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BSG 3.20: Continuity is Hard 
27th-Mar-2007 01:39 pm
If you really have written yourself into a corner, just go ahead and do the frigging Bobby-Ewing-steps-out-of-the-shower scene already.

We won't mind. Honest.

I could perhaps accept for now that they think they're Cylons.

But if it actually turns out that they are Cylons in the same sense as Sharon, Six, et al -- which, I might remind, is pretty much the only official sense right now in which one can be a Cylon, solarbird's Cylons for Workgroups vs. Cylons NT vs. Cylons Vista being still just a theory at this point — well,... sorry, but we'd be solidly in Retcon Territory then:

Remember the pilot?

Remember Ragnarok Station and the wonky radiation that was eating away at Leoben and Doral?
Really eating away at them?
As in hair-falling-out-ants-crawling-up-my-insides-oh-my-god-get-me-out-of-here eating away at them?

Remember how Tigh and Tyrol were both there?
... on screen a fair amount of the time actually Doing Stuff...
... on the station itself?

Did we see them similarly deteriorating in that sequence?


27th-Mar-2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, but those are DIFFERENT Cylons. Honest! We haven't written ourselves into a corner!
27th-Mar-2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
They're not cylons in the same sense. The Five are different than the Seven, and ever since we've known about the split there have been hints that they are clearly different. So it's not a retcon.

They've also laid the groundwork for the common destiny of humans and cylons--"All this has happened before and will happen again." There's a mythic backstory for both humans and cylons involving the Colonial gods, the Lords of Kobol, and the various models of the cylons. For that to work, there has to have been a falling out among the cylons in the distant past, long before they are acknowledged to exist. Again, not a retcon.

I think the specifics of how they get to the main arc, such as the identity of some of the cylons, is being decided as they go, because the creative process is not linear enough to allow for all details to be known in advance, and television has a lot of production restraints. In this case, there are probably character-level retcons in most cases, but nothing serious to the main story arc. I don't think Tigh or Tyrol were always planned to be cylons, but I don't think it stumbles over continuity either. I think Tory (and Billy before her, until he left the show and his plot was transferred to her) were both always intended to be the cylon agent close to the president. I think there was always a plan to have a cylon agent in CIC close to Adama, but that originally it was going to be Gaeta until the New Caprica story provided a better direction. I think it's likely that Anders was always going to be a cylon, too. Tyrol might or might not have been considered as a cylon all along--given his long arc starting with the relationship with Boomer and continuing on with the Eye of Jupiter, you can see hints all along that if he wasn't a cylon, he was at least going to play an important role. These are all characters in important but peripheral roles who were well positioned to make a difference in the fate of the fleet. In retrospect, Tigh's the only one who raises real eyebrows as a cylon, and the larger story arc developed from the very beginning provides a way to explain this without cheating continuity.

So why would the Five be unaffected by things that affect other cylons? I think that the Five might very well be born as humans, but somehow possess cylon programming in their DNA that lies dormant until they are near a trigger--either the nebula, or proximity to Earth, or the presence of certain cylon ships. I think the role of the Five is to save humanity, the sexually reproducing breed of cylons, from the Seven, by bringing them to Earth in accordance with prophecy. But because they came from humanity they see themselves as human and hide their cylon nature. Later generations remember them first as great human leaders, and then as gods, but the Seven know they're not. That's why cylons are monotheists and humans are polytheists.

It's an open question whether the Five are eternal only in terms of their encoded personalities, or whether they at some point undergo Resurrection and take on a form like that of the known cylons. It's also unclear if the cylon models persist across cycles, or change each time. The story to date could go either way, and still remain fully consistent. It's also unclear whether the cycle of history can be broken. I think it's most satisfying if this show is the story of breaking the cycle. But in any case, I don't see major continuity problems at all, and I think the recent episode actually helped fix some character inconsistencies that cropped up this season.
27th-Mar-2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
Makes me wonder if Larson is sticking his dick into things again.

I'd look up Mormon stuff to compare, but I'm too lazy.
28th-Mar-2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
wait, I thought he was dead.
28th-Mar-2007 05:23 pm (UTC)
They still list him as a consultant.


Nah, he's as old as my dad, but still around.
28th-Mar-2007 07:14 am (UTC)
Yeah, the Five are different. So what?
I don't think Tigh or Tyrol were always planned to be cylons
Right. And if the writers had had any inkling at the time of having the Chief or Tyrol be Cylons, they'd have done those scenes entirely differently.

Case closed.
28th-Mar-2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
Actually, if they planned this from the beginning, that scene would have played exactly the same way.

Given the foreshadowing all along the way, I think they've always known there was going to be a split among the cylons, and that some of the cylons were fundamentally different. The exact details were probably not known, and they didn't know for sure was who the cylon characters were, though they had an inkling of the likely choices down the road. Given that split, and given the need for some of these additional cylons to be embedded in the fleet without being discovered by either characters in the show or the audience watching the show, it makes sense for them to act like humans in as many ways as possible, even more than the typical human cylon models.
28th-Mar-2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
without being discovered by ...the audience watching the show,
and that's what we call Cheating the Audience. It is fully established at this point that the cylons act like humans in as many ways as possible but that they are not perfect and they get occasional stuff wrong. That's one of the major points of the Ragnarok incident.

see response to solarbird. They would still have dropped a ton of hints (e.g., Gaeta handing the gun to Boomer) if they'd known they were going to do this, so
28th-Mar-2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
I do think they intended to have Gaeta be a cylon at some point, but changed their minds to include Tigh instead. But I still don't see how this is writing into a corner when the overall story arc laid the groundwork for this and there's a clear path forward that is not at all inconsistent. It's true that there was never a detailed grand plan, and that adding details later requires some low-level retconning here and there, but I guess I see that as a good thing in this case. I really don't know how you can release a collaborative creative project in serial form without these kinds of low-level retcons, and it's just not a big deal. If this were a multi-novel series by one author, it might seem a bit manipulative and poorly thought out, but it's TV. Good TV.
29th-Mar-2007 05:35 am (UTC)
low-level? This completely undermines and renders stupid the whole Tyrol (major character) & Brother Cavell sequence. We'll say nothing of what it does to all of the Tigh storylines.

but changed their minds

I can do this all day.
31st-Mar-2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Does it count as retcon if it actually breaks continuity? More like retdiscon.

Really, to me the whole BOB DYLAN SONG thing is much more troubling (and jarringly goofy) than whether or not they're Cylons. Not to mention the whole Starbuck The White resurrection thing.
28th-Mar-2007 12:03 am (UTC)
Remember Ragnarok Station and the wonky radiation that was eating away at Leoben and Doral?
Really eating away at them?
As in hair-falling-out-ants-crawling-up-my-insides-oh-my-god-get-me-out-of-here eating away at them?

Leaving aside llachglin's commentary, It took a while, though. Doral had been there a while already; Leoben got there with the Fleet, but we don't know how long he was on the station before the other Cylons finally popped down into the environment. Okay, it probably wasn't that long ad things are a little dicy there. But there's at least a handwave you can make.
28th-Mar-2007 07:24 am (UTC)
Yes one can handwave. I'm sure we can come up with weird-ass explanations for anything; it's the fact that we have to that matters. If they'd laid the groundwork properly, there'd be no need for an explanation; it would be obvious at the moment of revelation.
28th-Mar-2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
I think the legitimate objection here is that the reveal was so sudden. I think they could easily have spent more time dropping hints leading up to the reveal, without spoiling the surprise. But instead they spent time on a series of episodes that did nothing to advance the central plot, including several with Tyrol that could have laid more groundwork. That's a legitimate gripe. But it's still not a serious indictment of the show as a whole.

On the other hand, their cylon activation was like a switch going off in their heads, so I'm not sure how anything could have been foreshadowed in their actions. The Seven don't know who the Five are, so there's no way the cylons could have been used to drop hints. Once you establish that there are five hidden cylons in the fleet somewhere that no one knows about, who won't be revealed until a switch in their head goes off, it's kind of hard to do any specific foreshadowing. And they did plenty of general foreshadowing of this eventuality. So I think they played it about as well as they could, aside from the pacing of that 3-4 episode stretch of episodes leading up to Maelstrom.
28th-Mar-2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
The Seven know that there are Five.
And it's been established that cyclons can have all kinds of wonky hidden programming that they don't themselves know about, so there are all sorts of ways the cylons could have been used to drop hints.

Not that they have to go that particular route, but they have to go by some route.

How serious an indictment this is in light of the fact that all TV shows suck I can't say, but it's still a
28th-Mar-2007 05:24 pm (UTC)
George Lucas is now shouting "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!"
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