Science Fiction Film & Television

Death, sex and the Cylon

Living authentically on Battlestar Galactica

Science Fiction Film & Television (2012), 5, (1), 85–113.

Abstract

The second half of Battlestar Galactica's four-season narrative arc constitutes an extended, energetic and effective commentary on the philosophy of death initiated by Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. The Cylons demonstrate the crucial links between death, sexuality and reproduction. At first, the Cylons are infinitely downloadable and thus effectively immortal. D'Anna pursues a radical experiment in being-towards-death, deliberately and repeatedly ‘killing’ herself in a perpetual quest to understand the nature of being. For her, death has the status of a sexual fetish. Season four concerns the quest by certain individual Cylons to overcome Cylon immortality, the fulfilment of which permits some Cylons to attain what Heidegger calls an authentic being-towards-death. The end of Cylon immortality radically foregrounds the importance of sexuality and biology. The Cylons become obsessed with discourses of reproduction and racial purity, but their story ends with a radical endorsement of difference. The child Hera, a human-Cylon hybrid whose parents are played by multi-ethnic actors, becomes the ancestral mother of humanity. The show thus concludes by rejecting decisively both the old fears of racial miscegenation, and the newer fears of the techno-organic cyborg. BSG argues for a future of hybridity in which species merge, nations intersect and the biological and the cybernetic come together, leading us to a place where death establishes the possibility of meaning, and the love of bodies permits the fulfilment of that meaning.

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Call, Lewis