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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.


I guess I don't see how, if it's canon, it does not preclude that. If there's a real Earth, there is a real Dylan. They can't both write it. At best, Anders can reimagine it and think he wrote it.

The reason to listen to the writers is we're trying to puzzle out where the show is going. If you know what the writer intends, that should be a reasonable guide. The main barrier is they can change their minds. They even change their minds (or make mistakes) on what they air.

I think it would be reasonable to claim that Dylan wrote his version, and Anders wrote the reimagined version we heard on the show.

You make a fair point about the intentions of the writers. I suppose if you took my argument to its extreme, this blog wouldn't exist, and no discussion could take place until every episode had aired!

I think there is a real Earth and a real Dylan. Anders, as one of the Five, would (1) regenerate and (2) possibly have access to whatever cultural database was set up when the initial resurrection technology was created. Ellen says that "all is in place" and I just can't see someone creating a way to resurrect a group of people from a civilization on the verge of destruction without also trying to save some of that civilization's achievements. Who's to say that the resurrection that Ellen refers to is the first one? What if each time they resurrect they don't know how they are connected to each other? That seems to be the case now and it fits the star-crossed lovers trying to find each other over thousands of years idea.

So, the one time Anders resurrected, he tapped into that cultural database and wrote "Watchtower." He thought it was inspiration or the "the Muse," but it was just his Cylon brain accessing a store of information. Or, it could just be more literal and be that he only played it as opposed to wrote it. He says he played it, Tory says he played it.

That's an interesting twist -- assuming this is the real Earth's distant future and thinking about Anders cylon vs. "human" nature and perhaps unconsciously tapping into ancient database stores. For me that would be far less of a stretch than if this turns out to be the real Earth's distant past, for sure.

Sure they can both write it. Stream of consciousness. The idea that everything repeats. You are assuming that RDM meant he was the creator of the song, and actually he very well could be depending on where in our Earth's timeline BSG takes place. If that is your problem, your problem is a joke.

The interesting thing about most comments here, is that no one really appears to have an idea where the show is going. It's also interesting that because of where they are taking the story, you will find it all hangs together quite nicely.

For instance think about Cavil... He's connected to Anders in the Caprica resistance. He's connected to Tyrol, when he's brought in after the attack on Cally, and actually tells the chief that his entire problem is that he thinks he's a Cylon. Cavil is then seen praying with Roslin on Colonial One, so he probably met Tory. And of course, on New Caprica he tortured Tigh, and frakked Ellen.

The Last Supper image ads up nicely. RDM early on said the last cylon wasn't in the photo. There's an empty space next to Tigh. And there's a cup in front of it. (Tigh killed Ellen with the poisoned cup.)

Now, have the writers done any retcon? Not in any major way. But, there's one revelation coming up that most people will take as a retcon, in order to refocus on the uniqueness of Hera. (And perhaps, -- and I don't know -- the movie The Plan will get further into some of these backstories.)

There's 9 episodes left, and there are a ton of surprises left.

Since they didn't pick the final 5 until late in the writing for Season 3, it's all retcon. However, for Ellen, they did have plans to make her a Cylon of some sorts, but not a final 5 as that concept had not been created, during her run. They did not have plan for her to be F5 when she died.

So what?!?!?!? So did Tolkien, and Dickens? I mean, I like fan speculation, but this is starting to get ludicrous.

I do not care if it is retconned. I have watched this series several times from the beginning up until now, and sure it has its ups and downs, but it is not as inconsistent as people are saying. Brad, you had hopes for BSG being something else than RDM wanted, so what? Get over it. I thought the turn of the 13th colony to be cylon was excellent, I think the situation now with prophecies seeming false/inacurate is perfect. Why?? Because that's the way the world works. Nations and leaders led by religion over and over again fails to reach the promised land, often ending up tyranny. We have seen it in MidEast, Europe, USA, SouthAmerica etc etc. He explicably had said that BSG was a great tool to comment on 9/11, terrorism, the bush administration etc. The search of the 5 was the cylon's search of earth, i.e. their search of meaning with their existence. And where did it lead them? To nothing.
And for all of you analyzing prophecies and the sacred scrolls. They are PROPHECIES and SACRED SCROLLS! That does not make them exact records of how things actually happened or if they happened. Would you make a map based on the bible? No, humanity and cylons are both clinging to myth and religion (partly because that's a flaw of our species and partly because you have to hang on to something when the apocalypse is rising) and this will lead them to nothing.

And for all of you saying that RDM over-hyped the 5th cylon or "the plan", some examples:
1. He has stated repeatedly that the show isn't about the fifth or the search of earth. Scifi started this hype. It is called marketing and as fans we shoudl be aware of this. His vision has been that it is a show about characters on the verge of extinction and how they dealt with it.
2. The sentence "they have a plan" was put in there by the network, he opposed it.

Ron used narrative cues and podcasts to sell a show and create an impression. The Sci-Fi channel's marketing and scheduling is part of the bigger picture. Arguing over where the dividing line is and who's responsible is a tar-pit I'd rather stay away from.

Some people have a view of the overall package similar to mine. It's accurate and fair enough, and I'm pretty sure Ron and the broadcaster would put their hands up to it if they were asked. The world isn't perfect and bitching at us because we're bitching doesn't help.

Sometimes, a producer can't achieve all their goals or execute as well as they planned. I've learned that from both sides of the fence. That's why you have to be mature about these things. The alternative is increasingly shrill arguing and nastiness. It doesn't work.

Irony is the fifth fundamental force, etcetera.

RDM also said in his podcasts that they had an overarching story and EVERYTHING else was being written as they went. The supposed retcons are doing exactly what RDM has stated in those podcasts he was doing from the start. All the answers everyone complaining here says don't exists, RDM has said will all get answered by the end of the show. Last I checked, the last episode hadn't run yet.

You can say that I'm bitching of course, but let me make my point a little clearer:
1. I think it is sad when fan speculation starts to be more real than the show itself. For example, I don't share brad's speculation concerning the mythology of the show, and that's why I have enjoyed reading this blog, inspires me to think in other directions. So: there might be other ways to compose the mythology of BSG, baseed on what we have seen so far.
2. I think it is strange that people keep critizizing RDM for the way he has written/created the series, making stuff up on the go. Personally I see very few discontinuity errors in BSG, there are for example bigger Retcons in JRR tolkiens work.
3. As an audience we should be able to see through the hype that the producer and the broadcasting company creates. We are adults, aren't we?

You can say that I'm bitching of course, but let me make my point a little clearer:
1. I think it is sad when fan speculation starts to be more real than the show itself. For example, I don't share brad's speculation concerning the mythology of the show, and that's why I have enjoyed reading this blog, inspires me to think in other directions. So: there might be other ways to compose the mythology of BSG, baseed on what we have seen so far.
2. I think it is strange that people keep critizizing RDM for the way he has written/created the series, making stuff up on the go. Personally I see very few discontinuity errors in BSG, there are for example bigger Retcons in JRR tolkiens work.
3. As an audience we should be able to see through the hype that the producer and the broadcasting company creates. We are adults, aren't we?

I'm not sure it's possible to have retcons while something is still in the process of being written. To use that term in its original context, we would need to have something like say the CAPRICA series rewriting what happens in BSG after BSG is over. So, I don't really agree with the use of "retcon" to describe how Moore and the writers didn't know who the Final Five were when they started writing the miniseries.

As a writer myself, I find that that I unintentionally insert themes or leave details hanging that the use of only comes to the surface after the first draft. TV writing doesn't quite work the same way as novel writing, but (1) the writers did have an overall plan for the series and (2) they left it to the muse that they would make it all fit together. I don't think the reveal of Tigh as a Cylon would have had as much impact if they'd planned it b/c they would have left clues for the viewers and someone would have guessed. As far as the details of how he came to be a Cylon -- well we just have to reserve judgment until the end if completed. If it stinks or doesn't fit together I'll be among the first to pick it apart. In the meantime, I'm content to sit back and see how everything unfolds. We're not the writers, we're not in the driver's seat here.

RE: Prophecies, specifically how character can be illuminated through a device such as prophecy. I wouldn't be surprised if the writers take a cue from Greek tragedies and have the characters' actions to ward off a prophecy actually be the action that makes the prophecy come true. Case in point: Roslin going off her meds. She's doing it to live life more fully, because her belief in the prophecies has been shattered. Actually, her actions will bring her death that much more quickly and she'll kick the bucket before they find the "Promised Land." This promised land may or may not be our Earth, but it certainly isn't the cinder planet.

RE: the accusation that Moore overhyped the Fifth. I don't think he did, but rather the high expectation was born out of the delayed broadcast of the last episodes.

Because now we see it used a lot to refer to writing something into the history that obviously wasn't intended.

It's pretty clear that the Earth of "Revelations" and "Disquiet" is not our Earth. Furthermore, our Earth does exist in the BSG universe, as demonstrated by the end of "Crossroads II". Finally, the images from Starbuck's visions and paintings, combined with the star patterns identified by Michael Hall strongly suggest that our Earth is in the neighborhood of "Earth" and that the fleet will reach it before the end of the series.

What is the purpose of having two Earths? Simple: to crush the spirits of our characters. How will these people react to having their dreams shattered? That's the dramatic idea the writers wanted to explore.

That was the function. I had predicted that having the one Earth -- but having it it be empty and in ruins -- would be enough to crush them, since we have been warned many times the show does not have a happy ending.

As such, the real Earth is not going to be a happy ending. It might be ruined as well, hostile to its former exiles, or just empty.

Just empty is a happy ending (though not if the fleet has a big war with the other Cylons first) but it could be made bittersweet for the audience, because they won't realize beforehand that everybody on Earth is long dead, and may view that as sad. But was the discovery of the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes a dark ending? I didn't think so.

Turns out that not only did Anders write the song, but so did Pappy Starbuck (presumably Daniel).

My guess is this is a signal sent out by the Grand String Puller (Hendrix or Dylan, to be revealed in final episode) to one of his chosen (Anders then, and Kara now). Really seems like we're headed towards the All Are Cylons, All Are Human ending, and in that case, the Grand String Puller will likely end up having a tie to Real Earth (my guess is still a super AI of some sort, with impeccible taste in music).

Anders "wrote" the song 2,000 years ago. He was born on the 13th colony.

But yes, the string-puller obviously is the one using the song as a wakeup signal, and put it into Starbuck (or her dad) too.

You both ignore the fact that Hera just very literally wrote the song too?

I think MrD up there got it. He says that Anders and Starbuck's Dad wrote it. But multiple people can't write the exact same song, so it's likely something implanted into their heads, like a post-hypnotic suggestion. It's possible that the Lords of Kobol are the string-pullers and are from our Earth, in our present or near or far future. They have used the song as some sort of signal to certain individuals, for what purpose is yet unrevealed.

It is also possible that Anders is the only one who wrote it, and implanted it as a signal in cylon programming (as both daddy thrace and hera came after anders). Maybe he'll tell us more when he wakes up.

I thought that the nuked earth, that have the constellation match, was an Earth where humans invented cylons that went to war with them...and that the second Earth which was found after jumping out of the singlarity (yes, star trek wormhole stuff) that they found a planet, which has continential land masses like our Earth, and they chose to call it Earth. Possessing all likeness to Earth...the head Six and head Baltar discuss the possibility that this will not happen again...(again its open to speculation) but the nuked Earth did not have a visable Africa, Europe and Asia on it but it matched the constellations. The last Earth, Roslin says where did you take us to Kara Thrace. Roslin did not say "look the 12 constellations that can be seen from Earth." I think this was done intentionally by Ronald Moore

Ron Grazier said they made a big screw-up with the constellation scene and the rest was inconsistent because of this.

But yes, "Earth 1" which was the nuked one where the Cylons went to live (they were created on Kobol) supposedly had the constellations from the chamber, which for some reason were our constellations. However, that was a mistake.

Earth 2, where they land at the end, is supposed to be our planet, 150,000 years ago. It would have our constellations (and Earth 1 would not) with some changes 150,000 years ago. They named it Earth, though that's a translation presumably as they don't speak our language. Their entire culture was erased.


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