Will Battlestar Galactica 2.0 update the "descended from aliens" mistake?


I'm enjoying the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Unlike the original, which was cheezy space opera, this show is the best SF show on TV. Yes, I watched the original when I was 18. I knew it was terrible (and full of bad science) but in the 70s TV SF was extremely rare, and often even worse.

The original show began with Pactrick Macnee narrating an opening "There are those who believe that life here, began out there, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians..." They sought the lost tribe of Earth, and in a truly abyssmal sequel finally came to 1980 Earth, which was of course technologically backward compared to them and unable to help in their fight.

This idea was a common one in science fiction of the 20th century. It was frequent in written SF, and Star Trek twice took it up. In one 60s episode, the Enterprise met Sargon, who claimed to have sewn most of the humanoid races. Spock states this meshes with Vulcan history, but another character says that Humans appear to have evolved on Earth. A later episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation reverses this, and Picard follows clues left in DNA to discover the common ancestry of all the humanoids.

Back in the 60s and 70s, when Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek were written, you could get away with this plot. It had a romantic appeal. While there was tons of evidence, as even Star Trek of the 60s knew, that humans were from Earth, we had not come to the 90s and the DNA sequencer. Today we know we share 25% of our DNA with cabbages. We're descended from a long line in the fossil record that goes back a billion years. If life on this planet was seeded from other planets, it was over a billion years ago. It certainly wasn't during the lifetime of Humanity, and nor were all the animals also seeded here at the same time as we were unless the aliens who did it deliberately created a fake fossil record.

(Of course creationists try very hard to make the case that this could be true, but they don't even remotely succeed. If you think they do have a point, you may want to stop reading. You can read on for more SF theory though.)

Thanks to DNA sequencing, you can no more write a "Humans didn't evolve on Earth" story than you can write a "canal civilizations on Mars" story. Science has caught up.

So that's the challenge to the new Battlestar. It started with the same premise -- the characters believe life evolved on the now ruined planet of Kobol, guided by the Greek gods, and spread out to 12 colonies and also Earth. That belief has to be wrong if they're doing the show right. However, there are alternate explanations:

  • The show is set in the far future. An expedition from Earth founded Kobol and took the names of the Greek gods. (In fact, since the colonies are named after constellations seen only from Earth, this makes a fair bit of sense.) When they get to the future, high-tech Earth, it may indeed save them from the Cylons. Or it may have since fallen.
  • The show is set in the present, but powerful aliens, who in fact were the Greek gods, transported some people from Earth thousands of years ago to found Kobol. Then the tribes of Kobol advanced far more quickly in technology than we did.
  • The show is set in the present. An ancient advanced civilization on Earth, an "Atlantis" if you will, founded Kobol and erased all trace of itself from Earth.

There are hints of this in the show. The Cylons say they know a dark secret about the gods of Kobol. It's part of why they are monotheistic, while the "good guys" are polytheists. We'll have to keep tuned in to find out, which is what they want.

And a final comment on Star Trek. While Star Trek: TNG should have known better than to do a story where all the aliens are cousins of Humans, they were trying to correct another major scientific flaw. For makeup reasons, all the aliens on Star Trek and most other shows are extremely human-looking, with just a few extra bumps or spots. And many of them can interbreed with Humans. This is ridiculous. Any true aliens wouldn't look very human at all. Even cousins of humanity split off hundreds of thousands of years ago and evolving on other planets would look a great deal more different, and would not be able to interbreed. For most animal species, a few thousand generations in an alternate environment on the same planet is enough to speciate, let alone dealing with a completely different planet. If they can interbreed, they split off recently.

(I wished that, when they covered the conception of characters like Spock, Troi and Torres that they had made a point of stating the the conceptions were artificial, with advanced genetic engineering, rather than natural conceptions.)

Battlestar Galactica, to its credit, has no aliens. (In the original Battlestar, the Cylons were an ancient reptilian race, that had been wiped out by their own Robot creations, and the AIs had switched to using a humanoid form because it was superior. Patrick Macnee played an evil godlike being who it seemed, was manipulating the Cylons as their leader and whose race may have been toying with the lesser races for some time.)

I hope Galactica stays without aliens, though they may be tempted to borrow this point from their original and have the gods of Kobol (and of Greece) be aliens.

Updated thoughts: One interesting possibility is they will come to a future Earth which is ruled by AIs, created independently of the Cylons. So the conflict will be not human-vs-cylon, but Earth AIs vs. Colony AIs (Cyclons.)

Another poster presented an interesting cycle theory. Earth created transcendent AIs, and the bio-humans fled to Kobol. There they created AIs, and the bio-humans fled to the 12 colonies. There the 12 colonies created AIs (Cylons) and fled...


And recall that the long ST:TNG finale had Picard nearly destryong all eukaryotic life by opening a strange hole in time, facilitated by Q. And Q, nearly omnipotent, said that destruction of Earth's cellular life in the past would destroy humanity in the future.

Well, we're never going to get it from an SF TV show of course. However, they could explain this one by saying that had the Earth not had a base of compatible life, the seeders would not have planted humanity there.

Truth is they are already down a rathole they can't make right. They need all the aliens to look like humans for cost reasons, and they had Vulcans breeding with Humans back in the 60s show (TOS as it's known to fans.) They only ways to make this work are to have aliens or vanished advanced humans seed humanity from Earth throughout the galaxy (which is what Stargate and some other shows have done) or to somehow have the fossil record on Earth be faked.

If Earth were the homeworld of all humanoids, that would give it quite a different status. The main point is that "Humans evolved out there and then came here" just can't be used any more.

I think that the worst thing about the Star Trek shows is that the writers often act like hack writers in an episodic TV show, with no memory from one show to the next and no commitment to realism, rather than creators of a coherent, consistent universe (compare Babylon 5, or the new Battlestar Galactica). There are many other inconsistencies between episodes.

For example, they cannot decide whether the time stream is mutable (which happens in most cases), or a closed circle (which they did in the two-parter where Data's head is found buried in 19th century San Francisco).

They aren't consistent about their own measurement system; in Voyager, it is reavealed that Warp 10 is infinite speed, which is incosistent with the description of warp speed in the original series, and is violated by several episodes in the original series where the Enterprise hits warp 11 (and also the series finale of TNG, where future ships are capable of warp 13).

There ought to be an industry rule that requires writers for science fiction shows to have passed at least high school science courses. Physics (If you're in orbit, you will NOT crash if your engines go out). Biology (Having alien DNA added to your own will NOT make you grow claws overnight). Computer science (Unless everyone is running Windows, bringing a virus-infected PDA onboard will NOT infect every computer on the ship; you can't interface your computer with every million-year-old device built by long-lost civilizations in half an hour). Common sense (The most powerful weapon system ever devised by man or alien is the TRANSPORTER. Why has no body ever realized this? There are only vague hints of this, such as when Scotty beams the Tribbles into the Klingon engine room. How about beaming a grenade onto the enemy's bridge? The possibilities are endless.)

Granted, many B Sci Fi movies make these (and worse) mistakes, but I expect better from long-lasting and respecting series like Star Trek.

I'm sorry but as a committed Star Trek fan I just have to comment here. Yes, there have been some awful writers over the years. To be realistic the show stopped being good in 1994.

The whole non-mutable timeline thing is a mistake as it has been established time and time again that it can be done. There have been a number of different writers who just didn’t seem to care and the length of Star Trek including it our living its creator are obvious reasons that inconsistencies have been created.

In particular inconsistencies include the speed of the ships which seemed to allow easy travel to the edge of the galaxy once upon a time whereas that ended up requiring years in the later series. They even demonstrated a capacity to travel through time with ease early on.

A lot of writers also completely ignored any mission of exploration by writing the characters being in the middle of Federation space all the time. All of these problems I will admit to.

However the whole warp drive thing has a perfectly good explanation for. It is accepted canon (in various guides) that there was a recalibration of the warp scale between the Original Series and the Next Generation which set warp ten as infinite speed. In the Original Series your speed was your warp factor cubed times the speed of light whereas later it became your warp factor to the power of ten on three for most of the scale but then asymptotically increasing around ten.

By the way, computer science wise; the ships all had one big computer which operated various consoles. Infecting one big computer is quite possible in half an hour and something which does actually happen in real life.

Also that transporter thing you said is just nonsense. Transporters can’t transport through shields. If the enemy has there shield down then you can destroy their ship with a single phaser blast anyway and so the usefulness of the transporter as a weapon is minimal.

The seeds of life are probably rife throughout the universe adapting to hostile environments. DNA possibly develops in a similar way everywhere. I believe its entirely possible we share our DNA with alien life that has developed separetly let alone the fact that their will be parallel universes where technology to collect or put DNA anywhere it wants. Let alone possible time travel. After all where does life come from why does it want to exist how does a plant know to bear fruit so we can give it fertilises and plant it for them.. ETC Wonders of nature... In other words the more we think we know the less we do.. Star trek is right in some universe. So is everything.

I've been assuming in BG-new, it was the other way around: the BG humans are descendants of future Earth humans. Of course, for this to work, if they ever find Earth it can't be 21st C Earth -- there has to have been time between now and then for us to colonize other planets_and_ for them to have forgotten quite where they came from.

It would also be interesting to see how that forgetting has impacted their religion: creationism (and tehrefore religion in general) would be a lot more convincing if there wasn't any pre-human fossil record.

You know there is another way of explainig how humen life evolved on Kobol, its Fiction! The Histroy of Earth can be completely diffrent, why does Fiction have to conform to reality? Thats kinda the point of calling it Science FICTION!

Even in fiction there are rules, and in SF even more.

For example, before we sent space probes to Mars and Venus, people wrote SF novels imagining various things there -- canals, civilizations, you name it.

After the pictures came back you could still write such a novel, but it would be a different animal, deliberately ignoring the new knowledge, and people would find it to be breaking the rules. Doesn't mean you can't write it, but you'll get less respect unless you can impress people with your dramatic purpose even more than usual.

Thanks Brad for solving the creation/evolution debate. Im happy you know all the answers to life's mysteries including the huge lack of transitional fossils. DNA is INFORMATION, not random patterns. I write all of this in good fun as lack of body language makes this post seem mean spirited. Fasinating subjects. BSG is the best SF show in quite some time.

It is not necessary to get into the creation/evolution debate to answer this question about SF plots. Creationists also believe that Earth is the homeworld of mankind, and that we've been here longer than 3,000 years. And old-earth creationists while they might make whatever arguments about things they perceive as missing in evolution, don't deny that life on Earth has been here a very long time, and primate life for many millions of years, and that it arose here.

DNA shows us we are all related, all the life forms on this planet. Most people think this is because of common ancestry, though some think it's because of a common divine designer -- but either way humanity is not from any planet other than this one.

Thanks for the info. I've recently gotten into battlestar galactica, And my roomate, who thinks he knows everything, tried to tell me how earth ties into and relates to the whole series. He seemed to think he knew exactly how it all works, but when I looked online, I realized that nobody knows how earth ties into the new galactica, and speculation is rampant. Now I have some arguments to shoot back at my roomie next time we discuss the show!

Love the cyclical history plot Brad mentions - it would be amazing to see the fleet and cylons arrive at a far future Earth where AIs exist. I wonder if the show would go out warm with a harmonious humanAI civilisation like that found in Iain M Bank's Culture novels (not come across them? get hold of them) Somehow I doubt it. What about the possibilty the colonial humans themselves are not quite what they seem? Could the Gods of Kobol actually be AIs sent from Earth to colonise the galaxy with genetically engineered hybrids? After all, how exactly do Viper pilots manage to outperform Raiders which are in essence AI ships?

why dont you () realize that its fiction...if there's a continuity error then just remember that it's fiction. ()

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