April 2, 2005

Regarding Battlestars, galactic and regular-type.

I've had a number of people ("one" is a number) ask me if I'll write more about programming, I guess because my views on pop culture are actually more boring than lectures on code. When your audience is asking you to go back to the lecture from the jokes, you know you've lost it.

I guess I already knew that, though, since when I showed my airplane entry to a friend, her only response was (in a Seinfeld voice), "Hey, what's UP with airline food? It's so bad! Am I right? And what about coach? WHY are the seats to SMALL?"

The public has spoken. Thus: my views on Battlestar Galactica.

Ok, I admit, I used to watch Battlestar Galactica back in late 70s. I loved it. It was, in my mind, an incredibly gorgeous and thrilling space opera. At the time it had the distinction of being the most expensive show on television, with effects done by the guy who'd just won an Academy Award for his work on Star Wars 4. I have no idea if I'd like it if I saw it nowadays, and frankly I have no interest in finding out.

So, some genius producer thought to himself, Battlestar Galactica was a great show, there's a lot of Generation-Xers who would watch anything with those words in the title (short of "Battlestar '80"), and I've got ideas on how I could make it mature and dark and thrilling. Rather than making a sequel, I'll rewrite the original version and use the same themes (a rag-tag, fugitive fleet, looking for a shining planet, known only as... Earth), but with all the details changed. So he pitched it to the Sci-Fi channel.

The amazing thing is, he's created something that's MORE true to the spirit of the original show than the original show was. It's Battlestar minus the fluff. It's dark, the plotlines are intricate, the characters are flawed and realistic and compelling, the acting is incredible (Edward James Olmos broods; Mary McDonnell is commanding and presidential). The new series is REALLY incredible.

Here's the deal: 40 years ago, the twelve colonies of humans created robot helpers, called cylons. The cylons rebelled. The humans beat 'em back to a single planet, and we haven't heard from them since. Suddenly the robots re-appear and nuke the crap out of the 12 colonies and chase the remaining 49,000 humans (who managed to get into spaceships and get gone) across the galaxy, kicking our butts.

The smartest decision of the new show was to go retro with the technology. There's no banks of computers and crap. The Galactica itself looks and operates more like a 1940s naval carrier than a spaceship.

Believe me, I could go on for hours about this show. I have, in fact, on a date recently. Believe me, the girl was riveted. I can't remember exactly, but I think I would have gotten lucky if she hadn't had an urgent appointment to floss her cat.

Anyways, I post all this because I'm about to bust; I think figured out the incredible twist to the new show: the 'humans' we've been following are actually cylons from a thousand years ago.

A bit of background: in the new war, the cylons have come back with some of the models imitating humans perfectly; they look, feel, and operate like humans, so much so that they can get pregnant. All throughout the season the humans have had this religious text that says things like "everything you are going through has happened before," and the cylons justify their actions because they see themselves as an improvement on mankind, which they feel has become corrupt.

So, recently the humans captured a cylon (and tortured him!) and he prophesied that the humans are going to find Kobol ("the birthplace of the gods") and there find out "the truth," and how to get to Earth. Then, in the second-to-last episode of the season, the humans did indeed find the ruins of the planet Kobol, where "gods and man once lived together in peace."

Throughout the first season, we've seen cylons who look and feel human interacting with humans, and the humans trying to grapple with whether to treat them as soulless machines: Is it OK to torture a machine for information? Can machines feel love or fear? If they are designed exactly like humans, what actually separates them from us?

So, I think the modern-day "humans" are about to discover that the ancient humans on Kobol also created artificial life (their own "cylons") a thousand years ago, and those life forms also rebelled, destroying Kobol. That much seems pretty obvious, since the human bible says the current war has happened before.

My guess is: in the last war, the real humans lost, and fled to Earth. The existing 12 colonies, and thus the entire rag-tag fleet of "humans," are the VICTORS from the previous war; they are the robots who rebelled and won. They are the old cylons, who over the course of a thousand years turned their origin into a creation myth that few of them still really believe. The "humans" that we love killed their gods, just as the cylons are doing now.

I love the symmetry of this. I hope I'm right. It's the season finale tonight, so we'll all see whether I'm an idiot or a prophet.

Update: My Replay didn't record Part 2 tonight, so I'm still in the dark. I did watch the deleted scenes from Part 1, which include this scene which I think helps to build my case: the priestess says, "One god wanted to be elevated above the others," which I take to mean that one human felt he was better than the other humans and betrayed the ancients to the robots, much the way Baltar feels he's better than everyone around him and ended up betraying humanity to the cylons.

Six says "Blasphemy, there was only one God, ever," because the Cylons feel that the betrayer of humanity was the real god, since they're, you know, big on betrayal. It all makes sense. At 3AM.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I wish I had cable...


April 01, 2005 6:25 PM

Anonymous Trapper Markelz said...

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April 01, 2005 7:35 PM

Anonymous John Moltz said...

I also had a similar thought at 3 pm yesterday after seeing the season finale. Apparently, not-so-great minds may also think alike.

But I'm still hoping that they won't go with some '70s mumbo-jumbo about humans on Earth having come from somewhere else. What a load of horse hockey.

I'm also hoping that this idea is wrong as I like to be surprised.

Oh, and I started to try to convey the joy I feel watching every episode to my wife and she abruptly said she had to take her raccoon to the vet. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a raccoon.

Anyway, the second half doesn't confirm or deny your idea.

April 03, 2005 9:23 PM

Blogger thomas Aylott said...

ug... i so need to buy a few extra hours a day from the time-traders.

I didn't mean to imply by requesting more programming stuff that i wasn't big on the other (more blog-esque) stuff. Yay ..uh. other stuff! Woo!


My wife just bought me the complete first 6 seasons of red dwarf for our 5 year anniversary. Even though she utterly hates the stuff.

I'm forcing her to watch it though & she truly loves the sheer volume of interesting insults (probly about 60% of the screentime of the first couple seasons).

I'm going to have to get this show when it comes out on DVD. I just have no time to actually watch live TV anymore. That & I'm too cheap to get cable TV.

April 05, 2005 8:08 AM

Anonymous Michael said...

You might enjoy Ghost in the Shell 2, what with all the 'what counts as human' storyline and such.
(Haven't yet seen it myself, but it sounds quite good)


April 13, 2005 12:16 PM

Anonymous Shell said...

I was pretty skeptical about the show when they first announced the remake. Especially about the whole Starbuck-as-a-woman thing. That just seemed to me to be under the category of Not Right. But I have to admit I was been rather impressed with the plot writing. Now when you go back and watch the reruns of the old BG on SciFi channel, the writing seems so one dimensional and often just _lame_. And we thought it was a cool show back in the 70's! I enjoy how all the characters in the new series are fundamentally flawed in some way. It's more difficult to deal with because the old series made the Cylons so obviously "evil", it was easy to hate them. Much harder to do on the new series with all of the Cylons "human" failings.

June 27, 2005 11:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new Battlestar Galactica is indeed fantastic. By some odd coincidence, despite it being much further along in the series than it was when Wil posted this, I am actually at the exact point in watching it that Wil was when he posted it.

I too thought that the original series was an amazing piece of work when I first saw it. I saw some episodes more recently, and now I feel very differently. They're definitely a piece of...work.

Because of my disenchantment with the old series, I was very hesitant to try the new. But it's very easy to point at many things that the new series got much more right. Some things aren't as good, but most things are improved.

A few of the changes, and the pros and cons:


Pro: New depth, range of emotions. Metaphysical questions about the meaning of "humanity" pervade the entire series! Additionally, they're not filmed through the sparkle lens that says "I may be a robot, but I know how to disco."

Con: They don't say "By your command" any more! That was the best.


Pro: Esentially unchanged in appearance, but they take physics more into account, which is cool to a science geek like me. The fact that the viper can be flying one way, and turn around through some directional thrusters, and still be flying the same way...simple but brilliant.

Con: Hmm. No con here.


Pro: Changing Starbuck and Boomer to females was a risky, but very cool move. Starbuck is played extrordinarily well, as a very gifted, but very flawed hero. And Boomer is played by Grace Park. That, my friends, is a very, very big pro.

Con: Because it's on TV, Boomer does not get naked often enough.

I could go on, but I've doubtless said enough to convince you. Especially since "you" probably don't exist, since I'm responding at the bottom of an old blog entry.

"By your command!"

August 07, 2006 1:11 PM


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