During the hiatus between Seasons 4 and 4.5 several cast members were interviewed saying these last 10 episodes were a wild tough journey. Sometimes a Great Notion is the first of those episodes and if this is a harbinger of things to come, then, yeah, we're in for a tough ride. Hold on.
The story begins right where the season 4 left off. They are on Earth, the devastated Earth, the one we saw at the end of season 4, with the radioactive soil and devastated city in the distance. Scouting missions are reporting the same condition all over the planet, radioactive wastelands everywhere. Now, uh, Starbuck, what was that about fluffy clouds in a blue sky? Starbuck?
There's a lot jammed into this story.. so here goes.
Research shows that this planet had been nuked 2000 years ago. Kobol had been nuked approximately 4000 years ago. This planet, that they're calling 'Earth', had been inhabited by humanoid biological beings plus Centurians of a model that the Cylons had never seen before. Um, uh, okay it hadn't been explained very well in the show but clearly the Cylons have existed for a long time. Somehow my impression had been they were a recent creation, perhaps 100 years prior to the show. In any case what they learned in excavations was the humanoid bodies were Cylons as were the Centurions.
In other words, the long fabled 13th tribe were a race of Cylons. On Kobol there had been some attempt to live together, that failed, they had a nuclear war, the tribes went their separate ways, with the 13th tribe, all Cylons, settling on Earth. But that somehow war cropped up again on Earth resulting in another nuked planet.
Another piece of data is revealed throughout the episode. Each of the revealed four of the final five are having flashback memories as they wander the ruined city. Anders finds a guitar and remembers playing All Along the Watchtower to a woman he loved. Tory says he played it for everybody. Does that mean he is Bob Dylan? Anyway they each have memories and decide from those memories that they had lived 2000 years previously on this planet and that somehow they were still alive after all this time. The episode closes with Col. Tigh's flashback to being with his wife, Ellen, in a collapsed building as it is being nuked. Ellen says not to worry, it's all been arranged and that they will be together again in the future.
Another piece of data is the hunt by Starbuck and Leoben for the source of the distress signal which led them to Earth. They're hunting through the woods using the navigational instrument from Starbuck's Viper. They find a Colonial style transponder, and nearby is a piece of metal stamped with the tail number of Starbuck's Viper. Um, uh, Starbuck's Viper is on Galactica so what's a piece of it doing crashed on the planet? Hunting further they find the cockpit section of a Viper with a body inside it in a flight suit. The body is wearing Starbuck's dogtags.
This causes Leoben to completely freak out in a way we've never seen him. All through the story he's been confident in his ability to see the truth but here he is, shown clearly that his visions had been false. Oh, and what the heck is Starbuck?
Col. Tigh identifies Ellen as the Final Cylon but here we also have Starbuck having undergone a resurrection. Isn't ressurection the sole province of the Cylons?
Let's take a step back from this and ponder the breadth of information.
There's another race of beings which have been discussed on the show but not shown to the audience. Maybe. These are called the Lords of Kobol and it was said that 4000 years ago that Humans and Gods lived together on Kobol. But that there was a war and they had to leave. The stories in scripture were that the 13th tribe went to Earth and was lost to history. On the Battlestar Wiki it's said that humans and "The Gods" had lived together on Kobol until "one jealous god began to desire that he be elevated above all the other gods, and the war on Kobol began."
The question which comes to mind is whether this is literal, whether there were literal 'Gods' with whom the Humans lived. As a modern American there is a similar question around us today. Our scriptures tell of a time thousands of years ago when people and Gods lived in harmony but that something happened causing the Gods to kick humans out of the paradise in Eden. Were those stories simply a mythical allegory and never happened in literal truth? Or was there some actual period where humans lived with some beings whom they called 'God' and whom kicked them out of paradise over some infraction? The Battlestar Galactica humans have the same question, was Kobol a myth or reality?
During the series we have seen there is more truth to their scripture than allegory. There had been people living on Kobol and evil had occurred there. Something happened but it's not clear just what that was.
In the Ronald D. Moore audio commentary for this episode he revealed a very important concept about the whole of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. That during that time when humans and Gods lived on Kobol, that humans "Stole Fire from the Gods" in the form of stealing the technology required to "create life". This phrase "Stole Fire from the Gods" refers to one of the standard myth formulations, so-and-so finds some special treasure owned by the Gods, steals that treasure from the Gods in an attempt to become God-like himself, and great calamity follows. In the case of BSG the calamity which ensues is the Cylons and the various wars between Cylons and Humans.
What we're dancing around here is... just who are these Gods. And have they been present in the story at all?
In the original BSG there were the Ships of Light people who would very well fit the role of being called 'Gods'. They presented themselves as a higher life form, more advanced, able to perform miracles, etc. However they haven't shown up in the reimagined BSG at all. Or, have they?
I'm thinking about the various 'Head' characters who have shown up from time to time. Head 6, Head Ellen, Head Baltar, Head Elosha, etc. Each of them showed forms of precognitive information and talk from a higher form of beingness. Of course we're most familiar with Head 6 who repeatedly said she is an Angel of God sent to guide Gaias on his mission. A most curious set of events happen around this Head 6 character with much precognitive information and apparent ability to influence events.
Who or what are these Head characters? It seems they're not just figments of peoples imagination so what are they? I'm thinking they're the reimagined form of what had been the Ships of Light people. In other words, that the Head characters are what had been called the Lords of Kobol. That these are some kind of higher order being but what is their agenda? We'll have to see how this plays out.
There's another question here, just who is Kara Thrace. In this episode we see Col. Tigh decide that his wife Ellen is the fifth of the final five Cylons. But we also see that Kara had undergone resurrection implying she is a Cylon. But in the flashbacks shown of the Cylon-Earth we see there were many people not just 12 models.
This modern form of humanoid Cylon has to be .. uh .. what? I mean why are there only 12 humanoid Cylon models anyway? Except there are only 7 humanoid Cylon models. Except..uh.. That the flashbacks show 2000 years ago the Cylon race was just as varied as Humans is interesting in terms of these modern humanoid Cylons and their 12 models. It also seems curious that there are 12 Cylon models and there are 12 tribes of humanity.
Who is Kara Thrace, other than being a Harbinger of Death? I'm sure we'll find out shortly but I'm at a loss to say for sure. I wonder if this idea of 12 Cylon models is another fiction.
Last bit of puzzling is the statement by Ellen Tigh at the end of the story. She said "everything is in place", and that they will be "reborn, again, together." Since these are Cylons it's likely that their lives are continuously being saved to a hard drive somewhere and that if they're killed they can get a new body and start back from where they left off. Perhaps Ellen was referring to this technology, and that they will be reborn again together refers to a resurrection technology where their data will be reborn into new bodies in the future.
Was this resurrection technology ubiquitous on that 2000-year-ago earth? It isn't clear but maybe there were only 12 people who had access to this resurrection technology and that's why there are only 12 modern humanoid Cylon models.
But.. who is Kara Thrace?
And the Razor movie showed a presence of a specially guarded Cylon base which hasn't been discussed outside of Razor. What's there?