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Starring: Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Katee Sackoff, Tricia Heller
Director: Michael Rymer
|This series deserved the PEABODY AWARD it was granted. The show does highlight ethical challenges, but resolutions are few and far between. Therein my wife and I find the intrigue of plot, theme and character development -- subject, as always to the limitations of the writers. |
We do not watch television, but we do rent DVDs, sometimes on recommendations, otherwise just fishing. We found Battlestar Galactica and have been following it from the beginning by renting DVDs or getting them from the library. We downloaded the episode guides from a fansite.
Some Objectivists prefer an absolutist standard in which ambiguity is identical to evil. Personally, I find in ambiguity the essential attraction of curiosity, the motivation to discover truth and thereby resolve contradiction. For my wife, the fictional mode is the murder mystery. For me, it is science fiction. In Battlestar Galactica, we both find satisfaction.
The power of science fiction includes the ability to create "people" who are "just like us... but different..." By that device, we can create a laboratory for "thought experiments" in the essentials of applied philosophy. Thus, Isaac Asimov's robots are physically constrained by altruist morality. Another aspect of science fiction is the opportunity to hold constant or change elements of our social world. So, in those same Asimov robot novels, we meet the Spacer societies of Solaria and Dawn that are so individualistic that people rarely meet in person, each estate being self-sufficient to serve one human. Contrasting that is Lije Bailey's overcrowded and depleted Earth.
Battlestar Galactica constantly and continuously displays similarities and differences to our own society. Consider that the pilots live in mixed barracks, and as sexually active as they seem to be, rape is never a problem -- clearly different from our own context, especially in the military. When we argue abortion we never consider that the human race could be in peril for the lack of children. What if it were? And what does that really say to us about the people who choose fewer children as against those who allow themselves more?
What is "free will"? We Objectivists argue it long and well. Humanlike Cylons give us the opportunity to see those theories in action. Some are programmed to think that they are human -- what happens when they discover that they are not? The Cylon rulers experiment with giving free will to their mere centurians. That does not work out so well. The problem is real for us here and now, constantly in the threat of totalitarianisms left and right. Do you have a right to be wrong? If so, how wrong?...
The Cylons also raise deep questions about individuality and individualism Galactica-Sharon shoots Commander Adama. Caprica-Sharon must insist, "I am not her!" Really? What is it that makes a "person" unique?
We are living in a police state, engaged in another generation-long war against an external enemy whose agents have infiltated our society to betray and destroy us. It is nice to say quote Benjamin Franklin about not trading security for freedom, but death is the total lack of freedom, the lack of human action. How much of other people's latitude ("freedom" is such an emotional word) would you allow to be proscribed in order to marginally (how marginally?) improve your chance for survival? We have cameras everywhere now. Would you give up elections? What if the election were rigged? We discuss that when it is President Roslin with much more intellectual objectivity than when it was President Bush. Our Constitution sets out a clear line of succession and as Johnson succeeded Kennedy, the transition was within the institutional expectations. What if the successor were 43rd in line? (When the President gives a State of the Union message and all are in the House chambers, one Cabinet Member stays outside, secure, just in case.)
The elements of fiction are plot, plot-theme, theme, and characterization. After a devastating attack, a handful of humans seek safety while being pursued by their destroyers. As the quarry and hunter interact, their roles change. The quest for safety becomes the question of defining what it means to be human. The characters are stark, strong and integrated which gives depth to the internal conflicts each discovers when faced with problems of personal identity and loyality to one's values ultimately defined by ones definition of self qua self.
Actors are professionals, or so we like to think. Inevitably, some are better than others. I have watched dramatic scenes in freeze-frame mode, one eyeblink at a time. I am always impressed with the controlled delivery of depths of expression via gesture and pose. While the SteadyCam does allow mere motion to stand in for thoughtful camera work, the fact remains that the editing is cogent in support of action and character.
Battlestar Galactica engages the mind of the viewer, demanding full focus to integrate the details of fact and value.
All of that being as it may, this is posted here and now specifically because opinions on this board are not unanimous. Therefore, it becomes especially important to evaluate and judge according to standards other than the intuitive.