What is Starbuck?
Update: Well, obviously Starbuck turned out to be something quite different, though many find her nature to be both disappointing and not fully resolved. Starbuck was an instrument of Gog (God of Galactica) presumably born human, but with a special destiny in mind. Her father taught her the magic song containing the coordinates that would jump Galactica from the Colony to the Earth's moon if entered at the exact end of the battle. Oracles told her mother and her of a special fate.
Leoben also had a sense she was special, and knew her destiny was already written, yet when he saw her original body in the viper, he got scared and declared he was wrong. We don't know what he thought or what he thought he was wrong about, because his statements about her were largely true.
Gog sent a head-angel to her in the form of Leoben to convince her to embrace death, suggesting she was originally human. What she became after that, in the new body and viper, was a being that Gog seemed to make vanish into thin air once her mission was complete. She was unaware of that but became aware of it at the very end. It is unknown if she just ceased to exist, or became an ethereal being like Head Six. To all appearances, unlike Head Six, she had a very physical body, with DNA that could be tested.
The best I can conclude is that Starbuck was a capriciously used instrument of Gog who was taken to oblivion when her task was done.
Time to look at all the mysteries surrounding Starbuck. Starbuck, we are told, has had a destiny since she was born. Her mother was told this by Oracles. As a child she painted the Eye of Jupiter mandala symbol, it is tied into her brain.
Leoben thinks that both he and she have had prior lives. He tells her that her destiny is already written, and that in a previous cycle, they may have met up with roles reversed -- him as interrogator, her as prisoner.
And, of course, with the advice of a spirit guide who looks like Leoben but isn't, she flies into a storm on a gas giant, we see a viper explosion, and she returns over two months later in a brand new viper with memories and photos of a trip to Earth, long hair and special compulsions in her brain. Her old exploded viper and a burned body with her hair and dog tags is found, emitting a locater signal on the 13th colony, in fact the locater is how they get to that site.
Somebody is manipulating Starbuck and bringing about events. Somebody put visions in her mind pushing her to embrace the maelstrom and to go to the place between life and death, appearing as Leoben. Somebody put her in a brand new viper. Somebody put her old viper and a body with her dog tags on the 13th colony. Somebody gave her the compulsions and visions and the locater beacon. Is this Ellen Tigh? Somebody on her side? Somebody on another side? Whoever it is wanted to guide the Final Five to the very spot on which they died on the 13th colony, where memories would return.
So let's consider:
Everybody's a Cylon
If everybody is artificial (but most are programmed to think they are human of course) then so is Starbuck, and this could have been a download, with transfer to a new, duplicated body. The 2 month gap could be a delay in growing a fresh body (they won't have extra Starbuck bodies around) but the long hair is an interesting issue. In this case, it's really her body in the wrecked viper.
Starbuck is a special kind of Cylon
Starbuck is marked as special, so possibly while everybody is artificial, Starbuck is one of the few who is set up for a download. This is, ironically, less likely than everybody being a Cylon since I think they want to stick to there being only 12 special Cylon models living on the colonies
Many now speculate that Starbuck may be the child of Daniel, the #7 Cylon. The timing works, and would be a reason why #1 would be jealous of or hate #7. Obviously the others could not know if it. Some even speculate that the changing of Daniel's DNA means that Starbuck is a Daniel.
There is a teleporter
The FTL drives in the show are really teleporters. They seem to teleport only to the skin of the ship they are on, though how this boundary is defined is not set out. It's not much of a leap to imagine an FTL drive/teleporter that teleports a region of open space around it. The FTL drives teleport the open launch bays, so the space does not need to be fully enclosed.
We need some sort of teleporter just to have the falling viper wreckage and body of Starbuck caught as they fall in the gas giant. I suppose one could imagine a very big collector, or a tractor beam to collect the falling wreckage, but a wide area FTL seems to make more sense.
The FTL drive, as we know, makes a bright flash of light when it acts. And Starbuck, just before she explodes, is bathed in a bright white light. Many think this is also similar to the teleporter used by the Ship of Lights from the 1978 TV series. I don't expect Moore to do the exact ship of lights and the gods inside it, but he might plan a parallel to them.
Vipers, by the way, don't have FTL, so a teleporter is needed to move that new viper around, too.
Once you accept a teleporter, then of course Starbuck's living body could have been teleported out before the explosion. The body in the wreckage could be from anywhere. Duplicated dog tags are pretty easy to manage if you can duplicate a viper. We never get a good look at the blasted body, and Starbuck cremates it.
Note that Starbuck's long hair, which suggests she's been sitting around unconscious for 2-3 months, is too long for that amount of time. Human hair doesn't grow quite that fast. At the same time, the longer hair is supposed to be very obvious to the audience, so we might accept that it's overdone for that reason. The longer hair does seem to be telling us that they didn't just duplicate her 6 hours ago, matching what she remembers.
Some fans have noticed the potential for a switcheroo. When Starbuck is flying and gets hit at first, her power goes out and the light in her helmet goes out. (That helmet light would not be really there but is important for a TV show.) But for some reason, the in the viper that Lee Adama catches up with, and sees explode, the helmet light is on. Is this just a continuity error? Or a sign that there is, like the phantom heavy raider, a duplicate viper? That Starbuck's viper is taken away, with her unharmed, and a ringer explodes in front of Lee?
This requires 3 vipers, by the way. Starbuck's real viper, the brand new one, and the one that explodes. That may be a bit much. It is no longer needed to have something collect the wreckage, as Starbuck's real viper can be used for that. So while it has too many vipers, this approach requires less "magic."
The visit to Earth or Earth?
Starbuck's memories, and the camera of her viper, reveal a visit to an "Earth" where she takes photos of the moon and Zodiac, and they match the Tomb of Athena. In a deleted scene, we are told that only 4 of the constellations match, but we don't learn if that means that 8 mismatch or 8 were not photographed. Leaving aside the issue that the Tomb constellations are not quite right for our sky, which Earth was she above? The real one or the 13th colony?
There is confusion because she is given pointers to both. Her new viper has a locater pointing at her old viper, which is on the 13th colony. So the powers that sent her do seem to want to guide her there, so the Final Five can revisit the site of their death 2,000 years ago.
But she also is given a vision of the Cylon battle scene (not yet happened) at the real Jupiter, which is not the same system as the 13th colony. She also gets the "triple star" vision which is highly confusing, and while I have seen some theories, it's not really clear what that's about. (Alpha Centauri is technically a triple star, but the 3rd star is very hard to see, even from the main stars of Alpha Centauri. And nothing we have seen takes place there. Michael Hall thinks she confused the sight of the sun, a jovian moon and Earth for 3 stars.)
She also gets compulsions in her brain. They tell her the fleet is going the wrong way when it continues on from the Ionian Nebula. They tell her that real hard. And they seem to lead her to the real Jupiter system, as the Demetrius is within a sublight trip of that battle, and the rendezvous point is only one jump away.
So she gets pointers to both systems? Is her pointer to the Cylon battle site just to get her there to talk to a Hybrid? If the Cylon battle site is really Jupiter, that's too much of a coincidence.
(Note: If you conclude that they are just using the star patterns capriciously, throwing in real ones sometimes and random ones other times, you could conclude that even though they showed the Earth stars at the Cylon battle site and random stars at the 13th colony, that these were in fact the same system.)
Once again, why?
While all this is difficult to pin down, we have very little information on the "why?" of all this. Guiding them to the 13th colony, or Earth, for that matter using a bizarre switcheroo of Starbuck and compulsions in her brain seems like a very strange way to do things. We don't know a lot about the motives of the string-pullers, but some possible motives include:
- Trying to bring the humans and Cylons together
- Trying to make the cycle of time repeat, carrying out prophecies
- Trying to break the cycle of time
I can sort of squeeze these events into the first motive, but it's not an easy fit. There seem to be better ways to do it.