Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Battlestar Galactica- He said

Battlestar Galactica has become one of the most talked about modern TV shows of our times. It is still one of the most complex and heartfelt dramas with truthful observations of human nature…when hope is taken to its bare minimum, how we as people can and would react. Battlestar Galactica, has been hailed as political, religious, and social commentary but what struck the biggest chord with me was the “human drama element” of it, as well as the philosophical part of the show. If it says anything, it makes the concept of faith, destiny, and freewill seem more logical than how most people explain it. The show is really good about showing the both sides of everything. It almost feels that in life you can’t ever take one extreme approach or the other. Very much like the freakish fusion of Anders as the hybrid for Galactica at the end, most of the conflicting and opposing themes of the show diverge and converge into each other in harmony.

The series starts with the worst genocide that has occurred in mankind’s history with the initial destruction of the 12 colonies. The colonies are based on the God of Kobol, which is their polytheistic religion dominates this world. The most important worlds in the series are Caprica and Tauron where most of the protagonists are from. The concept of religion, differing ideologies and how we use them to help us get through is one of the biggest themes in the show. I find it interesting that time and time again, using false hope and religion in order to manipulate people into having hope is seen as a good and justifiable thing. This is mostly what Bill Adama and President Rosalyn do for the better part of the series. First Adama tells people that Earth is what they are looking for in order to create a new home. It is truly one of the most moving scenes of the whole series, where you see thousands of terrified humans feel hope and purpose in this obviously dangerous situation. It is interesting that the show is fantastic at letting you see the two sides of an argument, even when you don’t realize it. While Adama and Rosalyn were okay with letting people believe that they knew where Earth was, by the end of season 2 where Rosalyn rigs the election against Gaius Baltar she caves in to morality, and as a result thousands of people die in the ensuing New Caprica fiasco. The question is where do you justify it? On one hand you had people that die for the moral piece of one person, and in the other people probably found the will to live because a person found the hard thing to do, possibly as a detriment to their own well being.

The religious conflict between the Cylons and Humans has always been the most interesting one in the show. The Cylons believe that the Judeo-Christian doctrine of one all knowing and all-powerful god, where destiny is one of the overlying concepts. The humans believe in the aforementioned polytheistic religion; the heads of those are the Lords of Kobol, which are based on Roman/Greek gods and mythology. Religion was indeed used as a way to keep people get through this rather huge pickle they seem to be in. I almost feel that as an atheist I might almost see faith as a useful thing. Same thing with the Cylons; they are essentially super smart machines. They became aware and, very much like our ancestors, felt like they needed a purpose higher than the confusing existence that is being a freaky weird machine. And for whatever reason, they chose to have a one single God to help and give the purpose in their life. (The reason for this seems to be unknown although the new Caprica show will probably answer this). One of the coolest things that were found in the middle of season 2 was Kobol, which ideally is where their ancestors and gods were from. What they find instead is a ruined planet full of what appeared where human sacrifices. The cynic in me was overjoyed at the fact that they were proven their gods were false idols, but even then, Rosalyn’s or anyone else faith seemed to suffer little from that. It actually took finding a radioactive Earth to finally break people’s spirit. People started to revolt; Dualla committed suicide, and, in a particularly moving scene, Rosalyn burned her bible. It seems that faith can only take you so far, but in this pivotal scene it also shows that no matter how bad things get there is a little thing called human spirit that can get you through. The strength that some of these characters had been amazing when you think of the stuff they’ve gone through.

The most obvious allegory that applies in the real world to me is that of the “war of terror” the 360 degree war zone that many soldiers experience in the Middle East. There are obvious references and similarities of the “insurgents” hiding as every day civilians and the “skinjob” cylons that are the main antagonists of the series. More striking is the really messed up scene where # 2 blows himself up in a corridor of Galactica while the humans still haven’t figured out who all is one of the skin jobs. This is a good metaphor and also shows there is no clear cut way of determining the good guys and the bad. Considering how the black market still functions in the fleet, and a doctor was willing to let a certain religious sect die off out of sheer prejudice, shows humans can be horrible in their darkest hour. And all at the same time, you have Caprica Six, who was the model Cylon that helped with the destruction of Caprica; she feels complete remorse and guilt for her actions and even wants to try to make amends with the humans in a sincere if not horribly misguided way. So are the humans the good guys because they truly have been wronged or is it just because we follow their side of the stor?. In The Plan mini-movie, we see that, yea, there are bad Cylons such as Cavil, but even the copy of #4, who had a wife and adopted child, commited suicide because he could not bear to harm them. The point is that, there is to much of a grey line to decide on the morality of these factions without some bias.

Now as a slightly convoluted point, I want to bring up the concept of destiny and free will. Now my diminutive counterpart completely disagrees with me on this but at the same time I feel like I need to discuss it. Kara freaking Thrace, Starbuck, the harbinger of Doom, super drunk-hot-shot-pilot-extraordinaire, is what I would usually call a nihilist. She also in so many ways was told that she had a greater destiny and purpose, which is why her mother abused her. During their quest to find earth, Kara began to have visions and premonitions about trying to find it. During the season 3 finale, she goes into a cloud searching for a version of Leoben in which she tells Lee, “Let me go,” and promptly explodes. As a twist, she comes back to life now filled with more visions involving her childhood and for coordinates of Earth. At the end of the final battle, thanks to her visions of a song her father taught her, she input the coordinates on the FTL drive that took them straight to earth. After they arrived down on what ended up being “our” Earth, she once again talks to Lee and then disappears saying that her work is done. Let’s go with the fact that I interpret that Kara as being a celestial, dare I say angelic, being. The way I see her return is a way of “God” giving us enough free will, but at the same time has enough of a hand in our affairs to see someone’s destiny come to pass. Here, Kara needed to be the one that brought everyone to earth, but since she died, God brought her back to fulfill it. Going along with the theme of this essay, it goes to show that in a way destiny and free will could feasibly go hand in and hand, at least in the universe of the show.

In the end this is a show that will inspire a ton of discussion if only because like most great works of art and film it will stay relevant and exciting. The show has so many universal themes that it is guaranteed to be just as famous as Star Wars and Star Trek in the world of sci-fi. So say we all!

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