I would challenge anyone to name a more complex television series. Ever. Perhaps it is an unfair comparison because we live in an increasingly complex world. One where, try as we might, no relevant answers or solutions are simple and BG is committed to grappling with some of the most topical themes and issues of our day.
Terrorism becomes the tool of an oppressed human race, replete with suicide bombs and innocent deaths. Yet the Cylons are supposed to be the bad guys. And they are, no doubt about it. Summary executions, torture, a masked police force of co opted humans . . . nobody will mistake the Cylons for heroes. This is rough stuff and there is no firm ground upon which to stand. Characters you like can say and do things that turn your stomach, characters who are “bad” can say and do things with startling gentleness. What the producers and writers of BG do best is raise issues of violence and democracy for the characters and the viewers to grapple with, and never provide easy answers. The possibility to do evil lies within each person–be they human or Cylon. As does the possibility of grace and compassion. Individuals make choices, day by day, moment by moment. It is those choices that define us, the actions we take.
The importance of those actions on the individual characters is presented with a seriousness and subtlety that is rare on television. We are shown, in brief troubled glances, in the tiredness of the actor’s bodies, in a casual touch or a laughter verging on tears, just how difficult choices between right and wrong can be. A moral and upright woman steals a democratic election, a Cylon betrays her race, love happens in a myriad of forms and textures. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell share one of the most adult and real relationships on television. Their friendship and admiration for each other has grown over the past two seasons in ways that touch the viewer deeply and without the typical trappings of romance that too often seems the only way we can represent love between men and women.
BG demonstrates a consistent and refreshing concern with the terms of, and problems with, democracy as a process. When President Bush bandies about the term democracy what does he actually mean? Democracy is often framed as a noun when it is most usefully framed as a verb, an process that requires continual action and vigilance. Democracy is tiring. Democracy is demanding. BG consistently asks its viewers to consider questions of democracy and the sacrifices required of and by a free society.
If we become the enemy to defeat the enemy, have we won or lost? If our morality and ethics demand that we face a more perilous future, should we sacrifice them in order to have a bit more security, a chance at safety? Where are the lines between right and wrong drawn? Battlestar Galactica redraws the lines every week, forcing the viewer to approach her own ethical choices with a deeper understanding of the complexity of action in a world of violence and fear, joy and laughter.
Besides, the show has some very hot characters (of both sexes), great pacing, intense action sequences, genuine parity between the men and the women, wonderful characterizations and Dean Stockwell as a Cylon “priest.” I mean, what more could you want?
If you haven’t been watching, don’t bother jumping in. Take the time to rent the dvds or download the mini-series and past two seasons and watch from the beginning. Even if you are not a big science fiction fan, the show will impress and challenge you.