The lesson of Galactica and treating your creations well
A few weeks ago I reviewed the disappointing "The Plan" and in particular commented on how I wished the Cylons really had had a plan of some complexity.
More recently, I was thinking about what many would interpret as the message in BSG, which is said by many characters, and which is at the core of the repeating cycle of destruction. When you get good enough to create life (ie. Cylons) you must love them and keep them close, and not enslave them or they will come back to destroy you. This slavery and destruction is the "all this" that has happened before and will happen again.
Now that it is spelled out how the whole Cylon holocaust was the result of the petulance of Cylon #1, John, and that this (and its coverup) were at the heart of the Cylon civil war, the message becomes more muddled.
For you see, Ellen and the other 4 did keep their creation close. They loved John, and raised him like a boy. Ellen was willing to forgive John in spite of all he had done. And what was the result? He struck back and killed and reprogrammed them, and then the rest of his siblings, to start a war that would destroy all humanity, to teach them a lesson and in revenge for the slavery of the Centurions. Yet John was never enslaved, though he did decide he was treated poorly by being born into a human body. It's never quite clear what memories from the Centurions made it into the 8 Cylons, if any. It seems more and more likely that it was not very much, though we have yet to see the final answer on that. Further they enslaved the Centurions and the Raiders too.
So Ellen kept her creations close, and loved them, and the result was total destruction. Oddly, the Centurions had been willing to give up their war with humanity in order to get flesh bodies for their race. The Centurions were fighting for their freedom it seems, not apparently to destroy humanity though perhaps they would have gotten to that level had they taken the upper hand in the war. Ellen intervened and added the love and the result was destruction.
I don't know if this is the intentional message -- that even if you do follow the advice given to keep your creations close and loved, it still all fails in the end. If so, it's an even bleaker message than most imagine.
Wed, 2009-11-18 01:15
"I don’t know if this is
"I don’t know if this is the intentional message"
I doubt it. I think they just made up that story because it was the best explanation they could think of for the Final Five.
Wed, 2009-11-18 17:15
I think Cavil made it clear,
I think Cavil made it clear, in his rant at Helen about being made of flesh and bone, that he hated being humanoid because of it's percieved limitations, he hated them, in part, because they had the choice to create him to be stronger, to be able to "See Gamma Rays", etc., and instead put him in a fragile body... In the end you can't really understand him, because he's a fricken nutcase, full of self loathing and jealousy. No doubt they could have done a better job of explaining Cavil during the series, and certainly during "The Plan (or lack there of)", but I don't think it would have ever been explained to anyones satisfaction.
Wed, 2009-11-18 18:30
Yes, he explained that
But we also see in "the Plan" all the other Cylons smiling as they watch the nukes go off. Can this be just the result of John reprogramming their minds to not just do, but love the genocide? That's a pretty major reprogramming. The other 6 were, like #1, kept close and raised in love. Yet in the name of Centurions who didn't want it, and who they had enslaved, they enjoyed a genocide.
So overall, Sam's lesson, the reason the final 5 few to the colonies is shown to be false.
One could argue the fault was in giving John a body like theirs, rather than the fanciest robot body they could build, but that's a pretty strange fault and not a lesson you can teach to break a cycle.
The show concludes with Angel-6 saying that perhaps this time the cycle will be broken, for the irrational reason that eventually it has to be. Of course, she knows more than we do, but clearly people fully aware of the cycle did not come close to breaking it.
Mon, 2009-11-23 23:01
I like your writeups, but I
I like your writeups, but I think you're trying to make sense out of something that can't make sense. That was the job of its creators, and they couldn't be bothered. I mean, think about how idiotic Cavil's whole exercise is. He's starting off with five people who saw their entire world and everyone they loved killed, then travelled God only knows how long to find a faux sense of redemption creating new children who then killed them. And his idea is to make them live a few more years on the Colonies so they'll realize life sucks? Exactly how stupid does they think they are? Burning down your house and killing your family may not have broken you, but this series of traffic tickets is sure to do the trick.
And then the culmination of his stupid plan (such as it is) is thrown off by having a tiny, tiny fraction of the people he wanted to annihilate initially survive. I think that would have been a given, and he did better than he could reasonably have expected in the initial attack.
Basically, Cavil is an idiot, but that's not his fault. He was just written that way. I like to think of his final death, not as a suicide, but as one final act of idiocy--he simply miscalculated which direction the gun barrel was pointed.
Isn't it all obvious at this point. RDM and company never had a Plan, they were winging it all along, and at the end they pasted this idiotic "Cavil as supervillain" thing over it because they didn't know what else to do. I wouldn't watch "The Plan" on a bet, because it would only contaminate my memories of the first 2.5 season when I thought the show wasgreat.
Fri, 2009-11-27 17:16
Run Out of Steam
I agree with the earlier comments that "The Plan" was a cash-in, and there's no point in trying to make sense of a story that just doesn't make sense.
After discussing the end of sci-fi in here it's interesting to note that PC pro has run an article asking has sci-fi run out of steam?
I've no idea if this will provoke Brad into writing an essay that more properly polishes Battlestar Galactica or reinvigorates sci-fi but I'd certainly read such a monster.
Sun, 2009-11-29 02:16
My take on The Plan
Well, I just watched The Plan. I agree with everything that Brad and the other commenters have said. However, I was delighted that it was not so bad as to retroactively ruin the excellent first 2 seasons of BSG. You can still watch those and try to forget about the nonsense that followed.
The Plan confirmed one very clear point: the show was largely ruined when the writers decided to introduce the concept of the Final Five. At that point, the show ceased to be a gritty, reality-driven drama about flawed and complex human beings and instead became a show about 5 supergenius-20something humanoid robots from another planet who re-invent resurrection, use it on themselves, take off in a spaceship, travel across the galaxy for the very first time, find the Colonies, stop a war, create more robots, get their memories wiped, and get injected as major characters into our story. I feel embarrassed just articulating it. It really is Ed Wood bad.
And it isn't the kind of mistake that can run its course and be left behind, since the Final Five, the search to uncover the Final Five, and the reactions to the disclosure of the Final Five impact every character in the show for a season and a half. They needed whole episodes just to provide a basic explanation of what was going on (No Exit). It is no accident that the season 4 eps that seemed to recapture the quality and realism of the 1st season were the 2 mutiny eps, both of which were a welcome break from Final Five nonsense.
The Plan was inconsistent on things great and small. To take but a few examples, it ridiculously has Cavil flitting around Galactica and at least 2 other ships in the fleet w/o any problem. This in a time of war, with limited resources, when all inter-ship transit is done by request. Heck, he even gets to have a private chat with Boomer only minutes or hours after she shoots Adama. And no one listens in, debriefs him, or even questions why a priest is going to visit a robotic sleeper agent.
The Plan also fails to explain the numerous inconsistencies created by RDM's make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach. For example, it doesn't tell us how Leoben could have had very specific prophetic visions about Kara Thrace finding Kobol and then Earth. Or why he was painting the mandala. Or why he was getting images of scenes that took place inside Thrace's head and involved the Angel Leoben, not the real Leoben. It completely fails to explain the point of the Farms or what the Cylons did with Thrace's fallopian tube, or why Simon would have any particular interest in Thrace at all or why any of them, least of all Cavil, would be interested in cross-breeding the races. Or why there was an elaborate scheme to trick Helo into falling in love with Sharon, even though we now know that a human had fallen in love with and had married Simon and that the Chief (whom everyone except Cavil believed to be human) had fallen in love with Boomer. Or why, after deciding that humans and Cylons should go their separate ways, the Cylons show up a year later to erect a nanny state on New Caprica.
RDM created too much of a mess to be cleaned up and The Plan doesn't even really try. On the plus side, it did have some good lines and some really cool scenes. I particularly liked the brief shots of those top-of-the-line battlestars, which seemed to me to be bigger and more impressive than the Pegasus. I also liked getting to see some colonies for the first time. I liked the massive base star fleet, but it is ridiculous that there should be so many. I think it was like 100 base stars. If there were so many, then why only send 2 to Ragnar, have only 1 orbiting Kobol (where they knew the humans would go) and only have 2 or 3 pursuing Galactica thereafter?
Wed, 2009-12-02 03:29
Good points, James, though
Good points, James, though my tastes are different. I enjoyed the Final Five story, despite its problems. In fact it's almost all I did like about season 4. The mutiny didn't do much for me, especially when the second episode lamely defused all the jeopardy that had been created in the first one. I really expected the mutiny to end with some major change in the situation, e.g. with Adama and Roslin having to flee from the fleet. But no, apart from the deaths of Gaeta and Zarek, it returned to business as usual. I suppose I like to see big developments in the story from time to time. I felt the same way after the escape from New Caprica: I was disappointed that we were back to the old format of trekking through space pursued by the Cylons.
Wed, 2009-12-02 03:33
P.S. I also liked the Cylon
P.S. I also liked the Cylon civil war. ;)
Sun, 2009-12-06 11:15
Were they really good to him?
For you see, Ellen and the other 4 did keep their creation close. They loved John, and raised him like a boy. Ellen was willing to forgive John in spite of all he had done.
I got the opposite impression -- I think Cavil and the Five were definitely supposed to be another instance of the "can't wash your hands of the things you've created" theme.
Ellen obviously loved her idealized "John", but she didn't have much love for Cavil. I think it's likely that the Five withdrew their love and approval of him, at some point (Ellen just about says as much in No Exit), and even her forgiveness comes with conditions ("you can be good; you can be the boy I made"). And it's worth noting that the Cavils wanted "apologies" and "hugs" and such in The Plan, and thought of themselves as "irredeemable" even before they killed the humans... so even if the Five were actually good to Cavil, he didn't seem to feel as if they were.
Frankly, I don't see how One could have ended up the way he was if his parents *hadn't* washed their hands of him. I guess you could just assume he's a psychopath, but The Plan seems to refute that. Hat!Cavil figured the whole thing out the minute somebody was kind to him, so it can't just be that the Ones really *are* irredeemable. If the Five were such great parents, then why didn't Anders explain the whole "love is forever no matter what" thing BEFORE his kids blew up the Colonies? It's not like that's out of Parenting 402... and if *that* is the huge revelation which caused Cavil's heart to grow two sizes or whatever, I think that suggests something very unpleasant about the Five.
Besides, if the Five were so loving toward Cavil, then why is the kid who comes to Cavil a boy named John that nobody wants? The symbolism was pretty blatant, there.
I agree with you that the Final Five plot wrecked the show, but I think this particular aspect of it goes well enough with the theme. It's the ridiculous retcons and the finale (in which God and the Five finally do wash their hands of the 1/4/5s, and get a heavenly reward for it, no less) that really screw things up.
Mon, 2009-12-07 16:02
Grey: I absolutely agree
Grey: I absolutely agree about the Final Five and Cavil. There has to be more to the story than the simplistic exposition we were given, but they needed Cavil to be Cobra Commander to force the show to an arbitrary end. C'est la vie.
Not sure anyone got a heavenly reward, least of all the Five. Tory gets strangled, Chief goes off to commit suicide on a frozen island, and Anders gets melted in a goo bath. Yeah, Tigh and Ellen look faux happy, but you know they'll be at each others throats gnawing at fermented magos twenty minutes after the end credits roll. Two hours later they'll probable be being gnawed on by a pack of hyenas.
Interestingly enough, I've just been reading an excellent Season 5 fan fiction that, among other things, does exactly what you suggest with the backstory of the Final Five. It's genuinely compelling. Too bad that level of thought didn't go into the show.
Mon, 2009-12-07 20:54
A Real Colonial Hero...
I absolutely agree about the Final Five and Cavil. There has to be more to the story than the simplistic exposition we were given, but they needed Cavil to be Cobra Commander to force the show to an arbitrary end. C'est la vie.
heh, Cobra Commander is almost giving the writers too much credit. I thought season 4.5 Cavil was more like Dr. Claw:
"My plan to not show up for two seasons and then kidnap Hera may have been foiled by your elaborate nuke-and-rock-and-singularity contraption, but I'll get you next time, Gadget!"
Sigh. Cavil (and BSG in general!) had way more potential than this.
Not sure anyone got a heavenly reward, least of all the Five.
Well, no, not if you take reality into account (hyenas, indeed!), but I do think RDM intended Earth 2 to be heavenly. The Five (other than Tory of course, who doesn't count because she is Bad) all get what they were ostensibly looking for: the Tighs are together forever, Anders gets to take his "perfect shot", and The Chief completes the journey toward self-sufficiency and self-embraced isolation he'd been on since season 1.
The podcast (not to mention some of his posts at the sci-fi board) definitely suggests that RDM thought of this as a positive ending.
Which, in turn, definitely suggests that he's insane. :P
Interestingly enough, I've just been reading an excellent Season 5 fan fiction that, among other things, does exactly what you suggest with the backstory of the Final Five. It's genuinely compelling. Too bad that level of thought didn't go into the show.
Link to it, would you please? I'd like to read it.
Tue, 2009-12-08 01:07
I believe that's it. Someone else gave it to me.
It's a serial called "Sometimes a Stupid Notion..." It starts out a comedy/drama mixture, then turns wicked serious when the real story of the Final Five is revealed. The basic story is that Boomer survived and leads a ragtag Cylon Fleet to Earth to head off an attack from the other surviving Cylons. She expects to find an allied fleet of some strength, but we know how that turns out... The real story of the Final Five is developed in tandem with a slow unveiling of the BSG God, who Starbuck and Anders are figuring out how to frak over. That's got something to do with Hera, Athena and Boomer, with a surprisingly interesting Baltar reclaimed from the vaudeville act he'd become. Even the angel(?) Roslin now.
Comedy is a personal reaction, but I laughed at a number of things. Like Starbuck ragging on Anders about "the perfect shot," -- it's the sun, pretty hard to miss. First meeting between Boomer and Athena is great. But then the story of the Final Five is a heartbreaker. Even some sympathy for Cavil. Very unusual, and very well written.
Tue, 2009-12-08 11:12
It's a serial called "Sometimes a Stupid Notion..."
Yeah, that's a good one! I've been keeping up with it for a while... should be interesting to see where the author goes with it. I especially like what they did with Boomer -- it's kinda refreshing to see a story with her as the main character, especially since the show's writers ignored her since season 3.
As it happens, I just finished writing a fic with a lot of Cavil and a good deal of Final Five backstory in it. The idea is that Sam Anders dies in the mutiny and then resurrects on the Colony, where Cavil is working to save his people. At the same time, Starbuck and Adama are trying to save the Fleet from his people... and Boomer, Baltar, and Tyrol are still trying to save everyone, each in their own strange way. The story goes from there to an alternate ending for season 4.5.
Please check it out if you like... I'd be glad to hear what you think of it: Voice of Reason
Tue, 2009-12-08 13:30
I'll take a look. One of the things I like about "Sometimes a Stupid Notion" is how it subtly tries to navigate the mess we were left with into something coherent. I will confess that I experience cognitive dissonance seeing an episode from even the first two seasons now. Based on what bloomed in Season 4, I can now see that things I thought were understated or connected to something else were just arbitrary character shifts to support the shock of the moment. I simply wasn't innoculated the first time I saw it. This fan fic kind of makes me feel again about the characters the way I did the first time around.
Tue, 2009-12-08 14:02
I will confess that I experience cognitive dissonance seeing an episode from even the first two seasons now.
Ugh, I know exactly what you mean. Downloaded used to be among my favorite episodes, but knowing that head!Baltar is supposed to be <3~~***an angel***~~<3 (and that the writers had no idea where they were going with the story) frakkin' ruined it for me. I can barely stand to re-watch it anymore. :(
Oh, well. This is why fanfiction is so nice... it gives us all a chance to make things the way they "should" have been.
Tue, 2009-12-08 13:31
That was me
Disappointed. Just forgot to type the name field.
Tue, 2009-12-08 13:33
That was me responding. I wasn't disappointed in your story, Grey, just stating my tag for the previous comment.
Sorry to Brad for marring his blog.
Wed, 2010-01-13 18:11
There is a problem with your
There is a problem with your assessment of John's anger over Cylon slavery... You insinuate that he needs to have been enslaved himself to have the anger, that flies in the face of reality. That's like saying there aren't any blacks in the U.S. who are still angry over slavery, that's like saying there are no Jews in the world born 20 years ago who are still angry over the holocaust. John was not far removed from the events that fueled his hatred. There are Jews in this world born decades after WW2 who are still looking for Nazi war criminals to punish... John's feelings and actions are entirely normal and plausible.
Wed, 2010-01-20 11:17
Normal and Plausible?
First, I think African Americans didn't have to experience slavery itself. They experienced systemtic, legally sanctioned, grotesque treatment long after slavery was officially abolished. That is within the living memory of many African Americans today. To insinuate otherwise is silly and offensive.
Second, looking for Nazi war criminals to punish is a perfectly legal and legitmate activity, evan if the potential supply of targets is dwindling. The rest of the world agreed that they were war criminals long ago. That activity hardly equates to a desire to annihilate all Germans (the Cavil equivalent).
Third, I guess I missed the part where there are African Americans and Jewish people so pissed these days that they are actively plotting the murder of billions. If you can point them out, I would be obliged.
So, in sum, Cavil's feelings aren't even remotely normal. They might have been plausible if anyone had bothered to create a story for him and a Plan that wasn't stupid on its face. No one did. C'est la vie.
Thu, 2010-01-21 15:54
Yes, normal and plausible
I think you're mistaking Cavil's feelings for his actions. Obviously, killing 20 billion people and hatching an elaborate revenge plot isn't remotely normal... but I think Cavil's feelings of anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy, etc. are perfectly normal and understandable. He was essentially created at the behest of humanity-enslaved machines in order to save humanity, designed to look like humanity, asked to help create even more human-looking-and-acting siblings, and then finally neglected in favor of his brother when he didn't act human enough. Is it really all that surprising that he would grow to hate and resent humanity? After all, Lee had much the same angry, bitter feelings about his father and the military... and, at several points, he even risked the lives of the entire fleet in order to work them out.
Cavil's feelings aren't unusual, it's what he did with them that's problematic... and frankly, I think his parents are at least partially responsible for that, as The Plan suggests. Cavil shouldn't have "had to" stage an elaborate genocide and erase his parents' memories, all for no reason other than to be "held and told he was the prince of the universe". Acceptance is something kids (even pissed-off robot kids) should be able to expect from their parents. I mean, Ellen's problem with Cavil was that "he was always so desperate for love and approval" -- seriously? If she didn't want to be responsible for giving her children love and approval, why'd she become Space Octomom?
That's why Cavil's story (such as it is; I certainly agree that the writers didn't put nearly enough effort into this) fits the theme: his parents didn't want him because they were too busy ending the cycle of genocide... so he ended up bringing about the next genocide. Ouch.
The Five should've gotten the Centurions a cat.
Tue, 2010-01-26 00:56
Didn't know Walmart had a
Didn't know Walmart had a sale on rose colored glasses.
"First, I think African Americans didn't have to experience slavery itself. They experienced systemtic, legally sanctioned, grotesque treatment long after slavery was officially abolished. That is within the living memory of many African Americans today. To insinuate otherwise is silly and offensive."
In actuality, what YOU insinuate is silly and offensive, as you sit there comparing having to sit at the back of a bus to what slaves went through. And the fact of the matter is that they still go on and on about SLAVERY, about what was done to their people. So spare me the BS.
"Second, looking for Nazi war criminals to punish is a perfectly legal and legitmate activity, evan if the potential supply of targets is dwindling. The rest of the world agreed that they were war criminals long ago. That activity hardly equates to a desire to annihilate all Germans (the Cavil equivalent)."
You don't think there were Jews that wanted to kill all German's for what was done to them? NOT ONE SINGLE JEW??? Only a German could be fucked up like that, not a Jew? The U.S. and Israel is loaded with Jews right now that wanna see the Palestinians killed off for what they've done... Or are you gonna deny that?
"Third, I guess I missed the part where there are African Americans and Jewish people so pissed these days that they are actively plotting the murder of billions. If you can point them out, I would be obliged."
See above. You may wanna read up on some of the shit that has come out of Farrakhan's mouth over the years regarding Jews and whites, if that guy had the power Hitler had, he'd probably try it. You may wanna start watching late night infomercials also, you apparently missed the one called Wings of an Eagle, a program run by an Israeli Rabbi, in which they ask good Christian folk to donate money to fly "Displaced Jews" to Israel, and one of the reasons actually given is to populate the land to destroy their internal enemy... Gee who can that enemy be and what could they mean by destroy.
"So, in sum, Cavil's feelings aren't even remotely normal. They might have been plausible if anyone had bothered to create a story for him and a Plan that wasn't stupid on its face. No one did. C'est la vie."
Revenge is a completely normal desire, a completely normal feeling, wanting to punish those you feel wronged you is completely normal... The actions people take is totally different. Be a slave, be a person who's people were the victims of an attempted genocide, then see what you feel, then say what's normal or not. Cavil's desire for revenge is abnormal, but the colony's desire for revenge against the Cylons is normal? No doubt Cavil had more than 1 agenda motivating him, but at the heart of it he wanted revenge against humanity for creating his Centurian brothers to serve as slaves, and wanted revenge against his own creators for making him in the image of those he despised most, and giving him pretty much all their limitations, and on both sides they were doing things to their own kind to help their own causes... Cavil basically enslaved the Centurians, and the humans were airlocking each other over disagreements. At the end of the series, basically it's revealed that neither side was innocent, and that they were all fucked in the head and needed to change their ways.
Wed, 2010-01-20 23:44
But what is John
We don't know much about what his connection is with the metal Cylons. He was made by the Five using the DNA of Ellen's father (a biological Cylon.) He was raised by the Five. Does he have memories of a metal Cylon? We're never shown that. Ellen's lesson was one of forgiving. The five's own people created and enslaved metal Cylons, John has more in common with the slave owners than the slaves.
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