Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Robot Theocons

I've been watching the Battlestar Galactica first-season DVD set (thanks to Taleena and Todd). I am enjoying it hugely. I've heard some nationally published television critics call it "the best television on television," and I agree.

One of the elements of the show that is so striking is fact that they are addressing several big issues. But because they are operating in an almost cartoon-like setting (and it is cartoon-like in the best sense), they can take up themes and motifs that would be very difficult in a more mundane setting. (Of course doing those themes successfully in a mundane setting would be high art. Battlestar Galactica settles for being great television.)

The theme that I love most, that fills me with glee, is the handling of religion. The only other show that dealt with religion in such an engaging way was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And it turns out that Battlestar Galactica's creator, Ronald D. Moore, was a staff writer for Deep Space Nine.

Last night as Mrs. Islander and I sat watching a funeral scene in the episode "Act of Contrition," she turned to me and said, "They're Christians." I started to disagree and gas on a bit about how they weren't really, they were some kind of fusion of New Age mysticism, ancestor worship, and Mormon backstory, but then I stopped. She was right. No matter what came out of their mouths, their actions, the roots of their behaviors are "Christian."

This is not surprising. Mr. Moore is a product of his culture. And this is not a bad thing. You cannot understand either Shakespere or Oscar Wilde without being aware of the Christian presuppositions of their work. A good writer can provide keen and close observations on their own culture.

What really tickles me is that while the "Colonials" struggle to make sense of their moribund religious beliefs using their modern sensibilities (Gaius Baltar is merely the most outspoken of the skeptics), the Cylons are ablaze with evangelical fervor. The drop-dead gorgeous Number Six delivers street-corner preacher lines ("God loves you Gaius, and he has a plan for your life,") even as she seduces Gaius to allow her kind to commit genocide. The robots have blasted through modernism to arrive at a post-modern religious sensibility.

I guess I would differ from some of my co-religionists in my viewpoint, but one of the things that make Battlestar Galactica so compelling is that they are portraying religious beliefs and religious believers and taking them seriously.

Robot theocons. What a concept!

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