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Galactica’s quest for Earth

By Dave Menendez
Saturday, August 27, 2005, at 11:14 PM

I watched last Friday’s episode of Battlestar Galactica this afternoon, and a thought occurred to me just now which puts the quest for Earth in a potentially different light.

Some background for those unfamiliar with the show: The protagonists are human beings from twelve planets known as the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, which were founded by twelve tribes who left (or were banished from) Kobol a few thousand years before the series begins. The name of each planet is a corrupted form a Zodiac sign (for example, “Caprica”).

There was also a thirteenth tribe of humans on Kobol. When they left Kobol, they went to Earth (known in the original series as the “lost colony”). No one has heard from them, or the gods, for centuries, and the location of Kobol has been lost—until about halfway through season one, when it was rediscovered by Colonial refugees fleeing the attack by the Cylons.

Following clues in the scriptures, the Colonials find the Tomb of Athena on Kobol, where the scriptures say they will lead them to Earth. They learn that on Earth, there are twelve constellations which resemble the ancient symbols of the twelve tribes—that is, the twelve signs of the Zodiac. In fact, the scriptures say that the thirteenth tribe, on Earth, could see the symbols of their brethren in the sky.

So here’s the twist. In the original Battlestar Galactica, it was implied that the Earth the Colonials were looking for is our Earth, and that we Earthlings are descendants of the thirteenth tribe. Since the new series kept Kobol and the quest for Earth, one might assume the same implication holds. But there are two problems.

First, Earth is said to be very far away, its location was either lost or was never known by the Colonials, and there’s no evidence that of communication with the thirteenth tribe since the time of Kobol. So how can the scriptures know what they saw in the night sky? How do they even know the name of the planet the thirteenth tribe settled on?

Second, how likely is it that the thirteenth tribe found a planet where the stars form twelve constellations which resemble the symbols of the other twelve tribes?

So here’s my theory: Earth is older than Kobol. Maybe the thirteen tribes are descended from colonists who left Earth to live on Kobol. Then, when they had to leave, twelve of the tribes went to found new colonies and the thirteenth returned to Earth. That makes the Colonials our descendants, and sets the series in the future.

Is that where series is going? I don’t know. It’s still possible that Earth is purely a legend, although the seemingly-magical grassy field full of monoliths that pointed the way to Earth indicates that something is going on.

Another possibility that’s even more speculative is that the gods were from Earth—that is, were human like us—and that Colonials were created to serve them much in the same way as the Cylons were created to serve the Colonials. Maybe the Colonials rebelled against their masters and were banished from Kobol, much as the Cylons rebelled against their creators. That certainly would be an interesting interpretation of the verse from the scriptures which states, “all this has happened before, and all this will happen again”.