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Word Salad: The History of the Cylon Race Comes Tumbling Out on "Battlestar Galactica"

"Hell is other people." - Jean-Paul Sartre

It's hardly a coincidence that this week's episode of Battlestar Galactica ("No Exit"), written by Ryan Mottesheard, shares its title with one of Sartre's best known works, a play about three people trapped in a room with no escape, forced to argue for all eternity. Yes, hell is other people and Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) discovers that when she's imprisoned aboard a base ship with only John Cavil and Boomer as her companions and captors.

It's in that room that Ellen regains her memories of her true life, one lived on Earth and as the creator of the so-called Cylon skinjobs, eight humanoid models that were gifted (or is it cursed?) with bodies comprised of flesh instead of metal and programmed with the Centurions' belief in one true God.

Wait? Eight humanoid models? Yep, you read that correctly. So strap on your Viper gear and let's discuss the history of the Cylon race, Daniel, the Colony, and Kara Thrace.

Confused about the secret history of the "Old Cylon" race? Let's see if we can work it all out from what Battlestar Galactica has told us thus far.

The Thirteenth Tribe. Just as there seemed to be a link between the fact that the humans have twelve colonies and the Cylons had twelve models, so too is there some analogy to be gained by the fact that the Cylons now seem to number thirteen... and the Final Five are the last descendants of the fabled Thirteenth Tribe of humanity, an offshoot that fled Kobol with the humans but rather than settle on one of twelve planets flew across the stars to Earth and settled on the Blue Planet. Along the way, they left a route marker should the humans come looking for them eventually, a Temple of Hope that would point the way to Earth.

Were these original Cylons the "gods" that the humans worshiped and lived with on Kobol? Or were they an ancient race of artificially intelligent beings? Tory believes that the Thirteenth Tribe was created by the humans on Kobol, so the latter seems plausible. These beings couldn't reproduce sexually but they could live on via an ancient resurrection technology, a technology that was later rediscovered by Ellen and her fellow scientific researchers on Earth. Such technology fell out of favor because, over the course of thousands of years, the Thirteenth Tribe was able to reproduce biologically.

In their hubris, like the humans, the Thirteen Tribe also created a slave race of Centurions... who rose up to overthrow their fleshy oppressors and unleashed a nuclear holocaust on Earth. Everyone was killed... but Ellen and her colleagues had foreseen this eventuality and had used the resurrection technology to download their memories aboard a ship that was orbiting the planet, as Anders told us.

The Thirteenth Tribe, however, lacked FTL jump drives and therefore had to cross the universe in order to reach the Twelve Colonies, a journey of roughly 2000 years. During that journey, time slowed down for the Final Five so that when they arrived at the Colonies, they weren't much older than when they had left Earth.

Unfortunately, they arrived at the Colonies just as the First Cylon War was raging. The Final Five intervened and ended the war, recalling the Centurions and restoring peace to the Colonies in order to buy the humans more time. They didn't want to see a repeat of what had happened to them on Earth.

And that's where things get really interesting...

Cavil. Ellen and the others attempt to appeal to the Centurions' belief in a loving, forgiving single God and--in order to make them understand and sympathize with the humans--create eight humanoid models that bridge the gap between man and machine. The first model created? John Cavil, who turns out to be a sadistically twisted creation who loathes his corporeal body.

And like Cain slew Abel, he brutally murders one of his fellow children, Daniel, a Model Seven who was artistic and sensitive (more on him in a bit); poisoning the amniotic fluid containing his entire line and corrupting Daniel's programming, John causes his entire line to be irreversibly damaged. He then turns on his creators, shoves them in a compartment, cuts off the oxygen and suffocates them. When they download, he erases their memories and implants false ones, eventually setting them up over time among the humans in the Colonies. An experiment and a punishment wrapped in one.

Cavil also apparently warps the other humanoid models' beliefs, erasing their own memories of the Final Five and making any discussion about this mythical figures strictly verboten. Hell, he boxes off D'Anna's entire line when she glimpses their faces in the Temple of Hope during the supernova, lest the others discover his malevolent ways. And he puts into motion the very thing that the Final Five worked so hard to prevent: another nuclear holocaust.

Yes, Ellen and the others gave their children free will, something the Centurions strove for. But in doing so, they allowed their children the very means to express their true selves. And in Cavil's case, it's a wickedness that will perhaps destroy three races in the end. Then again, it's the very thing that allows Boomer to rescue Ellen, against her better judgment.

The Final Five attempted to create something that was the best of two very different races: man and machine. In creating the humanoid Cylon models, the Final Five hoped to find a means to ensure the viability of both their races. There's a reason why these models can't reproduce amongst themselves: because they are meant to biologically intermingle with the humans (something that Boomer can't quite stomach)... much like, in order to survive, the human-made Galactica will have to fuse itself with Cylon technology.

Daniel. So there's the matter of Daniel then. It's driven me crazy for several seasons now that the Sharons were Model Eight, but I could only name seven models. Not a coincidence, fellow BSG fans. And now we know that there was a Model Seven, an artistically-tempered model named Daniel. But while we're told that Cavil destroyed all of Daniel's line, I can't shake the feeling that there could be another one out there somewhere, either by accident... or by design. Could Ellen have predicted Cavil's innate darkness and protected one Daniel? Perhaps by sending him to "The Colony," a seemingly secret location that also contains ancient resurrection technology? Hmmm...

The Biblical Daniel had the ability to interpret dreams. Coincidence then that Cavil, when he was new and fresh, suffered from nightmares involving "dog-faced boys chasing [him] through the yellow mists"? Cavil, for his part, deleted the sub-routine that the Final Five programmed him with that allowed him to sleep. After all, you can't dream if you don't sleep.

Kara. We've been wondering for some time now just what Kara Thrace really is. After all, she saw her own corpse on Earth, in the charred remains of her original Viper, yet she has all of her memories. The logical answer: someone used organic memory transfer technology to bring Kara back to life after her death. She's not a missing member of the Final Five or one in a line of Cylon humanoid models. She is Kara Thrace... in a new body. After all, we know that the Cylons have Kara's genetic material, which they harvested from her on Caprica. What's troubling me is that it was Simon who culled her ovaries... and he still seems extremely loyal to Cavil's cause. So is Kara's return to center stage orchestrated by Cavil himself? Was he aware of the hybrid's prophecy that Kara is the "harbinger of death"?

Or is someone else pulling the strings? After all, while we know that Kara's mother was human, we still don't know who her father was. And Kara, as we know, has an artistic streak, an obsessive painter within her who repeatedly painted the Eye of Jupiter from a young age. Someone downloaded her memories into a new body, created a fake Viper from scratch, and restored her to the fleet. But who?

In Season Three's "Maelstrom," where Starbuck seemingly blows up, Kara is granted a vision of her mother before her death, where Kara angrily walked out on her... but this time is offered a chance to change the past by "Leoben," and instead holds her mother's hand as she dies. The message her mother wanted to impart to her was that Kara shouldn't fear death. But the "Leoben" who arranges this epiphany isn't actually Leoben. So who is he? We haven't yet learned the answer to that dangling plot thread.

Could it be that Kara's father is Daniel himself? And that "Leoben" is actually a Daniel who escaped Cavil's purge in order to save his own daughter? Did Daniel reproduce with a human... and later save her by using Cylon technology?

And if that's the case then where was Kara between her death and her return to the fleet in "Crossroads, Part Two"?

The Colony. My theory: Kara's memories were downloaded to Ellen's Colony, as it is known to house that very same memory transfer technology. While there, someone (Daniel?) recreated Kara's Viper, kept her in a fugue state, and then planted her back among the fleet, so that she could help them find Earth and help the Final Five regain their missing memories. So will we get to see The Colony? Youbetcha. It's only a matter of time before Starbuck pulls the plug on poor brain-dead Sam Anders and I believe that he will resurrect... down on The Colony. Just who else will be down there remains to be seen but my guess right now is we'll see Daniel after all.

What did you think of this week's episode and its revelations about the Cylon race, the seventh model, and Cavil and Ellen's relationship? And what do you think about a possible Starbuck/Daniel connection? Discuss.

This week on Battlestar Galactica ("Deadlock"), the Final Five are reunited; Tyrol attempts to fix the cracks in Galactica's hull; Ellen Tigh is forced to make a decision that could have lasting repercussions for the Cylons and humans alike.


Linz McC said…
Thank you for posting that. There was SO much information in that episode that I just could not possibly retain it all in one viewing.

I also like your theories on Daniel and Kara. I like that they are adding some new questions instead of just answering all the old ones. Keeps me on my toes.
karigee said…
Great write-up, Jace; the best I've read. You clarified some things for me in a way no one else has -- and I've watched this one three times, trying to wrap my head around it. And I agree; introducing a 13th Cylon (who's hopefully really dead and gone) and tying him to Kara would be a nice link (and especially if it came out of a simple numbering mistake the writers made a couple of years ago; that insight into the way decisions are made -- or not -- in the writers' room is one reason RDM's podcasts are such a joy. This show has such a fluid, organic flow to it, and I know that irritates some viewers, but I'm amazed at the connections they're able to keep making. Ah, the power of storytelling.)
CL said…

Perhaps Daniel's different from all the other cylons in that he has no body. Maybe it's Daniel we've been seeing when the Phantom Six appears to Baltar, or when the Phantom Baltar appears to Six. That would also explain who that particular Leoben you mentioned was.

I've always had a theory that you could only get into contact with this "entity" if you had cylon blood in you. Baltar is human, but couldn't his blood have mingled with Six's in that explosion that destroyed his house? And Laura Roslin's visions of the dead priestess? The result of Hera's blood transfusion.

I really think that Daniel could be the answer to the million questions and theories I've had about BSG.

If you've got the time I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, Jace.
Anonymous said…
I agree with Kari: easily the best write up of the ep I've come across so far and the most concise and explanatory! I really think you are on to something with your theories about the Colony, Anders, Kara, Daniel. This has to be the most logical explanation for everything and I'd love to know what the BSG writers have to say about this.
Mazza said…
Makes a hell of a lot more sense when you say it. ;)

I think I get it now at least. So Kara is human but resurrected? And Daniel could be her father?

I like what you were saying about dreams and Cavil and whether Daniel knew something that Cavil didn't want the others to know about the future or a prophesy or something. I think your right and Sam will wake up on Ellen's Colony whereever that is.
gmr2048 said…
Didn't the hybrid say that Starbuck would be the "downfall of her race"? Up to this point, I had assumed that "her race" meant the humans. But perhaps "her race" means the Cylons. Or the (very small) race of human/Cylon hybrids.
Anonymous said…
Actually the Hybrid said: "Kara Thrace will lead the human race to its end. She is the herald of the apocalypse, the harbinger of death. They must not follow her."

Obviously this can be taken a couple of different ways. Her being the harbinger of death might be a reference to the end of resurrection for the Cylons. While leading the human race to its end might mean the end of their search for Earth, or possibly the future of the human race, not as humans, but as a mixed race of Human-and-Cylons akin to Athena (and possibly Starbuck herself if she is indeed somehow the progeny of Daniel).
Anonymous said…
I may have missed something. Didn't Tigh fight in the first cylon war with adama? But, if I read correctly, tigh would have shown up with the others to end the first cylon war. Or, am I just so confused I need to watch the episode for the 5th time?
Anonymous said…
I'm actually confused by Tigh's involvement in the first Cylon war, too. I am not willing to believe this show has left a hole.

Like everyone else, thanks for the recap. Everything is clicking in now.

If the Cylons on earth could reproduce, couldn't it be possible that the Final Five took a child with them? My money would be on Ellen and Tigh. Because she was young, no one would have considered her a Final Cylon and perhaps she was hidden among the humans.

I'm thinking about Starbuck here. Cavil would have chronologically speaking had to be the one to hide her in order to punish her parents. No one has ever said that Kara's mother is her biological mother and perhaps we never saw her father because there wasn't one. Her mom knew that she was special--perhaps this is why. And this could be why she regenerated, why she had such a strong connection to Sam and Leoben and was so irritated by Tigh. It could also explain why she painted the maelstrom for years. She had seen it as a child.

My money is on Baltar as being Daniel. He is smart, sensitive, and analytical. Again, he has a strong connection to the other cylons. This could explain why he has visions like other cylons. AND Cavil would be vindictive enough to put him on the crappiest planet possible in order to make him feel like a miserable loner. And what better way to make Ellen hate her favorite than to place Caprica Six in front of him in order to destroy the human race?
Unknown said…
I was disappointed that the backstory was revealed in one expository regurgitation. I was hoping it'd be more gradual, like peeling an onion. Were the writers so rushed they had to drop it all on us with Sam's, "I remember now! Here's EVERYTHING!! {bloort}"

Regardless, I interpreted Sam's tale differently. I thought he said that the Kobolians created the Centurions. Then everybody split into 13 tribes, each tribe taking some Centurions with them. The Earth tribe created five Cylon models (aka skinjobs). The Earthlings gave their Centurions free will. The Centurions then rebelled and destroyed the humans in a holocaust. The Cylons escaped.

The Cylons realized the other tribes would also continue to develop the Cylons and traveled at supra-light-speed to the other colonies. They found the Centurion war already in progress, so they bargained with the Centurions to help them develop skinjobs, too, if they'd end the war. They cooperated to develop the eight other models and seeded them among the colonies. Cavil them turned on the Final Five and sent them to the colonies as well.

As you can see, I have a vastly different interpretation of their history. To me, this is a clear sign of how confusing this kind of exposition is (or a sign that I can't pay attention). IMO, BSG has gone downhill since season 2. The storylines are fragmented and discontiguous. Nothing seems to fit together anymore. I have similar issues with Damages so maybe it's just my bizarre personal taste.
Jace Lacob said…

Nope, the Centurions were developed about 50 or so odd years before the mini-series and were created by Daniel Greystone. The creation of the Centurions will be the basis of the "Caprica" series.
Anonymous said…
Jace - thank you so much for this review! Before I read it everything was all "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey" but now it's much clearer. I still have lots of questions but am no longer hopelessly confused.
John said…
Between this a Mo Ryans stuff on the Chicago Tribune, this data is still hard to pull together. Which is what the writers intended :)

I keep wondering if "the Colony" is going to be Colony One, the ship that Roslin is on. Or is that simply too obvious?
Anonymous said…
@John Laura Roslin's ship is called COLONIAL One, not Colony One.
LittleTechGirl said…
Good write up. A lot of this is how I see it too. Except I am not feeling that Leoben is somehow Daniel and saved Kara. Caused he was way too "into" her if you know what I mean.

I cannot wait until Friday!
Jace Lacob said…

Leoben isn't Daniel. I was theorizing that whoever masqueraded as "Leoben" in Kara's vision in "Maelstrom" is Daniel. But Daniel and the actual Leoben are not the same person.
Anonymous said…
I'm a bit lost. Is the Daniel who Cavil poisoned, the Daniel Greystone who created the Centurions?

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