Archive for the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Category
It has been over a year and a half since I began UP@NIGHT and my career as a pundit, for lack of a more refined label. I suppose part of the challenge was to see how a philosopher by trade might do in the prediction business. How I would stack up against the pundits in the media. You know, mano a mano.
I thought that it would be fitting and fair to readers, and myself, to look at blogs in which I predicted the outcome of events in the political world to see if my track record was any good. Low and behold, I discovered that if I had been a betting man, I could have made some good money. So, without further ado, and no false modesty, here are the predictions. Roll Over Nostradamus.
The titles are linked to the original blogs.
Semi-correct, although not a exactly a prediction:
Obama, Spock, and the New Star Trek Nation, June 6, 2008. (UP@NIGHT was one of the first blogs, if not the first, to make the connection between Obama and Spock on the Web. It has now become a commonplace.)
The Twelfth Cylon Revealed, May 30, 2008 (I claimed that McCain is the 12th and missing Cylon on the TV show Battlestar Gallactica. I still hold to the proposition that he may prove to be a Cylon. The new series should reveal the truth.)
It’s Going to be Webb for VP, Probably, May 16, 2008
Still up in the air:
Obama’s Pragmatism (or Move over Culture Wars, Hello Political Philosophy), December 14, 2008; reposted April 7, 2009 (Argues that Obama is a philosophical pragmatist, not merely a political one, and that his approach will have an impact on the culture wars. See also, Obama: Conservative, Liberal, or Ruthless Pragmatist?, May 7, 2009; Bronx on the Court, Empathy, and Obama’s Pragmatism, May 27, 2009.)
GOP, Inc. to be Permanently Downsized, January 30, 2009
Leaving aside the Cylon revelation, looks like UP@NIGHT was right about 90% of the time. So I ask you, can you afford not to read UP@NIGHT?
[First posted December 26, 2009. Reposted January 3rd, 2010 to start off the new year and add "Obama's Pragmatism." ]
UPDATE, January 22, 2010.
With the unexpected victory of Brown in Massachusetts I am going to have to amend what I claimed above, namley, that health care will not be stopped by a filibuster in the Senate. It wasn’t stopped, but now it would be. Nevertheless, I am not pulling the original prediction about health care (yet). The Democrats can’t afford not to pass it, which was the thrust of the original blog. No one knows what form it will take at this juncture, or when it is going to happen, but the Democrats will get something they can crow about.
Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you have not seen the final BSG episode.
Okay, we can all breath a sigh of relief. BSG, which began in the shadow of 9/11, ended its last episode with images of a beautiful summer’s day in New York City. We have, if you will, a degree of closure, and with humor. Some, however, don’t appear to be clued in.
GINIA BELLAFANTE of the NY Times (March 20, 2009) writes in her review of the final episode, “Show About the Universe Raises Questions on Earth,”
But the show could not break with the genre’s tradition of hokey, hopeful earnestness. Landing finally on a pastoral facsimile of Earth, the human-Cylon partnership vows to start anew with pledges not to let science outpace soulfulness. One hundred fifty thousand years later, a city of neon stands on the green terrain — as well as the assumption that we won’t make all of the same mistakes over again.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The show does not end on a note of hokey, hopeful earnestness. It ends on a comedic one that frames questions that it raised about technology and the environment (especially in the last episode) in a satisfying fashion. How so? Setting right two basic errors in Bellafante’s review will get us off to the races. First, the crew of the BSG was not on a facsimile of Earth. Had this been the case, the conclusion would have made little sense and lost its punch. No, the crew had found good old terra firma. Second, there is no assumption that our species won’t make the same mistakes all over again. As a matter of fact, all we are told is that there is a chance that we will not do so, because not all complex systems behave identically. And the possibility that the future might be different from the past is only offered after seasons of hearing over and over again about the myth of eternal recurrence; it has all happened before and will happen again. Yada, yada, yada. If anything, the latter was overplayed and hokey, not the “assumption” about the future in the last scene.
But what Bellafonte really misses, and which says a great deal about how we should now understand the trajectory of the show, is the sense of humor displayed at the end of the final episode, one that we had not seen sustained earlier in the series. The remnants of the human race find an idyllic ancient earth and proceed to give up their technology (by sailing their ships off into the sun–yes, a bit corny). All hope for humanity seems to lie in a kind of pastoral utopia. But then a green Central Park appears and the “angel” versions of Balter and Six are found in present-day Times Square. They are seen standing and looking at a magazine article at a newsstand (how New York/how urban!) about a 150,000 year old Eve that had been discovered by scientists. This Eve is clearly supposed to be the child Hera that the crew of BSG rescued. During this scene Ron Moore, in classic Hitchcock fashion, appears. (Ronald Moore was the executive producer and a writer for the series. He worked on the script for the finale.) Baltar is wearing his oh so urbane sunglasses, and is in one of his dandyish outfits (which is pretty funny in itself given that it’s a hundred and fifty thousand years since we first saw him dressed to the nines). Six is dressed in NY model mode. They saunter off. A discussion ensues about whether humanity will screw things up again. Not necessarily is the word, but certainly no guarantees. During these last eight or so minutes, we hear “All along the Watchtower” playing from a boom box, and we are shown playful toy robots, some of whom are dancing. The scene is bathed in color. I won’t go into any more detail. Suffice it to say that it is in stark contrast to the deep darkness of almost all of BSG, and this darkness is stripped away not only by urban sights and sounds, but by humor.
There is a serious point here. One can read BSG as an anti-technological jeremiad. I mean, for gods sake, Adama wouldn’t even allow wireless communication on the BSG for fear that the Cylons could hack into the computer system. And of course there are those all too deadly Cylons, etc. Yes, the relationship to technology was always more complex than this in the series. But in the last 30 minutes of the show they really had us going. It looked as if the series had been hijacked by an anti-urban, technophobic wing of the Green Movement, offering us a pastoral utopianism in the tradition of Thoreau and friends. Return to the land, build cabins, love nature, destroy your technology, leave your cities, etc. Instead, by having the show end in the Big Apple (get it/Apple, Eve), after a clearly respectful treatment of the wonders of nature, there is acknowledgment of the need to preserve nature and that human beings are social/urban creatures, that is, they “inevitably” build cities full of life, sound, fury, color, and playfulness. The message is not especially hokey: we have to hope (and by implication, work) in order not to screw things up again given the powers that our species can unleash. Here’s Moore on the topic:
TVGuide.com: Why did you choose to end the show with Six and Baltar walking through Times Square?
Moore: Two things: One, Dave Eick and I had the image of number Six walking through Times Square in her red dress a couple of years ago. We thought potentially that that was just a great visual note to end on. And that also came out of the idea that we eventually wanted the show to directly relate to us. That the show was always intended to be relevant and be current to our society and lives and that it wasn’t completely escapist — “Oh here’s a story about a bunch of people who are not related to us on Earth at all.” We wanted it to ultimately circle back and say look, these people were our forbearers[sic]; in a real sense what happened to them, could happen to us. Look around you. Wake up. Think about the society that you live in and we wanted to make that literal at the end. TV GUIDE March 20th, 2009.
My understanding is that this show was still being written during the American election. The last sequence may have been shot after Moore knew Obama was going to get the nomination. Perhaps we will hear from the people at BSG about whether the American election had an impact on the finale.
P.S. This was a TV series that was broadcast and developed over some five years. It can’t be judged by the standards of a two hour movie. And science fiction, at its best a genre of ideas as well as action, is extremely difficult to pull off in a visual medium. All in all, BSG had a pretty damn good run. And the values of its cast are worth noting. Here is Edward James Olmos, Admiral Adama, and members of the cast at the UN on March 18th, 2009.
The political world is phase shifting, from yellow to at least orange. Just in the past couple of days we have had Scotty McClellan tearing apart the walls of Bush World by revealing truths that we have long known. Bush and Co. have struck back by trying to toss him into the sphere of hell that they reserve for those who are disloyal to the brotherhood. (First rule of Bush World: never speak ill of the inner circle or the gods will strike you down, down, and further down.)
But I am not here to talk about politics. I want to provide a respite. I want to answer a question that I know has been on many of your minds. I know that it has been on mine. Who is the twelfth Cylon?
A couple of months ago, a colleague recommended that I watch Battlestar Galactica. As a born sucker for entertaining Sci fi, whether on the screen or in print, I gave it a whirl. I especially like Sci fi that breaks some of the conventions of the genre. As any BSG fan knows, we are currently in season four. However, because I came late to BSG, I was able to watch the first three seasons on DVD. But now I find myself having to deal with commercial TV, for the fourth season has just begun, and there are no DVD’s. For the solution to one of the biggest mysteries, who is the twelfth Cylon, I must wait months to find out. (For those of you who may not have seen the show, the Cylons are an “artificial” species that human beings created. And they in turn have created Cylons who look and act like human beings, which has led to many trials for both “species.” We have learned who eleven of the human-like Cylons are, but the twelfth is a serious mystery.)
I find this intolerable. I need to know now, not in several months. So employing the finely honed analytical skills that I have developed as professional philosopher, I decided to figure out the answer.
It wasn’t very hard. First, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with a show that prides itself on unexpected twists and turns. It wants to play outside of the box. Second, we must assume that the character who will turn out to be the twelfth Cylon, while already known to the audience, will still surprise us.
The writers have placed clues. The most striking: the executive officer, Saul Tigh, is a colonel. Why is this striking? Because we are on board a starship, a battlestar, in which everyone on board has naval military ranks. (Standard Sci fi fare here.) The Battlestar Galactica is led by an admiral, Bill Adama. It turns out, however, that the second in command–a hard-drinking, uptight, cussing, tough military type–is a colonel. And he is also a Cylon. The trail leads through Tigh, no doubt about it.
BSG has been rife with political commentary. (Sorry, we got back to politics somehow.) And the last shows have only been written recently due to the writers’ strike. We know that one of the techniques that has become commonplace in TV of late is to import political figures into shows. The twelfth Cylon will be such a figure and, get this, he is going to be Tigh’s fraternal twin. (Yes, this will turn out to be one of the most interesting twists in the plot. Up until now, all human-like Cylons have been identical twins. Now fraternal twins will come to the fore….a genetic variation that suggests new possibilities for the species.) You laugh, you scoff. But I tell you that he will be a military person, who, like Tigh, has had trouble with authority. Still skeptical. You will see and believe…..
Behold, I give you Colonel Tigh, a Cylon, and his fraternal twin, the Twelfth Cylon: