When Ronald D. Moore's re-imagined version of the hokey '70s TV series Battlestar Galactica wrapped up this year, it all but abdicated responsibility for many of its major plot threads, leaving many fans lost in space. But despite its baffling finale, the four-season show, now available as a complete series on DVD, had a lot to offer.
The premise was your basic post-apocalyptic robots-chasing-humans story, but the show was more complicated than that. At its best, it investigated with care and intelligence the institutions that define a strong, moral civil society: the rule of law, markets, religion, military capability, representative democracy. Do they work? How? And what causes them to break down?
The show's key idea seemed to be that, for a people on the brink of being wiped out, simply running away was never enough. Once a society has decided that it wants to live, it still has to figure out how.