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Brendon Walsh
The Underlying Story of BSG

The Underlying Story of BSG

2009-06-22

After much prodding by Brian, I finally began watching Battlestar Galactica. It took the first several episodes to pass before I could really get into it and get past the notions that it was some bizarre Star Trek reinvention. But when I completed the first season, there as no turning back. I was in for the long haul.

Now, before I go any further, I want to emphasize that this post is going to delve deep into my own perceptions of the BSG universe and how it relates to The Bible, The Matrix and Star Trek as I alluded in my tweet.

Prepare yourselves for spoilers in not only Battlestar Galactica, but also The Matrix and The Bible. So if you haven't watched/read all of those yet I suggest you get a move on and I'll wait for you to get back.

Star Trek

So let's begin with Star Trek and it's relationship to Battlestar Galactica as I see it just because I have the least to say about that and I'd rather save the heavier stuff for later.

Nearly every Star Trek series involves a lonely, bad/hard-ass captain commanding an epic space craft that seems to follow some semblance of military rank. Kind of like William Adama on Battlestar Galactica? Then again, probably like many other shows.

Specifically, it falls into place for me while remembering Star Trek Voyager. This series begins as a rescue mission as the Starship Voyager and it's crew venture across the galaxy in aid of another ship/planet/species (something like that). Upon arrival in the Delta Quadrant, they are met in a destructive battle where a ship they came to rescue is destroyed killing thousands and ultimately leaving the remaining crew of Voyager to trek (get it?) back 75,000,000 light years to Earth. Kind of like Battlestar Galactica and the remaining vessels of the fleet stranded and left searching for a new home, no?

I realize this isn't a perfect match, but it's just one of those vibes I got from watching the show. Trust me, I have much better parallels to reveal.

The Bible

This is where is gets more interesting. Much of these parallels will be taken from the New Testament as the Old Testament is pretty useless as a means of story-telling. Rather than draw direct comparisons to each character I think it's more useful to see how characters of Battlestar Galactica evolve as they grow out of one bible parallel and into another.

Gaius Baltar

No other character evolves and matures more than Gaius Baltar. After the miniseries, I typically thought of Baltar as a Judas character. Betraying his people after the temptations of Six. Much like Judas is the betrayer of Jesus after temptations of wealth.

As the story continues, we see Baltar slip into a Moses-like figure when he wins over the people in an election against Roslin and leads them to a promised land they come to know as New Caprica. Of course, once there, Blatar becomes Judas in a fashion again.

Though it is worth mentioning that the destruction of both planets in both cases are not deliberate actions on Baltar's part unlike Judas.

This leads me to still lean towards a Jesus symbolism which becomes especially clear after the departure from New Caprica and he remains a captive of the cylons. One scene is particular stands out where Baltar is in a dazzling white robe and long hair. Something that we all recognize as the image of Jesus depicted in many a film and religious texts.

Gaius Baltar

After his trial, Baltar becomes somewhat of a religious leader and almost reluctantly performs preachings and healings through prayer (or getting the shit beat out of him).

There is even a direct parallel to Jesus when Gaius becomes infuriated with worship of false gods and storms a place of worship on Galactica throwing a fit and exclaiming that their gods are false. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

However, he eventually comes to the realization that Hera is to be the saviour. And for this reason Baltar almost seems to take on the image of a disciple similar to John the Baptist. He practices general goodwill like the feeding of the masses as he distributes food supplies amongst the civilians garnering a greater following.

It's worth mentioning that Caprica Six goes through nearly identical inverse maturity to Baltar, though the parallels aren't nearly as strong.

Hera Agathon

Hera arguably fits the Jesus character a little more than Baltar as she is revealed to Baltar to be some sort of saviour. Hera is a child who transcends the barriers of human and cylon and ultimately is the one who brings peace between the two aided by Baltar and Caprica Six. She is also acknowledged at the end of the series to be the ancestor of the new civilization that has spawned. Half human/Half cylon. Now no humans remain and no cylons remain. This "impure" breed of people could abstractly be thought of as a society cleansed of original sin.

Quick One-Offs

In the interest of sparing you much more lengthy parallels, I'll leave you with a few one off's that you can take or leave as you see fit.

The Matrix

"All this has happened before and all of it will happen again." Cyclical time expressed in the constant battle of cylons and humanity as one society is battled to the brink of extinction and then survives to re-populate.

Now maybe it's just me (most likely), but this sounds an awful lot like The Matrix to me.

"The Matrix is older than you know. I prefer counting from the emergence of one integral anomaly to the emergence of the next, in which case this is the sixth version."

An abstract parallel between Neo and Hera is their unique capacity for seeing beyond the perceived world. Neo does this by manipulating the encoded programs of The Matrix to achieve things like flight and other feats of physical impossibilities to other humans.

Hera accomplishes a similar feat when it is revealed that she is capable of cylon projection when she is abducted by Boomer near the end of Season 4. Before you clamour at me and say that any half-human and half-cylon being could do that, riddle me this: Can you? Because that is what we are all lead to believe in the finale of Season 4. We are all descendants of half-human, half-cylon beings. Hera, being our earliest ancestor.

Going back to The Matrix, let's also not forget that the purpose of The One is to rebuild Zion each time it is destroyed by the machines and therefore beginning the cycle anew.

In both The Matrix and Battlestar Galactica though, we witness a different course of events than previously expected. Neo absolves his essence into The Matrix after establishing peace between humanity and machines. Likewise, Hera in Battlestar Galactica is the tool used for resolution between the majority of cylons and humans and it is later revealed to us that each descendant of this new race shares in Hera's unique human-cylon DNA. Hera, herself becomes absolved into society in a sense.

Quick One-Offs

Is your mind blown?

So those are my thoughts. And let's be clear that none of the aforementioned relations attempt to debunk Battlestar Galactica as a highly original, thought-provoking and epic series. Just as The Lion King isn't any less awesome because of it's relativity to Hamlet (I'm sure I could have come up with a better example given enough thought, but it'll do).

Galactica

What do you think? Am I crazy? At the very least, we can all agree that Battlestar Galactica is phenomenal story-telling. I can't wait for "The Plan" and "Caprica" to be released to learn more about all of this.