Is there a role for faith in sci-fi? I say of course, but the battle simmers.
This recent post from a Netflix-sponsored blog brings up the issue of religion as discussed in the 2000s now-classic series Battlestar Galactica. The four-season-long reboot of the 1970s show was well written, well acted, and wasn’t afraid to take on the big issues of the day (the opening battles of the global war on terror). But by the time the show ended its run, there was simmering controversy among its fans: why end it with all the overt religious references?
I would say they weren’t truly paying attention.
Battlestar Galactica in its fun and campy 1970s incarnation was an allegory for Mormonism. And it was great television sci-fi, even to my 7-year-old mind. When it was relaunched it kept a strong element of religion. The cylons were inspired by the one true god, and they despised the humans not only as their creators, but for their polytheism. The cylons consistently talked of “a plan” and of their faith in god. Meanwhile, the humans always implored and paid tribute to their Greek-named gods. Take a look at this promo picture below. Can this get any more overtly religious?
So if the religion was in the DNA of Battlestar Galactica, why the controversy?
–There are many in the science community–and the sci-fi community–who see religion and science as antagonistic. They view science as the antithesis of religion. Therefore, having a sci-fi show that takes religion seriously (and not just as a metaphor or a plot device) is at its heart a betrayal of all that is sci-fi. I am not one of these people.
—Battlestar Galactica fully embraced religion. It took faith seriously. However, it failed in that it used the mystery of religion to paper over plot holes. The biggest: when Starbuck disappeared, seemingly died, and came back. Was she some sort of angel? Was she reanimated? The writers never even tried to explain. Faith was used in the wrong sense. The viewer was expected to have faith that things were happening for a reason.
What reason, though?
Unfortunately we were never given a satisfying answer. All we heard were things like “this has all happened before, and it will all happen again.” Uh, ok.
The cause for the Battlestar Galactica controversy are twofold – one inevitable and the other avoidable. All in all though, the series is brilliant television. Its strengths far outweigh its flaws.