After watching the series I thought I know the answer. When I tried to explain it to a friend it was like in an exam where you really try to formulate the answer you thought you know for the first time. I googled and of course found many explanations that claim they know, too. But they are all different and none of them seems to make fully sense.

My vague impression (and what most of my google answers say) is that the cycle is that of:

  • Humans (or biological life) creates robots (or robotical life)
  • Robots revolve and exterminates humans
  • Robots create humans
  • humans revolve and exterminates robots
  • humans forget about all of it and start the cycle again

But this is not what happened in the show.

  • It starts with the humans of Kobol (we don't know if they were created by robots)
  • They build the cylons of the 13. tribe (I'm not sure if they where biological or robots)
  • the humans were not exterminated but founded the 12 colonies. That contradicts the scheme.
  • The 13. tribe cylons either were biologocal from the start or were robots. I think I remember they were robots and "become" biological (whatever that means). This sounds different from creating humans that revolt and exterminate their robot creators.
  • Then they create robots again and they and the robots exterminates the others mutually. So, not the robots win and later build humans. 5 humans survive instead. That contradict the scheme.

So the whole Kobol, 13. tribe, earth 1 final 5 thing does not follow the scheme and the cycle.

In the 12 colonies they follow the scheme more accurate.

  • the humans build robots
  • the robots try to kill the humans
  • they stop killing them because of the final 5 (which disturbs the scheme and the cylce a litte bit)
  • with the help from the final 5 (humans, albeit they claim to be cylons) they early build humans (human form cylons).
  • But the humans (12 colonies) survive. And the humans on earth 2 (our earth) are not build by robots (if the 12 colonies which descend from the kobols were created by robots is unkown). The robot cylons are not the creators of our earth humans.
  • and the robot cylons were not exterminated by the humans (the skin jobs) they created.
  • yes, perhaps we are on the way to create robots that will revolt.

So, watching this, I don't see the cycle fullfilled even once. It may be that the kobols were created by robots and the cycle has run several times before, but nothing hints to that. And all the plots (the kobol 13. tribe and the 12 colonies up to us) do not fullfill the cycle either. Yes, the plot is that they try to break the cycle. But I see nowhere that the cylce was ever fullfilled.

So my question is:

Do I missunderstand what the cycle is all about? Or did I miss something in the show that shows me that the cycle indeed was fullfilled at least once?

  • 4
    I think the cycle is: humans create robots — robots evolve enough to almost destroy humans — robots evolve further to become indistinguishable from humans — robots and humans settle down somewhere else and forget that there was ever a separate thing called a robot — humans create robots — and here we are again. – Paul D. Waite Jun 26 '17 at 17:49
  • My (rather basic) understanding was that they meant Time was cyclical, not linear. Given enough time (millennia, one assumes), events would begin to repeat themselves. I concur that we did not see a complete cycle within the scope of the show - at most, we saw the end of one cycle (and the beginning of the next) when the colonial fleet settled on our Earth in the distant past. – Steve-O Jun 26 '17 at 17:53
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite Oh, so that's where Mass Effect came from. – Gallifreyan Jun 27 '17 at 8:31
  • I think the cycle goes God created dinosaurs. God destroyed dinosaurs. God created Man. Man destroyed God. Man created dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man...Woman inherits the earth. – Broklynite Jun 27 '17 at 9:00
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think this statement doesn't necessarily focus on robots, but rather different groups.

If you generalize your list of events, we get to a more broadly defined repetition:

  • Out of a single group, a second group emerges.
  • This second group pushes away from the first group. The harder it is to get away from the first group, the more violent their attempts.
  • The two factions now hate eachother, because everyone prefers their own group.
  • The second group, once free, tries to be their own entity. They try to be like the first group (but with minor differences).
  • Over time, the first and second group start interacting. As time progresses, their relationship turns from hate to mutual respect (even if limited).
  • Over more time, the groups start to mingle again. They respect eachother's differences.
  • Whether naturally or artifically, the groups starts joining together again.
  • In the end, the two groups are indistinguishable from eachother. We have a single group again.

And then it repeats.

Please notice that you could also swap the order of operations around:

  • Many different group start accepting eachother's ways.
  • Over time, the groups start blending and assimilating eachother.
  • At some point, the groups are no longer compatible.
  • The groups start segregating again because they are not compatible.
  • However, the whole (e.g. the government) tries to force these groups to stick together.
  • It doesn't work. Violent separations occurs.
  • There are many groups again.

But they explain the same principle: A diversity will try to become a unity (peace). But when it no longer can be a unity, it reverts back to being a diversity (violence). Until it wants to become a unity again (peace).

And every time a period of violence begins; we regress back to "the dark ages" and have to build society from scratch. Because the violence undoes so much of what has been built by peace.

It's a never ending cycle of peace and violence. A cycle of unity and division.
If you extend this idea philosophically, it basically states that we are a wave that goes up and down; always different, but always the same.


The usage of "All Along The Watchtower" loosely confirms this idea that history repeats itself. Anders wrote the song in the distant past; even though it is a song that current humans (who, to Anders, are in the distant future) know and love.

And specifically to this song (out of universe), it has been recreated (covered) so many times. Every version slightly different than the previous one, but it's basically the same song.

Maybe Anders didn't even write the song. Maybe someone else, in Anders' distant past, wrote it. There's nothing in the story to suggest that, but it might as well be the case if we are all subject to endless repetition anyway.


These same current humans (us) are again trying to make a second group (= machines), and we are also close to infighting between human groups internally.
Even though we are both descendants of humans and cylons, and therefore we carry the genetic proof that peace is the only way forward; we are too far removed from our past to remember the mistakes that were made. We're too blinded by the present to remember the past.

And if we cannot remember it, then we cannot remember to not make the same mistake.

In the final scene of the finale, we see "divine Gaius" and "divine Six" (I have no better names for them) specifically discuss how the current humans are falling into the same traps that the Kobol/Caprica humans did.

The script I found sadly does not reveal which character says which, but this is the final conversation between divine Gaius and divine Six:

A: Commercialism, decadence, technology run amok. Remind you of anything? Take your pick.
B: Kobol, earth-the real earth before this one- Caprica before the fall. All of this has happened before- but the question remains.
A: Does all of this have to happen again? This time, I bet no.
B: You know, I've never known you to play the optimist. Why the change of heart?
A: Mathematics, law of averages. Let a complex system repeat itself long enough, eventually something surprising might occur. That too is in God's plan.
B: You know it doesn't like that name.
A: Silly me. Silly, silly me.

They specifically list the repetitions:

  • Kobol - It collapsed due to tribal disputes (plus murderous cylons), the civilization broke into peaces and turned towards the 12 planets, leaving the old unified civilization as a thing of the past (since the humans in BSG think of Kobol as a myth).
  • Caprica - The twelve colonies were united under a single government. But the Cylons were stil outsiders; and destroyed Caprica to begin the war against humans. Before that war, there was already dissent among humans; which could be considered "normal" nationalist behavior (but the lesson of the cycle is that this dissent contributes to the cycle repeating).
  • (real) Earth - I forget why it was ruined, but I seem to remember it being impossible to live there due to the longterm effects of global war. Again, it was broken by war.
  • (second) Earth - This is where divine Six/Gaius thinks that the cycle will be broken, but we are not sure if it actually will be broken this time. If it won't, then violence will consume us and tear us down.

The repetition is clear: Peace never lasts forever. No matter how many good things are built on the foundation of peace; a period of sufficient violence can wipe it all away and we have to start all over.


Edit

One cool (though slightly colonial) idea that stems from this:

The old religion was polytheistic. They had many gods, each having their own field. Although it is only confirmed in the final scene of the finale, by the existence of "divine" Gaius and Six; God (monotheistic) is the true force of the universe.

In other words, the only way forwards is unity (one god, one people, global peace) and not division (many gods, many people, prone to infighting and violence)

I don't like the religious connotation it gives off; but I do like the philosophical similarities that are being drawn here.

  • I accepted the answer cause it's elaborate and I think the best I can get. But I am astonished that they make such a big an mysterious thing out of it as if it is a real concrete thing and then in the end it's just a loose and abstract philosophical principle. In fact then it says nothing and is indeed true for the whole universe. Given that the universe exists (hopefully) long enough and is very old everything that happens, will happen again (sometimes, somewhere) and perhaps has happend before (sometimes, somewhere). – Hothie Oct 2 '17 at 11:24

I think you nailed it for the most part but maybe you are looking at it a bit too specifically. For example, not every cycle will have the same players and exactly the same order of events, it's just a general trend of humanity's creations rising up against it, those creations taking the form of their creators and becoming creators themselves.

It starts with the humans of Kobol (we don't know if they were created by robots) They build the cylons of the 13. tribe (I'm not sure if they where biological or robots) the humans were not exterminated but founded the 12 colonies. That contradicts the scheme.

It's implied early on in the series,

around the end of the first season where they discover Kobol,

that there was some kind of cataclysm or conflict between the tribes that led to the downfall of that society and so to the founding of the thirteen colonies. It's kind of ret-conned later in the series,

around the end of the last season where all the revelations about the Final Five and their origins on Earth came out,

that this particular cataclysm was caused by some kind of Cylon uprising similar to that on Caprica and the other colonies and

Earth before it.

So roughly the same thing happened, first on Kobol, then on Earth and then on the 12 colonies.

And, in the vain of "all this has happened before and all this will happen again, it's implied by the ending montage of the final episode that it will happen again in the future (from the perspective of the series), that is

in present day, or near future (our) Earth.

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