If science fiction escapes, it is an escape into reality – Isaac Asimov
In his review of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, online critic J.C. Maçek remarked on how far TV has advanced since the “Star Trek” pilot was rejected as “too cerebral” and “too good for television.” “Battlestar” embodies this, more so even than the subject of his review. Combining the shaky, handheld feel and philosophy of the superlative “Homicide: Life of the Street,” the grimness of “Space: Above and Beyond,” and the action of “Combat,” “Battlestar” found its audience early, and was already green lit for a second season before it even aired in the US.
Though science fiction seems tailor-made to ask the deepest of philosophical questions, there have been but a few films and series that have tackled such issues successfully, chief amongst them are Blade Runner, “Star Trek,” and “The Prisoner”. Coming out of deep left field, the remake of the once light-hearted and campy “Battlestar Galactica” dares not only to tackle these questions, but also deal with pressing social issues such as a mixed-gender military and prisoner abuse. Not only that, it succeeds marvelously.
It was an otherwise insignificant character in the “Battlestar Galactica“ miniseries who asked the pivotal question:
“What if god decided he’d made a mistake? What if he decided to give souls to another species?”
Indeed, that question is the guiding force of the show. Represented by the mysterious and seductive Number Six, we viewers are forced to consider our own existence in a way no genre feature since Kubrick?s 2001 has made us consider it before.
The other pivotal drive of the series, the tension between military vs. civilian leadership ? a tension that comes to head in the most powerful dramatic scene of the series thus far ? is represented by the opposing forces of the militaristic Commander Adama and the humanist President Roslin. Neither is flawless, both guilty of foolish decisions and occasional hubris, but it is their flaws that humanize the characters, and makes their on-again off-again friendship all the more touching.
No review of the series would be complete without mentioning Starbuck and Boomer. Early on, the gender-switch of these characters was a major point of consternation amongst naysayers, but eventually we see the reasoning behind it. By turning them into women, both love and lust become major factors, and when your thesis is about the nature of humanity, these are important avenues to pursue.
So what answers does the show present us? Thus far: none, just more questions. Such is the nature of philosophy, I suppose, but what wonderful questions they are.