Battlestar Galactica-The Reimagined Series: Punching the schoolyard bully

In the episode “The Hand of God” the Colonial Fleet is down to 5% of its fuel. During a press conference, the audience is made aware that the fleet only has enough tylium to make two additional faster-than-light (FTL) jumps to avoid the cylons. Tylium ore is quite rare so the odds of Galactica stumbling upon it are quite slim. The salvation of the human race depends on the fleet finding a new source of tylium, mine it, refine it and then refuel their ships. One of Galactica’s raptors is lucky enough to find a large source of tylium on a nearby asteroid, however the raptor pilots also notice that the asteroid is “crawling with cylons”: “Only Tylium in 12 light years and we’ve got to kiss it goodbye” (Crashdown-The Hand of God).

Though the cylons are mining the tylium for themselves, Lt. Gaeta remarks that they are also “staking out every waterhole in the desert” hoping to lower the humans chances of survival. The Galactica officers note that if the cylons have occupied this asteroid that they have probably occupied all the nearby tylium sources as well. Commander Adama decides that the Galactica must then take the tylium from the cylons. The crew notes that even if they take the tylium from the cylons that there is nothing to stop the cylons from returning with more ships to take it back, but Adama argues that taking the base will buy the fleet some time. He likens the attack to giving a bully a bloody nose on the school playground: “If you keep running from the schoolyard bully, he keeps on chasing you but the moment you turn around and stop and punch him really hard in a sensitive spot, he’ll think twice about coming back again.”

The crew seeks help from the resident science and Cylon expert, Dr. Gaius Baltar, about how to destroy the cylon base. Starbuck suggests nuking the base but Baltar says that the radiation from the nuclear warhead would render the ore inert and it would then lose its ability to act as fuel. Baltar argues that if they hit the base in the right spot then the radioactive nature of the tylium will cause the base to explode as if they had dropped a nuclear warhead. However, he does not know where that spot is and turns to Head Six for help. She tells him to trust in the god that the Cylons believe in and he will show him where to hit the base. He points randomly at the photograph and tells the crew to hit there.

It turns out the Baltar was correct and with a some help from Starbuck’s crazy battle tactics, Galactica is able to destroy the cylon base and cause the cylons to flee the asteroid. At the end of the episode Head Six and Baltar are talking in his fantasy and she tells him that Galactica’s destruction of the base will allow an ancient prophecy to come to fruition since it will give the humans enough fuel to make it to Kobol where the events the prophecy describes will take place.

This episode has elements of both the positive and negative energy narrative. Like the rest of Battlestar Galactica (BSG), it straddles the line of being a creation myth and a futuristic series. The humans are in their “end of days” and are fulfilling the prophecies of their religion similar to those found in the Christian book of Revelation. God uses his prophet Baltar to tell the humans where to strike the cylons to take their fuel resource. This is a positive energy narrative. God, a stronger force, is aiding a weaker force in producing energy. However, the narrative also involves the humans taking an energy resource from the cylons. Adama expresses the human view of the cylons as bullies. If the cylons are bullies than the humans are within their rights in taking the tylium for themselves. However, even in its first season BSG has illustrated that the cylons may not be devious villains they seem to be and may be beginning to regret their decision to inflict genocide on the human race. If the cylons are not the enemy than this episode is an example of a negative energy narrative.

Battlestar Galactica (1978): Tylium

An Introduction to the series:

There have been three major series in the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) universe. The original series debuted in 1978, followed by a continuing series in 1980 and a reimagined series in 2004. For those of you who do not follow Battlestar Galactica, the series does not take place on Earth. The humans in the series inhabit the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, which are twelve different planets. At the beginning of both original and the reimagined the colonies are attacked and destroyed by the mortal enemy of the humans, a species of artificial life-forms known as Cylons. The series follows the survivors of this attack, which are protected by the military ship, Battlestar Galactica. The goal of the survivors is to outrun the Cylons and eventually settle on a new world. The main fuel source for these ships as they travel through space is “tylium”, which is a substance that is mined and refined into fuel. Remember, there are spoilers in these posts.

Battlestar Galactic (1978) Episode: Saga of the Star World-parts 2 and 3—

These episodes take place immediately after the Cylon attack on the human home worlds. Cdr. Adama gathers as many survivors as he can to protect them. The convoy needs to gather more food and fuel. The stop at a nearby planet, Carillon, where they think they will go undetected by the Cylons.

The convoy makes it to Carillon and everyone travels to the planet’s surface. Carillon seems too good to be true. The planet has more than enough food for the refugees and there is a fully functioning casino for their pleasure. Carillon also has the largest tylium mining facility in the galaxy. Starships use tylium as fuel.

Eventually Adama discovers that the native population of Carillon, the Ovions, mines the tylium on Carillon exclusively for the Cylons in exchange for their continued survival. The casino serves as a distraction for the humans from the incoming Cylons.

Eventually the Battlestar Galactica crew catches on to the plan of the Ovions and Cylons and is able to save themselves. They get into a firefight and the tylium mine is ignited. Tylium is so volatile that the ignited tylium triggers a massive explosion and destroys the planet, taking the pursuing cylons with it.

This episode is an example of a negative energy narrative. It is unclear what the motivations of each side are so the narrative could be structured in one of two forms. First, the stronger force, the Cylons, is threatening a weaker force, the Ovions, with their extinction unless they provide fuel to the Cylons. The Cylons are also manipulating the Ovions to destroy the humans. Second, the Cylons could have promised the humans as a food source for the Ovions (Ovions were seen feeding humans to their larvae in the episode) in exchange for the Ovions providing a fuel source for the Cylons. In this case the Cylons and the Ovions combine to be the stronger force and the humans are the weaker force. The Cylons also know that the humans need fuel in order to continue to flee from them, so they seek to control that resource and lead the humans into a trap.