The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Battlestar Galactica

I've been watching the first season of Battlestar Galactica - the modern edition, that is.

The previous edition was pretty silly. I'd heard of it by 1980, and I'd seen enough other sci-fi to have an interest in it, but I don't believe I'd ever seen an episode. MAD Magazine tore it to shreds in their parody, Cattle Car Galaxica; my brother somehow found a copy of this in the mid-80s sometime when he was collecting the magazine. MAD parodied its measurement system yet somehow missed its Mormon references; it further seems to have been ignorant of the language COBOL, which would have been unforgiveable had the show come out just prior to Y2k.

BsG is a remake which does not shy away from the original. It is perhaps best described as a sequel to the original's set design.

BsG's opening miniseries contained a rabbit warren's worth of Easter Eggs. One such is a repeated quote of the critics' now-clichéd description of the Cylons, "the walking toasters". In one later episode, a character hiding from the Cylons uses a toaster - which even looks like a Cylon's head - and then the treach'rous machine springs its toast and tips off the Cylons.

BsG has chosen to follow Firefly in how it (mis)handles the camera. Sometimes its shaky and quick-shifting camerawork fits the scene. Sometimes it doesn't. Often it's migraine-inducing. I'd rather they limited it.

There is sound in space; but not always, and when it comes through it is muffled or even treated as part of the soundtrack. Its effect is to remind you "you're not hearing this". This is a middle way from 2001 and Firefly, which has no sound unless carried through radio waves; and cheese like Star Wars which features roaring engines and zapping lasers. This is, I think, a concession I can live with.

The remakers have also chosen to preserve the show's Mormonism. The Twelve Colonies are still Twelve, the government is still a Quorum, and there is still a shared religion in the "Lords of Kobol" who are still ancestor gods.

Interestingly, here the Cylons are also religious. Their religion borrows from the most exclusionary and militant tendencies in Christianity and Islam. This wouldn't just be Abrahamic boilerplate, such as a God who works toward a plan using a Chosen People as instruments. The Cylons' slogan "God is love" comes from the Johannine literature; their belief that they are a race who supercede other races - and that God commands them to carry this into effect - derives from Sura 3; and their acceptance of genocidal violence toward this end derives from Suras 8 and 47. That the Cylons incarnate human models, but only twelve and with transmigratory souls, also appears to be a decision which their religion has forced upon them; and it seems to be most parallel with certain sects of the Shi'a.

The show's intellectual secularist, Baltar, starts out with a European accent and an affected wardrobe, and fancies himself a ladies' man. Deep down he's a weasel who deludes not only himself but also his colleagues. Deeper than that he's pathetic: he is small, frightened, and lonely; and he is in search of Ultimate Answers despite that he does not like the idea of religion. He was The Villain of the original.

posted by Zimri on 17:03 | link | 0 comments

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