The Cylons were created by man.
They look and feel human.
Some are programmed to think they are human.
There are many copies.
And they have a plan.
So begins every episode of the first season of the new reimagined version of the Battlestar Galactica series (one of the only four good ones on television, in my opinion). Anyone who's familiar with the original series will probably be a little taken aback by, among many other things, the appearance(s) of and the story surrounding the Cylons in this one. In the original series as well as Galactica 1980, there were basically six types of Cylons (three of which ithron noted above): Centurions, who were the standard-issue silver-plated Cylons whose favorite catch phrase was "by your command;" the Command Centurions, who were gold-plated versions of the previously mentioned Cylons and who, uh, commanded the others; Cylon Civilians, who appeared in only one or two episodes and who seemed to do basically the manual labor of the Cylon Empire so the others could concentrate on war; the IL series, the most notable of which was the highly bizarre looking Lucifer; the Imperious Leader, who were given that unfortunate title because the creators of the show felt that "Imperial Leader" would seem like too much of a rip off of a certain science fiction film franchise with whom comparisons abounded; and perhaps most pertinently to the subject at hand, Cylons who appeared to be human in most physical regards.
The story of the original Cylons is that they were created by a race of reptiles but their creators died out and they picked up where they left off. They had also established quite an empire for themselves, subjugating other planets and races for their exploitation. In the new series, the Cylons were, as the introduction states, created by the humans of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol for the purpose of making their lives easier. More than forty years before the beginning of the new series, the Cylons rebelled and man and Cylon fought a war that eventually ended in an uneasy armistice. The humans attempted to keep up a diplomatic correspondence with the Cylons after the war, but their gestures were never reciprocated. At the start of the new series, however, the diplomatic officer responsible for the ceremonial non-meeting with the Cylons for that year was astonished to behold something completely unexpected: not only did the Cylons actually show up, but they were far more advanced than his notes indicated and one of them had the appearance of an oh-so-sexy leggy blonde woman. This was the prelude to the nuclear holocaust that began the new series in which the Cylon forces exploited gaps in the computerized defense networks of the colonies and wiped out all but about 50,000 members of the human race across 12 planets. Their reason for doing so after 40 years of silence? On the whole, it seems to have been revenge. However, we are constantly told that "they have a plan," and the plan seems to have changed over time.
The Cylons who appear to be human have most of the non-physical attributes of humans as well: they seem to have emotions, they seem to like sex (a lot), and they even have a religion (although theirs is monotheistic while that of the actual humans in the show is polytheistic). Of the humano-Cylons, there are 12 different models. They are not based on preexisting humans, so you won't magically see a clone of Edward James Olmos walking around in an effort to confuse the humans. Each individual humano-Cylon has its own thoughts and feelings (except for the "sleeper agents" within the human fleet of spaceships protected by Galactica, whose programming is triggered remotely) but each of the 12 models has certain characteristics unique to its type (particularly physical characteristics since types of each model are identical to one another). All Cylons, humano or otherwise, appear to be at least partially organic, with the exception of the Centurions. Other types include the Cylon Raiders (pilotless jets/starfighters) and the Basestars (massive spacecraft controlled by a partially organic "hybrid" brain that takes on the appearance of a humano-Cylon plugged directly into the ship). All types of Cylons appear to have the ability to have their minds downloaded into new bodies of the same type after one is destroyed.
The Twelve Cylon Models
This list will briefly discuss the different models of humano-Cylons in order of their revelation of status. That is to say, although we might have seen a particular character early on but believed he or she was human until later in the series, any Cylons who appeared later but were revealed earlier will be discussed here first. Needless to say, if you have not seen the series but intend to, this is a massive spoiler alert.
Leoben Conoy (Callum Keith Rennie): The model number of Leoben Conoy is unknown, but his appearance is what tipped off the fleet (aside from Baltar) that Cylons had the ability to mimic human appearance and behavior. Conoy is a pseudo-intellectual who fancies himself a philosopher of human behavior and attempts to sow discord among the humans he encounters by telling them lies to increase their paranoia. The Conoy model seems to have a bizarre fetish with the human viper pilot Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, and various members of it have suggested that she is somehow special and distinct from the rest of the human race, and that she has a particular destiny within the Cylon worldview. The Conoys are extremely passive aggressive, which makes me really want to punch them.
- Number Six (Tricia Helfer): Number Six is the first humano-Cylon with which we are acquainted. For my money, it would have been fine to have stopped there. I believe the correct scientific term for Number Six is "smokin' hot." She's blonde, she's tall, she's smart, she's got a great ass, and she loves to make the beast with two backs. When any member of this model meets a human for the first time, her first statement is almost always "are you alive?" (These are actually the first spoken words of the series.) Of the models that we have seen so far, this is the one with the most variant copies.
- Caprica Six is so named because she was the Number Six who seduced the well-connected but narcissistic engineering genius Dr. Gaius Baltar on the colony Caprica in an effort to gain full access to the defense mainframe of the Twelve Colonies and exploit its weaknesses (which she may have put in there herself). At first, she appears cold and calculating, but when she reappears later on, she appears to be a somewhat gentler figure who feels that the annihilation of the human race was, at the least, somewhat uncalled for. She resumes her relationship with Gaius Baltar when they meet again, but at the moment, it appears to have hit a rough spot (the reason for this will be discussed below).
- Head Six is not thusly named because of her propensity to dole out oral sex but rather because she appears in Gaius Baltar's head after the attack that devastated the Twelve Colonies and speaks to him on a frequent basis. It's not known what exactly she is -- she claimed to have been a chip implanted in his head early on, but this is later revealed to be false. Baltar's prevailing theory is that she was simply a manifestation of his guilty subconscious mind, although she tells him that she is alternately a figment of his crazed imagination and that she is an angel sent to guide him from the Cylon god. Head Six is typically domineering and pushes Baltar to do things that he otherwise would not do. She is susceptible to intense jealousy whenever Baltar so much as thinks about another woman, but as Caprica Six has returned to the show, her appearances are less and less frequent.
- Gina was a Number Six who infiltrated the Battlestar Pegasus before the attacks on the colonies. Her status as a Cylon agent is discovered and she is repeatedly tortured and raped before assassinating the Commanding Officer of the Pegasus and escaping with the help of Gaius Baltar. She joins an underground political movement among the fleet that seeks another armistice with the Cylons, but commits suicide (she was not in a position to be downloaded into a new body) after a (highly reluctant) romp in the sack with Baltar by detonating a nuclear warhead aboard a passenger ship. It was the signature of this detonation that eventually led the Cylons to find the humans when they temporarily settled on the desolate planet New Caprica.
- Shelley Godfrey had all the vindictive characteristics of Head Six, but was a real and tangible being that other people besides Baltar could speak to. She attempted to expose Baltar as a traitor to the Colonies, but left the fleet when her status as a Cylon agent was exposed. It is sometimes conjectured that Godfrey was a physical manifestation of Head Six, but this seems somewhat impossible, all things considered.
Number Five (Matthew Bennett): The fifth Cylon model is a character we are introduced to fairly early on, but we do not learn of his status as a Cylon until the end of the miniseries. He's slick but seems to be devoid of positive emotions. He has no concept of empathy, telling a Number Six that although humans are like parents to the Cylons, "parents need to die. It's the only way children can come into their own." On the barren and inhospitable New Caprica, after the Cylons have invaded and have completely occupied and taken control of the government under threat of extreme violence, one particular Doral informs the then-President Gaius Baltar that the only thing he really needs to improve public relations is more adequate toilet paper supplies. Number Fives, despite their unassuming Kevin Spacey-like appearance, are also quite sadistic and cruel, fond of shooting people in the head (including other Cylons). There's really only one distinct Number Five, and he goes be the name Aaron Doral. He's originally a tour guide on the soon-to-be decommissioned Galactica, but is implicated as a Cylon agent by Gaius Baltar and left to die on a floating ammunition dump in deep space before being rescued by other Cylons. In the first season, Doral is something of a leader among the humano-Cylons, but appears to be more like the "first among equals" rather than an actual commanding officer.
Number Eight (Grace Park): The eighth model is a young female who seems to be more "innocent" than the others and who lacks the cruel disposition of the fifth and sixth models. One Number Eight in particular was selected to infiltrate Galactica as a pilot who was unaware of her status as a Cylon until she encountered several copies of herself on a Cylon Basestar.
Simon (Rick Worthy): Like Conoy, Simon's model number is unknown. Somewhat rare for the series as a whole, Simon is a large black man. A stereotype that has developed on the show is that black people are generally from the Gemenon colony and are thus highly religious and believe in the literal truth of humanity's holy books. It is ironic, then, that the Simon model is very scientifically-minded and appeals to logic in all matters where his opinion is sought. Simon hasn't made very many appearances on the show (as the actor playing him apparently has other committments) so it's a little difficult to get a good handle on him. He first appeared in the guise of a doctor treating Starbuck, but his status was discovered when Starbuck saw him talking to a Number Six model in the hospital.
- Sharon "Boomer" Valerii, aka Galactica Sharon, was a pilot on Galactica for two years and became a reconnaissance pilot with Karl "Helo" Agathon. She was unaware of her being a Cylon agent, but began to suspect something when she woke up with an explosive device in her duffle bag in a place on the ship that she would never normally go. She was engaged in an illicit relationship with Deck Chief Galen Tyrol, forbidden since she was technically his superior officer. When Gaius Baltar developed his Cylon detector, she was the first to be tested and although her results came back positive, he concealed this fact and told her she was a human. She increasingly became depressed and more and more convinced of her true nature to the point that she attempted suicide (with more than a little bit of prodding from Baltar). She survived, however, and was selected for a secret mission to destroy a Cylon Basestar. As she planted the explosives, however, she saw several copies of herself and became fully cognizant of her status. After the successful completion of the mission, she returned to Galactica to great acclaim, but shot the ship's commanding officer, William Adama, twice in the chest in an assassination attempt. In addition to her being taken into custody, Chief Tyrol was also arrested because of his known association with Valerii and lashed out in anger at her over what she had done. Later, while being transferred to another cell, Valerii was assassinated by Cally, a deck specialist who would subsequently end up marrying Tyrol. After her rebirth, she (along with Caprica Six) was declared a hero for her attempt on Adama's life, but the two female Cylons questioned the usefulness of war against the humans and because of their influence in Cylon society, swayed public opinion toward cooperation with them. Unfortunately, this "cooperation" meant hunting down the human survivors on New Caprica and completely subjugating them, which didn't go over very well.
- Caprica Sharon aka Sharon "Athena" Agathon appeared after the aforementioned Helo gave up his seat for Gaius Baltar on the small raptor ship that he and Boomer had flown to Caprica in attempt to repair it. In contrast to Boomer, this version of Number Eight was not a sleeper agent and was fully self-aware. With this Sharon, a key part of the Cylon "plan" was revealed: the successful reproduction of a Cylon with a human being. Humano-Cylons cannot reproduce with one another, but apparently they can reproduce with humans. This Sharon claimed to have returned from Galactica to rescue the stranded Helo and while they were on the run (well, not really, considering the Cylons weren't really trying to capture them) fell in love and physically consummated this act, resulting in Sharon's pregnancy. Helo eventually discovers that his lover is a Cylon after seeing a copy of her walking around an installation on Caprica (whoops!) and runs away, but the two are reunited and Sharon willingly returns to Galactica with Helo. She is naturally thrown in a specially-constructed jail cell (meant for the other, then-deceased Sharon) and eventually gives birth to a daughter whom they name Hera. Helo and Sharon are told their baby has died, but has really been hidden away in the fleet to protect the first human/Cylon hybrid from being detected by the Cylons. Eventually, Sharon wins the trust of Adama and is allowed to become an officer on the ship. She marries Helo and takes the call-sign "Athena" to distinguish her from her predecessor. She is conflicted over her choice to remain with the humans and the fact that she is still at heart a Cylon, which is made even more difficult when she and Helo learn that their child is still alive and at this point, captive on a Cylon Basestar with Gaius Baltar.
Number Three (Lucy Lawless): The Number Three model proves that Lucy Lawless looks much better as a blonde. The third model made her first appearance as D'Anna Biers, a Cylon agent in the fleet who posed as an investigative journalist. D'Anna is domineering and more often than not appears in leadership roles among the Cylons that had previously been filled by Number Six and Aaron Doral. She also seems to think that she and Gaius Baltar share a destiny together, which interrupted the menage-a-trois relationship the two of them had with Caprica Six (I can't even begin to explain this one here). Needless to say, the other models don't really approve of her quest for mastership over the entire race and the Sixes in particular harbor a dislike for her. I'm not really fond of the character, since she's pretty bitchy, but I guess that comes with the territory when the character is on a quest to become the Cylon god. UPDATE: The D'Anna version of this model got into a fair bit of trouble when she and Gaius Baltar went into the Temple of Five on what has only been referred to as "the Algae Planet." While in the temple, D'Anna finally saw the faces of the Final Five Cylons and, upon seeing one in particular, apologized profusely for the way she treated that individual when she still believed him or her (we didn't see) to be a human. After this experience, she collapsed onto the floor, dead. When she resurrected in the Cylon fleet, she was told by a waiting Cavil model (see below) that her entire line is "fundamentally flawed" over its aberrant desire to establish itself as master of the Cylon race. As a result, all known extant Number Threes have been terminated and their memories locked into cold storage. In other words, this character is for all intents and purposes dead.
Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell): Cavil is another Cylon whose model number is unknown. He posed as a priest in both the fleet and on Caprica, which is ironic given that all members of the model profess atheism (unique among Cylons). The Cavil model is pretty hilarious, but in the same way that a fatal car crash caused by a banana-peel is: they're dark, sarcastic, and almost morbid. The Cavils are also quite lecherous, and one of them frequently enjoyed the "favors" of the wife of Colonel Tigh, the Galactica's executive officer. They frequently push for violence as a solution to the Cylons' problems and seem to have the traits of all the male Cylon models put together: they cold and calculating, they're sadistic, and they even serve as armchair philosophers on matters of existential crisis. The Cavils are the only Cylons that generally seem to be "evil" but since they're played by Dean Stockwell, it's impossible to hate them.
The Final Five: I said there were 12 models, but I've only gone over 7. That's because the other five are apparently no longer part of Cylon society. According to Caprica Six, "we don't talk about them." It's conjectured that the Final Five were "boxed;" that is, all of them were killed and their consciousnesses were prohibited from downloading into new bodies. Why would this have happened? We don't know yet. It's possible, indeed likely, that copies of them are in the fleet. Shortly before her death, Sharon Valerii revealed that there were eight other Cylon agents still in the fleet. D'Anna Biers, Brother Cavil, and Gina were all revealed to be Cylons, leaving a total of five. There's intense speculation as to whether or not any of the humans we've met in the series are Cylons, especially since none of the currently existing Cylons know what the others look like. Baltar is a popular choice, but seems too incredibly obvious. Other favorite picks are Felix Gaeta, the third-in-command on Galactica, and Chief Tyrol. Leoben Conoy once said Adama himself was a Cylon, though it's unclear (a) which Adama he was referring to (as there is the father, William, and the son, Lee) and (b) how this is possible (which it doesn't appear to be). UPDATE: It seems likely that only one of the Final Five is someone whom we as viewers have met. The D'Anna Cylon saw all of them in a bizarre vision yet only spoke to one in particular, saying something to the effect of "forgive me, I had no idea" upon seeing this one's face. The audience has yet to discover to whom she was referring.
UPDATE 2: Well, I was wrong. At the end of season 3, four of the Final Five were revealed, and they were all familiar faces. We have also learned that the Final Five were not, in fact, boxed. The four to whom I refer all began hearing strange music (a semi-metallized, sitar-based cover of All Along the Watchtower) and each separately made their way to one room on Galactica from which it seemed to be emanating. Upon reaching the destination, they spoke of a "switch" being flipped where they finally understood their true Cylon nature. One of my picks for the Final Five, Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), turned out to be true; no great surprise there, as it was something that had previously been hinted at. Tyrol has been on the show since day one, serving as Galactica's deck chief and being one of the most trusted characters on the show. Ironically, he had previously been under suspicion as a Cylon agent due to his affair with Sharon Valerii. More surprising, however, was the inclusion of Samuel Anders (Michael Trucco), who appeared in the second season as the leader of the human resistance against the Cylon occupation on Caprica. He subsequently married Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and was one of the leaders of the resistance on New Caprica after the Cylons invaded there also. Another second season character, presidential aide Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), was revealed as a Cylon after appearing frequently disheveled and irritable in the previous couple of episodes (which is always a warning sign). The most shocking revelation, however, was that the Executive Officer of Galactica and thus the number two man in the military (and my favorite character) Saul Tigh was a Cylon. How this is possible has yet to be determined since Tigh's established character history goes back 40 years (he knew Bill Adama when they were both young men) and it seemed to be that the Cylon infiltration of the human colonies only began two or three years before the beginning of the series. Also strange is the fact that Tigh ages over time, which does not appear to be a feature of the other models (for example, the Cavil models always appear to be in their 60s and the Eights are always in their 20s, etc.). It seems clear, therefore, that the Final Five are distinct from the other Cylons and that Tigh is quite possibly Number One, since he would almost certainly have to be the first Cylon Model produced.
After realizing their true natures, the four are caught off-guard when the alarms begin to blare out that a Cylon attack is imminent. Unsure of how to proceed, Tyrol and Anders seem not to want to continue their old lives but Tigh and Foster are convinced that the right thing to do is to carry out their duty in the fight. I suspect that these two groups will come into conflict in the next season, leading up to the revealing of the one remaining Cylon.