There are those who believe that the Cylons were created by man.
Some believe that they were created by a race of highly advanced lizards who used them as foot soldiers in the war to exterminate humanity.
Well, it’s time to bring the rampant speculation and flame-wars to an end. Today, on the 30th anniversary of Battlestar Galactica, the true origins of everyone’s favorite red-eyed, robotic menace will finally be revealed…
You want to know where the Cylons came from? They were created by this guy:
No, this isn’t a spoiler pic of some evil robot scientist from the upcoming Caprica, the person you see here is the real deal – the man who put ink to paper thirty years ago and fleshed out the look of Starbuck and Apollo’s chrome-plated foes.
Ladies, gentlemen and daggits, I give you Andrew Probert – father/creator of the Cylons.
IN THE BEGINNING
I tracked down the famous designer/illustrator to see if I could cajole him into revealing the nuts and bolts (har har) of the Cylons’ conceptual history, a request he was only too happy to oblige (and it didn’t even take a Landram full of cubits).
Probert’s thirty-year career has been wide and varied, although his greatest claim to fame stems from serving as Senior Illustrator for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Do you get goosebumps when you see the Enterprise-D or feel your pulse rush at the sight of the updated Romulan Warbird? Thank this guy.
But before giving Starlfeet a facelift was even a twinkle in Andrew’s eye, he was hard at work whipping the Cylons into shape.
Glen Larson had initially hired famed designer Ralph McQuarrie (hot off the heels of Star Wars’ success) to create a series of illustrations to help sell Galactica to ABC. Once the show was picked up and pre-production began in earnest, Probert was brought in to pick up the ball and evolve the look of the soon-to-be-robots.
“My initial concepts emerged from Ralph McQuarrie’s Cylons and the design for the show’s ‘Imperious Leader’, with it’s step-down mouth area.” Probert explained.
“Glen Larson wanted the helmet to have a skull-like appearance (which is what I originally submitted) but in the end, the final modeling skewed more toward Darth Vader. Also, although it was eventually changed to chrome, my original colors were dark greens under a dark kind of bronze-copper metal.”
“After the prototype helmet was started, I was asked to provide concepts for the entire suit. The one requirement was that it should have “high-waisted” proportions. Starting with the front, where I echoed the helmet’s ‘mouth-area’ horizontal slats, placed just under the chest (those ‘slats’, incidentally, were there originally to duplicate the Cylon Fighter cockpit windows, as a way of providing a subconscious visual unity).”
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Since the original series didn’t have the luxury of anything-you-want CGI, the Centurion design needed to take into account that people would have to be placed inside.
“My first concern was getting the actors to see out of the helmets,” explained Probert. “Very small holes were eventually added to provide visibility for them. The remaining pieces were designed after researching historical suits of armor, observing how various elements were crafted to allow as much free movement as possible. Starting with that as a basis, there was a bit of experimentation and fitting of prototype pieces until everything worked.”
Many assume the Cylon Centurion was influenced by Roman Centurions, but Probert quickly dispelled this long-held belief. “I actually came up with the idea of modeling them after ancient Greek helmets, along with their top crest, playing on the idea that these “ancient astronauts” might have influenced our ancestors,” he revealed. “Strengthening that similarity, I also added a skirt and short-sword. Riding on that idea, I started sketching Galactica’s pilot helmets with an Egyptian theme which were subsequently designed by Joe Johnston.”
THE BIG QUESTION
Andrew was also able to finally settle a point of contention that has been argued since the show began – were the Centurions always supposed to be robots? “
“Originally the Galactica motion picture (for overseas distribution) was filmed with dialog explaining that the Cylons were creatures,” Probert confirmed. “They were blind and created helmet scanners to see. That explains the helmets. Then, since their suits could also allow them to survive in space, I provided a back-mounted support system. Also, after several viewings of Star Wars, I didn’t want these bad guys dropping their weapons like the Stormtroopers did, so I included an arm-mounted weapon on their right wristband. The giant hockey gloves that were added made those pretty useless and the Cylons ended up carrying (and dropping) guns after all.”
“The living Cylons were changed to robots for the TV series because of an hourly body-count limitation for prime-time television. There was, however, no limit to how many robots could be ‘killed’ per hour so they became robots and dialog was revised to explain it all.”
I asked Andrew how he might have designed the Cylons differently if not encumbered by the man-in-a-suit limitation. “I probably would have really gone after that skull-like appearance and proportions, assuming the (then) living creatures inside were some sort of alternately-evolved humanoid-types,” he said. “If they’d been robots from the beginning, I might have provided the lower portions with a mono wheel, allowing them to maneuver over any terrain, and their tops would have multiple appendages for a variety of evil grasping and/or shooting tasks.”
What might the Cylons have looked like if Probert had a crack at them today? He sent me this never-before-seen sketch, explaining “nine years ago, someone asked me what I thought the ‘next generation’ of Cylons might look like. This was my first response.”
Many thanks to Mr. Probert for taking time out to dig into his archives and share this rare glimpse into Cylon history. If you’d like to see more of his work and keep tabs on what he’s up to, visit his website: http://probertdesigns.com
———————– WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE? ———————–
Click HERE to read about the re-invention of the original Cylons for RAZOR
Quienes Mas Macho? Stormtroopers or Cylons? Find out HERE
Want to buy a Cylon costume? Visit Kropserkel