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Saw their twelve brothers

One of the most important, but confusing lines in the show was said by Starbuck in the Tomb of Athena when they turned on the 3-D projection of a simulated Earth.

"The scriptures say that when the thirteenth tribe landed on Earth, they looked up into the heavens and they saw their twelve brothers."

Readers of this blog will know I've felt it has been clear since this scene that Earth is the homeworld of mankind, Kobol was a colony of Earth, and that the "13th tribe" story is a cover story designed to hide that fact.

Now this line pretty much proved it. The 12 tribes of Kobol are named after the Earth Zodiac, and more tellingly their flags show the constellations as seen from Earth. The central facet of Kobolian culture is from the Earth sky. I've seen tortured logic trying to explain this in the Galactica 1980 "Earth is a colony of Kobol" backstory, where Kobol colonizes Earth, Kobol Falls and Earth recolonizes Kobol and Kobolian culture thus comes from Earth. But it's tortured logic indeed, and effectively has each planet be a colony of the other.

However, there is something odd about this line from their scripture. Why don't the characters themselves see the contradiction in it? The myth says they saw the 12 tribes in the Zodiac when they landed. This should make no sense to people who believe that Earth was a vacant planet colonized by a Kobolian tribe. The scripture line should be followed by, "how the hell can that be?"

Among fans who still want there to have been a real 13th tribe (rather than a cover story) a theory is advanced which has some credibility. This theory goes:

  1. Earth colonizes Kobol, and Earth falls
  2. Kobol recolonizes Earth
  3. Both Kobol and Earth fall
  4. Kobol rises and recolonizes Earth
  5. Above cycles repeat as much as you like, with Earth being rebuilt, falling and recolonized in endless human/robot wars

The appeal of this plot is it allows you to have the "all this has happened before and will again" theme repeat through many, many cycles. The "basic" plot of Earth has war, colonizes Kobol, Kobol has war, colonizes 12 colonies, 12 colonies have war, head for Earth only has 3 cycles, which may not be enough to develop such a strong pattern as we've led to believe exists. So there is a dramatic reason for more cycles.

This makes everything vastly older -- tens of thousands of years -- and the ruins on Earth have nothing to do with modern Earth. It does give more background to a plot where "this is the time they break the Cycle, as humans and Cylons finally come together," which is almost surely the plot we're going to get.

So while I see the attraction of the "lots of cycles" plot, I still think they'll keep it simple. And having just one extra cycle just so you can have a real 13th tribe makes little dramatic sense. Having the 13th tribe be a cover story is a much more interesting plot, a much more dramatic reveal.

However, even the addition of extra cycles of Earth falling and being recolonized by Kobol, it still doesn't explain the line in the scripture. If the recolonists knew that Earth was the homeworld, they might have written a line of scripture like that, but only in the context of knowing it was a homecoming, not a hunt for a new home. And if they didn't know they were returning to the homeworld, they would have said, "How can our flags be in the sky of this new planet?" So either way the scriptures are hiding the truth, deliberately.

Now as to why the characters never question this on screen? Well, that's a bit of a writing error, but I think it's perhaps a deliberate one. They don't want the audience to think about this too much. They want the audience to be surprised when they learn that Earth is the homeworld, while going "Ah, of course it is." If they talked too much about how the 13th tribe is a cover story, the audience would not be surprised, so they don't talk about it.


I still think you're grinding that one a bit too hard. Having one previous cycle is enough to make things hang together without getting to wound up about history or cover-ups. One thought: the reference to the lords of Kobol being numerous makes me wonder if Kobol might be framed as an attempt by Humans and Cylons of an earlier time to get together. If that was the case and it failed, perhaps, Hera is a potential breaking of that cycle.

Mostly, this is a question of focus: Do you nitpick the logistics and mythology, or put more emphasis on the dynamic? You have to rememeber, the original concept was a bit flawed and squeezing it to fit a more naturalistic framework kicks up issues of its own. One you accept the flaws and hairline cracks and see the other side of the deal about people and outcomes things fit together more. It doesn't solve the problems but life's like that.

I've noticed how the Japanese tend to be more positive about AI and American's tend to be more negative, while there's the beginnings of a trend in both cultures to look more at their traditionally opposite view. AI is not automatically a good thing or a bad thing, and will be interesting to see how that develops. Indeed, your topic on automated cars is the beginning of a discussion on this, and the perfection and service issues that flow from that.

As I say, I don't think we need the plot with tons of extra cycles, but there are hints of that. Various characters talk about the cycles with some certainty -- Leoben, the first Hybrid -- more than they should if this is just the third.

Hmm. I wonder if movies make a difference. The west grew up with GORT and HAL 9000 while Japan had Astro Boy.

I'm relaxed about the cycle thing. It happened in some form at least once, and their emphasis may just be to hammer the point home so nobody misses it. I guess, we'll see.

If I were to take a guess, I'd suggest the difference between West and East might be in the industrial versus social bias. The West conquers versus the East absorbs, or something. The religious bias may also play a part, with the more emphatic word of God based Christianity versus the more collective Shinto. But, yeah. I'm sure movies play a role in determining where the focus is as well as reflecting it.

BSG is leading this issue in some ways, so its opinion forming role may help play a constructive role in the take up of new technologies along with, say, cultural and religious traditions in other parts of the world. It may be mere entertainment on one level but the unintended consequences could be useful in a hardcore way, as its influence ripples out into technology, politics, and society.

The whole cycle thing has been freighted with meaning that NEVER ONCE was mentioned in the show. There are no statements, direct or indirect, that the "cycle" is a rise and fall of civilization through endlessly recurring human-robot wars. Not one. This is an invention of the viewers which now seems to be treated like gospel.

The clearest statement on the "cycle" in the entire series is during Roslin and Starbuck's conversation in which the President asks Starbuck to return to Earth to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo. From their conversation, taken in its most basic form, Colonial religion indicates that the universe tells the same story over and over again but each time the actors play different parts.

From this you could easily surmise that Colonial religion believes that when the universe ends it is reborn anew and everything happens EXACTLY the same. But the souls of living beings get shuffled around so that -- at least from a spiritual standpoint -- everyone plays a different part each time. This would be more than adequate for religious prophecy to be accurate, drawing on the endless repetition that the spiritual realm is well-aware of. And it would also mean that no one is trying to escape the "cycle" since it is predetermined. There is only understanding and the hope that as living beings who can only understand the events of the past and present, that the future will turn out OK.

Elosha describes it as the first line of Pythia. Six quotes it to Baltar. We're told of precise details, like a dying leader with visions of serpents, two and ten. These happen.

The First Hybrid tells Adama the Peter Pan line. Just before he dies, he repeats it to Kendra. "All this has happened before, and will happen again, and again, and again, and again, and again...." He repeats it until nuked. Leoben says it to Starbuck. Leoben talks about how sometimes in the cycle his role and Starbucks are reversed.

So they talk about the cycle in the script a fair bit.

I'm not saying it's not talked about in religious references and concepts throughout the show, but it is NEVER talked about as some kind of "cycle of destruction" with humanity and Cylons going to war with each other every couple of thousand years. This is the theory most people seem to be latching on to whenever "all this has happened before..." is mentioned.

Personally I blame it on "Matrix: Revolutions" and its absolutely stupid idea that the machines "have destroyed Zion over and over again" always planning for it to come back so they can deal with the rebellious inhabitants who realize the Matrix isn't real.

I think everyone sees the same images on the screen and hears the same words but expects something and then interprets the show to fit that pre-conceived notion. For myself I see the cycles clearly and expected to see Earth blasted before they got there but with much older ruins. I was so sure of what I expected to see I didn’t even notice the ruins at the end of Revelations appearing as recent as they obviously are from postings of the scenes on the internet. With that new info I’m now a bit confused by the Cycle theory but I think they originally intended it to be Earth of the first Cycle, Kobol the Second and the Colonies as the third. I imagine the entire show as sort of following breadcrumbs back to truth of the origins of Colonials and Cylons. So now I’m trying to rationalize, more cycles, or perhaps advanced tech on Earth for the first Cycle that allows the Cinder Planet ruins being older than they appear, meaning the first cycle starts in our not so near future. This is less dramatic than it all starting in our near future but like I said, I’m confused now. Some people need to have things spelled out clearly or their pre-conceived notions get in the way. It happens to me although I don’t need it spelled out, just consistent. Now I’m wondering if the entire BSG show is a brilliant example of misdirection, magnificent writing and maintaining context or are they making mistakes and back peddling, bobbing and weaving to tie things together. It seems to me Razor what an attempt to tell a story that takes place in the second season that helps move the fourth season into a direction they couldn’t keep it going in the third. The BSG movie they’re talking about producing late this summer but releasing before the rest of the fourth season airs is supposed to take place in the first season. I suspect that’s intended to fix some mistake they’ve made like finding Earth with ruins to recent to be the first Cycle. All of this is of course my interpretation of events with my expectations in the way and I’m trying to fit it all into some concept I’m trying make sense of. I suspect there are surprises in store for everyone as this thing winds down. The thing I love most is when viewers try to fit the original BSG and G1980 into RDM’s BSG. The only thing that gives me pause about this is Starbucks magic trip. I think a few like Brad are more objective and are closer to the plot than most are comfortable with. Its fun to think about all this though until its finally revealed in the last few minutes of the last episode.

I like your theories. I've been thinking a bit about the nature of Starbuck and wanted to run it by you. So, let's assume for the moment that Starbuck did go through some kind of wormhole that brought her back to Earth. Because of the distance, her arrival on Earth would be in the future by Galactica's perspective. Let's say that Earth when she arrives is pretty much what we expect it to be. The reality that we live with today. An arrival of a human being from outer space would be a momentous event. My theory is that when Starbuck arrived, she brought with her the stories and religion of the Colonies, particularly those of Aurora. The humans recreated that religion on Earth, rejecting the dominant "one-god" religions they grew up with.

At some point, Starbuck became a leader on Earth, possibly even regarded as a living incarnation of the Goddess Aurora. Thus, you have the Temple of Aurora built in it's greatest city in her honor. Eventually, something goes wrong. War, disaster, not clear yet what it is, but civilization crumbles and it is entirely Starbuck's fault. Perhaps she commits suicide or is killed, but somebody or something creates an exact copy of her and her ship, ties the emergency signal into it, and sends it off through the wormhole to arrive when Galactica reaches the nebula. Again, because of the distance, this would be in the past by Earth's perspective. The somebody probably intended this to be a warning, but clone Starbuck gets the message wrong and leads the humans there anyway.

Since this show is set in the distant future, and I'm pretty sure of that, you are talking about Starbuck going to the distant past of Galactica.

But Moore wrote when he started the show he wanted to not do time travel and aliens, they are over-used cliches. I believe him for now.

True, but technically, it isn't time travel. At least not sci-fi type time travel. Normal space time would apply (unless I have my physics wrong here) and a vast amount of time would elapse between the time Starbuck arrived on Earth and then the clone Starbuck returned to the Galactica assuming she went the vast distance in space between the nebula and Earth. Granted, any show that has FTL drives is sorta blowing the whole concept of time over the wast distance of space completely out the window.

Interesting theory but you fail to mention how Starbuck could get anywhere, let alone to Earth, without a ship, as hers was destroyed. Also, who put Starbuck in a ship to send her back through the wormhole, and why?

I think Starbuck is something akin to an advanced computer virus that can infect and take control of cylon resurrection technology. As she is not a cylon then she must have the ability to use the technology herself. I do not think anyone resurrected her, since she was told she was special and had a destiny which indicates a special power within her.

I think a likely scenario is that the "final five" have their resurrection hub protected in a permanent state of "jump" space. That is, instead of the hub jumping repeatedly to protect itself, it simply stays in jump space. It is then accessible by either a final five cylon dying or by anyone being bodily transported into jump space from a temple, such as the Eye of Jupiter on the algae planet. Kara, either due to advanced evolution or being a hybrid of the final five interbreeding with humanity, has the power to access the hub as well when she dies.

So when Kara's ship exploded, she was resurrected on earth where the technology exists to give her "soul" a body (as Brad has explained.) To get back to the fleet, she then had to die again. Once dead, she "infected" the resurrection technology of the newer cylons in the nebula which gave her a new body and allowed her to leave for the fleet. Either that, or she was able to grow herself a new body and create herself a new viper at the final five's resurrection hub in jump space. After all, if the final five have technology to create a human body, they can certainly create a new viper.

Just something to think about!!

You state that, "This should make no sense to people who believe that Earth was a vacant planet colonized by a Kobolian tribe." I've never been 100% clear on the sequence of events in these characters' ancient history, but I came to the conclusion that it went something like this: a tribe of humans, the "13th tribe", left Kobol and colonized Earth. Some of them then returned to Kobol, either as a one-time trip or as part of an ongoing trade route. The 12 colonies of Kobol might have already had mascots (the ram, the archer, etc.), and when the 13th tribe arrived on earth, they might have fancifully made up 12 constellations to match the 12 mascots they already knew about. When their representatives went back to Kobol, they told of the 12 constellations, and the patterns were then incorporated into the "ancient flags of the colonies". You seem to think there is some inconsistency here, but it goes away if you imagine that the flags came AFTER Earth was colonized and the constellations were discovered/created. I think this is entirely plausible given the time line that we know of. It seems that the 13th tribe left Kobol much earlier than the exodus of the 12 tribes, leaving plenty of time for interstellar travel and trade, and time for new flags to be created featuring these constellations.

As for the cycle of time and the number of cycles, like others who have commented here, I'm not to worked up over it. I always assumed that the exodus from Kobol was due to a cataclysm, and now 3000 years later another cataclysm has occurred, and boom, there's your cycle. Any notions of a cataclysm on Earth are pure speculation and not supported by anything said in the show other than in the very last episode, where we see a devastated planet that may or may not be Earth. And if it is, we don't know when the devastation happened.

When I said, "The 12 colonies of Kobol might have already had mascots", I meant the 12 TRIBES. They weren't colonies until they left Kobol, of course.

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