What really happened to Starbuck?
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
If you are a Battlestar Galactica fan and you watched last Sunday's Maelstrom, then there is no doubt in my mind what you have spent at least a couple of days thinking or talking about what is perhaps one of the most important episodes in the series. Even Ron Moore characterizes it as an important turning point in the show, "page one of chapter three" to be exact.
In Maelstrom, Kara succumbs to the call of the sirens and gave herself up to die. She did so with the faith that there was something more for her beyond the veil. But many fans are having a difficult time accepting her death. And I am one of them. So in my grief, the only kind of grief you can have for a fictional television character mind you, I have searched for answers. In that search I have come across primarily three different theories as to Kara’s fate.
First, the obvious: Starbuck really is dead. She is not coming back. I do not put it past Ron Moore to do something this bold, but I simply cannot believe Kara’s aforementioned “destiny” was merely to die, by suicide no less. Kara has always been the most important character of the series, so I just can’t imagine this being the direction the writers want the story to go.
Second, the other obvious and cheap ploy: Starbuck ejected at the last moment and survived. And perhaps she was rescued by the cylons. I suppose this is possible if you can’t accept her death, but man, talk about cheap. Again, I have too much respect for the writers to think that they would employ something as easy as this.
Finally, the third theory, the one I think has the most credibility among the three listed here, is that Starbuck is a cylon. I have even heard people theorize that Kara is a "hylon", or a human-cylon hybrid. But regardless of whether she is a cylon or hylon, this story arc will all be resolved when Kara is downloaded into a new body and we learn that she is one of the final five cylons models we haven’t seen yet.
This certainly would be a shocker for the episode and no doubt would appease the fan base by not having Katie Sackhoff out of the series. But it is still too easy and I don’t think it challenges us on more critical and intellectual level. At the core of Battlestar Galactica is a theme that lies at the heart of many Science Fiction stories: an attempt to understand and explore what defines us as human beings.
Battlestar routinely explores that philosophical question by constantly blurring the lines between human and cylon. Battlestar challenges us in the way the Sopranos challenges us, by making us sympathize with and even grow to like the people we are supposed to despise, fear and hate.
But my theory is different, or perhaps it is better characterized as a combination of several theories: I believe that Kara is most definitely human, and that she did in fact die when her ship exploded. But immediately upon her death she was downloaded into a cylon body. In this way she transcended her human form and became a cyclon.
I like this theory because of its implications to the ultimate question "what defines us as human beings?" Is it our mortality that makes us human? Does the fact that I can be downloaded into another body mean that my memory and experience is less of a defining characteristic than I think? And if I can be downloaded, does my humanity come with me to the new body, or is it lost? In other words, is my humanity defined by my corporeal form, or by some other more ethereal quality?
Regardless of Kara's real fate, which we will no doubt have some resolution to in coming episodes, I think Battlestar will be best served by choosing a path for Kara that will continue to challenge how we perceive ourselves as humans. Because whether you are a fan of the show or not, whether you like the scifi genre or not, it is that question that in some way propels us all, isn't it?