Sunday, April 06, 2008

Brief Thoughts on Season 4

As all bitheads already know, the first episode, "He That Believeth in Me," of the final season of Battlestar Galactica played Friday night.

It would be hard for the writers to under-do season three, which could have been titled, "As the Galaxy Turns" or "Space of our Lives", what with the endless soap opera between Sam/Kara/Lee/Anastasia, or Helo's moral self-indulgence, or any of the other displays of the character's inner mawkishness.

And yet, I'm afraid this season's weakness will be that the show starts to buy too heavily into its own eschatology. Don't get me wrong: the religious content of the show was always, for me, a primary source of its appeal. In contrast to the Gene Roddenberry universe, which condescends to the religions it bothers to notice, religion is a vital part of BSG life, both to the individual characters and, more interestingly, as a social phenomenom.

Wisely, in my view, the show has heretofore muted its efforts to resolve the rival truth-claims of the various religious systems vying for loyalty. Wisely, not because religion can't be metaphysically true -- unsuprisingly, I believe it can -- but because the actual content of show's religions is made up by its creators. Usefully, the show demonstrates how religion can work in everyday life. It would be somewhat less useful for it to attempt to resolve whether the Colonists' made-up Greek Pantheon or the Cylons' made-up monotheism is more faithful to BSG's made-up reality. At the end of the hour, it's just a T.V. show.

And yet, this is exactly what the final season is setting itself up to do. The resurrection of Kara Thrace presents the audience with a bona-fide supernatural event that begs to be resolved. Unless the re-appeared Kara is either a Cylon-cloned copy of her original self, or one of the Final Five, then some other "higher power" in the BSG-verse must make itself known, and render a verdict on his/her/its own apprehension by the other characters. And so what? It's all made up!

Someone might object that for the show to present its own version of metaphysical religious truth would be nothing that, say, LOTR or Star Wars didn't do as well. However, the supernatural (or, perhaps, subnatural, in the case of Star Wars) reality was never a point of contention in these movies. Good and Evil battled for power within an acknowledged spiritual framework. The facts were not in dispute. Not so with BSG.

Here is Half Sigma's take.

1 comment:

trumwill said...

The religious debate would be more interesting if the two more clearly represented different facets of theologic thought. For instance, if the Cylons worshipped a god that was the more wrathful sort and the colonists the loving and forgiving god (or vice-versa), it could be interesting because it might give some of us some ideas on different ways that we might look at our god.

It seems more likely to me that the Cylons would pattern their god(s) after the colonists'. When the slaves in the US were fleed, they cultivated (or continued to cultivate) churches based on religion as they knew it, didn't they? At the very least it would seem to me that the Cylons would take the colony gods and turn them into the devils in their own lore. It seems unlikely that they would construct a faith with no relationship at all to the only faith they know.

Instead, we have two religions so incompatible that you're right, it's a waste of think in theological as opposed to social terms.