If you watch Battlestar Galactica and haven’t seen the finale yet, stop reading now. If you think that you might ever start watching BSG, you too should stop now. This is not an abandonment of this blog’s usual topic. This post is all about religion, just as BSG has often profoundly been.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the two hour long finale of Battlestar Galactica. It seems that people who saw it fall into one of two camps: Either they like God and they like the episode, or they are the angry-at-God atheist sort of sci-fi fan and thus, they do not like the episode. I liked the episode a lot. I think it’s probably one of the best finales a tv show has ever had.
There is a claim being made that the solution to three problems (Who is Kara Thrace? What exactly are the Head Baltar and Head Six characters? What’s the deal with Earth?) was lazy writing because it was Deus Ex Machina. To claim this is to misunderstand the meaning of Deus Ex Machina. This is like claiming that the parting of the read see is Deus Ex Machina. Deus Ex Machina is when a god comes out of nowhere at the end of a story to save the day. That’s no what happened in this story. As with the Exodus of the Bible, God has been in this story all along. It’s just that we assumed that because the show was sci-fi, we would be given a “better” explanation for certain moments in the show.
The truth is that BSG has always reflected reality in a sort of fantastic way. The people on the show react to impossible situation in ways that we can imagine ourselves reacting. They often abandon heroism at key moments or take up drinking to deal with their problems, making the show’s characters the most real characters that have ever graced our television screens. And in the final moments of the show, the religious reality of Battlestar’s world turned out to be pretty similar to the way I think most contemporary Americans view religion.
We think God or gods or whatever–or, as Head Baltar says, “It doesn’t like to be called that”–exist, but we sometimes struggle to see him-them-her-it-[insert pronoun here] in our daily lives. But we’d really like to believe, and I think most of us do, that in the end, when all that is within us fails, that something will step in to save us. And in the final moments of Battlestar, that’s what happened.
So, those who fall in the “I like God so I liked this finale” camp, you missed the point. This isn’t a confirmation of monotheism, but a mere confirmation of theism. There are angels or demons or spirits or whatever Starbuck and the Head characters turned out to be and there is cyclical, Eastern spiritual notion of time and history as cyclical. On the other hand, maybe Starbuck was a messiah character and led us out of the cycle and into a new one where we wouldn’t destroy ourselves.
And for those who fall into the “I don’t like God so I didn’t like this finale” camp, there’s nothing more fantastic about God than there is about FTL drives and Cylon replication and all that.
And thought the show’s dialog ended on an up-beat note about breaking the cycle of history, Ron saw fit to throw is that little robot montage at the end just to tell us, “Hold on a sec. We’re not that good yet. Let’s all just calm down.”