Monday, October 09, 2006

On Battlestar Galactica Heroic Cylons Battle Vicious Terrorists

Some are calling the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica the best show on television so I decided to check out the season premiere to see what all the hype was about. It turns out to be even better than I had heard. The Sci Fi Channel show is a moving and haunting allegory about why we should stay the course in Iraq. The heroes are a deeply religious race, called the Cylons, who struggle to bring democratic ideals and Christian values to a planet called New Caprica (Iraq, of course) in the face of an increasingly violent insurgency. In a clever and ironic twist the Christian Cylons (Americans) are actually very human-like machines, while the villainous "humans" on New Caprica (al Qaeda) are brutal terrorists who follow a primitive polytheistic religion and behave like animals.

Although I am not generally a big fan of science fiction (my favorite genres are biblical epics, alpine mountain dramas, and women's prison movies), Battlestar Galactica is not really about the future as much as it's a subversive analysis of current events. The terrorists are led by an unscrupulous man prone to violent rages named Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), who not only has a name that is clearly meant to evoke Osama Bin Laden, he also bears something of a resemblance to Saddam Hussein. He even has a lazy, playboy son like Saddam had. The insurgency is headed up by the unhinged Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), who is locked up in a Guantanamo-like prison at the beginning of the episode recovering from some Cylon alternate interrogation procedures (apparently New Caprica is free of nit-picking Geneva Conventions).

As soon as Col. Tigh is free he goes right back to lead the insurgents and decides to up the ante by launching a depraved suicide bombing campaign. The first attack takes out a group of idealistic young police recruits, which, of course, directly parallels terrorist attacks against Iraqi security forces taking place today. If I have any criticism of the show it's that the New Capricans are so unsympathetic and vile in contrast to the peace-loving Cylons, who are clearly just trying to help them, that at times it seems like a simplistic battle between good (the Cylons) and evil (the New Capricans). A few more shades of gray might make the show more interesting.

For example, in one scene a terrorist named Starbuck responds to the hospitality of one kindly Cylon by viciously murdering him and then sitting down to calmly eat her dinner covered with his blood. (Luckily, unlike our soldiers in Iraq, the Cylons have the power to regenerate themselves so he's okay in the next scene.) Perhaps the most annoying of the New Capricans is a liberal apologist named Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) who justifies the suicide bombing by saying, "Desperate people use desperate measures." At one point she self-righteously accuses the suave and sophisticated President Gaius Baltar (James Callis) of torturing Col. Tigh, but he quickly puts her in her place by echoing George Bush: "We don't use torture." What the New Capricans don't seem to realize is that they only make things worse for themselves by resisting the Cylons' beneficence. If they stopped their futile insurgency, the Cylons would be able to repair the infrastructure and give them better places to live than tents.

All in all it looks like an impressive series. I was very surprised to see a pro-Iraq War, pro-Christian series on television and I urge you to see it before liberals get it taken off the air, although I have noticed that some people on both the right and the left don't seem to get the show and have misunderstood the allegory completely. It's amazing sometimes how some people could watch the same thing I did and be so completely wrong about it. Hopefully, a lot of people will see it and it will make them think about just what it is we are doing in Iraq.

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32 comments:

Christopher Fotos said...

I love it when people disagree with analysis and say "they "don't get it."

rightwingprof said...

That's clever.

Anonymous said...

Pal, you should watch the show more. The cylons wiped out 99% of humanity a year earlier. They're kind of insane.

josh said...

thanks for your sarcasm, i really appreciated it. obviously your last commenter can't catch the subtle humor! :) as a conservative that supports the war in Iraq, i wondered if there were any parallels. And then I remembered, this is art mainly made to entertain people and RDM is really out to make a buck and tell a good story more so than make a statement (though i'm sure he'd enjoy that too)

Gary Farber said...

"Although I am not generally a big fan of science fiction (my favorite genres are biblical epics, alpine mountain dramas, and women's prison movies), Battlestar Galactica is not really about the future as much as it's a subversive analysis of current events."

Um, science fiction is never about "the future," not having actual readers/viewers/buyers from then.

It's always contemporary allegory.

Since 1926.

signed, sometime professional science fiction editor

Gary Farber said...

"It's always contemporary allegory."

Or something far more interesting, I should have said.

Webomatica said...

I thought Adama's mustache looked suspicious.

Gary Farber said...

"The terrorists are led by an unscrupulous man prone to violent rages named Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), who not only has a name that is clearly meant to evoke Osama Bin Laden, he also bears something of a resemblance to Saddam Hussein. He even has a lazy, playboy son like Saddam had."

Um, you seem to be mixing the "Jon Swift" satire here with actual attempts at observation, in a rather incoherent way.

Needless to say, this is wildly wrong, but it's also not clearly less wrong than the seeming non-satire.

But maybe I'm just not picking up on it.

I suggest watching the rest of the past two years; you won't regret it, either way.

But generalizations about the situation may not work so well, and you may realize that what you wrote doesn't make much sense.

For better or worse.

Otherwise, I'm a fan of yours.

rightwingprof said...

"It's always contemporary allegory."

You badly need to take a refresher beginning lit course, since you obviously have no idea what "allegory" means. Gulliver's Travels is an allegory. Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory. The Foundation Trilogy is not an allegory, nor is BSG.

You're an editor? No wonder most Sci-Fi these days sucks out loud.

The Ologian said...

Hey man, I think these comment have been taken over by Cylons.

Anonymous said...

Incredible! Either you are one of the most blinded, biaised, racist, retrograd, fascist person I have ever seen, or you are the most brillant, genious, thongue-in-the-cheek, sarcastic guy breathing. I do hope you're the later and if you are, congrats for being able to follow this crazy line in all your posts!

Anonymous said...

This is truly excellent writing, please do more BSG critiques...!

BlakNo1 said...

Excellent!!

JesterDel said...

I'm not sure what's funnier, your satire or the commenters that completely missed it.

Well done, either way!

jason said...

The overtones in this piece are so ambiguous that I'm not sure if it's satire and saracasm or if you're just a complete moron. If anything, BSG is a metaphorical criticism of the American presence in Iraq, not the pro-war, pro-Christian literature you *seem* to think it is – I sure as hell can’t tell exactly what your true opinion is.

Max Renn said...

I particularly like 'rightwingprof' as a foil for 'Jon Swift's' post.

So much delicious irony may give me a thickening of the blood.

Rick Chase said...

I thought the cylons were Canadian troops in Afghanistan. after all, the show was filmed in Vancouver. There are other noticible similarities to Canadian society and politics too. New Caprica is cold- so is Canada. We just had an election, so did they. There was a teacher strike in old Caprica, our teachers are always striking. etc.

Anonymous said...

Excellent writing. You said the Cylons with their strict monotheism were the Christians, and the Colonists with their many gods represent the Iraqi's. The Cylons are religiously similair to the Iraqi's who believe in the one creator god (Allah translates from Hebrew in to "the God"), and the Colonists are followers of the pantheistic Greek gods. They are more like the US, proponents of the greek beliefs of hedonism, democracy for themselves and tyranny for their slave colonies. Rock on!

Oh wink wink, it's not terrorism if you use the strong arm of the mightiest nation on the planet to subjugate the weak and innocent. And wink wink again, let's call them terrorists when they try to defend their inalienable rights. Poor deluded fools.

Anonymous said...

Right Wing Prof...

"Battle Star Galactica" is NOT an allegory? Are you sure about that? Are we meant to take as literally true an alien society where characters quote William Shakespeare and Mario Savio, where faster than light travel has been achived yet people still record speeches on audio cassette. Where an alien civilisation talks, acts, dresses, and votes in ways identical to ours. Star Trek is not an allegory, it's essentially meant to be a documentary filmed in the future and we're meant to take everything we see as real (thus bog standard TV conventions such as "everyone speaks english" are explained away by such creaky plot contrivances as the universal translator.) BsG just lets all this stuff seem unfeasably familiar, because it's meant to be read as an allegory.

Maybe YOU need to look up a definition of allegory!

Paul Levinson said...

Just came across this provocative post and discussion. One of the best things about BSG is that it indeed stradles the future and the present ...

to Gary Farber: I don't know what kind of science fiction you write and read, but it's "never" about the future, because all its readers and viewers live in the present?

By that reading, there would be no such thing as history in scholarship or literature either, since all the readers live in the present.

Here's a better rendition: science fiction can never be exclusively about the future, because it's written and read by people in the present...

Including, I should mention, me - here's my Wikipedia entry for details...

Anonymous said...

Finally, a truly perceptive analysis untouched by liberal media bias.

If you can keep this up, you may earn fame as the Lance Mannion of the right.

Tom O

Robocop said...

Interesting analogy. The only thing I can actually agree with is the description of the real world bad guys in your essay.

As for the show itself, I find it entertaining, and far superior to the original.

Anonymous said...

Roflcopters at the retards who didn't get your excellent sense of sarcasm in this great piece of writing. One has to be really, really dumb to fall for it.
Great job :)

My said...

This is fun. You all realize that it's really just a re-vamp from a 1970's/early 80's show, right?

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very cleaver review and some people have to say no its not good :)

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theexilesclan said...

It will not succeed in reality, that's exactly what I think.

Uchenna said...

I'm still in two minds over whether or not I should watch battlestar galactica, I recently watched all of stargate sg1 and I loved it.

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