Category Archives: Battlestar Galactica

#BSG and #Religion: Flesh and Bone

‘Flesh and Bone’
The episode opens with President Roslin having a chamalla induced dream in which a copy of Leoben (Number Two) appears. Roslin wakes up and is informed by Billy that a Cylon agent has been captured onboard one of the ships in the fleet. This Cylon agent turns out to be none other than a Leoben copy. At the end of the dream, Leoben is pulled away, as if grabbed by some unknown force. Starbuck is sent over to interrogate the Cylon.

According to Adama, Leonben is a “very cunning maching. Manipulative, cunning. The only problem with Leoben isn’t that he lies. That would be too easy. It’s that he mixes lies with truth.” Sounds familiar. In some ways, Adama is painting Leoben as the Devil himself.

After a brief remark about the gods not answering the prayers of toasters, Starbuck gets down to business interrogating Leoben. It’s not until Leoben guesses who Starbuck is that he opens up a little more about Leoben’s mission in the fleet. According to Leoben, there’s a nuclear warhead somewhere in the fleet.

In a conversation that follows, Leoben and Starbuck have this exchange:

Leoben: You believe in the gods, don’t you? Lords of Kobol, and all that?

Starbuck: Why should I tell you?

Leoben: It’s not a trick question. I just what to see how much I got right. So you pray to Artemis and Aphrodite?

Starbuck: Where is the warhead?

Leoben: I was right. See, our faiths are similar, but I look to one god, not to many.

Starbuck: I don’t geie a damn what you believe.

Leoben: To know the ace of God is to know madness. I see the universe. I see the patterns. I see the foreshadowing that precedes every moment of every day. It’s all there. I see it. And you don’t. And I have a surprise for you. I have something to tell you about the future.

Starbuck: Is that so?

Leoben: It is. But we have to see this through to the end.

[There’s a brief pause in the conversation while some food is brought in to Starbuck]

Leoben: What is the most basic article of faith? This is not all that we are. The difference between you and me is, I know what that means and you don’t. I know that I’m more than this body, more than this consciousness. A part of me swims in the stream. But in truth, I’m standing on the shore. The current never takes me downstream.

Right about here, Starbuck shows that she’s not falling for Leoben’s philosophical and theological double talk. After pushing the food aside because it’s worse than the Galactica’s, Leoben is given the opportunity to eat. But, we also get a glimpse of Starbuck’s darker side.

Leoben: Starving. Haven’t eaten in days.

Starbuck: Kind of bad programming, isn’t it? I mean why bother with hunger?

Leoben: Part of being human.

Starbuck: You’re not human. [Pause] How’s your lunch?

Leoben: You know how it is. When you’re starving, anything tastes good.

[Starbuck give a nod and the guard punches Leoben in the head, drawing blood.]

Starbuck: Did that hurt?

Leoben: Yeah, that hurt.

Starbuck: Machines shouldn’t feel pain…shouldn’t bleed…shouldn’t sweat.

Leoben: Sweat. That’s funny. That’s good.

Starbuck: See, a smart Cylon would turn off the old pain software right about now. But I don’t think you’re so smart.

Leoben: Maybe I’ll turn it off and you won’t even know.

[Leoben get’s punched by the guard again]

Starbuck: Here’s your dilemma. Turn off the pain, you feel better, but that makes you a machine, not a person. You see, human beings can’t turn off their pain. Human beings have to suffer, and cry, and scream, and endure because they have no choice. So the only way you can avoid the pain you’re about to receive is by telling me exactly what I wanna know. Just like a human would.

Leoben: I knew this about you. You’re everything I thought you would be. But it won’t work. I won’t tell you anything.

Starbuck: Maybe not. But then, you’ll know deep down that I beat you…that a human being beat you…and that you are truly no greater than we are. You’re just a bunch of machines after all.

Leoben: Let the games begin.

[Leoben is punched again by the guard.]

Starbuck’s interrogation continues, only Starbuck ramps up the interrogation method, dunking Leoben’s head into a container of water. Leoben talks about destiny and fate, even eluding to the eventual discovery of Kobol, before Roslin shows up. There’s a brief exchange between Roslin and Leoben in which Leoben tells Roslin that Adama is a Cylon. After this, Roslin has Leoben executed by being vented out of an airlock.

Back on the Galactica, Starbuck pulls out figures of Artemis and Aphroditie and prays to them.

This episode highlights the role of prophecy. Leoben quotes the scripture, “All this has happened before and all this will happen again.” He even points out that Starbuck has a role to play, although, at this point, her role is still ambiguous. Prophecy is theme that plays an important part in the series and this is the first episode to highlight that theme.

This episode also serves as social commentary regarding the use of torture. Starbuck goes to great lengths to torture Leoben, but gets nowhere. There’s so much more that can be said about this topic alone…but I’ll save that for another time.

This episode goes down as another one of my all time favorites of the series.

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#BSG and #Religion: Six Degrees of Separation


‘Six Degrees of Separation’
This episode open with an interesting dialogue between Gaius Baltar and Six. Baltar is looking through a microscope at some cells.

Baltar: I don’t see the hand of God here. Could I be looking in the wrong place? Let me see. Proteins? Yes. Hemoglobin? Yes. Divine digits? No. Sorry. I’m sure I can find evidence of his divine hand in some of these delightful little samples.  After all, there are so fracking many I’m sure even I can be relied upon to find God in one of them.

Six: What is it that drives to to blasphemy, Gaius? A need to tempt fate?

Baltar: Boredom, actually. Indeed, every waking hour is spent in what some might say, has become my own personal religion. The Church of the Mystic Cylon Detector.

Six: Well…are you finished? (The scene shifts from Baltar’s lab to the bedroom inside of his head.) If you would give yourself over to God’s will you’d find peace in his love like I have.

Baltar: Could you help me with this zipper. I’m having a bit of trouble.

Six: He has a plan for us.

Baltar: How do you know it’s a he?

Six: There is only one true God.

Baltar: Really? You running a glitch in the program or something? ‘Cause you say the same thing over and over again. Now, I’ve accepted your God and all that. Can’t we reboot the hard drive?

Six: He’s not my God. He is God.

Baltar: Yeah, your God, my God, everyone’s God. He’s big enough for all of us, isn’t he. Now please. Please, honey. Can’t we do something a little more elevating?

Six: It’s important you form a personal relationship with God. Only you can give yourself over to his eternal love.

Baltar: For God’s sake! I can’t take this anymore.

Six: I’m trying to save your immortal soul.

Baltar: What you are doing, darling, is boring me to death with your superstitious drivel. Your metaphysical nonsense which, to be fair, actually appeals to the half-educated dullards that make up most of human society, but which, I hasten to add, no rational, intelligent, free-thinking human being truly believes. (Six leaves while Baltar’s back is too her.) Which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Cylons, are, in the final…. That Cylons are, in the final analysis, little more than toasters…with great-looking legs.

This conversation comes on the heels of Baltar being threatened by Six to not make her mad. Of course, Baltar didn’t pay this any heed, and so begins his problems in this episode. After being summoned to the CIC, Baltar runs into a Six model who goes by the name Shelly Godfrey. At first Baltar assumes that only he can see her, and is shocked, at best, when he realizes that everyone can see the Six standing in the CIC. It is at this point that Godfrey accuses Baltar of being the traitor. Godfrey claims to be a assistant to Dr. Amarak, the doctor onboard the Olympic Carrier that was destroyed in the episode “33“.

The “evidence” that Godfrey brings forward, does implicate Baltar as the traitor and he’s thrown in the brig. After a visit from Pres. Roslin in the brig, Baltar has this monologue:

I know that we haven’t spoken before. And I don’t wish to offend. Please. Dear God, and I now acknowledge that you are the one true God. Deliver me from this evil and I will devote the rest of what is left of my wretched life to doing good. I don’t know what to… To carry out your divine will, is what I want to do. To carry out your divine will. Grant me grace and forgiveness.

And then, of course, the Six inside of Baltar’s head come back. She informs Baltar that, “All will be well. It will be as God wants it to be.”

Lt. Gaeta comes in and announces that the evidence is fake and Baltar is free and Godfrey is nowhere to be seen.

The more I think about it, the more the Cylon God sounds like the Evangelical God. We hear the catch words: personal relationship, God’s will, etc. But, there are some diferences as well. The Cylon God comes off a being petty and manipulative. Baltar questions the Cylon God and his problems begin. He acknowledges the Cylon God and everything goes away. Sound familiar? This was the God that I believed in for a long time…a God of punishment and wrath. One false step meant eternal damnation. Of course, I no longer buy into that belief. I see a God of love and peace. Don’t get me wrong, things aren’t always better on the other side. Bad things still happen. However I don’t blame those on God’s will.


#BSG and #Religion: Litmus

‘Litmus’
A Doral Model (Number Five) Cylon shows up on the Galactica on a suicide mission. After being spotted by Tigh and Adama, he blows himself up with a bomb that is strapped to his chest. The resulting blast kills three and injures thirteen. Commander Adama charges Sergeant Hadrian, the master-at-arms, to open an investigation into how anyone could get back Galactica security. During the conversation, she asks for an independent tribunal, free of command influence. That request is approved by Adama.

While Pres. Roslin does not want a witch hunt on her hands, we all know where this is heading. Things aren’t helped much when Roslin announces to the fleet that Cylons have a human form.

Sergeant Hadrian’s investigation startes with some general questions to some of the deck crew, mainly about the whereabouts of Chief Tyrol. Hadrian gets different answers regarding the Chief’s whereabouts during the bombing and the investigation is ramped up. Both Boomer and Tyrol are pulled in for questioning.

Questioning in the tribunal is tense to say the least. What is interesting is when Tyrol is being questioned, Hadrian asks the following: “Do you consent to give your testimony freely without invoking your right to remain silent as provided for under the 23rd Article of Colonization?” The Chief responds in the affirmative. But when Hadrian hits too close to home, the Chief invokes his rights.

Next up is Socinus, and here we have a shocking revelation; he abandoned his post and left the hatch combing open that allowed the Cylon agent easy access to the small weapons locker.

Things get real interesting when Commander Adama is called before the tribunal. It is here that Hadrian let’s the power of the independent tribunal go to her head. The tribunal turned into what it wasn’t supposed to be, a witch hunt.

To me, there are many theological layers to this episode.

The first theological layer revolves around our sinful nature.  Hadrian and the tribunal are a perfect example of this. There’s no doubt that Sergeant Hadrian’s intentions were good in the beginning, but something happened along the way in the quest for “truth”. Hadrian lost sight of the purpose of the tribunal and let the power get to her. In essence, she was corrupted by the quest for truth. Taking that one step further, we get a glimpse of what living in sin is like. Sometimes it is pretty difficult to know when we have strayed from the truth and when we are living in sin.

I think this episode also touches on the theme of security. For Christians, we look at questions of security a little differently. Security for Christians should rest in fact that death is not the final answer, that the final enemy has already been defeated. That doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen…they still will.


#BSG and #Religion: Act of Contrition and You Can’t Go Home Again

‘Act of Contrition’
The episode moves between several points in time: Starbuck’s past surrounding Zak Adama, Starbuck’s Viper crashing on a planet, and the events leading up to Starbuck’s crash.

Dwight “Flat Top” Saunders landing his Raptor, making this his 1000th landing. Celebration turns to grief and loss when a communication drone falls to the deck, and launches towards the group of celebrating pilots. The resulting explosion kills thirteen pilots and puts seven more in sickbay.

After the funeral for the pilots killed in the accident, Adama gets Starbuck to teach the combat flight class for a new group of Viper pilots. At first, Starbuck resists. Adama states that if it has something to do with the death of Zak, Starbuck ins’t at fault for his death. This, we know, is untrue…something Starbuck had already confessed to Lee. Starbuck passed Zak, even through he failed basic flight. This was due in large part to the relationship going on between Starbuck and Zak.

Starbuck washes out the pilot trainees, or Nuggets, on their first day, saying in would be, “criminal to let them near a Viper again.” Lee confronts Starbuck and orders her to reinstate the trainees because they need the pilots. Starbuck stated that she “will not pass another student who isn’t ready.”

Lee takes his case before Adama, who at this point thinks Starbuck is right.  During the conversation that follows, Lee get confused as to what Starbuck and Adama actually talked about regarding Zak, and let’s too much slip by saying that Starbuck is working through some guilt about what she did to Zak.

In the confrontation that follows between Starbuck and Adama, Starbuck comes clean and confesses that she passed Zak through basic flight, even though he should have failed. Adama orders Starbuck to do her job and reinstates the Nuggets to flight status.

While out in Vipers with Hot Dog, Kat, and Chuckles, eight Cylon raiders show up out of no where. Starbuck takes on all eight, with the help of Hot Dog. During the course of the firefight, Starbuck’s Viper is damaged and she is pulled into a planet’s atmosphere, forcing her to eject.
You Can’t Go Home Again’
This episode picks up immediately after the events in “Act of Contrition”. The search for Starbuck begins after the rescue of Hotdog.

On the planet, a banged up Starbuck fights for survival as her oxygen tank is running low and the planet’s atmosphere is not breathable.

Starbuck finds the Raider that she shot down and sets about the task of fixing it up so she can fly it off the planet.

In a confrontation with Adama, Roslin all but orders the Commander to terminate the search.  Meanwhile, Starbuck has figured out how to fly the Raider and heads back towards the fleet.  The appearance of Starbuck’s Raider sends the Galactica into full alert. Apollo launches his Viper and engages the Raider. During the dogfight, Apollo sees some markings that Starbuck left on the Raider.

I posted these episodes together because of the similar themes that run through these two episodes: repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and penance. Starbuck was taking her guilt over the death of Zak on the rookie pilots. We see after Starbuck confesses to Adama that things get tense between them, but when she goes down, things change and they move on.

These two episodes are among my favorite from season 1.


#BSG and #Religion: Bastille Day

‘Bastille Day’
Bastille Day picks up shortly after the events in “Water“. The collection of the planet water has not yet begun and Commander Adama and President Roslin discuss the option of using the prisoners on the Astral Queen as labor. We find out that there are 1500 prisoners onboard the prison transport ship. “Apollo” heads over to the Astral Queen to enlist prisoners as laborers and presents them the chance to earn their freedom. When given the opportunity to help, only one prisoner comes forward, Tom Zarek, and that is to inform Apollo that prisoners decline the offer.

Zarek is a political activist who was imprisoned for terrorist activities, including blowing up a government building on the colony of Sagittaron. Sagittaron is one of the poorer colonies, due to centuries of exploitation by the other eleven colonies. This makes Zarek a freedom fighter to some. The decision is made by Apollo to go through Zarek to get to the other prisoners.

Meanwhile, on Caprica, Karl “Helo” Agathon and another copy of the Sharon model (Number Eight) are in search of an unknown radio transmission that they picked up. (Note: The Caprica version of Sharon and the Galactica version take on totally different personalities as the series progresses.)  A Number Five (Doral) and a Number Six monitor their progress from a distance.

Back on the Astral Queen, all hell breaks loose as the prisoners orchestrate a jail break while Apollo and Zarek are talking. Dee, Billy, Callie, and Apollo, along with the crew of the Astral Queen are taken prisoner. Zarek’s conditions for the release of the hostages are 1) the resignation of Laura Roslin and 2) free and open elections.

Zarek: The crew are my prisoners. They will not be harmed. But I have two conditions before I release my captives. First, the government which controls our fate…is illegal and illegitimate…and it must submit to the will of the people. I demand the immediate resignation…of Laura Roslin and her ministers. Second, I demand free and open elections to chose a new leadership. And a new government that represents all of the people. These demands are made not for me…or the former slaves held on this ship…but for you, the people, the survivors of the holocaust…and the children of humanity’s future.

A little later, there is an exchange between Zarek and Apollo.

Zarek: Who voted for Laura Roslin? You? Did you vote for her?

Lee: She was sworn in under the law.

Zarek: The answer is, no one voted for her. And yet she’s making decisions for all of who, deciding who lives…and who dies. Is that democracy? Is that a free society?

Lee: What is it you want from me? You want me to say she shouldn’t be president? We need a government. We need rules, we need a leader.

Zarek: We need to be free men and women. If we’re not free, then we’re no different than Cylons.

Zarek’s message resounds with a lot of people today, especially in American politics. However, what they fail to acknowledge is all authority, even the authority to rule comes from God alone.

Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished. The authorities don’t frighten people who are doing the right thing. Rather, they frighten people who are doing wrong. Would you rather not be afraid of authority? Do what’s right, and you will receive its approval. It is God’s servant given for your benefit. But if you do what’s wrong, be afraid because it doesn’t have weapons to enforce the law for nothing. It is God’s servant put in place to carry out his punishment on those who do what is wrong. That is why it is necessary to place yourself under the government’s authority, not only to avoid God’s punishment but also for the sake of your conscience. You should also pay taxes for the same reason, because the authorities are God’s assistants, concerned with this very thing.

So pay everyone what you owe them. Pay the taxes you owe, pay the duties you are charged, give respect to those you should respect, and honor those you should honor. Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, t and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself. 

Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is what fulfills the Law. (Romans 13:1-10)

It’s like this was ripped from today’s headlines and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Zarek is the Tea Party. Yeah, I went there!

But as we see, freedom is not Zarek’s true intention. He wants the military to storm the Astral Queen on Roslin’s orders which would, in Zarek’s mind, cause the government to collapse. In the end, Apollo convinces Zarek to free the hostages in exchange for turning control of the Astral Queen over to the prisoners and elections.

Zarek talks a lot about freedom, but what is true freedom? We tend to associate freedom with being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. But true freedom isn’t being able to do whatever we want.  That leads to anarchy. And as Christians, we recognize that true freedom comes from God, not from the government!

Of course, Roslin and Commander Adama don’t like this.

Roslin: I don’t believe this.

Adama: It’s unacceptable.

Lee: It’s done. Prisoners have full control of the Astral Queen. We evac’ed all the guards and support personnel. It’s their ship.

Adama: They’re a threat to the entire fleet.

Lee: They’ve been disarmed. The ship itself has no weapons.

Adama: The ship itself is a weapon.

Lee: They’re totally dependent on us for food, fuel…and they’ve agreed to organize the workforce for the water detail on the moon.

Roslin: You’ve committed me to holding elections within a year.

Lee: Madam President, with respect…you’re serving out the remainder of President Adar’s term. When that term is up in seven months, the law says there’s an election. I’ve only committed you to obeying the law.

Roslin: You were not authorized–

Adama: You sound like a lawyer.

Lee: I swore an oath to defend the articles. The articles say there’s an election in seven months. If you’re telling me, we’re throwing out the law…then I’m not a captain, you’re not a commander…and you’re not the president. And I don’t owe either of you a damned explanation for anything.


#BSG and #Religion: Water

‘Water’
This episode opens with Sharon “Boomer” Valerii dripping wet in an equipment room on the flight deck of the Galactica. As she starts to take off her flight suit and empty the contents of a duffel bag, she comes across a shocking discovery, an explosive device is also tucked away in the duffel bag. After changing into her duty uniform, she takes the detonator to a weapons locker, where she makes another shocking discover, 6 other detonators are missing. Now, we all know that Sharon is a Cylon (Number 8), but, at this point, she does not know. This split personality in Sharon, at least early on in the first season, illustrates an important theme in Protestant Christianity, more specifically in Lutheranism: simul iustus et peccator. That is we are at the same time saint and sinner. We too have a kind of split personality and there are time that we aren’t conscious to the fact that we are living in our sinful nature.

Elsewhere, other Galactica officers are getting ready for a visit from President Laura Roslin. In the process of getting ready, Lee “Apollo” Adama has a flashback to the incident involving the Olympic Carrier, a civilian ship that he and Starbuck destroyed in the episode ’33’.  Lee is having a hard time living with the fact that he, while acting on orders, fired on a civilian ship. Commander William Adama, in an effort to console his son, says,

A man takes responsibility for his actions, right or wrong, He accepts the consequences and lives with them…every day.

Commander Adama is correct in this respect, we do have to live with the consequences of or actions every day. That is, we have to live with the consequences of our sin. But, we are confident in the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

While the Galactica is supplying a ship with water, the other explosives planted by Sharon explode and vent most of the Galactica’s water supply into space. The rest of the episode focuses on the search for water. And of course, Boomer finds the water that the fleet desperately needs, but not without some internal conflict with her Cylon programming. It’s the same with our sinful nature. Sometimes, we know the correct thing, but chose to do anything but the right thing. Sometimes, we struggle with our sinful nature, and, by the grace of God, are able to overcome it and do the right thing.


#BSG and #Religion: 33

’33’

The episode ’33’ picks up the story shortly after the end of the mini-series.  The human fleet has been performing faster than light jumps every 33 minutes for 236 jumps.  The episode begins one minute before the 237th jump.

One thing that jumps out right away happens after the end of the Viper pilot briefing between the 237th and 238th jump.  As the pilots emerge from the ready room, they touch a picture and you can hear some say, “Never forget.”  Also, there is the scene with Anastasia Dualla as she visits the team of officers that are cataloging survivors.  As she leaves, the walls of the corridor are covered with pictures and shrines have been erected in various spots.  This, of course, brings back memories of post 9-11.

We also find out that the number of humans in the fleet is 49,998.

The interactions between Gaius Baltar and Six turn towards God’s plan.  The Cylons are monotheistic, believing in the “One True God“, while the Colonials are polytheistic, worshipping the Lords of Kobol.  We find out that a Dr. Amarak used to work with Dr. Baltar at the Ministry of Defense and that Dr. Amarak has discovered how the Cylons were able to disable Colonial defenses, which, would expose Dr. Baltar as the traitor.  Since there was no time before the jump for President Roslin to see Dr. Amarak, it was decided she would meet with him after.  After jump 238, the Olympic Carrier, the ship Dr. Amarak was on, was left behind during the previous jump.  This prompts an interesting discussion between Baltar and Six.

Six: God is Watching out for you, Gaius.

Baltar: The universe is a vast and complex system.  Coincidental, serendipitous events…are bound to occur.  Indeed they are to be expected.  It’s part of the pattern, part of the plan.

Six: Dr. Amarak posed a threat to you.  Now he’s gone.  Logic says there’s a connection.

Baltar: A connection, maybe.  But not God.  There is no God or gods, singular or plural.  There are no large invisible men, or women for that matter…in the sky taking a personal interest in the fortunes of Gaius Baltar.

Six: Be careful.  That which God give, he can also take away.

The loss of the Olympic Carrier brings the fleet’s head count down to 47,972. This time, 33 minutes come and go, with no sign of the Cylons.  After more than 45 minutes without a Cylon attack, the Olympic Carrier “miraculously” to the fleet’s current position.  Commander Adama puts the fleet back onto alert. The conversation between Baltar and Six continues.

Baltar: No.  It’s all wrong.  If they were left behind, why didn’t the Cylons destroy them?  And why are they showing up now?

Six: It’s God’s punishment for your lack of faith.

Baltar: That’s just great, that is.  A more logical and useful explanation, please.

Six: All right.  The Olympic Carrier has been infiltrated by Cylon agents.  They’ve been tracking the ship all along.

Baltar: No.  Then that means… Six: Logically, in order for you to survive…the Olympic Carrier should be destroyed.

In a tense exchange that follows, Baltar admits that he doesn’t think Roslin will destroy the Olympic Carrier.  Six implores Baltar to repent and he will be saved.  Baltar, of course, repents and Roslin authorizes the destruction of the Olympic Carrier.

At the close of the episode, we are given an updated head count of the survivors: 47,973.

As Christians, we do talk a lot about God’s plan or God’s will.  However, there is much debate about what that means.  For me, God’s will means that God does in fact have a plan for me.  But God does allow free will.  Repenting, as Six puts it, does not always lead to salvation as one might think of it.  Ultimate, God is in control, but God doesn’t dictate our actions because God gave us free will.  God is not a puppeteer.  God might will something, but because of free will, we are allowed to act contrary to God’s will.


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