Friday, February 6, 2009

revisiting old BSG predictions

UPDATE: Damn, that was a tense episode! Well, we now know the fates of two of the most major characters in the series, as they both died by firing squad. We also got to see parts of the Galactica not seen previously. Yet another of the Final Five might be dead (last we saw, he had a head or neck wound), and a major conflict between Galactica and the rebel base ship was averted. The whole episode was an excellently played Mexican standoff; it kept me guessing right to the very end. The preview for next week's episode shows the return of Ellen Tigh, and she appears to be rising out of a Significant Seven-style resurrection bath, which again raises the question of whether the Final Five were ever part of Earth's population. Next week's episode promises answers to a lot of questions, especially now that the standoff appears over.

UPDATE 2: Is this 2007 entry from Ron Moore's blog a sign of what's in store for us BSG watchers?

UPDATE 3, August 16, 2009: This post has received a few visitors. I don't know whether the visitors are aware of this, but I've written more about BSG since this.

BSG: Final Predictions

BSG Musings:"Daybreak,. Part 2"

And a very long theological essay: BSG's Deity: Not Loving, and Possibly Insane

From an April 27, 2007 Facebook posting, before we knew what would happen in the final season of "Battlestar Galactica":

1. Starbuck is not the final Cylon.

2. Earth, when found, will not be the present-day Earth. That would be way too awkward: how to explain the near-exact parallel evolution of two cultures separated by so much time and space? No: I suspect this is an "alternate Earth."

3. The Adama-Tigh friendship will end in either a murder or a suicide. Most obvious bet is Tigh killing himself out of self-hatred. That's why I'm betting Adama will surprise us all by losing it and killing himself at or near the end of the story. That, or he'll murder Tigh.

4. Some Cylons will become humanity's permanent friends as the fracturing of Cylon culture continues.

5. As a result, the Cylon issue will not be resolved by the end of the series: you can't commit genocide against friends. Cylons will be with us forever.

6. Hocus-pocus mysticism will become even more annoyingly prevalent, and the series will lose all credibility with me

Remarks on each prediction:

1. Prediction (1) is presumably true, if we grant that Ellen Tigh truly is the fifth of the Final Five Cylons. But now that we have an Earth full of different types of Cylons, we've opened the door to Cylon parallel evolution and seem to have closed the door on the claim, from the 2003 miniseries that started it all, that "There are only twelve Cylon models." We've also opened a Pandora's Box regarding what sort of relationship these different types of Cylon have with each other. The so-called Significant Seven seem to have had knowledge of the Final Five for a long time: long enough to have developed a taboo about speaking of the Final Five.

It's still unclear what makes the Final Five objects of reverence for the Significant Seven. It's also unclear whether the Final Five were fellow Cylon Earthlings. A third unresolved issue is whether Starbuck qualifies as yet another type of Cylon, or is the missing Number Seven (thereby making the Significant Seven into the Significant Eight). Starbuck's status also has wider implications, because her reappearance-- along with that of her Viper-- implies the existence of a technology that can produce an exact copy not only of a humaniform entity, but of other objects as well.

2. Item (2) was a fairly safe prediction, and it turned out to be partly true: Earth is apparently Cylon.* But the Earth we see in Tigh's and Tyrol's flashbacks to 2000 years ago looks exactly like colonial civilization, i.e., modern North American civilization. So in a sense, the Cylon-populated Earth (no word yet on whether Earth was purely Cylon) is like our Earth. This was an unexpected turn of events, and I again have to give BSG credit for doing the unpredictable.

3. Prediction (3) came pretty close to happening, as Adama drunkenly tried to goad Tigh into shooting him. Since that episode, though, Adama seems to have come to terms with the fact that his friend of many years is a Cylon. Perhaps he's rationalized this by focusing on Tigh's otherness: he's one of the Final Five, and as an individual, Tigh has been nothing but loyal to his uniform. Effectively speaking, he's Colonial through and through, and that's why, in last week's episode, Adama faced the renegade fire teams with Saul Tigh at his side and said, "It's been an honor to serve with you."

4. As for Prediction (4)... I think the jury's still out. Have the rebel Cylons become humanity's friends? DeAnna has chosen to remain planetside and die "with the bones of [her] ancestors" (though I'm still unsure these Cylons qualify as ancestors, any more than spider monkeys qualify as our ancestors). She has never really shown much love for humanity, making her a lot like the Cavils, Simons, and Dorals. The rebel Cylons-- primarily 6s (Boomer, Athena) and 8s (Natalie, Gina, Head-Six, etc.), but also the 2s (Leoben)-- have chosen to side with humanity for mostly practical and religio-philosophical reasons, not out of love. Plus, as the last few episodes have shown (and tonight's episode will continue this), large chunks of the human fleet are dead set against any alliance with the Cylons. It's not obvious that humanity as a whole will learn to live in harmony with Cylons of any stripe.

5. Prediction (5) is looking likely, but we have to wait until the end of the series to know more.

6. Prediction (6) has come at least partly true, especially with the scene in which Baltar appears to be lifted off his feet by an invisible force, but the series hasn't driven me away. The question of what sort of universe this is has been a major one throughout the series, what with visions and prophecies and characters that seem to have angelic and demonic functions. Is the BSG universe a theistic one? Are the Cylons justified in worshipping a single god? Is Colonial polytheism (by the way, has this religion ever been named?) the true religion?

You already know that I'm leaning toward a "there are only Cylons" thesis. This would account for the prophetic visions and the apparently rigid eternal recurrence of events, right down to the re-creation of modern North American language and culture 2000 years later. In the structured, rule-governed world of machines, where perfect middle knowledge is possible, predictions masquerading as prophecy make a certain amount of sense, as do all the fantastic coincidences in the series, as well as various characters' visions of the dead (or visions of the contents of each others' heads). Relentless, high-fidelity repetition is something machines can do far better than people can; humans might say that "history repeats itself," but this can't be taken literally when humans say it, because human history never repeats itself exactly, and people have obviously made progress in many areas (perhaps a subject for another post, but I'll just end up quoting Stephen Pinker on this matter).

With all that said, I admit I'm intensely curious to see whether poor Adama gets airlocked tonight, and whether Saul Tigh is really dead, as the episode preview slyly suggests.** I'm torn between rooting for the human race (which may not even exist if everyone really is a Cylon) and hoping that Ronald Moore takes the series to a very dark and gloomy conclusion. That conclusion seems more and more likely: the series has featured plenty of deus talk, but no deus ex machina-- no miracle planet stocked with herd animals and resplendent with arable land. With 39,000 humans left, no stone un-nuked, no animals to speak of, and nothing but processed algae for food, it's unlikely that humanity can be fruitful and multiply. At this point in the series, the only option humanity has left is to wink out. Watching humanity's inexorable slide toward nonexistence makes for gripping TV: the series evokes a great deal of morbid curiosity, which has to be one of the weirdest ways in which to attract an audience.*** In that respect, Prediction (6) was wrong, because I'm still hooked.

*Remember "Star Trek: First Contact"? The Enterprise follows the Borg sphere as it travels backward in time; while stuck inside the Borg sphere's chrono-energy contrail, the Enterprise crew has a brief, nightmare vision of an alternate Earth that is 100% Borg. I was reminded of this scene when Baltar claimed that the thirteenth colony was Cylon. It bothers me, though, that he would make such a claim after such a brief survey of the planet. If Cylons are hardier than humans, could it be that human bones have deteriorated faster than Cylon ones? In fact, that whole question of Cylon biodegradability is somewhat nettlesome. If a Cylon is shot in a forest, will the forest creatures pick at the corpse?

**If Ellen Tigh truly is the fifth of the Final Five Cylons, and if she's truly dead (Saul killed her at the beginning of Season 3, as you'll recall; we haven't seen her since), and if the Significant Seven Cylons suffered no psychic distress at her passing (hell, they didn't even know they were torturing a fellow Cylon when they removed Tigh's eye)... what does it matter to the Significant Seven whether Tigh is killed?

***Then again, it's not an uncommon dramatic technique. "Lawrence of Arabia" comes to mind as a classic example: the film begins with TE Lawrence's death, then takes you through the events leading up to it. Albert Camus' The Stranger, another classic, goes rapidly downhill after Meursault shoots the Arab for no good reason. In both cases, the fun lies in watching the deathward slide.



Anonymous said...

I can't believe that Apollo went out like that. You know what I mean...the orginal. I knew that that character would end up suffering such a fate, but he still is Apollo and I still have trouble seening Starbuck as anyone other than Dirk.

The End: I have a feeling the end will be a scattering of the remaining few viable seeds to the wind, or cosmic rays, as the case is in space. I just hope some are able to find their "side of paradise" like Elias Sandoval's group and that one true moment of happiness that Mr. Spock had with the lovely Leila Kalomi...well, without those damn Berthold rays. While I would happily spend time hanging out on the icy planet of Exo III with Andrea or in Sarpeidon's icy past with that most beautiful of criminals, Zarabeth, I'd really like a shot at jumping through the "Guardian of Forever", but then the Nazis would win WW II because I could never let Edith Keeler die. I'm no Jim Kirk.

Oh, the prequel, "Caprica" is being released on dvd on April 21st, the day after BSG's finale.

John from Daejeon

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the typos in the first paragraph. I accidentally hit enter and off it went without a re-edit.

Ah, the perils of internet commenting while multitasking.

j from d