TPBLAD means “the space between life and death” (its not an acronym!). When you die and “cross over” it is the thing that you cross. In BSG it is represented by a stream or river.
Laura: Mother. You’re okay.
Laura: I’m not ready…
She then wakes up to realise that Emily has passed away.
TPBLAD is a religious or metaphorical concept, it exists outside of both space and time. The hybrids can see into this place and because it is outside of time, it allows them to see the future. Use of chamalla may also allow access to TPBLAD and this is how the human oracles can see the future and communicate with the Gods. To a lesser extent, cylon Leoben can also see into this place. He can be viewed as the cylon equivalent of an oracle, however he never seems too certain of what he has seen.
Leoben: It is. But we have to see this through to the end. What is the most basic article of faith? This is not all that we are. See, the difference between you and me is, I know what that means and you don’t. I know that I’m more than this body, more than this consciousness. A part of me swims in the stream but in truth, I’m standing on the shore the current never takes me downstream.
In the episode The Hub, Natalie gets shot and dies in sickbay. The hybrid knows this has happened, even though the baseship is light years away…
Hybrid: Wingbeats of a dove drown out the heartbeats of those who follow. The Six is back in the stream…
The Hub is a device that taps into the stream. When a cylon consciousness enters TPBLAD, it is prevented from passing over and is instead, relayed to a ressurection ship where it can be downloaded into a new body.
The Lords of Kobol reside in TPBLAD, so they are neither alive nor dead. In this sense they can be viewed as Gods. It is the LOK that gave resurrection technology to the cylons and guided them into creating the skinjobs. This is why the skinjobs appear to have little idea of how their own technology works, they can’t build a new Hub and they have little understanding of the hybrid which controls the functions of the baseship.
The Lords of Kobol that helped the early cylons ‘evolve’ are known as the final five cylon models.
The Eye of Jupiter in the Temple of Five is a device that allows people to see into TPBLAD. It can be used to see the Final Five – the TPBLAD LOK. It does this by harnessing the power of the supernova.
Supernova create a big problem for both space and time. You can reference Einsteins relativity, singularities and such like to explain this, but its over analysing, all you need to to know from a viewer perspective is that this phenonemon is used within BSG to provide a link from normal spacetime to TPBLAD.
The Razor hybrid was hanging about near a supernova remnant. This is where the science team headed before they were captured by the guardians. The Razor hybrid can see into TPBLAD although its not entirely clear how this came about. However it is most likely that the creation of the hybrid, the “super weapon” by the early cylons is what allowed the LOK within TPBLAD to ‘infiltrate’ cylon civilisation and effectively take over, scrapping the old models while the guardians made a quick escape, taking the hybrid with them.
The Ionian Nebula is also the remains of a supernova remnant. This is where the Opera House figures first connected with the four mortal LOK and its also where Starbuck returns from the dead! At the same time there is a powerful EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) type event that shuts down all of the ships in the fleet. This is when the Final Four realize who they really are.
Lets also not forget the nuclear explosion on Caprica in the mini-series, after which Baltar mysteriously seemed to receive his head character.
The storm in Maelstrom is also another type of phenonemon that can connect normal spacetime with TPBLAD. It is here that Maelstrom.Leoben, one of the LOK in TPBLAD “finds” Starbuck. Leoben “stands on the shore of the stream” and it is from here that he can connect with Starbuck when she is on the verge of death.
In Six Degrees of Seperation, Baltar finally cracks under the constant preaching of the “one true God” from Head.Six. Head.Six then vanishes and is immediately replaced by a real person – Shelley Godfrey.
Head.Six: I’m trying to save your immortal soul, Gaius.
Baltar: No, what you are doing, darling, is boring me to death with your superstitious drivel, your…your metaphysical nonsense. Which, to be fair to you, actually appeals to the half-educated dullards that make up most of human society but which I hasten to add no rational intelligent free-thinking human being truly believes. Which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Cylons are in the final….that Cylons are, in the final analysis little more than toasters…with great looking legs. It’s my fantasy, see if I care. I’ll, dream up someone new, maybe. Brunette, maybe….
Shelley Godfrey is reported to have vanished into thin air shortly after Baltar, under pressure for his own survival finally repents and shows signs of believing in God after all. So it’s clear that Shelley Godfrey was sent by Head.Six as a response to Baltar’s ridiculing of her faith. As soon as Shelley vanished, Head.Six reappears. Remember that Head.Six is one the LOK that reside in TPBLAD.
Shelley Godfrey is an exception in that she appears in Season 1, when the show wasn’t entirely mapped out so I suspect there will never be a straightforward explanation for her, however it is clear that she was created by Head.Six from TPBLAD and she couldn’t have been a mass illusion since the show clearly told us she was real by allowing us to see that she had left her glasses behind.
(See TPBLAD and Time Travel! for a perfectly logical explanation of Shelley Godfrey)
Shortly after Sharon finds out she is pregnant, Baltar has a “dream” in which Adama appears to be drowning Hera in a river. This scene can be interpreted as one of the LOK in TPBLAD releasing Hera into the river so that she can become Sharon’s child. So TPBLAD isn’t just a place you pass through after you die, but also a place you come through prior to birth.
(See The Conception of Hera)
(See TPBLAD and Time Travel!)
River or stream?
There may well be a difference between the river and the stream. The river seems to come across as a real religious concept familiar with us all, the thing we “cross over”, whereas the stream seems to be something that the cylons, specifically Leoben talks about that may be a lesser version of the river. Streams also flow into rivers. Either way they are similiar enough to be metaphors for the same thing and the “dream” in which Adama appears to drown Hera in a river is enough to assume that the show is simply using similiar words as metaphors for the same thing.
I can only explain TPBLAD by giving you some examples of the part it plays in the show. The rest is up to you! Personally I would fall short of trying to precisely define it for two reasons…
- We still don’t know if the show has a supernatural or super AI computer theme. Both work well.
- Explaining its very nature isn’t neccessary to be able to accept its place in the show. Its a concept within the BSG universe that shares similarities to religious and metaphorical ideas of life and death and heaven and hell.
Either way it appears that the Lords of Kobol exist in this place, and its from here that they can play out Gods plan of rejuvenating mankind through a cycle of destruction and rebirth. Hera being placed in the river is a big clue as to how they initially take mortal form through reincarnation.