Why you should watch Battlestar Galactica

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.

Battlestar Galactica (2003 Miniseries)Battlestar Galactica - Season One (2004)Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0 (Episodes 1-10)Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5 (Episodes 11-20)

On this day..

2 thoughts on “Why you should watch Battlestar Galactica

  1. so only women watch this show?

    Are you advocating illegally downloading tv shows?

    And finally a serious question: Do you think that the average Sci-Fi Channel viewer actually thinks about these themes as they watch it or talk about it the next day at the water cooler? I don’t mean this sarcastically, but sincerely. If the average viewer fails to get it, is it still worth it (from the producers standpoint that is). The real question is how can an article like yours get to the average Sci-Fi Channel viewer so they can already have this lens attached to their eyes (if you’ll pardon the metaphor) when then sit down to watch the show? How do the writers or the Channel’s owners educate their audience? And is it even their responsibility to do that?

  2. Would you ask if only men watch the show if I had used the masculine pronoun?

    Who said anything about illegal, amigo? All of them are available on iTunes. LtL would never, ever advocate . . . oh who am I kidding.

    You raise some good points, but I do believe that Battlestar Galactica is so pointedly dealing with issues of violence and democracy that you would have to be pretty dim not to pick up on them. I’m also not sure who the average Sci-Fi channel viewer is. In my estimation, science fiction fans tend to be fairly intelligent when it comes to understanding how the genre can be used to reflect the world around us. Ultimately, compelling stories, regardless of genre, are about what it means to be human. Above all, Battlestar Galactica is accomplished storytelling that raises questions about the political, military and personal choices made by characters in extreme conditions. The job of the writers is to tell stories that are compelling on any number of levels and I think the Battlestar Galactica writers accomplish this in ways that go beyond the majority of television shows.

    Ultimately, I think my post was more geared to those that don’t watch the Sci-Fi Channel and so might not be watching the show because they think science fiction as silly or juvenile. I probably could have been clearer as to my intended audience.

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