Thursday, November 24, 2005

The background story of Battlestar Galactica

As promised, this post will be about the background story for the reimagined fictional series Battlestar Galactica, of which I'm a big fan.

In case you have not seen yet the miniseries, be forewarned there are spoilers ahead.

Ok? Let's begin!

Two thousand years ago, humanity lived in a planet called Kobol, a word which means "Heaven" in ancient persian. Due to an unspecified cathastrophe, they fled for a new home and founded the 12 colonies of man, spreading across 12 worlds named after the zodiacal constellations: Aquarion, Pico, Arilon, Tauron, Geminon, Canceron, Leonis, Virgon, Libris, Scorpia, Sagittaron and Caprica.

The series does not clearly state whether all of them are located in a single star system (highly unlikely, unless the Kobol civilisation was capable of extensive terraforming and maybe even orbital relocation) or along several of them, although located relatively close to each other.

Another group, however, chose a different direction and was never heard of again except for their destination: A planet called Earth.

The colonial civilisation is more advanced than ours, but certainly not utopian. While it is capable of regular interplanetary and short FTL interstellar travel, quality of life is not uniform; cities have nice and "bad" neighborhoods, at least a grand scale war has been fought between the colonies and the losers were forced to slavery, and one of the worlds (Sagittaron) had to endure a corrupt military dictatorship.

There are also interesting differences. Government and religion are not separated, although priests act as advisors more than rulers. Religious beliefs are polytheistic. The colonial sacred texts esentially tell about how life was back on Kobol, but until the actual planet was found by the survivors of the second exodus, many thought them to be meant as parables or moral lessons about living in harmony.
However, the archeological teams sent to explore the ruins discovered evidence of a large scale conflict and massive genocide: human skeletons were found piled together, unburied and hidden only by the local vegetation and forests. Only then the reason behind the first exodus actually became clear but only to a very few.

In order to take care of harsh duties first, but ultimately used as weapons to fight against each other, the colonies built robotic humanoids and called them Cylons. One day, they turned against their masters and all of mankind had to unite together if they were to stand a chance for survival.

The Human-Cylon war had a great toll of lives and resources and ultimately had a deep influence on the development of the colonies. Because Cylons were capable, among other things, of infiltrating the computer networks aboard battleships and turning them against their crews, this lead to a growing distrust of technology.
Very few automated equipment remained onboard the vessels, and even then, it was forbidden to network it together. Most flight operations, including landings, ended up being done by hand.

A ban on artificial intelligence research was also raised on all colonial worlds.

The war suddenly ended 40 years ago with an armistice and withdrawal of the Cylon forces to an unknown location and nothing else was heard of them afterwards. 12 years before that, an alliance between the colonial worls was created to fight against their common enemy and later became a centralised government of sorts.

In those 40 years, Cylons underwent what could be called a technological singularity. Deeply religious and monotheistic, they covertly spawned new organic and vastly improved versions of themselves into the unsuspecting colonies. virtually indistinguishable from real humans, these bio-droids paved the way for the Cylon return. In a single day, Humankind was all but wiped out of the surface of all the colonial worlds by nuclear bombardments; only those who were aboard space vessels (less than 50,000 people) survived the attack.

Thus began the second exodus. Homeless, the survivors began searching for the rumored 13th colony with the Cylon closely in pursuit... and still with some covert agents gathering intelligence and/or waiting to strike.

There. I hope you liked it. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I'm a big fan of the series and it disturbingly seems to show.

Let me know what you think, okie?

1 comment:

Bruno Unna said...

Because of Julio's recommendation, I've started watching the series. I've started sacrificing sleeping hours because of the greediness I'm developing! That addictive I've found it to be.

I think I can notice what I'd call a made-up analogy between the government of the colonies -and its relationship with the military power- and the government of the united states. An apology of the need for power, I'd say if pressed upon.

In general, a very realistic work, from the psichologycal point of view. And a kind of science fiction that allows itself less creative licenses than other series I've explored (the star trek series, vgr.)

I want to thank Julio for bringing into my attention this interesting opus, and for taking the time and effort to write about it in order to provide context and increase the enjoyment.