Sunday, August 7, 2011

Film Fest - Battlestar Galactica Finale

The end of 70+ episodes.  An operatic, epic of a television journey.  Battlestar Galactica has been an incredible ride.

I watched the last three episodes at one sitting (recommended) and even the next day feel breathless.  There was controversy over the series' ending with many fans disappointed, but I don't feel that way: I think this is an appropriately science-fictional ending.  The central story-line is wrapped up and main characters given resolution and a hope, but the larger historical scheme seems to continue - in our imaginations - and the philosophical questions remain unanswered...  Such questions never can be answered.  Galactica is, at its best, a thought provoking show; it seems fitting that its end should leave us thinking.

Hard to write about this without Spoiling...  I just want to add two points that strike me:

1)  That hopeful ending for the characters.  Anyone familiar with the history of early American settlements or stories of castaways will realize that a group of exiles walking off across the savanna with just a knapsack each is - however pretty the photography of waving grasses and brave the sound-track music - in for a hungry winter. Urbanized, high-tech settlers setting off to become hunters, herders, and farmers with limited bullets and, as far as I can see, not a single shovel...  Well.
Great Rift Valley, Africa, public domain
2)  The epilogue repeats some of the show's themes and (a little heavy-handedly) underlines the beware-technology idea.  I have to disagree: I don't think technology is the problem, I think the problem is human nature.  How we use technology and what technology we seek...?  Very human.

Consider the first technology, the pointed stick.  This tool probably happened by accident and was first used, as chimps or gorillas still do use it, to poke at things.  (Little boys instinctively understand this.)  Chimps have been seen using a stick to break open ant mounds.  Spearing prey animals had to follow, along with jabbing at attacking predators, and so must - such is our nature - threatening others of our own species.  Using that stick to make planting holes for seeds seems to have come later.  Using the stick to draw or write in the dirt came later still.

The best you can say for modern human nature is that little boys often choose to draw in the dirt with a stick before they think to jab a buddy with it.

That said, Galactica's cautionary tale is timely and important: it asks us to think about creating another intelligent creature - Cylon, cyborg, robot, artificial intelligence....  Maybe the right label is Golem - a living creature made by man, but powered by the word of God in its head.  (Remind you of any Cylons you know?)  We need to think hard about creating a thinking (living?) species as slaves.  This timely story asks an ethical  question we do need to ponder.

I find it encouraging that the scientists, engineers, and designers exploring this new technological frontier must surely have Battlestar Galactica in their knapsacks.

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