I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Election 2006 series because none of my previous theories about my laptop’s narcolepsy really worked. When it started falling asleep during work, I moved to a new (for me) laptop. That’s update number one.

Number two is that, contrary to my expectations of the plot of Battlestar Galactica season three, it appears the good guys have pretty much already won only three weeks in. I haven’t watched the week three show yet, but if the foreshadowing in the week two show and the title of Dave’s recent post (which I haven’t read yet for fear of spoiling week three) are any indication, what I thought was going to take the whole season is already over. So hopefully what comes next will have a little more moral ambiguity.

And I’ll get back to devaluing the privacy of our election process when I return from yet another weekend trip. Hopefully I’ll finish before election day.

 

I think I enjoyed the premiere of Battlestar Galactica season three more than Dave Rogers. I suspect that’s because I’m a less dedicated fan. Dave has a well-developed understanding of the motivations of each character, but I’m conceptualizing them much more generally, and especially so after the long summer break.

Some characters are generally good. Some characters are generally bad. Some characters are generally ambiguous. Some characters are civilians. Some characters are military. With the entire plot turned upside down, none of this has changed really. While Dave is expecting a more complex reason for Adama’s guilt, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

At the end of season two, I was rather annoyed at the plot twist. After watching the premiere of season three, I’m still annoyed at it, but not for the reasons I was before (the plot is broken), nor for the reasons Dave seems to be. I’m now going to spoil both the plot twist and the season three premiere, so if you haven’t seen those and don’t like spoilers, stop here.

Now then, up until the end of season two, the analogies between the Battlestar Galactica universe and modern events here in reality were pretty obvious. Cylons, like terrorists, do not observe the moral boundaries the rest of us enjoy. Yet they look and act just like normal people. What are we to do? Kill them all! Hmm, that didn’t work so well. We better put some more thought into this. And that’s where we are at the end of season two: putting more thought into how to live in a world where anyone could be walking around holding a fundamentally different world view that threatens everything we hold dear, and we have no way of knowing it until it’s too late.

At the end of season two, the cylon-terrorists suddenly win the war. They’re able to impose their world view on humanity, and everything changes. Now humanity is the terrorists, with suicide bombers to boot. New moral question: what would you do if you were an Iraqi? I don’t like this question because it’s not really that interesting. I don’t know exactly what I’d do, but I know I wouldn’t support suicide bombers. Maybe I’d feel differently if this wasn’t so entirely hypothetical, but it is. Iraqis are not watching Battlestar Galactica.

The cylons are now playing the part of America in this analogy, and I’d say it’s not really working so far. As a viewer, am I supposed to feel empathy for the cylons? I feel more empathy for Bush. At least he has some vague plan, detached from reality as it is. But despite the chilling "they have a plan" conclusion of the Battlestar Galactica intro, by all appearances they don’t really. It turns out the world view they’re finally able to impose on humanity isn’t a world view at all. It’s a mish-mash of completely contradictory world views.

Some of the cylons believe in peace; others want to destroy humanity. Some love humans; others hate them. It’s not so unbelievable that the cylons would contradict each other, but that any authoritarian regime would. I’m having a lot of trouble believing this mix of views was somehow able to come together to accomplish even the most mundane task, much less the subjugation of all of humanity. They’re voting! Genocidal maniacs don’t vote on exactly how much genocide to carry out. Suddenly I’ve lost my suspension of disbelief.

So I’m no longer interested in the moral questions of Battlestar Galactica and I no longer believe the basic plot makes any sense, even granting the questionable science of it all. Why do I say I liked it more than Dave? Because the plot is unresolved, and my shallow attention to the show makes that unresolved plot compelling despite these other failings.

I want the good guys to win. What began as a show appealing to my more refined philosophical side now appeals to my most basic interests. I won’t be very surprised if the cylons kill a puppy in the next episode just to dumb it down a little more for me and make me sympathize even with the suicide bombers in my desire for the good guys to win. And that’s not so bad, but I was expecting more.

Maybe the show will grow more complex again. Maybe I really will start to question the ethics of suicide bombing. Maybe I’ll gradually forget that the cylons destroyed humanity and start to care about the problems they face trying to come to terms with their status as the sole remaining superpower. But I think it’s more likely I’ll instead spend the rest of Battlestar Galactica season three waiting for the good guys to win.

 

Dave Rogers writes:

Making the mini-series free on the iTMS lowers a barrier to entry for new, mainstream audience members, draws attention to the series and the SciFi channel, and gives potential new fans the foundation the story requires and promotes purchases of the Season 1 and Season 2 episodes either on DVD or at the iTMS.

He's right. Battlestar Galactica is a good show, and many people who saw the mini-series would want to keep watching enough to pay.

I was going to say BSG is one of the few shows I watch, thinking that a discriminating viewer like me watching it would indicate how good it is. But then I started listing the shows I watch, and it turns out I'm not as selective as I'd imagined. I subscribe to both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report (despite Comedy Centrals craptacular website). I watch the IT crowd when it's available to download (which it hasn't been recently - what happened to it?). I just started watching Ze Frank's the Show, but that doesn't really count, does it?

I once had my calendar remind me to watch both Arrested Development and the Simpsons, but then Arrested Development was cancelled, and I started watching the West Wing after, and then instead of, the Simpsons. The West Wing is ending soon, and I don't expect I'll go back to watching the Simpsons regularly, so my calendar shows are over.

Jessica was bringing home Monk DVDs from the library, and that's the only show I like to watch, but would not claim is quality television. It has completely unbelievable characters and plots, but I like it anyway. I won't be watching that, though, until the library gets the next season on DVD. I'll watch CSI or Law and Order if they're on the TV when I'm in the room, but I won't go out of my way to find them.

And then there's BSG. So though I'll soon be able to say that BSG is one of only three shows I watch, and the only one not available as a free download, my viewing is not so refined just yet. Still, as someone who will be a discriminating viewer, I give BSG my seal of approval, for whatever that's worth. You should watch it if you haven't.