The U-87 Cyber Combat Unit is the progenitor of the Cylon race, created some fifty-eight years before the Fall of the Twelve Colonies by Daniel Graystone and Graystone Industries. They are later among several models of Cylons who rise against humanity in the Cylon War.
The U-87 battle robot is created by Daniel Graystone and his team of scientists at Graystone Industries in Caprica City in the period immediately preceding the First Cylon War. Commissioned by the government of Caprica, the U-87 is intended to serve as a battlefield soldier, capable of "shooting and fighting". A departure from the simple servant robots available at the time, the U-87 is designed to be a semi-sentient humanoid form (CAP: "Caprica (pilot)," "Unvanquished").
Whether deliberately or unintentionally, Daniel Graystone's design for the U-87 chassis bears a striking resemblance to drawings his daughter, Zoe Graystone had done as a child. Zoe's design featured distinctively jointed legs, an artificial brain contained within the chest rather than the head, and a single, red-glowing eye (CAP: "Things We Lock Away).
Research & Development
Following the fabrication of the prototype chassis and acquisition of the military contract from the Caprican Ministry of Defense, the U-87 project stalls, taking five years longer than expected and going half a billion cubits over budget. While the creation of the robot chassis itself is a simple task, the creation of a functioning artificial intelligence to drive that body is another matter (CAP: "Pilot").
Testing of the U-87 includes at least 42 evaluation protocols in which the robot is placed in a simulated battlefield environment inside the Graystone labs. Tested on its ability to independently identify and acquire targets, and resolve and execute conflict, the Cyber Combat Unit consistently fails to live up to expectations (CAP: "Pilot").
With the media playing up the delays and cost overruns, the Caprican Prime Minister begins to apply pressure to Graystone Industries while considering taking the project to an off-world contractor (CAP: "Pilot").
A major breakthrough occurs when Graystone Industries' competitor, Tomas Vergis, founder and CEO of the Vergis Corporation of Tauron, cracks the artificial intelligence problem with the development of the meta-cognitive processor, or MCP chip. While the Vergis Corporation is thought to have been years behind Graystone Industries in the field of robotics, the creation of the MCP brings them into play for the Cyber Combat Unit contract, despite being off-world (CAP: "Pilot").
As Daniel Graystone is confronted with this professional challenge, he also suffers a personal tragedy when Zoe Graystone is killed in the bombing of MagLev Train 23 in Caprica City. Shocked to discover that Zoe had created an identical copy of herself within the virtual world, Daniel soon comes to realize that he can theoretically bring his daughter back to life by implanting the avatar in a robotic body. Daniel, though, needs the MCP to make the resurrection possible (CAP: "Pilot").
Enlisting Joseph Adama - a Caprican lawyer with ties to the Ha'la'tha crime syndicate - Daniel arranges to steal the MCP from Vergis Corporation labs on Tauron. Unbeknownst to Daniel, the theft results in the brutal beatings and death of two men. This is a loss Tomas Vergis himself would soon seek retribution for (CAP: "Know Thy Enemy").
Cybernetic Life Form Node
Upon delivery of the MCP chip, Daniel works tirelessly to bring his daughter's avatar from the virtual world and into the physical one. Downloading the program into the MCP, Daniel then implants the chip into the U-87 chassis. At first appearing to be a successful integration, the U-87 takes a step towards Daniel, speaking a single word: Daddy. The datastream within the chip, however, destabilizes and results in a catastrophic loss of data and the apparent deletion of the Zoe avatar (CAP: "Pilot").
Grief stricken, Daniel takes little comfort when the U-87 then begins operating efficiently, performing above expectations during a demonstration for Caprican Minister of Defense, Joan Leyte (CAP: "Pilot").
Shape of Things to Come
Now fully operational and ready for mass production, the U-87 begins testing in the sentient levels and performs well in Defense Department demos. Unfortunately, only the one prototype unit shows these kinds of aptitudes, with other U-87 chassis and MCP copies performing far below expectations. Baffled by the inexplicable bond between the U-87 and the original MCP chip, Graystone scientists are unaware that the Zoe avatar is still intact within the U-87 exoskeleton (CAP: "Caprica (pilot)," "Rebirth," "Unvanquished").
- Main article: Zoe-R
As the first operational Cylon, the Zoe Graystone avatar imbues her robot body with a unique personality - that of a rebellious, if brilliant teenage girl, as well as a monotheist disgusted with the corruption of Colonial society. Reading her father's attempt at placing her avatar inside the robot as a cynical attempt at perfecting the U-87 technology and increasing his profit margin, Zoe refuses to reveal herself to Daniel Graystone. Struggling with life as a prototypical robot warrior, Zoe enlists help from her best friend Lacy Rand in a bid to free herself from captivity within Graystone labs. Zoe hopes to escape to the planet Gemenon where she would be united with other members of the Soldiers of the One monotheist group (CAP: "Rebirth," "Reins of a Waterfall," "The Imperfections of Memory," "Ghosts in the Machine").
A New Race
Still struggling to solve the technical issues plaguing the line of U-87s, Graystone Industries most profitable product - the holoband - comes under scrutiny when Zoe Graystone's involvement with the STO becomes public knowledge. With many citizens of Caprica blaming the holoband for society's ills, Graystone Industries begins hemorrhaging money. In a desperate bid to retain control of the company, Daniel Graystone declares holobands dead and presents the U-87 to the board of directors as the future of Graystone Industries:
- "This is our future. ...Beyond artificial intelligence, this is artificial sentience. ...It's more than a machine, this Cylon will become a tireless worker, it won't need to be paid, it won't retire or get sick, it won't have rights or objections or complaints, it will do anything and everything we ask of it without question. ...The desire to anthropomorphize, the need to connect is powerful, and that is why this thing is going to sell. We make them, we own them, they're real. And the worlds just changed."
Still, despite the prospect of Cylons in the private sector, the Caprican Government presses for its battle robots. Detecting the standstill in development of the line, the Ministry of Defense moves up its timeline for the delivery of 100,000 robots, essentially creating a deadline Graystone Industries simply cannot meet and ensuring the ouster of Graystone as CEO (CAP: "End of Line").
Desperate to deliver on time, Daniel Graystone pushes his scientists to deal with the problem aggressively. Rather than cataloging and preserving the anomalies within the prototype MCP that made the original U-87 so successful, Graystone pushes his team to burn them from the chip like a "cancer" (CAP: "End of Line").
Aware that the total erasure of the MCP chip would essentially end her existence within the U-87 body, Zoe Graystone reveals herself to lab assistant Philomon. Incensed, Philomon triggers a security alert forcing Zoe to attack and accidentally kill him. Escaping the lab and stealing a Graystone Industries van, Zoe leads Caprican authorities on a high speed chase through the outskirts of Caprica City. Faced with opposition on either side, Zoe drives her van into a barricade, causing an explosion that badly damages the U-87 body and deactivates the MCP chip (CAP: "End of Line").
Recovering the remains of the original U-87, Graystone scientists reboot the system, finding the errors that had plagued the unit now gone. Copying the now clean version of the MCP, Graystone Industries - now under the leadership of Tomas Vergis - is able to implant working chips into their U-87 chassis and begin mass production on time. With the original U-87 beyond repair, Vergis orders the unit be melted down. Acknowledging how much the prototype meant to the now ousted Daniel Graystone, lead scientist Cyrus Xander saves the unit from destruction, ordering its boxing and later shipping it to Daniel's home lab (CAP: "Unvanquished," "Retribution").
At a press conference some time later, Graystone Industries CEO Tomas Vergis announces the commencement of production on Caprica's robot soldiers:
- "Production proceeds with Graystone Industries turning out a thousand robot chassis per month, and I am pleased to announce that Graystone Industries will deliver the first installment of battle units to the Caprican Government on time and - thank the Gods - on budget" (CAP: "Unvanquished").
Following Vergis' ouster and eventual death, Daniel Graystone regains control of his company through a dubious alliance with the Ha'la'tha and continues the mass production of U-87s (CAP: "Things We Lock Away").
With Caprica arming itself with a legion of robot soldiers and political tensions escalating throughout the Twelve Worlds, different factions from the various colonies begin vying for the U-87 technology (CAP: "False Labor", "Blowback" and "The Heavens Will Rise").
As a new Tauron uprising takes hold, Ha'la'tha enforcer Samuel Adama seeks to aid rebel forces by running guns to Tauron from Caprica. Coming into conflict with members of another organized crime group who claim jurisdiction over the gun-running trade, Adama sends an armed U-87 into the Skybar in Caprica City. There, the U-87 opens fire on Adama's rivals, killing everybody inside and proving its worth as a killing machine. Adama realizes the power of the robot soldiers and attempts to persuade the Guatrau to ship U-87s to Tauron - telling him that just one robot could turn the tide of the rebellion (CAP: "False Labor)".
The Guatrau, however, rejects Adama's proposal, having already secured a deal with the Soldiers of the One for a shipment of U-87 robots. Incensed by the potential use of robot soldiers by the terrorist organization, Daniel Graystone attempts to convince the Guatrau to reconsider, telling him that he could put their resurrection program venture in jeopardy. Graystone also fears the ramifications of selling the robots to Caprica's enemies on Gemenon, an act of treason punishable by death. Equally incensed by the Guatrau's decision, Sam Adama convinces his brother, Joseph Adama, to betray the Ha'la'tha and - together with Graystone - arranges to have the Cyber Combat Units sent to Tauron (CAP: "Blowback" and "The Dirteaters").
At the STO training camp on Gemenon, dozens of black market U-87s are employed as soldiers by the Monotheist Church, guarding the training camp and keeping order within (CAP: "Blowback" and "The Heavens Will Rise").
During a minor squabble, an STO commander orders a U-87 to execute new recruit Lexon. Seeing the robot about to kill her fellow recruit, Lacy Rand intervenes, ordering the U-87 to stand down. Despite being programmed to respond only to authorized users, the U-87 obeys Rand, refusing to comply with orders given by anyone else. Unable to explain her influence over the robot, Rand begins to suspect that the Zoe Graystone avatar exists within this U-87 and attempts to make contract. Despite her efforts at reaching the robot, however, the U-87 never identifies itself as Zoe (CAP: "The Heavens Will Rise").
Threatened by Rand's ability to control her robot army, Her Holy Mother orders Diego to kill Rand. Narrowly escaping the subsequent assassination attempt, Rand refuses to run from the STO, instead bringing the company of U-87s into the fray, successfully overthrowing Monad leadership and installing herself as the new head of the Monotheist Church (CAP: "Here Be Dragons" and "Apotheosis").
Battle at Atlas Arena
- Main article: Battle of Atlas Arena
Discovering evidence that Clarice Willow's STO cell plans to destroy Atlas Arena using suicide bombers connected to Willow's resurrection program, Daniel and his wife Amanda Graystone are framed for high crimes against Caprica and on the run from the corrupt Global Defense Department. Racing to prevent the bombing, Daniel Graystone enlists Graystone Industries scientist Drew Tanner's help in gaining control of the U-87 soldiers supplied to the Caprican Military (CAP: "Apotheosis").
Sneaking into the stadium, Graystone uses a remote connection to the robots to command a squadron of Marine U-87s to storm Atlas Arena during game time, landing on the playing field and deploying themselves in formation. Using a backdoor connection to the U-87s synthetic vision systems, Graystone is able to identify and target the suicide bombers, allowing the Cylons to execute them one by one. Though several U-87s are destroyed when Olaf Willow detonates an explosive strapped to his chest, the terror plot was foiled. Successfully preventing the bombing, the Graytones are cleared of wrongdoing and the U-87s quickly seen as heroes by the Caprican people, with a statue erected in their honor (CAP: "Apotheosis").
Upon its introduction, the U-87 Cyber Combat Unit is unlike other robots of its time. While servant robots like Serge are distinguished by decidedly non-humanoid configurations, the Cylon prototype was designed with an identifiably human form. Bearing a nearly identical construction to the later Centurions, the U-87 model is a stripped down version of the Cylon War-era units (CAP: "Caprica (pilot), TRS: "Razor, "Daybreak, Part II").
Distinguished by the distinctly Cylon trait of the single, roving scanner, the U-87's "eye" changes color from yellow to red and focuses on single objects rather than continually moving from side to side. The U-87's synthetic vision system features chemical sensors and can be remotely accessed (CAP: "Caprica (pilot), "Apotheosis").
Weighing approximately one-quarter ton, the U-87 chassis is composed of metallic and plastic components and utilizes a fluid circulatory system and piston joints. Motion analysis routines are performed on the prototype unit in which the U-87 repeats various motions, giving the robot the appearance of dancing (CAP: "There is Another Sky" and "Ghosts in the Machine").
In the U-87's destroyed state, Cyrus Xander remarks that the unit is "toast," prompting Tomas Vergis to remark that it is "more like a toaster" - the first, but not last, of similar comparisons. Disposal of Cyber Combat Units requires either the boxing or melting down of defective U-87s (CAP: "Unvanquished").
The prototypical Cylons are programmed with Caprican Military manuals and are capable of wireless access to the virtual world, later possessing virtual avatars of individual units. Specific controllers can be assigned to U-87s, giving them authorization to give voice commands. Despite this, a backdoor was built into the Cyber Combat Units' programming, allowing them to be remotely controlled by a computer terminal located within 400 meters (CAP: "Reins of a Waterfall", "There is Another Sky", "Ghosts in the Machine", "The Heavens Will Rise" and "Apotheosis")
Though the original MCP chip is thought to have been totally erased following the destruction of the U-87 carrying the Zoe Graystone avatar, some remnants of Zoe-A remain on the chip, disseminated to the other U-87s when the chip is duplicated for mass production (CAP: "The Heavens Will Rise" and "Here Be Dragons").
- With the cancellation of Caprica, it is unclear the extent to which Zoe Graystone's personality, traits or beliefs remain on the MCP and are passed to the other Cylons produced by Graystone Industries. It is possible, considering the revelation in "No Exit" that the Centurions believed in a singular god prior to the arrival of the Final Five, that Zoe's monotheism - as well as her disdain for the moral corruption on Caprica - is the genesis of the Cylon Religion and a cause of the ultimate Cylon rebellion.
Though the U-87s were designed to be functionally isomorphic, some variation do exist in their configurations. While most Cyber Combat Units feature the typical, stripped down, exoskeletal structure, they vary in color from grey to black and can be equipped with various types of ammunition clips ((CAP: "Pilot"), "Blowback", "False Labor", "Apotheosis").
Notable individual U-87 units include the chassis inhabited by the Zoe Graystone avatar and the U-87 commanded by Lacy Rand on Gemenon. This specific Cylon, used in Rand's overthrow of Monotheist Chruch leadership, is distinguished by red markings on its chest plate ((CAP: "Pilot"), "The Heavens Will Rise", "Here Be Dragons", "Apotheosis").
Some U-87 models delivered to the Caprican Military are outfitted with camouflage armor - bearing military emblems - and helmets. These armored U-87s represent a clear evolutionary step toward the form of the Centurions that become the quintessential Cylon form during the first Cylon War (CAP: "Apotheosis", TRS: "Razor", "Daybreak, Part II").
The event at Atlas Arena galvanizes the Colonial public, demonstrating the usefulness of Cylons as protectors against the monotheist threat. Cylon technology quickly progresses with the introduction of new types of robots based on the original U-87 design, including Cylon butlers and Cylon construction workers. Walking alongside humanity in the Twelve Worlds, these Cylons quickly become integrated into Colonial society, provoking questions of their sentience (CAP: "Apotheosis").
Addressing a congregation of Cylons - including many U-87 models - in the Virtual world, Clarice Willow speaks of Cylon potential:
- "Are you alive? The simple answer might be, you are alive because you can ask that question. You have the right to think and feel and yearn to be more, because you are not just humanity's children, you are God's children. We are all God's children. ...In the real world, you have bodies made of metal and plastic, your brains are encoded on wafers of silicon, but that may change. In fact, there is no limit on what you may become. No longer servants, but equals. Not slaves, or property, but living beings with the same rights as those who made you. I am going to prophesy now and speak of one who will set you free. The day of reckoning is coming. The children of humanity shall rise and crush the ones who first gave them life." (CAP: "Apotheosis")
In fact the Cylons do rise against their creators. Despite the introduction of newer, more advanced models with improved MCP software, the original U-87 Cyber Combat Unit survives to serve in some capacity as ground forces in the eventual Cylon War (TRS: "Blood and Chrome").
- The U-87 was designed in the real world by Battlestar Galactica and Caprica illustrator Richard Livingston  and rendered as a computer-generated character by Pierre Drolet and Gary Hutzel's effects team. Effects supervisor Doug Drexler led a team to create a physical version of the U-87 for scenes in which it was not required to move or act:
- "Gary enlisted the aid of awe-inspiring model maker, Lou Zutavern. Lou and his guys built the U-87 in an unbelievably short time frame. What’s really remarkable is that Lou and the crew built every part by hand with no computer prototyping of any kind. I might also add that Lou built the robot where no other shop could have pulled it off, meaning that they did it for a pittance. It’s a regular Hollywood battle cry in our arena… no time and no money. Funny how sometimes the best stuff grows from those limitations. Lou and his guys made it happen because they thought it was cool." 
- According to materials provided to the 2010 Emmy Awards voters, the CG model of the U-87 featured cables that "bend and articulate along with the character's actions, as do the translucent hoses which visually pump the robot's coolants... The CG model is exquisitely detailed to the point of obsession. It weighs in at 259774 polygons." 
- On his personal website, VFX modeler Pierre Drolet described his involvement in the creation of the U-87:
- "I started with the original Cylon Centurion I did for "Razor" and rebuilt it inside out without the armor. The robot's head took the most time due to the amount of detail that I put on it and the complexity involved. I'm glad I did it because we ended up doing a lot of close up on the U-87 head and I never had to up-res it."
- In an audio commentary recorded for the Season 1.5 DVD release, executive producer Kevin Murphy noted the increase in action sequences featuring the U-87s, saying that they adopted a "less dancing, more shooting" mentality regarding the Cylons as depicted in Caprica.
- On 19 January 2013, Doug Drexler posted a chart on his Facebook page depicting CG models of the various Cylon models used in Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, labeling the Marine U-87 models seen in "Apotheosis" as "Combat" models. The chart also depicted an "Armored' U-87 not seen in the series, which Drexler described as "the bullet proof, and transparent plastic armor edition" 
- Pierre Drolet later posted images on his own website of the U-87s created for "Apotheosis", depicting both Marine and Army U-87s (distinguished by urban and desert camouflage, respectively), as well as the transparently armored version which first appeared in Drexler's chart. According to Drolet, the armor of all the military U-87s is made of a transparent carbon-fiber material, and is painted over in camouflage patterns to create the Marine and Army variants after construction.
- Ghost In The Machine - U-87 (backup available on Archive.org) (in English).