Monday, February 16, 2009

There Are Only 12 Cylon Models (Except When There Are 13)

A bit more Battlestar blogging ...

Way back in the beginning of Battlestar Galactica, at the very end of the mini-series, then-Commander Adama finds a cryptic note in his cabin indicating that "there are only twelve Cylon models." Since that point, the show has embraced that number, both internally through it's characters and externally through the show's marketing. Only problem is, as we discovered last Friday night, there are actually thirteen Cylon models: The previous seven, the newly revealed five, and one other, a "number seven" named Daniel that was seemingly destroyed by a jealous Cavil. It sort of makes sense, especially given that Sharon was a eight, but thirteen Cylons wasn't what the setup was. Using "12 Cylons" as a selling point and the turning around in the show's waning episodes and adding a thirteenth is simply bad writing and makes for a cheap gimmick.

But as I was getting to last time, this has been Battlestar's problem all along. In the mini-series, four Cylon models were introduced: The Sharons, the Sixs, the Leobens, and the Dorals. The set up was that there were more Cylons in the fleet, yet to be revealed as sleeper agents and by the end of the second season, three more models are revealed: the Simons, the Cavils, and the D'Annas. That brought us up to seven and early in season three, it was revealed that the identity of the other five models were hidden, so hidden in fact, that the D'Anna's were boxed as a result of their curiosity about the final five.

At this point, we're left with any number of questions about the Cylons, questions that aren't the result of a slowly plotted mystery, but of the information dump we've suddenly been given. The Cylon's leadership structure and decision making apparatus wasn't all that important before, but given the latest reveals, it's now of the utmost importance. The underlying plot thread here seems to be that Cavil was the first of the newer models created by the original five, and that he manipulated events to eliminate mankind because of his own frustrations with the limitation of human form. He got rid of Daniel and hid his existence from the others, hid the original five and erased their memories, hiding their identities from the others and convinced the rest of the models to go along with his plan for eliminating mankind. It doesn't make for a bad story, but as I've been saying there was no setup so the payoff is weak.

To go back to this twelve versus thirteen models question, I suppose one could make the argument that because the Daniel's are gone, there are only twelve actual models in existence. But this is weak storytelling, as it all evolves around one particular Cylon's machinations at keeping secrets from the others, a Cylon who wasn't even introduced until halfway through the series. Now, it's certainly possible to introduce critical characters at later junctions of a story. I'm thinking about Lost and in particular, the introductions of Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore in the show's second season. The difference between Lost and Battlestar is the importance of Ben and Widmore was revealed as the show progressed, whereas the importance of Cavil is only now revealed as the show comes to a close. Cavil as the chief villain of Battlestar Galactica works just fine in the grand scheme of things, but it's poor storytelling for that fact to be drawn out only now.


Blogger TeslaVision said...

I disagree. I think the thirteenth cylon makes the whole story more complete.

The colonials have twelve lords of Kobol. The thirteenth tribe probably also had a lord of Kobol. If there are 13 lords, are there 13 cylon models? In the opera house, deana saw who she believed to be 5 cylons. The colonials called them 5 priests who worshiped a god. If we assume everything in BSG lore is true, the 5 kobol cylons are worshipping 1 god. This is the basis of the cylon religion and becomes the whole religion when the thirteenth tribe reaches Earth. Religion aside, BSG established that the 5 priests are cylons, so 13 lords of kobol can be 13 cylons.

Lets take a look at 2 things: Life here began out there, and the cycle of time. If everything in BSG is true, everything repeats, and if life here (at the time of Pythia, on Kobol) began out there, then Kobol is not the beginning. Kobol is just something in the cycle. But, if the thireenth tribe was cylon, Kobol then is the only place where Cylon and Human coexisted peacefully at least for a time. So Kobol is an important point.

Already the fleet's Pythia religion is pretty much thrown out, so is Baltar's one god. If the cycle isn't about religion, it's gotta be the only other thing that BSG has been about. Conflict. The problem between human and cylon. The last time they coexisted was on Kobol.

The only goal of the higher power is for cylon and human to live together in peace. This is the end of battlestar galactica.

But what about everyone else? Cavil and friends can't possibly live in the new land too can they? 'A leader wasting in a disease cannot enter the new land'. The disease of lore is this dividing hatred. But, we need a reason for all of this to happen again, so there needs to be this dividing force, so someone from Cavil's cylons does live with everyone else in the promised land. Boomer?

I'm getting away from the point I started with. Why is it important for there to be a 13th cylon. I don't know, it just seems to work.

12:42 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Just caught this comment so I have no idea how old it is, but let me just say, I agree completely and it does make sense in the overarching story. What bugged me was 1- the way they sold the show to viewers on the strength of the revelation of the final Cylon and 2- the overall poor manner in which the Cylon's story was told.

I'm getting to this in a newer post, but what's frustrating about the show is how much great stuff there is and how so much of it wasn't told in very good narrative fashion.

4:41 PM  

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