Incarnation to to retain humanity

A few things are confusing me about the plot right now. “Sine Qua Non” has some seemingly highly contrived and out of character scenes to bring about certain plot movements (Adama on own, Lee as President, Saul as Commander) so I hope the payoff is worth it.

But today I want to consider two bigger pictures. For some time I’ve been puzzling over why the final five are sleepers. Indeed, even though they are no longer fully sleepers, they don’t yet know anything more. I’m also wondering what the point of the quest plot has been.

Sleepers

I’m imagining that the Final Five are ancient cybernetic beings who once lived as humans on Earth, thousands of years ago. They are of beyond human intelligence, but they still value their human origins. In order to stay in touch with their humanity, they regularly do “incarnations.” They create a copy who is born and lives “fully” human. This copy is artificial, possibly born to an earlier copy or inserted into an unsuspecting womb (though not Virgin Mary style) and is designed to live a human life. No superior abilities, no knowledge of their origins.

Then, at or near the end of their lives, the lifetime experiences of this copy would be uploaded and merged into the higher mind. This cycle of human lifetimes would keep the higher being in touch with their humanity. The normal cycle might be to lead a full life, never knowing the truth. It might be that this time, it was interrupted by special events. Or it might be that every cycle includes an awakening before merging with the whole.

We need something like this because right now we are faced with two choices:

  1. The Final Cylon is a major character like Adama, Roslin, Baltar, Lee or Starbuck, with Baltar having the most clues. But this takes away from the character’s human story and puts the “hand of god” too much into the story. If the big events have been driven so directly, especially by a character like Adama, Roslin or Baltar, it undoes much of what we have seen.
  2. The Final Cylon is, as the Last Supper interview says, a minor character. Boooooring. How can Gaeta or Cottle or the rest give us the shocking end of series surprise we know we’re in for?

If we can find a way to make a major character like Baltar be Cylon, but still be human and not be acting as/for the higher beings, perhaps it can work. Now one problem is that the 4 current members of the Final Five did do a few special things. Somebody sabotaged the food, and Tyrol found the Temple.

Now there is a good literary reason for this approach. Vernor Vinge correctly writes that humans can’t write workable fiction about superminds, any more than 8 year olds could write workable stories about adults. Yet if you have had AI for thousands of years, you’ve got superminds. So how do you manage that in a story?

What you do is you create human slices of the superminds, that we can understand and relate to as characters, and whose actions make sense. They are different but not incomprehensible. If they ever do get their full super-cylon knowledge, they become part of the setting, and not characters any more. And we want them to be characters.

What’s the point of the quest?

We’ve seen this long quest with little clues and hints:

  • War
  • Arrow of Apollo
  • Hologram of Zodiac in Tomb of Athena
  • Earth probe drifting in space
  • Redirection to Temple of Five
  • Trip to Ionian Nebula
  • Starbuck taken to Earth, given vision of Cylon civil war aftermath so she’ll talk to the Hybrid
  • Hybrid tells her that 3 can point out the Five to her, and they know about Earth

Now while the Five don’t consciously know about Earth, I suspect the information is somewhere in them.

But why? Why this contrived and roundabout quest and series of clues, just to end up with “Go ask your buddy there, he’s been with you all along and one of us all along.”

I understand the drama, but why would we have such a strange quest with the answer with them all along? I know we’ve seen that in other stories but I don’t find it satisfying. I hope the writing crew figures a way to make it so.

couldn't agree more ...

.... that the last episode was strange, with out-of-character scenes and a lot of ham-handedness to it. It had a feeling of being written in crayon.

I applaud your deep analysis of the show but I'm not sure under real analysis the show holds up and makes sense. Over the seasons it's increasingly had to rely on the "hand of God" device to hold up, and now it's so dependent it's in a quandary as you point out. My question lately has been, "Why go through these cycles? What's the point?" If EVERYTHING in the show is fated and directed, then what's the reason to sadistically torture and kill all these people over and over again and apparently litter the universe with the remnants of old Cylon civilizations?

And again, I think the last Cylon is right under your nose, it's Hera, possibly waiting to download a certain consciousness or other event to awaken completely.

Hera's drama

Not seeing the drama in that. Don’t like the superintelligent child thing — hated how Lynch did it in his version of Dune. I have noted that it’s interesting that right after the First Hybrid dies (predicting he will rise again) that Hera is born prematurely.

Clearly there is much explaining to do with Hera — who is she, what is her special destiny, why did head-six keep insisting that Hera was the child of herself and Baltar? What does the Opera house scene with Hera mean and why the Shining-like book of sixes? So much to learn, but don’t see her as the fifth.

For one thing, in the Pilot, Adama gets a note that “there are 12 Cylon models” and the Cylons tell us that often. And D’Anna saw “five other Cylons” of adult height and seemed to recognize them.

What's a Hybrid

I'm sure you must have mentioned this before, but how does your theory re: the final five being from Earth tell us anything about the true nature of the hybrids? If the hybrid isn't a cylon, then is it merely a human, abducted to interface with the base ship organics in a way only a human can?

I'm sure that you are right that Earth is the homeworld. After all, Kobol didn't include clues about how to get to the 12 colonies, only clues regarding Earth - and how do you give directions to somewhere unless you've already been there? I've had that theory since before the Kobol eps and have never seen anything inconsistent with the notion.

As for other matters, such as whether Ron Moore always knew whether there were 7 models plus 5 secret ones, I don't think that's the case, and I suspect a deep analysis of season 1 would not help reveal anything.

Hybrids of what?

Indeed, we learn only a little about Hybrids. The first hybrid’s old age suggests he was indeed made out of a human. The others identical appearance suggests they are grown in tanks like the others. It appears the Final Five played some role in the creation of the humanoid Cylons, since they were built with programming not to think of the final five. We were told the first hybrid was a completely different experimental branch, so there will be different rules.

Note as well that they made a big point to tell us that the first hybrid was a different branch, unrelated to the current hybrids. Why tell us that? It doesn’t seem, at least yet, to explain anything that needed explaining. He could have been a first stage in a series of experiments and that was enough to make him look as different as he did.

So perhaps there is more to be learned about the “dead end” experiments that made the 1st hybrid.

And I agree, not much of this was written in the first season. In fact, all we’re told was written in the first season was that the final Cylon was picked. Not as “final Cylon of the final 5” but rather just as the one character who would remain a hidden Cylon for a long time.

After all, they told us “Some are programmed to think they are human” but until the final 5, we only met one.

The First Hybrid

Note as well that they made a big point to tell us that the first hybrid was a different branch, unrelated to the current hybrids. Why tell us that? It doesn’t seem, at least yet, to explain anything that needed explaining.

This hasn't been confirmed as far as I know, but supposedly that First Hybrid was actually Daniel Graystone.

So, that's why it's important to make him distinct from the hybrids who followed.

Humanity? *What* humanity?

This is a rather longshot idea - and "The Hub" has a good chance of blowing some of this out of the water - but I figure it's worth entertaining here.

The point has been raised elsewhere that if these ubermensch Cylons do exist, one must use incredibly tortured logic to make them not look like evil sadistic bastards to help/let an entire race (or two!) die off. Maybe that's what Olmos means by the ending being very dark, but I think it's going to be dark enough already without The Man keepin' colonials down. The idea of the Final Five being very personal in nature - with resurrections necessary to keep in touch with humanity - just doesn't jive with me yet. That still leaves a lot of loose ends with respect to the supernatural activity that everybody else is experiencing. And it seems to intimate (Spielberg-like?) to matter for so much in the plot. It's just not that satisfying to me. If their powers were more limited, that leaves very little breathing room to tie all the supernatural activity in the series together with a neat bow. Of course, RDM probably would never do that, but still - the man can probably write his way out of a bank vault, so I'm not going to cut him slack.

I discussed the 3000-year-old-Cylon (starring Mel Brooks, heh) theory with my wife and she would have none of it. There's no actual EVIDENCE tying the known Final Five to whoever existed 3000 years ago. Just because they've been observed in the Opera House by Number Three, doesn't mean they're really there. Just because they have SOME sort of connection to the Eye of Jupiter, the Arrow of Apollo, the Earth probe, etc. doesn't mean it is a direct relationship. For all we know, Number Three just suffered a phenomenal case of deja vu at the Opera House and couldn't even identify a F5 if one threw her out an airlock.

---

There's another avenue that hasn't been explored as much. The Cylons, we know, are programmed, but they are capable of consciousness and emotion.... or are they? What if the Final Five are fundamentally non-sentient programs, that just happen to wield awesome metaphysical power, with heuristics and rule sets for how to manipulate events? Like, perhaps one of the programs is as simple as "when something bad happens, spread clues about my programming around humanity and nudge them back to Earth, perhaps by, um, among other things, suddenly giving five people the idea they are cylons and make others magically reappear from death with visions". You know, something like that.

That would solve the ethical problems quite neatly, because quite literally, the Man In Charge would really have been asleep at the wheel all this time. It avoids presuming one religion or the other as being the fundamentally correct one - the Final Five would have meddled in both religions as it suited their own, potentially flawed, heuristics. It might be able to keep the number of required supernatural abilities to a minimum, and the number of independent supernatural beings to a minimum.

It allows for a neat elaboration of the cyclic history of humanity, while simultaneously keeping Earth Humans out of the picture. Early humans say: "OK, we've mastered the transcendental and are about to leave the material universe, but we would still like humanity to flourish... but um, having them mingle with cyborgs that nearly killed all of us are probably a bad idea. Let's take all the tech we have, and recreate humanity - using ONLY cyborgs this time, just to avoid the risk of a genocide this time - but let's run a few non-sentient daemon programs in the machinery of its consciousness, to top off the oil and send it in for maintenance when it breaks." (Yeah, I am still liking the idea that humans and Cylons are the same thing.)

Obviously right now there are a lot of REALLY thin explanations this line of thinking entails. Among other things, Keeping a chain of artifacts going (some getting blown up in the process, ie Eye of Jupiter) requires somebody manning the machine every once in a while. However, that opens up a really cute solution for the role Baltar must play in the end - as the most intelligent programmer yet alive, he may be the only one capable of resetting the system. Perhaps the F5 realize this and keep him safe for this reason.

And the link between between the "real" F5 to Tigh, Anders, Tyrol and Foster might become nearly as tortured as the logic I'm trying to avoid here. But while we're on THAT topic... has there been any evidence actually proving that those four really were Cylons to being with? Their ongoing existence could be attributed just as much to luck as to divine provenance, and their sudden awakening is due to a completely different set of events we do not yet have a firm grasp on. What's keeping somebody/something else from just selecting those four and going "TAG! You're it! You were humans before but now you're Cylons!" Trite, yes, but what's stopping them so far?

What this opens up is the possibility that the Final Cylon DOES NOT YET EXIST. He's NOBODY yet. And at the same time, anybody could suddenly become a Cylon. Which explains why it's so hard to pin him/her down yet, and could certainly keep up the suspense for a few more episodes (damn it). And it might match RDM's style pretty well of keeping the guessing game going.

---

It's worth noting that I have not yet bounced any of this off my wife. ;)

We are machines

Well, if you check out the base essay that started this blog (linked to from first post) you’ll see that I do indeed think that all the humans are artificial. However that does not make them (or the cylons) less feeling, thinking beings than we are. Just designed (based on the evolved template) rather than strictly evolved, as we are.

So none of your moral arguments work for me. A genetically engineered human with a modified brain is just as “human” from a moral standpoint.

I also disagree about the age. It’s poor writing to leave a series of subtle clues and have them be a big fake-out. It’s OK for your overt statements to be fake-outs, or in particular the overt statements of the power figures can be fake-outs. The characters can lie to the audience (and to other characters) but the writer does not lie to the audience. The writer hints and equivocates but does not leave false clues.

So if a 4,000 year old temple activates and displays the final 5 in a 2,000 year old opera house, you can trust that they are thousands of years old.

There's no actual EVIDENCE

There's no actual EVIDENCE tying the known Final Five to whoever existed 3000 years ago.

The Temple of Five was built by the Five to worship the Kobol Lord/One Who Cannot Be Named 4,000 years prior to the Fall of the Colonies. Are you saying that there are two distinct groups of the Five -- those who actually built the Temple and the Five we have now (Tigh, Tory, Anders, Tyrol, and the Final Cylon)?

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