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Deadlock: Thousand-Year Relationships
Ben Scarlato   Feb 23, 2009   Ethical Technology  

[Warning: Contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode Deadlock ]  How would the human relationships we form evolve if instead of decades we had thousands of years to nurture them? Would we form deeper connections, strengthened by shared experiences we cannot yet imagine? Would we find find new ways of expressing love for one another, linked mind-to-mind with the sharing of emotions? Perhaps we would be able to work out the conflicts in relationships, and improve ourselves not only on the individual level but as a synergistic community. On the other hand, we could seek to preserve our relationships in their present form with all their eccentricities and flaws, much as Ellen and the Final Five Cylons seem to have done.

It is fascinating to see Ellen return to the four other remaining members of her species, and her long, troubled marriage with Saul Tigh. She caresses Tyrol’s and Tory’s cheeks as if she hasn’t seen them in years, and indeed, for Ellen they’ve shared a bond thousands of years old. Even though the thousand-year link they share is remarkable, it is similarly remarkable that they have not developed a deeper way of expressing their bonds than we have today. Of course, the most interesting and turbulent reunion she makes is with her husband Tigh. It has become apparent that not only has their marriage in this lifetime been fraught with alcohol abuse and acknowledged unfaithfulness, but that throughout the millennia their bond has always brought out the worst in each other. 

Ellen seems willing to overlook any relationships Tigh engaged in while she was gone, until she learns that he has impregnated Caprica Six who is, in a sense, the child of her and Tigh. Ellen says that Tigh now loves Caprica Six more than he ever loved her, for unlike Ellen herself Caprica bore him a literal son. She even claims that she is willing to leave Tigh to Caprica, and let them raise their child. However, she then puts Tigh in the difficult position of going against the Cylon majority vote to abandon the fleet. Ellen tells Caprica she always knew Tigh placed her second to Bill Adama and the fleet, but now she knows even the baby is second. The stress of the situation leads to difficulties in the Cylon pregnancy, and even as Caprica lies in sick bay, Ellen continues to agitate the situation. Her attempts to hurt Tigh ultimately lead to the death of the unborn child.

In the previous episode Ellen justified her choices in making the other Cylon models so human by saying she gave them free will, compassion, and love. Is the reason she gave them “free will” so that they would be free to make the same mistakes again and again, as has been the case in her marriage with Tigh? So that they could experience the same modes of love and compassion no matter how much time passed?

It is unfortunate that the path Ellen has chosen for the Cylons means that love is still predicated on such frivolous matters as fertility. While the Cylons blame infertility on a lack of love, the fact remains that Ellen does not have access to the technology that would allow her to bear Tigh’s child, let alone the technology to create a child independent of a body, and thereby make fertility an issue apart from love altogether. While, as she says, her enemy Cavil may fear “procreation, evolution, all that messy biological trial and error,” what should be feared almost as much is remaining in stagnation for as long as Ellen has and not implementing designs to reach beyond our human limitations.

While some of the Cylons want to abandon the fleet to form a purely Cylon culture, it seems as though Baltar may be involved in one of the last attempts at human purity, as the joy he finds in sacrificing to feed the hungry suddenly turns into a deal with Adama to receive bigger and better guns. Tigh, at least, seems to intelligently assess the situation: “Pure human doesn’t work, pure Cylon doesn’t work; it’s too weak.” Nor does Tigh want to express his love for Caprica using spoken language, saying “I love you, alright? Can you hear me? This is nonsense, she knows it, I don’t need to say it, I shouldn’t need to say it to anyone, isn’t is enough that I feel it? I feel it!”

If, as Tigh suggests, we embrace cultural diversity and do not rely purely on humans or purely on machines, the synergy between biology and mechanical technologies may ultimately allow us to discover what it means to have relationships that span thousands of years. If we do not take Ellen’s approach of opting for indefinite but stagnant lives, we will have the opportunity to discover ways to express and experience love, intimacy, harmony, and the beauty of each individual mind in ways we cannot imagine. 

Ben Scarlato, a former IEET intern, studied Computer Science at Rochester Institute of Technology and works as a software engineer focused on security.



COMMENTS

I thought that because the final five were traveling at subluminal speeds, their experience of time was quite different.  Time dilation meant that they experienced perhaps a few years of travel, but “objectively” thousands of years passed before they reached the colonies and they were too late to prevent the conflict.  Thus the relationship between Ellen, Tigh and the others is represented as pretty standard in its all too human jealousies and petty squabbles as well as its immediate passion and love because they have not lived thousands of years, but barely more than a standard lifetime.  In the case of Tory, Tyrol and Anders, perhaps not even that since we don’t know exactly when Cavil killed them and seeded them into the colonies.

Marla,

You’re absolutely correct that the time dilation effect means they didn’t really experience it as the full time that passed to an outside observer. However, the way Ellen kept saying a thousand years, the way she and Tigh had come together in different lifetimes, and listening to one of Ron Moore’s podcasts where he talked about the two always sharing a really old romantic but destructive bond, makes me think of their relationship as deeper than a typical human relationship.

Hopefully we’ll get a really clear sense of the time line for everything in the final episodes.

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