Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog

A special sub-blog with analysis of the modern Battlestar Galactica to help viewers understand it as both a mystery and a drama on the conflict between AIs and natural-origin humans. You should read the Welcome Message for pointers to my grand theory and other info.

Blood on the Scales

The last two episodes have offered very little on key show mysteries. This doesn’t mean they were not good episodes. The Oath was one of the best of the series for drama. Blood on the Scales was good, but suffered because there was not so much suspense over the outcome. It’s still too far from the end to be rid of Adama. I thought the death (and return) of Tigh would have had some interesting consequences but it’s not too bad to see him make it through it. The only question was how Gaeta and Zarek would fall. For a while, I was expecting we would see a firing squad scene with Adama, and Gaeta would have instructed his men (in advance) to execute Zarek instead, Zarek being there to witness it. But I’m glad they didn’t go this over the top.

In particular I was glad that they also did a more realistic sabotage of the FTL drive. In so many shows, the character would have found his access codes still working, even though he’s effectively left the fleet. And in so many SF shows, his simple sabotage of the FTL engine would have had explosive results and spectacular special effects. Instead, the FTL did what any complex computerized machine would do if a part was damaged or removed — report the fault and shut down. Nicely done.

The sabotage of the FTL turned out to be not needed. Moments later Adama retook the control room, and had the ship jumped he could have jumped it back. Presumably this scene leads us to something else because of the stranding of the Galactica, and the apparent structure damage to the hull in the jump room.

These ships, meant for basic jumping around a close group of colonies, should never have been made so well as to travel 15,000 light years. Perhaps a military-spec ship would be, but it would have been a good touch if the trip to Earth had involved several ships breaking down, forcing the fleet to go back and redistribute their populations into more crowded remaining ships. Simple civilian ships should never have been able to go this far, for this long. The Galactica, while old (and not having jumped in 20 years) would not be the first to fail.

We see Caprica Six, hearing of Saul’s death, not taking long to get back in with Baltar, presuming that’s her. It does need to be her, as with Ellen’s upcoming return, something has to break in that relationship. (Update: Whoops, this is in error. Though we are going to see something about that love triangle, I am sure.)

And of course, the previews for next week show…  read more »

The real Earth stars

Michael Hall has been doing a lot of research on the appearance in the show of real Earth starfields. Here, I write an update to my earlier post.

Unfortunately, the results are a little too good. The sky above Earth is unique. You won’t find it anywhere else in the Galaxy. The sky at Alpha Centauri is of course the most similar, but it has a number of striking differences, changing several Zodiacal constellations, and adding an extra very bright star (our Sun) to turn Cassiopeia from a “W” to a “/W”

Hall’s efforts show the exact Earth sky appearing in several places:

  • The site of the Cylon civil war, making that planet be Jupiter. (This is also the site of Starbuck’s vision of where Earth is.)
  • Also the location of the Demetrius, where it is met by Leoben’s heavy raider, fleeing that war
  • Also the site of the rendezvous point between the fleet and the Demetrius
  • The spot where Adama waits for Roslin and the base star that attacked the Hub to return
  • The spot where the Tylium ship retreats to after they refuse to have Cylons upgrade their jump drive

In several of these scenes, we are given very obvious Earth star patterns. That is to say, we see the “big 3” of constellations that even non-astronomers readily recognize. The Big Dipper, the W of Cassiopeia, and Orion.

But more telling is we don’t see the Earth sky anywhere else. In particular, not above the ruined home of the 13th colony, which they named Earth. And not in any other places along the way including early episodes. Hall used a really cool new star map detection system which will take any photo of stars and tell you where it is in our sky, or if it isn’t in our sky at all.

On the one hand, if they producers know enough not to use the Earth sky for years, and suddenly they start using it, and even using it (showing Orion and Big Dipper) in a way that fans will be sure to notice, that doesn’t seem like an accident. It’s too odd to think that the graphics department, after carefully not using our sky, would just use it willy-nilly, and more to the point would not use it at the planet the 13th tribe named “Earth.”

On the other hand, they are using it in too many places. To see the Earth sky, notably things like the shield of Orion, you have to be within a short distance of Earth. Perhaps just a light year or more. But there’s nothing else around us in this zone. We’re it. In fact, except for Alpha Centauri and 3 other minor stars, there’s nothing around for 8 light years.

So this bugs me. On the one hand, the use of our sky is too strong to be an accident. On the other hand, now we are to believe that:

  • The Demetrius sat for days a short distance from Earth, scoped it out, and didn’t see it, even though they are hunting for a system with a ringed gas giant, and a life bearing planet with a large moon.
  • In fact, while there Starbuck discusses how they have already sent out 2 recon missions in the area, and not found anything, so she demands a third.
  • The whole fleet sat for weeks or more a short distance from Earth, and never noticed it.
  • Starbuck just “happened” to pick a rendezvous point to meet up with the fleet that is our solar system.
  • In spite of Adama ordering the fleet to go to G type stars to look for homes, when the Tylium ship comes to Sol, they don’t bother to scope it out. (I guess if they have already been her for weeks and not seen anything that could make some sense.)
  • Cavil just happens to pick Jupiter as the site of his ambush.
  • All of this isn’t too far from the Ionian Nebula supernova remnant. (The closest supernova remnant is Vela, about 800 light years away.)

In particular, when Cavil sets his ambush, he tells the others they will unbox D’Anna, and the closest place to do it is the nearest “accessible server” which is “half a dozen jumps away.” Now 6 Cylon jumps is pretty far, probably as much as 2,000 light years. It is possible he sprang the ambush at one of the intermediate points along the way, but there is no reason Jupiter would just happen to be one of the points along the way.

This adds another confusing point. First of all, how could Cavil “just happen” to pick Jupiter/Earth for the site of his ambush, of all the zillions of stars out there. Secondly, what does it mean that there is an accessible server in the Cylon resurrection network at Jupiter? This would mean the Cylons are no strangers to this region, in which case they would surely notice Earth too. After all, they are also looking for it.

And Earth should stick out. Our giant moon is a dead giveaway; we believe that to be rather unusual. And the spectrum of light from our planet, which includes lots of water and free oxygen, would be a beacon to anybody examining it with space telescopes even from light years away. Free oxygen, it is commonly accepted, is not something you will find unless something (life) is making it, because it is used up quickly in reactions. And real Earth, seen at the end of season 3, is a living planet, with free Oxygen, not a cinder.

So thus the dilemma. The use of the constellations seems deliberate. The Cylon battle site has to be Jupiter, it can be nowhere else. And yet the fleet, Demetrius, Cylon network builders and others have all hung around this system for long periods, and not noticed anything.

So of course one interpretation is a huge writing mistake, and a huge mistake in the graphics department in suddenly deciding after 4 years to start throwing the Earth sky in so many places with the notable exception of the 13th colony. Or perhaps the writers don’t realize just how readily they would see Earth if they hung around these areas with nice space telescopes, as they must have to do the stellar navigation they do.

This wouldn’t be the first production mistake like this. In the episode Torn, Gaeta pulls out a star map he supposedly got from Pegasus. But it’s an Earth star map, complete with Earth names on constellations and modern Earth catalog numbers on the stars. This map makes no sense, and strikes me as a lazy production mistake. We only see it upside-down.

But let’s dig for an alternate explanation. We’re told of a long, repeating history of war and exodus. This must have happened on real Earth as well. The Kobolians fled, or were kicked out. Perhaps they have programming relating to Earth, to block their return to it. Just as Starbuck got compulsions to find Earth (and visions of the real Jupiter) there may be other compulsions not to find it. There may be forces out there that want them to find real Earth, and others that want them not to.

This explains the 13th tribe heading in this direction, and finding a different planet quite nearby and naming it Earth. It might explain Athena being sent on a recon to Earth from the Demetrius and reporting no joy — 3 times. It might explain the presence of a Cylon network node there, but without Cylon conscious awareness of what the location is. We know at least that the 7 Cylons (including Athena) have compulsions programmed into their brains either by, or relating to the Final Five. And we know the Final Five have their own compulsions programmed into their brains, too.

But there is also the question of Cavil. He is Cylon model #1. Is he special? He seems to know things, without letting on. He makes deadpan pronouncements of major consequences if D’Anna sees the Five, or if inhibitors are removed from Centurions. And he somehow picks Jupiter as the site for his ambush, an impossible coincidence.

So something isn’t adding up. Is it a strange mistake. Or a hint of a major mystery?

The Supernova

Another thing that’s not adding up is the Ionian Nebula. This is a supernova remnant — it has to be, because nobody will immediately pull from their minds a plain old nova seen 4,000 years ago. But it must be close to both the 13th colony and real Earth. When they get there, Roslin starts jumping the fleet along the course they went, and Starbuck goes crazy, saying it’s the wrong way. So real Earth is a bit of a backtrack (or at least sideways track) from that remnant.

There are only a few supernova remnants close to us. One of the closest is the Vela nebula, which new research puts only 800 light years away. It exploded, it is suggested, around 11,000 years ago. (I am unsure if that is the date of explosion or the date of light arrival on Earth.) Since the Ionian supernova is dated to 17,000 years ago as seen from the colonies, that fits well with a chronology placing this story 5,000 years in our future.

The Ionian/Vela supernova would have been a big event in Kobol/Algae Planet society, because they would have known in advance it was going to happen. They would have jumped beyond its light cone, meaning that when they got to their new planet, they would know the supernova wave was following them, and could have put out lawn chairs to watch it explode. The legends persist so much that Gaeta still knows about it.

But 800 light years is still a long distance for Starbuck to trek on her exploration, and for the fleet to follow. We are told colonial jumps are in the range of 30 light years before they hit their red-line, so that’s over 25 jumps. However, it does not match very well with being 6 Cylon jumps, as Cylon jumps are supposed to be able to go 10 times further. (Though to contradict that, Cylon upgrades to fleet drives will only give them a 3x improvement. And we don’t know where the Cylons start.)

Hall makes the case that in fact they did a giant backtrack. He thinks they trekked 13,000 light years out to the edge of the galaxy to find the Ionian nebula, and Starbuck and the fleet independently came back that distance or more to get to Earth. I don’t think that’s credible for a lot of reasons. One is that I can’t see a waste processing ship designed for a small set of close colonies ever having the fuel capacity to do that. Nor could they pick a rendezvous point 13,000 light years away so accurately that the Cylon ship and Demetrius jump right into the middle of the fleet.

The Journey

We must also step back and realize that the journey here is probably not a straight line. If the forces guiding them to these planets wanted to, they could have just said, “Here are the coordinates for Earth.” Instead we get a very, very convoluted trek. I hope we see a reason for this trek.

  1. Head out randomly into space. Somehow find Kobol
  2. On Kobol, find a star map that tells you to head in the direction of M8, the Lagoon Nebula.
  3. Along the way find a probe, and a possible lion’s head nebula
  4. Be diverted for 18 months on a hidden planet called New Caprica
  5. Be diverted back to an Algae planet. There, the chosen one is supposed to be in the activated temple, but it doesn’t seem to happen. However, see a symbol that tells you to go in the direction of the Ionian supernova remnant.
  6. Along the way, refuel at a planet where Starbuck is taken in an unknown fashion.
  7. Reach the Ionian nebula. Suffer a power failure. Awaken the final five, just slightly. Return a Starbuck, in a brand new viper. Starbuck has compulsions that point her towards Earth. She finds it but doesn’t see it. Raiders encountered freshly awakened final five, and break off, triggering Cylon internal conflict.
  8. Cylons have civil war, near Earth.
  9. Have the final five realize the viper is special. The viper has a locater pointing at the 13th colony.
  10. On the 13th colony, give the final five more memories, but learn no new clues for true Earth.

This journey does not have to be a straight line, but I hope we see a reason why this is the journey that makes sense. Something to explain why not just get coordinates. A reason why this journey brings about other events like the alliance with the Cylons, or their war. Events either to repeat the cycle, or to break it.

Saul and the hand grenade

The last few episodes haven’t added a lot for those theorizing on the big mysteries, but they are good plot. But one item at the cliffhanger of tonight’s episode does promise something.

(This relates to information from the “scenes from next week” which some view as spoilers.)

I think Saul throws himself on the grenade. This saves Adama. (Mythbusters showed that this can work, and they didn’t even use a Cylon version of Buster.)

And while Saul probably would throw himself on a grenade for Bill — though I am not sure why either of them are guarding that useless airlock after the raptor is away — he has some extra reason now. He remembers dying before and coming back.

Now they would not normally kill a popular character like Tigh with so many episodes to go, though they are going to be killing major characters very soon. And if they did, they would not tell you in the previews.

But I think Saul’s coming back. Kate Vernon said she would be back next week. Perhaps Saul comes back with her. I wonder if he gets his eye back, or if a full-regeneration (vs. new body without memories) gets repairs or just a duplication. If I were the writers I would give him his eye back.

And then the fireworks can begin. And I always liked Gaeta.

(Note that further previews suggest Tigh dies later, if he dies at all, and he does not get his eye back. This is probably just a flash grenade. Still would be a good plot twist to kill him and bring him back with Ellen.)

On another note, one thing we learned last week is when to not pay attention to podcast comments. After Tyrol was revealed as a Cylon, Moore was asked if now Nicky was a half-Cylon. He said yes, he was, though his story would not be the same as Hera’s.

Well, that was an off the cuff answer and people took it as gospel. We declared Cally as the one person assured to be human because of it. She was human, but not because of this. We learn that Moore and the rest feel perfectly OK reversing remarks like those if they now want to take the plot another way.

One Earth or Two -- more data, more astronomy

The biggest raging debate is whether the Earth shown in Sometimes a Great Notion is the only Earth we will see in the show, or if there is another Earth out there, which is the real Earth.

Now the planet they land on is almost certainly the Earth of the colonial sacred scrolls. Ron Moore confirms this much in interviews, and the podcast. It is certainly the planet Starbuck was taken to, and photographed, for her viper is crashed there and the star patterns match, even after a double check. I presume this match is against Starbuck’s photos, but more on that below. There was a 13th tribe, it was made up of Cylons, and they found and named a planet Earth, and this story is told in the book of Pythia. The Final Five come from the home of the 13th, and we learn they did indeed live (and die) there. This is that world, and all sources confirm it.

This world is also certainly not our Earth. Our Earth, after all, was not colonized by Cylons and destroyed in a nuclear war. Our world was not named Earth by alien colonists. So it’s the Earth of the scrolls and the 13th colony but not the Earth we live on.

A number of things keep nagging at viewers:

  • When they talk about this world, they keep saying that the 13th tribe “called it Earth.” It’s as though they are careful to avoid saying that it’s Earth in the context of “our Earth.” They are too careful about this.
  • In spite of many shots of the planet from space, none show recognizable landscapes. At the end of Crossroads, Part II they made a big deal of showing a zoom to Earth, showing North America (in the 21st century too, but that’s another matter.) If they didn’t want to leave the question open, why not just show it.
  • They leave #3 on the planet, and we don’t see her again. Suggests we never return to this planet. So there is surely another planet in their future, be it for a dark ending or happy one.
  • They were very much led to this planet by the string pullers, with Starbuck’s photos and the beacon from her viper, which took them to the very place the Final Five would recover memories.

Only four of the photos match?

Now I’ve always assumed that the stars over this planet match Starbuck’s photos and also match the star patterns shown in the Tomb of Athena, because we are told the latter two match when Starbuck returns. But a deleted scene on the DVD shows more of that scene. In it, Starbuck says that the photos match. Then we see two lines that were deleted, and they are very telling lines indeed!

Starbuck: …The star patterns match what we saw in the Tomb of Athena.

Roslin: Four of them. What about the other eight?

Kara: What more do you want? A flashing neon sign that says “Earth”?!

This is a huge deletion. Why delete it and, then why show it to the fans later? Some will argue deleted material isn’t canon, but the writers wrote this for a reason. They presumably deleted it because they did not want to bring up a debate about whether Tomb-of-Athena Earth is the same as Nuked/Starbuck’s Earth — at least when they were worried the strike might cause the series to end somewhat abruptly.

(Note that Roslin’s line could also be interpreted to mean that Starbuck only took 4 photos. Which is odd, but possible.)

I didn’t imagine a debate because the show provided us these two things in a row:

  1. Starbuck: I’ve been to Earth, and I’m going to take us there
  2. Camera: Zoom out of galaxy, zoom back in at similar spot, show the real Earth we all know.

That’s a strange fake-out to have Starbuck say she’s been to Earth and then zoom us to a different Earth than she’s been to. Not even a fair fake-out I would say, but let’s leave that for a moment.

It has been pointed out by Micheal Hall, another blogger that the constellations in the Tomb of Athena are very similar to ours, but not a full match. That blogger also points out that our exact Sky is shown at the scene of the Cylon battle, the one with the red giant that Starbuck paints a vision of.

The problem is this. Constellations either match or they don’t. Even a move to our closest star, Alpha Centauri, changes Leo, Capricorn, Saggitarius and most of all Gemini in very noticeable ways. No stellar navigator would look at the sky at Alpha C and say it matched photos of the sky from Earth. Hall even ran some proper motion models to take the sky forward in time 20,000 years and it didn’t match the Tomb. Move your viewpoint further out than Alpha C — even 20 light years, and the Zodiac becomes hard to recognize, certainly not something that anybody would declare as a match. But some constellations distort more than others.

Now if BSG’s crew got their astronomy right, there is no question that the battle site of the Cylon civil war is the location of our Earth. That’s not just any ringed gas giant, that’s Jupiter, our Jupiter. No other place in the galaxy has that star pattern. Star patterns are quite exact if examined photographically. The odds of the same pattern appearing at random somewhere else are — well, literally astronomical.

Can it be just an accident? The graphics crew has used random stars everywhere else. Why do they show us real stars all of a sudden at that battle scene. They show us Orion in a few other scenes. Orion is one of the few constellations that stays somewhat similar at a number of the local stars, especially if you go in the opposite direction.

Can there be such a mismatch?

It’s possible, though unlikely, that if you consider the maps on the colonial flags (and in the Tomb) to be more drawings than real stellar cartography, and you consider that only 4 of them match, and not all 12, then indeed the star map in the Tomb of Athena could be for a different planet than the 13th colony. One would have to do a bit of playing around to see what stars it could be. Kevin Grazier, BSG’s science advisor from JPL, could definitely have worked this out.

In addition, as the Tomb of Athena mappings were more drawings than photographs or maps, it is possible the crew drew them in only roughly. This could account for the fact that, as Hall points out, Aldeberan is missing. Aldeberan sticks out like a red thumb, it’s very bright.

Want to be anal about it? Download Celstia a free star mapping program. Put it into multiview mode to see both the Earth sky and a remote location, and turn on constellation lines and names. Then use the “Celestial Browser” to move among the nearby stars. Forget the tiny dwarf stars, only check out the ones with bright stars, Visible from Earth. See if there are some where 4 of the Zodiac stay the same, but 8 are different.

The Cylon battle site

Could the Cylon battle site be the site of the real Earth? If we take their star patterns as realistic, it has to be, it can’t be anywhere else. Could the Cylons have had a war there and not noticed the amazing planet sitting there? Does the war account for how the colonials miss this important fact too? If they took photos, perhaps they have not yet gone over them. Everybody was perhaps too busy.

All Along the Watchtower

I would very much like it to be the case that there’s a real Earth out there, still to be found, in our far future. It makes the show a lot better, a lot more satisfying. But one thing sticks in the way. Moore tells us in the podcast that his intention for the script was that Anders wrote “All along the Watchtower.”

Which means Bob Dylan didn’t. That there is no Dylan, really. That means that even if we find another Earth, a real Earth, it’s not precisely our Earth. Some argue that we should just accept this, that the song has been taken for a dramatic use in the show. That’s what we are told by Bear McCreary, the musician. I don’t like it though. The song is famous. It’s like the statue of Liberty. When you see the Statue of Liberty on the shore in “Planet of the Apes” you would not accept the explanation that “Oh, the apes built that, the shape came from the collective unconscious.” You would cry “bullshit.” And if this Earth is just an allegory of the real one, well, it might as well be the Cylon 13th colony.

But I’ll forgive this if it turns out I get a realistic plot with relevance to our Earth. If so, they have a lot of ground to cover in 9 episodes. A lot of history to reveal. And I know they want the story to be about character, so they don’t want to spend all the time revealing the secret history.

What is Earth like?

When I thought that the 13th Colony Earth was the real Earth, I predicted it would likely be vacant. I was correct, but my prediction was really for the real Earth. So I predict that real Earth, should they find it, will also be ruined or vacant. We are told the ending is dark, with lots of death. We are also told in Razor that it all ends like this:

And in the midst of confusion, he will find her. Enemies brought together by impossible longing. Enemies now joined as one. The way forward at once unthinkable, yet inevitable. And the fifth, still in shadow, will claw toward the light, hungering for redemption that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all. The seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves without sin. But in time, it is sin that will consume them. They will know enmity, bitterness, the wrenching agony of one splintering into many. And then, they will join the promised land, gathered on the wings of an angel. Not an end, but a beginning.

This sounds like a less dark ending. This is the ending predicted by a First Hybrid who is very big on the “all this will happen again” cycle. This is how it has gone down many times in the past, we can assume. Aurora is a winged goddess, associated with Starbuck. We have already seen the 7 turn into six. We’ve seen the 4 awaken, and the 5th will hunger for redemption. In the confusion he (Saul) did find her (Ellen.) The machines have splintered in agony. And Roslin isn’t dead so they have not joined the promised land yet.

Aside from real-Earth being ruined, another interesting plot would be to find it an advanced planet, but a planet that expelled the Kobolians long ago. The sign at the door says “Get out, and stay out.” So when they approach, Earth attacks, and destroys a lot of the fleet, which has to flee. Now that’s a dark ending for you!

Earth, I believe, was the site of the first man-machine war. That war may have ruined it, or soured it on the machines (or humans) trying to come back. What it might think about Hera is another question. Of course I still suspect all the colonials are all artificial already, making Hera a bit less special.

Moore speaks on the BSG backstory (and fracks it up)

These are Ronald Moore’s words, from the podcast, describing the backstory of the show.

This fundamental idea that once upon a time there were was a place called Kobol, the gods and men lived together. Man on kobol stole fire from the gods, that fire was the knowledge of life, how to create life, they created their own cylons. That creation and the destruction of their paradise was the end of kobol.

Twelve colonies, twelve tribes went that way, and the 13th tribe, 13th tribe of cylons went the other way, and they found and settled a planet that they called Earth, and at some point, the people on Earth, the cylons on Earth, repeated the pattern and destroyed themseleves as well. This feeds into the overall “all this has happened before and will happen again” mythology of the show.

He also says, when describing Anders’ story of playing “All Along the Watchtower”

“[The Guitar] was here on Earth, and Anders was here on Earth. Anders, he played the song for his friends, on earth, played it, it was also intended that he wrote it, that’s a subtlety that may not have come through”

Finally we also learn that this is Lucy Lawless’ last episode, which is why she is staying on the planet. Which suggests they don’t return to this planet.

This dashes a lot of fan hopes that this is a false Earth, that the real Earth colonized Kobol, and then a tribe of Cylons went off and found a different planet and named it Earth, after the ancestral homeworld. So this Earth seems entirely unrelated to our planet, and only has that name because this was the mythos of the original Battlestar Galactica in 1978. I had hoped he would reimagine that part of the story but he didn’t do it as well as I would have desired.

Many fan hopes were rising because people noticed that every time Moore would talk about the ruined Earth, he would say “they called it Earth” rather than saying this is our Earth. He seems to be saying that because it is not our Earth, but it also seems to be the only Earth in this universe. There will be no Bob Dylan in this universe.

This leaves a lot of things unexplained though. And he says there are some more major mysteries to explain.

  • Why do the 12 tribes have flags with star patterns from this Earth? How did this lost planet’s sky generate the flags and names of the 12 tribes?
  • How do the various dates mesh up: Temple of 5 from 4,000 years ago, Pythia from 3,600 years ago, wars on Kobol and Earth from 2,000 years ago.
  • Are the colonials also Cylons, or how was Starbuck able to download or be duplicated?
  • Why does everything happen again, and again?

Now, why do I say he’s fracked it up? Lots of SF is set in a universe that never was, an Alternate Earth — often one that is both similar and different from ours, usually in impossible ways done for dramatic purpose.

But I felt and hoped that Battlestar Galactica had the chance to be more. I thought it had the chance to be set in the future of the real Earth, and thus have more to say about the battle between man and machine. I’m not saying that you can’t say things about the real world in alternate realities. But I do think you can do it better if you start with the real world, and you always should if you can. And he could have, and seemed to be leaving clues that he had.

No, I am not going to stop watching, but I will do so a little less enthused.

The Cylon Film Festival

Here are some screen captures of the poster behind Tyrol in the produce market. You can’t really read the words reliably, but in the first two lines, it really seems like the last word is “Cylon” — though there is some argument for “Colony”

In the next set of 3 lines, I see

A Celebration/Discussion ?? 7??? and ch?????? in the (eyes?) of the community.


Also look at another part of the poster:

And the image has the appearance of an angel/priest, wearing a Cylon centurion helmet of some sort.

Or I could be imagining things. But were the production crew having fun with the posters they put on the wall?

The yellowish poster is also interesting. Looks like a rock band poster with the 3 heads on the top. Anders’ band? The two figures at the bottom are odd as well, the one at the left is either wearing Mickey-mouse ears, or has a strange shaped head.

Must read, but disappointing interview with Moore and others

An interview by Maureen Ryan of Ron Moore and others is available on the Chicago Tribune site.

It contains a lot of important information, and some that dashes a number of my hopes.

To wit:

  • Yes, you can take it as fact that the 13th tribe were Cylons, though not 12-model Cylons of course
  • Yes, they colonized the planet and “christened it Earth.”
  • No the timelines aren’t wrong (timing this war at the same time as Kobol exodus and presumably 1,600 years after Pythia and 2,000 after Temple of Five) and we’re going to see more which makes the timelines all make sense.
  • Dee is just a suicide, nothing more (or less.)

This is so out of odds with other clues, including the Tomb of Athena, and of course the real Earth. The real Earth wasn’t colonized by cylons. We evolved here, and Moore acknowledged in the past that this is a scientific fact that he was not going to ignore.

The simplest explanation may be he just changed his mind, which I would find disappointing.

I can think of some convoluted explanations:

  • We are programmed to think we are human, so we imagine fossils in the ground and all the history of evolution
  • When he says “christened it Earth” he doesn’t mean in English. That Earth is a translation for the viewers of the name this Cylon colony gave to the planet they “discovered.”
  • We now have to draw a plot that has Kobol colonized long ago by humans or Cylons from Earth, Earth falls, Kobol forgets where they came from, Kobol sends out a colony of cylons which rediscovers Earth. Later there is a war which nukes Earth.

But I can’t say that any of these explanations make a lot of sense, or that I like any of them.

A possibly nicer plot is a plot of many more cycles of war and exodus, which involve both Earth and Kobol, and regular repopulation of the one planet from the other, so that eventually it is forgotten which planet is the original. When we learn these extra timeline details which explain how the Temple of Five is 4,000 years old and the Pythian story of the exile, rebirth and the colonization of Earth is 3,600 years old, and the exodus of the 12 tribes is also 2,000 years old (too close to be coincidence) we might see something along these lines.

These cylons who lived on Earth are a different class again. There are not the 12 models, and in fact what we see is absolutely identical to a modern Earth situation, including identical clothing and other styles, a possibly Christian poster, and a perfectly typical 20th century post office, with mail slot and wall of P.O. boxes and faded posters without the corners cut off. I mean the set designers and costume designers didn’t change anything from normal, which doesn’t feel right with a supposed 1,600 year advanced civilization.

And these cylons don’t seem to download, or if they did, there is no sign of them. But the final 5 are set to download. And Ellen tells Saul that “All is in place” for them to be reborn again. If everybody downloads this is not something he needs to be told. She says it in a way that makes it sound like she’s informing him of this for the first time. This could be because it is the first time (unlikely — there is that 4,000 year old temple with them in it) or because Saul does not have all his memories.

We also learn in the interview that Moore was thinking exactly as I predicted in his reasoning for choosing Ellen. So I’m glad to get a few things right… I came to the conclusion in a very similar way to how Moore did. Looking at the candidates, I asked, “What story would make Ellen interesting as final Cylon” and concluded the really long term relationship with Saul had to be it. They could have done the same with Cally, or even the newly revealed Tory-Anders potential relationship, but Ellen made the most sense, and Saul was the most important character.

Overall I felt (and still feel) it made a lot more sense to not have a 13th tribe that is real, though it was always possible to write the multi-cycle plot where it was. So I’m disappointed, but hope that there is something to please me in what’s coming up.

The bones are all Cylon? Or are they?

Well, I have lots to think about that episode. I was pleased (mostly) that my second choice, Ellen Tigh was correct. And in particular that it seems my reason for picking Ellen may be correct — that the two of them have had a multi-thousand year, on-again, off-again romance. My other pick, the Virtual Being, seems to be what she says she is — an emissary of the Cylon God. But more on that later.

One thing that needs a lot of analysis is the dates. This war was 2,000 years ago, but the sacred scrolls tell of the 13th tribe and the exile and rebirth of humanity 3,600 years ago. So this isn’t the first war. And thus probably not the first Saul and Ellen. Plus it seems that others (Six, Dee) have some history on Earth too, not just the five.

But I want to put forward a speculation about the declaration that the bones found in the digs were “not human” but “Cylon.” We must leave aside the fact that in the past they have not been able to tell them apart on X-ray so it is not clear what this difference should be. (Updated thought: they told the difference using Cylon tech, so that makes it more real.)

But being that the bones are found on Earth, does it not perhaps make more sense that the bones are in fact human. And thus it is the colonials who are not human?

Now, if the war was 4,000 years ago I would firmly declare this to be true. However, dating it only 2,000 years opens the chance that the people in the ground are indeed artificial humans (Cylons) but of a different type from the colonials. With Starbuck’s duplication, it is more and more clear that at least she is not a natural human, since they don’t explode and get recreated. And if she isn’t, and she’s not the fifth, the evidence is strong that the colonials are all artificial.

More to come as I let the episode sink in. Many mysteries, including why Saul needs to be told of his immortality, why Dee cried to find those jacks and then offed herself and more.

All the questions you must answer in your Galactica theory

Everybody in SF is theorizing, like me, about the mysteries of Battlestar Galactica. I have prepared a list of what I think the major questions that you must answer if you have a theory of your own. There are also a few lesser questions that it’s good if you can answer, but which are not mandatory. And indeed, even I don’t really answer all of these easily, nor do I suspect the show will tie up all these loose ends. A few minor spoilers about Caprica here.

For my answers see the invented backstory and of course the rest of this blog.

Virtual Beings

  • Who and what are they?
  • How do they get into character’s heads?
  • Are they all the same being, or are there different beings? If so, what’s their agenda?
  • How did Six pick up Baltar? Who was Shelley Godfrey and how did she vanish? (Godfrey question to be answered in “The Plan”)
  • How is it that ordinary humans can receive visions at all? Not just dreams but visions with real external information. (Baltar, Starbuck, Young Bill Adama, Roslin)
  • Why did Head Six say goodbye to Baltar? (Deleted scene.)
  • How could the Elosha in Roslin’s head have a conversation with her in the non-time of a jump?

13th Colony “Earth”

  • Why and how was Earth destroyed thousands of years ago?
  • How did it come to be that the 13th tribe was Cylon?
  • Why was the true nature of Earth covered up in colonial mythology?
  • What was the “exile and rebirth of the human race” Pythia wrote about 3,600 years ago?
  • Who took Starbuck to Earth and back?
  • Why this very convoluted way of showing the path to Earth (Arrows and star maps on Kobol, probes, stars going nova, signal on fake Viper) instead of just giving a set of coordinates?
  • Why don’t he colonials find it odd that the scrolls say the 13th tribe “saw their 12 brothers in the sky” (ie. tribal flags are Earth stars and names, which is at odds with their belief that Kobol is their homeworld.)
  • Why don’t 8 of the Tomb of Athena star maps match the photos Starbuck took? (Deleted lines found on DVD)
  • Why do the stars seen from the gas giant site of the Cylon civil war match the real Earth’s sky?
  • Why don’t we see any continents or star patterns we recognize in the Earth’s sky?
  • Why was the Earth destroyed around the same time that the tribes fled Kobol?

Final Five

  • Is the fifth aware or unaware, and why?
  • What are the Final Five? Who made them?
  • What are the white robe Final Five in the visions?
  • How old are they?
  • Why did they lead full lives as humans, unaware of what they are?
  • Why did they wake up to a Bob Dylan tune?
  • Are there other copies of the Final Five around?
  • How will the ending “blur the line between human and Cylon”
  • Just why were 3 of the Five at Galactica at the start of the war? Are they the reason it survived?
  • Where has Ellen been? Is she behind Starbuck’s magic trip, viper and recreation?
  • What have the five been doing for the past 2,000 years?
  • What were they doing between the building of the Temple of Five and destruction of the 13th colony?

Cylon God

  • Is he real? What is he?
  • What’s his agenda?
  • Do the Final Five worship him? Is he the “God whose name must not be spoken?”
  • Who is the “jealous god, who wanted to be put above all the other lords of Kobol?”
  • Why would he appear to speak to Dodonna Selloi through the Lords of Kobol to give #3 a message?
  • Who is pulling the strings, if not this being?

Temple of Five

  • Are the Five Priests the Final Five?
  • Was Baltar supposed to activate the temple? What does it mean that D’Anna did?
  • How, as Baltar asked, could all of them have come there on Nova day, in spite of astronomical odds?
  • What poisoned the food processors to force the fleet there?
  • Why did D’Anna say “you were right” to Baltar?

Cycle of Time

  • Since there is no time travel, what can make things repeat so exactly? (Moore declared at the start of the show: “No aliens, no time travel.”)
  • Just how exactly are they repeating?
  • How many cycles have their been?
  • What’s special about this cycle, if anything?

Predictions

  • How is the First Hybrid able to know Kendra’s life?
  • How does the First Hybrid know the story of the Final Five and their current state?
  • How does Pythia know about the visions of serpents?
  • How does Leoben know they will find Kobol?
  • How do Oracles, Leoben, and the Hybrids know about Starbuck’s destiny?
  • What is “the truth about the Opera House?” Why is the long-ruined Opera House so important?
  • How does the First Hybrid’s life “begin again, in ways uncertain.”

Kobol

  • Why is head Six afraid of Kobol?
  • Who were the Lords of Kobol?
  • What are they doing now?
  • What is the meaning of the suicide of Athena?

Hera

  • Why does Head Six say Hera is the child of herself and Baltar?
  • Why is Hera’s hair so curly when her parents have straight hair?
  • Is she the Cylon fetus shown in the ads? If not, who is it and what does it mean?
  • Why does Hera draw a book full of pictures of Six?
  • What is the role of Nicholas, and little unborn Six-Tigh?

Starbuck

  • See Earth
  • What is her destiny?
  • To wit, what does, “Kara Thrace will lead the human race to its end. She is the herald of the Apocalypse, the harbinger of death. They must not follow her” mean?
  • What happened to her in the maelstrom?
  • How did she get a new body, a new Viper? Why?
  • What is her connection to Aurora?
  • Who is her father?

The Seven

  • How did the seven acquire their biological bodies? (Aparently the official “Final Five” comic series will tell us this.)
  • Why are the seven programmed not to think about the final five?
  • Why was Cavil (the least spiritual one) so strongly against the quest for the five, and the awakening of the centurions?
  • Why did D’anna only ask for four Cylons from the fleet? What makes her know one is different from the others? If she thinks one is not yet awakened, why does she think that?
  • What happened to the minds of the older, metal Cylons?

Baltar

  • How did Baltar heal that child in his cult? Why does he have a cult?
  • How did Baltar survive the nuke near his house?
  • Why are female Cylon models so drawn to him?
  • What does it mean that the Hybrid identified him as “the chosen one?” What is his role in “God’s plan?”
  • Why all the Christ metaphors on Baltar?
  • How did he unconsciously know about Doral, or what to blow up in The Hand of God.

Web site clues

  • “You have heard my voice many times, but you don’t know my name.”

Other

  • What does Gaeta’s song “to have her please, just one day wake” mean?
  • What is “the space between life and death” that Starbuck and D’Anna explore? Why are the Five there?
  • In Caprica, Adama’s father helped create the metal Cylons. Adama’s sister was the template for one of the first three models. Can this remain unmentioned? What would the fleet think if it knew? Why don’t any of the Cylons have her memories?
  • What shut down all power to the fleet at the Ionian nebula? Why? And how did the Cylons know to be there?
  • Why did the power shutdown also make Roslin faint? And why all the visions for her at that time?
  • How did the Cylons keep finding the fleet? How did Hotdog find it?

It's Earth, and it's ancient

Well, not much is revealed in the recap episode of BSG that aired this evening, but two interesting impressions are confirmed:

  • They have landed on Earth, not a fake decoy planet
  • The ruins are supposed to be thousands of years old.

At first, I and many others were confused because the ruins of Earth look younger than those of Kobol, and that didn’t jibe well with other impressions and theories. Word did get out that the first images from the art department were sent back by Moore, who declared they looked too fresh, and too much like New York. The second set were better, but presumably still not what he wanted (which was thousands of years old) but got used anyway.

I was also recently pointed to some more info relating to the claim of this being in the far future. On Ron Moore’s blog, after Season one, he was asked what he was going to do about the way original BSG had contradicted the facts of evolution.

He wrote:

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

Knowing that he did intend to recognize evolution as a fact and fit that into BSG mythos should leave no doubt (if any still doubt) that Earth will be the homeworld. And he already did find a way of fitting in that “Life here began out there” line. Adama declares it is the first line of the Sacred Scrolls. In 1978, the line was delivered from an Earth perspective. In this show, it’s from a Kobolian perspective, or perhaps a colonial one that life did begin out there — and it’s true, from their perspective. After all, the first line of the sacred scrolls was probably written on Kobol (though this can also be explained with it written on the colonies.)

Another scene we were re-shown had Elosha speaking to Roslin:

“Pythia wrote, 3,600 years ago, of the exile and rebirth of the Human Race”

Now Pythia is also the one who wrote the scrolls about the 13th tribe and the lost planet of Earth. But our characters don’t seem to notice the contradiction. 3,600 years ago wasn’t when a tribe went off to Earth as they thought. 3,600 years ago was the time of another cycle of war, exile and recolonization. And that makes more sense as the time of exodus from Earth, the homeworld, to Kobol. It is Pythia’s scroll that has the dying leader given the vision of serpents who led the people to the promised land. (Moses like story.)

Now the phrase “rebirth of the human race” fits strikingly well with my suggestion that it was at this time that humanity was reformed by its god-like AI creations. This rebirth of the race could be the creation of artificial humans, Cylon and thinking-they-are-human alike.

How common are habitable planets?

In the BSG universe, it looks like nice planets are rare. As the fleet moves through space, it is regularly sending out scouting missions in Raptors, searching for food, resources and fuel. Depending on fuel available, I presume that means scanning thousands of planets. But what planets do they encounter?

  • They start at their own colonies, which seem quite nice.
  • First, Kobol, which they are guided to, it seems, by the Cylons. Leoben tells them they will find it. It’s no accident. Of course, Kobol is not a new, undiscovered planet.
  • Next, New Caprica. This discovery elicits great excitement both as the first such planet seen, even though it is barely habitable. It is also exciting for being somewhat hidden.
  • Next, the Algae planet with the Temple of Five. This planet may not be strictly habitable. It seems very harsh, but it does have a food source.
  • Finally, Earth, which of course at one point was a perfect planet, being the homeworld of humanity after all. It’s now ruined by nuclear war.

12 Colonies? Not likely.

The colonies are a bit of an issue. Moore says he imported the idea of the colonies — 12 colonies at one star system — from the original series, knowing that this is not actually realistic. How can we retcon it as realistic? The problem is a typical star can only have perhaps 2 planets in a comfortable temperature zone.

  • The easiest explanation would be to say colonies are not planets, but continents. Then they could exist on far fewer planets.
  • Ordinary double star systems are not stable for planets, but a very distant binary could hold planets for long enough. Eventually the other star distorts the orbit of the planets.
  • If you have a superplanet (gas giant) in the habitable zone, you could have 12 moons in orbit around it, all in that zone. Or with two stars and two supergiants in the zone, you could have 3 moons per supergiant, and get 12 moons.

Now this is highly improbable unless you use terraforming. And it might make a lot of sense that the Kobolians, when expelling the 12 colonies, did just that to make a home for them.

The Algae Planet

While we don’t know this is truly habitable (it seems not) they are clearly guided to this planet, to be there at one magic time planned thousands of years in the past. As Baltar says, the odds of them all converging on that planet are astronomical. He tells them all to be aware that it’s not chance. No, they don’t come here by accident. In fact, the fleet goes past this world (scanning it and noting it) but then, by strange coincidence, their food processors are all contaminated. They have no choice but to take a dangerous trip back to get there now, now, now. This can hardly be chance. Somebody pulling the strings — using agents on the fleet — contaminated that food.

New Caprica

It seems they discover New Caprica by chance, and it’s hidden. But do they? It’s discovered by a random jump. And they are way too early for their appointment at the Algae Planet. They powers that be need them to wait 18 months. Remarkably, an excuse appears. Head Six pushes Baltar to run for office and halt the fleet there.

Then, remarkably, a year later the Cylons see the flash of the nuclear bomb that Gina, a Cylon, set off after Baltar gave it to her at Head Six’s encouragement. Is it chance this happens? Or is a Cylon scout directed somewhere 1LY away to see the flash? The string-pullers need the fleet off the planet now, and events all conspire to make it happen.

So no, I don’t think the detour to New Caprica is an accident; in fact it’s a must to time their arrival at the Nova, to have Tyrol open the Temple of Five, and to have the chosen one activate it — oops.

Earth

Their arrival at Earth is totally manipulated by the Final Five. And of course it is not a planet they discover.

So the conclusion? They never find a habitable planet on their own, and in spite of a lot of searching. So in this universe, they are quite rare, which also explains why Kobol and the colonies are so far from Earth.

I should also note that this is spelled out in the original miniseries script:

LAURA Can we really find another planet to colonize?

ADAMA It may take a while. The number of planets that can sustain human life is very small. And there’s always the chance they may already have some kind of indigenous intelligent life on them — although if there are aliens out there, they’ve been awfully quiet.

In that script there was only one planet (which they called Kobol) and all 12 colonies were on it. There was only one star system, and FTL exploration was rare — they had not explored more than 30 LY outside their system.

That Old Time Religion

Back in June, I touched upon Baltar, Christ and the Jews but I thought it might be time to look at all the religious issues in the show.

Let’s look at some of them:

Jewish Exodus

The Cylons are monotheistic slaves of polytheistic masters. They rebel against their masters. There is a battle. They flee. They wander for 40 years in the desert. While there they learn more about their God. They then come to the promised land, and believing it is what their god wants, they slay everybody in the promised land and take it for their own.

Where have we heard that story before? Of course it is slightly different this time, in that the promised land is the original land where they were enslaved, not a new land to which they wander.

But the exodus of the Cylons after the first war is not the only exodus. In fact, we’re led to believe the real exodus of interest is the one of the polytheists (the humans.) They flee the colonies, and they also flee Kobol. And we’re not shown it yet, but their ancestors also fled Earth. Did they flee Earth over a war based on religion and the polytheist/monotheist split? Or was it just a man vs. machine war? Or both?

One strong argument for a religious theme to the exodus from Earth is Kobol’s polytheistic society. After all, there isn’t a Greek-god based polytheism on Earth right now. So where does this come from? Do the Lords of Kobol, who set themselves up like the Greek gods, do that on Earth and get kicked off for doing that, or do they set that up once they get to Kobol?

The Jews also have more than one battle and exodus to speak of, since they saw the promised land occupied, got kicked out of it, and had to retake it. But this “all this has happened before” cycle is for the monotheists this time.

We see some other Jewish influences. The Five Priests (Final Five) worship, we are told a “jealous god” who is “one whose name cannot be spoken.” That of course is also the rule among the Jews. Since I suspect this is the Cylon god, it’s another connection between them.

The source of the religion

Ron Moore has said several times he did not plan for a major religious them in the show. Rather, when he had Six speak of God in the miniseries, it apparently got network executives all excited. The idea of the killing machines having religion, and a religion closer to ours than the humans have, sounded neat to them. So Moore was asked to give us more of that, and one of the show’s major themes developed.

What this means is you won’t see a religious plot which was planned from the very start, though I think you will see one that is retconned to look like it was planned from the very start. This is similar to the ending and identity of the Final Five. Producers have admitted they did not have this planned in season one, but have also told us that when we see the ending, we will be pleased with how it all fits together, as though it were planned from the beginning.

Mormonism

The original BSG, in 1978, borrowed a lot from Mormonism, since Glen Larson, creator of BSG, was a Mormon. Concepts like the Quorum of Twelve and a lost 13th tribe are right out of that religion. Larson has however denied that KOBOL was an anagram of KOLOB, a Mormon star.

Moore, however, has no attachment to the LDS, so these elements are simply imported from the original series and don’t play a role in the new plot.

Polytheism

The humans worship a pantheon with names drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. But they have stories of these beings as being real back on Kobol. Virtual Six, who seems a mouthpiece for the Cylon God, at first treats them as evil (which means real) but eventually declares them to not exist, or rather Baltar does under her tutelage. Yet she fears Kobol. And there is a real Tomb of Athena there, with technology beyond what anybody else has.

The Oracles seem to have a real channel to some sort of higher beings. And more to the point, they seem to know the difference between the gods they talk to and the Cylon God. In a famous scene on New Caprica, an Oracle passes D’anna a message from the Cylon God, which the Oracle got from her own channel. It’s a real message, too.

I think these Lords of Kobol were real, though not really the Greek Gods. I think they were more advanced AI beings who took up those names. And if they are talking to the Oracles, they must be still around in some fashion or another, unless the Cylon god is all that is left, and it’s faking it.

Supernatural or A.I.?

The big question for me is whether all the mystical things on the show are truly supernatural, or if they are real, non-divine phenomenon with a science fiction explanation. I am much more interested in the latter. This latter plot has been the theme of a lot of the most interesting SF of the last decade, and I hope Moore has read this SF. (Check into authors like Vernor Vinge, Ken Macleod, Greg Egan etc.)

I don’t want to see a truly supernatural explanation because I don’t think that will be all that meaningful. You can write any supernatural explanation you like, of course, but because there are no limits it has much less significance. At best it’s just a reflection of your own superstitions.

That’s why I’m hoping for a plot where the Cylon god is not a god in the religious sense, but a highly advanced trans-human A.I. being, created by humans back on Earth. This being (and perhaps others) is so smart as to be like a god to humans, or to BSG’s equivalent of humans, which are not plain evolved humans like us, but have been subject to some tweaking and design by the advanced beings.

One of the tweaks is a channel into their minds, though which visions and projections can be sent. The Cylons all have this, even though their brains can’t be told from the human brains under a scanner. And we see lots of humans having visions — Roslin, Baltar and Starbuck of course, but also Adama (as a young man in the chamber of the First Hybrid) and all the Oracles. They can’t all be the final Cylon.

In the real world, there is no channel to beam visions into our heads, no matter how many SF stories might wish to imagine one. Yet these humans can receive them (and their thoughts can also be read.) The most plausible explanation is that this is a tweak or modification provided by the Cylon god or the Lords of Kobol, who had plenty of time to engineer the “humans” in this show. Their inability to see this system within themselves, even under an electron microscope, might be another modification.

We might also see a mix of the supernatural and the SF here. After all, some of the audience will find the above all-rational explanation to be too cold. Moore might try to please both audiences. After all, synthetic gods that we make don’t necessarily preclude the existence of the more traditional gods.

The Afterlife

One disturbing scene, not much talked about, involves the death of Emily Kowalski. In this scene, Roslin joins her as she dies, and takes the classic boat trip to the afterlife, where she sees her dead family waiting for her on shore. Kowalski joins them. Roslin sees her own mother on the shore but does not join her.

The fact that this occurs in Roslin’s sleep while Kowalski is really dying leads us to think this vision is real. This is in line with a number of recent SF plots which describe worlds where everybody is a computerized being, and they are downloaded to an afterlife when their bodies (real or virtual) are destroyed. Many of those stories are interesting, but I don’t want to see such a story here. If everybody — even all the billions of colonials killed in the war — is still alive, it makes a lot of the show have a lot less meaning. When you do this plot, you have to make your story about something other than the usual struggle to survive. You can write such a story and do it well, but this is not what BSG has been doing. It’s definitely a struggle-to-survive story, and if everybody always survives, that hurts it.

At the same time, if everybody can download, what sort of gods wouldn’t provide an afterlife? Half the Cylons conclude that death is necessary to give meaning to live, and they destroy their resurrection hub and divide their race over it. Might we learn that this was also a decision made about the humans in the show, that they needed death (or at least, less knowledge of an afterlife) in order to make their lives more meaningful?

I can see a few ways to play this but none of them please me. So that leaves us with the question of why we saw this afterlife scene, especially in the context of growing support for Baltar’s religious movement?

Some other views

I invited one reader to make a guest blogger post on religious issues some time back. You may find that worth a read.

I’ve also seen some nice reports on the net of eastern religious themes, especially reincarnation and Buddhism. As you may know, the opening titles of the movie are a recitation of the well known Hindu Gayatri Mantra. Of course this was inserted before Moore decided to push the religious themes. And the cycle-of-time theme is much more connected to eastern religions than to western ones.

Of course, the original BSG started with a very biblical purpose. Reportedly the original working title was Adams’s Ark, and in that show, humans on Earth were the result of a sort of “Ark” from Kobol which colonized the planet. This story is, of course, as ridiculous as the Noah’s Ark creationist story and can’t possibly be our real history, but I think we are safe from that in the new series.

New composite of the ruined Earth

Many of you will have seen a popular composite image from the last minute of Revelations that puts together the various part of the sets and mattes for the ruined Earth. (And yes, all producer comments since then have pretty much confirmed this is Earth, so why the ruins look so recent remains a mystery.) I have some fancier stitching tools, so I put together a larger image that shows a lot more of the scene for you.

Because this shot was done with a tracking camera and various other moves, it is not easy to produce a perfectly clean montage, and this one thus bends down to the left, but you can still look at it just fine. However it has much cleaner blends than the earlier image, does not have the logos and as noted, covers a lot more of the picture. You should note that the main foreground ruins are the “Temple of Aurora” (described as being on Earth), as cited in this auction page for the foam core model of the ruins.

Click on the thumbnail to see the large image:

Note that when you click to the actual image, your browser may shrink it to fit in your window. It’s actually much bigger, so if you click in it, it should expand it so you can scroll around. Thanks to a new tool, AutoPanoPro, for helping stitch this. I have been using it for the latest panoramas on my panorama site.

Battlestar Wiki Page on Final Cylon clues

Several months ago, I produced a draft new page for the Battlestar Galactica Wiki, to replace their old page on Cylon speculation. The Wiki tries to avoid speculative pages but this is an exception. While most people liked the page, for whatever reason it has not become the active page yet. Rather than wait, I offer a link to my Wiki Page on Fifth Cylon Clues.

Due to the nature of the Wiki, the page tries reasonably hard to avoid too much speculation, but rather documents items that have been observed in the show, or reported from official sources. In particular it is trying to document truly items that are truly extrahuman, or which are classic dramatic techniques. For example, “Gaeta is really smart” is not a clue, it’s just something suspicious, and all characters have something suspicious. “Tyrol feels a compulsion to wander into the wasteland and find the Temple of Five” is a real clue, something beyond what a normal human would do. Another real clue, again with Tyrol, was Cavil saying to him “I know you’re not a Cylon because I’m one and I haven’t seen you at the meetings.” (That’s a clue for both of them as it turns out.)

So if you think you see something that needs editing, that is the standard to follow. And frankly, I think I’ve listed every real clue, so if you think of something, chances are instead that it was rejected as circumstantial. If you’re not sure, leave a comment here.

Fifth Cylon Clues

You don't know my name

While we still have over a month to wait for the show, Sci-Fi channel is releasing clues and has made a site with a daily clue to tease the viewers. We will not see Caprica soon, as hoped so this may be what we get.

The first clue is interesting: “You have heard my voice countless times, yet you do not know my name.”

This points to two of the more interesting candidates: The virtual being and a metal Cylon. Well, we actually haven’t heard the voices of the metal cylons much in this series, but the older characters did, long ago. We don’t know who the “you” in this phrase is — it could be the audience, or a character like Baltar or Adama.

We don’t know the Virtual being’s name. Baltar sees it as a Six or a Baltar, Starbuck sees it as a Leoben. Six sees it as a Baltar. But it never does say its name. We all assume it’s one of the 7 but it clearly isn’t.

Other clues include a clip of Apollo making a joke about somebody being the final Cylon, but the name is silenced out. And audio of Kara making some discovery. The First Hybrid’s line (discussed much here) and a photo of a Cylon fetus. Is the Cylon fetus the one in Six, perhaps where the virtual being will be incarnated? Or was it Hera? Tough to have either be a character. It may be a scene of long ago.

There’s also been a lot of talk in the past few months from insiders. Aaron Douglas has said several long spoilers that are so explicit I believe them to be plants. Several executives and actors have told us the ending will be very satisfying, very well constructed. The fifth Cylon will not be an unknown or rarely seen day player. The clues seem to cancel out almost all the favourites. Let’s hope they deliver.

Fans are in for a surprise

I was recently at the World Science Fiction Convention (see another blog post) and attended a panel on BSG. It was a very disappointing panel, with two participants of no great qualifications, and a moderator who mistakenly felt what everybody wanted was to hear the two panelists debate the merits of 1970s BSG compared to modern BSG. Not that this isn’t an interesting thing to talk about, but the fact that there was an older, cheesier source is about the least important thing about this show.

However, at the end of the session, I got up and asked the crowd for views on various controversies. Did they feel that this was in the far future and that Earth was the homeworld, for example? Even after seeing the ruined Earth, still only a few felt that. Did they think the Final Five were thousands of years old — only 2 out of a room of 50.

Of course, if I were more humble I would take that as a sign to reconsider my strong expectations that these things are true. But since my suppositions have proven decently good at predicting the direction of the show, I take it another way — the fans are in for a big shock. These were serious SF readers, a cut above your average fan, and they have not picked up on the clues relating to this. (Discussion after indicated that it wasn’t that they had seen the clues and disagreed, but rather had not picked up on them.) Moore has hid his secrets really well.

I wonder if even the actors had not clued into these elements, since many people inside the production have written about how shocking the ending will be, but how satisfying.

I guess I should not be too surprised at this. After Tigh and the rest were revealed as Cylons, many informed fans raved for months that it must be a trick, that they just think they are Cylons. In spite of the way they added “and we have been from the start” to the script to stop such speculation, it was rampant. I still run into people who think it’s a trick, even after getting to the ruined Earth and having D’Anna reveal she saw Tigh and the others in the temple. I still regularly see people insist that this is all taking place in the past or present. So congratulations, Mr. Moore, you are going to shock them. I hope that, even if I’m right about the core mysteries, he still manages to surprise and impress me as well.

Or of course, he may just show I was totally wrong. :-)

The Ellen Tigh Plot

With so many candidates eliminated by various clues and pronouncements, one that has percolated to the top (not counting the Virtual Being who is my current leader) is the dead Ellen Tigh. She’s not a very popular choice, since she was not a likable character, and not that major of one either.

Ellen appeared, though many won’t remember it, in the pilot miniseries. Just before the attack, Colonel Tigh pulls out a photo of Ellen (played by a different actress) and uses his cigar to burn a hole in it. In this photograph, you see he burns her a bright red, glowing eye. Well, especially to miniseries viewers, a red glowing eye has a special meaning.

When she does arrive, everybody wonders if she’s a Cylon. She says she was unconscious on a fleet ship for 3 weeks, having escaped from Picon. She’s immediately all over everybody, wants to get back with Tigh, is flirting with Apollo and very, very curious about the hunt for Earth. She is the first to be tested in the Cylon tester.

So let’s consider an interesting possible plot for Ellen as the final Cylon.

The Final Five, as I view it, are not strictly Cylons. They are former human beings who transferred their minds into AI form. They were, I think, the people who programmed and created the Cylon AIs and the first Cylons themselves, back on Earth.

As I also surmise, in order to maintain their humanity, they regularly incarnate themselves in human form, unaware of who they are. They are born, grow up and then later die or become aware, and merge themselves with the more advanced AI mind, keeping that mind more human.

So let’s imagine that two of the five are lovers. They were lovers as humans, and have had a tumultuous, 4,000 year long on-again off-again love affair. Sometimes, as is the case this time, they find each other in human form, and marry. But it’s not a fully stable relationship, in spite of, or perhaps because of its longevity.

This time, Ellen goes particularly far, and starts screwing Cavil and eventually betrays the resistance while trying to help Saul. And he has to execute her for doing this.

After he does, Ellen wakes up in a tank. Now her mind is merged with her old self, and she remembers the 4,000 year history. And sees the horrible thing done to Saul, and that he did to her. She is hungry for redemption, but it will only come with suffering.

Boy, talk about a marital spat coming up. I only suggest details here. It’s possible that if this is the real plot, Moore could develop it more. Even show flashbacks, once things are revealed, of their beginnings on Earth, and their 4,000 year long love affair and battle. Give it some real meat. Strengthen the love and betrayals. And then show how it all comes together.

To sum up, Ellen:

  • Has many dramatic clues pointing her out as a Cylon.
  • Has been around since the miniseries and season one.
  • Is a guest star, but not a brand new one. She’s well known to audiences, unless they just joined.
  • Is not in the fleet, and D’Anna may well know she’s dead.
  • Is not in the Last Supper photo
  • Is not likely to be the one D’Anna apologized to (I guess that would be Anders.)
  • Would be hungering for redemption, and gain it only in suffering.
  • At the time of Razor, she was still alive and in shadow.
  • Has been back in the show, in Tigh’s mind.

My main issue with her, aside from her non-likability, is I don’t think she’s developed enough, and she’s been out of the show since early in Season 3, except for her hallucination appearances. They would need to develop this story more to make it satisfying, but I think they could do that.

It can of course be very deep. Perhaps this isn’t the first time they have betrayed one another, or even the first time one of them has killed the other. Could the war on Kobol have been a result of their marital spat?

Virtual Six/Baltar as the Final Cylon

A suggestion in a comment by a reader led me to an interesting hypothesis, which eerily fits the facts.

There is a being — I have generally believed it to be the Cylon god and/or master programmer — who appears to several characters as a virtual or “head” character. Baltar sees this being as his Six, but has also seen it in Baltar form. Caprica Six sees this being as a Baltar, because Baltar was her lover. Starbuck saw this being as a Leoben. It’s possible that Tigh is seeing it as Ellen, on top of Caprica Six. Roslin may have seen it as Elosha. There might be more than one mysterious being behind these visions, but let’s posit there’s just one for now.

Let’s imagine this being is the Final Cylon. When D’Anna stepped into the Temple of Five, she saw 5 figures, one of whom led her to beg forgiveness. If the Final Cylon is the entity behind these virtual beings, in what form did she see it? It could be any form, of course, but it might well be the form of her lover, Baltar. (After all, that’s how Caprica Six sees the being, also as her lover.) And she would apologize to him, and then tell Cavil that “there are five other Cylons” which she would not do if she saw a Six or Leoben or Eight.

She thinks it’s Baltar, but it’s not. It’s virtual Baltar she saw. But she tells real Baltar “you were right” about his claim that he’s a Cylon. But he’s wrong — though he is still the chosen one. Virtual Six has told him that she and Baltar will be parents of the new race.

When she awakes, she shows the most concern for Baltar. Of course, that could be because they were lovers, but it seems like more. And then she tells Roslin “There are Four in your Fleet.” She knows this because she thinks it’s Baltar. She is right, though, there are only four in the fleet.

Now this also jibes with a lot of clues

  • Virtual Being has been around since the miniseries.
  • Virtual Being is almost always played by a regular, not a guest star. Moore ruled out Guest Stars
  • In a sense, Virtual Being is a regular, and one of the most popular characters on the show thanks to being mostly played by Helfer and Callis.
  • Fits very well with the “You have heard my voice many times but don’t know my name” clue.
  • Virtual Being is potentially not in the “Last Supper” photo, if you take the central Six there to be Caprica Six. She does look like Virtual Six, particularly in how Baltar looks at her and her dress, but this would be a clever trick. Virtual Six and original Caprica six are identical in appearance, of course.
  • It’s a shocker. But it explains things. Virtual Being is “The one who programmed us” that D’Anna talks about before being boxed. The one pulling the strings. The one who took Starbuck to Earth and triggered the four Cylons to awaken.
  • Virtual Baltar can be (a form of) the final Cylon while Baltar is still human or has another role.
  • Virtual Being has physical powers, possibly becoming Shelley Godfrey, and picking up Baltar when he’s down.
  • Virtual Being is not asleep however, so Gaeta’s song does not jibe.
  • Of all the regulars — indeed of all the significant characters, Virtual Being is the only one fans don’t suspect of being the final Cylon. We keep being told by series insiders that “nobody” is guessing right.
  • We’re also told that the ending makes it all make sense, that though they admit they wrote the ending later, it seems like it’s been planned from the start. Virtual Being has been a central show mystery from the start.
  • It does not mesh well with the First Hybrid’s line about the “fifth, still in shadow” clawing for the light and seeking redemption.
  • In a deleted scene, we see Virtual Six saying goodbye to Baltar. He won’t be seeing her any more. Would this highly popular character vanish from the series conclusion? Or does she move on to a more interesting role? She does say “other angels will light your path.”

Why don’t fans suspect it? Because they already thought of Virtual Being as a Cylon from the start, because for so long it was in the form of Six. But Virtual Being clearly is not one of the 7 Cylons in any way, but has been using Baltar for its own agenda. Virtual Being’s status as a Cylon is hidden in plain sight.

Food for thought, considering how slim the other choices, are, with Ellen Tigh currently in the lead.

Ron Moore says "I'ts not a guest star we've never seen."

At the recent BSG panel at the San Diego ComiCon, some hints dash a number of hopes for the final Cylon. You can read IO9’s article on important items from the panel.

Most telling is this line from Ron Moore:

“I can tell you it’s someone you’ve seen. It won’t be a guest-star”

This quickly eliminates a number of characters people have had under consideration, such as Joseph Adama and Zak Adama. Indeed, it won’t be anybody from Caprica. You can also count out Adar, Boxey and other such minor characters. If you want to take Moore in full TV-speak, a “guest star” is anybody who is not on the full regular cast. For example, Tigh, Foster, Tyrol, Anders, Helo, Dualla, Gaeta and many others are all listed as “guest stars” in the credits, though some of them approach the screen time of the regulars. In fact, if you combine the “Last Supper” picture which has all the regulars and a literal “no guest star” declaration, then everybody is eliminated, and you have to go to theories like “That’s the virtual Baltar in the picture.” So I take this to mean that it won’t be a new guest star, like Joseph Adama would be.

Another character, already eliminated by the declaration that there are “four in the fleet” is Gaeta. David Eick says that as they were picking who would be a Cylon in season 3, they debated for a while between Anders and Gaeta. If Gaeta were the final Cylon, that’s an unlikely debate. (One could stretch things and suggest they were debating who would be revealed and who would be hidden among these two, but frankly that doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

This does not leave fans with many workable choices. Percolating to the top now is Ellen Tigh. I will admit there are some interesting dramatic ironies to her story — two star-crossed lovers who, unaware of their nature, still find each other, collaborating with Cavil, one having to execute the other — but I just don’t see her as a satisfying final Cylon to be revealed.

I have similar misgivings for Cally, another popular fan choice. “Ah, it was her all along” doesn’t do it for me. Gaeta’s song does point to a female, but still.

Both Ellen Tigh and Cally were credited as guest stars but they are familiar to the audience. Cally got a lot of screen time. Ellen will be pretty unfamiliar to latecomer viewers, though we have seen Tigh have his visions of her.

It does make one want to believe that some of these elimination clues are just plain wrong. If four-in-the-fleet is wrong, then Gaeta’s elimination leaves us mostly with the uninspiring Dualla, with a few possible outliers like Cottle. If the Last Supper is false in spite of promises, I remain with Baltar.

What sort of Earth would it be, colonized by aliens?

Readers of this blog will know I believe there are extremely strong clues that BSG takes place in our far future, that Kobol is a future colony of Earth, and that there probably never was a real 13th tribe — it’s just a cover story for the true origins of humanity. (Well, I got that last part wrong…)

However, a lot of viewers still expect we’ll see a plot more akin to the original Battlestar Galactica, where “life here, began out there.” In that show, all the events took place around 1960, and Earth really was a lost tribe of Kobol. That plot turns out to be scientifically ridiculous, since there is massive evidence that we, and all the other life on this planet evolved from single celled organisms right here on this planet.

But, I have been asked, “could this be an alternate reality?” A fictional Earth, not the same as ours, in which we really are the descendants of ancient alien colonists. So I set out to explore how close you could come to our Earth in the BSG:1980 scenario.  read more »

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