Cylon (1978)

A publicity illustration of one of the original 1978 Cylon Centurions.

Cylons are a fictional race of robots in the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. They are the primary antagonists of the series and are at war with the Twelve Colonies of humanity. The Cylons also appeared in the short-lived 1980 spin-off series Galactica 1980.

An updated version of the original Cylon also appears in the re-imagined series: briefly in a flashback battle sequence in Battlestar Galactica: Razor, in hand-to-hand combat with a young William Adama after they had shot each other's fighters down; and several in the show finale "Daybreak", on board an old Cylon refuge known as "The Colony".

The Cylons were created by a reptilian race, also called Cylons. However, the reptilian race died out centuries earlier, leaving behind only their race of robots.


Imperious LeaderEdit

The Imperious Leader is the leader of the Cylon Alliance and most advanced Cylon model. According to the IL-Series Cylon Lucifer, the Imperious Leader is an IL-Series Cylon, although it does not look like an IL-Series Cylon.[citation needed] All of the Imperious Leaders look identical.[citation needed]

The Imperious Leader has a third brain and a body shell resembling the reptilian Cylons. The original novelization of the pilot episode states that the Imperious Leader's third brain is specifically designed to emulate the human mind (solely for the purpose of anticipating human actions). Since the novelization, however, also specifically describes the Cylons as living, organic reptilian beings, rather than robots, it is not clear whether the robot Imperious Leader has a third brain or not.[citation needed] The reptilian look of the Imperious Leader suggests the question whether actually all living Cylons have died out.[citation needed]

One Imperious Leader was killed at the Battle of Carillon (pilot episode). His successor was possibly destroyed during the Battle of Gamoray (episode: "The Living Legend, Part 2").[citation needed]

In the original 1978-79 series, the voices of both the Imperious Leader and Count Iblis are identical, having been provided by Patrick Macnee (who played Count Iblis on camera). In the Galactica 1980 episode "Space Croppers", the voice of the Imperious Leader was provided by Dennis Haysbert.[citation needed]


Although they look much more civilian than centurions, IL-series Cylons act as commanders for the military and governors for civilians of the Alliance[citation needed]. They have two brains, and a mostly transparent head through which various lights can be seen pulsing. They also have a metallic, humanoid face with two eye scanners (compared to the single eye scanner of the Centurion models), and wear clothing (full-length glittering robes). Two IL-series Cylons have been featured onscreen, both of which have an effete human-sounding voice, unlike the flat mechanical tones of Centurions. They are:

Two additional IL-Series Cylons are shown on-screen on the Cylon capitol of Gamoray during the Imperious Leader's visit, which occurred during the episode "The Living Legend, Part II". Lucifer refers to the second Imperious Leader as being upgraded from an IL-model like himself.

Command CenturionEdit

Command Centurion are Centurions with gold armor. These are the lower commanders for individual military units, though they can be responsible for entire Basestars and garrisons. The most well-known Cylon of this model is Commander Vulpa (so identified in The Cylon Death Machine, Robert Thurston's novelization of "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero"). Their voices are slightly lower pitched than regular Centurions.

In the novelization of the original series it is stated that there is an elite class of Command Centurions (referred to as First Centurions), roughly equivalent to feudal Counts, which act as executive officers to the Imperious Leader and are not subordinate to the IL-Series, and (like the IL-series) they were also said to have multiple brains. In the TV series these are actually seen on screen, though very rarely, and are distinguished from other Command Centurions by black bands on their gold armor. Vulpa was originally of this class but had been demoted and stationed on ice planet Arcta.


Military androids with silver armor. Basic Centurions make up the ground forces and pilots of the Alliance military. Although Earth's Roman Centurions commanded a unit of eighty men, Cylon Centurions form the rank and file of the Cylon forces.

Centurions are armed with a powerful energy weapon, often referred to as a blaster rifle. They also have bayonets and swords for close combat and the execution of prisoners.

Some Centurions in the series have been given names:

  • Flight Leader Serpentine from "Saga of a Star World", and Cyrus from "The Return of Starbuck" (Galactica 1980).[citation needed]
  • In the episode "The Lost Warrior", there is a Cylon Centurion that remained active after its ship crashed on the planet Equellus and was named "Red Eye" by the humans who found it.[citation needed]
  • In "The Night the Cylons Landed" (Galactica 1980), the Centurion accompanying the android Andromus was introduced as Centuri to humans in costume, but this might have been an attempt to disguise the Centurions true nature.[citation needed]

The Cylon Centurions—the type most often depicted in the original Battlestar Galactica—were strikingly similar to the Imperial stormtroopers of Star Wars (in fact, both were designed by the same concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie). The similarities were so strong that it was one of the factors that prompted 20th Century Fox's lawsuit for copyright infringement against Universal Studios, owners of the Battlestar Galactica copyright. However, the lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful.[citation needed]

Both the gold Command Centurions and the silver Centurions had their voices vocalized with the use of an EMS Vocoder 2000.[1]


There is also a unique Cylon with glittering robes, with a metallic humanoid face. They are seen in the Imperious Leader's delegation to Gamoray in "The Living Legend". This is evidently some kind of civilian Cylon, as Gamoray is said to have a very large community of civilian Cylons, though how civilian Cylon society differs from its military is never explored. This is the only known kind of civilian Cylons. However as they must have had some kind of admission to the reception of the Imperious Leader it can be assumed that they are not typical civilian Cylons; they were perhaps members of some kind of aristocracy.


The Cylon humanoid is a rather new model, probably first built long after the destruction of the Twelve Colonies of the Humans.[citation needed]

Although entirely mechanical beneath an artificial skin, the humanoid model is, in fact, an android, featuring a superficial, human appearance, as well as a condescending attitude toward the non-humanoid Centurions.[citation needed]

Two Cylon humanoids are featured in the episode "The Night the Cylons Landed" of Galactica 1980, one of which is named Andromus.[citation needed]


The Cylons are described as a devoted race that spends no time in any idle pursuits, and they employ several models, but only of necessary spacecraft, such as these:

Cylon FightersEdit

  • Cylon Raider: A heavy fighter with a crew of three, two pilots and a commander. They are armed with dual-firing laser cannons.
  • A-B Raider: An advanced variation of the Raider, crewed by three Centurions and two Cylon Androids. Seen in the Galactica 1980 episode "The Night the Cylons Landed" Part 1.
The reimagined series analogue of this is the Cylon Heavy Raider.

Cylon Capital ShipsEdit

  • Basestar: A large warship with two mounted pulsars and many laser turrets, carrying 300 Raiders, but with no visible engines.

Civilian or Dual Use Cylon ShipsEdit

  • Cylon Freighter: A cargo ship referenced in the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack[2] and ship that was responsible for the electronic jamming at the Battle of Cimtar in "Saga of a Star World".
  • Cylon Tanker: A ship for transporting the fuel "tylium".[3] The Cylons used at least one, if not two, to fuel their fighters at the Battle of Cimtar in "Saga of a Star World;" Apollo and Zac found the one conclusively so identified to have been emptied. Two others were encountered at the Battle of Gamoray in "The Living Legend".


In the 1978 Galactica movie and series and the 1980 spin-off, the Cylons were created by an extinct reptilian race that were also called Cylons, as related by Apollo in the premiere episode. In the episode "War of the Gods", Count Baltar mentions that the reptilian Cylons were ultimately "overcome by their own technology" (particularly after the Imperious Leader was created, despite having had a "slight error" in its programming),[4] and recognizes Iblis's voice as that of the Cylon leader, and Iblis counters that if that were true, it must have been "transcribed" over a thousand yahren (years) ago.[citation needed]

At the beginning of the series the Cylons are singularly devoted to the destruction of humanity. The war started when the Cylon Empire sought to expand into the territory of the Hasaris, and the Human Colonies intervened on behalf of the conquered Hasaris. Due to those events, the Cylon Empire now viewed the entire human race as a target.

Cylons are led by the Imperious Leader, an IL-Series Cylon elevated to a supreme leadership position over all Cylons. All Cylons, from the IL-series down, typically repeat the phrase "By Your Command" when responding to any order.

The Cylon Empire is also responsible for tributary powers under the aegis of the Cylon Alliance. The Ovions (an insectoid race enslaved by the Cylons and transported to the planet Carillon for mining purposes) are the only known member of the Cylon Alliance shown onscreen. Aside from the Ovions and (the defeated) Hasaris, the only other known race conquered by the Cylons are the Delphians, which are mentioned to have been exterminated in "The Living Legend."

Cylon society appears to be almost exclusively military. Until the discovery of Gamoray, which the Colonial fleet had targeted for its rich fuel reserves, no civilian Cylon outpost had ever been seen by anyone.

Official spin-offs/related worksEdit


  • In the novelization of the series pilot, the Cylons are described as a militaristic, reptilian race which has been conquering its way across the galaxy. The novelization is written by Glen Larson, the series creator, who originally intended the Cylons to be an alien species; and, in fact, dialog which was later edited out of "Saga of a Star World" illustrated this point. However, network censors were concerned about violence, so the Cylons became robots. By this time, two novels had been written describing the Cylons as multibrained aliens, so the Cylon Drone was invented to justify all the robots dying on-screen. As living, organic beings, the original Cylon troops could be promoted through the surgical implantation of a second brain. When a Cylon was elevated to Imperious Leader, he received a third brain.
  • The novelization of the original series states that an elite class of Command Centurions act as executive officers to the Imperious Leader and are not subordinate to the IL-Series. In the TV series they are distinguished from other Command Centurions by black bands on their gold armor and are very rarely seen. Vulpa was originally of this class but had been demoted and stationed on ice planet Arcta.
  • In the later novelization of the original series it is stated that there is a class lower than the typical Centurion, that of the Cylon Drone. Although appearing identical to Centurions, Drones are robots, not capable of sophisticated independent thought-- beyond following simple instructions to perform menial tasks.

Multibrain status and built-in lie detectorsEdit

The Berkley book series also explored two other aspects of Cylon design. The first is the development of multiple brain status. This allows Cylons additional thinking and deductive abilities. The second is an unexplained talent for knowing when a human is lying, which was suggested in the episode "The Lost Warrior".

Presented in The Gun on Ice Planet Zero book, the second of the two novels written before the network insisted the Cylons become robots, their multibrain status is the surgical inclusion of an auxiliary brain, allowing for higher-level thinking abilities. The command centurion and garrison commander on planet Tairac, Vulpa, demonstrated this ability.

  • Cylon centurions (the chrome soldiers) have single brain status.
  • Command centurions have three brain status.
  • Imperious leaders enjoy three or four brain status.
  • IL-series Cylons, such as Lucifer and Specter, have second brain status.

Comic booksEdit

According to the Maximum Press comic of Battlestar Galactica, just prior to the start of The Thousand Yahren War, the Cylons's Imperious Leader made a deal with the mysterious and demonic Count Iblis (meaning "Satan" in the Arabic language) to betray his entire race in exchange for power that would allow him to "become like Count Iblis". Count Iblis, however, having lied about the process of "empowerment", instead changed the Imperious Leader into a cybernetic entity, more machine than organic being. Enraged, the Imperious Leader swore revenge and became more and more driven by conquest and warfare.[citation needed]

In the Realm Press comic, the Cylons were originally led by a ruthless, conquest and expansionism-driven emperor named Sobekkta, one of the original living Cylons, who were a race of intelligent humanoid reptiles.[citation needed]

In Battlestar Galactica # 16 Berserker! During a planetary search, Apollo, unfortunately comes across a lone Mark III prototype Cylon. This advanced Cylon is more creative and adaptive like humans in its strategy making the Mark III more capable to defeat humans. However, the existing Cylons deemed this advanced Cylon prototype more a threat to them due to its unquenchable megalomania to rule so they marooned him far from the Cylon empire until needed (if ever).[citation needed]

Video gamesEdit

The Cylons also appear in the official computer game adaptation, which is a prequel to both the original and re-imagined series.[citation needed]


Larami came out with a bubble toy in 1978 called the Battlestar Galactica Cylon Bubble Machine as well as a line of other inexpensive toys.[5]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In the source code of Mozilla (and its Netscape predecessor), the indeterminate progress bar that slides back and forth—rather than rolling or filling up from left to right—is referred to as the "Cylon".
  • Two Cylon references can be witnessed in the Futurama series. In "Bendin' in the Wind", a Cylon is part of the musical duo Cylon and Garfunkel, a parody of Simon and Garfunkel. In "The Six Million Dollar Mon", Hermes has both a Cylon eye and a Cylon 'member' when in bed with his wife, LaBarbara.
  • In the Farscape episode "I Shrink, Therefore I Am", Crichton's ship is invaded by a race with bioengineered exoskeletons. "This is John Crichton paging the head cylon, pick up the phone imperious leader."
  • The classic Cylons have also appeared on The Simpsons on several occasions, the most notable in "Mayored to the Mob" during a sci-fi convention. There's a quick gag in a boxing arena where three Centurions square off against R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars. ("See the mighty robots from Battlestar Galactica fight the gay robots from Star Wars!") They easily pin C-3PO to the floor, and R2 refuses to help.
  • In the FOX animated series Family Guy, the host of 'KISS Forum' also hosts 'Battlestar Galactica Forum' on Quahog's Public-access television cable TV channel. He introduces the forum by putting a classic Centurion mask on and saying "Welcome to Battlestar Galactica Forum" in traditional Cylon computerized-monotone.
  • Several Cylons appear briefly in the South Park epic Imaginationland, as one of the evil fictional creations set free when the barrier between the "good" and "evil" halves of the imagination is destroyed by terrorists.
  • In the opening credits of certain seasons of The A-Team, Dirk Benedict watches a Cylon walk past (while at the Universal Studios tour), raises a finger and opens his mouth as if to say something, then gives up. Dirk Benedict played the character Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica series. This scene is later recreated on the animated show Family Guy.
  • In a third season episode of Knight Rider, "Halloween Knight", the episode villain is shown briefly in a Cylon mask. KITT's red LED forward scanner throughout the series, of course, is a homage to the Cylon's red eye, which oscillates back and forth while active while using the same sound effect. Both series were created by Glen A. Larson.
  • Cylons were the focus of a short skit on the Adult Swim program Robot Chicken, in which it is said that the original Cylon actors had so many problems walking around in their suits that they were constantly falling down.
  • Several Cylon Centurians make an appearance as animatronics in the Alien Attack ride in Beverly Hills Cop 3.
  • A Cylon lookalike robot is featured in the official music video for Bloc Party's single, "Flux".
  • In The Replacements episode "Space Family Daring", Riley finds a head of a Cylon in a cabinet on board the spaceship.
  • The re-imagined series shows that the original Cylon models were extremely similar to the ones from the original series. In fact, actual props from the original were used in the display cases containing a Cylon Baseship and the upper torso and arms of a centurion.
  • In the video game Persona 3 one of the items the player can buy is a drink called "Cylon Tea". (This could simply be a misspelling of "Ceylon", now called Sri Lanka, which is famous for the quality of its tea.)
  • The album Programmed to Love by British electronica band Bent features the song "Cylons in Love".
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Plankton's Army", Plankton uses a robotic fish that features a revolving light over its "eyes" that is highly reminiscent of the Cylons' eyes.
    • In another episode, "Komputer Overload", Plankton replaces his computer wife, Karen, with three robots made from random items lying around the Chum Bucket, one of which happens to be an old chrome-plated toaster, possibly meant to be a reference to the Colonials' nickname for the Cylon Centurions ("Toasters").
  • In the Dark Horse Star Wars comic series Tag and Bink, Cylons appear as the Emperor's Guards, Tag and Bink, in addition to many other references to other science fiction franchises.
  • In the CBS program The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon makes Cylon toast.
  • In the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Poppy's robot guard dogs have Cylon eye scanners.


  1. ^ Tompkins, Dave (2010). How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks. Stop Smiling Books. ISBN 978-1-933633-88-6. Most likely it was the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, happily embraced by those unimpressed with C3PO's fussy accent, too schooling, too parental—too human. The Cylons, with their glowing red wall-eye and silver armor, shiny like a lasagna pan licked clean. We wanted the Cylons to laser their names into Lorne Greene's eyebrows, even if they had to use subtitles while doing it. (The vocoder's lack of intelligibility did not suit Battlestar Galactica's prime-time slot.) When the Cylons spoke, they threatened to squeak-wipe humanity off the face of TV, in an EMS voice that said 'By your command' for 2,500 pounds per unit. ... When we reached Audiotron's house, he answered the door with the kindly gnomish squint of one who hasn't seen much daylight. He was three bites into a two-story heart attack on white bread. (Six franks on the bottom, two beef patties on top.) When we got to his room upstairs, the sandwich was placed on top of a vocoder—the EMS 2000 used by the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica—which sat on a bed flush to the wall.
  2. ^ Moss, David. "Audio". Battlestar Galactica Memorabilia. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  3. ^ "Colonial Fleets Gallery". Colonial Fleets. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  4. ^ "Battlestar Galactica 1978 - Origin of the Cylons". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  5. ^ Moss, David. "Larami". Battlestar Galactica Memorabilia. Retrieved 20 August 2010. Although Larami Corp made some of the worst Battlestar Galactica toys they did seem to make more than anyone else. So I have now had to make a section just for there [sic] amazing creations. This is by no means all of the items they made, but it gives you a good idea of the quality and quantity that were made.

External linksEdit