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.