What is most meaningful?

If readers have wondered why I’ve been so silent, it’s because just after the final episode I took a great trip to the middle east, and there is not much time for blogging on such a trip. To re-open discussion let me examine some issues raised in comments and also add more with the perspective of time.

Many fans liked the story, of course, and say that critics such as myself are putting too much focus on the science and on science fiction. BSG, we’re told, was always meant to be a character drama, and the SF was just incidental, a vehicle for that drama. This may be right, though if so, I still find it disappointing. I seek good SF and encourage its production. If people want to just use SF as a vehicle, then they may do so, but I find this less interesting than a real attempt at good SF. But BSG was not simply that. It contained a lot of good SF. Its creator, while he dropped the ball on wrapping it up, is a talented creator who should be encouraged, through valid criticism, to do even better. We are disappointed with the final revealed story because it had more potential for greatness than the vast majority of TV SF produced. TV SF has a poor history, and anything that appears capable of greatness is of particular interest. It’s why I got so invested. The failure to deliver hurts what came before, but does not destroy it.

I continue to feel that if a story is going to be religious fiction (ie. the major plot points will be resolved through divine intervention) then this is not something to keep secret from the audience. I am much less interested in such fiction, but even in cases where I would watch it, I think it’s better for the audience to not give them false expectations. You can tell me to expect a religious (or scientific) ending without spoiling the ending in any way. But if you let fans expect a scientific ending and give them a religious one, there is a great risk — which was realized here — of disappointment simply over incorrect expectations. I think it is incorrect to say that this was not an SF show, and not simply because it was set in space and on the Sci-Fi or SyFy channel. It started off doing what SF tries to do — explore the consequences of science and technology, in particular the conflict between man and machine.

What’s a more meaningful connection?

Moore seems to feel that by setting the show in the past, he has provided it with a connection to us. That by making Hera be our ancestor, it makes the message of the show stronger. I could not disagree more. Most SF is set in the future, of course, and I think there is a good reason for this. SF set in the future, if done well, is saying, “Here is something that could really be our fate.” SF set in the past is saying “here is something which might have been our origin.” The problem is that when the SF set in the past does something wrong or stupid, that connection is now dwindled. It becomes not just imaginary, but impossible. Because we know that another race of humans able to breed with us would not evolve on another planet, we know that aliens were not our ancestors. So this “connection” is meaningless. It is surely false. A future connection however, is much more real. That’s because it is not yet known if it is true or false. As such it could be true, it could be real. A story of man-machine war in the future can be a lesson for us today, as long as it paints a plausible future. Painting a plausible secret past is so much harder to do, and if you fail, you lose the relevance you were hoping for.

Of course, since many fans are willing to let the impossibility slide, or accept the divine explanation, they don’t see it this way, and for them Moore attained his goal.

Many fans are considering the “alien abduction” plot which I laid out in an earlier post, or variants of it, as a way to have the ending make logical sense. And I agree, it is the best way to do that. However, sadly, this is not entirely a fanwank. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy a good fanwank, an effort to invent a backstory which is better than what we saw on screen. I’ve done it with many bad SF movies and TV. Before the show ended, this was fun to do because we could imagine that it might really work out that way. Like SF set in the future, it was a plausible future. But now that all is said and done, it is just wanking to imagine the author had a more plausible story secretly in mind.

It’s not that anything in the show contradicts the idea that long ago aliens or the Lords of Kobol took humans from our Earth and transplanted them to Kobol to create Kobolian society. Indeed, it is the only thing that makes sense. The problem is there is no hint of this in the show, and it would have been so simple to include such a hint — even in the podcasts and other off-air material. Much as we might like it, this is not the story that was delivered.

Collective Unconsciousness & Expectations

I also am quite bothered by the use of the concept of “collective unconsciousness” to explain why the colonials would sing All along the Watchtower, or use quotes from Shakespeare. This is a fantastic concept. While I have seen various explanations put forward, to me this is a writer’s explanation with no basis in reality. It’s one of those psuedoscience concepts that has no basis in good SF. It’s beyond technobabble as a means to explain things. In reality, the only way to explain the existence of elements of our culture in theirs is to set it in the future. Any rational examination would demand it, and it’s upsetting to have a non-rational explanation used instead.

I’ve seen SF use this concept but it makes more sense as something you put in at the beginning, not something you pull out of a hat at the end. SF that is not hard SF often breaks the rules of reality, but the general rule is you lay out your rulebreaking at the start, so that the audience can suspend disbelief at the beginning. You don’t want the audience to have to suspend disbelief at the end — that’s far too late a time to ask this of them.

In many ways good fiction and good SF is about managing expectations. If you start a show by saying “they have FTL drives” you can get away with it because the audience has no expectations yet. If you write a show in a hard SF universe, and then on the last page have the characters escape in their FTL drive you’ve done it wrong.

Another way they mismanaged expectations was with all the hype about the ending. All the press about the ending had show insiders talk about how everybody cried over the sadness of it, but were wowed about how awesome it was. In fact it wasn’t awesome (though of course some will argue with that.) And while it contained several sad elements, it was certainly no more tear-jerking than many other endings we’ve seen in our time.

The religious ending was also a case of badly managed expectations, as I explained above. It’s not that the show wasn’t full of references to religion, and not that it wasn’t clear that somebody was pulling strings behind the scenes. The mistake was making this a mystery until the end, opening up, in some fans, an expectation that it was not just going to be solved by divine will.

Hunter Gatherers

Many have been discussing an essay by Jared Diamond that outlines an argument that the shift from hunter/gatherer lifestyle to agriculture was humanity’s greatest mistake. Even accepting all of Diamond’s arguments that agriculture hurt the lot of the average human, I don’t agree with the conclusion. From my modern perspective, the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, devoid of the great intellectual stimulation available to us today, is not appealing. I think that today we don’t just know more. By training our brains from a young age, we are actually smarter than our ancestors. A lot smarter. I knew this when I found that in class as a child I could readily, on my own, come up with discoveries that had been the work of history’s greatest minds. I could do this because of the training and stimulation I got as a child, not simply because I was led down the garden path. And I don’t see giving up being smarter for the supposedly more carefree and simple existence.

Diamond’s analysis really talks only to the species average. One might be a happy hunter/gatherer, but that bliss quickly ends if you encounter, as I have, the need for modern medicine. When my appendix got infected in my late teens, I was quickly treated. In any other society, I would not be happy, I would be dead. (Yes, I understand there are arguments that perhaps modern diets lead to a higher incidence of appendicitis, but the main point stands.)

So I still don’t buy for a moment the complete (and nearly unanimous) decision to throw away all the technology, even after reading all the justifications presented online for it.

Graphics team apologizes

Fellow blogger on Galactica Science issues Michael Hall must have been bitterly disappointed to see a blog post by post-production CGI team member Darth Mojo on the stars in the backgrounds. They were, as I eventually concluded, just the result of pressed-for-time work by a post team that didn’t imagine anybody would pay that much attention to the stars.

I understand this attitude but I think it’s one that now belongs in the past. People discuss shows on the internet too much now, and so something found by one person will quickly be told to many others. You can’t expect to get away with something that only a few will notice.

He says they were not being deliberate about it. To me that was surprising. With Orion, which is probably the 2nd most recongizable constellation in the sky, placed so prominently in many shots, it was correct of Hall and others to assume that this meant something. It is highly unlikely that it would happen by accident. Particularly because they switched from random to real, and used random at the 13th colony. But unlikely is not impossible, and Mojo says that happen by accident it did.

This was one of a few of the show’s mistakes which led science-oriented fans astray. The Tomb of Athena constellations, also an acknowledged mistake, were an even bigger false clue, because they were shown in one of the show’s big “reveal” moments. It turned out to be incorrect to rely on this scene to understand the show. Relying on the stars was more risky because they were not presented as important.

Correct your mistakes

I will go further here. I think if a show makes a mistake that is likely to cause the honest viewer to have very wrong expectations, the show should try to correct it, either on-screen or in the online media. So the graphics team should have released a note that “the stars don’t mean anything” and Moore should have released a note that the Tomb of Athena arrangement was not properly thought out.

He did this with Daniel. When fans started thinking the mention of Daniel was central to the show, he released a note to say they should not expect more about Daniel.

Now I do realize that a correction on the Tomb of Athena would have led many of us to then realize the show was not going to be set in the future, as it was the more clear clue regarding that. So that may be why they never corrected it. But if you make mistakes, fixing them may have consequences but it’s better to fix them.

I’ll have photos of Israel up in the main blog in the future.

For someone who doesn't like

For someone who doesn't like the ending of the show, the science in the show, the fiction in the show, or the basic concept of the being a character drama, you spend an awful lot of time bitching about the show.

Get over it already.

Who doesn't like

You may want to reread the postings. I never said I don’t like the character drama or much of the story. Indeed I don’t like the ending, and its scientific failings. I criticise not because the show was a total failure but because it demonstrated such great potential, and fell down in various areas. The show did much better with its science in many aspects than 99% of shows out there, and that makes it sadder, and more worthy of comment, when it abandoned that. I would never bother to criticise the science in a show that never seemed to care in the first place.

Engrossing drama, but it's not Sci-Fi, is it?

Hello Brad - Thanks for an incredibly interesting blog. I'll keep reading it.

I now own all five series of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. I have come to care deeply for all of the main characters in the show, and will miss them a lot. I will continue to re-watch the show on DVD, probably many times, because for the most part it's so damn good.

The character-driven stories have been compelling, to say the least, with no 'easy-out' predictible plot resolutions for any of them. I cried many tears over characters' painful moments, and had my heart in my mouth during many of the gripping scenes and storylines. I can truly say I did not forsee the way things would turn out for any of the characters, and was both surprised and reasonably satisfied with the way most of their personal stories were eventually resolved, for good or for ill.

That said ...I also have a huge problem with the Sci-Fi elements of the show, same as you.

It started strongly and believably ...a civilisation much like our own brought down by its own technological creations. So far, so good. However, once "Earth" became the destination for humanity's remnants, the whole shebang lost credibility, and began to fall apart.

If Caprica (or any other planet of The Twelve Colonies) wasn't ALREADY Earth, how come everybody dressed in Earth-contemporary clothing, called each other names like Hot Dog, Laura, Bill, owned pussycats and Border Collies as pets, drove around in jeeps, etc? Not to mention, Admiral Adama’s order in the final battle scene “(Let’s) go around the Horn.” The HORN? And what was with the Greek deities and all the other religious hocus-pocus which unfolded during the show? Our cultural references, religions and icons have evolved here on earth as we know it, and would doubtless be very different if they'd evolved elsewhere. 150,000-year-old hot dogs, Apollos and Border Collies from a galaxy far far away? It's very hard to swallow this basic piece of nonsense, isn't it?

If Galactica's writers had focused on the human v/s machine theme, which they began so well, and had set the pilot episode firmly on a futuristic Earth, they could, essentially, have told exactly the same story, without leaving us to wonder where the heck the characters came from in the first place, why they all dress like us, live in the same kinds of houses we do, talk like us, eat noodles and sushi, etc. The unnecessary mental gymnastics I went through trying to figure out how/when this story actually would mesh with 'our' own Earth distracted badly from the impact of the story. In truth, I had begun to fear, long before the end of Season 4, that "Earth," as told by Battlestar Galactica, was the biggest McGuffin in TV history. McGuffin? It was worse than that.

I think what upsets me most about the show is that I’d hoped, initially, that it would be a great piece of Sci-Fi, dealing with what MIGHT actually happen if we continue to create increasingly intelligent mechanical beings as slaves to serve us. Instead, it turned into a rather dodgy and convoluted religious myth, which ultimately doesn’t tell us much about ourselves at all.
Whether this myth was an accurate representation of the writers' intended story arc, or whether it was the result of them trying to shove toothpaste back into the tube is still food for thought.

Myself, I think the show jumped the shark as early as the end of the pilot episode, when Adama announces he's going to take them all to "Earth." That was a helluva big television HUH? moment, and one which held promise -- but I now believe the writers painted themselves into a corner with that one, trading believability for a "cliffhanger ending", without thinking the whole thing through first. They then had to spend the next four seasons trying to extricate themselves, without leaving messy tracks. Didn't quite work, did it?

The notion that evolution is cyclic in nature, and 'this has all happened before and will happen again' ...where the heck did THAT come from anyway? We're ultimately meant to swallow that philosophy whole, but there is no scientific evidence that evolution is anything but linear in nature. The idea that Border Collies, Jeeps, sushi and Greek gods have all evolved elsewhere as well as here on earth is, frankly, preposterous.

If they'd have set Galactica’s pilot episode firmly on a futuristic Earth, and gone from there, it would have been no trick at all to explain a 'return' of belief in ancient Greek gods, as opposed to a 'one god' theology, if that's an aspect of the show the writers wanted to keep. Of course the remnants of the fleet would still have been looking for a new home in any case. Their search for a new home would have been just as compelling, and the destruction of 'our' own Earth at the start of the pilot would have been incredibly poignant as a start-point as well.

And what was all that guff about the über-importance of Hera? What a huge cheat! We expected a lot more of THAT mysterious storyline than to eventually discover Hera was merely our “mitochondrial Eve”. So flipping what. Would we be different if somebody else had been our Mitochondrial Eve instead? Who can tell? Either way, if she’s our ancestor (and you say she is not), it hardly matters, does it, whether she’s human, half-human or cylon? We are who we are.

I think the writers missed a great opportunity, by not following up on the physical differences between the cylon humanistic models and real humans. This would have made the Hera story much more important than it turned out to be. Sometimes the Cylon models were played as if there WERE differences between them and us, sometimes not. We watched while Baltar’s ‘cylon detector’ outed Boomer -- although it then seemed to miss everybody else. Hera’s blood transfusion dramatically cured Laura Roslin’s cancer ...but then there was no mention of why her blood wasn’t used on Laura again, once the cancer came back, or why the initial ‘miracle’ cure proved unstable. At first, there seemed to be differences between cylons and humans in the way their bodies dealt with radiation. Later on in the story, all these differences were played down, and ultimately treated as if they didn’t exist. What a waste. It would be interesting to find out if the cylon models would age the same as humans, suffer the same diseases, etc. If not, that would make a cylon/human child truly worth ‘saving’ and fighting for, wouldn’t it? A better way to use the character of Hera than what we got.

Much of the 'Final Five' cylon plotline was frankly ludicrous from the moment they were first 'revealed,' and their increasingly hysterical babbling didn't add much to our understanding of the universe either. Revealing Colonel Tigh, Tori, Tyrell and Anders made a good cliffhanger ending to Season 3, while concealing the 'dead' Ellen Tigh’s true nature provided a ‘who shot JR’ lead-in to The Final Season as well -- but that's about it. Okay, so the writers did offer a garbled explanation for The Five’s existence, during The Final Season, but I still don't quite buy it. The 'Final Five's' reasons for ending up in the fleet in the first place (and all of them on Galactica rather than any other battlestar, fancy that!) left too much to explain away in an increasingly disjointed tale. They Have A Plan? I don’t think so.

In my preferred ‘futuristic Earth’ scenario, the Final Five cylons would not have existed at all. Tigh, Tyrell, Anders, Tori and Ellen would have remained human, as they were first presented, OR they could have been eventually revealed -- like poor Boomer -- as sleeper agents who didn't know they were cylons until their programming kicked in.

Starbuck and Laura Roslin could still have had their supernatural 'visions' (certain people DO seem to have visions!) leading the remnants of humanity to their new home, and the cylon-human conflict could have played itself out exactly as it did, blending the two remnants at the end.

If the writers had to leave a single thread unexplained, it would have been fun to leave Baltar with his Caprica Six still yakking away inside his head. What was she, anyway? I'd be content not to be told the answer that one. After all, she could have been an undetected chip, OR just his conscience bothering him (as it should have done!) right up to the end!

Oh well. What's done is done, eh?

Even the “poignant” finish was not very believable, with or without Starbuck’s vanishing act. After all the hell Galactica’s characters had been through, you think they'd want to continue to survive, wouldn't they? No. Instead, they ditch their gear and wander off in all directions on an extended, but ill-prepared camping trip? (Okay, okay -- they’ve not met any lions or crocodiles ...yet!) I can accept Adama’s wish to be left in peace at the end of his struggle, as well as Galen Tyrrell’s, and maybe even Lee Adama’s wish to go exploring. But the others? No. Splitting the remains of humanity into unviable fragments, taking away all their technology, then dodding them all over an entire planet seems an irrational act -- and a lazy ending for what was POTENTIALLY the greatest SF show ever.

I do feel Battlestar Galactica eventually disappeared up its own philosophical backside. Call Battlestar Galactica a philosophical or religious 'myth' and I'm okay with it. Call it Sci-Fi now, and I've got a problem.

Believing that a Sci-Fi story CAN happen, or HAS happened, is indeed a cornerstone of the genre, as you have correctly pointed out.

Can I honestly tell myself that Battlestar Galactica might actually have happened, creating our human race on our Earth 150,000 years ago? Nope. Too much doesn't hang together.

I believe a Sci-Fi writer's contract with his/her audience must be honored, if the audience isn’t to walk away feeling cheated. Dilemmas posed at the start must be believably resolved by the end. Forshadowing must be followed by a suitably weighty event or result. Plot threads must never be resolved by coincidence, Deus Ex Machina, or any so-called ‘miracle’. Coincidence can BEGIN a science fiction story, but should NEVER finish it. If writers employ coincidences or miracles to conclude a story, it morphs away from Sci-Fi, and turns into fantasy, myth, or a fairy tale--however gritty and realistic the telling of it might be.

I did love Battlestar Galactica, for its superb actors and believable characters, and will continue to occasionally re-watch the entire series on DVD. However, I’m reminded of Bobby Ewing’s year-long stint in the shower. I just don't believe any of it any more.

Constellations are not static

One thing that - I think - has not been covered yet is that constellations are constantly on the move. 150 000 years ago there would not have been one recognizable constellation in the sky! Even in ten or twenty thousand years the night sky will be different and the constellations start to look deformed.

So, for me, the sight of exact modern constellations meant that they were right next to our Earth AND that they were in our modern times, or at most 5000 years off.

This thing is explained in children's astronomy books. So - where did they get the constellations in the colonies' flags? Not only from Earth, but also from future Earth, because they could not predict how the constellations would look in the future!

The constellation thing was really cool. But in the end it meant nothing storywise and nothing sciencewise.

Good points, Brad. As

Good points, Brad.

As someone who enjoyed the ending, I can still very much see your points about its shortcomings. In particular, the disconnect between the marketing and what actually happened was irritating, but probably unavoidable. Most marketing people... just don't get it.

As a general matter, I think that multi-season TV shows need to be given a great deal of slack. We can't expect the writers to enslave themselves to an original plot outline, as this would ultimately stunt the show's evolution. We also can't expect them to answer every question that might come up, as this creates a dilemma where the longer a show runs, the more time must be spent unpacking past episodes, rather than forging ahead and creating new themes, ideas, stories, etc. Finally, I would imagine that there are a number of external factors that end up dictating what happens and does not happen that are entirely independent and perhaps at odds with artistic intention, including budget, actor-availability, and all manner of other exigencies (and this includes even simple things like "whoops -- we accidentally cut the part where Lee says that one line about why he gained all that weight. Frak!").

But of course, none of this excuses some rather glaring omissions or errors. The star patterns actually irk me more than most, if only because HOW could these graphics guys not think that fans of a sci-fi show wouldn't be all over this? If they were doing MTV Real World, okay, sure, no problem -- most of those idiots can barely distinguish day from night, let alone star patterns. But for a show called Battlestar Galactica? And when star patterns and constellations play such a big role in the show and the fleet's journey to earth? Unacceptable -- an insult to fans. Also, they blew a fun opportunity to drop clues as to where they might be, how far they've come, etc.

I also am a little perplexed as to why they felt the need to introduce something like the "Daniel" model and then immediately disclaim its significance. Just to explain Sharon's model number 8? Really? Given everything else they left unanswered? Or to show Cavil was evil? Cavil killed billions on the 12 Colonies, as well as the Final Five. I don't think it was necessary to show he killed his "brother" to show how depraved he was. (Unless, of course, this has something to do with the Caprica series, ala Daniel Graystone. And perhaps, this might be the hook that explains why Graystone and Adama Sr. were able to make humanoid cylons with "organic memory transfer" but the Centurions who started the first war were unable to without the Final Five...)

In any event, I think an evaluation of BSG has to involve some leniency, and I'm willing to let most of these unanswered questions and inconsistencies slide (except for the star patterns!).

Now... turning to the questions of the end of the show (past or future), collective unconscious, and the divine hand:

What I liked about ending the show in the past is that it gave me, as a viewer, a sense of finality. I'd been wondering for six years about how their voyage would end and what the fate of these survivors would be. By ending the show in the past, I know what happened. On the one hand, it's tragic. Kara Thrace really did lead humanity to its "end." The 12 Colonies/Kobol humans effectively became extinct when they interbred with the cylons and the native humans. This may have happened anyway, as who knows how many of the surviving humans were able to bear children. But on the other hand, at least we know that they survived. And after surviving a holocaust and living for four years in awful conditions aboard the interstellar equivalent of a 747, I find it fitting that they were able to live out their days in an unspoiled environment. True, they lacked modern medicine and other comforts. But in a way, this may have made the eventual passing of the generation that grew up on the 12 Colonies easier to accept. The sense of loss was less, since there were few, if any, reminders. And I believe it establishes that the "cycle" has indeed been broken.

Of course, this is very subjective. I liked it, but I understand why others didn't. I don't think there is a technical argument here that makes this ending absurd, in its most basic form.

But... collective unconscious is another story. In another post under the old thread, I argued that the similarities between the 12 Colonies and our civilization were not intended or designed to show that all this had been passed down somehow. Rather, they were intended to convey the message that "we" could very well be "them." This made the show interesting, especially given its post-9/11 roots. I don't believe it was ever intended that the reason we say f*#k is because its some altered version of "frak" passed down through the ages. The similarities are metaphors. (although who's to say there wasn't some secret society that passed down some technical knowledge, ala the pyramids)

But the use of All Along the Watchtower and Shakespeare... these seemed far more intentional. And frankly, I just don't get it. (I am excluding the Greek Pantheon, as it was a carry-over from the original show.) If you accept the fact that the general similarities are meant to be "artistic" and not because of some technical reason, then the similarities should be limited to general things -- neckties, cars, language, etc. Specific things like AAWT and Hamlet are much harder to explain. And in fact, they support a different interpretation -- that BSG is in the future, and that their entire civilization was created by some super AI that we developed that borrowed various parts of real human civilization to create a "new" iteration of it on Kobol. Otherwise, it forces viewers to accept that William Shakespeare and Bob Dylan were essentially taking dictation from Head Six and Head Baltar.

Which brings me to the whole divine intervention stuff... Again, I enjoyed the ending, because I focused on how it might have felt to be one of the survivors, stuck in a ship all those years, getting a chance to start over completely in the state of nature, no longer needing even basic government to ensure survival, since resources were plentiful. I did not pay much attention to the divine intervention stuff, mostly because I found it boring. It's not even deus ex machina -- it's just deus!It seems like a cop out. And it's not really science fiction.

They could have saved themselves, and the show, I think, through Starbuck. Instead of having Kara just disappear like that at the end, they could have explained her destiny. They could have showed where she went when she died, how she was resurrected, and etc. (maybe as part of a "flashback" between when they jump away from the Colony and when they arrive at earth). They could have showed that God was really just a super AI from a still earlier civilization, the "original" AI, who had been trying for millions of years to break the cycle, with different iterations of civilizations, but failing every time. (Think of "Joshua" from War Games and the tic-tac-toe/nuclear war simulations... Also, this AI could be personified by Dirk Benedict -- a little hokey, I know, but I would have loved it.)

And then it could have been Kara's decision to let the Centurions leave with the base ship, and to settle on earth in the decentralized way that they did, effectively "breaking" the cycle, at least for 150K years (and probably longer, if Windows Vista is any indication of just how advanced our computer coding has gotten). It would have provided an added layer of justification for the ending.

How much slack to give

The reason I am not willing to give them this sort of slack is a strong one. First of all, Moore reveals he planned the Eve plot early in the show. So he is owned no slack for having to tie together a multi-season plot.

Secondly, it would have taken very little effort to do it right. A simple explanation that God had taken early humans from our Earth to populate Kobol, and now the two branches of the family were being reunited would have eliminated many of the biological problems. This then becomes the story of a branch of humanity that went to the stars, entered a cycle of man/machine wars and returned, altered to blend back in.

It is harder to explain AATW in the past, I guess I will never just like that explanation. I simply would not have used a modern song. Perhaps I would have used one of the musical themes that gets regularly reinvented and reused. But they are not a whole song, with lyrics!

Indeed, language is an issue. “Earth” is an Old English word for soil. Old English is itself germanic in origin and the word is not ancient.

While current research depicts the mitochondrial Eve as 150,000 years ago, there was an event 75,000 years ago that narrowed the human race down to under 10,000 people. He could have gone with that perhaps.

I think it's best that you

I think it's best that you accept that you accept that, your time commitment to it notwithstanding, BSG is just not a show for you rather than try to figure out where it went "wrong."

"If people want to just use SF as a vehicle, then they may do so, but I find this less interesting than a real attempt at good SF."

It should be clear by now that you're simply interested in different things than BSG and its creators were interested in. Which is your prerogative, but not really a basis for criticism. You can level the same charges against any work of fiction that bends generic conventions (e.g., criticizing "The Sopranos" for not telling us much about the way the mafia works, or "The Wild Bunch" for not showing us how the West was won), but it's really just another way of saying that you're simply not on the same wavelength as the creative forces. So you've moved from the realm of criticism to complaint. You're really just griping that you feel that Ron Moore wasted your time because you were more interested in what stars were visible in the background of establishing shots than he was.

"I continue to feel that if a story is going to be religious fiction ... then this is not something to keep secret from the audience."

God came into the picture in the first 30 minutes of the series. There was also numerous episodes ("The Hand of God" comes to mind) suggesting that "major plot points will be resolved through divine intervention." And an angel was an ongoing, instrumental force driving the story. Again, you don't have to like it, but you can't pretend that it wasn't woven into the fabric of the show.

"I think it is incorrect to say that this was not an SF show .... It started off doing what SF tries to do — explore the consequences of science and technology, in particular the conflict between man and machine."

I see this as your preference for SF giving you a bias to see what you wanted to see, namely, a show that explored the "conflict between man and machine." I have no predisposition for SF, so I saw a show that used generic conventions to ask questions about what it means to be human. (Indeed, my one complaint about the finale is that it didn't pay off those questions raised in "No Exit.") This is not to say that were "wrong" to see those elements, just that you can't criticize BSG simply because its creative team was less interested in those aspects than you were.

"I think that today we don’t just know more. By training our brains from a young age, we are actually smarter than our ancestors. A lot smarter."

Prof. Diamond would disagree with you. In Guns, Germs & Steel, he details copious evidence for his belief that members of the remaining hunter/gatherer civilizations he has spent time with are as smart or smarter than members of industrialized societies. You're just speculating to the contrary. (Moreover, your example that you are happier because you had modern medicine to cure you of an illness you would not have contracted but for living in a modern industrialized society is more than a bit circular.)

"So I still don’t buy for a moment the complete (and nearly unanimous) decision to throw away all the technology, even after reading all the justifications presented online for it."

I was on the same boat when the finale first aired, but then I realized, they really didn't have much of a choice, did they? I think you underestimate the predicament of the fleet by the end of the series. Glactica was broken, and the civilian ships couldn't have been far behind (and the tillium to power them would run out sooner or later, given that they would no longer have the capacity to send recon Raptors to search for new sources). The rest of their modern equipment would eventually break down, and they didn't have the mining equipment to extract large amounts of metal ores or the large-scale refineries to replace it. They'd also have no choice but to start agriculture from scratch (probably not a bad lot if you'd spent the last 2-4 years eating processed algae), leaving little time for extra-ciricular industry. Life in the fleet was already nasty, brutal, and short; what's the downside of trying to make a go of it as a primitive society where at least you have fresh air, clean water, and fresh food?

Criticism

Just because you have different goals than a dramatic creator does not invalidate dramatic criticism. It is inherent in dramatic criticism to point out both what is done well, and what could have been done better. This can be just the critic’s opinion, but ideally it is also backed up with reasoned argument, and historical examples.

BSG had religion in the first episode but it was not, until the last episode, confirmed to have god. They are very different things. I think that any examination of response to the final episode will show many viewers who did not think there would be a supernatural god in the show until the final. There were many who suspected it (I was one of them) but confirmation was withheld as a surprise. So it was kept secret, and I find this a poor decision, unless your goal is to advocate the particular religion.

For example, we might have a story where all through the story a preacher promises the wrath of God on the other characters for what they are doing. Then, in the last scene, we might see nothing happen or we might see God smite them, or we might (as is more common) see a smiting that the viewer is left to decide the origin of. Many viewers would feel cheated by a clear smiting, and correctly so. It would mostly leave the message of “see, the preacher was right” and thus looks preachy. But BSG is not even this, as Moore does not believe in BSG’s god. It’s just a way to explain the plot.

I prefer religious fiction to be more like It’s a Wonderful Life. Here, the role of divinity is clear at the start, and the story is how the character learn’s the angel’s lesson, not a mystery which is wrapped up at the last minute as the work of the angel. That’s how to do a character story.

As to the fate of the fleet, I can’t agree. In fact, what you say is demonstrably false — the red-stripe Cylons continue to wander space, even though their ship is more damaged than most. They could send the fuel ship on missions for fuel in well known places in this new universe now cleared of adversaries. They would face a fall of their high-tech civilization, but prepared for that, they could preserve their libraries, and work immediately on lower-tech but still advanced procedures. While their tools were active they could make tools for agriculture, for mining, for power and water, for drilling and more. And their libraries are full of useful materials science — most of the history of early technology is really the history of materials science, and they are already far ahead. They would put up satellites that would last a long time, to provide weather forecasts and location of minerals. They would make sustainable weapons like crossbows and sharp metal weapons. They would make forges and anvils — the tools to build civilization rather than the high-tech tools of their old one.

There have been retreats to low-tech life, but if you look at ones in our society, like Mennonites or the Amish, they still use 19th century technology and get along fine with it. A decision to go back to the simple life of 19th century tech is different from one to go back to 100th century BC tech.

In reality you would have had factions wanting to go back to no-tech, others seeking a pastoral, agrarian 19th century tech, and others trying to maintain high-tech. If the high-tech folks fell, the 19th century ones would dominate. There is no reason (other than to make the past-plot work) to have everybody abandon everything, nor is it fair. Indeed, it condemns many in the fleet to death fairly soon.

Not only the identity of the god but...

I do not oppose the idea that a supernatural being or force is after many strange things that had happened during the course of the show. The thing that I oppose is that none of it was explained.

I can imagine a meaningful and satisfying story in which the "identity" of god is not revealed, but its/his/their motivations are, or what methods they use, and how they do things. And, since in BSG there are multiple instances of divinity (the polytheism of the Colonials, and the monotheism of the Cylons), there might be many gods, each with their own motivations, methods etc. or maybe just one with different manifestations?

These things *could* be even much more important and profounding than the story involving humans and Cylons. If these forces are in the play, they could affect everything and it puts everything into context - and new light.

However, if we take the show's four-year run as a hint that the story of Galactica's exodus to a new home and humans' relations with Cylons as the main arc, how should we treat the matters of gods? If there really is some supernatural being or force, it is probable that ordinary humans do not interact with them directly. Ok, in BSG they have "angels" and other people who have some hotlines to them. And things just happen. Where does this lead us?

Things just happen. Story changes. No reason, no explanation. There are vague hints that there is a motivation somewhere, but it is not revealed. There might be methods, there might be means to do things, but it is not clear if these are really connected to the story we followed for four years.

I would have expected at least some anchors. For example, the truth about which religion is right, or why the Colonials have Greek gods.

This is why you don't want gods

Gods are, by their nature, beyond understanding. Humans like to invent gods that they can understand, both in religion and in fiction, but in reality we should no more be able to grasp their motivations than a frog can grasp ours.

And that’s the problem. A human writer can’t write their motivations either. So it becomes a crutch. Throw in stuff you can’t understand and say “god moves in mysterious ways.”

That’s why writers should stay away from it and readers will not find it satisfying.

There is absolutely nothing

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a mystery or unanswered questions... And of course the story isn't even finished being told.

I said from the first episode of the final season that not everything was gonna be answered, not when the producers have another show to sell. The monotheism vs. polytheism started early on, well "Caprica" will deal with the rise of the Cylons, and the origins of the monotheistic beliefs. All the geniuses, with their "There is no logic" display a complete lack of common sense.

Unanswered questions

Are different from things that don’t make sense are are never likely to make sense. Or worse, things that never can make sense, no matter how much you try.

It makes a big difference however, if something is central to the show or peripheral to it. For example, the silliness of Spock being half-human, half-vulcan is more tolerable because Star Trek isn’t, at its core, about the issues around human-vulcan hybrids. They just “are” they are not the reason for the plot. In BSG, this question is set to a higher standard because it is revealed that the whole show was written around the idea that Hera could be ancestor to modern humanity. That this is silly (and requires divine intervention) is much worse here than it is in Star Trek.

Religion was mentioned

Religion was mentioned throughout the series, yes. But God is like a spice that you have to be careful not to add too much lest you spoil the food. Too much divine involvement tends to render human actions moot.

There's nothing circular about pointing out that there are diseases that are minor for us today, but would be lethal in any primitive society. It doesn't matter if a particular disease is one that would not have existed in pre-agricultural times, the cavemen surely were not totally free of disease.

The problem with giving up their technology is giving up ALL of it. None of the colonials know how to be hunter-gatherers. None of them know how to farm with no technology: no tractors, no domesticated animals. And there were also no domesticated plants, which means they would have to use seed stock they brought with them, cobble together plows, and pull the plows by hand. If this took place in our past, it means that the Colonials abandoned agriculture, switching to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, probably by joining with the natives.

Back Story

Thanks as always for your thoughtful analysis Brad. I was one reader who suggested a detailed 'abduction' theory in an earlier post. I agree that it's the only way for the show to (at least for the mostpart) make sense in a scientific way - the Colonials must be descended from a group of early humans taken from Earth by a benevolent intelligence in order to nurture our civilisation. Similarities between our culture and theirs can be attributed to the 'risen' Angel Starbuck deliberately intervening to commemorate the culture she grew up in, rather than the somewhat lame 'collective unconscious' theory offered by RDM himself. There are several other 'leaps' we can take to explain some of the other irregularities too. But why, after the last episode has aired, would we even bother to propose theories that can't have been in the writers' heads anyway?

I understand your sentiment that it seems like intellectual wank to propose back stories that clearly weren't part of the writers' plans. It's for sure that the writers of Battlestar Galactica had a number of pressures dictating how the story should go other than scientific correctness of the kind exemplified by good Sci-fi - ratings, the poor-science primers of the original series (Graeco-Roman Gods etc) and their personal artistic vision all contributed to the dramatically powerful but scientifically disappointing finale.

However, in my post, I proposed that inventing a back-story even now is still a valid exercise because of the emotional and intellectual energy invested in this drama by its fans over the four-year period it ran. I remember being intrigued by the original mini series by mysteries that would continue to pique my curiosity over the months & years that followed, making viewing BSG stimulating and thought-provoking entertainment. The answers to those questions didn't come until the last episode, and they were answers that didn't quite fit. I'd been inspired by epic questions, and I was left with explanations that went against my knowledge of human history and were patently false. That was something of a downer, and it wasn't until I nutted out something to smooth the creases that I started to feel satisfied with the way the show ended - a satisfaction I could not have found without some behind-the-scenes plot leaps of my own.

'Good' SF makes people think about human issues against a broader backdrop than the mundane here-and-now, and poses great human questions in ways that are not available to traditional storytelling. Our modern understanding of technology allows writers to ask questions about what it means to be human in hitherto unimaginable situations, and what is more, it can make fantastical assumptions without invoking magic, fairytale and religious concepts. In as far as BSG entertained questions of the future of humankind in our ever more intimate embrace with technology, it was thrilling science fiction and a testament to the power of drama to lead its audience to ponder deeper issues. The dismay with the finale was that the answers to these penetrating issues were given using a storytelling technique that is as old as the Story itself - Deus Ex Machina - a device inappropriate to SF themes. The question of humanity's relationship to machines was central to the BSG storyline, and to give an answer that is intrinsically non-technological - that was the essence of our disappointment.

However, there is a notion that the answers to questions raised by great storytelling are not exclusively the domain of the author. Good stories are unleashed on the audience with plenty of room for thought, so that the real human themes can continue to be debated after the curtain falls. The history of literary criticism is replete with theorising and arguments about what the characters in great stores were *really* thinking and what the authors *really* meant - or whether what the writer intended to say is as important as to what the work suggests in and of itself. Sometimes what the author intended is at great variance with the power of the work itself to inspire the imaginations of others.

Some readers of this blog are going to continue to claim that it's pointless to complain about the way the show ended and that it's a waste of time to continue discussion. There are also going to be more people who feel let down by the finale and who wish to voice those disappointments here. However, let's not forget the positive side to all this. The whole reason that people have bothered to write so much about Battlestar Galactica - and will continue to do so - is because it was a great show. There was a lot to enjoy and a lot to think about, and the very fact that there is also so much to complain about means that the show was good enough to be important to the people who watched it. We needn't worry about whether or not the writing team can be 'forgiven' or not for making plot decisions that go against what we know about human beings and the world we live in for the sake of their artistic vision. As with all art that inspires us, we can go ahead and fill in the blanks according to our own ideas. With SF, filling in the blanks means finding scientific ways to bridge the gaps and correct the errors. In doing so, we may find our answers - for example: a machine that thinks like a human *is* a human. Another: it's wrong to treat anyone or anything with human qualities as a slave. Another: if we are to seek treatments to our human failings through technology, we must employ technology as an extension of ourselves and not as something other to ourselves. Great, meaningful questions all.

Therefore, I see nothing amiss in digging deeper into the show's issues, in proposing renegade back-plots to explain away scientific errors, in finding alternative interpretations and so on, without worrying about whether such ideas are 'true' to the vision of RDM and the writing team. That way, we can still find the answers and debate that we were hoping for, and we can still enjoy this drama on a level that we came to expect and enjoy as discerning viewers of this show.

Didn't Bob Dylan claim to have some kind of angelic vision before he went religious? Maybe Starbuck was doing her bit to make the 70's funky....

Oh, it can be enjoyable

It can be fun to think up a better explanation for what was on the air, of course, and I’ve done it myself. While the show is airing, trying to come up with an explanation for what is not revealed can in fact be part of the process in understanding the work. Now that the “real” explanation is aired, however, it is more in the realm of fan fiction. Not that there’s anything wrong with fan fiction.

And frankly, if I were to do it, I would take out the 150,000 years later scene (perhaps even just the caption) and write that they are back on a once ruined and now green-again Earth, with humans gone primitive, and only a few monuments hidden in the forests. Leave it to the audience to fill in the rest is fine in that case.

There still remains a problem with the past interpretation, even with abduction. Humans share all our genes with the rest of the life on this planet. We have invented no new genes, just re-used and slightly tweaked the ones we inherited from our ancestors. But I have to presume that the synthetic Cylons like Athena have to have entirely new genes. If those have vanished then I am not sure what Moore’s vision of Athena as ancestor of all of us is about.

No secret

"I continue to feel that if a story is going to be religious fiction (ie. the major plot points will be resolved through divine intervention) then this is not something to keep secret from the audience."

This was no scret. In fact, they went out of their way to establish a religious and even divinely intervening force. They threw it in our faces. How many times did head six say she was an instrument of god-- right from the get-go? She made it plainly clear that god was directly involved in the course of their lives and was directing, or at least steering, their actions. For whatever reason, we the sci-fi leaning audience chose to take her words as an angle, a double meaning-- an allegory-- and not literal, which they turned out to be.

"They were, as I eventually concluded, just the result of pressed-for-time work by a post team that didn’t imagine anybody would pay that much attention to the stars."

Didn't I tell you this would be the case? Ultimately, your over-analyzation of meaningless background details only spurred further disappointment. I'm disappointed in many things myself-- but this was not one of them.

The stars

No, I also concluded once they showed up in impossible places that they meant nothing. For a while it seemed they should, since the random choices of the post team turned out to be rather unlikely in some cases — Orion prominent and centered between the arms of a base star, etc. — but that was just bad luck. On the other hand, their decision to use Earth stars when “near Earth” (but not at the 13th colony itself) was a plain old mistake.

As I will probably go into more depth on later, the number of hard clues for the actual result was small. Hera’s blood type is the main one.

Everybody (both those who like the god ending and those who hate it) was fully aware of all the religious references, and six’s claim of being an angel from god. And of course fully aware that somebody was behind the scenes pulling strings. There is however, a big difference from fiction that includes religious characters and fiction that includes real gods. Just because a character says it is an angel from god in a TV show, especially an SF TV show is not normally a reason to believe they really are an angel from god. Sure, if this were “Touched by an Angel” I would expect it, but in SF, the characters that say they are angels usually are something else. However, those who went against the flow and intuited it as a religious show bet correctly.

To make things more complex this show had other gods as historical characters, with the strong implication to most viewers that these Lords of Kobol were not really gods either. (After all, even if you did correctly conclude that head Six’s god was the one true god, this would then lead you to conclude the Lords of Kobol were false gods, as she claimed.) So I don’t think it is at all easy to predict that one particular claimant to the title of god will be real when there are also clearly false gods who were more advanced beings.

My interpretation for most of the show was that the string puller and final Cylon would be connected. I think most people felt this way, but No Exit revealed otherwise.

Agreed. I never really paid

Agreed.

I never really paid much attention to the stars, or any of that nonsense... People thought they had the entire story figured out 2 seasons ago, and for the next 2 and half they spent their time just trying to prove they were right, instead of watching the show.

The religious stuff was there since the beginning. I personally like the fact that the writers didn't hand the fans the answers on a silver platter... Religious beliefs are personal, and vary drastically, there are people that don't have religious beliefs too, the whole "God" thing is not definitive, Head Six always said it was "Gods" plan, but you don't know if she was just speaking to Baltar using concepts he'd understand. "God" doesn't like to be called "God".

Terms Baltar could understand?

Baltar was an atheist scientist from a polytheistic society. Head Six pretended to be his recently-revealed-as-a-cylon lover, and presented a message from the god of the Cylons. That hardly sounds like a message tailored for Baltar to accept. In fact, while one would need to do a rewatch, my recollections of what H6 did with Baltar in seasons 1 and 2 do not match what we actually learn about this god.

This god is not very much like any god that the writers or many real people believe in. It is a bit more like some of the ancient gods and the old testament god, capricious, ready to wipe out entire civilizations, more of a force of nature as is said.

It is curious that there were no monotheists until the cult on Caprica to which Zoe and thus the first Cylons belong. Will these monotheists arise because they get messengers from the real god? Will we learn that this god wanted, this time, to have the Cylons (which it knew would wipe out their creators) know of it and worship it, and inspire them directly to kill their parents as part of god’s plan? Or will the Cylons have invented that part on their own?

Anyway, again, nobody doubts the show was full of mentions of this god. However, again, in the vast majority of SF, if you have references to god, and you have beings that claim to be angels, the correct assumption is that they are not really that. I do not feel that those who followed this rule made any error in judgement, except where we got too sure of the rule. I think I came off as pretty sure of the rule not because I was 100% certain, but because I was unwilling to believe that he would end the story that badly (in my opinion.) But that may be a matter of taste. I see lots of fans happy to have it end with “god did it” and many who find this to be a cheap and unsatisfactory ending. I guess I had too much faith. :-)

"Baltar was an atheist

"Baltar was an atheist scientist from a polytheistic society. Head Six pretended to be his recently-revealed-as-a-cylon lover, and presented a message from the god of the Cylons."

Yeah Brad, because Atheists have no clue what the concept of a god is, or anything like that. In addition, that thing was going on for how long? It isn't like she said "Gaius, I'm an angel" on day one, and he believed it.

"This god is not very much like any god that the writers or many real people believe in. It is a bit more like some of the ancient gods and the old testament god, capricious, ready to wipe out entire civilizations, more of a force of nature as is said."

Exactly!

"It is curious that there were no monotheists until the cult on Caprica to which Zoe and thus the first Cylons belong."

You know that how? You really think Monotheism was the concept of just one little priestess, Clarice Willow? That is like saying there was no Monotheism before Abraham. If you really think that there were no Monotheists among the 12 colonies, Kobol, or Cylon Earth... Don't go making assumptions, or attempt to play the series out in your head, you may be wrong and get your feelings hurt AGAIN.

"Anyway, again, nobody doubts the show was full of mentions of this god. However, again, in the vast majority of SF, if you have references to god, and you have beings that claim to be angels, the correct assumption is that they are not really that."

Nothing gets by you Brad.

You have a god that doesn't like be called God, yet you still insist that it's God, and the only time Head Six says she's an angel, it is said with a hint of sarcasm, so it means she IS an angel. If they are angels, what is Kara? Where is Kara?

Stop trying to explain the unexplainable.

Concepts of god

My point is that Baltar appears to have little reference for monotheism. When H6 starts talking about it, he’s a bit surprised.

As for monotheism, this comes from show runner interviews. They said the Final Five didn’t encounter monotheism until they met the Colonial centurions, but that Ellen liked it. Kobol, where the poly gods actually lived with humanity, was unlikely to have much in the way of monotheism. Monotheism, it is reported, is banned on the colonies, so it obviously exists but is not commonly seen. I’m a bit surprised it would need to be so underground. When Baltar brings it up, it is resisted but not like a banned religion.

I am sure there were a few monotheists in all the cultures but they were, from what we hear, repressed. Well, on Kobol probably more than that.

Monotheism

Actually, monotheism is not banned in the Colonies, and it is alluded in Caprica that there are other monotheist groups around. It's just said that this particular monotheist group, Soldiers of the One, is banned, because they are preaching a religious war against polytheists, but there are other, more peaceful monotheist religions out there.

RDM Podcast for season 4.5 and the series finale

Hi Brad, I love your Blog! Found it through your link from Glactica-Science page.
I am glad to know that I was not the only one out there dissapointed with the finale, but your analysis of the episode, and the series itself and it's shortcomings are the best I've found so far on the net!

I am not sure if you heard this podcast from Ron Moore after the finale showing yet,you probably have but just in case you haven't:
Here is the link to the podcast :
http://media.scifi.com/battlestar/downloads/podcast/mp3/421-423/bsg_ep42...

I was particularly interested in The alternate plotlines for season 4.5 that was apparently thrown out during the writers strike ( starts around the 17 minute mark ). Some of the stuff sounds a LOT more interesting than what we got for the finale...

For example...

1. Zarek and Gaeta use the Galactica mutiny to attack the rebel basestar, and in the middle of that fight, Cavil's forces appears and attacks them both.

2. Helo and Athena both sacrifice themselves for Hera.

3. Starbuck found Earth because it was "behind a yellow sun".

4. The Galactica crashes into Earth and Adama decides to burn it to show their commitment to staying there.

5. Adama and Roslin were then going to take a Raptor out into the stars.

etc..

Oh well..

Anyway,
Keep up the great work!

Brad - you're intractable!

And that's okay... But I think you are thinking too hard about this stuff. I do want to take issue with the technology throw away arguments you are making. I think, given your analytical mind, that you have to accept the fact that you have an ethnocentristic bias here. We all do. Technological society is all we know. And we can't CONCEIVE of giving it up. Hence we cling to it, even though it threatens to kill us all in the end.

Think about this - really think about it for a minute. You are on Galactica. You come from a technological society not much more advanced than our own. So the leap isn't hard. Basically they have our level of technology in everything EXCEPT FTL drive, where they are way ahead of us and AI in which they are a little ahead of us. Otherwise, everything else is the same. Nukes, biological weapons, chemical weapons, etc. Medicine is at our level, perhaps even below our level (maybe we cure cancer better than they do?) Either way, they ARE us, in essence.

They've created AI, and Nukes and virtually their entire society has been destroyed. 39k survivors... there is your "10,000" mating pairs if you will... The Toba bottleneck you point to in another post.

They've barely survived on the 747 for 3-4 years (I really like that analogy) and they land on a lush planet full of everything they need. They can pick fruit off trees. They can collect nuts and herbs, and grasses, etc. They can hunt for awesome, fresh meat. It's all there for the taking. And you ask yourself... what kind of society do I want? I can go back to being a hunter-gatherer. I can eschew even agricultural technology. I don't need any technology... not even the medical technology. Or I can "rebuild"... Rebuild for what?!?!?! So my great-great...great-grandchildren can split the atom again and invent DDT and Dioxin and Mustard Gas and Dynamite and White Phosphorous and all manner of crazy weapons we've built not to master the world but to destroy our fellow man? I can "rebuild" all that tech so that I can invent AI's that will massacre me again? I can overpopulate the world and essentially piss all over it and create 10 Billion victims - all of them MY children who will suffer unbelievable pain?

Or I can go native and simply LIVE. Live life while I can.

Sure, we all know it's not the picnic I describe if you get a bacterial infection or an appendicitis... but most of our disease comes EXACTLY from our technological world. Diabetes? Comes from eating too much. Heart Disease? Comes from sedentary lifestyles. Cancer? We can debate all day how prevalent this was before agriculture. Would you rather have an idyllic 40 years on this planet, or a tortuous 80? Most communicable disease can be traced to Agriculture. Native Americans survived for 10's of Thousands of years with no more technology than the stone age tech that you eschew. Here in New England, they summered on the shore and ate lobsters that washed up on the shore. In the winter, they hunted deer and moose. They cultivated corn but didn't domesticate animals. Many of them lived into their 80's without any serious medicine. They lived amazing lives, with amazing culture and arts... painting, dance, music where all integral parts of their culture.

Don't you think its interesting that Baltar, of all people, is the one who starts talking about farming - that he knows how to farm... Why farm at all, I say...

Most of your arguments boil down to, "I can't see myself throwing out ALL of our technology..." Those arguments are foolish if you really sit down and think about it. Man had essentially NO technology for millions of years and STILL took over the planet.

The sad fact is that we've got so many people on the Earth now, that I fear the cycle hasn't been broken. IMHO, we are destined for another Toba event, may even engineer it ourselves...
To sum up, here is the operative quote from another excellent piece of SF... The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons."

Who would throw it away?

Oh, some would certainly be ready to throw it away in a heartbeat. We have such people today, after all. Perhaps even a majority. But all of them? Certainly not those who depend on medicine or high tech for their very lives, which is many. I would be dead from my appendix without it.

People are not that uniform in view. A serious number would not agree, and would only go primitive by force. And what force? Do you give the guards high-tech to enforce the anti-tech law? If you don’t, the tech people will quickly dominate the low-tech ones. After all, they have tech!

But there are other answers besides our technology and primitive life. There are all sorts of sustainable, advanced but simple ways of living. Consider our modern Amish and Mennonites. They live with 19th century tech. Seems very backwards to us 21st century people, but it’s vastly beyond where the fleet went. And they will not make AIs.

More to the point, the only way to prevent the rise of AI is to teach that lesson. Destroying your culture, erasing it, means nobody gets the lesson. They live in squalid poverty for 150,000 years, with 30 year lifespans, and then they make robots again. That’s what BSG showed at the end. It took longer to make the robots but we still made them. Though H6 speculates we might be smart enough to not goof it this time. Not really sure why, as we have no lesson.

Sure, people today die from diabetes and cancer and the like. At age 70. Not at age 30-40 like our ancestors.

Another round...

Sure, there may have been some people who didn't want to give up the tech... but what tech did they PERSONALLY have? I mean, the person in the cargo bay that doesn't have a firearm, and relies on the fleet for the food? They may not even have cookware. And getting that cookware onto Earth would be hard to do in mass... They'd need a cadre of people dedicated to smuggling the "technology" as you call it down to Earth. But in the end, it would last, what a generation or two? Others have pointed out that it comes down to materials, doesn't it... Well, materials are hard to come by. Metals have to be mined, and that is what we're talking about here, because nothing else can be seriously made with out metals and glass... And neither lasts forever... so whatever was smuggled would have degraded and disappeared after a few generations. Without the technical means to make more, the society devolves to hunting and gathering by default.

But the main point I want to make is that you cannot get rid of your own ethnocentricities, can you? "They live in squalid poverty"... see? You can't conceive of living a full life without tech. But I've described for you a very real existence, one where lobster and crab, delicacies today, wash up on the shore for the taking. Deer and other game are plentiful. For someone who ends up in what is now New England, your life is really quite idyllic. You have more free time than we do. You spend virtually no time feeding and clothing yourself. Shelter is simple and easy, if you adopt Paleo-Indian methods. And you are now living essentially a stone age existence...

As to life expectancy, well, yes... 30-35 is the average, if you count infant mortality and such. But you must discount all the other ills that we have today that they DIDN'T have back then... Virtually NOBODY dies of Heart Disease or Diabetes. Cancer probably still exists, and yes, some will die from an appendicitis, and others will live through it. You might have. It is not a certain death sentence, and it's incidence is around 7%... Bottom line is that you live to 50 or 60 if you have a healthy life, or you die as an infant, or you suffer a fatal accident or other disease. Again, people have been doing this for millions of years. It isn't "squalid poverty"... in many ways, it is superior to our lives.

No, I don't agree with your argument that some will somehow smuggle tech onto Earth and immediately begin reconstructing a tech society. Their tech is at a dead end. They have no raw materials to work with. They have no technological society in which to incubate new technology. Even if they decided to bring all their tech down with them (and this would have been an interesting ending too) my guess is that it fails. Bring all your machines and machine tools down... try and build a modern city... I'll bet they can't. Such an attempt would likely end with their people dying off in a vain attempt to keep their tech around. Look at New Caprica - the show covered that try. They devolve into labor unions and food shortages, and they live in tents. They bicker and fight about how to carve up the remnants of their civilization. And they lack basic medicine like antibiotics. That is the real poverty.

A clean break is the only way to go. They've learned that lesson in a way you can't, typing away at your keyboard with your Starbucks coffee at the ready, and a refrigerator full of food nearby. We're as trapped in our technical society, living in "poverty", just as much as Galacticans gone native are by your standards...

Squalid poverty

I have similar ethnocentric biases to the people of the colonies, which is why I can predict that many of them would have had to be forced to participate in that. Including some ship captains, who, owners of their ships, would have said “no way you are sending my ship into the sun, “I’m landing it somewhere else on the planet” and they would have had to use military force to stop him. Ugly.

Again, one of the reasons they don’t die of heart disease is they don’t get the chance. It’s still a big killer of people who lead healthy lives. But the squalid poverty I refer to isn’t just material. It’s intellectual. With the loss of writing (though perhaps that only comes to their kids) they lose all the depth of their culture. Adama’s move is a culturcide.

As you point out, New Caprica was a harsh place, without food falling from the trees. Tech arises when you have spare time to make it, when you are not spending your time hunting and fending off predators, when smart people can devote full time to it. Thanks to basic tech, like compound longbows and crossbows, the hunting will be much easier for them than for primitive man. With books they will quickly have water power (mechanical at first), metal smelting and forging and many other things, even without their machine shops.

Who is happier? We won’t resolve that question. But I do know history. People want the comforts of tech, and will work for them, and those who gain tech conquer those who don’t. People want others to do their work for them, and they will make that happen, too. Without cultural history to guide morals, you will soon have — and of course since they are supposed to be “us” they did have — slavery, and kings, and ignorance.

Heh.

Maybe those who didn't want to give up their tech promised not to interfere with those who did and founded Atlantis. :P

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