It is with enormous trepidation that I come into these hallowed halls to — of all things — challenge Jonah on a Sci-Fi point, but I have to disagree with his assessment that politics “destroyed” BSG. It was tainted at times, to be sure. But destroyed? Not at all. Ultimately, the show was about human nature (and a very messy, conservative view of human nature it was) and faith. Moore used the vehicle of a 1970s campy Sci-Fi concept to explore two primary questions: How do human beings respond to prolonged crisis? How does faith shape that response?
While I have no doubt that the early season 3 action was tainted by Iraq War biases (as well as by a more prosaic desire to be “edgy” and “topical” to bolster ratings), note how the suicide-bombing campaign played out. Who were the primary instigators? Turns out they were actually Cylons. Did the actions they took have long-term positive or negative consequences? I think it’s safe to say that — viewed over the long run — the moral was not “suicide bombing is understandable” but much more “the wages of sin is death.” These characters basically went off the rails for an extended period of time. Their murderous self-righteousness was shattered and completely discredited.
Further, if the decision was made that Cylons had “human-like” reason and the capacity to have faith, why wouldn’t they do what humans have always done — divide over questions of theology and morality? Many Cylons were evil at the start and remained evil throughout. Others, through a combination of prolonged encounters with humans, their own self-reflection, and doubts about the faith they’d been taught, discerned that God may have had different ideas for them. Thus, the Cylon civil war.
There’s an old saying that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” So it was with the Cylon “plan.” If their plan stayed the same throughout, they would have been more robot than human. But Moore made the decision to make them more human than robot, so the plan couldn’t last. If the Cylons turned out to be as “messy” as us, then they were bound to turn on each other. At the end of the day, we ended up with a series that I think contained more honest reflection on the nature of faith and humanity than any other show I can recall. There were some short-cuts, yes, and a cheap political point or two, but it never gave itself over to those impulses for prolonged periods and remained true to its central themes. And they did all this while giving us some of the best space combat action ever filmed. What’s not to love?