What could have been a kitchy sci-fi channel remake of campy 70’s space western, Battlestar Gallactica has made it as one of Time Magazine’s six top shows on television. I was drawn in to watching since the season premier by the idea that the President was the former Secretary of Education, and ~37th in line for the presidency when everyone ahead of her was killed.
Though the show takes place in the far future when humans have spread across the galaxy and where Earth is but a myth, the society portrayed is remarkably contemporary, with a government and social system and a relationship with technology much like our own. Thus, when the show is able to have all of human civilization destroyed except for 50,000 survivors on a ragtag fleet fleeing through space, we are able to better see the underpinnings of our society, visible only through an experiment we could never run. We see the off-the-equilibrium path beliefs that sustain our civilization.
Already, in the shortened first season, we see questions of how democracy is sustained in a military crisis, how the media is handled, the influence of charismatic personality cults, and just the simple institutions society is based upon. Curiously, human religion is based on ancient Greek mythology, while in an interesting contrast to the human’s persecutors, the cylons, a race of robots who having rebelled from their human masters, have developed a monotheistic religion akin to Christianity. The robot civilization, the quintessential “other” allows the show to explore what it means to be human.
Though the dialogue is spotty and the plot sometimes predictable, Battlestar Galactica is a showcase for grand ideas. That’s why it sits comfortably among the four shows to which I am a weekly devotee (West Wing, Lost, and Numb3rs being the other three).