Battlestar Galactica (2004-09)
Battlestar Galactica (2004 -09) SciFi channel TV series.
Relevant here, as with the original series, for the Cylon robots and their technology. In the 2004 f. incarnation, the battle-'droid Cylons look like the fully robotic chassis of Terminator cyborgs, and infiltrator Cylons and the political leadership have evolved (been evolved?) to where they are almost indistinguishable from human beings. For the Cylons as "a cybernetic civilization" and discussion of them in both series, see the Wikipedia entry linked with Note 1 above. As of late December 2006, a Google search for "Cylon" got numerous useful hits. Further discussion: Joe Kuhr notes that the robotic centurions differ in a visually significant way from Terminators: Part of the Cylon aesthetic—at least until they created the human-looking models—has been the side-to-side scanning cyclopean eye. The Centurions have it, the raider ships have it, and the robotic Cylons of the original show had it; visually and aurally (they have the same hum) the effect is similar to a Xerox machine scanning an image.
In terms of the Cylon/human connection, there is a "Cylon detector" that can distinguish Cylon from human on the atomic level, so there are differences that are basic, but so basic as to remind us of potential infiltration on the level of human-scale. Indeed, Cylon/human sexual intercourse is possible, and in at least one instance has produced a viable offspring: Hera, daughter of a female Cylon and human father; if Hera can produce offspring, humanoid Cylons and humans are biologically one species, though during sexual intercourse we have seen as of 2006, the Cylon's spine glows red during coitus, visually indicating that they are not standard-issue human beings (see Bill Howe's comments below). There are twelve human-looking Cylon models, only seven of which have been revealed to the audience and the human characters mid-way through the third season. The Raider ships are also sentient and part biological. And then there are these human-looking figures that live in weird tubs on the Cyclon Base Star ships and speak in riddles, which most Cylons believe to be lunatic rantings. Some, however, take them to be oracles of God. These strange figures help power the ships and calculate "faster-than-light jump coordinates," and resemble the precogs in the film Minority Report.
William R. Howe notes the nature of the conflict inherent in the show and how that conflict raises important questions: What makes a person a person? Can artificial organisms have souls? Religion? The humans in BG are polytheistic pagans worshiping capricious Greek gods; they are almost all bigoted and close-minded, and often selfish to the point of endangering the species. The Cylons, particularly the twelve human/oid models, on the other hand, have developed a monotheistic system with the idea of a living messiah, one that will bridge the divide between Cylon and human, one that will be half Cylon/half human.
Cylon religion has room for forgiveness and grace as well as retribution, the Cylons see themselves as humanity's caretakers: although their care-taking comes out as exterminations (cf. and contrast F. Saberhagen's Berserkers, J. Williamson's Humanoids): the Cylons have judged humanity to be beyond salvation. BG features a war for the survival of the human species, but it is not at all clear whether the humans should survive. Indeed, the question of human survival is problematic whoever wins: the most advanced Cylons can no longer be distinguished from humans, and exhibit some of the best (and worst) characteristics of humanity. Their chief difference is their demand for unity, for the subsumation of the individual into the mass polity (pointedly, though, not mass consciousness [cf. and contrast such entities as the Borg of ST:NG]). This is also shown in a religious war, or more exactly a war that can be characterized by religious differences and in the case of the humans, intolerance between the sides.
The relevance of this theme is clear, Howe asserts, but Erlich adds it will be clear to different insightful viewers in different ways, depending upon historical analogies. Kuhr notes attempted—and nearly successful — genocide of humans by Cylons and sees, correctly, a parallel between the Cylons and the attempted genocides of the Nazis. Howe notes that in a time when we of the western world are engaged in "a war that can be characterized by religious differences," BG offers an important and interesting critique of not only the reasons behind the war, but the very notion of who is on the side of "good."
The Cylons as pseudo-Christian sleeper agents within the rotting core of a fat and complacent society are all too close to the pre 9-11 terror cells; however, it is the unbending ideology of the surviving human population that comes closer to a radical Islamist position based on a narrow interpretation of the Koran. In defense of the BG humans, Kuhr notes that "Saying that human fear and hatred of Cylons is 'close to a radical Islamist position' is akin to suggesting that the post-Holocaust Jewish position on Nazis is a radical and unbending ideology based on a narrow interpretation of Mein Kampf."
Season 3 reviewed, and the series insightfully analyzed, by Michael J. Klein, SFRA Review #286 (Fall 2008): pp. 28-29.
RDE, Bill Howe, Joe Kuhr, 19/30/12/06, 08/01/07, 14/X/14; 18Jan21