Brian Doherty's plea for not politicizing pop culture has fallen on deaf ears, as far as Battlestar Galatica fans are concerned. Two liberal writers use the Sci-Fi hit to explain some of our current foreign policy fantasies, fantasies the show's writers are obviously aware of. In the American Prospect, Brad "Sadly No!" Reed remembers how conservatives glommed onto the show in previous seasons.
Over the sci-fi show's first two seasons, many conservatives saw it as a pitch-perfect metaphor for the United States' post-9/11 battle against Osama bin Laden and his Muslamonazi horde. Galactica, which has become something of a surprise hit on the Sci Fi Channel, takes place in a post-apocalyptic universe where humanity has been decimated by a nuclear strike launched by an enemy race of robots known as the Cylons. Most of the action revolves around a noble band of 50,000 survivors who hurtle through space searching for a new home planet. Along the way, they have had to deal with Cylon sleeper agents, suicide bombers, and even a sinister pack of left-wingers who use violence to try to force humanity to make peace with their enemies.
But alas, this love affair between Galactica and the right was not to last: in its third season, the show has morphed into a stinging allegorical critique of America's three-year occupation of Iraq. The trouble started at the end of the second season, when humanity briefly escaped the Cylons and settled down on the tiny planet of New Caprica. The Cylons soon returned and quickly conquered the defenseless humans. But instead of slaughtering everyone, the Cylons decided to take a more enlightened path by "benevolently occupying" the planet and imposing their preferred way of life by gunpoint. The humans were predictably not enthused about their allegedly altruistic rulers, and they immediately launched an insurgency against them using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. Needless to say, this did not go over very well in the Galacticon camp.
The big question that arises from the first few episodes of this season of BSG is whether the resistance is worth it. For all the show's admirable treatment of the moral complexities and the uncertainties of insurgency, its answer is an unequivocal yes. The Cylons believe themselves to be righteous, but they are monsters. They are infinitely more powerful than the humans, yet live in fear that humanity will "nurse a dream of vengeance down through the years so that one day they could just go out into the stars and hunt the Cylon once more." The Cylons occupy New Caprica, impose their will in place of any elected human leadership, round up and torture those who resist, and then do not understand why the humans refuse to accept their promises of benevolence. It often seems as if the whole motive of the creative talent behind BSG is to make you feel uncomfortable about being an American during the occupation of Iraq.
On one level I'm just glad for the expansion of cable TV, iTunes and DVD technology for making a show like this viable off one of the major networks: There's no way this show could have tackled these issues and kept its advertisers if it was on CBS, NBC or ABC.