In the Battlestar Galactica TV show, some of the Cylons were born and raised as normal people, yet others seem to have only been grown in the resurrection ship(s). Is there something about the final five which differentiates them? Was this ever explained in the show?

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This is actually covered quite clearly during the show itself. It's a bit spread over episodes, but the main explanation comes in season 4 episode 11 (Sometimes a Great Notion) and 15 (No Exit). If you haven't gotten that far, the remainder of this post is a major spoiler.

The big reveal is that the thirteenth tribe that left Kobol for earth was not a colony of humans but a colony of cylons. These cylons originally had 'resurrection' but became more and more humanoid and lost the technology in favor of regular reproduction, however it is implied they are still 'immortal' (don't die of natural causes). The so called final five all worked in the same technical facility on earth 2000 years prior to the events of the show. They somehow knew total nuclear annihilation was coming and re-invented resurrection. After they died during a nuclear holocaust they resurrected in a ship and started traveling back to the 12 colonies but without jumping technology it took about 2000 years.

When finally arriving they discovered the human/ai cycle had once again occured and humans were at war with the cylons (centurions). The centurions were trying already to create humanoid cylons (lead to the hybrids). The final five promised to help them complete that research, including resurrection, if they stopped the war. As a consequence of this they created 8 non-born cylon models, that were however slightly different from themselves (e.g. they could not reproduce and there were many copies). In the show we see only seven because one was destroyed (out-of-universe reason: they needed to explain the numbering gap because boomer was called an 'eight' early on).

so tl;dr: The final five actually created the other cylons seen in the show and while these creations were modeled alike, there were some differences introduced.

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    You got all that from just watching the show?! I feel like I didn't actually watch it! :-) It does occur to me there were there no copies of the final five. Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 7:43
  • @TomRussell All of that is in the show, but the Final Five comic book also explains some the finer details of their story much better (the original Cavil and Ellen, Saul's dad & Pythia, what Cavil's did to the 7s, and the war between original Cavil and Micheal Tigh, ect). Then Caprica preq. tv series, EPs seemed like they were also going to expand upon the the technicalities about stopping the Cylon War on the 12 Colonies with the creation of the 8 as Galen was allegedly going to meet Zoe A in V-World during season 2, which suggests they may have been more involved with the war. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 20:47
  • The episodes that really make this stuff clear are Sometimes A Great Notion and No Exit. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 21:10

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