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The geometry of the Colony

Note: Most of this article was written before Daybreak, and new information outdates it. See updates

Cavil's Cylon base, which Boomer flies to, is the "Colony" which was the place the final five's gear was stored. It was moved by Cavil several months ago from the location Ellen had for it.

Comments in a prior thread got a bit too heated, and have been moved to this new thread, but it is worth exploring various interpretations of what we see as Boomer comes to the Colony.

I have uploaded an HD clip (x264) of the very brief scene of the colony and its surroundings. You can download it here.

The shot, all computer antimated of course, has the virtual camera move, and first turning and then later zooming into the portal as Boomer jumps in and flies through the tunnel. The image consists of 4 rough regions:

  1. The organic, hollow rocky structure into which Boomer flies, that is in the foreground. (The Portal)
  2. The fuzzy purple zones in the lower part of the picture.
  3. A large, thin, irregular horizontal rocky structure, which goes from edge to edge, lower on the right, behind the Portal. 5 giant Cylon spires are mounted on top of it, or possibly between it and the Portal. Two other sets of giant spires appear above this mass on the left and right.
  4. The purple "sky" zone at the top, which is diffuse but contains blurred-out points, possibly stars.

A Cylon base ship is flying on the right side of the Portal. This ship could easily fit into the tunnel showing just how immense all of this is, and the spires are truly immense.

A few interpretations of this image have arise. Watching the video, particularly in show motion, shows that there is considerable depth to the image. The Portal is sharp and in focus, the rest is more blurred. Due to depth and perspective, the Portal is clearly well in front of both the spires and the horizontal structure. Both are well in front of the upper purple background (sky.) Curiously, the lower purple background moves differently from the upper, suggesting it is between the Portal and the horizontal structure.

Whatever the interpretation, however, the main thing to consider is that this base is huge. Much too large to destroy by crashing a Battlestar into it, or even firing a few nukes. There is thus some question about whether this whole thing is the Colony (in which case it was rather immense) or whether the Colony is just a part of it that has recently been moved in, and so this is the Cylon home.

Interpretation One: Giant space base

In this interpretation, we are in space, and the background is glowing purple nebulousity. The horizontal structure is of unclear purpose. The light area on the bottom of the structure is in fact its flat bottom.

Arguments in favour:

  • If one of these large structures is the Colony ship, it would not make sense to land it on a planet. These things are all huge.
  • After Boomer enters the portal, the view back shows objects floating in the purple background, which may be rocks or ships. While no floating rocks are visible in the scene from outside, if they are floating this is not on a planet.
  • The lower purple section is similar to the upper one. If it is a reflection, there is no reflection of the hills and shore.

Interpretation One-A: Spar-based space base

One commenter suggests that what we are seing is a 5 sided "starfish" of rock with Cylon spire complexes on each leg of the star. The Portal is the entrance to one of the legs. The commenter has a diagram here.

It is also possible to consider that there are only 4 spars, or 3, to this structure.

  • On the right and left spars, the spires are not in the center. If it is symmetrical, then the Portal's spires are also somewhere between the Portal and the center.
  • Once inside, there seem to be tunnels from elsewhere, but no other opening is shown in the Portal. However, the tunnel she enters is rather short, far too short to reach the center of such a vast structure, and the other tunnels seem to be parallel to it, not radiating in all directions.

Interpretation Two: This sits on a planet (Upate: Invalidated by Daybreak)

In this interpretation, the horizontal structure is hills. The light area underneath it is the shore of a still or frozen sea. The lower purple area is the reflection of the sky above. The purple sky is a local nebula, or perhaps an aurora. (In reality, no nebula would be this bright, but BSG normally shows them this way.)

Here is a frame capture diagramming this interpretation. Note the image is 1920x1080. Expand your browser window (the picture grows with it) or click on it to see it fully. It has been enhanced and sharpened.

  • The lower purple region moves in perspective as though it is between the Portal and the hills. If it were space below the horizontal structure, it would spin in perfect sync with it.
  • The lower purple region is much more diffuse, and looks quite different from the upper one.
  • The horizontal structure looks natural and eroded, not artificial or space-formed. It appears to even have trees. It looks nothing like the Portal structure which is Cylon organic-artifice, and is that way all the way through.
  • If the horizontal structure is in space, and we're seeing it's flat underside, we are underneath it, which does not make sense in the starfish layout, unless it curves in unusual ways.


For full understanding, watch the video in a player that will late you do slow-motion or frame advance. The rocks point to a space interpretation. The way the lower purple section (particularly on the right) moves differently from the upper sky section strongly points to a planetary interpretation. (This can also be confirmed by taking two frames from before and after the virtual camera move, rotating and adjusting them so the Portal structure matches, and then subtracting. When you do this, the lower purple region turns mostly black, while the sky region shows lots of movement.) As such no interpretation is certain, but I am leaning towards the planetary one.

This is too large a structure for the fleet to take on militarily. They may never do so. One interesting, and highly ironic way for them to defeat it, would be for Caprica Six to generate a computer virus which infects Cavil's systems, and puts them under her control or disables them. An interesting variant would be for that virus to disable the inhibitors on the Centurions, so they would be freed to defeat Cavil, and even kill all the Cavils. You could add to the irony if Baltar assisted her, and this would also provide some redemption for Baltar. Then the Simons and Dorals could join the other Cylons as predicted in the prophecy.

Folks, I must repeat the rules for this blog, as the other thread got surprisingly bitter on the part of some posters. Write about the topic at hand, not about the people you are discussing with. Posts that contain insults rather than (or even in addition to) useful contributions will be deleted. Do not respond to those posts, because when they are deleted, the entire comment tree beneath them is also deleted. Keep it civil. Do not write about the competence, skills, intelligence or ancestry of other members. Instead, keep to the topic at hand, which is the show. If you expect people to respond to you please enter a name other than "Anonymous." Consider creating a userid on the blog, which will assure nobody else can post with your name. (Non-user names are marked "not verified.")

Another question: Who are the "playmates" that Cavil wants Hera to meet? Even without resurrection, is it possible he has duplication equipment, so he can generate a whole bunch of Hera models and copy her mind into them? That seems like it would be very similar to the resurrection equipment but who knows? Or are the playmates just Simons and Dorals and the like?

Update: Daybreak reveals that it in space, near a black hole, so the on-planet interpretation I was favouring was incorrect. One jump away with the new drives. The configuration, which is shown here, is somewhat like the proposed starfish but quite a bit different. In fact, it's hard to actually reconcile the two pictures easily, I would be interested in arrangements which can. Now the colony is completely surrounded by floating debris, where before it showed only a bit of debris looking back. And the background is bright green, not purple. It has 9-10 legs, not 3 to 5, What appears to be the underside in the new picture doesn't look much like the apparent underside of the old. The Cylon spires are in the center, but we don't see the ones at the edges.

For scale, check out the tiny base ships visible between the two legs on the right! And another one in the lower section. Sharper than the background spires, so not in the distant background.


BSG has struck me as the biggest troll going. Ron got out just as the flames were beginning to lick his ass. I'm pretty sure he knows it which is why he's being a bit cute about a few things.

Yet at the same time it looks so different, and so much brighter. The bottom doesn't look like a continuation of the top in any way except the continuation of this line, and the colour.

No the top and bottom match. Another retcon is in order.

Here is the view out of the Colony:

This is a small part of the overall image here:

The "arch" is a feature of the entrance, which you can also see from the outside, so it's in the foreground. Below the "arch" is a "ridge-line," which to me seems similar to the "ridge-line" you can see on the "horizon" in the other image. And either below or in front of the "ridge-line" is either a "lake" or a hole. Behind all this is either a sun or a bright patch of nebulosity or clouds. It reminds me of a sunrise over a lake:

However, that's not necessarily what it is. I am open to all ideas.

The blobs above the Colony are visible here, and they seem to be elongated "vertically" towards the Colony. A few frames later, one blob that was hidden behind the "arch" is seen "falling down," crossing the ridge-line. Perhaps Brad or somebody could do some image differences to try to figure out if the blob is in front or behind the "ridge-line." I'm not sure, but it looks like in the last few frames, the blob suddenly starts to become indistinct and horizontally stretched. It could be an illusion of the shaky-cam.

Although what we're seeing is certainly debatable, if there's a second "ridge-line" in the other direction, then I think this would kill the starfish idea. I have nothing against starfish, mind you. It would also kill the "wing" idea.

It's been an enjoyable discussion. I'm sure people learned a few things about production and perspective issues. This is important to remind production to check things from the viewers perspective and for viewers not to jump too firmly to conclusions.

Or it could mean to get a better TV set because it is clearly in space and the background is clearly moving on both sides. Can't wait to see the sucker in space. Gonna be another laugh at the obstinate moment.

Yes, I've examined those streaks in the purple areas at left. What convinces me is the purple areas at right. On the righthand side, the lower purple area is "locked" to the land (judging by the features within the purple area), whereas the nebula above moves separately, as pointed out by Brad. Unfortunately, it's a small effect. I measure 5 pixels difference. That is, the purple above moves 5 pixels while the purple below does not, relative to the "mountain," adjusting for rotation. Ergo, the purple at bottom right appears to be in some way "attached" to the Colony, while the purple above is, of course, not.


Shaggy's picture

The nature of the old school cylons will be the big clue, boomer(or Athena[who cares?!]) said they were discontinued. Maybe the other skin jobs had no idea it was there, just Caivl?
I do hope there will be more of the old bullet heads, they are just cool....

On anticipated fan reaction to the finale:

"I don’t know. I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion. They have a lot of different expectations for what they think it’s going to be, and a lot of opinions about how it should be. All of us who worked on the finale feel good about it, that this is the ending of the story we wanted to make."

On what he would have done differently:

"Probably we rushed into the Lee and Duala romance too quickly and didn’t lay the groundwork for that. “Black Market” was an episode I wish I had a second crack at. We probably played around with Lee’s character and his direction a little bit before settling into a good track with him. On the other hand, I don’t know that’s entirely a bad thing, because it added to his quest and trying to figure out his own place on the show."

Now comes the fanboy accusations that he is a liar...

This is a pretty standard industry response. I've seen other people make it and been in that position myself. It's one of those something and nothing comments that hides as much as it reveals - a polite way of telling people to fuck off. The show delivered on some things and some people were happy about that, but the show has flaws and some people were misled. It's just a way of wrapping it up and moving on. I doubt anyone will ever get a straight answer or apology.

What should Ron Moore apologize for? Or are you the same "anonymous" that says he is telling lies, but won't offer any proof?

The issue of mission statement, quality of sci-fi, and marketing and producer comment has been discussed in here quite throughly. Rather than get sucked in by that question I'd rather just say the world is a bit fuzzy and people would benefit from having a mature grasp of that. I've taken a position and other people have theirs. Anything more than that is posturing.

You are taking a position, but won't respond when questioned about it. You make nonsensical posts and then when asked about those you claim to not remember anything about them. It seems like you are just trying to piss people off here and then hiding behind the fact that you are doing it politely to not get booted out of here. Pretty lame.

As I've said before, multiple people post under the anonymous account. It's why it's called the anonymous account. Again, as I've said before, I've taken a position and I've explained what that position is from an industry and audience perspective. It's up to people to understand what's being said.

People can have goals and sentiments, but delivering finished goods is a process. During that process you can make mistakes and people can get the wrong end of the stick. The end result is often a compromise. It's just the nature of the beast. The fanbois on one extreme and the whiners on the other are just taking one narrow view. Is it possible to say BSG delivered something? Yes. Is it possible to say they fucked up? Yes. They're all valid positions if for no toher reason than one size doesn't fit all. It's the same with cameras and watches. What represents good value for one person and another is different because they're different people lookingfor different things.

I'm sure Brad understands this sort of thing which is why his latest topic focused on how he would want to see the ending rather than getting sucked into picking apart, and why he just lets comment that may be argumentative or have an attitude just dangle in the air.

This reminds me of the trek fans who say that J.J. Abrams lied. That he said he would try to put Shatner in the new movie, but because he isn't in it, 'HE LIED!'

Producers, writers and the like have nothing to apologize for. They've provided you with countless hours of free entertainment. Just because you're disappointed with recent episodes and feel misled (I won't doubt how you feel, it's perfectly valid), they don't need to apologize. In the end, creators tell the story they want to tell. When they speak in interviews, they're likely being honest, but remember that their ideas, opinions and feeling change, and while it may seem that they are lying, it really just means that they've changed their minds.

I'll give you this, though: you're not crazy. Man, sometimes I think those Abrams haters would burn down his house if they knew where the man lived.

People can have ideas and get enthusiastic about things, and when they discover (or admit to themselves) they can't deliver they have to deal with that. The worlds lie and apologise are strong (and have more impact on the screen or when people are clinging a bit tightly) but like delivery there's a sliding scale of meaning. While words can be more carefully chosen it's also important that people carefully listen as well. Some people are naturally good at this but eveyone else has to practice. Ultimately, this is a matter of personal maturity. That's not my call. I can only work on myself.

This doesn't just apply to entertainment but, also, politics and ordinary life. People often talk about the technicalities and get into a stink with each other because it's easier. Working out how to do something well is much harder. People can improve and cooperate, and we've seen a lot of that around here, ot argue and annoy each other, and we've seen some of that as well. I suspect this is why Brad has sidestepped the whole issue and taken an advocacy line and started a new topic. It helps refocus attention to something better.

'People often talk about the technicalities and get into a stink with each other because it's easier.'

Man, I can't tell you HOW MUCH I agree with this! People are so quick to make a stink over something said without even being WILLING to take into account the intent of the statement, choosing instead to focus on semantics. It happened to me today at work, as a matter of fact. Got all into some trouble with some folks because I used the word 'likely' instead of 'possibly' No kidding.

In space. But some of us are just experiencing an optical illusion...

See updates above. See explanation in comments further above for what I meant by illusion, I apologize if it wasn't clear to you on first read.

With regards to the differences between the backgrounds in the two episodes, it's easily explained by saying they were still in the process of moving it to the singularity. We'll get a better look next week, for sure.

My bigger complaint is that while this episode was good, we STILL know no more than we did last week. Or the week prior. We're in for a big finale next friday.

Although I came up with evidence against it being a 5-pointed starfish in the way proposed, and I think that was legitimate, the starfish idea turned out to be very close to the truth. The general shape is something like a Sunflower starfish:

What I said before the episode was "the Colony appears to be at least the size (not necessarily shape) of a small moon". Correct. Judging by the size of the baseships in the image, just the visible section of the arm is 160 kilometers in length, and obviously the whole thing is much bigger. This thing should have its own gravity if it's not all hollow.

I also thought the lower purple areas were moving with the Colony, not holes showing something far off in space. This also appears to be correct. Brad, maybe you could stick some arrows pointing to the purple dots that are clearly ON the Colony. And since the baseships are 5 km in diameter and located less than a "klick" away from the Colony, these purple dots may be hundreds of meters in diameter. There is no nebula, and we have seen no purple in the accretion disk. The rude guy here, who had some of his ruder posts deleted, appears to have been 100% wrong.

I am having trouble reconciling the two pictures, with a purple background much larger than the giant spires being present on the object, and looking like that. Also, on Boomer's last jump in they showed a purple nebula. So I am leaning to the movement story. Though they still don't look like the same object quite yet. Though I can't believe the graphics team would have made two models, so there must be some angle by which they look the same. We'll get lots of footage next week, of course, and no longer care by that point since we will have so much else to focus on.

... And you were absolutely certain that the colony was a mountain on some ocean, not a ship.

Of what I wrote, since what I wrote was that it could be viewed either way, and I leaned to the planetary interpretation. "Absolutely certain" would have meant I said there was no way it could be in space, that I assigned a high probability to it being on a planet etc. Of course I did not do that. There's very little you can be absolutely certain of in a TV show, not even reality, because writers can write illogical and impossible things if they want to, or don't know better not to.

You didn't say there was no chance it was in space. That being said, the way you argued it was perceived that in your mind the chances of it being in space were less than 1%. You relented after 2-3 days of argument with...everybody.

What I was arguing with were people who said they were 100% certain, that they couldn't even see how it could be interpreted as on a a planet. It was one of those pictures where you can look at it one of two ways, and I was trying to show people how to look at it both ways. I think if you look back you will find I said that the first time I looked at it I thought it was in space, and then later I saw how to see it as on a planet and that looked better. Trust me, if I think the odds of it being in space are 1%, you would see a very different style of persuasion, and a lot more facts to back it up. I was more on a 60-40 line, the only thing that kept me debating were the people who thought it was 0-100. They were correct, but not because they knew something to make them 100% sure. There remained evidence in both directions. I tire of arguing about this, though. My main point is I want people to understand when I feel strongly on something and when I am on the fence. In this case I was on the fence the entire time, but was in fact swayed a little bit back to the space side by the floating rocks issue. Moore's also taught us not to be certain of anything at this point.

I was 100% certain and oh look at that, I was right. I wonder what gave it away, oh yeah, all the arguments I made at the time that you immediately dismissed as an "optical illusion" and told me to "pay attention". We were certain because we were right.

I read your comment as suggesting you were 100% sold on the Colony being planet based. My initial impression from previous episodes narrative was that it was planet based and, I agree, once you see the landscape perspective it's very hard to shake off. Later, you rpesented a more rounded topic that opened up the whole discussion but other people's perspective was still wedded to your planet based claims.

1. People see what the want to see.
2. Perception lags reality.
3. Argument and discussion are not the same thing.

You made how many posts defending your take on what the colony was? Sure seemed as if you were absolutely certain you were right, the way you described the spires and what not, telling everyone to go back and look and how everyone was missing this and that... At the end of it all, all the evidence you saw was misinterpreted by you, yet everyone else who saw the shot saw a ship and they were all right... And not a single thing they said convinced you otherwise, even though they were 100% right. That is pretty damn absolute, if not stubborn!

How often do you see anyone on the show requiring an interpreter to read something for them?

And the same exact writing, and circular symbol, is shown on a building just a little further into the city flyover.

So I have little interest in debating it with people who think I thought differently. I apologize if the way I wrote it to you was unclear and made you think I was certain it was in space. What I was certain of (and still am certain of) is that it is possible to look at that first picture and perceive it in two different ways, and that there was evidence to support both. Because a number of posters wrote that they could only see the picture one way, I wrote a number of comments that expressed certainty -- but not about the geometry, but about the fact that that picture could be viewed either way. I will attempt to be clearer in future and I hope that readers will better understand what I am arguing about.

Now I am not just learning that readers were not getting what I was saying. I sensed it then, and that's why I wrote a new blog post discussing the ambiguities in the image (the post this comment is attached to) and moved the comments to the new post, as well as moving future comments to it as well. I daresay I think that a whole new clarifying thread should have settled the matter about what I was thinking, and of how my thinking was being revised (as it often is) as the result of discussion and new information. So I can't say there's a lot more to say about this. I hope this isn't just a matter of spite. My preferred interpretation was wrong. Other people were right. I do hope that gives satisfaction to those who crave such statements. I get things wrong all the time, and get them right plenty too. Sometimes I get them both wrong and right.

I still remain curious as to how the early picture and the late picture will come together. The structures seem quite different, and the colour is of course different, but I doubt the programmers would not just make one computer model so I presume we'll see more in the final hours.

I think the biggest let down of Daybreak episodes are The Cylon Colony and very few forces of the 1s + 4s + 5s alliance.

First one is The Colony without any doubt.

Look at the first picture from the episode Islanded Of A Stream of Stars, The Purple One.

They showed the Colony as a planet, with many giant ships (<-based on the spires) like space stations on the surface.

Which basically means ;

A planet with full of cylons, the homeworld of an entire civilization, millions of copies of 7 models, Centurions, So many thousands of Raiders...

BUT in the finale they showed The Colony as a huge space base !!! What the frak man !!!

Frankly this couldn't be more ridicilous... SUCH a mistake...


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