This Is a Blog: My BSG Addiction: Cylons

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My BSG Addiction: Cylons

In order to get over my addiction to "Battlestar Galactica," I'm going to talk the show to death until it's out of my system. What originally started as a one-off essay is too big for just one post. This is Part 9.

A Little Cylon Love

There came a point in the series where I started caring way more about what was happening with the Cylons than the humans. The human plots became so soap opera-y that I could barely stand it. Roslin was dying of cancer and falling in love with Adama. Lee was falling in love with Starbuck, even though he was inexplicably married to Dualla for reasons passing understanding. Starbuck jumped from bed to bed. I had yet to figure out why I should care about Baltar. Tigh became a pirate.

Starting toward the end of season 2, we finally start getting a clear picture of Cylon society. We found out in the mini-series there are 12 Cylon models, but why? After New Caprica, we get ourselves onto a Cylon base ship and we can finally move around in their world. We find out they can project anything onto the world around them, making Baltar's hallucinations make a lot more sense. We find out that despite their exploration of human emotion and sensation, they live by some very rigid rules. Everything from the way they interact with their machines to how the machines even run becomes so much more compelling than the human BS. During the drudgery that is season 3, the saving grace is the Cylons.

They setup the mystery that brings the whole show into focus, the Final Five. The fact that the identity of the Final Five is forbidden speaks volumes about the ills of Cylon society. The truth is so simple and they're all sheltered from it. The Ones are so afraid of the truth, they box the every, single Three just because one of them discovered it.

The reversal when the identity of the Final Five is revealed is just too perfect. Forget about finding out your neighbor is a terrorist, imagine finding out you are one. Colonel Tigh especially gets a huge bump in his character when he discovers the truth. He just annoyed me before then. As a Cylon, he has to come face-to-face with becoming that which he despises the most. The others capture the various perspectives of this discovery. Tory embraces it. Anders finds peace in it. Tyrol's ashamed of it. Finally, when it turns out Ellen is the matriarch of the modern Cylon, everything comes together.

"No Exit" is one of the series' best episodes because it gets everyone up to speed. The audience gets all the important information, but the fleet only gets some of us. Between Anders' scattered memories and Ellen's conversations with One, the back-story finally comes together. Humanoid Cylons and their ability to resurrect, it all makes perfect sense and ties in so perfectly with the 13th colony and all the clues that connect it. It raises the Cylons from a rebelling robot force to a culture, a society, a species with a rich history of its own.

For a villain that started out as a united force for manipulation and destruction, the show does a stellar job of giving these villains depth. Cylons aren't just evil, they're a society whose basic values are at odds with human values. Eventually, Cylon values butt up against their own values. The split in their ranks comes over the matter of whether or not to lobotomize the raiders. Up until this point, it seemed as though even Cylons saw centurions and raiders as tools, but it turns out under their metal skin, even they have souls. Fascinating.

I can't think of another show where the climax depends so much on understanding the enemy.

Continue to Part 10

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