BSG Recap: [0-0] Genesis Recalled

30 Mar 2011

Life begets life: seeds grow into saplings; eggs hatch; fathers have sons and mothers have daughters. But Genesis is not a story of creation. It is a story of instruction; of the parental attempt to give more than was given. It is a reminder of the blood-bound duty that comes with the ability to create.

Battlestar Galactica is a story about coming to know your gods and the consequences of such revelations. It is about the conflicting ties that bind–duty versus blood, faith versus family, and staying human versus staying alive–and it is about the costs of choosing sides. The show serves as a reminder that there are not always “right” choices, but knowing that doesn’t absolve you of your sins. It only brings them to light, revealing the cracks in your heroic facade.

But this story opens with the past:

Humanity had grown weary of mortality–not just the limits of a finite life, but of the smallness of the divinity that sparked within them. To begat is not to create–it is merely replication. It is a meager imitation of divine power and, as humanity saw it, no true power at all. To overcome themselves, humanity sought an act of creation and thus were born the cylons.

How long was Eve in the Garden before she hungered after forbidden fruits? I wonder whether she took as long as the cylons did to tire of the rules that bound their existence. When children rebel, they must be disciplined, but humanity’s will was not strong enough to simple force the cylons to leave: blood and sweat matched oil and rust. With no other powers at their disposal, humanity punished their children with death. Rather than compound sin against sin until one side won, the cylons fled to the stars; pilgrims in their very own Mayflower and Speedwell.

In the days and weeks after the war, the Twelve Colonies told themselves that they would never forget the cylon lesson: don’t reach too far lest you dare think yourselves worthy of Creation. Or, put another way, know your place in the universe. Don’t stray too far off the sidewalks. Color inside the lines. And don’t ever assume a role that you were not meant for.

The problem with lessons is that time only has one direction and the further we get from our experiences the more that we forget. It has been forty years since the cylon war ended. Forty years of peace–or peace as much as can be found when more than two people gather. Forty years since anyone had to die for our hubristic, “let there be light”.1 Forty years and the will to avoid past mistakes became the will to improve on the mistakes of the past. Forty years to tell ourselves that the cylons were the failures, not us.

For a time, the cylons allowed us our delusions. For a time…

“Are you alive?”

I’m not going to pretend that everything in Battlestar Galactica is poetry. Yes, there was genius and beautiful tragedy in it. Yes, there were moments of brilliance. But it also had terrible moments: there is an episode that taught me writer’s block is something that we all go through. The difference between theirs and mine? I’m allowed to say, “this one isn’t good enough. Let’s hide it in that drawer of stuff that I’m embarrassed to have written. Or better yet, burn it and forget it, because fire strips away flesh and sins alike.”

It came at the right time in my life: I was questioning god (or God, or gods, or Gods. Whatever variation suits you best and offends you least); I was wondering what it meant to be human and alive and “good”; I was trying to understand the difference between stories and myths. There are episodes that bring anger (The Woman King, 3-14), joy (Unfinished Business, 3-9), disappointment (Litmus, 1-6), and tears (The Ties That Bind, 4-3; Sometimes A Great Notion, 4-11; oh hell I may as well admit it, most of season four). I watched Lost because the plot was interesting and it was fun to piece together the puzzle. I watched Battlestar Galactica because it helped me understand my place in the universe.

I guess this is a retracing of those steps; returning to a story that was significant. Because this is not a test and I am not being graded, I doubt I’ll go through every little detail. If it isn’t important to me, I probably won’t talk about it. This is as much a chance for me to ramble as it is a chance to rewatch a show that I love. I can’t promise that it will be clever, intelligent, or poetic. Hell, I can’t even promise that it will be good. It is a springboard. That’s all.

Most of them will be long walls of text. If you’re not into that kind of thing, you probably want to skip ‘em. Most of them will involve some sort of discussion about politics or religion or ethics or some other topic that a Humanities major could write an essay on. If you’re not into that kind of thing, you probably want to skip ‘em. And I don’t plan on keeping any sort of regular schedule. If you’re not into RSS feeds, you might want to look into ‘em.

Otherwise, <insert cliched2 line of dialogue from the show that vaguely relates to either new beginnings or fresh starts or something about finding your way>.

  1. “The more literal translation of Genesis 1:3 is along the lines of, “let light be made”. It is a divine command regardless, but there is a significant difference: does God create the light or does he force it to reveal itself? Willing something into willing itself…”

  2. “Is cliched even a word? It looks like it shouldn’t be.”