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Monday, January 29, 2007

Battlestar Galactica

I'm disappointed with Battlestar Galactica, and I'm angsty about being disappointed with it. So many friends think it's such a great show, but it's just not satisfying for me.

I watched last night's episode eagerly, thinking the prior episode was relatively good. The prior episode amused me with the (either conscious or unconscious) reference to the original series. [SPOILERS] See, they're on this 'algae world' which is a lot like Kobol from the Lost Planet of the Gods episode of the original series, with a temple and ancient inscriptions from the 13th tribe. Then the Cylon Diana has an experience with the Eye of Jupiter, and slips into an alternate reality with white hooded beings very much like the ones aboard the ship of lights in the War of the Gods episode of the original series. So I'm thinking, hey, we're going to get into some interesting interplay here.

But then this week's episode is again back to dealing with American soap opera issues in a space setting. I don't know if it's just that the writer's don't have the creativity to imagine a social structure beyond the here and now or what, but it's really starting to grate on me. It bothers me that the 1978 version was more socially imaginative. In this version, typical American families respond in stereotypical ways. When the husbands have a fight with their wives, they go to the local bar and get drunk. And the symbol of marriage is a wedding ring on the left ring finger. And when there are issues of love outside of the bounds of marriage, it's handled through jealousy and an "it's either me or her" ultimatum. The polytheism of the humans is handled only nominally - making the expressions "my gods" and "by gods" instead of "my god" or "by god". Rarely are references made to the gods as individual gods. Characters don't pray to one god over another for the sake of that god's specialty. Also, this is directly counterbalanced by the Cylons Judeo-Christian monotheism. And government is basically an analog of American constitutional presidency. When Starbuck finds out about another pilot's past history, she shames her into doing a crazy maneuver and getting herself killed, because whomever you were, you always are.

Way back in 1978, they had the Council of the Twelve for decisions. There was no president. They had Starbuck dating two women, and them alternately getting pissed off about his philandering and then other times ganging up on him. Oh, and also, one of his girlfriends was originally a prostitute, but now works as a nurse. Rather than being shamed, she is redeemed. References to Earth culture was consciously made to show that man on Earth was descended from the same ancient race as the now rag-tag band of humans trying to find them. And you know what? The original Battlestar was a bad show. Going back and rewatching it is painful, but at least it was imaginative.

The role of science-fiction is to encourage questioning of your societal standards through alternate imaginings. Great works do this and become part of the cultural lexicon - 1984, Brave New World, Stranger in a Strange Land, and so on. Heck, this was one of the brilliant things about Firefly. Here was a ship where the only person on the right side of the law was the prostitute. The new Battlestar Galactica is squandering its promise. So far all it's done is to transform the word "Frak" into a direct translation of "Fuck". So not worthy.

I'm going to finish watching this season, but if it doesn't improve, I think I'm done.


  • The original show is a thin veil for talking about the Church of Later Day Saints.

    The new show not so much.

    By Blogger mice, at 3:20 PM  

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