"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, June 30, 2008

One season down, oh so much more to go

So, season one of BSG is in the bag, and as I anxiously await the success of my bid on eBay for seasons 2.0, 2.5, 3 and Razor, a few thoughts:

  • Still very impressed by the authentic military and overall gritty 'feel' of the whole series. Though BSG did not pioneer the whole 'future-retro' technological atmosphere, or the jumpy, documentary-type camera angle (I think Firefly can take credit for that), the whole presentation is more believable than, say the sterile cleanliness and static visual shots of Star Trek. I can buy the BSG world as something we might logically progress to (though faster-than-light drive comes close to crossing the line between reality and fantasy; still, without that plot contrivance, most sci-fi would be pretty tedious).
  • "The Hand of God": another episode that made me go, "wow." I loved the planning table with plastic models of friendly and enemy ships getting pushed around like some early 20th-century war room. The double-fake that Lee Adama comes up with to lure the Cylons away from their fuel source completely blind-sided me. And we also see the theological mind-games that Number Six has played on Gaius Baltar from the beginning come to fruition.
  • The different theologies of the show is something else I enjoy. Star Trek, in all its incarnations, was a godless universe, and religion was only addressed by showing how silly various religious cultures were in their quaint beliefs. Star Wars has the Force, with the Jedi Knights as its priesthood, but it's still religion without God. Firefly showed us a future where religion still played a role in peoples' lives, and even had a pastor amongst the crew, but his presence is subdued. BSG puts religion front and center. The humans are, interestingly, polytheistic, worshipping twelve gods pulled more or less right out of Greek and Roman mythology, but without the typical trappings of paganism (sacrifice, divine cults, etc). They pray to them in times of trouble and have a scripture to guide them. A twist on this, which I expect to delve more deeply into in future seasons, is that these twelve gods have actually left physical evidence of their existence behind; the Arrow of Apollo, for example, which supposedly points the way to the mythical "Earth", is housed in a museum; and the birth-place of the gods, Kobol, is real enough to the surviving humans that they work very hard to find it. The Cylons, on the other hand, are monotheistic, worshipping only "God", who is a very powerful and personal figure for them. They believe themselves to be God's chosen children, executing his divine plan. "God is love" is their mantra, which seems a little incongruous as they didn't show much love to the human race when they virtually nuked it out of existence. Still, the Cylons "have a plan", and the Number Six tormenting Dr. Baltar has helped humanity survive as much as hinder it. Some future, as yet undefined relationship between humans and Cylons seems to be part of the divine plan (there are larger hints about this at the end of the season, but I'll leave them be in case anyone else is just starting).
  • The last 30 seconds of the final episode of the season: did not see that coming. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with one of the crew members who we found out was a Cylon early on, and it finally did but not how I imagined. And that's all I have to say about that.

So, though I'm possibly the latest late-comer to BSG and all of this will be old news to my friends who are on the last season, I'd recommend this series to anyone who hasn't watched it yet. This is not Star Trek with its happy United Nations future, ultra-advanced technology, and pretentious moralizing. This is about real, flawed humans pushed to their limits and how they deal with the darkest future imaginable. The science and special effects are merely backdrops to a compelling story and compelling characters. There is much here that even non-sci-fi geeks will find familiar and intriguing. Now, less than two days left until my bid closes on season 2.0. It shall be mine, oh yes, it shall be mine.

P.S. Ammianus Marcellinus, if you're still out there, hear my prayer. It seems your blog is now invitation-only; I know you're very busy with your new job, so perhaps you don't have the time to update anymore, but I ask one favor, if you're able. I'd like a copy of that long back-and-forth we had about Iraq over a year ago (it was about 10 comments and replies, plus the original post). As it stands, I think that's the best discussion I've had with anyone on any blog and I'd hate to consign it to the ash-heap (or deleted items heap) of digital history. If you can post a link to it, that'll work; or you could email me the whole thing, I don't mind. Either way, I'd appreciate it immensely.

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