Archive | April, 2007

War and Back Again

Airship over futuristic city I just finished reading H. G. Wells’s 1908 novel The War in the Air, a grimly prophetic tale of high-tech war and aerial bombardment, and I find myself wondering whether Tolkien ever read it.

Because not only is the main character, Bert Smallways, remarkably hobbity (as is his character arc), but Bert’s return home at the end of the novel is strikingly similar to “The Scouring of the Shire.”

I’ve previously speculated as to whether Tolkien might have been influenced by another early sf pioneer, Jules Verne. But I don’t know enough about Tolkien’s reading habits ….

To Gaily Go Where Moore Has Not Yet Gone

Thus, a few years ago, spake Ron Moore – at that time best known as a former writer for, and then a vocal critic of, the Star Trek tv franchise, but today best known as the chief writer for Battlestar Galactica:

Ron Moore Tell me why there are no gay characters in Star Trek. … There is no answer for it other than people in charge don’t want gay characters in Star Trek, period. … Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in Star Trek. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isn’t Star Trek leading the way anymore, in the social, political front?

This, um, raises an obvious question ….

The Plain of Ono

David Boaz David Boaz defends the libertarian movement, and Brian Doherty’s book thereon (previously blogged about here), against a review by David Leonhardt.

While I mostly agree with Boaz’s criticisms of Leonhardt, I have to say that the picture illustrating Leonhardt’s review was brilliantly chosen to match his thesis. “Not built,” indeed.

Secret Agent Man

Oh, and about that other show I follow – Prison Break, which had its season finale tonight: you think Agent Kellerman is dead? Really?

Paul Adelstein as Agent Kellerman Sure, we saw someone firing into the back of the prison van – but we sure didn’t see a body. The guy in the mask could have been shooting at the guard instead. And all Kellerman’s lines and facial expressions while in the van, lines and facial expressions we were supposed to think meant “here’s their evil plan going into effect, now I’m going to get shot,” were just as much consistent with his thinking “here’s my evil plan going into effect, now you guys are going to get shot.” Kellerman’s sardonic smile would go equally well with triumph or doom. And in any case, even if he was expecting death rather than rescue (or extraction anyway), that doesn’t mean that’s what he got.

Never forget Princess Irulan’s advice: “Do not count a human dead until you’ve seen his body. And even then you can make a mistake.”

Earth Angel

If you’re a Galactica fan who for some strange reason hasn’t yet seen the third-season finale, then stop reading now, because there’s SPOILAGE AHEAD.

The Final Five Okay, judging from the finale it looks as though my earlier guess (see here and here) that Ron Moore is intending to reprise the original Starbuck’s intended character arc from the 1979-80 show, including his eventual metamorphosis into an angel-being who returns to help the Colonial fleet, was right on the money. In that case, speculation about where season 4 is headed might well be guided by further reflection on the angel-beings from the original series.

If you’re not familiar with the original series, you might want to check out the following angel-related clips on YouTube so we can all be on the same page. In this clip a supernatural being calling himself Count Iblis visits Baltar in his prison cell and alternately threatens and reassures him in a manner interestingly similar to Six’s M.O. on the new series (well, mutatis some important mutandis). Iblis also reveals a thousand-year-old connection to the Cylons, his voice having served as the template for the Imperious Leader’s voice – thus anticipating the new show’s implied connection between Cylon and human mythologies. (Feel free to quit watching this clip midway through, around 5.52 when Iblis vanishes from Baltar’s cell; the second half isn’t especially relevant.) In this clip we learn that Iblis is identical with the Satan figure of Colonial mythology (no surprise, since “Iblis” is the Arabic name for Satan), and that he is in some sort of conflict with the angel-beings. In this clip we discover that the angel-beings are interdimensional travelers who were once as the Colonials are but have progressed to a higher level of being, that the Colonials may one day be raised to this same level, and that Iblis is a renegade angel-being. The angel-beings also raise Apollo from apparent death (explaining to the Colonials, as the Colonials in another episode – I forget which – would explain to a group of less advanced humans, that death is technology-relative), and offer to help the Colonials find Earth. Finally, in this clip we see Starbuck, given up for dead by the Colonial fleet, being judged worthy by one of the angel-beings, subtly named Angela. (In the unfilmed episode The Wheel of Fire we would have found out what Starbuck is being judged worthy of – namely to be raised to angelhood himself.)

Count Iblis Now I don’t expect Moore to follow any of this very closely. In particular, I don’t think we’re likely to see a Satan figure like Iblis; Moore is clearly more interested in conflicts among various sorts of flawed characters than in conflicts between pure good and pure evil. But Moore has followed the Starbuck part closely enough that it’s worth considering what further clues the original show’s angel-being arc might contain.

The similarity between the old show’s Baltar-Iblis interaction and the new show’s Baltar-Six interaction, together with Six-in-the-head’s claim to be an “angel,” invites speculation that Six-in-the-head is an angel-being (or whatever the new show’s equivalent is), and not a Cylon after all. And just as Baltar has a Six that nobody else can see, so Starbuck in “Maelstrom” had a Leoben that nobody else could see – and that Leoben admitted to not really being Leoben, and seemed to be an angel-being also.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Six-in-the-head and Leoben-in-the-head are on the same side; they might represent different factions of angel-beings, and indeed the conflict between Cylon and Colonial religion may reflect some war among the angels (though probably representing a more complicated conflict than the original show’s analogous one). (Which side Caprica Six’s Baltar-in-the-head is on I couldn’t say.)

I'm back! Miss me? Baltar’s and Starbuck’s respective Cylons-in-the-head appear to share still further similarities; each keeps telling its host human that he or she has been chosen for a special destiny – almost as though the different angelic factions are grooming different candidates for human messiah. (Does the “Baltar cult” among the Colonials have anything to do with this?) And just as Leoben-in-the-head evidently has something to do with Starbuck’s miraculous recovery from being apparently blown to bits in “Maelstrom,” so Six-in-the-head presumably has something to do with Baltar’s almost-as-miraculous recovery from a nearby nuclear blast in the series pilot. (That’s one reason I don’t think either Baltar or Starbuck is a Cylon. Because they can’t both be ….)

So what’s the relation between the angel-beings and the Cylons? My guess is that the Cylons didn’t make the transition from toasters to skinjobs entirely unaided, that angel-beings were involved. (For what it’s worth, in one of the Galactica comic books it was Count Iblis who originally tricked the Cylons into making the transition in the other direction, from organic to cyborg.) Given that in interviews Ron Moore has told us that the Final Five are “fundamentally different” from the previously revealed seven, could it be that the two groups of skinjobs, the seven and the five, were raised up by the two competing factions of angel-beings? Some squabble among the Lords of Kobol, perhaps? (Though I’m still not sure why the Final Five in D’Anna’s and Roslin’s visions look like angel-beings themselves.)

Does Starbuck know the way to San Jose? Certainly the Final Five seem to have a special affinity for the Lords of Kobol and/or the 13th tribe; witness Tyrol’s ability to sense the location of the Eye of Jupiter, the Five’s connection with both the Temple of Jupiter and the Kobol opera house, and now their self-awareness as Cylons being triggered, apparently, by the fleet’s approach to the location of the next beacon left by the 13th tribe.

I note also that the revelation of Tyrol as one of the Final Five means that there are now two Cylon-human hybrid babies on board the Galactica – but one is a hybrid of a human with one of the seven, while the other is a hybrid of a human with one of the Final Five. (The angel-beings were interested in hybrid babies in Galactica 1980 too – remember Dr. Zee.) Roslin’s dream could be interpreted as implying that Hera, the non-Final-Five hybrid, is in some sort of danger from the Final Five. (A related question: the being on the Cylon baseship also called a “hybrid” presumably isn’t a Cylon-human hybrid; but in that case, of what and what is it a hybrid?)

Among the many further questions these speculations leave unanswered:

Do the Final Five come in multiple versions like the seven, or are they one-offs?

Do the Final Five date from the same period as the seven, or are they somehow earlier (thus explaining Tigh’s service record)? Could they, somehow, even be from Earth?

Who’s the fifth member of the Final Five? Is he or she in the fleet or elsewhere? Did he or she hear the music too?

Are the twelve Cylon models based on the twelve Lords of Kobol, with the division between the five and the seven somehow reflecting an analogous division among the Lords? (Maybe; but don’t try too hard to link up the known Cylons with the traditional Olympian pantheon – only six of the original Olympians were male, and we already have seven male Cylon models. Though of course we don’t know for sure that the Kobol pantheon matches the Greek one exactly, since we don’t know all the names of the former.)

What lies beneath? How did the other Cylons track the Colonial fleet?

What caused the power failure (and Roslin’s reaction) just before they showed up?

How does the real Leoben know about Starbuck’s destiny?

Back when our protagonists were running around on Kobol, it was mentioned that the original Athena had committed suicide. Do angel-beings commit suicide? Was it really suicide?

Anders, Tigh, Tory, and Tyrol were all drawn to a room with a large, prominent bulkhead/hatch on the floor, to which lighting and camera angles blatantly drew our attention. What’s under it?

Both Cylons and angel-beings have told us that “this has all happened before.” Meaning what, exactly?

Is the Earth we see in the final scene our past, our present, or our future? (Given the appearance of the North American coastline it’s presumably no more than a few million years distant from the present.)

Is the version of “All Along the Watchtower” that the Final Five (or four of them anyway) hear really supposed to be a song from Earth, or something else?

Do the song’s lyrics have some special significance? Are the “joker” and the “thief” the same as the “two riders … approaching,” and do they refer to characters on the show? or factions of the angelic war? (If they turn out to be Ron Moore and David Eick, and the closing animations after the credits of each show turn out to be actual parts of the plot, we’ll have to kill them.)

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