Monday, October 23, 2006

When Sci-Fi gives Food for Thought.

I have always been a bit of a sci-fi freak and I can watch just about anything that will remotely take me to a different world. But I must admit that there is a load of B-series crap in the sci-fi world.
However, there is one excellent show that surpasses anything I have seen in sci-fi: Battlestar Galactica. As we have mentioned before on this blog, this series is quite different from its original cheezy late-70s cult-series that tried to capitalize on the Star War success.
Like any good sci-fi, the show is a reflection about our world and the different possibilities the future might offer. It is allegorical in nature. And so what makes Galactica a good sci-fi show is that it is precisely about many issues that would be hard to address all together in a realistic series: religion, politics, war and a post-cataclysmic (9/11) world. In its previous seasons, Battlestar Galactica simply hinted at a war-on-terrorism world, and like a few other shows on American tv (Lost, 24), it even tackled the controversial topic of torture.

But this third season has moved a step further with a much more somber tone:
It shows a world of humans (New Caprica) occupied by Cylons (the robots who want to destroy humans and can look human) and the references to Iraq are totally straightforward to the point of being almost unsettling.
In BG, the situation is reverse to what you usually see in the "real" world as presented in the media: the insurgency is basically the good guys and the occupation force is the monsters.
Yet, it is not so binary. The Cylons have a moral of their own: they want to enlighten a warlike human race and convert them to a faith based on love. However, despite all their might and self-righteousness, they are seen rounding up innocent civilians and torturing those they see resisting. The Cylons are even shown discussing whether benevolent occupation is possible.

One Cylon says during a meeting: "How did you think the humans would greet us? With—oh, never mind."
The reference can’t be any clearer – in fact the human resistance is actually referred to as the “insurgency”. Then there are human collaborators, including a weak president, Gaius Baltar, who has been a pretty scary guy from the beginning. Even more daring and interesting, some of the human insurgency resists the occupation with suicide bombers, and there is debate among the humans as to killing innocents is worth it.
The great thing about this show is not only that it deals with moral complexities in a subtle way; it is that it offers another perspective and turns the tables around. The show re-writes the narrative of occupation by showing us the perspective of those occupied by an illegitimate force.
I am just amazed that such a show can even be aired as the war in Iraq is still going on. It says a lot about the freedom of creativity and criticial expression in America. There is after all a real sense of uneasiness to say the least at being an American when you watch the show.
In addition, the series has great cinematograpic quality which only adds to the pleasure of watching it.

To give an idea, here’s an interesting exchange between the former President of the human colony (Laura Roslin) and the new president (Gaius Baltar) who is also a collaborator with the occupying forces (see the excerpt in the video below):

“The insurgency has crossed the line. Suicide bombings. It’s contrary to everything that we believe in. So you and I…, we will publicly condemn these tactics. That cannot be legitimized in an shape or form.”
“There is something that scares the Cylons after all. “
“I should think that using men and women as human bombs should scare us all.”
“Desperate people take desperate measures”
“Look me in the eye and tell that you approve of sending young men and women into crowded places with explosives strapped to their chests. I’m waiting for so look me in the eye and tell me you approve. 33 people killed and their only crime was putting on peace uniforms and try to bring order to the chaos out there”.
“By arresting innocent people in the dead of night, detaining them indefinitely without charge, torturing them for information”.
“Nobody’s been tortured….”

Battlestar galactica 2003 302 1st 10min


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