Friday, October 06, 2006

The Old Switcheroo

Father A. tries to keep this blog centered on things that everybody cares about -- sex, religion, politics. And maybe a little Latin poetry. But tonight, he's going to go off topic for just a moment, to say one thing:

Watch Battlestar Galactica. Start now.

For those of you whose development was not arrested in adolescence, it's a teevee show, on the Sci-Fi network. About human beings traveling through space, hunted by robots. Sounds goofy, right? And in fact, the original, 1970s Galactica was pretty goofy -- Lorne Greene's lowest ebb, including the Alpo commercials. But the new show is a tense, gutsy drama, with some of the best-developed characters on television.

And these characters have real sex, the kind with with emotions and subtext. They have real politics, the kind with both ideals and compromises. And they have real religion -- the kind with both casual observers and intolerant fanatics.

All this was true last year, too. But this season, things took a wild twist. Without trying to explain a complicated story, let me just say this: All along, it has been possible -- natural -- to think of the story as an allegory for modern geopolitics, in which the human beings are bunch of decent, more-or-less secular people just going about their business, while they are stalked by a shadowy army of inscrutable killers, motivated by incomprehensible convictions about a God the humans don't understand. Pretty much the way the West sees itself in relation to Islamic fanaticism, right?

As of tonight's season premiere, things are suddently reversed. The humans had found a nice safe planet to settle down on, but the robots invaded it. For no special reason. They installed a puppet government, which everybody hates and any decent human being opposes. This government claims it wants peace and freedom, and wonders why the people it is crushing under foot don't greet its soldiers with open arms. Wonders why its human police force is regarded as a bunch of collaborators.

Oh, and the president claims his government doesn't torture, even though one of the main characters had an eyeball plucked out in prison.

So guess what? The robots are shocked when a few humans -- not all, by any means, but a highly motivated few -- begin suicide bombings.

It was an amazing premiere, specifically because, by the end of it, you could feel your guts tighten, as you tried to decide whether you wanted the suicide bombings to go on or not, tried to decide what you would do in the same position, tried to decide what the definition of words like "hero" and "necessary" and even 'war" really were.

Smartest piece of television I've seen in years. Even with robots.

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