Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category
Here is what I would like to see. The universe needs to move along two different timelines after election day 2012. In one universe Romney wins; in another Obama. Those who voted for Romney must live in the timeline in which he won. Likewise for the Obama supporters. Let’s also assume that after four years each universe has a window into the other.
Here is my bet. Those in the Romney universe who are not wealthy, who are middle class, women, minorities, students, working people, etc., will curse the day that they voted for Mitt. They will discover that he deceived them. That his five point plan went nowhere. That it wasn’t really a plan. The government will be locked in battles as Romney tries to placate his extreme right-wing. Insurance companies will not have to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Students will have less options to pay for college. The wealthy will be doing better than ever and middle class folks will be stuck just where they are (or worse). The next generation will not be able to count on Medicare and Medicaid as they do today.
How can this be? Mitt’s a businessman, a financier. He will know how to fix the economy. Get things moving again. But there is no evidence that business skills translate into being a good president, especially in terms of the economy. Knowing how to make money in the private sector is simply not the same thing as governing. For what it’s worth, let’s look at the record here. We have had three presidents who were businessmen in the last 60 years: Jimmy Carter, George Bush I, and George Bush II. Carter was a peanut farmer. Bush I was in oil, and he also served in the government. Bush II was a businessman with the same degree from the same school as Romney. Each of these presidents had significant problems with the economy, and Bush II was a dramatic failure. (As a matter of fact, try to name one truly successful president who was a businessman. Perhaps Truman. But I don’t know if running a haberdashery for a short time counts. And farmers and landowners in the 19th century are just not what we think of today as businessmen.)
And what did Mitt’s business experience do for the people of Massachusetts? Oh, he would have you believe he helped create a marvelous economy in the state. But here is actually what happened.
“Unlike Obama, Romney took office during an economic uptick. Massachusetts had a net job growth of 1.4 percent under Romney. However, that was far slower growth than the national average of 5.3%. As Romney’s opponents have frequently, and correctly, noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth over the entirety of Romney’s term. The only states that did worse: Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.” [Fact Check, USA Today, 1/5/12]
And what will the Obama universe look like? In the Obama timeline Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans will all be protected. Insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions and thirty million more Americans will have coverage. Baring a world financial meltdown, the economy will continue to improve and the wealthy will pay a fairer share of the nation’s taxes. The debt will gradually decrease as a proportion of GNP as the economy turns around and reasonable cost cutting measures are put in place. We have seen this universe. It’s the one we are beginning to live in.
What Mitt is really good at doing is selling himself, and he certainly will change his positions in order to do so. But before you vote for this man for any season, try playing the parallel universe game.
[Thanks to a commentator on a newspaper article who suggested that country should split based on which states went which way in the election, that is, people should be forced to live under the president their state voted for. Not exactly my idea here, but close. Sorry that I don't recall where I saw the comment. I read a lot of them.]
You might be surprised that as part of the Defense Department’s mission to protect Americans, your tax dollars funded a workshop about aliens from “Star Trek” entitled: Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too? It’s just one questionable projects under the microscope of fiscal conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who’s taking his red pen to cuts that he sees as no-brainers.
Turns out that the question, as reported by the Christian Post, was proposed by a German professor. Here is part of CP’s account.
During a recent conference that focused on the possibilities and implications of long-term space flight, a German professor made an attempt at applying Christian theology to extraterrestrial aliens, leading him to ask the question “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?”
Christian Weidemann, a philosophy professor from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, gave the lecture on theology and aliens as part of the 100 Year Starship Study symposium in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend.
Given the Pentagon’s mission, at first glance this certainly seems suited for the red pen. But it turns out that if Coburn had spent some time on this he would have seen that he is taking a cheap shot. It is just this kind of myopic, knee jerk reaction to programs that conservative legislators haven’t bothered to examine that threatens, paradoxically, to undermine some of the very things that they support, for example, America as a world leader in technology. So, what’s the story here?
The conference in which Weidemann’s paper was presented was called the “100 Year Starship Symposium,” which was partially supported by DARPA. What is DARPA? From it’s web site:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.
To fulfill its mission, the Agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research. DARPA’s scientific investigations span the gamut from laboratory efforts to the creation of full-scale technology demonstrations in the fields of biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neurosciences and more. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.
But DARPA does not limit its funding, especially in terms of seed money, only to directly fostering technologies. It seems to be taking a longer range view. The conference in which Weidemann’s paper was presented is described on DARPA’s site:
DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center are soliciting abstracts for papers and/or topics/members for discussion panels, to be presented at the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium to be held in Orlando, Florida from September 30 through October 2, 2011 (emphasis added).
The symposium is expected to attract roughly hundreds of people from around the world….
“This won’t just be another space technology conference – we’re hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we’re thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight,” said David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA. “This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming and innovation.”
“The 100 Year Starship Study” is currently funded by non-governmental organizations, which are concerned with innovation, space travel, education, and new technologies. It is described as follows on its website:
“An Inclusive, Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond” proposal won the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge—to create “a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel possible.”
The non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, teamed with Icarus Interstellar and Foundation for Enterprise Development, received seed funding from DARPA to design, establish and implement this extensive program.
To make a long story short, it appears that DARPA provided seed money for the initiative and support for a conference that was meant to engage people in thinking about the implications of long term space travel. The latter, in turn, whether it occurs or doesn’t in the foreseeable future, has implications for the ways in which we think about current technologies. We talk all of the time about how America allows us to turn dreams into reality. But we don’t know what dreams have promise if we avoid opportunities for engaging in sustained discussion of them. Conferences and programs like this can be helpful. And given the size of the Pentagon’s budget, this sort of support is almost literally peanuts.
As to the paper on Klingons and Jesus, it doesn’t appear to have been a very compelling paper. But everyone who has organized large conferences knows that there are bound to be some weak and even off the wall papers that slip in. Nevertheless, the paper did work on a certain level, or at least its title did. For the point here is to get people thinking about the ethical implications of how we might respond to those who are different, space aliens, or perhaps just people who appear different from ourselves. (This relates to ethical issues that are involved in warfare, many of which are addressed in military codes of conduct. But this is a post for another day.) The conference organizers understood that technology is not just about things but the way that we think about them, dream about them, and use them, including in our relationships with other people or even Klingons.
Senator Coburn and his budget cutting friends should really do some cost benefit analyses, and they should pay attention to the future when they do so. It’s very easy to wave a red pen around.
The Mars Curiosity Team and the cast from the Big Bang Theory.
Obama and Romney do share a few things. Among them are degrees from Harvard Law and a penchant for Star Trek. But there are some differences even here. Obama was interested in constitutional law and Romney appears to have been interested in how he could use his law degree in business. They also have different reasons for enjoying Star Trek. For Obama, the Federation would make good political sense and we know that he has much in common with Spock. (See the 2008 post, “Obama, Spock, and the New Star Trek Nation.”)
On the other hand, Romney likes the way that the Borg does business. Although it’s not my style to spread rumors, there is word going around the web that at one time Romney was so taken with the Borg approach to dealing with other corporate entities, he considered changing the name of BAIN CAPITAL to BORG CAPITAL. It has also been reported that he thought it would be cool for BAIN (BORG) to say to other businesses he was seeking to take over: resistance is futile.
……Cadillac (1960), Winchester, Virginia, June 2010…… Ubik, first hardcover.
In his novel Ubik, Philip K. Dick imagines a world in which corporations employ telepaths to undermine the interests of their competitors. In turn, the competition hires firms with anti-telepaths in order to defend themselves against their adversaries and protect their privacy. Dick is having a good time. The use of psychic powers by companies merely mimics the dirty tricks employed by current corporate spies. It’s still chess whether played in two or three dimensions. New frontiers, same games. (The best science fiction always makes the implicit present explicit.)
It seems that we face the world of Ubik today but on an even more personal level. The World Wide Web is a marvelous thing. But it doesn’t forget. If you say something you might regret or post an unflattering picture, it is caught by the Web and freeze dried. Employers, friends, strangers, those wishing you ill, or old-fashioned voyeurs will have you under their gaze with the click of a mouse for the foreseeable future. It’s hard living in a Facebook culture when we can’t always control how we appear. Different sorts of answers to this dilemma have been proposed. Some legal: prevent the firing of employees based on information that does not reveal illegal activity. Some technological: posts that automatically self-destruct after a number of months or years. Some positively Dickean: neutralize those who would do you harm by hiring a company to transform your presence on the Web. Here is how the latter strategy is explained in a current New York Times Magazine article by Jeffrey Rosen, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” (Catch the name of the company below, ReputationDefender. Dick might have called the company PsycheDefender.)
[W]ith the help of the kind of search-optimization technology that businesses use to raise their Google profiles, ReputationDefender can bombard the Web with positive or neutral information about its customers, either creating new Web pages or by multiplying links to existing ones to ensure they show up at the top of any Google search. (Services begin from $10 a month to $1,000 a year; for challenging cases, the price can rise into the tens of thousands.) By automatically raising the Google ranks of the positive links, ReputationDefender pushes the negative links to the back pages of a Google search, where they’re harder to find.
Perhaps this is akin to how the anti-telepaths worked in Dick’s novel. But Dick’s concerns were not just with corporate dirty tricks. The issues were deeper. If one is always being watched, tracked in some fashion, defined by the gaze of others who one does not control, how does one become a person? Being a person involves the possibility of changing the course of one’s life, of making choices to be (somewhat) different from how one has been. The Web presents a real danger. We can find ourselves permanently defined by past words and deeds, some from the long past. Americans have always been especially attuned to the idea that we could remake ourselves, change our lives, start all over again, perhaps by going West. But the Frontier option is no longer available, according to Rosen.
In the 20th century, however, the ideal of the self-made man came under siege. The end of the Western frontier led to worries that Americans could no longer seek a fresh start and leave their past behind, a kind of reinvention associated with the phrase “G.T.T.,” or “Gone to Texas.” But the dawning of the Internet age promised to resurrect the ideal of what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called the “protean self.” If you couldn’t flee to Texas, you could always seek out a new chat room and create a new screen name. For some technology enthusiasts, the Web was supposed to be the second flowering of the open frontier, and the ability to segment our identities with an endless supply of pseudonyms, avatars and categories of friendship was supposed to let people present different sides of their personalities in different contexts. What seemed within our grasp was a power that only Proteus possessed: namely, perfect control over our shifting identities.
But the hope that we could carefully control how others view us in different contexts has proved to be another myth. As social-networking sites expanded, it was no longer quite so easy to have segmented identities: now that so many people use a single platform to post constant status updates and photos about their private and public activities, the idea of a home self, a work self, a family self and a high-school-friends self has become increasingly untenable. In fact, the attempt to maintain different selves often arouses suspicion. Moreover, far from giving us a new sense of control over the face we present to the world, the Internet is shackling us to everything that we have ever said, or that anyone has said about us, making the possibility of digital self-reinvention seem like an ideal from a distant era.
One crucial point that the article does not address is that we appear to be shackling ourselves to a digital past at a time when real income for most Americans simply hasn’t been rising in line with the American Dream. We believed, and were led to believe, that economic progress would provide us with opportunities in which we could realize ourselves in new and different ways. The objects of our material desires, like the Cadillac pictured above, were objects that allowed our fantasies to play out. If I buy one of those, I can be like those who own them. If I buy this, and this, and this….I will be different. I will be free. Free of my past. Free of the past.
But now that the party appears to be over, the new technology of the Internet has stepped in. Give me an avatar and freedom will ring. Yet the Web may have as many bobby traps in store for us as the unfettered materialism of the go go economy myth. Unless of course we can call on a new company, ReputationCreators, that will give us whatever persona we would like. The catch…for a price that many of us won’t be able to pay.
Spoiler Alert. This review talks about details of the plot of the new Star Trek movie.
Part I Hope Springs Infernal for Old Star Trek Junkies
One may wonder why someone of my age and interests would be writing about Star Trek. Well, I consider it a part of the collective consciousness of my generation (baby boomers) and the one that followed. The Star Trek phenomenon is worth reflecting on for what it tells us about where we have been and where we might be going. Popular culture can sometimes do that.
I won’t go through the litany here of all that this show may have meant for those who followed it. Let me just say that it embodied an Enlightenment sensibility about the future that had been very much a part of our culture. The future could be better, not only technologically, but ethically. For those of us shaken by the Cold War and the Vietnam War, Spock’s rationality certainly appeared preferable to Dr. Strangelove. And now, of course, there is the Spock/Obama connection, which has been much talked about. A president who might be rational (and feeling, but in a deep sort of way)? Very cool. So, a new Star Trek movie seemed like just the ticket in the spring of 2009. I really wanted it to work.
Part II The Reboot
The producers and writers of the new Star Trek knew what they were doing. They wanted a reboot. They got it. They wanted to reach a larger audience. They have. People, young people, appear to love it. They are going to make some big bucks. Hats off to the big Hollywood corporate establishment.
I am not one of those old fans of Star Trek that feels that any tampering with the “brand” is necessarily a bad thing. (As a matter of fact, I like what I have seen of the upgrade of the first two seasons of the original Star Trek. The improvement in special effects is welcome.) But I do resent the attempt by Abrams, the new movie’s director, to dismiss criticism by claiming that 10% of the old fans won’t be satisfied with anything that he does. The new Star Trek movie may be a success financially, and it may provide entertainment for some, but it certainly doesn’t measure up to the old series, and not because 10% of the old fans are cranky. Deflecting criticism in this fashion won’t cut it.
Part III The Trailers
I have a list of reasons for why the new movie is problematic. But first I recommend that you take a look at a trailer for the new Star Trek and compare it to the trailer for The Wrath of Khan, a movie that many have claimed is similar to the new one. And then as a treat, check out a third trailer. It was done by a fan, Dustin, several months ago. (According to his bio, he’s 24, so clearly not a boomer.) He didn’t like the trailer for the new movie, even before he saw it. One of the things that makes his edit interesting is that it invokes a sense of wonder, as well as an anticipation of the new, that was part of the old series, and which is totally absent from Abrams’s movie.
It’s too bad Abrams didn’t make Dustin’s movie.
Notice in Abram’s trailer that there is only a short image of the latest villain, Nero, while the older villain, Khan, fills the screen with his voice and personality. (How novel is this one? A Romulan named Nero. Give me a break. Both Nero and Khan are seeking revenge, but Nero looks like a tattooed motorcycle gang member, who’s fuming about someone stealing his bike. While Khan is, well, Khan.)
Part IV The Dozen Reasons (although there could be many more)
Okay, I promised a dozen reasons for why the new movie doesn’t cut it as a satisfying member of the Star Trek universe. Not in any particular order:
1. Suspension of disbelief. There are limits. This movie requires one to believe that a frustrated Spock, instead of sending Kirk to the brig, throws him off the ship to land on an ice covered planet, where in all likelihood he would die. Low and behold, Spock prime, the real Mr. Spock, is on this very planet. After being chased by a monster, Kirk just happens to run into a cave in which Spock has been hanging out, having been marooned by Nero, the tattooed villain. Spock then takes Kirk to a Federation outpost, where, low and behold, he meets Scotty. And how did Kirk get into the Star Fleet? No exams for this young man. Just a dad who was a hero and a note about his being a genius. I won’t go on. This is not only poor science fiction; it’s poor fiction. And it doesn’t work as fantasy, because even in the latter genre there are some rules.
2. Cavalier attitude toward violence and genocide. Okay, there are times that planets have to be destroyed in science fiction, but in this movie, two of them are gone in a New York minute, each with billions of people. In one case the apparent need for this plot device is to create a madman, Nero, in another, to make Spock emotional. You don’t go killing off billions of people, even if they are Vulcans and Romulans, in order to account for the psychology of two characters.
3. Pacing. The T.V. series was paced in a way that was often hypnotic. (This is less true of the movies, but there are some exceptions.) Time slowed down. One had time to look around and see what this new world looked like. The new movie assumes that everyone in the audience suffers from ADD. Look another star ship just blew up. Look people are falling off ledges. Look at all the lights….
4. Humorlessness. The humor in the writing is contrived and characters at times appear to parodying lines from the series. I simply don’t understand those who have talked about the humor in this movie. It is weak. It is saccharine. And a Star Trek without humor is like space without time.
5. This movie could have been made with virtually no reference to the Star Trek universe. It’s bang and shot em up vision of space would have worked just about as well with another cast of characters.
6. If the villain is not a tattooed member of a motor cycle gang, then he is an escaped patient from a mental ward who is off his medication. He certainly has nothing of the Romulan in him. (He doesn’t even look like one.) Special effects can not compensate for weak villains. And weak villains undermine the character of the heroes. (The worst Star Trek films all had weak villains.)
7. The music is claustrophobic. Check out how different Dustin’s edit is of the new trailer, in part because he is using music from older movies.
8. The young Kirk is caricature of the original Kirk. Again, lack of humor is part of the problem. The character is one-dimensional. He might as well be a bad boy who turns star football captain. (And the bits with the little convertible and then the motorcycle…..This guy is not James Dean, and neither was Shatner.)
9. There wasn’t one original science fiction idea in the entire movie. Every single “idea” can be found in countless movies. (Did we really have to see the ship saved by dumping the warp core? Oh, no, not the warp core again. And then there was “the ledge.” Just how many times did the young Kirk find himself hanging off a ledge of some sort?)
10. The movie had nothing to say. This is fine if your aim is simply to entertain. But you would think that the reboot of a series that did have some ideas would have tried just one or two.
11. I prefer Apples to P.C.’s, but really, did the Bridge have to look like it was designed by the Apple folks. (There were times that I thought I might have seen an Apple logo or two.) This is a small quibble, but I believe that it reflects a lack of imagination on the part of the film’s creators.
12. This movie was not about boldly going where no one has gone before. It was about staying close to a formula that has succeeded in recent action films. It is bread and circus of a particular vintage, post 9/11 escapism.
Good or great movies (or series) leave us with scenes to remember. What will you remember about this film 10 months from now? (Young Kirk hanging on to some nondescript ledge?) Oh, I know. At least I know for boomers: Leonard Nimoy’s face as the aged Spock saying to Kirk, you have always been my friend and always will be my friend. And the only really funny line in the movie, when the older Spock tells the younger Spock that he was messing with Kirk’s head when he claimed that a terrible paradox when ensue if the two Spocks met. A terrible paradox did not ensue, unfortunately. That might have been fun. Just a weak movie.
I rest my case.
In thinking about the financial crisis—Wall Street, brokers and bankers, and their supporters in Congress, those who have promised us so much in return for so little these past few decades—I remembered hearing the words, “We ask only that you trust us.”
But I was not trusting. I was suspicious. I was ill at ease. Yet, who was I to question the wonders that they produced, the capital that they created, the products they financed, the fortunes they made.
But now I recall. We had been warned. They would come bearing gifts. And then…. Here is that warning (in abridged form), drifting over the air waves for almost fifty years.
It begins with an introduction by Rod Serling, “Respectfully submitted for your perusal: a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment we’re going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”
Consider as you watch that “a Kanamit” may have been a clever way to say “a Capitalist” back in Serling’s day. For as Wikipedia tells us, “Throughout the 1950s, Rod Serling had established himself as one of the hottest names in television, equally famous for his success in writing televised drama as he was for criticizing the medium’s limitations. His most vocal complaints concerned the censorship frequently practiced by sponsors and networks. ‘I was not permitted to have my Senators discuss any current or pressing problem,’ he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics. ‘To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited.’ Twilight Zone’s writers frequently used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment; networks and sponsors who had infamously censored all potentially ‘inflammatory’ material from the then predominant live dramas were ignorant of the methods developed by writers such as Ray Bradbury for dealing with important issues through seemingly innocuous fantasy.” The Twilight Zone
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.
And here is Late Night with Conan O’Brien – Stephen Colbert String Dance Off (2/17/09)