Battlestar Galactica (2003)

From Robo Culture Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Without trying to sound like an apologist – this effort is only a perfunctory introduction to the Battlestar Galactica universe. As there is much symbolic and textual meaning to extract from the series, if someone wishes to expound upon the BSG canon, please do so.


[edit] Re-Invention of the Battlestar Galactica Franchise

BSG Logo
BSG Logo
In 2003, Ronald D. Moore initially revived Battlestar Galactica (BSG) by means of a two-part mini-series with the intention of not only revisiting the franchise, but to re-invent it as well. The differences between the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica and the latest interpretation are too numerous to list and certainly beyond the scope of this work. However, it is important to note that Moore’s adaptation of the BSG
Battlestar Cape-tastica
Battlestar Cape-tastica
universe is without doubt more topical, relevant, political and critically lauded - having already won several awards including a Peabody - than its predecessor. The prototypical late 1970’s Glen A. Larson version was noticeably campier as much of the plot revolved around the last of humanity trying to avoid eradication from their creation, the Cylons. With humanity’s immanent destruction waiting in the folds, Starbuck (BSG’s answer to Captain Kirk) shoots down just as many Cylons as he seduces fair-haired women. Larson’s characters were more caricature-like, whereas Moore’s protagonists are fully realised human beings (even the artificial beings have added complexity) battling personal demons of a social, and familial nature. There was, and is, very little intellectual heft to Larson’s Galactican universe, as opposed to Moore’s televisual construction - which to this date has dealt with pertinent and allegorical resonances such as the suspension of civil liberties, coup d’états, and suicide bombers – just to highlight a few of the contemporary elements of the newest variant.

[edit] Evolution of the Cylons

Gen. 1 Raider vs. Gen. 2 Raider
Gen. 1 Raider vs. Gen. 2 Raider

The principal difference between the ersatz Cylons of the original series and the subsequent generation of Cylons is that Moore’s creations are no longer restricted to mechanical form and do not exclusively adhere to the conventional ubiquitous ‘robotic’ image in their outward appearance. Naturally there are several types of Cylon Raiders that still retain a mechanistic shape who are offhandedly referred to as ‘toasters’ and work merely as subordinates to the superior forms. However, the penultimate Cylons are those that have shed their gears and hydraulics for a fleshy embodiment, making them visually and virtually indistinguishable from their creators on the Twelve Colonies. They exploit this shape to their tactical advantage, not only to acquire information, but also to get into the minds and emotions of their adversary. The solitary disadvantage to this fleshy corporeal emergence is that there are a finite number of models - twelve to be exact - and the only way for these twelve to transform/transcend this appearance is to mate with their creators. Ontologically speaking these twelve Cylons essentially have two levels of consciousness – an outwardly human consciousness, and a nascent Cylonic one. It is not until they have been ‘activated’, by a yet to be determined greater consciousness, that they become fully aware of themselves as Cylons. Because at this quiescent stage they are only cognisant of themselves as being human and not as Cylons, they make the perfect mole, until they are ‘switched on’. ‘Awakened state’ Cylons are frequently engaged as double agents, suicide bombers, and even psychosomatic manifestations, such as the case of Caprica 6 who emerges as a sexual apparition in Gaius Baltar’s mind.

[edit] Religious Robots and the Church of Cog

Caprica Six
Caprica Six

Certainly the most extraordinary and polemical of issues is Moore’s willingness to include religious and mystical meta-narratives as part of the diegesis. This is an interesting choice on his behalf in light of the fact that Moore was a prominent writer and producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG), which was principally an agnostic tract. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original Star Trek franchise, was an ardent secular humanist and it was likely because of this, plotlines traditionally focused on stories that were markedly skewed towards science and devoid of religion, which is generally expected of the Sci-Fi genre. Nevertheless, Battlestar Galactica (2003) and producer Moore do not retreat from religious metaphor instead many of the storylines and plot devices highlight notions of a deistic and spiritual universe bearing gravitas not only on the central characters but the narrative as well:

I think the show is a reflection of my acknowledgement that faith and religion are a part of the human experience, even if I'm not quite clear on exactly what it all means and what I truly believe. The most direct reflection of me in the show is this idea that when the Cylons became self-aware, when they became sentient, when they became people, they began to ask themselves the existential questions: "Why am I here? What is this all about? Is this all that I am? Is there something more?" (Leventry)

At the same time this vision is noticeably different from the religiously sanitized universe of Roddenberry’s Star Trek, and its televisual successors, which in a limited fashion holds true of Moore’s ST:TNG as well.

[edit] Deus ex Machina or Machina ex Deus?

At the beginning of the mini-series, it becomes readily apparent to the viewers that the evolution of the Cylons is not merely limited to a superficial and bodily transformation – as they have also spiritually evolved in comparable measure. In a peculiar twist, at least in the generic conventions of modern Science Fiction, the Cylons have not only found god and religion – they profess (or would confess be more apropos?) to have found the God. Moore ostensibly recognizes that a technologically superior antagonist bent on humankind’s destruction is without a doubt more dangerous when coupled with the moral authority to justify their actions. However, Battlestar Galactica should not be regarded as an overarching Christian parable, in spite of its references to Christianity, for it has no ulterior motive to mobilise the Christian right with its space-operatic subtexts. In fact, the survivors of the Twelve Colonies worship multiple deities – an action which, by all accounts, is an anti-Christian practice. This is in opposition to the Cylons who subscribe to a monotheistic belief system thus providing them with “a transcendence of the very realm of the physical” (Bukatman 281) something humans have traditionally taken for granted. Of the two species, it is the artificially created Cylons, rather than the humans, who decidedly purge themselves of their enemies through a form of ad-hoc galactic Manifest Destiny/Crusade justified by divine inheritance.

[edit] It’s the End of the Twelve Colonies as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

The last remaining humans have been reduced to less than fifty thousand by the Cylons – the result of a nuclear assault perpetrated on Caprica and the other eleven colonies. The eponymous Battlestar Galactica,
BSG and the Last Supper
BSG and the Last Supper
the fleet’s flagship, acts as the base of operations for this “rag tag fleet”. On board the military vessel are the last and best of humankind’s defenders, many of which bear names of a symbolic and predominantly religious nature. Admiral Adama, whose name undoubtedly alludes to the Biblical Adam, is the leader of the fleet. Adama’s mission is to find Earth, and sanctuary, for his disparate people in an emblematic return to the Garden of Eden. Of course, Moore’s Cylons deviate from Haraway’s cyborg who “would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust” (151).

Many of the chief characters also retain names from the Greek/Roman pantheon. Adama’s son is given the nickname Apollo; Boomer is referred to as Athena, and Baltar’s first name of Gaius – is a referent to Gaia the Greek word for Earth. What these names actually mean in the narrative context of the program, will presumably come to light (pun intended) in the fourth and final season of the season - until then only the gods of the Twelve Colonies and producer Ronald D. Moore (the next best thing) know the outcome.

[edit] Notes and References

Bukatman, S. 1993. "Terminal Flesh." & "Terminal Resistance/Cyborg Acceptance." in Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Post-Modern Science Fiction. Durham: Duke UP.

Haraway, D. J. 1991. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialst-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. London: Routledge.

Leventry, Ellen. "Soul of the Cylons: Interview with Ronald D. Moore". Beliefnet. <>

Personal tools
Bookmark and Share