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Is it Earth or isn't it?

I've seen a lot of debate about whether the ruined planet at the end of Revelations is Earth or not, and what sort of Earth it is supposed to be. There is further debate as to whether the beach is supposed to be in Brooklyn.

Of course Roslin states it is Earth, and it's very much painted in the show that way. What has people doubting is the absence of any fully concrete visual clue, such as even the briefest shot of a recognizable land feature, or the Moon. We saw a glimpse of our Earth at the end of the third season. We saw the moon (eclipsed) in photos Starbuck took on her magical trip. So why, when it would have been so easy, do we not get this one final confirmation?

Gaeta declares the constellations match. I presume they took photos of the Tomb of Athena and further it is said they verified those with the photos taken by Starbuck in her magic viper. If this is so, they are definitely at the star system indicated. Any other star system would not have the same constellations as Earth. Go even to our neighbour Alpha Centauri, and Gemini looks quite different, as do several other constellations. Check out "Celestia" which lets you see the sky from any star -- it's free.

So if the constellations in the Tomb were those of Earth, and they sure seem to be, they have to be here. Truth be known, given the Earth star map, even our computers and telescopes could easily spot where the Earth was with a few jumps and scans from over 500 light years away. So the fact that they needed the beacon was actually a writing error.

It being our system, they could be on a terraformed Mars or Moon, though the gravity would be much lower. I even wonder if the "Yellow moon" we heard about is a terraformed moon. But this seems unlikely.

Furthermore, while the moon is not noted, the fact that Starbuck made a big point of it and photographed it would strongly imply their navigation check would also have look for this. People should be saying "hey, where's the famous giant moon?" if it were not there.

So that leaves two choices:

  • It's Earth
  • It's another planet they were deliberately misled to by the string-pulling powers who built the Tomb of Athena.

I won't rule out the last choice, because it is odd that we lacked the confirmation, but I will attribute it instead to a desire to keep the fans guessing.

To make it worse, I've listened to various interviews and statements by the producers and they never go so far as to say it's Earth, they just imply it. Again, this is odd.

A few other oddities:

  • Ron Moore got back an original matte of the ruined city, and declared it was too recent looking, "too much like Manhattan" with standing buildings. He told them to redo it, to make the ruins look older. So these are meant to be old ruins. This does suggest he did tell them to base it on Manhattan.
  • It still doesn't look ruined enough for 4,000 years, which is what I think it ought to be -- ruins of the first AI vs human war before the exodus for Kobol.
  • In particular there is exposed metal. If it's iron or steel, that should be rusted.
  • Worse, the bridge that should be the Brooklyn Bridge in many people's minds has steel rods sticking out. They did not use rebar at the time the Brooklyn Bridge was built. They did when the Manhattan bridge, up the river, was built, but it's all steel.
  • There are ruins in the water, implying higher sea levels. However, the image of Earth from Crossroads showed Earth with normal sea levels -- a normal Florida, normal Mississippi delta
  • Speaking of which, if the Earth is ruined and the levees on the Mississippi delta are not maintained, then after 4,000 years (and even a few hundred) that delta would look very, very different.
  • Some people amusingly note the building at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge is the Jehovah's Witness "Watchtower." Not that the Dylan song was related to JWs at all.
  • The Geiger counter on the soil actually shows a click-rate consistent with normal background radiation, not radioactive soil. However, it's clear from a dramatic standpoint that this scene is meant to tell you the soil is at least slightly radioactive, due to an ancient nuke war.
  • Like Moses, the dying leader is not supposed to make it to the new home. Yet Laura made it here. So the prophecy is broken, or this is not the final destination (Earth or not.)

I put many of these inconsistencies down to basic small mistakes. They used a standard image of Earth because they pulled one from the files. They did not think about how to show it with higher sea levels or a different delta. They did not think about metal corrosion etc.

If this is meant to be a recently ruined Earth, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. As it becomes clearer and clearer to the audience that all this is set in a distant future -- it was always clear to me -- a recently ruined Earth that is not too advanced compared to ours does not fit in.

Update: A report from Dragoncon has Edward Olmos confirming the planet is indeed a nuked Earth.


I think it would be appropriate for the ruined city by the sea to be Vancouver, BC. New York is too cliche.

I also suspect that this will be revealed as Earth in our near future, for maximum messing with our heads.

I agree, it's likely to be Earth in a fairly distant future, and think people read too much into some of the missing and included details. It's hard not to miss a moon, the visual design of the landscape can be explained by cursory research by the designers, and the general design of the ruins is likely to be the designers subconcious talking.

Another comment: I don't post in the newsgroup but I've noticed your Earth First versus 13th Tribe ding dong, and think it would be helpful if you consider they're not mutually exclusive. Human could originate on Earth, move to Kobol, the origins could become clouded, and the 13th tribe simply be what it says; a 13th tribe that went (back) to Earth. Also, theorectially, this could mean the exodus from Earth happened even earlier than you suppose if the origins were clouded as opposed to any arguable cover-up.

But what's the reason for writing it this way? I can see only two reasons.

  1. Some desire to make the 13th tribe cover-story partly true
  2. A desire to add lots more cycles to the repeated "all this has happened before" cycle, except all these cycles involve repopulating Earth, and re-destroying it in war.

The first makes no sense to me. It's a silly plot. Making it all be a cover story is a good plot, a good shocker. Having it be a slight tweak is dull.

The latter makes more sense, but I still don't think it's nearly as good a plot as having it all be a coverup.

The 13th Tribe can be real with an Earth origin and a cover-up. I think, the 13th Tribe is problematic because we know the humans originated on Earth and they haven't featured prominently. That makes their them a bit of a huh? If you want something nonsensical, what about the colonies being formed of 12 tribes on their own planet in a universe where human habitable worlds are in short supply?

The original series had issues with the Earth and colonies development. reordering it so it makes more sense today created some issues. There's the 13th Tribe and solar system with 12 habitable planets. My guess it's a combination of fudging and error. It's understandable, it sort of works, and anything else can get glossed over. I'm not going to get dogmatic, so accept it as the brushstroke it is.

Now, once you've worked out the basic logistical side of things, you've got strong budget reasons for the Cylons being human. I thought it would be dire but it worked out well. With that in play, what do you do? Ron's interest in Eastern religions will have helped fuel the question of consciousness and cycles. Plus, his reference to the iconic "It has happened before, and it will happen again" is typical of a momentary inspiration, such as Peter Pan.

Ron has a strong style but tends to make things up as he goes along. He's already commented directly and indirectly that he has goals, chucks stuff up, and ties it together even if he does paint himself into corners sometimes. The Cylons have certainly become more prominent due to fan interest. I think, that's helped it stay away from becoming too much of a soap or battle of the week. It might not help give you a definitive answer to your question but it might help you get inside it.

Must admit, Brad. I enjoy these BSG topics of yours. It's a long wait until the miniseries, movies, and concluding episodes are done but I'd like to see topics on other aspects of BSG if anything springs to mind and you've got the inclination. I'm a total blank on what would be worth talking about. The comics cover extra stuff that's not canonical but canon enough: Adama wrestling with a sneaky military, Zak being brain-dumped into a prototype Cylon body for testing, and Zarek's freedom fighting spring to mind.

The ruins shown at the end of Revelations are clearly not "ancient" - ie that they were not destroyed all that long ago... Here is my rationale:

- The geiger counter showed low levels of radiation. This is consistent with a nuclear war in the 2 months to 50 year ago range. 50 years is actually very much on the high side. You have to understand about radiation for that to make sense, but it does. For instance, the radiation in the ground at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is essentially undetectable today. Even the Bikini Atoll shows only trace amounts of radioactivity 50 years after being bombarded over and over with thermonukes. Most hot radiation will be gone after about 2-4 WEEKS after a nuclear blast. The hotter the stuff, the faster it decays. So to get significant readings on the geiger counter, the war had to be recent. It's possible that what they are looking at was destroyed only a couple of months ago.
- Plant life. There was some plant life creeping up in the ruins at the end of Revelations. This is consistent with a recent holocaust. Had the holocaust taken place just 1 or 2 years before, it is likely that the entire site would have been overrun with vegetation. This will vary depending on the lattitude, rainfall, etc. But if it was in a temperate zone, the place should have been overrun by plants had the holocaust been "ancient"

Now the wildcard... Kara Thrace claims to have visited Earth. She was gone for a couple of months. Her Viper was rebuilt completely. It was the only viper that could detect the signal from Earth. That means it is fundamentally different from all other Colonial ships in some way. And she is called the "Harbinger of Death" multiple times in the series...

So here's the SWAG on what happened to Earth. Starbuck lands on Earth before the holocaust. The technology exists to replace her probably badly damaged viper. It is copied (by whom and why are left as exercises to the reader) but it is a copy of a "changed" viper - one that somehow got changed in her strange jump to Earth. The changed viper is still there on Earth, after the holocaust, broadcasting a slightly different signal, one that no other Colonial equipment can pick up... but her recreated viper can detect it since it was modeled after her "changed" viper.

And even worse - Starbuck is the CAUSE of the holocaust on Earth. Somehow her presence there triggers the holocaust. I don't know if her arrival triggers a nuclear war, or somehow the Cylons find Earth and destroy it, or some other reason, but she's the trigger point, thus explaining her "Harbinger of Death" role.

It also drips with irony. Arguably, Starbuck has worked harder than anyone in the fleet to reach Earth. She risks her own life over and over to get them there. She retrieves the Arrow of (whatever, I can't remember right now)... She is obsessed with Earth, drawing pictures, attacking the President because they're going the wrong way, and inciting mutiny on the Demetrius in her final search, and doesn't kill Anders when she finds out he's a Cylon - she checks the signal to Earth instead...

She doesn't remember what happened to Earth because she either didn't witness it (I find this unlikely) or she DID witness the destruction and she blocked it out - she can't remember anything more than it was beautiful. She's blocked out the fact that she was the trigger to destroy it. In fact, she may have been more than the trigger. It may even turn out that she really is the 5th Cylon, and that she's been resurrected by the Cylons on Earth, and sent back to the fleet. And if you want to get really wierd about it, it may turn out that we, in fact, ARE the Cylons and "Humans" are really just an inferior model of Cylon that can't interface with computers but CAN procreate again, just like our ancestors did.

Sorry, a bit off track there... but the bottom line is that I believe Earth was recently destroyed - perhaps 2 months ago. The remainder of the show is them finding this out, and finding out just why and how it got destroyed. And I think you can count on the fact that the "humans" in the fleet are ultimately at least as responsible for it as the Cylons, or worse - COMPLETELY responsible for it.

Why does everyone take "Harbinger of Death" so literally? She is the "Harbinger of Death" because she took them to Earth and Earth is dead. Her prophecy is filled already. She took them to the death that is Earth. The end.

Now all we have to deal with regarding Kara is the fact that the Kara Thrace they all know is dead. The one in the fleet now was cloned by Leoban with the ovary she had taken from her in season 1.

The ruins are too young, but remember that Moore asked his matte crew for ruins, and they sent him back something young and he told them, "no, make them look much older." So alas, whatever they actually painted, the writer's goal was they should be old, though we don't know if he meant a hundred years or 4,000. Since there's no record of contact with Earth for 4,000 years (or perhaps 3,600) in their scrolls, there is evidence this is the intended, if not well represented age.

The Cylons were still unified during Starbuck's absence, they didn't destroy Earth.

A harbinger is an omen of death, not a cause of death.

So Starbuck isn't the cause of the destruction. We can be fairly sure of that, but I agree that it's not quite clear what age is intended for the ruins.

1. Roslin is not dead. no dead , no earth.

2. Baltar was told by the inner Six that he was the only ( Human ) to set foot on earth.

Now to Kara Thrace, is a clone, and the first Kara in the television series was one to. and I thing she is not from the Colonies or the Cylons. She is a Terran, one of the people who made the A.I's call Lords of Kobol. who I thing made the ( Colonial Humans )

now to the five, they are A.I. like the Lords of Kobol. I thing the Colonial Humans got one and modeled the Cylons on them

The prophecy is that the dying leader will not reach the promised land. (Sound familiar?) If it holds true, it does not mean this is not on Earth, just that it is not the promised land, and it certainly doesn't seem to be.

What show did this line to Baltar appear in?

Baltar was told by the inner Six that he was the only ( Human ) to set foot on earth.

it's one of the first in Season 1 Baltar and inner Six are in a lab talking about earth.

There were lots of scenes where they talk in their lab. And I downloaded transcripts of the first season, and as far as I can tell, the two of them never say the word Earth.

I can't remember that one either, though I definately remember Baltar saying to V6 that one of those two women [Laura Roslin and Ellen Tigh] was a Cylon. How much that was a clue or just a throwaway plot point that was never developed is a matter of opinion. I tend to read it as a smarmy comment on one of them having a bit of a gender complex.

You said it's Earth, because the constellation match, but you do realize that the constellations in the tomb of Athena do not match the constellations from Earth, right? Furthermore, if you compare the constellation of Pisces in the tomb of Athena to the time warp movie at then you will see that the constellation of Pisces in the tomb does not match Pisces at any point in the future. (The same is true for other constellations visible in the tomb.)

The constellations in the tomb are actually much more distorted than they are from Alpha Centauri. I'm not saying the fleet is at Alpha Centauri. But either they are not at Earth in revelations, or the production team was sloppy.

So are you suggesting that the Tomb stars are just wrong because of a graphics dept. mistake or because they are deliberately wrong to lead the fleet to a different planet? The latter plot is a bit hard to credit, but of course not impossible.

Note that the Tomb of Athena appeared to be a computer generated projection. As such, it would easily compensate to show the stars at the right position for the year in which the Tomb was viewed. However, if it did not, the Galactica's astrogation computer would also be able to compensate. (It has to have this ability, since they make thousand light year jumps, and would thus see stars at very different times in their own journeys.)

So, to be precise, the planet they are at is the same one in the Tomb, and the same one Starbuck went to (and that one had a moon like ours.) It's possible it's all a giant trick to lead them to a similar planet in another location. If so, the big question would be why?

The writings of Pythia suggest that the tomb was used as a portal to travel to Earth by some people while Kobol fell, the star projections being recognisable to us are easily explained away by the transliteration needed between then and now for the benefit of the audience, and then there's Starbuck's realisation (or claim) in the tomb that they were physically on Earth while they were looking at the stars. Sometimes, I think, these things have to be fudged. Obsessing and analysis can end up missing the point, and that's more a comment on ego than what's on the screen.

Just for the record, Brad, I saw your comment in the Battlestar newsgroup (I don't post in there) that said Olmos confirmed Earth as the real deal. Thanks for staying on the ball and keeping us informed.

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