In an essay in Foreign Affairs some years ago, my old boss Senator Jesse Helms noted the existence of a “United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which counts among its crowning achievements the passage of a resolution calling upon sovereign nations to report all contacts with extraterrestrial beings directly to the secretary-general.”
Apparently that Committee held an important meeting yesterday — when the cast of Battlestar Galactia visited the U.N.
Fantasy and reality will collide Tuesday night at the United Nations, as writers and actors from the Sci Fi Channel’s hit Battlestar Galactica meet U.N. representatives to discuss issues such as human rights, children and armed conflict, and terrorism. Also on the agenda: dialogue among different civilizations and faiths. The meeting happens just days before the two-hour final episode of the show airs Friday.
Commander William Adama and President Laura Roslin — at least, the actors who play them (Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, pictured above) — will meet with several U.N. representatives. Two executive producers and writers will also participate. Whoopi Goldberg, purportedly a big fan, will moderate this historic meeting of minds.
I briefly chatted Monday with Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Network, about the importance of the United Nations event.
“Traditionally, sci-fi has always been an opportunity to look at the human condition, and then extrapolate out. Science-fiction has always held up a mirror to society and to humanity, and has asked tough questions about where are we going, and whether we’re going in the right direction, and that’s the nature of Battlestar Galactica,” Howe said.
The new Battlestar Galactica, which re-imagined the original 1978 series by the same name, has developed a cult following of devoted fans since it debuted as a miniseries in 2003. Since the beginning, when the Cylons annihilated the human colonies and forced the only survivors into outer space, we have been diligently keeping track of who’s a human and who’s a Cylon, and pondering whether they can ever truly coexist in peace. The final confrontation between factions on Friday will be the show’s final word on the future of both races.
It will also be the final word on the identity of Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, who keeps hearing that she is the “harbinger of death.”
(Incidentally, am I the only one still rooting for her and Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama to get together for more than just a quickie? Given that Lee’s father, the commander, already thinks of Kara as a daughter, their union would make family gatherings, like their equivalent of Thanksgiving, all the more pleasant.)
For the uninitiated, the whole concept of the show can be explained in the opening credits for the first season: “The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. They look and feel human. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.” So: Humans made robots, and they evolved, and some of them are virtually indistinguishable from humans, and conflict ensues.
We fans appreciate that this is not a “good guys vs. bad guys” space battle. The show’s four seasons have been jam-packed with difficult ethical questions. From the torture of a pretty Number Six Cylon aboard the Pegasus to a suicide bombing campaign to the hiding of a child who represents the “face of things to come,” we viewers are constantly challenged to think outside the box and tackle issues that are just as pertinent in our own world.
The characters that may seem evil in one episode may suddenly look heroic in the next. Even Dr. Gaius Baltar, the dreamy ladies’ man who was told in the most recent episode that he had never done anything that wasn’t selfish, and who is responsible for much violence and destruction, is still somehow lovable. On Friday, he may finally redeem himself.
Incidentally, the Sci Fi Channel just announced that it’s renaming itself “SyFy” on July 7.