June 26, 2012

Better Than Good

I have no strong predisposition toward the scifi genre of television and movies. I liked the original Star Wars trilogy well enough, there are at least 2 original Star Trek movies I like, and I loved the JJ Abrams reboot but as a whole, the genre isn't something I seek out. Which is probably why I never watched Battlestar Galactica when it aired. I heard plenty of good things about it and I took them all at face value. I believed it was a good show, I just didn't have room in my already very full TV schedule to watch something that didn't pique my interest on premise alone. I always figured I would catch up with the show eventually.

When my twitter friend Cathy (@bluedaisy16) began watching for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I decided my time had come as well. As I learned a few months ago with Dance Academy, watching a show for the first time is fun but it's markedly more enjoyable to share the first-timers' journey with others. So once again a small group of us took to Twitter to share our BSG expirience (my fellow viewers: @bluedaisy16, @onlymystory, @melanoma27, and our veteran host who joined in for a rewatch, @heroine_tv). To date, I am half way through the third season and I am in love.

The show is as good as people had promised, but what no one prepared me for was that it is more than a good show. It's a haunting show. Let me try to explain what I mean by that.

On the surface, this it's about a war in space. Androids have decided that they hate the humans who created them and are determined to eradicate them from existence. After an unexpected initial attack, the relatively meager number (less than 50,000) of remaining humans fight for their survival and the survival of the human race. Beneath the surface, there are hard questions about religion, faith, politics, human nature, morality and love.

Battlestar Galactica poses the question: in a nuclear holocaust, who would you be? Would you be a survivor? Would you crawl inside yourself and go mad in your own cowardice, like Baltar? Would you allow yourself to be saved, like the 40,000+ colonial citizens? Would you eschew your own fears to step up and lead people because they need a leader like, President Roslin? Would you save people because they need saving like, Adama and Apollo? Would you throw yourself into danger and heroics only to tempt fate in the face of certain death because there's nothing to lose, like Starbuck? Would you be the sort of hero who sacrificed yourself for others because it was the right and moral thing to do, like Helo?

And that is the tip of an exceptionally large iceberg. Is it right to make allowances for someone to treat people poorly because that person was treated poorly by others in their past (Starbuck)? Are our personalities and our destinies determined by nature or nurture (Boomer, Athena, Caprica Six)? In a war, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few as President Roslin had to decide when she was faced with the question of whether or not to allow a woman to abort her child in the face of human extinction?

I was particularly moved by a moral quandary in the third season that involved the use of biological weapons. When the humans are presented with an opportunity to wipe out their enemies with a biological weapon, Helo stands up as the lone voice of decent. Yes, the cylons tried - are still trying - to decimate the human race, but if we commit the same genocide (or, as I call it, cylonocide) we're no better than they are. How will we face ourselves if we lose our humanity and is it worth winning when that is the cost? This is one of the issues that doesn't seem to have a right answer. Helo is right MORALLY, but is the continued existence of the human race worth morally bankrupting a small handfull of souls?

Battlestar Galactica is messy and ugly and hard to face. It poses a lot of questions and offers few answers. It gets inside of your head, inside of your heart. That's what makes it awful, beautiful, haunting.

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