Do Cylons have an FTL radio?

FTL is one of the exceptions to the laws of physics that RDM has allowed in the show. However, for colonials we only see the FTL jump. When they want to send messages via FTL, they have to send them in a ship that jumps. The Cylons have a better jump technology, but can they also send signals via FTL without using a ship? Examination either they can do this, or they have always had ships just outside of range of the fleet, just about everywhere it has gone. Let's consider:


Cylons can transmit the full contents of their mind to a resurrection tank when their body dies. Boomer and a Leoben die on Galactica when no Cylons are near, yet make it. However, there is a range. Gina feels she will download to a distant Cylon resurrection ship and helps the fleet destroy it. These downloads happen quickly, not in months or years, so they appear to be FTL. Pretty impressive to have an FTL transmitter in the brain that can't be detected with a microscope.

Signal from Olympic Carrier

Think back to 33, the first regular episode. In 33, a Cylon attack arrives 33 minutes after the fleet jumps. At one point the Olympic Carrier fails to arrive, and there is no attack 33 minutes later. However, when it does arrive, late, there is an attack 33 minutes after it arrives. It is destroyed, and the attacks stop.

If the jump officer of the OC is a Cylon, then once she receives the new coordinates, she can transmit them by regular lightspeed radio to the Cylon fleet that is attacking, before jumping away with the fleet. Those Cylons could then follow immediately -- no need to wait 33 minutes. And on the jump that the OC didn't make, the Cylons would still have arrived, since this presumes they are getting the jump coordinates with ordinary radio at lightspeed. This is true even if you imagine the coordinates are sent to a fleet 30 or so light-minutes away.

However, the attacks come 33 minutes after the arrival of the OC. This implies instead there are Cylons on the OC, and after the jump they look around, figure out where they are and transmit that to the attack fleet using FTL communication, and that this whole process requires 33 minutes.

Another explanation is that the Cylons can track where the fleet jumped, but that this takes 33 minutes to do. However, this doesn't explain why the non-arrival of the OC resulted in no Cylon attack 33 minutes later. The attacks take place 33 minutes after the arrival of the OC, not 33 minutes after it departs, unless the last theory is true. In addition, it seems to be a general theme that the colonials believe they can't be tracked after they jump, or they would have been dead long ago.

The only other explanation that works won't please people -- namely that 33 was all a game, to test the fleet. That the 33 minute delay was artificial, and that they wanted the fleet to have to destroy the OC and kill their own people for some reason. In that case no FTL is needed, but you do need a compromised jump officer somewhere in the fleet (not necessarily the OC.) Colonel Tigh could set it up -- but he's not aware of his mission.

D'Anna signals for her documentary to be picked up.

D'Anna Biers makes a documentary with a shot of a pregnant Sharon. When ready, two raiders appear to pick up a transmission of the documentary and are destroyed, yet it does get through. Perhaps the raiders are able to transmit it in their download of their minds, or with superior FTL radios. D'Anna needed some way to signal them to get them to arrive on queue, which it seems would need to be FTL.

Tracking the fleet

The Cylons track the fleet on the path to the Ionian nebula. Six, when grilled, says they detected an unusual radiation signature from their mining ship. But that would still be something that moved at the speed of light. The Cylons are able to show up at a location many hours after the fleet left. Is the radiation signature a red herring? (If Six knows they Cylons have a superior but secret tracking technology, she would be highly motivated to come up with a cover story.)

Are they able to track where a ship jumped to, given 12 hours? That would be something brand new.

It is implied they track the fleet, even with the radiation signature fixed, to the Ionian Nebula. However, it is not yet established if the fleet that appears there is the same fleet that was following. Starbuck declares "It's gonna be OK."

Receiving communications from other base ships

In "Torn" the Cylons receive signals from the infected base ship. But how -- all its raiders are infected, so how would it send a signal via ship?

Sending messages via jump-ship is possible but very complex. To send a message, you must know where the other ship is in advance. You can't send a message to a ship out exploring, unless it sent a ship to you first to tell you where it is. That requires a constant exchange of ships to keep track of the location of every ship. Possible, but messy.

Just always knowing where the fleet is.

It's also a credible to suggest that the entire chase of the first two seasons, and the third for that matter, were a lie. There is a fair bit of evidence pointing to that. In this case, the Cylons could indeed just keep a ship near the fleet at all times, ready to receive ordinary transmissions and downloads of minds. This also implies "33" was a game, too. It does not explain Gina's desire to destroy the resurrection ship which is very far away to avoid downloading herself. (Her use of a nuke avoids that question in any event, one presumes even a Cylon can't download if vapourized in moments.)

Of course, many fans are not yet willing to accept the idea of the chase being a ruse, of the Cylons always knowing where the fleet is. But it's that or FTL radio, and even then, things like Bulldog's ability to find the fleet, and Leoben's prediction that they would go to Kobol are hard to explain if there was a real chase.

Update: Resurrection Hub

Much later we learn of a central resurrection hub, without which resurrection is impossible. There is only one, that moves around. Somehow all the resurrection ships must communicate with that hub, and it seems they would have to do it FTL, or we wouldn't be able to see things like Sharon killing herself on Galactica to move to a base ship.


The one thing I don't get it how Colonel Tigh can be a Cylon. He served in the first Colonial War, presumably back when Cylons were only the big metal monsters and not in human form. How could he be planted in a war, never becoming "active"/aware during that entire war (which presumably the Cylons wanted to win but apparently were already thinking to the NEXT war 40 years later?), and then end up on a ship that was likely to survive the surprise attack? I like the plot twist, but it's seriously stretching it.

What say you?

But that's answered in the backstory article. There are (at least) 2 generations of Cylons. The Final Five date back at least 4,000 years to the Temple of Five. Did you not see them in that Temple, and in the Opera House from Kobol, dating back 2,000 to 4,000 years? Tigh only dates back 65 years -- that's nothing.

Where do you think the 7 Cylons we saw before got their bodies from? They sure don't act like they developed that technology.

so if the original cylons from 40 years back were the big metal guys, and the new cylons, and no human had ever seen them before, had taken human form, how can the final 5, if they're that old, even claim to be cylons? unless they're cylons from the "previous cycle"--you know, "all this has happened before, will happen again?"

You got it. The Cylons were created by man, but long, long ago. Our characters in this show only know of the most recent creation.

... this would probably mean that the final 5, if they've lasted this long, are probably 1) from earth and 2) are the product of a human-Cylon friendship concluded at the end of the previous cycle.* This would mean they will help the humans not hurt them. It also explains the whole Starbuck going to earth plotline (I don't think she's in Lee's head, and if she is, bummer; instead she must have been scooped out of her ship before it crashed by the same cylon transport that Lee saw). It also supports your notion of the last hidden Cylon being somebody like Adama, who will bring humans and Cylons together in the current cycle (interestingly, earth was his idea). Probably not Roslyn though--like Moses she appears to be fated to never see the promised land.

*but if true how could the current cylons know about these older cylons, if from different cycles, have never met face to face?

I am not sure the F5 are from Earth, but it is a likely place given they are associated with the Temple of Five, which was built by Earthlings.

There is no reason to conclude there was human-Cylon friendship in any given cycle, but it is true that the Final Five were not involved in the genocide of the colonies, and further that they appear to have been involved in Galactica and the fleet escaping it. Furthermore Tigh fought in the first cylon war.

The mystery of why the 7 Cylons know there are 5 others, though they have not seen them and are forbidden from curiousity or discussion about them remains unresolved. But it makes it likely the final 5, or somebody associated with them, had something to do with the programming of the 7.

But then.. if the final 5 had something to do with the programming of the 7, then why would the 7's start count from 1. Meaning, wouldn't the final 5 be models 1 through 5, instead of 8 through 12?

RDM didn't plan at the start to have a special group of 5, I think he wrote that 3rd season.

But he had already declared 12 models and given out numbers 3, 6 and 8, so there was no way to make it be two groups of contiguous numbers.

He did not serve in the first war. His identity was a memory implant, his history was forged, and he actually never served in the first war. Though likely thought that he had.

It's true that they decided to write it as implanted memories. However, at the same time Tigh was alive during the first war, in fact he had been alive for over 2,000 years, so they could also have written him as really in it if they had not decided to make it all Cavil's plan.

If Cylon's jump technology is based on wormholes, I would suppose, their FTL radio would be based on a similar tecnology. I don't see why you can't argue their downloading is based on some form of microscopic wormhole technology. Baltar and Caprica 6's "psychological melding" was a leap of creative effort that RDM has prefered to leave unexplained. Again, an argument could be made that "Head Baltar" and "Head 6" are side effects of their close proximity, Caprica 6's uploading, and Baltars terror during the nuclear explosion and blastwave that hit Baltar's home. If they're a little tangled up on the wormhole front it might explain why Baltar's and Caprica 6' personalities can talk to each other. I'm not saying this is how it is but it does help knock some of the different problems into a coherent and simple whole.

Brains are tremendously complex things. You can't broadcast into somebody's head, I would have to say, except by something designed to do that, or a head designed to receive it, as Cylon brains are.

50% of a deal is better than 100% of no deal, so I'll bank that one. In any case, the internal characters were a fluke of the creative process and the edge they added seems more important. It's something you can fudge without explanations and Ron seems happy enough with leaving it unexplained. I can run with that.

Just had another thought. In Blake's 7 there was a small computer called Orac. Orac's systems were multi-dimensional, and used the same dimension telepaths used to communicate. Again, this is all speculative fiction but could be massaged into an explanation for this and Roslin's shared dream experience.'s_7)

'However, it is not yet established if the fleet that appears there is the same fleet that was following.' - so . . . given the coincidence of Star Buck appearing with that Cylon fleet at the end of the last episode - these Cylons could be from Earth, and have turned on a beacon to activate the final five?

We know almost nothing about that Cylon fleet, or where Starbuck came from (other than Earth.) The only thing we know is that they didn't track the rag-tag fleet there by following the radiation signature of the now-decoy refinery ship.

Clearly some powerful forces have been planning something about that nebula for some time. Aside from leaving a 4,000 year old clue to point to it, the final 4 were set to trigger there. They were not triggered by something at the nebula itself, but by "proximity" to it of some sort. They started hearing the music hundreds of light years away from the nebula, which implies that they either had a hidden command to trigger when they became aware they were approaching the nebula, or there is some sort of non-FTL field that surrounds the nebula for a thousand light-years, or the being that sent the trigger is traveling with the fleet. Or they received an FTL trigger from somewhere distant.

But the following Cylons aren't stupid either - they would have seen the general direction of the fleet, and when they repaired the fuel ship and suddenly jumped in a totally different direction to the huge nebular hanging in space, I think they would have seen what was happening and sent some baseships to the nebular anyway . .

So the cylons from earth are from a different "cycle" than the current cylons, created at totally different periods of history, and yet they have the exact same ship designs???? The exact same signatures on Draydus? (sp?) History repeats okay, but the exact same ship design is ridiculous i'm not buying it

We don't know where the Cylon fleet at Ionia is from. It does use the same ship designs as the S7 Cylons do. I said that Starbuck has come from Earth and it's likely her patrons, who took her there, are from Earth or friendly with the folks there, if there are folks there. It's true that Starbuck says that "it's gonna be OK" which implies she is not worried about the Cylon fleet, and may even be friends with it, but we don't know the latter.

Now as for design: The Galactica museum showed the Cylons as having body forms and base ships from the original 1978 series. The old ones looked like a sort of yo-yo. My personal suspicion is that the old cycle of Cylons, notably the Final Five, gave the new ones their humanoid bodies, so they may well have given them ship designs and superior jump tech and other technology as well, but that's just speculation.

What we do know is:

  • Starbuck thinks there is nothing to worry about.
  • That fleet didn't track them by following the radiation signature on the mining ship -- that ship is going off elsewhere.
  • The fleet following them was hostile and shot a missle at the raptor.
  • We don't know for sure how the other fleet was following. The radiation signature was simply Six's offer of a possible technique. (Six wants to save her own skin and the child but would not otherwise give over Cylon secrets.)
  • This nebula was planned as a destination thousands of years ago.
  • Proximity to this nebula (but not any non-FTL signal) appears to be the trigger for the 4 Cylons to hear the music and know their nature.
  • The fleet was worried it was being followed for most of the trip and knew it was being followed for the last several jumps so it was probably not on any predictable course.

A couple of points (mostly read on this blog) stick in my mind, though not in any really coherent fashion unfortunately . .

The final 5 Cylon trigger at the nebular is also a signpost to Earth - some might say the final signpost. Thus, they have to be related. That is too strong a sign to be a random insertion by the writers (I'm operating on the assumption, mostly from what I've seen and some things RDM said in his interviews, that the mythology isn't completely planned, and thus not everything is going to make sense, but that they tend to have a general direction they are aiming for . . . )

The Cylons did seem to know that some humans would escape the attacks on the Colonies . . stationing a man in the ammo depot, for example, and putting Cylons on the Galactica.

Also, Galactica did seem prepared in some ways for the attack - it had a Cylon transponder installed in it, plus 4 of the final 5 Cylons seemed to have positioned themselves to be in Galactica.

But, the other Cylons really did seem to be trying to wipe these humans out of existence. If they weren't, then they have been faking it all along, and that would have required an extremely high degree of knowledge about what was to happen - eg, that Galactica wouldn't explode when being pounded by 4 basestars at New Caprica, etc.

So, it does look like two opposing forces, with limited knowledge of what would happen, trying to control events.

Roslin, Starbuck, and Baltar . . . who knows where they fit in.

Anyway, the more I read, the more I see some of these ideas have been thought of already, just kind of clarifying them for myself.


But a few things are worth noting:

a) The attack on the colonies was not expected to be nearly that easy. Six was named a Hero of the Cylon because they judged her efforts as the lynchpin in making it work. Without her, it would have been a longer, protracted war.

b) For the S7 Cylons, they were in many places, such as the Gina that ended up on Pegasus. I bet 6 other battlestars had a Cylon on board in the military, and probably many civilian ships had them as well (where the duplication woudl not be so obvious.) However, you can bet there was not another Tigh in the military (at least not near his age) as he would be famous enough as a Colonel to not be somebody you duplicate. Anders was also famous. But you could duplicate them at different apparent ages.

c) We don't know who planted the transponder. Could have been Tigh (unconsciously.)

e) Destroying the Galactica at New Caprica doesn't destroy the human race, just its main pesky military threat. Throughout all the attacks on the fleet, they have aimed almost entirely at the military ships, even though civilian ships would be easy for them to nuke -- especially if killing all humans is their goal.

Ok, maybe this is a stretch, but if you have the ability to make FTL jumps, then you basically have the framework for time jumps as well. Could the final 5 be the decendents of Hera, and Nicholas Tyrol, and any other future Human/Cylon spawn? Perhaps there is the possibility of a harmonious future in which the new combined race lives, and the final 5 are sent back in time to lead both humans and Cylons to that end. Just an idea. Care to comment?

Time travel has become the bane of television SF, ruining perfectly good shows left and right. It's OK to do a show that's about time travel (Doctor Who, Time Tunnel etc.) but usually when a "regular" show throws in some time travel it ruins all consistency. Babylon 5 did OK, I guess, but even there it takes away from it. Heroes is also starting to wallow.

And based on what he has said, Ron Moore thinks the same way, and does not plan to use time travel in BSG. Though he does strongly feature a "cycle" theme we have yet to see why.

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