Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Battlestar Galactica is Post 9/11

Battlestar Galactica (BSG) is "The best show on television" says Newsday, while the Globe and Mail reports that what BSG does is tackle current issues such as 9/11. It is, it does. What strikes me is how different the show is from The Original Series (TOS) of the late 1970s, post Vietnam. If TV reflects society, then society sure has changed. We can no longer turn away from life.

The old show was happy and shiny, even "campy." The new is as dark as night with a lot of the two words that win wars: "Yes, Sir." In BSG people take their situation very seriously: "The war is over. We lost."

Nobody said that on the post Vietnam show. For nobody back then was truly saying, "We lost." No introspection. Even idealists would say in their hearts "the army" lost. The army merely called the war a "conflict." The schoolteacher's ROM resource base, ERIC, did not add "Vietnam war" until 1983. The viewers who watched longhaired casual people on a Battlestar were viewers turning away from responsibility, away from war, religion and politics.

Religion? The viewers of TOS sang, "Imagine there's no heaven." In BSG both the humans and the Cylon robots have a religion. After the Cylon sneak attack the surviving humans hold a church service, not a funeral, with bodies laid out in rows front. Here the survivors, atheists and devout alike, take great comfort ...I have read that after 9/11 the "latte democrats" struggled over people needing a religious ceremony.

Politics? The very word gave viewers of TOS a "yuck" face. They imagined a community life devoid of "politics." They knew who Nixon was but not who their own alderman or senator was. They couldn't imagine that in the 21st Century there would be states where people don't just talk and filibuster. No, they swing heavy clubs and they form militias. In BSG there is a clear sense that a healthy society requires a Constitution and legalities to hold back the chaos that results when groups oppose the community with their own agenda.

The viewers of TOS seemed to lack this sense. They couldn't think that extremist combatants, opposed to politics, could launch giant rockets and cross-border attacks without civilian permission. (Hezbollah in Lebanon)

Civilians in TOS were mere background, "a rag tag fleet." In BSG a schoolteacher is sworn in as president and commander-in-chief. While staying with the civil fleet she doesn't blindly oppose her soldiers for being "establishment" and "baby killers." Not like people in the 1970s. I think of her as a one-person board of directors: being there to cooperate and guide as well as lead. In a democracy, so do we all.

War? Societies change; a squadron leader changes. At first he ends his briefing to Galactica pilots by saying, "Be careful out there." Then, in private, his best friend gives him hell. "'Be careful?' You're supposed to say, 'good hunting!'...We are at war!"

Soon after 9/11 I realized we could not turn back the clock. But I never imagined a show like Battlestar Galactica ...

Sean Crawford
August 2011
~I archived two more essays in August on BSG, also see October and January 2012.
~Citizenship After 9/11 was posted in September 2012.

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