Gaius Baltar may well be the most interesting SF villain since Khan Noonien Singh. A human seduced into collaborating with the Cylons on the eve of their genocide of the human race, he has been at turns tortured and arrogant about his role in the war. In last week's episode, ("Taking a Break From All Your Worries"), Galactica's crew took Baltar captive, and the interrogation scenes this week offered an intriguing exploration of sin, guilt, and redemption.
Baltar's guilt over his role in the destruction of humanity is palpable. He knows he has done wrong—by assisting in the destruction of his species, he committed perhaps the greatest sin in human history. The writers have been toying with the idea that Baltar may be a Cylon for some time now. This line of speculation has bothered me so far—it would weaken his character significantly if he were a Cylon—but in this episode the speculation reaches a fascinating conclusion when Baltar talks about wanting to be a Cylon. As a human being, he is the most hated person alive, a traitor to his entire species. But if he is a Cylon, then he has an opportunity to have his sins forgiven. Rather than having to accept responsibility for his mistakes, he can explain them as the result of his programming (and possibly even become a hero instead of a villain). If he were a Cylon, the revelation of that identity would be his redemption:
"I thought I might be one of them. I told them I wanted to be one of them... all my sins forgiven. A new beginning."
Baltar's desperate desire not to be human is symbolized in terms of baptism. While attempting suicide in this episode's opening scene, Baltar hallucinates his own rebirth on a Cylon resurrection ship. The pool in which this rebirth occurs becomes a baptismal font, and the white-garbed trio of Sixes around him the priests who welcome him into his new community.
But Baltar is not a Cylon (or at least we're not currently supposed to believe he is, and I for one hope it stays that way). His desire to be a machine is not the desire to be truly forgiven, but a desire not to be held responsible. Though he obviously feels guilt, he wants to simply pass that guilt off to "God's plan" (which, in Cylon terminology, is synonymous with "programming"):
"Mistakes were made, terrible mistakes. Were they mine? Am I solely to blame? I was a player, that's all. I was a player. I was struggling, trying to find my place in God's plan... I never intended for certain things to happen. Doesn't that matter?"He refuses to take responsibility for his sins, and therein is the essence of his villainy. What he wants is the opposite of redemption—not forgiveness for sins freely admitted, but an excuse for consequences beyond his control. His refusal to own up to his crimes shuts him out of two communities, symbolized by the conclusions of his two baptism hallucinations. In the first vision he is surrounded by Cylon Sixes, in the second by humans; but each hallucination ends with the community around the resurrection pool/baptismal font drowning him. Forgiving sins and excusing them are not the same thing, and Baltar's refusal to seek true redemption is what makes him an interesting character.