SciFi Weekend: The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale

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Battlestar Galactica concluded on Friday. (Caution, this review has a tremendous number of spoilers if anyone interested is not up to the finale.) The finale could not be expected to be one hundred percent satisfying as science fiction shows of this nature tend to throw out far more than can ever have an entirely satisfactory explanation. While far from perfect, the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica holds up quite well next to explanations of the mythology behind shows such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, and The X-Files.

It came as no surprise, with all the talk of things happening before and happening again, that Galactica wound up on  Earth in our distant past. Once we saw them cross the moon and land on our Earth I quickly guessed that they would name this planet Earth based upon their dream, and after the original Earth that we had seen after its destruction.

Having them arrive on Earth  in our distant past and become part of our heritage made more sense than to have them arrive in our present or future.  The show frequently foreshadowed the importance of Hera for the survival of both humans and Cylons and this became evident during the finale. Hera was revealed to be the Mitochondrial Eve, the ancestor of all humans, with Ron Moore doing a cameo as a man reading an article on the topic (pictured above). This suggests that only the descendants of Hera survived, despite  the talk of interbreeding with the indigenous population. Presumably Hera or her descendants did interbreed with the indigenous population but what of the rest? With some, such as Adama and Tyrol, living on their own it makes sense but there were also many others. Perhaps the mitochondria from Hera came from her mixed Human/Cylon heritage and descendants of others appeared the same to contemporary human biologists.

The original show had the simplistic concept of the evil Cylons attacking the good humans. Instead Moore desired a more complicated message which blurred the lines between the two. The finale does answer the question of whether we are all Cylons.  The finding of the original Earth which had been populated by human-like Cylons suggested that, assuming that this was our Earth, we are all Cylons. The ending, with Hera as the Mitochondrial Eve, instead makes us all part human and part Cylon.

Having everyone agree to give up their technology so easily was  questionable  but necessary for the overall idea of them being our ancestors. Once the decision was made, it is certainly plausible that knowledge of advanced technology quickly died out as they had to concentrate on basic survival. They did perhaps manage to preserve enough of their ideas to lead to the redevelopment of a technological society with many of the same cultural ideas.

Having them be our ancestors with a form of species memory explains the many similarities between colonial culture and our own culture. This even included the music such as All Along the Watchtower which was ultimately reinvented by Bob Dylan.

There were other possible paths other than to have them voluntarily give up their technology. One possibility, which would have been more plausible but which would have led to a far longer story, would have been a catastrophe which led to the destruction of any civilization they attempted to build.

There is yet another possible way to have written this. Ron Moore could have written an ending in which Adama insisted they could not contaminate the indigenous population with their technology as this would violate the Prime Directive. This, of course, would have been the wrong show.

Ultimately we must accept the decision as necessary to complete the mythology of the show. We must also suspend disbelief and simply accept the fact that there were humans which they were genetically compatible with on this second Earth. While this was common place in the Star Trek universe, the universe of Battlestar Galactica did not previously include life independent of the descendants of Kobol.

There are still many mysteries. Some might be answered in The Plan, a made for television movie to air this fall which shows the events from the Cylon perspective.  Perhaps we will also learn more when the pilot to Caprica is released on DVD next month.

There are two major mysteries which still concern me. The first is the nature of Starbuck, both before and after her death. As a child she somehow learned the music which would lead her to taking the fleet to the new Earth. She later died on the original Earth and was resurrected to complete this task. This was an important part of the overall story, and I assume this remained unexplained as there is probably no satisfactory explanation other that that there are beings (or angels) which are important but unexplained. If there were higher powers guiding what was occurring, why didn’t they prevent the near annihilation  of all humans?

There is yet another type of being or angel (or demon) besides Starbuck. It became clear that Head Six and Head Baltar are real and not figments of Baltar and Six’s respective imaginations. Their existence even transcended those of the real Baltar and Six and the series ended with the two walking in modern Times Square (as earlier spoilers hinted at) as there were signs of humanity again developing robots.

This ending suggests that what happened before may or may not happen again, depending upon what we do. This does raise a certain question about the wisdom of the decision to destroy their technology in hopes of breaking the cycle. All this might have done was to stop the cycle for 150,000 years. This is a long time, and if the cycle couldn’t be stopped this could be said to be of value. The question is whether other plans would have done more to break the cycle (along with leaving defenses if the toasters had ever returned).

The humanoid Cylons from the original Earth traveled to the Colonies with the hope of breaking the cycle by warning the humans against mistreatment of artificial intelligence. They arrived too late, after the toaster Cylons had begun their rebellion. Perhaps it would have been wiser to maintain their technology and culture which would have included history of what happened including warnings against repeating the same mistakes. Instead the present people of new Earth have no knowledge of these warnings–unless perhaps Ron Moore wrote Battlestar Galactica out of a species memory which was to protect us against this.

Of course rebuilding their culture along with knowledge of history to prevent the reocurrence of this cycle might not have worked. The Cylons of the original Earth also created their own culture and ultimately forgot their history. They wound up repeating the cycle and created their own Cylons which led to their destruction. This could have been used as an argument for the route they did take, but the ending might have been more satisfying if these matters had been discussed. Fortunately the show did end with plenty for us to still think about and discuss.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    ron c says:

    Yet another childhood series rip off!… it so could have ended with in a temporal way that we realize the previous destruction could have been avoided… and 150k ( if really needed) showed that we all lived and worked together in a way that honored the past not forgot or ignored it.. another writer with a riding into the sunset…. for once it would be nice if the or pasts were not ripped off

  2. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    As an amusing note: in all the original concept material written for the original series, and the novelization of the pilot by Glen Larson, the Cylons were not robots. They were insectoid aliens and the ‘robots’ we saw were the battle armor they wore. This was also the original reason that the Imperious Leader was always shown in shadow: they had planned for the big alien reveal down the road. Somewhere along the lines, this changed or was forgotten.

    Not really relevant, but useless trivia that might amuse someone. 🙂

  3. 3
    Christopher says:

    For me, the final episode was flawless.

    Ron Moore resolved the nagging issue of Starbuck. Did she die in the crash or was she a Cylon? Torre got her comeuppance from the Chief for killing Kelly and Laura lost her battle with cancer alongside Bill Adama, gazing out at all the life on earth.

    I have never been so emotionally moved by a science fiction series before Battlestar Galactica. I will miss  the series but it ended on the right note.

  4. 4
    Rick says:

    I agree with most of the ending, and it is of course difficult to tie up all the loose ends, but I’m pissed that Starbuck was an “angel” Yeah, it would have been tough to explain the dying and not dying thing, but having her just disappear is a cop-out on the scale of St. Elsewhere. 

    Another option for the technology would have been an Atlantis/ Egypt/Mayan tie in, although I suppose that is still not out of the question. And, to be fair, we don’t know if the ships ACTUALLY hit the sun – Anders may have taken a hard left before impact.

    Let’s hope so.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Christopher,

    Ron Moore concluded Starbuck’s story but didn’t really resolve it as there are two major questions regarding her role which remain totally unanswered. She did die (and was resurrected) but was not a Cylon. Beyond that we don’t really know if Starbuck was a normal human (before her death) who was acted upon by outside forces or if she was something else from the start.

    The conclusion of the Torre storyline was one of many things which I cut from the review due to space. There was one major irony in the aftermath as Tigh told Tyrol he would have done the same considering that he had killed his own wife.

    I did like how the killing of Cally wound up playing a role in the conclusion. This revelation led to the truce with Cavil’s band breaking down, which ultimately led to their anhilation. If those Cylons had not been destroyed it would not have been plausible to consider abandoning technology on the new Earth out of fear of a repetition of the events on New Caprica.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Rick,

    I didn’t see Starbuck disappearing as being anything like St. Elsewhere. The ending of St. Elsewhere revealed that everything that happened was imagined by an autistic child (which didn’t really matter as it was fiction, regardless of whether shown to be “real” or imagined in the final episode).

    Starbuck disappeared but within the story she was as real as any other character.  The cop 0ut isn’t that she wasn’t a real human at the end but that she played such a major role and we don’t have any answers about her nature.

    The intention was clearly to have the fleet destroyed so that human society could develop fresh from that point, consistent with our history of technological development. I would assume the fleet was destroyed unless there should ever be a sequel which shows something different (which I doubt will ever happen).

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