Lisa hates Battlestar Galactica. When I tried to watch the season 4 premiere last week, she refused to be in the same room with me. I had to change it to something else. I think she even starts tossing and turning in her sleep if I watch it in bed on my portable video player!
This is, of course, a crying shame. Battlestar Galactica is a science-fiction show, but it’s not your “usual” Sci-Fi dreck. It’s not a simple “Old West” story dressed up in futuristic design (like Star Wars). It’s not a soap opera set in space… and it’s not mindless entertainment (like a lot of Sci-Fi in the past few years). Galactica is a story about people, and how they behave and interact with each other in desperate times.
The story behind Battlestar Galactica is this: a race of human beings somewhere in the universe created a bunch of robotic slaves called Cylons. The Cylons eventually became “self-aware” and rebelled against their human masters. A war of epic proportions broke out, and neither side was able to gain a full victory. So a cease-fire was called, and for 40 years there was an uneasy peace between the humans and Cylons. One day, however, the Cylons launched a massive attack on the human settlements (called the “Twelve Colonies”). Almost all of the humans on these planets died in a nuclear holocaust. A handful of people on the various planets survived, but the bulk of the survivors were people in transit on spaceships. One of the surviving ships was the Battlestar Galactica, a giant spaceship (a cross between an aircraft carrier and battleship) left over from the human\Cylon war. The remaining ships gather around Galactica and this “rag-tag fleet” begins searching for the mythical “Thirteenth Colony”… Earth.
So… that’s it in a nutshell. But there’s so much more than that. The Cylons, you see, originally looked like robots, so much so that humans gave them the disparaging nickname “toasters”. But the Cylons have spent the past 40 years working on making Cylons that look and act just like humans. These “new” Cylons are so nearly identical to humans that “real” humans cannot tell the difference. They bleed just like humans. They have real “human” skin. They look just like a “real” human under an x-ray or CAT scan. In fact, there are only two ways to tell when a “human” is really a Cylon: the first is when\if they suddenly act crazy and try to blow up a ship. The second is when people discover “copies” of the Cylons (there are only 12 “models” of “human Cylon”, so when an exact duplicate of someone that doesn’t have a twin brother\sister shows up, you know that they’re Cylons).
As you might guess, the humans freak out when they discover that the Cylons have figured out how to make “people”. Witchhunts aplenty begin popping up all over the fleet. An “Us vs. Them” mentality rears its ugly head, and much of the first season of Battlestar Galactica will be uncomfortably familiar to most Americans in this post-09/11 world. In fact, you could substitute the word “terrorists” or “Islamic militants” every time someone on BSG says “Cylons” and you would have the same conversation that’s taking place all over America today. At some point, many “human Cylons” (and those suspected of being “human Cylons”) are tortured in scenes eerily similar to Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Just as in todays’ America, many of the humans in Battlestar Galactica oppose profiling and torture, and there’s an ongoing battle between the military and civilian leadership for control of the fleet. Sound familiar?
And I haven’t even mentioned theology yet. The humans, you see, are polytheists. Like ancient Greeks and Romans, the humans worship a panoply of gods and goddesses. The Cylons, on the other hand, are monotheists, who believe that they were created by the humans acting through the One True God. To the Cylons, humans are imprefect, while they themselves are perfect creatures created in God’s own image. Again, does this sound familiar? Interestingly, it seems that the One True God of the Cylons also gave them a certain measure of free will. At the beginning of the series, Cylons are somewhat similar to Terminators – simple robots hell-bent on carrying out their missions. As Cylons interact with people, some of them begin to change. One of the Cylons, Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii, foe example, falls in love and starts siding with the humans. Towards the end of season 3, a chasm develops between the Cylons, where some of them continue to work towards the complete annihilation of humanity in general, while other Cylons that want to “work with” the humans to find a middle ground that everyone can be happy with.
I’ve left gigantic holes in my summary of Battlestar Galactica. I haven’t even mentioned Gaius Baltar, the show’s resident “is he evil or not?” character. Suffice it to say, if you haven’t watched Battlestar Galactica, you’re really missing out.
Current human population: 39,676