March 3rd, 2007

cylons_moon

toasters

A old classic ep of Star Trek:TNG was on a few weeks ago, where Data (an android) is put on trial to determine if he's the property of Starfleet or has the right to choose his own path. In it the judge referes to Data as a "toaster" and I wondered if perhaps this is where BSG got the term for the Cylons from, though thought this was a bit of a stretch (I'd momentarilly forgotten about Moore's involvement in TNG).

Then I was just checking out the author George R. R. Martin's website, having just finished his excellent novel "A Game of Thrones", the first in his epic fantasy series, "A Song of Fire and Ice". I wanted to see what the deal was with HBO picking up the novels as a TV series. He has a bunch of pages on his website, including one about what he's watching (such as BSG!), and he also noted the "toaster" reference from Star Trek:TNG, though had a lot more insight about its origins than I:

"BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - 12/03/05

The new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA on the Sci-Fi Channel has been a pleasant surprise. While I would not put it in a class with ROME or DEADWOOD, the episodes I've seen to date have pretty damn good... and certainly much better than godawful original series, the one with Lorne Greene that fans used to mock as BATTLESTAR PONDEROSA. It is easily the best thing on the Sci-Fi Channel (it puzzles me how the Sci-Fi Channel can start with a classic like EARTHSEA and turn it into drek, and then start with drek like BATTLESTAR PONDEROSA and turn it into something quite watchable, but there you are) and the best space show in many a year.

I am intrigued to note that the humans on the new GALACTICA call the Cylons "toasters" as a perjorative. As best I can recall, this was never used on the original show. My guess is that they picked up the usage from "Measure of a Man," one of the few good episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, written by Melinda M. Snodgrass. This was the episode where Data is on trial to detemine if he is man or a machine; during the trial, he is referred to as a toaster. Ron Moore, who created the new GALACTICA, worked on the NEXT GEN with Melinda, and was certainly familiar with her "toaster" usage.

Melinda in turn borrowed that riff from Walter Jon Williams, who had Dr. Travnicek call Modular Man a "toaster" in his WILD CARDS stories way back in 1985-86... though Modular Man appeared in our SuperWorld games long before WILD CARDS, and it may be that "toaster" (as applied to a mechanical man rather than a device for burning bread) made its first world appearance some late night in one of our games.

It bemuses me to think that a witticism first tossed out in a RPG has now entered the common parlance of SF, via WILD CARDS, STAR TREK, and the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Toasters of the galaxy, unite."
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