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Generational Cycles – Battlestar Galactica

Generational Cycles –  Battlestar Galactica

| On 12, Jan 2018

Darrell Mann

Battlestar Galactica is a modern myth, in the vein of the original Star Wars. Like a lot of science fiction, there are often many generation cycle related features amongst the array of the characters. Very often, too, the generation the author, director and other conceptualisers, colour the characters they create. In this sense, the science fiction can very easily turn into a microcosmic caricature of the societal reality. Which, I suppose, is one of the reasons that makes some science fiction more successful than others. If it connects with our current reality, we tend to like it more.

“The cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan”

I was watching the first few episodes of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica a while ago and got to the point where they find the “map” to Earth in the form of the 12 zodiacal constellations. Until that point I had been seeing the story as a myth that portrayed the Cylons as the believers in the “One True God” (e.g. Christians) vs. the humans who believe in a multi-pantheon (e.g. New Age Spiritualists). Others have said that the humans represent the United States and the Cylons represent modern terrorists. But last night I realized it might be a more subconscious modern myth that symbolizes the current living generations.

Science fiction has a history of taking on social concepts, from Star Trek with it’s strong social themes to Star Wars which was profiled by Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell as the modern telling of the Hero’s Journey. Thinking in those terms, of the mythical meaning of the Battlestar Galactica, (which is produced and directed by Boomers and X’ers), I couldn’t help but wonder if the battle going on right now between the generations is represented in the story.

For example, Bill Adama, commander of the Battlestar and President Laura Roslin are both of the elder generation, similar to the Boomers. They are highly opinionated and have their unshakable vision in what needs to be done. The President literally believes that she is a prophet, destined to take the human race to a new and better future. Adama is driven by a desire for honor and order as prescribed by his military background. Both are willing to attack each other to defend their view and control of the future. That, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the Boomer/Prophet generation. Strong opinions, a visionary view and and a righteousness in the face of adversity.


The Commanders’s son, Lee Adama, whose call sign is Apollo, as well as Starbuck (and many more of the crew) are all much more pragmatic in their approach. Although they will take sides if forced to, they judge everything by it’s practical implications. Starbuck is a loner, alienated from most of those around her. Even though Apollo is the golden boy son (hence his call sign) of the Captain, he refuses to believe in the Commander’s ideals. This is very much in character with Generation X, a generation that is practical, pragmatic and don’t really care about ideology or following rules. They are the nomad generation.

So that leaves the Millennials. They are represented by the evil Cyclons. The Cylons believe in “One True God”, one perfect ideal that they must create. They are literally “of one mind”, having a serious case of group think. There are only a few models of Cylon, and that means that they mostly think alike. They work together flawlessly as a team and are moving towards creating a world based on their singular vision. They are optimistic (perhaps overly so) about their future and see their success as pre-ordained. This represents the stereotype of the Millennial generation quite well. Millennials are generally seen as having a strong civic nature, a desire to rebuild society based on their ideals. They also work together very well and tend to be optimistic and at times arrogant about the likelihood of their success. They are the “Hero” generation, but clearly portrayed in the series as ‘heroes’ of the wrong kind.

The interesting thing to note if you buy that characterization is that the Cylons are considered EVIL and are out to destroy the entire human race! What does that say about the Millennials? It actually says a lot more about the Gen X/Boomer bunch that created Battlestar Galactica than it does about the Millennials. Although even by the start of season two there are some humans who are starting to sympathize with the Cylons, they are still very much considered the enemy. The same can be said for the attitude of many Gen X’ers and Boomers towards Millennials. There are a few of the older generations that believe in the positive qualities of the Millennials, but most are pretty put off by what they believe is a sense of entitlement and brazenness. Books like “Dumbest Generation” and “Generation Me” point towards a belief that “kids today ain’t no damned good”. The other parallel is the idea of the Cylons being machines that look like humans. The Millennial generation is also categorized as being the “digital” generation, networked to each other through their devices and constantly in communication with each other.

I think that Battlestar Galactica is a good example of the sort of modern myth that Cambpell and Moyers identified years ago in Star Wars. The first Star Wars series was really about the path of the Boomers (think Luke Skywalker) overthrowing the GI Generation (think Darth and the empire). Like all myths it was probably not consciously made with this connection to the current social forces, but they were embedded in subconsciously.

Should we trust the Cylon/Millennials? Like the characters in Battlestar Galactica we probably don’t have much choice in the matter. And unlike the Cylons, the Millennials ARE going to take over the world eventually (unless Boomers and X’ers figure out a way to magically extend their lives). So perhaps it is time to figure out how we can work together to build something better. Boomers and X’ers control pop culture right now and trying to feed a message to society based on their values. The Millennials have a different take and that makes those in control uncomfortable. But make no mistake, Boomers and X’ers, the Millennials will win this battle (eventually) and treating them like they are babies, less than, or unimportant will not help matters.


  1. Richard Platt

    Hey Darrell,
    Very interesting post here. To me this book that you’re recommending here is another version of Jordan Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief” have you read it?

    The thought that struck me was that I too have done work and analysis using Jungian Archetypes and their importance on the mind, in particular the effect on the subconscious, and the latter always has had a major influence on work, play, relationships and even war too (the inner conflict type) of humans. Some call this and it’s related ennui to be the existential battle that is held within all humans but for the undertaking, once the “Call To Action” (CTA) has been made – the adventure of the “Hero’s Journey” begins and is either heralded and embraced or rejected (and it’s resultant hardships) should that CTA be embraced or rejected – different experiences depending on the choice. In this case here of Cylons vs Humans it is yet another version, of yet another “Hero’s Journey” – just with a bigger cast of characters all acting in the “hero role” – trying to save mankind and enable the survival of civilization.

    I am not sure that the different generations, Boomers, Gen X’ers (like me), Gen Y’ers, and Millennial’s really have the kind of enmity that you’re mentioning here. Perhaps they do, but my experience with Boomers and Millennials is not that way at all, the latter in particular doesn’t bear out the assertion in my experience. If anything they are looking for good guidance on what they should do that will work and enable them to be happy in their lives (little do they realize that chasing that fleeting emotion is a waste of time). We as the preceding and dominant generations should be providing the Millennials with what those Hero’s Journey’s are for them, providing them the tools and our perspective as Gen X’ers and Y’ers on what they could go after. For those of us who’ve actually undertaken that journey before them, we can provide that hopefully sage advice so that their endeavors can be made with greater success. This is where the Boomers, Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers can be the “Sage’s”, “Ally’s” and “Good Buddies” that they need to undertake their efforts. – Just my opinion though


  2. Darrell Mann

    Hi Richard,

    Many thanks for the feedback.

    I’m a big fan of both Joseph Campbell and Jordan Peterson so could’ve chosen either as representatives of the club of ‘pattern finders’. Genrich Altshuller, of course, was another pattern finder, and in many ways, therefore, the whole TRIZ and Systematic Innovation story is about looking at the world in order to reveal patterns that allow problem solvers to tap into the successful strategies and thinking processes of others.

    The Strauss & Howe generation cycles model is another – perhaps more controversial? – piece of pattern-finding research. In the SI research team we’re constantly trying to find evidence to challenge the patterns. Battlestar Galactica is one of those attempts… which, to my eyes, looks like another classic example of exceptions that prove the rule.

    Please keep the comments coming… the more we can, as a TRIZ community, broaden our reading to include other pattern-finders, the faster we all get to learn as a community.