Monday, April 14, 2008

Like tears in the rain...

I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I cannot claim that Battlestar Galactica is the only show that deals with deep existential problems of the individual and societies. However I am sure that this is one of the reasons why Battlestar is gathering much attention from outside of your classical sci-fi fan community -see this entry from the Battlestar blog I contribute for law professors interviewing the producers of the show. After a somehow trivial and boring start to the season, the second episode of the final season had everything what this great show is about. You have Gaius transforming into a prophet, conflicting with his own rationality on the way, you have Cylon’s dealing with the perils of democracy when they have to take action on disobedient soldiers, and you have the final 4 Cylons and the humans questioning the meaning of being a human or a Cylon, or if it ever matters, you have personal conflicts between two struggling people of power -the president and the chief of staff,- you have people struggling to make decisions that they cannot rationalize, but have to take on personal grounds such as trusting people you care about… All in one episode, All on TV!

For those not familiar with the storyline, the show is about Cylons which are machines which were created by humans to do the dirty jobs such as fighting wars, which rebel their creators and destroy all but a 40 000 of them after 40 years of war, by successfully placing humanoid Cylons in important positions in the defense infrastructure.

The idea of “living” in a machine body is not new, and fascinates me. There are usually two lines of approach -one utopian, one dystopian, one may say- to this. Arthur C. Clarke saw it as a natural line of evolution of human race, and took it one step ahead in his 2001:A Space Odyssey, and let the ultimate form of survival be living as information saving photons. Then there is the dystopian version exemplified by block busters -shallow ones- such as Terminator and Matrix, when the machines are created by humans, only to revolt and fight the humans. Battlestar is perhaps the only one so far that has mixed both of these approaches, and it is why I love the show!

My favorite dystopian version is definitely the Blade Runner. Similar to Battlestar it also questions whether or not it matters to be a machine -or any minority actually. Here is the best part of the movie, when a replicant dies, with all his memories. I asked myself the question “why is the hate, if we all are going to die?” after this.

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