Why should you watch Battlestar Galactica when its fourth season premieres Friday night? Not just for the hot sweaty robots and explosions — but because Battlestar, as its devoted fans proudly point out, artfully explores the post-9/11 world, paralleling today's headlines in its exploration of civil liberties, nation building, and terrorism. But thanks to the aforementioned hot sweaty robots, it isn't a slog! Don't believe us? We break down the political overtones in the Battlestar universe, after the jump.
The Initial Attack
At the start of the original December 2003 mini-series, the Cylons, a race of highly intelligent robots created by man that look like us, return after a 40-year absence to all but obliterate humanity in a highly choreographed strike, leaving chaos and terror in their wake. Shell-shocked survivors desperately looking for loved ones, an invisible enemy meaning to end our way of life, the sudden exit of normalcy from everyday existence: For gripping fictional re-creations of September 11’s horror, Battlestar got there before Spielberg’s War of the Worlds – and was far more disturbing.
The Born-Again President
President Laura Roslin (played by Mary McDonnell) begins to see visions that correspond to ancient spiritual texts, suggesting that she has been divinely chosen to lead humanity to the mythical planet Earth where they will be safe. The fact that her visions could have been a side effect of her powerful cancer medicine is lost on her, as she seems bathed in born-again religious fervor. At the end of season two, she fixes the vote, certain that her opponent is on the side of the enemy. A born-again president, chosen by God to lead the people to victory? Electoral discrepancies? Pretty farfetched.
Cruel and Unusual
The Galactica crew haven't shied away from torture when Cylon combatants threaten the last of humanity. Is it worth it? Could you live with it? Battlestar's season-one episode "Flesh and Bone" suggests it's never possible to completely dehumanize a prisoner — even when he isn't human in the first place.
Enslaved by Cylons on New Caprica, season three found the humans — once the equivalent of a terrorist-wary nation — using terrorism as a tool of resistance. Galactica officer Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) leads the revolt, ordering suicide bombings to drive the Cylons away. Suddenly our heroes are no longer so easily identified, as the show's writers ask the audience to put themselves in the position of Iraqi insurgents. The decision sparked much online discussion and even led a Slate writer to suggest that in expressing sympathy with Iraqi insurgents the show was "charting a course far out into space, and its viewers may not be able to follow." —Tim Grierson