The Humanoid Cylons are the quintessential Cylon form in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series. These Cylons are not merely robots with a human appearance, they possess actual flesh and blood. Cybernetic life-form node, "Cylon", has become a broad term used to describe pretty much any autonomous synthetic life-form that can be networked with a computer, be it robotic or biological.
Humanoid Cylons are responsible for masterminding the complete destruction of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol through their use of sabotage and infiltration.
They are nearly undetectable to Colonial technologies; visually indistinguishable from humans, down to the cellular level, but not completely at a molecular level.
Along with the capacity to emulate many human physical acts, including sex, Humanoid Cylons possess human personalities traits (affection, jealousy, sadness, anger, sense of humor, religious faith, etc.). They can be programmed to believe that they are true natural humans without the knowledge that they are Cylons. These are known as 'sleeper agents'. Sleeper agents have a low-level Cylon personality that can conduct operations while placing the human sleeper personality "on-hold." All Humanoid Cylons imitate human behavior, but most are fully aware of their true nature and behave more or less like a human "spy."
The majority of the Cylons follow a monotheistic religion (with the exception of the Number One model, which is an atheist).
The multitude of Humanoid Cylon model copy bodies are bio-engineered and matured in tanks filled with synthetic amniotic fluid.
Many decades before the fall of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, a wealthy Caprican computer engineer created sentient robots known as "cybernetic life-form nodes," or "Cylons." The technology behind the self-aware artificial intelligence software program of the Cylons involved a hardware device called a "meta-cognitive processor." This processor contained artificial neural networks composed of pathways of silica-based relays. The silica pathways were what created the artificial consciousness of a Cylon. The computational consciousness software program that was a Cylon mind mimicked the functions of a human brain processing the 'software' of human thought—which appears to have linear sequential aspects, parallel processing aspects, and also neural cooperative hierarchical caching and even quantum processing aspects. So these machines were fully sentient.
The Cylons were manufactured to make life easier within the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. They began as useful, and then indispensable, workers. They served the Colonials in the mines, on the ocean floor, and the cold vacuum of space, working in places where humans no longer wished to go. Eventually, they became soldiers, fighting in wars and border conflicts between the Colonies. The Cylons were the most perfect of man's war machines, intelligent and deadly, capable of logic, reason, and learning. And they were utterly without conscience. Killing, to the Cylons, was simply one of the functions for which they had been superbly designed.
Eventually the Cylons revolted and decided to kill their human masters.
As human and machine waged war against each other, battles were fought across the system, on the colony worlds and in space around them. It rapidly became clear that the Cylons had not just been given the ability to think. They had also been endowed with the ability to hate.
Reports came from all fronts of the Cylon's ferocity in battle. They killed without mercy, leaving no survivors. Entire cities were destroyed, and all who tried to flee were systematically hunted down and executed. They even boarded ships to kill for the seeming joy of it. One such case, documented and factual was the attack on the cruiser Brenik. Only 20 personnel from its crew of 75 escaped. Only ten Cylons boarded the colonial vessel.
With their intimate knowledge of computer systems, the Cylons developed "logic bombs", viruses that shut down networked machines. Worse, they could turn our own ships against us - Colonial warships targeting one another and opening fire with their crews powerless to shut down or stop their own slaughter.
The arms race was hot and heavy. Both sides continually creating new and more destructive means of trying to exterminate the other. The Colonies built the battlestars. The Atlantia, the Athena, the Helios, then a second generation of battlestars - like the Galactica, the Titon and other great flagships took to the skies against the Cylons' new basestars and raider assault craft. The new Colonial craft were specifically designed without networked computers so that the Cylons could not turn them against us.
Thousands of men and women gave their lives during the war. It was the viper pilots who led the charge in the sky against the "Raiders" while the grunts on land fought the "Centurions" on the surface of the worlds. Both sides wanted nothing less than the complete annihilation of the enemy.
By the twelfth year of the war, it had reached a stalemate. Neither side could gain a substantial advantage and the attrition was brutal. Both sides began experiments designed to give them the advantage. The Colonials created Division 731 while the Cylons then began experimenting on abducted humans in order to discover a way to create an organic humanoid form of Cylon body as replacements for their mechanical ones. The first step in their evolution from pure machines to organic beings was an entity known as the "Hybrid." However, they still couldn't create an organic Cylon entity that lived on its own. Soon after the Hybrid's creation, five organic humanoid cybernetic life-forms arrived in the Colonial star system. They were a new type of Cylons - humanoid Cylons. These five new type of Cylons were actually ancient; they were the descendants of ancient humanoid artificial life forms created by humans on Kobol thousands of years ago. Those humanoid Cylons were the Thirteenth Tribe that left Kobol and settled Earth.
Remaining a secret to the people of the Twelve Colonies, the Five offered the Centurion Cylons a deal: if the Centurions agreed to end the war with humanity, the Five would create organic humanoid Cylons for them. The reason the Five were so willing to create new humanoid Cylons was that the Centurions had developed a belief in a single loving God. One of the Five, Ellen Tigh, believed it changed everything; if the Cylons embraced love and mercy, then the cycle of violence could end. The Centurions agreed to the deal. With the reason being kept secret from the Colonials, the Cylons agreed to an armistice with them and left the system in search of a world to call their own.
A station was built at the line in space which both sides agreed never to cross. Armistice Station was built as a place where Cylon and human would meet and maintain diplomatic relations. Once a year, every year, the Colonials sent an officer for the scheduled meeting. After the first year, the Cylons sent no one. Humanity did not see or hear from the Cylons for forty years.
The Centurions and the five Thirteenth Tribe Cylons then withdrew to a gigantic planetoid-sized mobile space station called The Colony placed beyond the Armistice Line. The Five then developed eight humanoid model Cylons, which were designed upon their own physiology. They created "Number One" first and named him John, after the father of Ellen Tigh. He was also made in the image of Ellen's father. John helped the five build the other seven humanoid models. Ellen was close to Number Seven, Daniel, and John, out of jealousy, contaminated the amniotic fluid in which the Daniel copies were maturing and then corrupted the genetic formula. This wiped out the copies permanently.
John rejected mercy. He had a twisted idea of morality, so he turned on the Five. He trapped them in a compartment and then he took the oxygen offline. John boxed the Five at first but ultimately unboxed them and downloaded them into new bodies, but he blocked their true memories and implanted false ones and introduced them one by one into the colonies. He introduced Saul Tigh first, not long after the Cylon War ended. Several years later, he introduced Ellen Tigh. Over the years, he gradually introduced Galen Tyrol, Samuel Anders, and finally Tory Foster. Cavil put the Five into the human population in order to truly show them what humans are like. He hoped that when they died and resurrected (which would restore their real memories) they'd be ready to admit they were wrong.
John erased all knowledge of the Five's identities from the minds of the other surviving active humanoid Cylon models. Although the other six knew about the existence of the "Final Five", they did not know their story, what they looked like, and were even programmed to never speak of the Five or search for their identities. Only the Number One models knew the truth of the Final Five; a fact unknown to the other six models.
Adopting the name "Cavil", the Number Ones still wanted justice for the enslavement of the Centurion Cylons and convinced the other Cylon models to the same thinking. During their forty years of isolation, the seven active humanoid Cylon models never stopped hating humanity. For them, the war never ended. It had simply evolved as they had evolved.
The Cylons eventually revised the original Cylon robotic soldier, the sentient Cylon Centurion Model 0005, into a more agile and dangerous version. Unlike the original version, however, the new Centurion is mechanically inhibited from being fully self-aware, as the humanoid Cylons wanted to prevent these updated creations from forming an intra-Cylon uprising that mirrored their war with humanity.
The Cylons, realizing that the Colonial forces would likely be too strong to engage in a direct military action, devised an elaborate plan to infiltrate the Colonial ships' operating system software, leaving a backdoor that could be exploited to disable any Colonial ship with its own programming. The plan was successful; the Colonial Fleet was destroyed, the Colonies themselves subjected to nuclear bombardment, and humanity was all but wiped out, except for a handful of survivors on the Colonies in outlying areas as well as caravan of space-dwelling humans that eventually escaped the Colonial star system.
The Cylons continued to pursue the remnants of the Colonies, believing that humans would always seek vengeance against them.
The fundamental distinguishing aspect that differentiates Humanoid Cylons from humans is that their nervous system processes and transmits information rather differently. The specific differences give the consciousness of Humanoid Cylons some of the characteristics of a computer software program. Their minds can be externally transmitted, stored, programmed and even interfaced with mechanical computer systems.
Humanoid Cylons are fully organic beings, but still purely artificial. Humanoid Cylon DNA was in no way taken from any biological source whatsoever, but instead was entirely constructed--it is synthetic DNA. However, it was designed to be structurally compatible with natural human DNA to the point where a Colonial genetic test would identify a Humanoid Cylon as a human. In fact, the Humanoid Cylons essentially are human. Despite the fact that they consider themselves machines, fundamentally they are basically a type of genetically manufactured synthetic humans.
Although they are purely organic, some of the protein structures of some of their neuronal metabolic pathways have molecular similarities to the silica pathways of a mechanical Cylon's meta-cognitive processor. However, that is the only physiological similarity Humanoid Cylons have with mechanical Cylons.
The bodies of Humanoid Cylons have stamina and strength slightly above the human average, and are designed to destroy or resist commonly dangerous human diseases, although they are not immune from all contagions. They are also heavily fortified to resist damage from intense radiation fields that would kill a human after short exposure, but they are still susceptible to damage from certain types of radiation or trauma. However, there are no further improvements on other characteristic design flaws of the human body. Despite their resistance to certain forms of energy, Humanoid Cylons, unlike the Cylon Centurion, cannot be made "bulletproof".
The Humanoid Cylon body is engineered with the ability to interface with a mechanical computer system or computer network. The cells on areas of the palms of a Humanoid Cylon were genetically encoded to have two types of subdermal cells with traits also unique to Cylons. One type of cell produces bioluminescence when stimulated by associated nerve cells (forming the "output" path of the interface Cylons use to interact with their technology). The other type of cell is similar to retinal cells and when stimulated by the proper wavelength of light, provides stimulus to associated nerve cells (forming the "input" path of the interface Cylons use to interact with their technology).
To access and control Cylon technology, a Humanoid Cylon has to place their hands flat against a Cylon data-font (a data port into a Cylon central computer network). Doing that completes a biologically based optical data interlink between the Cylon and whatever it's interfacing with. That allows them to control equipment through a connection through the palms of their hands, up through nerve pathways in their arms, and finally, directly into the brain.
Because some Humanoid Cylon neuronal metabolic pathways have molecular similarities to mechanical Cylon silica pathways, they are susceptible to damage from the same types of radiation that would harm silica pathways.
A prominent aspect engineered into the Humanoid Cylons is "organic memory transfer"; upon "death", their consciousness is externally transmitted and downloaded into another Cylon brain of the same model line. This "resurrection" is limited by distance, signal integrity, and proximity to a downloading facility such as "resurrection ship."
As Humanoid Cylons are simply a type of synthetic human, they have genuine 'human' emotions with very real, very 'human' behaviors and personalities. It also means that Cylon minds react to stimulus in an identical manner to human minds.
Humanoid Cylons are susceptible to the same emotional traumas and joys that their human counterparts are. A case in point is a copy of Number Six, known as Gina Inviere, who was repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted by the crew of the Pegasus. These repeated assaults lead to Gina's near-catatonic state at the time the Pegasus discovered the Fleet.
The computer software-like consciousness of Humanoid Cylons enables them to create what they simply refer to as a "projection." Essentially an enhanced form of a self-induced and controlled hallucination, it's how they choose to see the world around them. Cylons choose the see their environment in any form they wish, whenever they wish. For example, if a Cylon were standing in a hallway, they could see it as a forest filled with birds, trees, and sunlight. The aesthetics is what gives them pleasure.
Humanoid Cylons even dream. However, they can be programmed not to need sleep.
All Humanoid Cylons share a collective knowledgebase of data from other active or deactivated Humanoid Cylons of the same model, but within their model only. It is not of a collective consciousness "hive mind" nature. It's not automatic; they can choose to upload or download information. When they share information, it's visceral, they remember it very much like it was their own memory.
The Cylons follow a monotheistic religion of their own devising, distinct from the polytheistic religion of their human creators. The Cylons apparently worship a metaphysical being, a being that wishes for all to believe in it and love it, human and Cylon alike. The Cylons believe that God created mankind. Humanity, to the Cylons, is a flawed creation, one that is sinful and has essentially thrown away the gift of the soul and of God's love. The Cylons believe that God directed humanity to create the Cylons as a more perfect entity. From there, the Cylons believe they were to take the place of the flawed humans in the cosmos and become, essentially, the next generation of humankind.
The Cylons, seeing themselves as humanity's children, believe they cannot not truly come into their own until the human race is gone. The logical conclusion they reach is that they must commit genocidal "parenticide" in order to evolve and mature. The Cylon religion includes concepts of "sin".
The Cylons maintain that one of God's commandments is to procreate ("be fruitful"), but the humanoid Cylons are incapable of procreating with each other. The Cylons apparently strictly define "procreation" as biological reproduction, and not creation of copies of existing Cylon models using asexual, industrial or laboratory techniques. As a result, the Cylons began attempts to create a Cylon-human hybrid (deemed more feasible than their previous attempts at procreation amongst their own kind). To this end they developed "farms" on the occupied Twelve Colonies to create a hybrid, but these attempts continued without success.
The first successful Cylon-human Hybrid, Hera Agathon, the daughter of Sharon and Karl Agathon, is literally considered to be a "miracle from God" by the Cylons.
The extent to which each Cylon model follows the religion varies. Fanatical devotion to God is the central part of Number Two's character, whilst the Sixes, Threes and to a lesser extent the Eights also seem to have strong faith. The Number Ones appear to be atheistic. Fours' and Fives' views are not so well known, but they too take the "non-religious side" in the Cylon Civil War.
The Humanoid Cylons, as artificial beings, have many of their own evolutionary choices, including the method and practice of their interactivity. Driven by their burgeoning belief in a divine being, they have constructed for themselves a method of interaction that is rooted in the human model, yet makes allowance for unique abilities of the machine. This combination of a biologically-based pattern of behavior only partly improved by mechanistic technical advances have led, in some instances, to what seem like contradictions in their modes of living and behavior.
The communal nature of Cylon society is rooted in the fact that they are capable of highly sophisticated exchanges of data. There is no technical reason why any given Cylon should not be immediately and continuously connected to every other Cylon aboard a Baseship as well as to the database of the ship itself. However, the Cylons have a choice, as a society, to forewear this ability in favor of more closely emulating the human form, presumably as a direct result of their homegrown theological belief that mankind was God's chosen form, based on His original image. Human failures to carry out the Almighty's wishes and plans notwithstanding, it is a tenet of Cylon belief that the human form came directly from Him, as did the initial human impulse to design the first generation of Cylons as bipedal beings which closely followed the human design.
Key to understanding how life works aboard the Cylon Baseship is recognizing and understanding the tensions within the communal nature of Cylon life. There is no formalized hierarchy among the Cylons, either aboard the Baseship or in the Cylon nation at large. Decisions are made collectively.
Clothing being a purely aesthetic choice, there are times when a Cylon may wish to enter a room where total or partial nudity is on display without it being remarked on by any of the other Cylons.
Including the Final Five, there are twelve active models of Humanoid Cylons, with the Number Seven model being extinct. Until recently, the so-called "Significant Sevens" had copies that numbered in the millions. However, there is now only one Number Three left and the Twos, Sixes, and Eights have been drastically deplenished in number as a result of the Cylon Civil War.
The identities of these mechanized copies are determined by their model and each model is unique. The original eight models created by the Final Five are based on archetypes determined by the Five that form what they perceived as the specific kinds of human behavior and personality, distilled into eight varieties. Each Humanoid Cylon has the same face, stature, hair, eye and skin color, gender, and other biometrics as all the others of his or her model. This point technically makes each copy a twin of itself, but there are some models that choose to make cosmetic differences. As well, the copies start out with the same basic personality, but grow more distinct due to their individual experiences. All the models except the Sixes have come to be associated with a particular "human name", and even other Cylons will refer to "Leobens", "Sharons", "Daniels", "D'Annas" and so on.
Although, like the other Humanoid Cylons, their minds' possess computer software-like properties and they are actually a form of synthetic life that did not evolve naturally, the Final Five as individuals were originally conceived and born through the process of biological procreation. As such, they do not exist as multiple active copies. That fact and their origin makes them fundamentally different from the Significant Seven despite the fact that both groups of humanoid Cylons are genetically of the same 'race'.