Battlestar Galactica


"There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man, who even now, fight to survive, somewhere beyond the heavens."

--The opening narration from the television series episodes of Battlestar Galactica

Plot Summary:

Battlestar Galactica first premiered on the ABC television network in September 1978. While the series itself was short-lived, it still managed to foster a devoted fandom, and can still be seen in syndication on the Sci-Fi Channel. Battlestar Galactica's (sometimes abbreviated BSG or BG) storyline was centered around the warship named Galactica which led a fleet of humanoids fleeing their homeworlds and heading towards Earth. For a millenium, the human race had been at war with the Cylons (an android race bent on the total annihilation of their humanoid counterparts) and unfortunately the war had been going very badly for the humans and their allies.


The Cylons

What is its role/function? Why was it created?

The Cylons are a race of robots who are the arch enemies of our heroes on the show. The original Cylons were entirely reptilian, but when they realized their race was destined to die out, they engineered a new race of Cylons to replace them, to ensure that their name lived on in history.

The original Cylons were a technologically advanced reptilian race whose origins are relatively unknow, except that they came from the far reaches of the galaxy. They died out a millennia ago, so not much is known of their original culture and society. Assumedly, they were warlike and imperialistic since at the time of the extinction of their race they had already conquered hundreds of other worlds. The original Cylon's maintained their control and continued conquests by creating first what were sophisticated robots, and then fully intelligent androids. These machines were built "to withstand enormous stress and to have great strength and powerful computational capacity." The Cylons believed in maintaining the natural order of the universe and according to their beliefs, humans upset that balance, so their mission was to destroy all other forms of intelligent life in the universe. Under the command of the original Cylons, armies of them swept through sector after sector of the galaxy. But ultimately, the machines became the superiors of their creators, and the Cylons themselves were destroyed by their own creations, leaving the androids alone to continue on with their mission of cleansing the universe.

What is it? Was it meant to be human?

The Cylons were eventually made to emulate the human form, as they found the form to be more efficient, but they were not intended to be considered human. The Cylons were most definitely not meant to be human, as their single goal and purpose is to exterminate the human race from the universe.

In the premiere episode, Captain Apollo explained the Cylons to his son Boxey:


They're not like us. They're machines created by living creatures a long, long time ago...

a race of reptiles called Cylons. After a while the Cylons discovered humans were the most

practical form of creature in this system. So they copied our bodies, but they built them

bigger and stronger than we are. And they can exchange parts so they can live forever...

There are no more real Cylons. They died off thousands of yahrens (years) ago, leaving behind

a race of super-machines, but we still call them Cylons.


How does it interact with human society? What are the reactions of humans to it?

The Cylons interact with the majority of the human (and humanoid) race solely through waging war and making conquests. Their reputation of terror and annihilation preceded them, resulting in scores of ships desperately fleeing their homeworlds, headed towards Earth in hopes of having a fighting chance.

The Cylon androids continued the mission of destruction to which they had been assigned. Acting in accordance with the machines that they were, they swept through the galaxy even more ruthlessly than their creators. The directives of their programming crystallized into a single "Edict of Extermination", that called for the destruction of all intelligent life forms in the Galaxy.


What are the consequences of its existence within the context of the work?

As a result of invasion, the humans are forced to band together in an effort to defend their right to live. Their very existence has been challenged not simply on a global scale, but on a scale measured only by their genetic makeup. A roving band of conquerors decided that they didn't want humans around anymore, so embarked on a mission to remove them. This gives the humans no little incentive to defend the territories, and indeed their simple right to exist!


What is its influence on the notion of robots? Did it introduce any new ideas?

Battlestar Galactica paints a dark picture of future relations between humans and advanced robotics, meaning a sentient form of android life. These robots are simply killing machines, the majority of them operating as slaves to their programming, bent upon total annhilation of their foes. They do however qualify as sentient beings, because after all they do think, they just simply have one unreasonable goal in mind--and are unswerving about its completion. The very premise of the Cylons is an interesting one; remember that the original Cylon race was biological and reptilian. The new artificial Cylons overthrew their creators, forcing their obvious advantage until the original Cylons died out. As we make strides in the field of robotics, and progressively move closer to creating artificial humans ourselves, this fear of being stamped out could become a very real concern.


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Links for further study:

Battlestar Galactica Summary

The Battlestar Galactica Web Ring