Are you alive?

It’s my email signature.

Some people put quotables from historical figures, some put their business titles and contact numbers. Some people put jokes. People who receive emails from my Yahoo account have probably read the phrase above (title) as my email signature. I’ll explain briefly where I got the phrase.

“Are you alive?” is the first line ever said in the Battlestar Galactica series (yes, it’s one of those entries again, as I fill in the gap that is the midseason break before the final 10 episodes air in January). The line is given by Cylon Number Six, played so well by Canadian supermodel Tricia Helfer. The video below (posted over YouTube) is the first four minutes of the Miniseries, first aired in 2003, which briefly explains the main narrative conflict between humans and their robotic enemies.

As the story begins, a human officer of the Colonial planets is sent as emissary to a remote space station, where humans and Cylons can hold diplomatic exchanges after the bloody war between the two. For forty years, the Cylons send no one. They don’t give a clue that they’re still around. Until one day, the hangar opens, and a stunningly beautiful woman walks toward the officer and asks curiously if he was “alive”.

Of course we know the answer is obvious. But such is the hallmark of this show that very frequently asks questions from the other side of the coin (Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City also asks questions in every episode, but not quite this way). Are you alive? Are you happy? What makes you tick? Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Are you fulfilled?

And the person that’s asking is a machine – intelligent, but artificial. There are no voiceovers or subtitles that say so. We just know that she is. The show regards its viewers intelligently.

A brief thought, and then the officer replies, “Yes.” He thinks, therefore he is. The woman in red leans forward, brings her face closer to the human’s and says, “Prove it.”

Are you alive? Prove it.

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