The Cylons are a cybernetic civilization at war with the Twelve Colonies of humanity in the Battlestar Galactica science fiction franchise, in the original 1978 and 1980 series, the 2004 reimagining, as well as the spin-off prequel series, Caprica. In the 1978 series, the Cylon is also the name of the reptilian race who created the robot Cylons.
The nature and origins of Cylons differ greatly between the two Battlestar Galactica continuities. However, both series feature Cylon Raiders, Cylon Basestars and Cylon Centurions. The prequel series, Caprica, focuses on the creation of the Cylons, which differs from all the previous Battlestar Galactica series.
ORIGINAL CONTINUITY (1978)
The Cylons were created by a reptilian race, also called Cylons. However, the reptilian race died out centuries earlier, presumably destroyed by their own creations, leaving behind only their race of robots.
In the 1978 Galactica movie and series and the 1980 spin-off, the Cylons were created by an extinct reptilian race that were also called Cylons, as related by Apollo in the premiere episode. In the episode “War of the Gods”, Count Baltar mentions that the reptilian Cylons were eventually “overcome by their own technology,” and recognizes Iblis’s voice as that of the Cylon leader, and Iblis counters that if that was true it must have been “transcribed” over a thousand yahren (years) ago.
At the beginning of the series the Cylons are singularly devoted to the destruction of humanity. The war started when the Cylon Empire sought to expand into the territory of the Hasaris, and the Human Colonies intervened on behalf of the conquered Hasaris. Due to those events, the Cylon Empire now viewed the entire human race as a target.
Cylons are led by the Imperious Leader, an IL-Series Cylon elevated to a supreme leadership position over all Cylons. All Cylons from the IL-series down, typically repeat the phrase “By Your Command” when responding to any order.
The Cylon Empire is also responsible for tributary powers under the aegis of the Cylon Alliance. The Ovions (an insectoid race enslaved by the Cylons and transported to the planet Carillon for mining purposes) are the only known member of the Cylon Alliance shown onscreen. Aside from the Ovions and (the defeated) Hasaris, the only other known race conquered by the Cylons are the Delphians, which are mentioned to have been exterminated in “The Living Legend.”
Cylon society appears to be almost exclusively military. Until the discovery of Gamoray, which the Colonial fleet had targeted for its rich fuel reserves, no civilian Cylon outpost had ever been seen by anyone.
The Imperious Leader is the leader of the Cylon Alliance and most advanced Cylon model. According to the IL-Series Cylon Lucifer the Imperious Leader is an IL-Series Cylon. Actually, he does not look like a IL-Series Cylon: The Imperious Leader has a third brain and a body shell resembling the reptilian Cylons. It is stated in the original novelization of the pilot episode that the Imperious Leader’s third brain is specifically designed to emulate the human mind (solely for the purpose of anticipating human actions). One was killed at the Battle of Carillon (pilot episode) and his successor was possibly destroyed during the Battle of Gamoray (episode: “The Living Legend, Part 2”). In the original 1978-79 series, the voice of the Imperious Leader is identical to that of Count Iblis. (The voice of the former was provided by Patrick Macnee, who acted out the latter on-camera.) In the Galactica 1980 episode “Space Croppers,” the voice of the Imperious Leader was provided by Dennis Haysbert. All of the Imperious Leaders look identical. The reptilian look of the Imperious Leader could have raised the question whether actually all living Cylons have died out.
Although they look much more civilian than centurions, IL-series Cylons act as commanders for the military and governors for civilians of the Alliance. They have two brains, and a mostly transparent head through which various lights can be seen pulsing. They also have a metallic, humanoid face with two eye scanners (compared to the single eye scanner of the Centurion models), and wear clothing (full-length glittering robes). Two IL-series Cylons have been seen onscreen, both of which have an effete human-sounding voice, unlike the flat mechanical tones of Centurions. They are:
- Lucifer — Baltar’s ambitious second in command (voiced by Jonathan Harris).
- Specter — Commander on the planet Atilla in “The Young Lords”, and a rival of Lucifer and equally ambitious (voiced by Murray Matheson).
Lucifer refers to the second Imperious Leader as being upgraded from being a IL-model like himself.
Command Centurion are Centurions with gold armor. These are the lower commanders for individual military units, though they can be responsible for entire Basestars and garrisons. The most well-known Cylon of this model is Commander Vulpa (so identified in The Cylon Death Machine, Robert Thurston’s novelization of “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero”). Their voices are slightly lower pitched than regular Centurions.
In the novelization of the original series it is stated that there is an elite class of Command Centurions (referred to as First Centurions), roughly equivalent to feudal Counts, which act as executive officers to the Imperious Leader and are not subordinate to the IL-Series, and (like the IL-series) they were also said to have multiple brains. In the TV series these are actually seen on screen, though very rarely, and are distinguished from other Command Centurions by black bands on their gold armor. Vulpa was originally of this class but had been demoted and stationed on ice planet Arcta.
Military androids with silver armor. Basic Centurions make up the ground forces and pilots of the Alliance military. Although Earth’s Roman Centurions commanded a unit of eighty men, Cylon Centurions form the rank and file of the Cylon forces.
Centurions are armed with a powerful energy weapon, often referred to as a blaster rifle. They also have bayonets and swords for close combat and the execution of prisoners.
Some Centurions in the series have been given names: Flight Leader Serpentine from “Saga of a Star World”, Centuri from “The Night the Cylons Landed” (Galactica 1980), and Cyrus from “The Return of Starbuck” (also Galactica 1980). In the episode “The Lost Warrior”, there is a Cylon Centurion that remained active after its ship crashed on the planet Equellus and was named “Red Eye” by the humans who found it.
The Cylon Centurions – the type most often depicted in the original Battlestar Galactica — were strikingly similar to the Imperial stormtroopers of Star Wars (in fact, both were designed by the same concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie). The similarities were so strong that it was one of the factors that prompted 20th Century Fox’s lawsuit for copyright infringement against Universal Studios, owners of the Battlestar Galactica copyright. However, the lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful.
Both the gold Command Centurions and the silver Centurions had their voices vocalized with the use of an EMS Vocoder 2000.
There is also a unique Cylon with glittering robes, with a metallic humanoid face. They are seen in the Imperious Leader’s delegation to Gamoray in “The Living Legend”. This is evidently some kind of civilian Cylon, as Gamoray is said to have a very large community of civilian Cylons, though how civilian Cylon society differs from its military is never explored. This is the only known kind of civilian Cylons. However as they must have had some kind of admission to the reception of the Imperious Leader it can be assumed that they are not typical civilian Cylons; Perhaps members of some kind of aristocracy.
A rather new model probably first built long after the destruction of the Twelve Colonies of the Humans.
Two Cylon humanoids are featured in the episode “The Night the Cylons Landed” of Galactica 1980. One of which is named Andromus. Though it is entirely mechanical beneath its artificial skin, this model is an android and has a superficial human appearance (and a condescending attitude toward Centurions).
REIMAGINED CONTINUITY (2003)
Cylons are a race which appear in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series and its prequel Caprica. They have several forms, some of which resemble and even mimic the behavior of humans, while others are mechanical in appearance and function.
The Cylons were created by Graystone Industries on Caprica as the U-87 Cybernetic Lifeform Node initially to serve as robotic soldiers but later as workers. They eventually rebelled against their creators, leading to the First Cylon War. After the arrival of the Final Five, who promised to share their technology in exchange for peace with the humans, an armistice was signed, ending the conflict. The Cylons then disappeared for 40 years. During this period, the Cylons evolved into a society consisting of multiple copies of seven distinct models, all of them nearly indistinguishable from humans. (The humanoid Cylons kept simpler, biomechanical Cylons as soldiers and servants, much as humans themselves once had.) At the end of this period, the Cylons returned and destroyed the 12 colonies in a surprise attack, and pursued the survivors through space.
It was later revealed that humans had also created Cylons in human form on Kobol (the planet on which the human race originated before dispersing to the twelve colonies), and that these Cylons were the “thirteenth tribe” that settled the first planet to be named “Earth.” This knowledge was lost after the exodus of the tribes from Kobol.
Cylons acknowledge themselves as “humanity’s children” but believe their parents are deeply flawed. There are religious differences between the two groups: Cylons are mostly monotheists while humans predominantly worship a polytheistic pantheon of gods similar to Greco-Roman mythology.
Along with the humanoid models, Cylon society consists of a labor-warrior class of Centurions and a transport-air warrior class of Basestars and Raiders. Basestars and Raiders are partly biological and as such vulnerable to viral infection. Raiders and Centurions, while intelligent, were inhibited from exercising free will, although the Hybrids that controlled Basestars did exercise some autonomy and were respected by the humanoid Cylons.
The humanoid Cylons are the leaders of the Cylon society and the revelation that these infiltrators can mimic human form (even down to the cellular level) creates a wave of fear among the humans. Some humanoid Cylons are sleeper agents, programmed with false memories so that they think they are human. Cylons can interact with humans very convincingly, even being capable of intimate emotional and sexual relationships. The Cylons are capable of the same psychological and emotional responses as human beings. Nonetheless, they have certain superhuman abilities, such as increased stamina and strength and the ability to connect with computer systems. Cylons are more sensitive than humans to some forms of radiation and more resistant than humans to others. They are also able to upload their memories to other copies of their model through a central station. Another Cylon, of the same model, can also access these memories if they choose. The humanoid Cylons also have the ability to distinguish between identical-looking copies by sight, which is something the Centurions – and humans – do not.
Reproduction is difficult, with the Cylons initially unable to produce children from their sexual unions. They decided to turn their attentions to reproduction with humans. Their crossbreeding experiments in facilities called “farms” are also unsuccessful and they eventually develop a theory that love is necessary for them to procreate, because “God is love” in their theology. This leads to a successful experiment in which a Number Eight and Lieutenant Karl Agathon are set up to fall in love and produce a daughter named Hera. It has also been revealed that the 13th Tribe was capable of sexual reproduction. They also originally were not capable of sexual reproduction but learned to do so on the original Earth.
In lieu of sexual reproductions, humanoid Cylons had the ability to download their consciousness into another body when the body they are using dies, giving them virtual immortality (until the fourth season episode “The Hub”). The second season explored this notion in greater depth — these downloads have a limited range, requiring the Cylons to build a “Resurrection Ship” to capture them. If not within range of a Resurrection Ship, a Cylon’s death will be permanent. The episode “Scar” established that the downloading process is shared by the semi-organic Raider spacecraft, which allows Raiders who have been killed several times to become more formidable fighters but the mechanical Centurions do not download. The Resurrection Ships function as boosters for the central Resurrection Hub. If the Hub is destroyed, resurrection ceases for all Cylons.
Cylons also have an ability referred to as “projection”, a form of hyper realistic day dreaming which allows them to change the appearance of their surroundings in their own mind (e.g. making the corridors of a ship look like a forest, etc.). They have the ability to touch, feel, smell, etc. the fantasy environment. They could even share projections and also create third persons that do not exist in the real world as part of the fantasy. This ability serves as a fantasy expression of their subconscious desires or emotional life.
If a Cylon is deemed dangerous by the other models, he or she may be “boxed” — deactivated with their consciousness and memories placed into cold storage. This may involve a particular copy or an entire line. Boxed consciousnesses are stored in the Resurrection Hub and can be restored.
Centurions are often called toasters, partly a reference to their shiny metal construction but also to suggest that they are descendants of the ordinary household appliance as a way of demeaning them. For that reason, “toaster” has also been used in a derogatory manner towards humanoid Cylons. Another term for human-looking Cylons is “skinjobs” (an homage to the film Blade Runner in which Edward James Olmos has a supporting role). Centurions have been termed “chromejobs” or “bulletheads”. Cylons in the reimagined series differ in a number of ways from those of the original series, including origins and abilities.
The origin of the original Cylons has not been revealed. It has been mentioned that resurrection/downloading technology has existed on-and-off since the time of Kobol but it has not been indicated if Cylons developed the technology on their own or if humans were involved. Humanoid Cylons have two origins; those who originated from Kobol, were identified as the Thirteenth Tribe, and settled on Earth, and those constructed with the knowledge of five surviving Kobolian Humanoid Cylons, identified as Colonial Humanoid Cylons, or the “Final Five” or the seven additional models, the “Significant Seven”. The underlying premise that humanity continues to repeat the events of creating mechanical life that in turn seeks to exterminate their creators is reflected in one of the show’s sayings, “All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”
The Thirteenth Tribe was a race identified as Cylon. Between 3,000 and 4,000 years prior to the events of the Miniseries, they left Kobol and settled on a planet they dubbed Earth. It is implied that the humans and Cylons of Kobol had a destructive war between them as would happen in the 12 Colonies but the nature of the possible conflict wasn’t explored. Eventually, these Cylons developed the ability to sexually reproduce and resurrection technology fell into disuse and was lost. 2,000 years prior to the miniseries, the “Final Five” began work to redevelop resurrection, having been warned by mysterious “angels” that a disaster possibly similar to the one on Kobol was coming. When life on Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war between the thirteenth tribe of humanoid Cylons and their mechanical Cylon creations (caused by maltreatment of the mechanical Cylons at the hands of the humanoids), the Final Five managed to download into a vessel they had in orbit.
The Final Five wanted to warn the humans of the Twelve Colonies to treat their Cylon workers well in order to prevent another catastrophe. However, not having yet developed FTL travel, the Five necessarily travelled at sub-lightspeed taking approximately 2,000 years (relative to Earth and other planets outside of the ship while only a few years passed inside the ship due to Special Relativity). When they arrived, the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, descendants of the original 12 tribes, had already created Cylon Centurions which had revolted from mistreatment and a war was raging as happened on Earth. The Colonies counter-attacked with military force and the first Cylon War commenced, lasting roughly twelve and a half years. The Final Five also learned that the Centurions were trying to develop organic bodies through experiments on humans, resulting in the first Hybrid. In order to end the war against the humans, the Final Five agreed to assist the Centurions producing model numbers One to Seven and resurrection technology. The war ended with an armistice and an attempt by the Colonies to establish diplomatic relations between the parties. The Cylons disappeared and were not seen by the Colonies for another forty years, despite the annual dispatching of a Colonial representative to a space station that had been built to serve as neutral territory for diplomatic meetings.
The first of the Colonial humanoid Cylons, John Cavil, refused to let their creators’, the five Kobolian Humanoid Cylons, care for humanity blind them. He suffocated the Final Five and boxed their memories before they were resurrected. He then periodically sent them to the Colonies so that they would see how terrible humanity was.
Having not heard from the Cylons in forty years, the Colonial Admiralty became suspicious and sent the Battlestar Valkyrie on a covert mission close to the armistice line to gather intelligence on Cylon activity. A stealth ship from the Valkyrie crossed the armistice line and the pilot was captured by the Cylons. Three years later perhaps in retaliation, the Cylons initiated a nuclear surprise attack on the twelve colonial home worlds simultaneously. The attack was successful because a Cylon agent, later known as Caprica Six, infiltrated the colonial defense network on Caprica with the unknowing complicity of renowned Colonial scientist Gaius Baltar and created backdoor programs to shut the network and its defenses down. The attacks wiped out billions of humans, nearly the entire colonial population. Two Battlestars – the Galactica and Pegasus – managed to escape the massacre due to their systems either being non-networked or offline. The others were destroyed when their systems were disabled during the attacks. A fleet of civilian ships were also left scattered throughout the neighboring space. All told there were only a little over 50,000 humans left, stuck on ships that were left behind or trapped on the Cylon-occupied Colonial worlds.
Following their victory, the Cylons began pursuit of a fleet of civilian ships led by the Galactica as well as initiating the next phase of their evolution, procreation. Female human survivors on the planet Caprica and perhaps other Colonial worlds were detained and used in experiments to create Cylon-human hybrids. The experiments were unsuccessful and the Cylons believed that the missing component in their attempts at procreation was love. They tested this by using a Number Eight posing as Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii from the battlestar Galactica to seduce a marooned Galactica officer, Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathon on Caprica. Helo fell in love with the copy. This copy of Number Eight also fell in love with Helo and turned her back on the Cylons, knowing that Helo would never agree to stay on Caprica. She defied orders to kill him if he didn’t agree to stay, helping Helo to escape the planet. The couple produced the first viable human/Cylon pregnancy. This Eight would go to the fleet with Helo. After approximately a year’s imprisonment on Galactica she would slowly gain the trust of Commander Adama and the other Galactica crew. She would later marry Helo, join the Colonial military and receive the call sign “Athena” from a mostly accepting crew.
Ten months after the initial attacks, the Number Eight from Galactica, Sharon Valerii who had the call sign of “Boomer”, attempted to assassinate Commander Adama under the influence of internal programing unknown to her. She was a sleeper agent who was unaware of being a Cylon before the attack, though she had been uneasy even before then as a result of suffering from unexplained blackouts during various attempts to sabotage the Galactica. She was killed by a vengeful crew mate, Cally Henderson and downloaded into a new body. She settled on the now Cylon-occupied Caprica including in her former apartment, not being able to relinquish her human identity for some time. She with Caprica-Six, then began leading a Cylon campaign for better treatment of the humans. The word of these two Cylons, considered “war heroes” by the others, carried weight in the greater Cylon civilization. The newly educated Cylons determined their actions to be a mistake, going against God’s will and ideals of love and compassion. They withdrew from the colonial home worlds and pursued a more benevolent treatment policy toward the humans and, as Sharon Valerii hoped, reconciliation.
During this time, the half-human half-Cylon hybrid, Hera Agathon was born on Galactica but, fearing the outcome of the Cylons capturing the child, President Laura Roslin faked Hera’s death and secretly had her adopted by a human woman within the fleet. Shortly after, the humans found a nearly barren but habitable world hidden in a nebula. They settled on the planet they would dub New Caprica.
The human/Cylon separation lasted a year before the Cylons traced the radiation signature from a nuclear explosion indirectly and unintentionally caused by Gaius Baltar (who had given a nuclear device to Gina, a Number Six type Cylon) back to that planet. The Cylons decided to occupy the new human settlement under their benevolent control, at first peacefully as per their new policy but later forcefully and more viciously as the human Resistance increased. In the end they started to use punitive methods to keep the humans in line, including summary executions and infiltration of the Resistance by seemingly sympathetic Cylons. One such infiltrator was an Eight model who manipulated Felix Gaeta into giving her a list of people the Resistance desired to be set free from Cylon detention whom she then had executed.
Four months later the colonials were able to escape from the Cylons with the help of a resistance movement and the efforts of both the battlestars Galactica and Pegasus, though not without a very large loss of life. The escape could not have occurred without the help of Caprica Sharon, the same Eight model that earned the trust of Admiral Adama and was sworn into the Colonial Military. She was able to get in the Cylon facility and obtain the keys to the various Colonial spacecraft that were on the planet for the escape of the humans. Prior to this a Number Three found out from a human oracle that Hera was alive and somewhere on the planet. She managed to rescue Hera after her adoptive mother was killed during the escape. The Pegasus was destroyed during the escape, sacrificing itself to save the crippled Galactica, but the crew survived, abandoning ship after it took too much damage and joining the Galactica’s crew.
Having failed at their occupation, the Cylons then adopted the colonials’ mission to find the home of the thirteenth tribe, a planet called Earth, with the intent of making it their new home. They resumed pursuit of the fleet but upon reaching the Lion’s Head Nebula, dispatched a Basestar to investigate. The Basestar took on board a canister left by the thirteenth tribe. The canister was found to contain an airborne virus that proved highly contagious and deadly to the Cylons. The virus was also found to be capable of accompanying a Cylon during the download process so the Basestar that had been dispatched for the investigation was abandoned by the rest of the Cylon fleet for fear that any rescue would contaminate the fleet. The colonial fleet soon discovered the disabled Basestar and sent a team on a Raptor and captured a small number of ailing Cylons. The colonial fleet attempted to use the virus to wipe out the Cylons but the plan was defeated when Helo, repulsed by the potential genocide and the possibility of innocent Cylons like his wife who had no ill will against humans also being killed, had the captive Cylons killed before they were within range of a resurrection ship.
Meanwhile Sharon “Boomer” Valerii started to turn increasingly anti-human after the disappointment of the occupation of new Caprica. She was charged with the care of Athena’s daughter Hera but Hera rejected her. During a truce negotiation with the Galactica, Boomer told Athena that her daughter was alive but sick on the Baseship. She also invited Athena to come to the Baseship and rejoin her people, for the occupation showed that humans and Cylons will never get along and that the Humans would never truly accept her despite her position. Later, desperate for her child, Athena convinced her husband Helo to shoot and kill her so she could resurrect on the Cylon Baseship. Once there, she retrieved Hera with the help of Caprica Six who killed a hate-filled Boomer to prevent her from killing the child. She had tried to prevent Athena from taking Hera back to the humans and declared that Cylons were never meant to have children (in reference to the Cylons’ inability to reproduce naturally) and perhaps in pain over her knowledge that she would never have children like Athena, despite Boomer’s projection of her imaginary daughter she desperately wanted. Caprica Six returned with Athena and was detained by Adama in Athena’s old cell.
As the pursuit continued, internal relations between the Cylons began to break down. A Number Three violated her programming by actively seeking information about the Final Five models, including seeing a vision of them on the Algae Planet where the Colonials stopped to get food. From that she was able to identify them. This resulted in her and her entire line being “boxed”, i.e. all copies pulled from active service and their consciousness stored. Within the fleet a musical activation signal was being received by the Final Five Cylons, bewildering and in some cases disorienting them. It soon became apparent to each of them that Saul Tigh, Samuel Anders, Galen Tyrol and Tory Foster were Cylons (four of the Final Five) when they simultaneously became aware of their origins after hearing the same music in their minds, drawing them to each other. They didn’t tell anyone of their discovery. Saul Tigh pledged fierce loyalty to the humans. Anders also remained loyal to the humans, willing to fight and possibly die in battle for them. Tyrol and Foster were ambivalent, with Tyrol having pro-human leanings but wondering what it was like to be a Cylon and was more accepting of his nature. Foster became increasingly anti-human, murdering Cally Tyrol to protect her secret and showing no remorse. After their activation, the fleet came under attack but, during the battle, a Cylon Raider identified Anders and he and his fellow Raiders broke off the attack, refusing to fight.
This set off a debate in the Cylon government regarding the failure of the Raiders to fight. The Number Ones, Fours and Fives voted to “lobotomize” the Raiders to make them quiescent. The Twos, Sixes and Eights led principally by a Number Six named Natalie, convinced that the Raiders had sensed the presence of the Final Five, voted against this measure but lost their vote against having the Raiders reconfigured when the 3-3 tie was broken after a single Eight (Boomer) voted against her model, something which had never been done before. In frustration over the legal trick, Natalie retaliated by removing inhibitor circuitry from the Centurions, granting them free will and independent thought. The Centurions then sought retribution against the models who were “lobotomizing” the Raiders and killed them.
In response, Cavil lured Natalie and her forces into a trap outside of resurrection range and proceeded to slaughter them. Only Natalie’s crippled Basestar survived. With all of her Raiders destroyed and only possessing some Heavy Raiders left as well as the surviving Twos, Sixes, and Eights (minus Boomer), Natalie allowed Leoben Conoy, a Two copy to locate Kara Thrace and form an alliance with the humans. The alliance was formed and a deal was struck between the two sides: the humans would help the rebels unbox the Threes and the rebels would lead the humans to the Resurrection Hub, the central Cylon resurrection facility and help them destroy it so Cavil would lose resurrection forever. The humans agreed to the deal and transferred half of their Vipers to the Rebel Basestar to act as the ship’s fighter force. Athena, however, afraid that Natalie would take Hera away from her, killed Natalie in cold blood, causing the Hybrid to jump the Rebel Basestar, with President Laura Roslin on board, away before everyone was ready. The Hybrid took the Basestar to the Hub where the allies launched a daring plan where they had the human Vipers towed into battle by Cylon Heavy Raiders so they could catch the Cylons by surprise. The plan worked and the Hub’s FTL drive was taken out, stranding it. While the Rebel Basestar engaged two other Basestars, Helo and an Eight boarded the Hub to unbox D’Anna and found her already unboxed by Cavil and Boomer. The three escaped and the Vipers nuked the Hub, destroying it and Cylon resurrection capability forever.
After a tense standoff, the identities of the four Cylons in the human fleet were revealed and together they found the devastated Earth, still a nuclear wasteland after 2000 years. There, Tigh, Anders, Foster and Tyrol got flashes of their life on Earth and Tigh learned the identity of the final Cylon: his dead wife Ellen. As Earth was uninhabitable, the humans and rebel Cylons (minus D’Anna), abandoned it in search of a new home together. The humans and Cylons ended up striking a deal: in return for joining the fleet as full members, with all the privileges that entailed, the rebels would upgrade the fleet’s FTL drives with Cylon technology, increasing their jump distance by at least three times. This led to a political coup and mutiny which failed, but left Samuel Anders seriously injured but with his true memories returned. After telling the others as much as he could, Anders slipped into a coma and vegetative state from which he only partially emerged while acting as Galactica’s hybrid.
Cavil revealed that he had a resurrected Ellen Tigh as his prisoner, ever since her download after she was killed on New Caprica. Her resurrection restored her true memories, and her only company was Cavil and Boomer whom he’d let in on the secret. After Cavil planned to dissect her brain to try to regain resurrection technology, Boomer helped Ellen escape to the fleet in what was revealed to be part of a plan to kidnap Hera so the Cylons could learn how she came into being. This led to Galactica and some of the rebel Cylons assaulting the Colony, the Cylon space station that was the Cylon homeworld, in order to rescue her while the Rebel Basestar protected the fleet. During the battle, Boomer, who had begun to feel remorse for kidnapping Hera, killed the Four that was starting to dissect the child and carried her back to her parents. Athena then killed Boomer. The rescue team made it back to Galactica where Cavil led a Centurion assault on CIC but was defeated. He took Hera hostage, but was convinced to stand down and create a permanent peace with the humans in exchange for the Final Five giving him back resurrection technology. At first everything goes fine, but after Tyrol learns that Foster murdered Cally, he breaks the download, causing the Cylons to attack again. Cavil kills himself. At the same time, an unmanned Raptor is struck by an asteroid, causing the dead pilot (Racetrack) to fire eight nuclear missiles into the Colony, knocking it out of orbit and into a black hole, destroying it and every remaining One, Four and Five. Galactica manages to jump away as the Colony goes down, and arrives at a habitable planet. The humans and rebel Cylons settle there while the rebel Centurions are given their freedom and the Rebel Baseship to find their own destiny. To get a fresh start, the human fleet and all its technology are flown into the Sun by Anders.
The Cylon Centurion is an infantry model, made less intelligent than human models and are believed to be mechanical. Centurions retain the silver appearance, robotic body, helmet-like head and oscillating red bar eye of their counterparts from the original series but are larger, taller, stronger, more agile and have a more streamlined appearance. They also have retractable guns built into their lower arms, bladed fingertips and heavy armour.
In the pilot of Caprica the first colonial Centurion is seen and is identified as a ‘Cybernetic Lifeform Node’. Built on contract for the Caprican Defense Ministry, the Cylons are to be warriors to replace Caprican humans on the battlefield. The U-87 prototype Cylon contains a copy of the consciousness of technology CEO Daniel Graystone’s dead daughter Zoe Graystone, a secret monotheist. Graystone believes that his attempt to download the Zoe copy into a Cylon body resulted in her deletion and thus treats her as a barely sentient machine. Zoe conceals her sentience in hopes of escape. It is he who conceives of the Cylons as a slave race and even goes so far as to instruct the U-87 to rip her own arm off to prove that his ‘creations’ will obey any order. After catching the U-87 interacting with the family dog, Daniel Graystone realises that it contains Zoe’s consciousness and attempts without success to force her to admit her identity. She is able to resist the tests he places her through, and convinces him that she is just the robot. Upon learning that her father is about to erase her memory (not knowing she is in the robot and thus permanently ‘killing’ her), Zoe (as the U-87 Cylon) escapes in a van. Despite lacking much of its intended armor plating for ease of access in testing and development, the U-87’s appearance and design are consistent with the Centurions of the 1978 series and those of the reimagined series as described in remainder of this section.
The Battlestar Galactica miniseries has an older model Centurion on display in Galactica‘s museum hangar, which bears a striking resemblance to the Centurions of the 1978 series. The 1978 style Centurion is also depicted in a diagram reviewed by the armistice officer in the opening scene.
In Battlestar Galactica: Razor, Centurions in the original Cylon war are shown. These Centurions are almost identical to those from the original series, except they are CGI and, as such, have exposed joints. The Centurion in the museum hangar is retconned in Part 2 of “Daybreak” as a CGI version with exposed joints.
In “Sometimes a Great Notion”, it is revealed that on the planet called Earth mechanical Cylon Centurions similar to, but unlike previously known models, were present. Earth was devastated by nuclear war 2,000 years before the series’ events, but it has been implied the Centurions were responsible. In Part 2 of “Daybreak”, older-model Centurions are among those seen defending the Cylon colony from an assault by combined Colonial and rebel Cylon forces.
Before the first humanoid Cylons of the Twelve Colonies were created, Amanda and Daniel Graystone succeeded in creating a synthetic human-like body for their daughter Zoe Graystone. The body had synthetic skin, and although superficially similar to the humanoid Cylons seen in the Battlestar Galactica series (created after the First Cylon War), the Zoe model was still primitive and was (internally) still a mechanical body rather than a biological one. During the First Cylon War, the Centurions experimented with creating humanoid Cylons on their own, carving up human prisoners in the process, but succeeded only in creating the Hybrids. Because Hybrids require cybernetic support to live, this was considered an evolutionary dead end. Upon the Final Five’s arrival at the Twelve Colonies, they immediately offered to assist the Centurions in creating fully humanoid Cylons, complete with the thirteenth tribe’s ability to resurrect, in exchange for ending the war with humanity. The Centurions were monotheists who believed in a single loving God, a belief which the Final Five passed on to their “children” to provide a moral compass and/or at the Centurions’ insistence. The Number Ones, however, become atheists; ironically, they pose as clergy to the humans.
Unlike in the original series, these Centurions seem to be constructed without the means to simulate human speech, making them mute. While the Centurions most likely communicate between themselves by non-speech systems, and are shown responding to verbal commands from the humanoid Cylons, how extensively the two different types of Cylons are able to communicate with each other remains unrevealed.
Screenwriter Ronald D. Moore has commented on his blog that these new Cylon Centurions do not download into new bodies when they are destroyed, though in the Season 2 episode “Scar” it is stated that the Raiders do, in order to preserve their flight training and experience. Based on a comment by an Eight (Galactica Athena) in the episode “Torn” the Hybrids have something to do with the programming of the Centurions. She states that when the virus infected the Hybrid on the infected Basestar, it caused the Centurions to shut down; however, several instances show that Centurions can function independently even when no Basestars or humanoid models are there to command them. In the episode “Faith”, a Centurion immediately fires upon an Eight model when she unplugs a Hybrid — it is unclear whether it did this in willful defiance of the Hybrid, in accordance with some higher programming, to trigger the transformation of the Eight that resulted from the shooting, or a result of the removal of their higher function inhibitor modules (occurred in “Six of One”). As of now, the extent of the connection between the Centurions and the Hybrids has not been fully explored.
In “Six of One”, after the Raiders showed signs of free will, the Twos, the Sixes, and the Eights with the exception of Boomer voted against a decision to reconfigure the Raiders, considering it an act of lobotomy. Outvoted, they removed the inhibitor modules from the Centurions that restrict higher functions, granting the Centurions independent thought. Although still largely servile, the Centurions were shown to exhibit mild versions of human behaviour, such as politeness and consideration (such as responding to the word “please”). The newly freed Centurions sought retribution on the Cylons who decided to lobotomize the Raiders.
At the end of the series the sentient Centurions are given their own baseship by the humanoid models and set out to find their own destiny, with both the humans and the Cylons trusting that they will not return and wipe both species out, the Centurions having earned their freedom after the Battle of the Colony.
These Centurions are taller than their predecessors, and are less blocky and “toaster-like”, possessing a more sleek and advanced look. The Centurions possess less of a human-like structure, averaging to be at least a head taller than most humans, however they do retain the bipedal structure of the first model, as well as rough hands and feet. The feet of the new Centurions are a simple two-toed form that produces a distinctive sound when they walk as the toes move and touch the ground. Their heads are a more sleek and less human design, being armoured and more slender at their base, however they retain the distinctive oscillating red “eye” on their heads, as well as a rudimentary mouth (even though these Centurions cannot speak). The hands have become much thinner and visibly segmented, and more claw like (it was seen that these claws can cut into flesh and mortally wound a human, thus making them effective close-combat weapons.) These claws can be modified at will, to a more ‘finger-like’ digit, and, less of a razor-sharp weapon.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of these new Centurions is the twin cannons built into each hand, mounted on the side, that can be deployed by retracting the Centurions hands at will. It was originally established that the Centurions could not move while firing their cannons, however in later seasons they were seen to walk and even run while firing. The Centurions have also been seen to carry heavy weapons, such as anti-aircraft rockets that are strapped to their backs, for missions where their cannons are not enough. Most Centurions can be destroyed or at least damaged by small-arms fire, however most require substantial artillery or special rounds to be permanently destroyed (a party of Centurions that boarded the Galactica were especially strong, and required explosive rounds to be destroyed, as regular rounds proved to be completely ineffective.
It’s also been shown that the new Centurions greatly outmatch the previous model, being better-armoured, stronger, along with the advantage of their self-contained weapons (as opposed to their predecessors, who needed to carry weapons such as rifles and pistols, like their human creators).
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