Earth adds some pretty strange contortions.

Not Two Ruined Earths

I'm not saying there are two ruined Earths. I'm saying the planet they've discovered is either a ruined Earth and they'll go on to discover Terra or it's Terra and they'll go on to discover Earth. The artifacts, such as the Temple of Five and the Lion’s Head nebula beacon, are getting older as the fleet approaches Earth. The fleet is following a path backwards. These artifacts are older than the exodus from Kobol, which means that they had to be left behind by humans before they settled on Kobol, not when the Thirteenth Tribe left Kobol for Earth. The Thirteenth Tribe was in fact returning to Earth -- they may have settled somewhere else instead for all sorts of reasons. Now that most of the Cylon threat has been mitigated, I have to wonder why they don't settle back on Kobol, blood price or not.

No 13th tribe

Well, I still assert the 13th tribe is not likely to have actually existed, though there is still a modest chance it was, as you say, an attempt at recolonization of Earth. I don’t expect to see the “Terra” story done again, though.

Problem is the stars match, and that requires that this is our solar system, or that the stars they were given (and the planet Starbuck was taken to) were deliberate misdirections.

Immersion

The first time around, Ron wanted to make Earth identifiable and he couldn't do that without a distinct coninental imprint. He commented that for better or worse that was the North American continent. Sure, Europeans would recognise Europe, and Indian's recognise India, but he was aiming at the global audience. Also, it was an American show so he was able to indulge the vanity that all things being equal, why not?

Now that it's been established that this is Earth or, at least, Earth in the context of this point in the story, I'm guessing that Ron wants to keep things vague to boost the "anyplace, anywhere" idea. Maybe you're right about Gaeta being a few digits out in his calculations but if it really is Earth, something too recognisable to us would kick off a load of obsessing and drag in all the pre-existing baggage we have. I'm not going to hammer who's right or who's wrong as nobody can be certain.

Something too recognisable would yank us out of the story he's creating and into the present. Plus, a well known location might, for instance, not even have the landmarks we'd recognise today. That could make the content date more rapidly over the possible lifetime of the programmes distribution. Also, it marginalises the international audience. I'm not saying that's definately the case but it's a fair guess he's aware of those issues.

Planet Earth Uninhabitable?

I am not convinced that Earth cannot support human life, if that's what you mean by "uninhabitable". (Maybe you meant "uninhabited"?) In Revelations I recall seeing the radiation detector report something, but I saw that as telling the audience that a nuclear event wiped out humanity. (As opposed to possibly disease, considering the diseased artifact that almost killed the cylons.) It did not necessarily mean that the fallout levels are too high for human life to repopulate. In fact, I thought I saw a bonfire of some kind in the previews which I suspect was on Earth, so the fallout isn't too high for some on the fleet to hang around for a bit. Also, the cylons could probably withstand the radiation, as might human-cylon hybrids. Maybe that's another reason why Hera is so important and the "shape of things to come."

I do not know that much about radiation or fallout, so can anyone provide an educated guess as to how long it would take before the radiation would be reduced to livable levels? Would it have subsided in 50 years? 100? 200?

Also keep in mind that, even if there are no survivors ON Earth, it does not follow that there are no survivors OF Earth left. We do not know the exact date in the future that the colonials arrived, so we have no idea of the level of technology humanity developed before the end. There could certainly be survivors stranded on Mars (or even the moon) if humans had started populating the solar system.

As for Kobol, I believe its considered a "cursed planet" and so I would be suprised if the fleet thought it was a viable option to live there. The scriptures talk about a price in "blood" if anyone sets foot there, so that could be a disincentive. However, I suspect at least some in the fleet may return to Kobol to answer the question of what happened in the Opera House. The visions shared by Hera, Roslin, Athena, and Carprica may be an invitation from the cylon god to return there, with instructions to bring Hera, to receive some kind of knowledge, technology, etc. The final five (or four) may also feel compelled to go back or, once they are told that they appear in the visions, may want to go there to learn of their origins.

Finally, we do not know exactly how old the ruins are or how many years earlier the nuclear war occurred. Considering the prophecy about Starbuck as the herald of the apocalypse, I wonder if we will find out that Starbuck somehow triggered the incident that wiped out humanity on Earth. Did her viper orbit Earth 6 months earlier and set off the missile defense systems, starting the nuclear war? Was that necessary because Earth would have blown the fleet (and their cylon allies) out of the sky? Sounds horrible, so somebody please prove me wrong!!

Uninhabitable

Yes, it would take a war beyond our current technology to make it uninhabitable. That’s what I read the radiation as trying to say but it is far from certain, and there are clues we will meet a tribe of long-haired, athletic Earthlings at some point. Or two tribes (one athletic, one long-haired.)

What they say suggests a recent disaster, since there is still exposed metal lying around unrusted. That could mean many things, I will post about that shortly.

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