Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Season One

Season One. Yeah, I finally watched it.Now stop snickering. We don't get cable or Sci-Fi channel or any such thing. We do, however, have a library that will put a few seasons of any popular show up on their shelves. In this fashion, I have watched the first season of Battlestar Galactica the re-imagined series from 2004 sans commercials.

I HAD seen big parts of the premiere miniseries and knew the basic storyline, based on the original series of the 70's: humanity far from Earth grows up, advances, expands to 12 colonies in space (i.e. 12 different worlds), and build self-aware robots to aid them called 'Cylons'. These Cylon robots, like in all cautionary SF tales, finally rebel and attack their masters. In this version, the war ends and the Cylons are given their own planet far away. However, after 40 years of dead silence, the Cylons return to eliminate humanity. Only one other problem - now they can appear perfectly human - down to their very blood cells.

I gotta say I was impressed with the updates. The very reason soon-to-be decommissioned Galactica is useful against the enemy is because its Old-School grit - pilots are never assisted in landing their fighters and Adama flatly refuses to have ANY computerized networks on his ship. This refusal to make things easier and sticking to solid-but-stable tech prevents the Cylons from taking down this Battlestar as they did so many others - with a flick of a switch.

The show takes its cue from so much of our natural fears of technology run amuck, terrorism, sleeper cells and religion. Strangely, it is the Cylons who are monotheistic, while the humans are not. They say some things that would be profound if not coming from the mouths of genocidal beings. [NOTE: we dsicover later that not all Cylons want the humans destroyed... so this strangeness may be foreshadowing a sort of 'God-fearing' ethos.]

Now frankly, the writer is playing on our fears and what can destroy us. What takes down humanity is the very seductive Number Six (played by Victoria's Secret model Tricia Helfer) who uses the "most brilliant mind" on the planet to invade and corrupt the entire defense network, one Gaius Baltar. He's shown to be cowardly, selfish, foolish and an utterly complete cad. Between her psychological taunting of him and the very Fundamentalist words about God coming out of her mouth, you get one eerie psycho robot. Sort of Nine and a Half Weeks meets The Apostle. BRRRRRRRRRRR!

I've been thinking about why the writer went down this path, and I think he wanted to touch a lot of nerves on the audience without really standing firm on one theology. By making the 'heroic survivors' polytheistic, he lays evil at the footstep of the monotheism that will not accept other faiths. The Cylons are on a jihad and frankly, the writer leaves it just open enough that if you have ANY trouble with men and women of faith, you can root for the Colonials to blow the hell out of these soulless, heartless, uncompromising machines.

You see, when I was a liberal (and a bit of a libertine), I had the same view of people of faith. I did not envy them; I thought them to be un-creative, dull, vapid, legalistic, and essentially heartless. They did not comfort me in my pain, I assure you.

But when I sought them AFTER I had had my fill of libertine living - some of which I paid for dearly - I found I was wrong, dead wrong. What I took as coldness was merely patience with my heartless behavior and meanness. What I perceived as legalistic was merely self-discipline and what I thought to be un-creative was merely an appreciation of the common things of life.

I had the jangled nerves, brought forth by my disobedience to God. They did not. I think I despised them for that.

So when I was watching, I found the writer was driving me to like the Colonials despite their stupid polytheism/humanism and to not like the Cylons despite their better theology.

It did remind me that while good theology does bless a person's heart and mind, it makes it challenging to share that goodness if you are viewed as an anti-social destroyer of life. (This is nothing new: early Christians were called by the Roman government 'haters of mankind' by saying men needed Christ to save them. They were called 'atheists' for not having a statue to bow before.)

I think people are afraid of religion in general and specifically anyone active in faith. I think by scrambling up "who's good" and "who knows God" and not letting them be the same group is the reason this series garnered so much praise.

But at the end of the day, I am concerned that the youths we raise with such entertainment will equate faith with violence and monotheism with evil - that 9/11 has colored ALL men and women of faith as dark and menacing. Or that the message of Battlestar Galactica will be such a syncretic mishmash of faiths the kids and youths will throw up their hands and say "Well, who knows what's true?"

Thankfully, Jesus said He was the Truth. He also said "Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away."

I like the human drama in Battlestar Galactica, and since I already know how it ends, thanks to YouTube, I can watch these episodes with some detachment, appreciating the heroes and their flaws and the sleeper agents who think they are human but are not.

But the real strength of BG is in the human characterizations and relationships we understand. Adama's double-entendre' and terse reconcillation with his son Lee over the tragic death of his brother Zack made me hit PAUSE and go outside to have a good cry: "I want ALL my pilots to come back -understood?" "Yes, sir."

Commander Adama makes it worth watching.In forgiveness and mercy, in wisdom and action, in self-control and patience, the star of Battlestar Galactica is Commander Adama, possibly the most Christian character in the show.

If it wasn't for him, I do not think the show would be worth watching.

May we live our lives as men and women of faith protecting our loved ones from the inhuman, the merciless and genocidal, without worshipping false gods.

Amen.

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