The new Battlestar Galactica was a reimagined version of the original series that was popular in the late 1970s. I first didn’t like the mini-series because they presented a baby getting her necked snapped by a killer robot called a Cylon. That was simply offensive to me and I found the idea of cancer still being a major problem in a world where humans created a race of smart, killer robots to be absurd.
After 3 seasons the show seemed to grow on me, with the Cylons showing depth as a naive group that is learning about the meaning of life and religion and with human nature being pushed to the wall after seeing their population gradually reduced from the Cylons. Like the original series, the Battlestar Galactica is a galactic battleship in charge of guiding the remains of humanity into a journey to the legendary Earth based on religious tales of a lost “Thirteenth Tribe”. Throughout the series, there have been intentionally placed references to the show’s fictional timeline with 20th century artifacts of Earth-origin, English as a working language, and the metric system.
At the same time the show’s universe shows an uneven use of technology. First they portray the humans on the Twelve Colonies of Kobol to have made significant advances in electronics to the point of creating a killer race of robots (Cylons). At the same time, they still have humans using low-tech means to mine for precious metals and problems curing cancer, which normally would be laughed-off as “easily curable” by characters in many science fiction shows such as Star Trek. Then there are characters still using conventional weapons powered by gunpowder, and glasses instead of more advanced visors.
There has been speculation as to the origins of humanity in this version. While the original series suggested that humans actually colonised the Earth and originated off-world, this version suggests that Earth is the original homeworld and that humans somehow found their way in a new universe founding twelve colonies while retaining uneven advances in technology and a new unified religion. I have read other blogs that suggest that all the human characters in the show are actually machines or they left Earth because it was destroyed. Well here is my take on the Battlestar Galactica backstory:
The world in Battlestar Galactica is in fact the far future of our world. In this world Earth has become uninhabitable due to world wars, climate changes, severe epidemics despite all the future advances made. Therefore, the world decides to engage in massive colonisation plans to send the population off-world into the far corners of space with a fleet of colony ships. In this journey much of the navigation is conducted by networked Artificial Intelligence (AI) with humans being placed in suspended animation for the long journey.
Some of these fleets, in addition to storing databanks of human history and culture, would have fully-grown humans in “cold sleep” while some simply have genetic material or embryos in them to start a clean slate of humans. It would be speculated that much of these ships contain genetic material rather than humans who are ravaged from war, radiation, and diseases from Earth for fear of contamination.
Eventually these ships found a habitable planet they would call Kobol and planetfall would begin. However, something goes terribly wrong during planetfall with much of the fully-grown human ships being decimated along with some crucial data and relics on human history and culture being erased from the ships’ databanks. In spite of these terrible setbacks, the ships managed to land and create settlements from the dormant human embryos with the AI from those ships being the newly-grown humans’ guide and protector. Since they have landed in a virtually pristine and uninhabited world with limited knowledge or resources, it would take thousands of years for them to get back to their former levels.
As these new humans grow, they start questioning the nature of their origins. Because these AIs have limited knowledge of humanity based on available data, they begin to improvise to prevent disorder and mass confusion among their subjects by fashioning themselves as the 8 Lords of Kobol, overseeing the 13 settlements that formed after planetfall, based on surviving information on human culture to nurture and guide the humans. Soon a new religion would form around them with a series of texts called the “Sacred Scrolls” with elements from ancient Greek mythology, vague references to humanity’s origins, and weak language describing Kobol’s early years. This technological setback could explain why some of the early religious texts were written in papyrus instead of being bound in paper books or computerised.
This arrangement proved beneficial to both the AIs and the humans who were able to rebuild their life to the levels once experienced on earth. Some humans eventually learned of their vague origins from Earth and they decided as a First Tribe (13th Tribe) of humanity to go off-world and return home while the rest remained since Kobol was all they knew and due to the fear of the unknown. As time progressed the AIs like the humans began evolving beyond their defined programming with one AI questioning their role as Gods for the humans and actually experiencing distress over humans preferring other “Gods”.
This jealous God continuing questioning its purpose and later fomented a conflict among its followers, triggering a disasterous and possibly nuclear war on Kobol that decimated much of the population and set humanity back, creating more uneven knowledge in technology and history. All essential knowledge and contact with the 13th tribe would have been lost or consigned to myth at this point.
At a great cost, the humans and their Lords won this war against the jealous God and his supporters with Kobol decimated. As a result, humanity is forced again to go off-world to found the Twelve Colonies of Kobol based on the original 12 Kobol settlements minus the one that went back to Earth. Some of the AIs went to parts unknown while one AI, Athena, decided to shut herself down (suicide) in distress of humanity’s attempt at self-destruction while Zeus warned humans from returning to a human-ravaged Kobol.
Eventually the humans rebuilt their lives over a few millennia on these worlds and created a race of robots for slave labour and for combat against the other colonies. Each successive exodus and major conflict causes further loss of their own identity, which explains why the characters don’t understand their origins and how this confusion strengthened the religion seen on the show. This would also explain why they have advanced know-how of networking, a galactic government modeled on the United Nations, European Union, and America, yet still extremely religious and unable to cure cancer.
The Cylons later rebelled against their human masters and left the Twelve Colonies for parts unknown where they eventually found the jealous God who triggered the Kobol exodus. This jealous God would later become the Cylon’s God preaching monotheism in response to his rejection by the other Lords, professing the Lords of Kobol as false idols, creating a theology that involves annihilating humans, and the idea that Cylons are a chosen people.
This explains the convergence of the Cylon and Human religions and why an oracle can receive messages from both the Cylon God and the surviving Kobol Lords. At the same time this God would provide the Cylons with the knowledge to advance their culture and technology to the point of creating 12 humanoid models based on human traits.
This backstory largely explains the intertwined destinies of the Human and Cylon while at the same time explaining the uneven advances in the world of Battlestar Galactica and their origins of their strange religion.