My Big, Bad Battlestar Galactica Post, part 3

[part 2] [part 1]

How Easy Is It To Detect A Cylon?

Damned easy. I’m not sure what the deal was in the first season with Baltar going on about how difficult it was to detect a Cylon. I noticed in the second season they have backed away from the idea. Maybe it’s hard to tell by exposing a blood sample to radiation (as I believe Baltar was doing), but certainly not from a physical examination.

Aside from appearance, we assume all Cylon skinjob models have the same basic traits.

  • While not invincible, the fleshy Cylons are somewhat stronger than humans. In Flesh and Bone, Leoben breaks a metal chain and tries to attack Starbuck. To be strong like that implies some kind of physiological difference from a regular human specimen. Any serious examination would reveal different, or denser muscle tissue and reinforced bone.
  • From the miniseries and from Six Degrees of Separation, we know that the spine of a Cylon exhibits some bioluminescence during intercourse (I actually think the writers are using it as a metaphor for love). While I’m very sure this had a lot to do with the special effects folks getting frisky, we’ll assume it’s canon until RDM says otherwise. Hence, you can easily find a Cylon agent by watching them frak…
  • Cylons have a radio in them somewhere. There must be some mechanism inside a Cylon agent that acts as an FTL radio so they can quickly upload their consciousness to a resurrection centre in the event of the agent’s death. Surely this kind of additional equipment, biological or not, would show up in an X-Ray or a CAT scan.
  • Some part of the Cylon anatomy allows them to interface with computer systems. In Flight of the Phoenix, Sharon interfaces herself with the Galactica by cutting into her wrist and inserting a network cable. This isn’t as silly as it might seem at first. Researchers in the real world have been attaching living cells to electronic stuff for years. So there must be something about the Cylon nervous system that is not normal. Surely this could be detected with a biopsy or something.

Why Do The Cylons Hate The Colonials So Much?

We presume that machines like the original Cylons were used as unpaid workers, as any machine is used today. This is fine right up until the point you give a machine like that enough intelligence to question its place in the world. At that moment, you have just created a slave. Slaves often find ways to rebel, and they can harbour a bit of resentment towards their former masters. I guess the Cylons had a lot of resentment.

At the same time, I think the Cylons are also afraid of their old masters. The First Cylon War did not end in a victory, it ended with a truce. We find out in Resurrection Ship that the Colonials are not helpless. The older Galactica and the modern Pegasus shred two Basestars and destroy the Resurrection Ship. I think the Cylons hacked the Colonial defence systems not just because they could, but because they had to in order to achieve victory. If forced into a stand-up fight with the Colonial fleet I think they would have lost, and they knew it.

Some have suggested religion as a motivator. The Cylons are a monotheistic religion, while the Colonials are polytheistic. Certainly humans in the real world have fought over less. A statement is being made about religion to be sure, but that’s not what is driving the Cylons. I think that good old fashioned fear and hate are. The only problem the Cylons have now are the reports of some of their field agents. The “faulty logic” that Brother Cavil refers to is likely the fallacy of division. The willingness to annihilate an entire species has got to be pretty closely tied to the assumption that all of its members are evil. But some of the returning agents are reporting that some of the humans aren’t so bad after all. Some, like Sharon, even wish they were human.

What is Cylon Culture Like?

In Downloaded we get a fascinating and creepy glimpse into Cylon culture, or at least the one on Caprica.

The Cylons would seem to have a society of unity, where the efforts of all the members are equally valued. Unless its members have no egos at all — the Cylons have pretty big egos — I suppose such a society could work if you have an endless source of slave labour to do all the crappy jobs, which the Cylons have in the form of the Centurions. I suppose it is also helpful that every Cylon knows there are millions of other citizens who look just like him.

It becomes pretty apparent watching Downloaded that the Cylons intend to resettle Caprica, perhaps all of the Twelve Colonies. But more than that, they intend to fix it up kind of like it was, only better… or at least their idea of better. In Downloaded they have the Centurions planting trees and cleaning up rubble. They’ll have their theatres, walks, parks and coffee shops to go to. They serve each other happily and freely as good members of their unified society should.

They even intend to re-populate it. In The Farm, Starbuck stumbles into their experiments with Human-Cylon reproduction (Helo and Sharon managed to get the job done the old fashioned way). One presumes they intend to repopulate it with their kind of people, not faulty, wicked human types. A society where everyone works together and is happy. Utopia? I guess all one would have to do is exterminate all of the pesky humans first. Hunt them down and kill them all so they can never, ever pollute your society with their wicked ways ever again. Leoben even says as much at the end of the miniseries.

All of it creepy. It’s like the Cylons want to be just like the humans, just without all of the baggage that makes humans real people. The kinds of things, bad though they might be, that keep us rooting for the people of the Colonies. It is as if the glee club from high-school took over the world.

A common complaint about these scenes in Downloaded is that not all of the models are present. I was able to identify D’Annas, Sharons, Sixes, and Dorals, as well as others which were probably supposed to be Simons and Leobens. One possibility is that not all the models want to be there or are supposed to be there, but I’m thinking this has more to do with: a) saving money on guest stars, and b) keeping back some surprises for future seasons. Remember, I still hold on to hope that President Adar will turn out to be a Cylon because Colm Feore plays such a great bad guy.

We know the Cylons have a religion — a lot of people have latched on to it as a central conflict in the show. But as I said before, I don’t think it really is. In the context of the story, I think the whole religion thing was a gradual development in Cylon culture and is now perhaps one of the ways the Cylon leadership (if there is such a thing) keeps certain members of their culture from questioning their atrocities (eg. you are doing this for God). Six seems to believe it. Maybe belief in a great deity is their way of staying in denial about who really made them in the first place.

Brother Cavil seems to know the real score, however. In Lay Down Your Burdens, he says plainly that “there is no God.” This might be the writers having a bit of fun (as Cavil was working undercover as a priest) or maybe there is a nugget of information in there about him and Cylon culture.

Here are some other unanswered questions:

  • The skinjobs now seem to form the bulk of all self-aware Cylons. What prompted the switch from the metal bodies to the human-like ones?
  • Have they been planing the extermination of the Colonials all along?
  • If their society is unified one, why is it that the D’Anna models seem to have more authority than Sharons? Or was that just those particular two?
  • Does the model numbering scheme imply some kind of rank?
  • Is there any central Cylon leadership at all?
  • Who leads the Cylon military and makes the strategic decisions?
  • What the hell happens when you get “boxed”?
  • Where do all the Cylons live on Caprica? Have they simply cleared away all the bodies and moved into all the empty houses?

Next: On one of the most intreguing episodes in sci-fi history.

Cylons on Caprica

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