Saturday, 2 June 2007

Baltar and Six: a Jungian interpretation

One of the most intriguing subplots in the ‘reimagined’ Battlestar Galactica (2003-) is the relationship between perhaps the most ambiguous characters, Gaius Baltar and his Cylon lover, Number Six. In a narrative full of complicated motivations and moralities, the tale of Baltar and Six has continued to surprise, both in the development of the characters individually and their relationship and effect on each other. In many ways their interdependence reveals them to be an expression of Jung’s theory of the animus/anima, and this is what I would like to explore here.

Some explanation of the story of Battlestar Galactica and the characters of Baltar and Six is necessary before I move on to analysing the characters and their relationship in the light of Jung’s theory. Battlestar Galactica tells the story of the human survivors of a mass genocide by artificially created robots, Cylons. The Cylons were created by the humans of the Twelve Colonies (twelve different planets) as robot slaves, but, in a cautionary tale of the dangers of technology, the Cylons intelligence led to them rebelling against their creators. They then disappeared, and the humans heard nothing from them for fifty years. The 2003 miniseries shows what happened when the Cylons, now counting among their number twelve ‘human’ models (who are indistinguishable from humans and thus the perfect sleeper agents), each of which has multiple copies. A copy of model number six was living on the planet Caprica, involved in a relationship with Dr Gaius Baltar, an eminent scientist and respected member of the establishment. She manipulated him into gaining access to the defence mainframe, thus enabling the Cylons to mount a surprise attack which virtually wiped out all of humanity across the Twelve Colonies. The TV series which follows covers the flight of the survivors, their struggle to rebuild their society and attempt to find the legendary planet Earth, home to the thirteenth colony of man. Gaius Baltar is one of the few to escape from Caprica after the attack, and he gradually rises to greater prominence in the fleet (as a scientific advisor, then Vice-President, and eventually President), all the while trying both to conceal and come to terms with his guilt for being the one the Cylons took advantage of to successfully carry out their attack.

Baltar is a fascinating character in himself, both inherently and because of his unwitting role in the Cylon attack. He is, undoubtedly, highly intelligent and very charming, but he is also weak, manipulative, selfish, vain, desperate for validation as a worthwhile human being yet horribly aware of his own inadequacies. The most interesting aspect to Baltar’s role in the series however is the internal hallucinatory version of Number Six which accompanies him throughout, popping up at every turn to comment on what he is doing or saying, or bullying, threatening, advising or seducing him depending on the situation. No-one else ever sees or is aware of her presence, leading to some very amusing scenes as Baltar interacts physically and verbally with her as if she were corporeal yet from the point of view of other characters no-one else is there. No definitive explanation has yet been provided for her existence, and quite what she is, as well as why she is there, is open to interpretation. She herself gives differing explanations to Baltar when he questions her presence (understandably!). At first she tells him she is a chip in his head, but later refutes this (and a brain scan provides no evidence), then later she says she is ‘an angel of God sent here to protect you, to guide you and to love you’. Baltar himself veers between believing she is a paranoid manifestation of his own guilt and the chip theory, before slowly beginning to be won over by her declarations of God’s love and purpose for him.

In season two, the situation is further complicated by the introduction of the reincarnated (Cylon consciousnesses ‘download’ into a new body when they are killed) version of the original Number Six who was Baltar’s lover on Caprica. She too is shown as wrestling with her guilt at her part in the genocide, and, shockingly, has her own internal Baltar, taunting her and questioning her about why it was ‘right’ to kill so many humans. The existence of this new ‘Caprica Six’ allows comparisons to be drawn between the internal and external versions of both Six and Baltar. As pointed out on the discussion of this phenomenon on the Battlestar Wiki (http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Cylon-Related_Hallucinations), ‘both visions differ in personality from the people they represent; in both cases, the visions are confident and scoff at the failings of their subject; the real people remain guilt-ridden and indecisive’. This psychological mutuality seems to me to reflect Jung’s theory of the animus/anima, the ‘contrasexual archetype’ which, ‘as the feminine aspect of man and the masculine aspect of woman, … function as a pair of opposites in the unconscious of both’. (Stevens, 1994, p.71). Stevens’s description of the role of the animus/anima offers some striking parallels to the depiction of Baltar and Six:


Jung … found that in practice both anima and animus act in dreams and in the
imagination as mediators of the unconscious to the ego, so providing a means for
inner as well as outer adaptation. He described them as
‘soul-images’ and the ‘not-I’, for they are experienced as something mysterious
and numinous, possessing great power.

Stevens, 1994, p.71

The internal versions of both Baltar and Six are idealised, powerful and act as ‘mediators of the unconscious to the ego’, confronting the corporeal versions with the realities of their feelings and driving them on towards their destinies, whether internally or externally determined. Internal Six convinces Baltar he has a great role to play as the mediator between Cylon and human – a destiny which rings hollow after the events of the end of season two and start of season three – while Internal Baltar pushes Caprica Six into her assumed role of leader of a new Cylon ideology – to find a way to live in harmony with humans. The actions of the internal versions therefore complement each other, and reflect the unease which both characters feel at the hostility and conflict between their races. Six continually expresses her love for Baltar, and he, while less effusive in his declarations, is clearly infatuated – he develops a relationship with another version of Six who had been imprisoned and abused by humans (which again led to a massacre of humans with a nuclear bomb on one of the ships of the fleet), and resumes his relationship with Caprica Six when she arrives on New Caprica, where the humans have settled.

What light this sheds on the different theories of the internal versions of Baltar and Six is difficult to say. The internally-generated, psychological theory obviously fits the Jungian interpretation well, however if it is a case of implanted chips (problematic in the case of Internal Baltar), then it could still be interpreted narratively as a metaphorical expression of the theory of the animus/anima. The various theories are set out in the Battlestar Wiki at http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Cylon-Related_Hallucinations, and while ‘the answers remain unknown’, I feel that the strongly Jungian nature of the Baltar-Six relationship is a strong argument for the psychological theory and is a fascinating take on the motivations of two of the series’ most ambiguous characters.

5 comments:

Jan said...

This is a great article about my two most famous BSG-characters. Thank you very much for writing it :-)

boot-the-grime said...

I only found this page now, through Google search. It's amazing to find someone whose ideas match mine completely! My prefered explanation of the head people and visions on BSG is that there is some sort of 'stream' of collective (sub)consciousness (not pun intended!) which all the Colonials and the Cylons belong to, one that the Hybrids are able to tap into and where they derive their knowledge from. This could be what makes the Hybrids know so much about so many people they haven't even met, and maybe it's what makes them 'crazy' too (imagine having all those voices and pieces of info in your head!) Case in point: too many humans on the show have had head people and visions or projections (Baltar, Starbuck, Roslin, Bill Adama; Lee Adama had something that looked like a projection...) and they can't all be the last Cylon! Not to mention the visions of the Colonial Oracles. This 'stream' may be where the visions are coming from.

A couple of other Jungian archetypes which may be interesting for this discussion - The Divine Couple (Syzygy) and The Divine Child. Sounds a lot like the Opera House dreanm, doens't it?

Jane said...

Thanks for your comment boot-the-grime! Your theory on the collective unconscious being the explanation for all the visions is interesting indeed, and you're right about the Divine Couple/Child sounding remarkably like the Opera House visions. Someone really needs to write a comprehensive Jungian interpretation of BSG someday - sadly my Jungian knowledge is not up to the task of an extended interpretation but I think it would be fascinating to consider.

Cy Cyborg said...

this is a wonderful article! Boot-the-grime: I love your ideas and I believe they are correct. Head Baltar and Head Six (and Head Leobyn and Kara Thrace and god knows how many others there were) were not angels. I believe that is a fundamental misconception and misinterpretation of the finale.

Remember, according to Head Baltar, "It hates being called [God]"

Jane said...

Thanks Cy Cyborg! I wrote this way before the series ended and have to admit I found the angels explanation far less pleasing than my own theory had been, if that doesn't sound too arrogant to say!