Galactic lessons

Our view: A space opera invites consideration of the world's moral ambiguities

March 20, 2009

Who would have thought that the revival of a creaky TV space opera like Battlestar Galactica would have meaningful lessons to teach about human rights, terrorism and reconciliation? But this complex and intellectually challenging narrative series has delivered all of that and more through four award-winning seasons that will end with its final episode tonight.

Battlestar Galactica's explorations of faith, politics and terror have struck so painfully close to home that the United Nations hosted a special panel this week to discuss human rights issues raised by the series.

The series' heroes are humans, pursued by Cylons - artificial intelligence that rose up to exterminate their human creators. But the Cylons have become clones, indistinguishable from their civilian counterparts. That transformation invites a drumbeat of questions about what it means to be human, and whether there is such a thing as absolute good or evil.

The plot becomes an allegory for terrorism and transforms the struggles of the Galactica's crew into an examination of the political, cultural and military landscape of the post-9/11 war on terror.

Viewers of one episode found themselves cheering the humans until they realized that they were condoning a suicide attack on a puppet government that was controlled by the military strength of occupying forces. The Iraq overtones were painful to consider.

At a time when most TV entertainment is a mindless escape from the world's problems, the Galactica crew gave viewers a mind-bending dose of reality, even if presented in a galaxy far, far away.

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