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In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, the Cylon Number Six models are depicted as sympathetic characters toward the end of the series (they rebel against the Cavils, they join the humans, they advocate the humane treatment of humans and oppose the lobotomization of the Cylon raiders, and finally, one turns out to be an angel while another lives happily ever after on New Earth).

I can understand that nuking an entire world is part of her job as a soldier, but why did she snap a baby's neck? He and his mother would have been killed in the first strike anyway so why cause the additional grief? The season one depiction of her as an evil psycho does not tally with the way she's portrayed in the last season.

  • If I remember the scene correctly, the baby was in a stroller and Number Six had just made a complement to the mother? In that case (if I remember right), I just took it as an accident, Number Six not realizing how fragile humans are. – Izkata Feb 23 '12 at 3:52
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    @Izkata I thought of that, but when I watched it the second time, it seemed as if she waited for the mother to look away, bend down purposefully and then walked off with a smug look. – HNL Feb 23 '12 at 4:11
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    This was a horrible scene, I would have preferred it if they had left it out. – Wikis Feb 23 '12 at 7:22
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    That scene actually turned me off to the whole series. – user12186 Jan 27 '13 at 4:06
  • @Izkata - Ronald Moore said that the point was that she'd killed the child to be merciful, because it was likely to suffer and die in the upcoming attack anyway. – Valorum Feb 20 '16 at 9:20
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Please note: this answer has been revised with recent information that seems to be indisputably canonical given the sources.

Tricia Helfer, the actor who played six, answered this same question on a Reddit AMA. She says:

It was a mercy killing. Six was fascinated with seeing the innocence of the baby (holding one for the first time) and knew that the bombs were going to go off soon, so chose to end the baby's life quickly and painlessly rather than having it suffer during the bombing.

In the podcasts, Ronald D. Moore explains that early on, there was uncertainty about how much of the Cylon culture would be revealed. He considered having the Cylons being just a relentless, faceless, threat, much as they were depicted in the episode 33. So, initially, there was much more of a ruthlessness built into the Cylons as a culture.

However, as the story evolved, it went in the direction we saw, which was that the Cylons were rapidly evolving a culture that has more in common with human culture, including disagreements among Cylons about the ethics of wiping out humans, and whether or not humans were merely vermin or equals.

Additionally, Ronald D. Moore has also said:

Well, not to give anything away here, but the scene demonstrates both the cold-blooded nature of the Cylons and their more human aspect at the same time. Watch Tricia's performance carefully in this scene and I think you'll see that from her point of view, she's conducting a mercy killing -- as frightening as that may be to you or I.


So comments below make sense, here is the text of the original answer that has been superceded by the actor's and director's explanations:

I believe that the reason that particular Six model snapped the baby's neck was because the humanoid Cylons were a relatively new step in evolution for the Cylons at that point. And she was certainly very new to being in a human society.

She was, in a sense, somewhat sociopathic, not having worked out human emotions, appropriate behaviour, and so on. My interpretation of the motive of snapping the neck is that she was seeing what it would be like to do so, but it could be argued that it was for other reasons, equally lacking in empathy.

As the series goes on, though, she learns more about humans, about society, and about herself, and so she develops a more nuanced and sympathetic understanding of ethics and of living among both humans and Cylons.

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    Your in-universe explanation can be further supported by Caprica Six saying something along the lines of, "It's amazing their necks can support that much weight", just a little before she kills it. Therefore, she may have just broken the neck as an experiment to see how much pressure the neck could take. Although the look on Six's face as she was doing the act always made me think that she felt she was sparing the child, but that is probably just me. – Xantec Feb 23 '12 at 15:22
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    I have always thought the same thing as Xantec... that it pained her to do this. The look on her face as she did so, and in her eyes, ... it looks like remorse and even a slight bit of grief. I tweeted Tricia Helfer once to see if she could elucidate... but unfortunately she never replied. lol – eidylon Feb 23 '12 at 16:40
  • @eidylon " I tweeted Tricia Helfer once to see if she could elucidate... but unfortunately she never replied." LOOOL. – Spacey Aug 27 '12 at 22:05
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    Sorry, but it's considered extremely bad form to correct your wrong answer by lifting other people's answers into your own, especially without giving them attribution. See Is it considered bad form to 'steal' another's answer and incorporate it into your answer?. – Valorum Sep 28 '17 at 6:42
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    As it stands, it looks very suspiciously like you've plagiarised my and Mycle's answers to improve your own, without giving either of us any attribution. To the casual user (one not familiar with the edit history tool) it now looks like we've copied you. – Valorum Sep 28 '17 at 7:39
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I would almost certainly consider this an act of kindness. Six - knowing what was to come - and the undoubted suffering that would be imparted upon an infant, chose to kill the child quickly and painlessly.

To me it is a foreshadowing of the compassion Six shows at various points throughout the series.

  • This would have been my favorite answer had the writers at least included a hint of it in Six's behavior during the incident. But watching the scene again, all I see is Six walking away with a psychopathic smug look on her face. – HNL Sep 4 '12 at 5:45
  • I always thought that was an act of mercy. She mentioned how fragile they were, and innocent. I just thought she was sparing the child a worse fate than a nuclear apocalypse. And to make Six look more like a machine... while stuck in Tricia Helfer's body. So I agree with Crackerwax, but HNL does have a point, she didn't look too distraught afterwards. – Jersey Aug 19 '13 at 14:14
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Showrunner Ronald D. Moore spoke to this question in a 2003 webchat.

Q: Several people are asking about the Number-Six-Baby-Killing scene. How does it service the plot[?]

RonDMoore: Well, not to give anything away here, but the scene demonstrates both the cold-blooded nature of the Cylons and their more human aspect at the same time. Watch Tricia's performance carefully in this scene and I think you'll see that from her point of view, she's conducting a mercy killing -- as frightening as that may be to you or I.

You can see the chat reported here along with an unedited version of the chat here

  • Cool. Basically confirms my reading of the scene then. Always nice to find you were spot on. B-) – eidylon Feb 23 '16 at 18:55
  • They could have illustrated that without such a horrible scene. But maybe I'm being revisionist - the news these days certainly has enough cruelty in it. – TenLeftFingers Nov 21 '16 at 0:09
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Curious re fragility of humans or compassion to ensure the baby did not suffer. I did not perceive her look as smug but as remorse or sorrow.

4

Recent AMA with the actress on Reddit.

Q. Why did Six kill that baby? :(

Tricia Helfer: It was a mercy killing. Six was fascinated with seeing the innocence of the baby (holding one for the first time) and knew that the bombs were going to go off soon, so chose to end the baby's life quickly and painlessly rather than having it suffer during the bombing.

  • Can you provide a link to the AMA? – Edlothiad Sep 22 '17 at 18:26
  • It's not really necessary to preserve the reddit formatting. If anyone wants to see it, they can follow the link – Valorum Sep 22 '17 at 18:35
  • You can have a +1 from me, not least because your answer is almost identical to mine except from a different source. – Valorum Sep 22 '17 at 18:35
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This little scene has always puzzled me.

I have nothing to back up my theories, but this is how that scene has always read to me.

It's always seemed to me that, knowing the nuclear holocaust was coming, she snapped the baby's neck in what was essentially a mercy-killing.

She made a statement to the baby to the effect of "Don't worry, you won't have to cry for long." And then when they cut to her walking away through the crowd, she seemed to have a pained, almost sad look on her face, and in her eyes.

I kind of took this sort of as the early seed of the ethical side of her that she developed later on in the series.

{ I did actually tweet Tricia Helfer at one point to get her "inside" take on this scene, but I did not get a response. }

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I have only now (in 2016) started watching BSG, as it's streaming on Hulu. The baby had been crying and she tells the baby that it won't be crying for long. She clearly killed it to spare its future suffering, since mankind was about to be horribly wiped out. I absolutely freaked out at this scene, though.

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"It's amazing their necks can support that much weight" We see in the series, clearly flaws written into her character are consistent elements of compassion and curiosity, even though she's on a mission. And of course she like all 12 models wants to procreate as well.

After this scene I was hooked on the show and thought it was one of her better performances. Judging from her reaction she is surprised the infants neck breaks so easily even though she was not making a real test, just curious about humans, not understanding their fragility. And like any guilty child who after being trusted, broke something not knowing their own strength, doesn't want anyone to find out, she makes a getaway into the crowd hurriedly.

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I guess I'm a little late to the party. My immediate assumption was that she didn't mean to kill the baby. The mother had rescinded her access, but was then distracted. Six took this opportunity to investigate the following:

She had remarked about the baby's neck being strong enough to support his head even though she had held him correctly. I wonder if we were seeing some cognitive dissonance -- she didn't know intellectually that the neck must be supported, yet she instinctively supported it when she held him. She looked genuinely happy when holding the baby, but troubled immediately after.

Perhaps when she realized that her words and actions didn't hang together, she grew confused and took the opportunity to see for herself if the neck was strong like she thought.

Being artificial, we could expect her to automatically give more weight to data in her head than to inexplicable behavior. Twisting the baby's head hard enough to break his neck could be explained by a rejection of apparently instinctive maternal behavior and a flash of fear/panic over the implications of that behavior. She looked sorrowful, almost heartbroken when she was walking away.

Further, I think part of that sorrow was from her newfound understanding that she can feel compassion for the humans who are about to die and the realization that the war that is about to start will be much more painful for her than she expected.

Just a thought.

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