Mar. 20th, 2009

lizzieladie: (character)
So in the last couple of weeks I've been catching up the entirety of BSG. For the most part I've really liked what I found. The story of a civilization being reduced almost to nothing and then trying to sort out which parts of its identity it should keep and which parts need to go is incredibly compelling. It also satisfied some left over frustrations that I've had with the way morality was portrayed in Harry Potter - people seem to really be defined by their choices rather than by who their parents were. President Roslin's very understandable disgust and guilt with Gaius Baltar's presidency and the occupation really remind me of an expectation that some people had back in the early days of HP, that Harry would eventually have to realize that he had the same unfair prejudices about Slytherin House that the Slytherins had about muggle borns. Of course JKR totally did not go there, though I think that the series would have been a lot better if she had. Roslin's attitude towards Baltar reminded me a lot of that idea - thinking that you have the moral high ground when you really have prejudice, not enough information, and in Roslin's case a lot of guilt. Baltar's trial and Lee Adama's assertion that everyone else who screwed up throughout the series has been forgiven, that Baltar shouldn't have to pay for sins just because society/the President need someone to blame gave me a sense of closure on the HP stuff. It was just really nice to know that there are some people doing things right in storytelling. That said, the mechanism by which they got Lee on the stand to make that assertion was probably one of their sloppiest yet. I think they could have made up a better legal device to give him the floor.

One of the really obvious things about the show is that the twelve colonies parallel the US government and society in the twentieth century. Everything from the importance of the president (I would say the whole structure of the government, but if there was a balancing judiciary before the cylon attack all of the judges seem to have been killed), to the racial make up of the fleet invokes the modern US. I cannot for the life of me decide if this is a strength or a weakness to the show. For my initial viewing it certainly made moments like the invocation of the fifth-amendment equivalent extremely powerful. However, I wonder how things like that play to non-US viewers. Also, given that the planet earth that they go to seems to in fact be our earth, until very recently I was expecting that we would get some sort of explanation of our world's connection to the twelve colonies, most probably that all of of the colonies originated from a population of humans living there. It might be possible to explain how the religious views had evolved, and how everyone seemed to be the Roman/Greek variety of pagan and how no one remembered any of the details of what are now the major world religions. But it would have been really hard to explain how the government ended up as solidly American (as opposed to Parliamentary) as it is when people have no memory of our earth, and why the population is majority white. It might have made more sense in the long run to create a completely new governmental and religious system. I think that there are good historical reasons for things ending up the way they have on this planet at this time, and that you can't just transplant those things to another set of planets in another time without raising questions about the quality and consistency of your world building.

The other major thing about BSG is that cylon/human relations arc reminds me very strongly of the oankali/human relations arc in Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood series. In some ways, that the aliens the humans are trying to come to an understanding with and build a life are the very aliens who have killed humanity in the first place makes a more poignant story than that of aliens coming in from the outside to save humanity. On the other hand, the the motivation of the Oankali made sense in terms of their morality - humanity has proved that it is capable of destroying itself, therefore we need to step in and change it. It's problematic morally and denies agency to the humans, but it makes sense. In contrast, BSG's entire explanation for cylon/human relations thus far is that John Cavil has identity issues and is a nutjob. I understand why Cavil feels the way he feels, I don't understand how he got the other Cylons to agree with him for so long unless he actually changed their programming to make them agree more (in the same way that he wanted them to never think about the final five) but in that case, he did a really bad job. I also have a sneaking suspicion that he intentionally changed Ellen's programming to make her more promiscuous and silly in line with own view of her when he sent her to earth, but that skeeves me out so much I don't like to think about it.

One of the things that has really bugged throughout BSG is the focus on sexual relationships as the important ones that will bring the races together. On one level, because Cylon reproduction depends on humans it makes sense. On another, I don't think that you can just have strong sexual relationships and have a society that functions. Early in the series, I was frustrated because Boomer and Caprica 6 seemed to be integrating only along those lines, but I think that as the series progressed it's done a better job moving away from the emphasis on sex. For one thing, I can't say that either Boomer or Caprica 6 have integrated well into human society. When Boomer believed she was human she had, but in recent episodes it seems that her only tie to her humanity was the Chief, that all of the other relationships she developed meant nothing to her. Similarly, Caprica 6's motivation to help humans stemmed mostly from her relationship with Baltar, rather than from any other relationships she developed. For a while it looked like Athena was going to go this route too, with her closest ties being to Helo and Hera, but I think the reason that she has successfully integrated into human society again is that she did develop friendships and trust with the other pilots and with Adama, that she developed connections outside of her family. The show has actually performed a lot better on this count than I would have guessed it would after season two.

All in all, it's great show, one of the best things I've seen put together for television and I'm very excited for the finale. That said, I'm not sure that it was planned out as well as I thought it was, and I think that the people who are saying that it's transcending the SF genre need to do some reading and then see if they think that it's as original as they thought. I think that the appeal to women and stories focusing on people have been done quite a lot in literary SF and that the people who think of SF as equaling the old BSG should realize that this was only true on television. (And not even there really, Farscape was fairly character driven.) BSG is an excellent example of the fact that the television medium is capable of keeping up with other mediums, and that when it's used well it can bring the complexity that long novels can get that movies sometimes have to leave behind to a screen format. BSG is not an example of SF doing anything new and shiny and spectacular.


lizzieladie: (Default)

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