March 12, 2006

Battlestar Galactica And Politics

This post is actually in response to a comment left on a previous post about BSG. The comment read:

"Wow, major miscalculation by the Left Coast producers, judging by the reaction to the season ender across the Web! I won't spoil the plot, but the producers obviously went after Bush - to make him Baltar - and instead we see what would've happened under Gore or Kerry. And that's what people think and are angry about, apparently! They're also miffed that the Cylons are Muslims, or so they think. (Well, they do believe that their God resurrects them immediately after they commit suicide or die in holy battle, I guess.) Still, maybe it's just a TV show, people."
Interesting observations, but I have some of my own.

First, I don't look around the internet or on message boards for reaction to the show (don't have time) so what the general consensus is among fans regarding the season finale may very well be what the commenter describes. I just don't know.

Second, I don't infer any political allegory in this show at all. Ronald D. Moore no doubt has his own personal political feelings but (unless he's mentioned something on the commentary podcasts) I'm not aware that he's ever made them known. I don't think that just because the guy's from Hollywood that he thinks one way of the other. This is a different take on an already established plot idea. And certainly you can see some similarities with the current GWOT and the approach that the Bush Administration takes in fighting it.

But my own opinion is that Moore and Company haven't used the series to editorialize about current (or historical) events. And believe me I have a very low threshold for noticing that kind of thing (perhaps too low).

My take on the show is that its central premise is an examination of what it means to be human, contrasted against the culture of the Cylons. Human beings are flawed. They make decisions (for the most part) based on what they feel is the right thing to do. Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes bad decisions. In each case, however, these decisions have consequences. And I feel that the show tries to look at what those consequences might be. I think it's more a case of "what if" than "this or that is necessarily right or wrong". While we have seen characters acting in a way they're not proud of, Moore recognizes that if a person's survival (much less the survival of the human race) is at risk there are certain unpleasant things that must be done.

I also think that as the series progresses we may be looking at an examination of what it means to be Cylon.

I don't think the show's creators are trying to make the Cylons out to be a version of the Islamofascists and I don't see Baltar (or Roslin) as representative of any particular U.S. politician. And I think that's one of the reasons that the show is so popular.

The best fiction tries to steer clear of particular allegory but rather presents the material in a way that can be interpreted as many different ways as there are people to interpret it. J.R.R. Tolkien was insistent that nothing in his work "The Lord of the Rings" was allegorical in any way to human events. This didn't stop speculation that the Ring was supposed to represent the A-bomb or that Sauron was supposed to be Hitler. But the story has been so popular for so long because each generation has been able to infer its own interpretation rather than read into anything that was implied by the author.

Okay, I'm rambling. But I think this series is unique because it is a human story and one that people can relate to because the characters are so much like us: flawed. If there's any similarity between the closing scenes of Friday's episode it would be that the Cylons are like the Nazi's occupying France in World War II. What will be interesting is not that there will be a resistance, but rather how the characters will all play a part in it.

As to Baltar, we know he is motivated primarily by self-interest. But what will he determine is in his best interest? Will he feel its better to play it safe and submit completely to the Cylons, going "Vichy" on humanity? Perhaps, but what kind of life would that be for him? He doesn't like to take orders or live that way someone else tells him. He may decide to be duplicitous and put on one face for the Cylons while all the while helping the resistance in the hope that one day they may be able to escape this fate.

Anyway, at this point I trust Moore to be even-handed in the telling of the story. As far as I'm concerned, he's given me no reason not to.

UPDATE: 3/13/06 - 1:30pm: MOORE SPEAKS!
There is an interview with Ronald D. Moore in Now Playing Magazine published on Saturday. Bottom line: this isn't a dream sequence or an alternate reality. This is what it is.

“The end of the season is quite a shake-up,” acknowledges Moore. “The Cylons show up and all hell breaks loose. Essentially, season three is going to deal with the Cylon occupation of the Colonials on New Caprica. The sort of archetype that we’re talking about is like Vichy France: There’s a Colonial government run by President Baltar that is collaborating with the Cylons, while the humans put together an insurgent resistance against the occupation. It’s a pretty big twist.”
So unless Moore is lying through his teeth, I don't see any parallels with any of the events of today being played out in the series. He also says that he'll eventually get the Colonials back out into space and that the evolution of Baltar's character will be to a "darker place".

One other note about the long wait for Season Three. Season One was essentially a short season of 13 episodes (15 if you lump in the two-part miniseries). It ran in the U.K. starting in October 2004. Episodes in the U.S. ran from January to March 2005. Season Two, also "short" by industry standards, was broken up into two runs of ten episodes each - July-September 2005 and January-March 2006. My guess is that Season Three will be the first "normal" season the show has had and going forward they will conform to the traditional Fall through Spring schedule that most other television shows follow. Plus, the extra couple of months will give Moore and his writers longer to figure out how they'll get out of this one.

Posted by: Gary at 03:30 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 skye had a good post on the matter last year (I remember, because I poured a lot into my comment). As far as Moore, he did make some statements that do indicate his political leanings. But I do think some people are reading too much into the series as political allegory for current events. I think they may touch upon events that are happening in our own time, but are not making a direct comparison; but rather using issues to tell their own story and mold it to fit the series. but the producers obviously went after Bush - to make him Baltar - and instead we see what would've happened under Gore or Kerry. And that's what people think and are angry about, apparently! What do you mean? That Baltar started out as a Bush figure, and ended up being Gore/Kerry? And so people (leftist fans) are upset about it? I don't think the political overtones are overtly related to commentary on our own real world events. I think there are some intentional parallels, but not a direct allegory. If I read political slants into everything I watch on tv and in movies, I think I'd give up watching anything. I believe in skye's post, I said something about even if there were direct correlations, such as cylons equating to terrorists/Muslim sympathy, in the BSG world, if our emotions are being manipulated to feel sympathetic and understanding toward cylons, it works. It is fiction. In the BSG world, if that's their reality, then so be it. Ours is different. In our real world, terrorists don't need more understanding- just more ass-kicking! Where is Skye-buck when you need her? :wink:

Posted by: Wordsmith at March 12, 2006 04:37 PM (nrGCx)

2 Politics aside, I'm just hoping the last 20-30 minutes of the finale were a dream sequence. Aughhhhhh!!!!!!

Posted by: Starbuck at March 13, 2006 12:04 AM (EvFfn)

3 I read an article sent to an email list that said that the Oct. start is because there's a strong possibility that NBC will move it from SciFi to the network. Otherwise, it would have started in June with SG1 and Atlantis as usual.

Posted by: Ith at March 13, 2006 02:47 PM (0ectA)

4 If it does move to NBC, I would imagine they would show the series from the very beginning to get viewers caught up.

Posted by: Barry Johnson at March 13, 2006 07:40 PM (scPLM)

5 Skye-Buck is alive and kicking, my friend! ------------------------------------- Where is Skye-buck when you need her?

Posted by: "Skye-Buck" at March 14, 2006 04:33 PM (SH35r)

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