Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism

The connection is hardly a secret. Many websites cover this (some of them are rather hostile towards the church, but others are friendly or neutral – the best one is here.)

But for those who came in late, I’ll cover the basics and then move into deeper territory afterwards.

Keep in mind, I’m discussing the original 1979 series for the first part of this post. Also keep in mind that I have no idea about Glen A. Larson’s current standing in the church. Some sources say he is an ex-Mormon, and others claim he is a current member. So I have no idea, although I suspect (based on the number of times I’ve seen Orson Scott Card called a former Mormon) that Larson is at least still on the roles of the church. But outside of intellectual curiosity and concern for his soul, his current standing in the church doesn’t mean much. What does matter is that at one point in his life, before he created BSG, Larson was LDS.

Okay – basic connections:

1. Kobol is an anagram of Kolob. In LDS theology, Kolob is the star nearest unto the throne of God. In Battlestar Galactica, Kobol is a planet rather than a star, but the connection between the two ideas is rather clear. Also, a ship named the Star Kobol appeared briefly as the site for armistice talks between the Colonials and the Cylons.
2. The colonies are run by a council (sometimes referred to as a Quorum) of the Twelve, with a President. While a political body, the members also have religious responsibilities and duties.
3. Marriage is often referred to as sealing. Adama marries Apollo and Serina with the words: A union between this man and this woman not only for now, but for all the eternities. Although the marriage ceremony is public rather than in a temple requiring a recommend to enter, the wording and theology comes from Mormonism.
4. In the episodes “War of the Gods” parts 1 & 2, the angels from the ships of light declare that agency is supreme: We cannot interfere with freedom of choice. His, yours, anyone’s. Count Iblis (the Satan figure who is at war with the angels in the Ships of Light) can only control those who had “freely given him dominion”.
5. In the “War of the Gods”, the highly advanced beings/angels on the Ship of Lights say “As you are now, we once were; as we are now, you may become.” Do I even need to spell this one out? Fine. I think it was Lorenzo Snow who said “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”
6. In the episode “Experiment in Terra” John (an angel) says to Apollo “I have no physical body, as you know it.” Apollo points at John and asks him “What do you call that?” John replies: “A reflection of intelligence. My spirit, if you will.” That one is not as clear cut (since a spirit body is still a body) but the idea and wording of intelligence = spirit comes from Mormon sources.

Okay, that’s the (non-exhaustive) list. But what does it all add up to? Mere window dressing? Pearls before swine? Or something much more daring than most viewers and fans have realized?

Well, here’s what Orson Scott Card thought:

I found the Glen Larson approach both silly and offensive; I also found that most Mormon critics who have commented on my work and Larson’s make the same self-contradictory mistake: They find Larson’s approach – dropping in trivial LDS references – superficial, and then complain that because I don’t do the same, I am denying/concealing/ignoring my Mormonism.

(page 159 of A Storyteller in Zion).

So, according to Card, BSG is superficially LDS. That seems to be the view of most viewers. But, Card is dead wrong. I don’t blame him – after a promising series opener, BSG had a few odd episodes that involved such things as a shoot-out between Apollo and “Red-eye” (a damaged and reprogrammed Cylon) on a dime novel wild-west planet. Other such episodes seemed to render the initial promise of the series moot, and I really can’t blame Card (and others) from deciding the LDS references added up to mere window dressing.

But the series began to pick up some steam, especially with the two-part episode “War of the Gods.” This episode did more than just introduce a new threat in the form of Count Iblis, and new allies in the form of the beings from the Ships of Light. They set the basic metaphysical groundwork for the series. One major revelation retroactively changed the underlying concept behind the whole series: The Cylon Imperious leader had the same voice as Count Iblis. In essence, Satan created the Cylons.

Suddenly, for those paying attention, BSG was no longer about humanity fleeing for its lives from a superior force, hoping to find shelter on a mythical planet called Earth. It was about the battle for humanity’s soul. The Cylons weren’t just evil (if somewhat inept at shooting) robots – they were created for the specific purpose of becoming an army whose purpose would be to eliminate humanity. Iblis is at war with the being in the Ships of Light, and this war is reflected in the war between humanity and the Cylons. Humanity’s survival wasn’t just about genetic reproduction: It was about spiritual advancement: Humanity was meant to survive because its ultimate destiny is to become as advanced as the beings in the ships of light. The Cylons (and Count Iblis) meant to kill them all off (or at least corrupt them) before that could happen.

In fewer words: The basic metaphysical background of the original BSG was Mormon in character. The show was not superficially Mormon, as Card said. Instead, it was deeply, truly, inherently Mormon.

Unfortunately, the original BSG never got to explore this much further, with its cancellation and then pathetic resurrection as Battlestar 1980 (the less said about this, the better. Larson himself has written it off as “Starbuck’s nightmare”).

And how have the Mormon elements fared since then? Not well. In the few revivals that have occurred since then (not counting the new series on Sci-Fi), the creators have had a hard time dealing with these elements, either ignoring them or transmuting them into something else.

Maximum press did a comic book series that used time travel to rewrite most of the TV show’s history. The “angels” became something more akin to uber-advanced aliens. While this series showed a knack for exploiting the folklore of BSG fandom, its radical character redesigns and bizarre storylines (including a time travel story arc that rewrote every BSG story ever) didn’t endear it to fans. However, to my knowledge, these comic have the first appearance in any BSG media of humanoid Cylons. (CORRECTION: I have been informed that Human looking Cylons first appeared in Galactica 1980. I probably repressed the memory).

Maximum press itself became a victim of the comic book market collapse of the late 90s, so another comics company called Realm Press picked up the license. This series kept the religious elements in, even if they became more or less generic. Unfortunately, the publisher was unable to stick to a schedule and most of the storylines went unfinished, so it’s hard to tell exactly where this batch of comics would have gone.

Around the same time as all of this, Richard Hatch (the actor who played Apollo on the original series and plays Zarek on the new series) began co-authoring a new series of BSG novels. From all accounts, Hatch is a nice guy – but these books are a weird mix of BSG, Hatch’s own personal philosophies and borderline racist ideas. In them, Apollo becomes something of a lost Jedi. Because of his contacts with the Being of Light, he is able to tap into his mental reserves and perform all sorts of amazing mental feats. The Mormon elements of progression become something more like New Age ESP. Plus, it turns out only “pure blooded Kobollians” can tap this mental power (apparently somewhere between the fleeing of Kobol and the founding of the colonies, some humans somehow tainted the bloodlines, though this is never really explained). Also, a planet called Parnassus becomes the true font of humanity, with Kobol becoming only an ancient stopping point on the way to the twelve colonies that were introduced to us (and destroyed) in the first episode of BSG.

As for the new TV series? Well, I really don’t know. They keep some of the terminology (Kobol, Council of the Twelve), but the underlying metaphysics of the new BSG series are still unclear. In the original series, Larson basically laid all his cards on the table with “War of the Gods.”

In this new series, however, we have the idea that the colonies practiced a rather diverse, polytheistic, pluralistic and private religion. When asked if she “believed” Kara/Starbuck replied by stating “yes, not that it’s any of your business” or something along those lines. This seems reversed from the open if highly informal religiosity of the colonials in the original series. The Cylons on the new series are clearly religious, although monotheistic. The colonials seem to have no serious, strict moral code, whereas the Cylons seems to know exactly what they should be doing. But I get the feeling the creators of the new show are holding back most of their cards. Once we finally figure out the religious/metaphysical grounding of this new series, I doubt it will be more than faintly LDS, but it should be interesting nonetheless.

In either case, the original BSG was a fun bit of television. The new BSG is, however, the best show on TV right now.

Okay. Comment away.

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.

60 thoughts on “Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism

  1. “…best show on TV right now.”

    Wha? I would nominate “Arrested Development”–though I suppose since it’s been cancelled it could be considered not to be “on TV right now.”

  2. I always found that quote from Card ironic given that he had a parallel universe series with Joseph Smith and a parallel universe series of the Book of Mormon. It seems Card did the Larson thing, only moreso.

    I should add that while I missed the Mormon and Egyptian religious aspects of the old series I kind of dig the more Greek aspects of the new series. I’ve long wondered if the producer will invoke any Mormon aspects. He’s used a lot of plots from the old series as inspiration.

    Not to get off on a tangent. But do others find that the past few episodes have been weak compared to the first season and a half? I liked the one with “Scar” but thought most of the others were kind of disappointing. Partially because nothing has pushed the plot forward.

  3. Well, I loved Arrested Development (though I missed the last four episodes on Friday! Anyone tape them or know how I can legally download them?), but it’s my #2 show – mainly because while I loved it, it isn’t as accessible as the new BSG. There were too many in-jokes.

  4. clark –

    I don’t want to defend Card on this point, but I imagine his defense would be that Larson was superficially LDS, but Card’s works were deeply LDS at their core.

    I, of course, argue both Card and Larson were deeply LDS in those particular tales.

  5. That reversal you mentioned worries me. I admit that I haven’t seen the show and I don’t know if I’m going to. (We can’t afford cable.) I find it encouraging that you say it’s the best show on TV right now but I don’t like the tone that reversal sets up. It seems to me that they’re completely turning the original theme on it’s head. Now we have the “good colonists” as a “a rather diverse, polytheistic, pluralistic” group– sounds to me like how the liberal-minded like to think of themselves. The Cylons, still the baddies, are now monotheistic and “know what they should be doing”– sounds like how the liberal-minded seem to think of those of us who lean more to the right.

    No, not a development that I think I’d like.

  6. harpingheather –

    it bothers me a bit too, but since the colonists have hardly been set up as paragons of virtue, I’m expecting the shows creators have a few more surprises up their sleeve in regards to religion. I just don’t think they’ve told us everything yet, and that, in the end, there’s going to be a significant reversal or twist to their treatment of religion.

    Of course, the real solution is to have them hire me to write a script for the new BSG. 😉

  7. Yes, while the show has its flaws, one of the interesting things that is brought out is how many of the Cylon critiques are true.

    The show is very complex and doesn’t offer easy answers.

  8. I have to say Cards books that parallel the Book of Mormon were deeply LDS and very good in the beginning, but turned a bit strange about half way through the series. I never finished the series because the 3rd and 4th book went in too many directions that weren’t compelling to me like the first two books were.

  9. I agree that the new BSG is the best show on TV right now. Every episode is easily better than most big budget movies I see these days. I haven’t really been disappointed with the recent episodes either (for Clark). It’s true that they haven’t pushed the plot along much, but they are excellent stand-alone shows nevertheless, IMO.

    I think Heather’s take is right on, though (oddly since she hasn’t seen the show). The Cylons are the devouly religious (monotheistically so) and morally single minded race while the humans are pluralistic, polytheistic, morally confused group. The view of the cylons really does come off as a liberal take on devout religionists, actually. But the truth is that the writers seem to be leading us toward taking an increasingly sympathetic view of the cylons. I suspect that the cylon/human mix in the baby Sharon carries is the key to future storylines.

    Perhaps the show is so good because it is more about navigating moral ambiguities than anything else.

  10. What I see in the new BSG is a very female oriented show. All the females are as tough or tougher than males and they spend the all the shows exploring the inner feelings of the characters. All these elements make the show most attractive to women. Give me the shootem’ up action of the Stargates. That was the way the old BSG seemed to be and somehow it’s more for real men.
    I liked your history lesson about BSG. It was obviously well researched and very informative and right on.

  11. IMHO the entire premise of Battlestar Galactica is lifted from the Book of Mormon. A small group led by a prophet, fleeing the destruction of Jerusa… er, the Colonies, and traveling to a mythical Promised Land.

    “The view of the cylons really does come off as a liberal take on devout religionists, actually.”

    I think that perhaps a better parallel would be Cylons=Islamic terrorists. They’ve even got suicide bombers. The anti-military, pro-Cylon movement that was introduced a few episodes ago is somewhat reminiscent of our own current anti-war movement. (Adama as President Bush?)

    Also, the colonists’ religion does seem to have an overarching unity to it, even though it is practiced in different ways by different people. And I was pleased by how the storyline of President Roslin’s prophecy turned out — she was RIGHT, and Adama’s skepticism was not only misplaced, it ended up nearly destroying the fleet.

  12. I have absolutely nothing of substance to add, but I just want to go on the record saying that BSG is the best show on TV right now 🙂

  13. if these people use some sort of scripture, what do they call it, “The Book of Claptrap!” because I think that the writers have been smoking too much of that lately, but let’s all remember that this is the best show on TV right now…NOT!!! American Idol is…

  14. The religion of the new show is less well defined but the characters seem more deeply religious. The president and the cylons are the prime examples of this. Baltar is sometimes.

    It does seem that new show has Mormoness only in that it is based on the old show, and there is no deep understanding of anything LDS.

  15. maybe if it will fail in the UK, then Sci-Fi can replace Big Stupid Goof-up with the latest BBC specialty, Dr. Who, another wonderful chaotic view of poor and tasteless historical re-tread TV!! They actually should try ‘Coronation Street’ a true Sci-Fi narcisistic melodrama!

  16. Anonymoose, American Idol? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! If anything else is to be considered the best show on TV besides BSG, then Grey’s Anatomy is it.

  17. yes, Tanya, American Idol….(PAUSE)…..bahahahahahahaha, you’re right there is nothing worse than American Idol!

  18. arj, I totally disagree. I thought last night was one of their strongest episodes. The shower dream at the beginning of last week had me totally rolling my eyes, even though I knew they were doing it in an attempt to attract Superbowl viewers (do such stunts work?), but luckily it settled down to normal episode. But I loved last night’s ep.

  19. I can confirm that I have absolutely no connection to Ron Moore whatsoever.

    In fact, I was oppossed to this new BSG when I first heard about it. I watched it hoping (nay, praying) for a train wreck. I was so fracking upset that this new show wasn’t a continuation of the original I had hate mail in my inboz ready to send off, insulting Moore, Bonnie Hammer and the Sci-Fi channel in general.

    However, I was totally blown away and became a fan. The mini-series was good – but the regular series was even better. The first episode of the first season “33” was one of the finest hours ever in dramatic television. It had pathos, hubris, gravitas and depth. Hard choices were made in order to insure the survival of the fleet. There were no easy answers – there never are.

  20. Editor’s Note: Due to extensive spamming all comments from the spammer and comments directly about the spammer were removed at Ivan’s request so as to continue the original discussion which had been derailed. My apologies if you felt something was deleted in error. Feel free to repost it if it relates to the thread.

  21. Ivan,

    I was no so much opposed to the new BSG as I was skeptical. I thought the idea of non-mechanical Cylons was lame to say the least. I didn’t even watch the miniseries though we had cable at the time. Then people online started raving about the series when it was broadcast in the UK. I downloaded the first few episodes and was amazed by the intesity. It was like 24, but with more characters that mattered, and they didn’t focus so much on being in space as they did on the interactions between the characters.

    The intensity let off a bit after the first few episodes, but the characters remained compelling and the show really had a peak during the last two episodes of the first season.

    I liked it enough to actually buy the miniseries. It wasn’t as good as the better episodes of the show, but that isn’t much of a criticism.

    I’ve long been a fan of the old show and remember watching it on VHS in my freshman dorm pointing out all the Mormonisms to my friends, who were probably considering it a form of torture.

    My current complaint is that they’ve pulled a lot of punches. After starting out with the destruction of a civilization they’ve been very reticent to kill major characters off. Several have been shot or injured but they’re all back to normal now. Not killing the president off after building up to it for over a year seemed almost unfortunate.

    Sometimes I wish that US television was more like TV in Latin America. Shows there have an endpoint in mind when they start. If they are popular they put more content in the middle but still get to the end. If they are not popular they skip quickly to the conclusion. In some ways that model leads to more compelling story telling. I guess that Ron has something in mind though given that DS9 had a story arc.

  22. One problem with shows with an “endpoint in mind” is that they often get cancelled before they reach it. I worry about Lost, for instance, which is like that. It supposedly will take nearly 8 seasons (ideally) to finish up. One thing that BSG is trying to do is what XFiles did. That is have some relatively “stand alone” episodes and then some that are more “mythos.” One complaint some (not me) have about Lost is that there are too many “mythos” episodes and nothing akin to the stand alone.

    Having said that I do feel that the way the President was saved was a huge cop out and quite annoying. I also find the way Baltazar had his big “change” was a cop out as well – especially since he had just saved the President’s life. I also found the terrorism (pro peace with the Cylons and wipe out the Cylons) a bit ridiculous, especially given all that’s going on. So thus far this last “season” I’ve been kind of disappointed. Not Alias Season 3 level disappointment yet, but disappointed nonetheless. I think it’s more apparent given how great all the other episodes were.

  23. For the record, my comment was entirely about the spammer and should probably be deleted as I am not sure it makes sense without him. Although, people who would do such a thing are clearly the lackeys of Universal Pictures and part of their internet propaganda campaign.

  24. Baltar is a confusing character – in both the original and new series (though in the new one especially).

    He seems to change positions three or four times an episode.

    I don’t think, however, that the way the president was saved was a cop-out. Instead, it seemed to me to be a way to emphasize the importance of this new hybrid baby. The BSG advertising campaign has started to be centered around the cylon/human hybrid fetus. So by using its blood to save the President, we were getting a sign that “there is something more to this than the Cylons religous fanatacism – this is more important than we have realized.”

    But I do think that right now they seem to be vamping a bit too much.

    However, I’m still not buying the idea that the colonials are just barely surviving and staying ahead of the cylons. I’m convinced that if the Cylons wreally anted to wipe them out and take a few hostage for breeding experiments, they could do it in a second. Right now it seems the Cyclons are waging psychological warfare.

    Also – the most recent suicide bombers on the series have not been Cylons, but human peace activists. I think that renders the thesis “Cylons are Islamic fundamentalists” rather problematic.

  25. Clark,

    Actually my great fear is that BSG becomes like X-Files, which lasted several seasons too long and could never really resolve even a small portion of the loose ends.

    Also I should clarify about the endpoint model. Under this model when a show is cancelled, it gets to get to the predetermined end quickly. This might be hard to do in the US with the emphasis on seasons and getting cancelled over the summer. I am guessing that BSG probably will be around for a long time given the long life that Stargate has had (much of it on SciFi) and the general excellence of the show. However I do hope that there is some endpoint in mind that they are working towards, however long it takes to get there. Maybe they’ll arrive at Earth circa 1980…

  26. John, I was never a X-Files fan. Too silly for my tastes. However I’m told most of the threads were wrapped up at the end of season 6. Then they kept the show going with nothing much more to go with it unless one decided to do something about the invasion. But they didn’t go that direction. Instead they kept trying to go with the same vibe.

    I think Alias had the same problem, although with that show it resolved things about half way through the second season and then had no where to go. Then it kept being “re-invented” with each reinvention being worse than the one before. (This season has been a waste)

    Will this happen with BSG? I hope not. Although with the exception of the Scar episode the past few weeks haven’t inspired confidence. Of course all series have weak episodes. There was a huge lull in the first season of 24 after they rescue the wife and kids, for instance. So I’m hoping that is what’s going on.

  27. Unlike X-Files and Alias, I think BSG could go longer without wrapping up without it becoming silly. It seems perfectly reasonable that they could be out there for years looking for Earth and dealing with the Cylons. However, in order to pull that off, they writing would have to continue to be quality, and they’d have to actually be able to come up with places to take the characters. That’s hard to do.

    X-Files seemed to have good writing all the way through (though I bailed the last two seasons, so I can’t vouch for them), but Chris Carter had no idea where to take it. There was no point. Alias has a similar problem, but they just lost their point earlier on. Actually, I guess X-Files lost their point earlier, but we as viewers didn’t realize it until several seasons in. And though JJ Abrams has said that Lost actually has an ultimate secret(s) to be revealed over time, and he knows where he wants to take it, I’m still wary after X-Files. However, BSG seems to be a slightly different type of series in that the grand overall thing isn’t as big of a mystery. It is more of a straight-forward show. Therefore, continuing on for a long period of time won’t necessarily be stringing people along without a point.

  28. Chris Carter said one problem with X-files was that if he left it, FOX would continue the series without him and he didn’t want to see someone else mess up his mythology. It was still a mess. The last season wasn’t worth much, and the last episode made little sense. And they killed off the Lone Gunmen just to spite the fans of the aborted spin-off series.

    However, I felt it was a little daring for the creators in BSG to kill off the President’s aide in the last episode. However, even Moore himself has expressed dissapointment with some recent episodes (such as Black Market).

    I’m hoping the upcoming Cylon point of view episode “Downloaded” will give us some more answers.

  29. Ivan,

    Billy died a lame and meaningless death. They should have had him die from friendly fire rather than having Lee simply get shot but be ok.

  30. It was meaningless, but primarily done because he was trying to out do Lee to impress the girl. There were plenty of foreshadowings through the episode.

    But that’s not what bugged me. What bugged me was that in a bar on a luxury ship like that there were no security cameras, no bouncers, nothing. Then the way the marines dealt with things was just stupid. Finally why on earth did Apollo go back in the way he did? It was bad enough plotting that I actually thought Glen A. Larson had done that episode. Overall the episode actually bugged me far more than the one where Apollo is visiting the prostitute.

    I recognize that BSG doesn’t want to focus on the science fiction aspects as much. That is all the science. But some things are necessary. I always hate it when a show throws out logic or how people actually behave so as to make some character point possible. That’s what I felt happened in both this episode as well as the one about the blackmarketeers. (I also felt that about the one bad Lost episode: the one with the guy from LotRs and his “baptism” of the baby)

  31. Clark –

    that’s true. The Marines acted like idiots in that episode. Starbuck’s whole reason for being in that show was so she could screw up – and she wasn’t even drunk. If she had been drunk, that might have explained her behavior.

    I still thought Billy’s death was handled well, since his character arc has been an imporant (if background) part of the series. While it doesn’t make us fell like “no one is safe” it does at least create the idea “none of the secondary or tertiary characters are safe.”

  32. I meant meaningless in terms of the overall plot of the series. Obviously it had some meaning in terms of the episode, but it seemed rather manufactured.

    Apollo should have killed the guy in the bathroom silently, and then killed whoever they sent in to check on him, and then he should have gone out in a blaze of glory.

    Either that or he should have done gotten out of the bar when he saw the gun and contacted someone.

  33. John, all I could think while watching the mind numbingly bad Apollo decisions was “what would Jack Bauer do. . .”

    Jack Bauer would end the Cylon threat and do it in 24 hours!

  34. I apologize that I can’t retrieve the source and link to it, but I distinctly remember reading an interview with the producer/creator of the current BSG in which he indicated that he was fully aware of Glen Larson’s use of Mormon “mythology” in creating the original series but would not continue those themes in the new show because he didn’t know enough about Mormonism to carry it off. Instead he using the new series to explore the negative consequences of monotheism as exemplified by the monotheistic Cylons contrasted with the nice New Agey polytheistic humans. The “mythos” of the new BSG is the modern liberal idea that monotheism is bad because it leads to intolerance and war.

  35. It was in his blog. He also mentioned that Larson’s primary Egyptian motif would be discarded. That actually makes sense although I do miss the quasi-Egyptian flight helmets of the old series.

  36. “Instead he using the new series to explore the negative consequences of monotheism as exemplified by the monotheistic Cylons contrasted with the nice New Agey polytheistic humans. The “mythos” of the new BSG is the modern liberal idea that monotheism is bad because it leads to intolerance and war.”

    I’d really like to see a source for this.

  37. Instead he using the new series to explore the negative consequences of monotheism as exemplified by the monotheistic Cylons contrasted with the nice New Agey polytheistic humans. The “mythos” of the new BSG is the modern liberal idea that monotheism is bad because it leads to intolerance and war

    I couldn’t find any such statements on Moore’s blog. If those statements do exist, I’d like to know about them. They seem a bit too – convenient, since elsewhere on the blog he has said the mysteries behind the religions has yet yet to be revealed.

  38. Not that part Ivan, the part about not following Mormon and Egyptian mythos.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the claim about monotheism and New Age. In various podcasts Moore’s appeared to argue for something quite a bit more complex as well.

    My personal suspicion (although I hope it won’t be true) is that the humans will find the Gods and that Moore will do a riff of the later episodes of the classic series. Only the humans will find out that they were originally robots just like the Cylons are. i.e. a kind of weird doppleganger of Brigham Young’s notion of deification.

  39. Clark –

    yeah, I was aware of Moore’s comments regarding Egyptian motiffs.

    To paraphrase Woodsworth, the current BSG is “trailing clouds of Mormonism, from Larson who was its home.”

    or something.

  40. I may have been overstating Ron Moore’s position on the use of the monotheism/polytheism distinction a bit, but see this quote from his interview on the BSG home page:

    http://www.scifi.com/battlestar/bts/interviews/moore_QA.html

    Q: Was the decision to make the Cylons monotheistic and the Colonials polytheistic a conscious choice? If so, was it done to challenge the audience’s (at least subconscious) bias in favor of monotheist (Christian/Jewish) faiths by making the “bad guys” have a religion that more closely resembles our own?

    Moore: It was a conscious choice I made during the development of the miniseries. I had included a line from Number Six where she said, “God is love,” and that became the jumping off point for this entire aspect of the series. The fact that the Colonials already had Greco/Roman names and nomenclature made it a natural for saying that they were polytheistic. I think I realized that the clash of two civilizations with these beliefs would echo our own history as well as be an interesting inversion of the usual Pagan=Bad, Christian=Good dynamic and I thought that would be interesting to play around with.

  41. JWL –

    I think the key there is “play around with” since Moore has hardly made the Colonials beacons of virtues. Clearly the Cylons are bad, bad, bad – but like I said above, the suicide bombers have been humans more often then not. Humanity as a “flawed creation” seems to be the main point of the series in the last few episodes (even in the less than stellar Black Market: One could hardly imagine child prostitution [or any black market] among the Cylons, even if they had kids).

  42. Hmmmm –

    well, after tonight’s episode, I might just start agreeing with those who see religion that actually demands something of its followers as the “bad guy” in BSG.

    Beyond the utter predictability of everything that happened in the episode (my wife was able to guess the ultimate actions and fate of nearly evey character 20 minutes into the episode), the conservative Gemenons were the intolerant, unsympathetic ones, whereas the doctor was apparently some sort of hero for preforming covert abortions.

    The issue had to come up at some point, I guess, but I find it hard to ignore the clear moral being preached by it. It was still good enough I’m not too disapointed, but overall, it was a let down.

    Maybe someone else can convince me I’m reading too much into the episode?

    At least the previews for next week (for the Cylon centered episode) look promising.

  43. Ivan, why do you think that? Tonight’s episode cleared some of the worry that several of the past episodes brought to mind. (in terms of complexity and quality) But I thought the way abortion was handled was rather complex. You had people viewing it in a myriad of ways and also the typical religious view (sex is significantly for reproduction) suddenly taking on a much more real and important stage. This to me was BSG at its best, dealing with religious issues in a very complex fashion.

    Yes it was somewhat predictable, but most of them typically are. I might be too jaded. I can call most shows including Lost at 24 pretty quickly. What I enjoyed is how the plot developed. Plus they seem to have Baltazar back on track after some too out of character episodes.

    I don’t think it fair to merely say the Gemenons were intolerant and unsympathetic, given their position in prior episodes. But they were acting how typical pro-life folks work in politics. And Baltazar was acting how opportunistic pro-choice folks work. But Adama was the most interesting pro-life voice I thought. Further the President went along with the abortion ban.

    This was the best episode thus far since the break IMO.

    The one flaw was why there weren’t air masks a plenty throughout the ship for doing repairs. It seems that air leaks would be a common occurance on a battleship in space. I understand why Moore simply ignores the technology issues in the show. I don’t even mind everyone using Glocks for their guns and drive Hummers. But he frequently ignores technology in a way that would significantly affect the plot. I mentioned he did that last week as well.

  44. Clark –

    perhaps my reaction was a tad hasty, but the episode was too predictable.

    As for people viewing Abortion in a myriad of ways – well, the only ones actually oppossed to it on moral grounds were the Genoshans, who did little more that spout empty soundig platitudes. As far as they were concerned, the episode seemed to be saying: The president got a lot of power playing the religion card, now it’s gonna bite her in the butt – the religous right is now going to make unreasonable demands of her.

    I agree the show was more complex that it could have been – it was clearly complex – but the basic position seemed to be that the doctor was a hero (a Cider House Rules thing), the President’s original position was the correct one and she is only changing it due to the extreme circumstances they are under, and that Genoshans are, rather than real allies, unreasonable annoyances.

    But I admit I may be misreading the show. I have enough faith in the show (it’s been excellent so far) that I may modify my reading depending on how future shows go.

  45. Just found this comment here at the Corner that sort of sums up one problem I had with BSG last night.

    Here’s a bit of it (but read the whole comment):
    Even more annoying is that the fight has to be between religious fundamentalists and lovers of freedom. This displays a profound lack of imagination in one of TVs most imaginative shows. Law & Order is “ripped from the headlines” in this way, BSG doesn’t need to be.

  46. I sure didn’t get the impression that the Doctor was a hero. It seemed to me that Adama was pretty pissed about it all. Not to mention the security issues. Certainly the President was pro-choice. But I didn’t get the impression that was the only position. Just that it was hers. Which wasn’t surprising given her character. What’s typically surprising is when she departs from a kind of secular liberalism. Which was why her being the prophet-like figure was so interesting.

    I also don’t think that the fight is between religious fundamentalists and lovers of freedom. Note how Rosalynde, who is a liberal, is the one fighting against abortion. And Baltazar, the traitor, is the one being the “lover of freedom.” Further the key figure (to me) in it all was Adama who is a pragmatist and playing a very interesting take on the abortion issue one doesn’t typically hear in the debates.

    Likewise one has to put all of this in the context of the earlier attempted abortion of the Cylon baby where many crew members were fighting against it. Their cry? It’s a baby.

  47. Clark –

    hmmm. I see your point. On reflection, I realize my initial reaction was likely wrong.

    I still stand by the assertion that the episode was too predictable overall. But it was better than “Black Market.”

  48. It was a darn site better than last week’s also. In fact I’d say it’s the best so far since the break. I was starting to get worried. Most of the episodes since the break didn’t exactly excite me too much. I’m pretty interested in next week’s take on the show from the Cylon POV.

  49. I didn’t see any endorsement of any religious attitude in the new show, but that doesn’ mean it’s endorsing pluralism. Wha seems to be going on is a bunch of people with strong religious roots, who have by and large strayed from them and become secular with lip service to their deities. The faithful are there (Geminon). Some have come to see that there was more to their religion than they had thought, as he prophecies are coming true.

    The Cylons are certainly pure and single-minded, but they were modeled on Al Qaeda. Of course, that’s all changing now.

    Scar was absolutely the worst hour of Galactica ever, including Galactica 1980. I was really mad that I’d stayed up to watch such complete drivel rather than getting some much-needed sleep. The whole episode could have happened in 15 minutes, they could have done some necessary exposition in the right order to fill up some of the rest of the hour, and then the rest of it could have been an interesting A-story to balance out the really lame B-story that was Scar. They really owed us a good episode after that, and the next few were only ok. They finally gave us one with Downloaded, though. That was probably the best hour of Galactica ever.

    As for the story arc, there’s clearly something they’ve got in mind that they haven’t told, and I really hope it’s more than X-Files had. They seemed to make it up as they went along, and it never went anywhere. Once you got past the fourth or fifth season, the conspiracy episodes starting dropping in quality, even when the show got better by breathing new blood into it when Duchovny left. But with BSG, we do have some indication that they’re doing at least a whole season’s worth at a time. Ideally it would be more than that. It really paid off with Babylon 5’s five-year arc that had all been planned out from the beginning (though with some modifications necessary due to cast changes).

    As for the negative consequences of monotheism, Moore never said any such thing on his blog. I’ve been reading his blog from the beginning, and that’s been pretty far from anything he’s said. He did say that he was modeling the Cylons on Al Qaeda. Where he seems to be taking the Cylons (and where the monotheistic Six and Baltar in each other’s heads are going) doesn’t seem to be the original terrorist direction anyway, and now we’ve seen an atheistic Cylon model. Also, Moore has come out admitting that the monotheism of the Cylons and polytheism of the colonials wasn’t even his idea to begin with. He wasn’t going to bring religion in at all until some higher-up suggested it, and I guess his good experiences with the religious aspects of DS9 attracted him to the idea.

    I thought the handling of abortion was fine. They represented Geminon in pretty much the way the pro-life activists handle things in real life. They represented the president as the good secularist pro-choicer she is but who sees a new circumstance justifying a ban on abortion for very different reasons. They didn’t seem to me to indicate that any one of the characters involved was in the right, but they did a good job of playing out the moral dilemma someone who had Roslin’s views would face in such a situation. If there was any bad guy, it was Baltar, who manipulated Roslin into adopting that position so that he could come out as a the pro-choice good guy. I don’t see how that’s a negative portrayal of pro-life people and a positive portrayal of pro-choice people. It was an interesting situation with questions that many people would find tough but that would never arise in our current situation.

  50. I liked Scar. It was the episodes before and after that I thought were dreck and out of character.

  51. Re: Ivan’s opening paragraph. I don’t believe that Glen Larson has been formally ex-communicated, though I’ve been to his house many times (in L.A.) and had dinner with him, etc., and I can tell you personally he is LONG GONE from the Church. You couldn’t quite call him an ex-Mormon, but you might as well. I didn’t find him antagonistic or hostile toward the Church; he could basically care less.

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  55. I am very much troubled regarding the upcoming election. Considering everything that is occuring in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East (not to mention our own economy) we certainly should demand a skilled leader. I’m convinced that Barack Obama or any of the Republican candidates thus far have the experience or skills necessary to do the job the way it needs to be done. Being president of this country is an astonishingly challenging job. Is there any man or woman out there with the experience, skill, and moral conviction to do the job?

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