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Saturday, 14 February 2009

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Ahistoricality

because that is what happens in science fiction.

Also in World History textbooks.

[prediction: this post will attract more attention from people who are not regular readers than anything else over the last six months]

Scott Eric Kaufman

In a way, I sort of hope so. Because honestly, I was totally baffled after-the-fact by last night's episode. While watching, it all made sense. But as soon as I tried to sort it out, I realized I couldn't . . . at least, not without a close reading I couldn't. So I went back, read around, and put together the only thing that works. I'm sure fanboys will pick apart the dates, but the dates are less important than the sequence here---because all the emotional resonance depends on who did what to whom after what, not who did what to whom on 22 January 2214.

But yes, I expect as many people will think I desecrated their beloved as will thank me for ordering the available evidence for their convenience.

(As for the mono-planetary culture bit, there's actually been a lot of interesting work done on that issue. There's a sort of inherent utopianism to the idea that a planet could coalesce around a particular set of values, which would be great if it wasn't accompanied by the inconvenient fact that other planets coalesced around other planets and WAR WAR WAR! That just makes it all into a more expansive version of a very mundane notion of the border dispute.)

Ahistoricality

I suspect that there's a bit of cynicism in the mono-culture thing, too: how in the world would we actually succeed in becoming a spacefaring species if we don't stop squandering our energies on internecine squabbles?

Lee

I think the first part of this timeline is wrong. The gods created humans on Kobol; the humans created humanoid "cylons" (also presumably on Kobol). The humanoid "cylons" the humans created left Kobol and colonized Earth, building the temple of five on the algae planet on their way to Earth; the humans meanwhile left Kobol and colonized the twelve colonies.

The humanoid "cylons" on Earth created their own version of mechanical toasters; these Earth-built mechanical toasters destroyed Earth and humanoid "cylon" civilization. The Final Five, warned by Head Six type hallucinations, were ready for the end and uploaded into their waiting ship, having rebuilt the resurrection technology of the gods, intending to go to the humans and warn them not to repeat their mistake. The Final Five retrace their path to the algae planet, stop a while, keep going till they get to the colonies.

The Final Five arrive at the colonies during the first cylon war (between mechanical toasters and humans). The toasters have been trying to create humanoid models unsuccessfully. The Five agree to help them in return for stopping the war against the humans... They create the eight brand new humanoid "cylons," modeled genetically on Earth-based humanoid "cylons" (which explains why they're genetically alike, and should all be called cylons if any of the biological cylons are called cylons). You pretty much get the rest right.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Lee, I'm not sure where we're disagreeing. I know that the humans on Kobol thought their gods created them there, but if they had, the human-looking robots of the Thirteenth Tribe wouldn't have been able to locate Earth via the temple on the Algae Planet, right? That's from last night's episode, where Ellen talked about them having to "backtrack" from Kobol to Earth. Given that you can't "backtrack" to somewhere you've never been before, aren't we stuck assuming that humans had originally lived on Earth? (Because the first generation of human-looking robots, the Thirteenth Tribe, were built on Kobol.)

This is where I should say that I'm honestly interested in figuring out what happened, not arguing about whose pet theory is right. If I'm missing some vital bit of evidence, tell me and I'll edit the original post to reflect it. (Especially since the rest of your account squares with mine, Lee. I think we're on the same page, so I'd like to know what you make of the "backtracking" comment.)

Lee

I assumed that the "backtracking" occurred from Earth to Kobol... That is, when the Thirteenth Tribe had initially gone from Kobol to Earth, they built the Temple of Five; when the Final Five left Earth, more than (I think) sixteen hundred years later, they were the ones who backtracked (starting from Earth) on the way to finding the twelve human-inhabited Colonies. They hung out a while on the algae planet, at which point something mysterious and "miraculous" happened imprinting their images to the Temple for Deanna to discover later, then the Final Five eventually made their way to the twelve colonies (perhaps with a pit stop on Kobol)... but I may be wrong.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Gods damn it Lee, you might be right. One of the things I couldn't explain was how Ellen and the Gang found the Twelve Colonies, and I think you nailed how they did it. Let me re-watch the episode and get back to you.

Scott Eric Kaufman

(Though not tonight, what with me in the middle of cooking Valentine's Day dinner for the wife.)

NJC

Lee is correct regarding the backtracking. Ellen however says that the 13th Tribe stopped on the Algae Planet to pray for guidance. It's not clear whether the 13th Tribe was simply looking for guidance to a suitable place to settle, or whether they were looking for guidance to Earth. As the latter possibility hasn't been foreclosed, it's possible that the Humans originated on Earth and then traveled to Kobol. Since the Pythian prophecies spoke of Earth, and they predated the return of the Final Five, it would suggest that Humans had experience with Earth prior to the 13th Tribe settling there. The sky-map in the Temple on Kobol also suggested that Earth was a known entity.

JPRS

Mono-culture: Like the South Pacific? Small, homogeneous communities, founder's effect in place, all speaking the same language, with the same social organization in place throughout the island, neatly bounded by water, whose trade is organized around elaborate voyages following complex patterns across thousands of miles. Sounds like Malinowski.

"You can't backtrack to somewhere you've never been before": Why not? The point of "tracking" a prey is to find out where it went, so you can find where it is "now," when you meet up with it. But the point of "backtracking" a prey is to find out where it came from, because you believe that where it came from is where it might return "later," when it meets up with you. Why can't you backtrack it to a place you haven't been to before?

John

Either way, the monotheistic Thirteenth Tribe of human-looking robots leaves Kobol

I don't think the thirteenth tribe were monotheistic. My understanding was that, as Ellen describes it, the Centurions invented monotheism.

Karen James

Humans had to have evolved on Earth. How else do you explain all the evidence of the whole history of human evolution on Earth, and the existence in particular of vertebrates especially mammals and most especially primates?

Andrew

Wait -- what about the disease ship planted in the nebula? It's been a while, but as I recall, wasn't the theory that it had been planted there by the 12 tribes during their journey?

Great, now I have to go back and re-watch.

Andrew

And... are we sure it was a civil war on Earth and not the humans from Kobol attacking them? The latter theory (I saw it on http://airings.livejournal.com/151183.html) would explain the "disease ship" -- if it was the humans nuking Earth, they might leave that ship there in case of pursuit.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Odd side note: We know exactly where the baseship Boomer and Ellen escaped is.

As to the backtracking thing, here's the dialogue:

Cavil: It’s not likely. By planting that carnival trick to reveal your own faces, you left me no choice.

Ellen: We didn’t plant anything. We backtracked the path of our ancestors---found their temple. The one true God must have orchestrated these events.

Ellen is pretty clearly saying what y'all have said: Ellen and the Gang retraced the Thirteenth Tribe's path too Earth in order to find the Colonies. But if that's the case, then all the stuff with the Temple of Hope had to have happened after they connected with the Cylons---or they just planted that memory in the Three's (Threes'?) head(s). And if the virus on the satellite was deadly to the Cylon skinjobs, wouldn't it have been deadly to Ellen and the Gang?

(Wow---My head's not up for speculating today. Feel too dense. More later.)

onymous

I'm confused. As SEK says, Ellen said "The one true God must have orchestrated these events," but my impression was otherwise that belief in the one true God was an innovation of the Centurions as John said. Does Ellen believe, or not? Was she being sarcastic?

Also, do we really know the "humanoid Cylons" inhabiting Earth are not simply human (and thus, perhaps, that all humans at one point were able to resurrect)? I suppose there was something distinguishing about the remains that led to the conclusion that they were "Cylon".

Lee

I don't understand why "all the stuff with the Temple of Hope had to have happened after they connected with the Cylons." The Colonial Centurion toasters may have been monotheists, but I don't recall anyplace in the episode where it is stated that the Five learn to be monotheists from the Colonial toasters. And even if you assume the Colonial Centurion toasters converted the Five to monotheism, Ellen's belief in the One True God could easily retroactively be applied as an explanatory framework to make sense of past events (events which occurred while the Five were still polytheists). In any event, I think the evidence suggests that the Five were *already* monotheists when they left Earth, and that the Colonial Centurions were also monotheists. Remember: all the head hallucinations are advocates of monotheists, and the Five admit to having been contacted by such hallucinations before the Earth Centurions destroyed Earth-based humanoid cylon civilization.

KB

There are three things that I have concerns with:

1.) You assume that Humans had to inhabit Earth and though I read the other entries in regards to this, I don't think we can assume this to be true. It's seems the most likely explanation, but it has never been stated.

2.) The tomb of Athena was created 2000 years ago at the time of the great exodus (Athena was so upset that they were splitting into 12 colonies that she offed herself and where she landed was her tomb.

3.) We haven't been explicitly told that the 13th tribe was monotheistic.

I am trying myself to piece all of this together! I created a timeline before this past episode with some of the major events, if you wanna take a look at it: http://www.orthocomics.com/wordpress/ (January 25, 2009 entry)

KB

There are three things that I have concerns with:

1.) You assume that Humans had to inhabit Earth and though I read the other entries in regards to this, I don't think we can assume this to be true. It's seems the most likely explanation, but it has never been stated.

2.) The tomb of Athena was created 2000 years ago at the time of the great exodus (Athena was so upset that they were splitting into 12 colonies that she offed herself and where she landed was her tomb.

3.) We haven't been explicitly told that the 13th tribe was monotheistic.

I am trying myself to piece all of this together! I created a timeline before this past episode with some of the major events, if you wanna take a look at it: http://www.orthocomics.com/wordpress/ (January 25, 2009 entry)

Scott Eric Kaufman

Onymous:

Also, do we really know the "humanoid Cylons" inhabiting Earth are not simply human (and thus, perhaps, that all humans at one point were able to resurrect)? I suppose there was something distinguishing about the remains that led to the conclusion that they were "Cylon".

They do say that the Thirteenth Tribe were robots created by the other twelve tribes, and they're the ones who end up on Earth. That said, way back when I had it in my head to claim that everyone on the show was a Cylon, i.e. that humans may've existed at one point in time, but that they'd long been extinct, replaced by organic machines along the lines of Number One and company.

Lee, nice points about the headcases being monotheists, but one problem: I don't think Baltar was a monotheist when he first had the visions. Didn't Six have to convince him to become a monotheist? Also, what do we make of Lee's vision of Starbuck after she'd disappeared? Is he a monotheist? (And wait, was that a vision, or was that her? I can't remember now.)

There's a lot of assumptions being made on my part, KB. (By the way, your nifty flowchart is far more effective at showing the parallel narratives than is my post. Wish I'd have thought to do it like that.)

Gerry Caravan neatly summed up what I (and everyone else) are assuming with the concept of "the fanon," i.e. the shared assumptions of an online fanbase created by that fanbase. (At least, that's what I take it to mean.) The only problem with that is that I didn't consult the online fanbase, because I wanted to figure it out by myself. (Such is the nature of my obsession. I wonder whether I would've enjoyed Ulysses a lot less if I'd been able to read it alongside some of the web concordances.)

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