It's been a while since I simply dropped into full geek mode here on Black Owl, but I've had one festering for a while in the back of my head, and I think it's time. This is my unifying theory to unite the classic Glen Larson Battlestar Galactica (henceforth “GL”version), with the modern Ron D. Moore, “greatest-TV-show-ever-made-according-to-Dan” version (RDM version). There will be spoilers for both shows, so if you haven't seen or finished either, but plan to, it may be time to turn away now. You've been warned.
First, I must establish some ground rules here. I am reluctant to include Galactica 1980 in the canon as any more than an interesting thought which met the poorest execution imaginable. Indeed, setting the arrival of the Galactica to Earth in 1980 not only puts a kink in my theory, it also contradicts the Classic Galactica episode “The Hand of God” in which the ship intercepts a transmission from the Earth Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. I freely admit science was very shaky on the original show; it was never really established whether or not the Galactica even had a faster than light drive, though lightspeed travel is mentioned on a few rare occasions. Terms like “solar system” and “galaxy” are used interchangeably. I think we have to accept that there is some form of super-luminal drive however, and further that the Galactica is still pretty far from Earth at the end of season one. G1980 claims thirty years have passed since the Cylons destroyed the colonies, putting that destruction around the Earth year 1950. Unless the first season of classic Galactica is actually twenty years long (and it obviously isn't), they could not have intercepted the Moon landing. Perhaps they are moving at relativistic speeds, thereby suffering time dilation effects, but then Baltar, during his time spent with the Cylons, would have aged at a different rate than the Colonists. Besides, the Apollo transmission itself is only moving at the speed of light, so depending on how many light-years the Galactica is from Earth at intercept, it has to be that many years after the famous Moon landing on Earth. Therefore, if the Galactica is twenty light-years from the signal's origin, it is already 1989 on Earth.
I will however give 1980 credit for introducing the first human looking Cylon, which actually ties into my theory very well. After all, this has all happened before and will all happen again.
I submit that despite the fact the RDM show follows the exploits of a particular group of survivors, there would have been more. We know the Pegasus was finding other civilian ships, and doubt they found all of them. Anders' little band of merry Pyramid players can't be the only people in the mountains on Caprica when the Cylon bombs fell. Eleven other planets had to have some survivors. Yes, many would have been herded up and out when the Cylons claimed Caprica, but humans are remarkably resilient, and it does not seem that far fetched some were waving good-bye when the Cylons left Caprica to go meet up with the escaping Colonial fleet at New Caprica (as seen in “The Plan”).
So, while Kara Thrace and William Adama are off with Gaius Baltar realizing that the Cylon god-entity is in fact...God, there are a number of poor schleps mucking about on the twelve colonies who have no idea that the machines which tried to kill them are all part of an ongoing cycle of evolution throughout the universe. All they know is what our cast knew in season one: Humanity came from Kobol to found the twelve tribes, there's a thirteenth tribe out there somewhere called Earth, and by they way, we are all a bunch of poly-theists. Now of course, they are living in the ashes of holocaust, and there are problems with radiation and the like, but there is also an essential distrust of technology, and a new dark age. While Adama is burying Roslin and choosing to swear off technology, the Capricans are kind of forced into it, but still not too happy with robots.*
We know from RDM that two things happen when the Colonists settle on Earth and scuttle the fleet: one, a surviving group of “toaster” Cylons take a Basestar and go off to find their destiny; two, Humans and Cylons mix ingraining certain things into our racial memory. Their decedents will accept their zodiac, worship their gods, and eventually, with an eerie accuracy, re-discover their technology. There's 150,000 years in which to do so.
So during that 150K, what's happening in the 12 Colonies, and what's happening with our Toaster friends?
On Caprica, and the other colonies, the human race is growing again. It's going to take time; the aforementioned radiation is going to be an issue, as is the diminished population. Humans will survive though, and eventually rebuild a civilization as the Colonies of Kobol, as they were before, but with more flowy chiffon clothing. Eventually there will even be technology, and a new fleet of Battlestars. Indeed, perhaps the cycle plays out a couple of times in this period. GL Galactica may not be the first time the Capricans rise from the ashes. For this theory to work though, we do have to accept that the Colonists have lost track of how long ago humanity left Kobol; in accordance with Genesis and the Book of Mormon (on which many original BSG concepts are based) humanity came to be on Kobol only 6000 years before GL BSG takes place, brought into existence by the Beings of Light. It doesn't seem to difficult to believe those histories will be renewed by any successive generation of Capricans, confusing events in their past, but keeping the basics the same (see our own histories and Noah, Atlantis, Gilgamesh, and the Navajo story of Turtle).
Meanwhile, the surviving Toasters who leave New Earth, return to their old stomping grounds, perhaps in an effort to trace their own origins. They return to space near Kobol and the Colonies. They evolve. They start the cycle again. Perhaps those Toasters decide they still want to become organic, but not human. In GL Galactica we find out their Cylons began as a reptilian race eventually overthrown by machines... what if the origins of those reptiles were in fact the surviving Cylons from RDM Galactica, attempting a different kind of biological evolution, but instead repeating the cycle?
The result is the same. A thousand year (yahren) war between humans on the twelve colonies, and the Cylon Empire. While you and I, human/cylon decedents ourselves, are heading toward the cycle again with little ditties like the industrial revolution, the creation of pocket calculators, and eventually computers, and Bob Dylan's “All Along the Watchtower,” it seems GL Galactica is happening, and repeating the great cycle. Perhaps as racial memory, some of us even suspect such a thing is going on:
There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens.
There are still a few mysteries here: who exactly ARE the Beings of Light and Count Iblis? Perhaps survivors of the original Kobol or original 13th Tribe (Cylon Earth), or “Angels” not unlike Head Six and Head Baltar from RDM? (I'm a little partial to the idea that perhaps somewhere there are other copies of the Final Five, and Count Iblis is a last remaining Cavil who survived the battle at The Colony.) Are the other human worlds the GL Galactica finds (Terra) also descendants from Kobol, or left over survivors from the RDM Cylon apocalypse? Is Dirk Benedict Starbuck the messianic figure Kara Thrace was? Should we count Galactica 1980? It does feature Dr. Zee, a human/Being of Light hybrid, who may be that series' Kara; and as mentioned before, GL Cylons making human versions, starting the great cycle themselves. Then I see flying motorcycles and say 'no.'
So that's the basic idea. The two Galacticas are in the same universe, but the earlier version actually happens after the newer version. Imagine Lorne Greene's rag tag fleet arriving to our world, just as our own Cylons begin to exhibit behavior not quite so subservient... say! I smell a fanfic coming on!
*As an aside, I have heard a number of people tell me they cannot believe the surviving Colonists who make it to New Earth at the end of RDM Galactica would give up technology so easily. I submit you may be off a different opinion when your iPods commit genocide and start a four year chase across the galaxy to do nothing more than kill you. Suddenly, my favorite playlists seem a little less necessary.