- This article explains what is known about the Colonial dating system. For the specific chronology of events in the Re-imagined Series, see Timeline (RDM).
Essentially, the Colonial calendar, as portrayed in the Re-imagined Series, is very inconsistent. While events are measured in the same units as on the real-world Earth, the dating system is not defined, complicating the plotting of events. Like the avoidance of technobabble, the likely reason for this problem is the avoidance by the show's producers from narrowing their storylines by establishing fixed dates and times. The closest depiction of an actual calendar is shown in the dossier of William Adama's career in the episode, "Hero" (see Adama's Dossier).
The Colonial calendar is fairly similar to the Gregorian calendar, using 24 hour days and approximately 365 day years. The best example of this is in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down," where Baltar says that each test takes 11 hours. As there are 47,905 tests, amounting to 526,955 hours worth of tests, this will take him 21,956 days, or 60.1534 years (as confirmed by Baltar's Internal Six), the same as it would on Earth.
Writers have introduced some inconsistencies which have led to "retroactive continuity" problems. These issues are detailed in the article, Continuity errors (RDM).
Analysis of Colonial Dates
In "Hero", William Adama's dossier can be clearly seen. While this document is fairly accurate in terms of Adama's personal history, the dating scheme used in the document seems to be flawed, particularly in lieu of previously established methods of timekeeping demonstrated in the series.
Here are a list of dates from Adama's past that the dossier contains:
- H5/21290 Birth of William Adama
- D6/21311 First commission, Battlestar Galactica, fighter squadron
- E4/21312 Commendation for shooting down Cylon fighter in first combat mission.
- D5/21314 Mustered out of service post-armistice
- R6/21317 Served as Deck Hand in merchant fleet and as common […] aboard inter-colony tramp freighters
- D1/21331 Recomissioned to Fleet
- D6/21337 Major: Battlestar Atlantia
- R8/21341 Executive Officer: Battlestar Columbia
- C2/21345 Commander: Battlestar Valkyrie
- C2/21348 Commander: Battlestar Galactica
This provides some interesting information. The fields in the format X#/##### appear to be dates, with the five-digit string following the solidus apparently corresponding to the year.
The following can be deduced from this document:
- This episode marks the 45th anniversary of Adama's commissioning, which puts it in the year 21356, and makes Adama 66 years old.
- Adama spent three years in between being mustered out and finding a job on a tramp freighter. We may speculate that it was during this time that his relationship with first wife Caroline deteriorated.
- Adama spent a total of 14 years serving in the merchant fleet.
- Adama met Tigh roughly 30 years ago (Torn). That would be 21326, which correctly puts it in the middle of Adama's merchant fleet service.
- Adama was a major by the time he arranged for Tigh to be reinstated in the fleet (Scattered), which means that at least six years passed in between Adama's recomissioning and Tigh's.
- Ronald Moore stated in his podcast for "Scattered" that the flashback scenes in that episode took place 20 years before that episode, or in 21334. In fact, they appear to span at least an eleven-year period between 21326 (Adama and Tigh's first meeting) to 21337 (Adama's promotion to Major).
- The first Colonial Day, marking the unification of the Colonies, was probably in 21302. The one celebrated in "Colonial Day" was the 52nd, and it is now two years later.
- Galactica herself is at least 45 years old. Other battlestar's minimum ages prior to the Fall: Atlantia at least 13, Columbia at least 11, and Valkyrie at least 8.
Additionally, an error occurs in "Hero". Dialogue from this episode claims that Adama served on Valkyrie one year prior to the Fall of the Twelve Colonies, putting the date of Lt. Daniel "Bulldog" Novacek's capture at 21352-53. However, Adama's command of Valkryie ended in 21348, which means that Adama commanded Galactica for eight years. It has already been established in dialogue from the Miniseries, "Act of Contrition", and "The Farm".
Inference about dating structure
If the five-digit string following the solidus is in fact the year, as seems inescapable based on the above, the letter-digit sequence before it must indicate the position in the year. There are 260 unique letter-digit sequences of that format, which may indicate a shorter year in the Colonial calendar, essentially a year of twenty-six ten-day weeks. However, what has been revealed about Colonial timekeeping is too incomplete to draw any conclusions.
However, if the above is to be inferred, a striking inaccuracy occurs because of this service record. Prior episodes have firmly established that the Colonial year is analogous to one Earth year of 365 days. In "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down", the Cylon detector takes 11 hours to thoroughly test each blood sample. As there are 47,905 tests (526,955 hours) this will take him 21,956 days, which Six then computes will take approximately 60 years, the same as it would here. The dating further established in "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II", "Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance", and "Occupation" also support this comparison.
It is astonishing to learn that the Colonials have -- or believe they have -- over 21,000 years of recorded history. By comparison, Pythia was said to have recorded her prophecies 3,600 years ago (The Hand of God) and the Great Exodus from Kobol took place just 2,000 years ago. On Earth, Human civilization is only about 6,000 years old.
Adama's resignation letter at the end of the episode appears to be dated in an entirely different format. While difficult to read clearly, it appears to be dated "27/89/9923".