One last TV post, about Battlestar Galactica

No TV posts for a while after this one…just trying to clear my desk.

There are a number of things that bother me about BSG. This list is here for anyone who
wants to challenge me on any of this, comment please! It’s in the form of loose-fitting
notes, written over the course of watching the series. There are spoilers, etc…

1)
Once they find out that Cylons look like us, and they consider a Cylon
detector, they seem to hand the entire problem over to Dr. Baltar.
There seems to be no consideration about whether he is a Cylon, or
in league with the Cylons. What could they do differently? Have the
Dr make something that is independently testable, perhaps by Gaita or
others. They don’t even consider it.

2)
I find it straining in the extreme to believe that there is no
straightforward test to tell a Cylon from non-Cylon, given the actions
and words of the various people. Cylons:
1) are stronger than people
2) do not tire
3) are able to be uploaded, at least at death
4) have backs that glow under certain conditions
5) have fiber optic interfaces in their arms!

points 1 and 2 would almost certainly leave indicators in the muscle
cells, as well as brain waves. point 3 on brain waves, and point
4 certainly should be detectable. point 5 should be obvious!

At other points, they say that they are basically indistiguishable,
which to my mind means that they have organic processes (even if
artificially made), and even their brain activity is the same, to the
point of being indistinguishable from a person. If that is the case,
then it seems weird to talk about them having “software, not emotions”.
It’s a looks like a duck, acts like a duck, every possible measurement
confirms it’s a duck, but it’s not a duck? Sorry, that’s just too hard
to swallow.

So you have the problem that, either, they are very different in which
case they should be detectable, or they are identical, in which case
they are no different than humans. The writers seem to want it
both ways.

What would my solution be? If these models were designed for the express
purpose of infiltratration into the fleet, then there would have been
a lot of work to make them undetectable. I would say that the innards
would be clearly mechanical/organic, with an organic outside. The inside
would broadcast signals to fool scans, like MRI and CAT scans, while
the outside would have blood, sweat, etc… to fool observation there.
It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that the only way to test for such
a thing would entail tests that would be lethal to a person, which
might solve some of the writers’ problems.

Whenever someone said “they aren’t human, they are machines” I cringed, and wanted
to reply: what do you mean by machines? In which ways are they machines and humans
aren’t? throughout the series, the cylons were humans when convenient, and
machines when convenient. I don’t think the writers had a consistent vision of
what the cylons were, or wanted.

3) WTF is the cylon plan. They want all humanity destroyed, but then
they seem to want humans for procreation and love. They say they want
to protect Sharon’s baby, and then the next episode (!) they launch
an all-out attack on the fleet. They have well hidden spies in the
Galactica who could have done damage to the ship, that was going to
be a museum anyway, and they were unable to destroy it? How hard would
it have been to put one of those Cylon viruses in the computer, dormant,
and then when the fleet was assembled have it relay random jump points
to all of the fleet, and then send the Galactica into a star?

The writers seem to use Cylon attacks, and then Cylon pleasantness or
incompleteness, for convenience. It’s back to the “not like us, just
like us” problem above which leads to inconsistent behavior. I think
there was no plan, so these inconsistencies keep compounding over time.

4) In flight of the Phoenix, when they disabled a huge number of cylon
raiders, why didn’t they capture some of them for use later? Seems
like a major tactical failure.

5) In the 1st season episode when they were looking for Starbuck, who had
crashed on a planet with a cylon, Com. Adama said to his son that if it
were his son that was lost, that he’d never stop searching. That family
was most important. Why, then, in the last episode, is Com. Adama quick
to leave his son, knowing that Roslin was only going to be around for
a short while, and that both would now be alone.

6) In Pegasus, why is Baltar’s angel surprised at seeing a beat-up
number 6? Why does she say “it’s me”, when it really isn’t?

7) if ressurection ships are so important, why not guard them better?
why not have 2 ressurection hubs? why not a more distributed system?

8) how far away really is the Cylon homeworld?

9) in E16 2nd season, Sacrifice, we have people who claim the fleet are
cylon sympathizers and hold hostages. Not 2 episodes before, it was all
about cylon sympathizer groups trying to force gallactica to try to get
peace with the cylons. Each lasts 1 episode, and no more. so much
of this would have been better with a plan, built up over several
episodes.

10) at the beginning of each episode they have a 1-minute “what has
gone before”, and then after the credits they have a 30-second flash
of images from the episode. it is as if they don’t trust the extended
storyline structure, and they feel that a gimic is needed to entise
viewers to stay.

11) in Season 3 episode 8, Bulldog returns in a cylon raider after
being gone for 3 years. Doc Cottle does a quick DNA test to match it
against his military record, and concludes he’s not a cylon. Wow! They
couldn’t do that in Season 1? It certainly would have made a huge
difference. As plot holes go, that one is pretty darn big.

12) I find it mindboggling that a race that has mastered organic
technology cannot
a) do a proper quarrantine
b) diagnose a simple virus, that Doc Cottle can in a short while

13) why do the cylons want a new home? why Earth?

14) the incessant use of flashbacks I think is because there isn’t a
plan, and this makes it look like there is a consistent backstory

15) the episodes with the coup, ending in the execution of Zarek and
Gaeta…some of the best that the show has had. I’d say, that the best
episodes have been:

Miniseries
Pegasus – Resurrection
New Caprica rescue
Coup (S4ep 13-14)

Notice that these are all the human stories. the cylon stories are not
nearly as good.

16) Episode 15, when Tyrol tells Adama that the ship is slowly breaking
up, and there is cylon tech that can help suddenly Adama is anti-cylon
tech? he changes his mind later, but still, this is inconsistent with
the previous episodes when he was immediately fine upgrading jump drives.
why the sudden change of heart?

17) when the BG makes it’s final jump, Adama says: “whereever we are, that’s where we’re going to stay”

…of course, until the rest of the fleet gets there, and we continue with the
original plan. Why did Adama say this?

18) don’t build a city at the end? don’t use the technology? that
seems like an idea from an idealist but not very practical – a sure way
to reduce life expectancy in your new home

19) Adama is a cylon. Kara is the harbinger of death. Baltar and Six will be the mother
and father of the human race. prophecies that don’t pan out.

20) from someone else, but exactly what I was thinking:
“””
When the season 1 [of Babylon 5] was aired JMS knew why Babylon 4 had
appeared and what
meant the visions saw there… when the first Shadow cruiser appeared
in season 1 he fully knew what it was and who was behind it.. when in
season 1 they talked about why Sinclair was so important and what
secret he had..

All was shorted out in advance.. he even writed “scape doors” in case
some actor stepped out of the series.. like happened with Michael
O’Haire (Sinclair) left at the end of season 1.. he used a scape
door introducing Sheridan..JMS has said he had scape doors for Delen,
Garibaldi, etc..

You think BSG writers knew there was going to be 2 earths?
Or who the remaining 8 models were going to be? Or even that Tigh
and Tyrol were Cylons?… you think they really knew
what the Opera house visions really meant? Or what the plan was?
“””

21) It seems to me that there would be a fool-proof way of killing a cylon
without it able to download: instantly drop it in the engine. unless the
download is able to be done in nanoseconds, there wouldn’t be anything left
to download from.

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About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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