I wanted to post a few thoughts on last night’s Battlestar Galactica series. I watched the entire series, from the miniseries/pilot to the big finish last night, and found the quality to be somewhat uneven. Its high points were very high, but it had plenty of low points as well.
The biggest spoiler I saw going into the finale was series creator Ron Moore saying in the special about the show’s production that the show was about the characters, not about the plot. I think that showed from beginning to end — the best parts of the show were very much character-driven rather than plot driven.
So, as to the ending. When the survivors arrive on Earth, Baltar informs them that they are DNA-compatible with the primitive humans that they find. Then in the present-day flash forward, we are made to understand that Hera, the child who is the key to the survival of humans and cylons, is Mitochondrial Eve. There really is a Mitochondrial Eve — she is the earliest common ancestor all humans alive right now share. (I believe she lived about 90,000 years ago, so the 150,000 number on the show is wrong.)
What this implies is that none of the humans or cylons who wind up on Earth (other than Hera) are able to successfully reproduce, or that all of their progeny die out. Hera’s offspring are the only ones who make it. And indeed, none of the indigenous residents of Earth will have produced successful offspring, except through Hera. So she’s not a MacGuffin — she turns out to be the only path forward for humans or cylons. And one could also argue that this is what the Harbinger of Death prophecy that the hybrid gives Starbuck meant as well — nobody but Hera has a future.
Distributing the surviving colonials around the planet to increase the odds of survival can be inferred to be a complete failure. For the Mitochondrial Eve plot point to work out, those colonies must all fail. So what appears to be an up ending is really a down ending, although I’m not sure the writers thought through it enough to see it that way.
The research that led to the discovery of Mitochondrial Eve is interesting. I’d suggest The Journey of Man, an excellent book on the subject by geneticist Spencer Wells.
Update: Be sure to read the comments, it seems I didn’t understand the scientific meaning of Mitochondrial Eve as well as I might have thought.