Although I’m running the risk of starting with something that seems like a non sequitur, I loved Due South as a kid. It was such a wholesome show, and to this day, it holds a special place in my heart. Given that statement, a big reason as to who my favorite Cylon happens to be is because he was played by Callum Keith Rennie, who I first saw on Due South.
I love Rennie. He’s kind of like Christopher Walken, but with better acting chops (#sorrynotsorry): he will pretty much be in whatever movie or TV show and will steal the fucking show. And he did not disappoint me as Leoben Conoy.
Out of all the models, Leoben fascinates me the most: he’s duplicitous and conniving, yet very spiritual and connected to the universe as a whole. While his missions usually involve sewing seeds of distrust, he seems to view himself as an instrument through which others can learn the Real Truth. It’s why he never appears to regret lying or telling half-truths to nearly everyone he encounters. It’s through Leoben’s obsession and interactions with Kara Thrace that start her down the path to realizing her destiny. This obviously does not excuse the psychological torture he puts her through, but as he would say, there is a purpose in all suffering (I’ll get back to this in a second).
One of the more interesting turns the character takes is before the beginning of the Cylon civil war. He sides with the Sixes and Eights by voting against lobotomizing the Raiders, who refused to attack the Colonial Fleet after they encountered Anders flying a Viper. It makes sense, given his character’s belief that every creature* is a child of God, but it’s his willingness to divide the Cylon’s unity that’s intriguing. The chasm between the different models is evident from the beginning of the third season, where they argue over their actions toward humans and when they box the Threes. But he is more than ready to commit Cylon-on-Cylon violence, truly showing how human the Cylons are, a concept Leoben would definitely embrace, especially if it meant bringing about the “end of all things.”
His search for love, which he wanted with Kara Thrace, reminded me a lot of Spike from Buffy, before he regained his soul. His attempts to force Buffy to love him, particularly in that awful rape attempt, and Kara’s contempt at his very existence mirror that of Conoy’s jailing of Starbuck on New Caprica. Like Spike, Leoben believes he is the singular person who can love the strong, complex woman of his dreams. In both cases, I view Buffy/Kara and Spike/Leoben as perfect matches, had they met and interacted with each other under different circumstances, but their respective issues – Spike’s vampirism, Leobon’s fanatical fixation, and their ways of handling rejection – remove any chance of a relationship to develop, in a healthy manner or otherwise. I don’t believe they should end up together in any form, since there is just too much to get past, but I’m glad both ended up having a mutual respect for each other.
Ultimately, Leoben’s complexity intrigues me. He’s not easily pinned down, and you can never really guess what his next move will be. He’s hopeful and patient, wise and cruel, clairvoyant and indecipherable. Even when he was vicious, I couldn’t stop watching. I wanted to see if what he said (“Adama is a Cylon”) was truth or lie, or somewhere in between.
Plus, you know … it’s Callum Keith Rennie, for god’s sake.
* I find it interesting that Boomer voted for the lobotomization, considering that in the first season, she’s seen treating the captured Raider as if it is an animal and encourages Tyrol to act as if it’s a “pet.”