One of the themes in the show I am surprised has not seen much development is that of slavery. The Cylons are thinking, feeling beings of mental capacity that matches or exceeds the colonials. But not long ago they were slaves who fought for their freedom. Most of the characters postdate that era, but some, like Adama, could well have, in their family, owned Cylon slaves. It would have made an interesting scene for a Cylon to tell a colonial that he remembers being that person’s household slave or nanny.
Turns out that won’t be Adama, though. The planned prequel, known as Caprica, in theory will show a political battle between the Adama family (with Joseph, the father, a Civil Rights Lawyer) battling the Graystone family, which owns the corporation which developed the Cylons. However, there could be older slave-owning characters within the fleet. This will thus be touched upon if Carprica is ever made. (Notes about their opposition come from a New York Post story no longer available on the web.)
We’re also told that the Cylon genocide is “prompted” which implies that the misuse of the slaves was quite serious. Indeed, it is hard to figure out how we 21st century humans will create our first AI children without engaging in acts which could be judged “atrocities,” experimenting with them, erasing and restarting until we get it right. After all, the evolution of human intelligence was a nasty process, full of atrocity, if you imagine it had an intelligence guiding it. (Of course most religions prefer to imagine we were created already intelligent and ignore all the fossils of our lower-intelligence ancestors.)
Robot slavery is often ignored in SF. I was quite interested in Star Wars to see Luke try to enter a bar with R2D2 and C-3PO and have the bartender toss them out: “We don’t serve their kind here.” But after this start, Lucas ignored all the slavery issue, and told a story with happy slavers and happy slaves, even though they were intelligent, emotional beings. They were very much treated as property, and when 3PO’s mind is ordered wiped by the good guys, the audience mostly nods thinking, “that explains that plot hole” rather than “How can our heroes order a murder so casually?”
It’s possible that the Adama family standing up for the civil rights of the Cylons will explain how Adama was chosen by the Final Five to escape the attack — and chosen he was. It may explain why their agenda included sending sleeper agent Tigh to be his lifelong friend, and Tyrol to be his viper engineer. I hope so — this is a real issue, worth exploring in SF. Most viewers perceive the Cylons as close to 100% bad guys — after all the genocide is certainly an atrocity, even if committed by slaves against their former owners. Clouding that a bit more is worth doing in a show like this.