February 27, 2006
Rejected Column Titles: "Kirk Wouldn't Stoop That Low", "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot," "Resistance is Futile," and "some sort of Locutus pun?" This one goes out to all the nerds in the hizz-ouse.Holographic wow
Religion in Our Science Fiction
|The episode "The Captain's Hand" from two weeks ago had me in near-sigh when it breached the abortion debate. It's a tired and polarizing topic. But I should have had faith in BSG, because they did what they often do — put a unique twist on the topic.|
The episode "The Captain's Hand" from two weeks ago had me in near-sigh when it breached the abortion debate. It's a tired and polarizing topic. But I should have had faith in BSG, because they did what they often do — put a unique twist on the topic. Would you consider outlawing abortion when the survival of the human race is at stake? Fantastic.
It makes you think out of the box. By now, you're probably used to repeating your stance on the subject as rote. And while thinking about this aspect of the debate isn't going to change your opinion — it still gets you thinking about it.
This is what sci-fi is supposed to do. The genre's gift to the world is the great discussions and insights about the woes of our time. It's meant to engage your imagination as well as the thinking parts of your brain. A lot of times Sci-fi is just entertaining escapism, but BSG reminds you what it can be — supremely entertaining and unflinchingly thought provoking.
But BSG isn't breaking new ground by not shying away from any modern political debate. Someone discovered long ago that oftentimes, when you step away from the issue and see it in a different light (different planet, different time), it can illuminate aspects you never realized or illuminate them in a way that makes you think differently.
But TNG addressed issues in stand alone episodes and BSG sometimes addresses issues stand alone but often runs threads of the issues through multiple episodes over time. But both shows try to weave a number of issues into their fantastic future worlds and into their episodes.
What's interesting is that the most successful Sci-fi show on television today — Lost — doesn't do this. You don't see the 'gay episode' and the 'abortion episode'. Instead, they have taken on larger themes, really just one large theme — Faith vs. Science — which to be fair is certainly a topical and political subject and one of the biggest in the country today. And there is certainly something to be said for an entire show that is a meditation on one extremely important topic.
|Religion vs. Science has long had a place in Sci-fi. Science, of course, is a pre-requisite of the genre. And a lot of the inventions of the future seem to require a certain kind of Faith.|
And while Religion vs. Science has long had a place in the history of man, it's hardly ever been so prominent as it is in America today. We live in a country divided and a microcosm of that is this mysterious island. There are two charismatic leaders, Jack (Science) and Locke (Religion), representing the two sides of the debate and every one else is caught in between. Most are unsure of where they fall.
BSG also takes on the religious debate and puts a twist (of course) on it by having the technologically created Cylons be the most religious of the bunch (are they inferring that faith is ultimately logically? Or that technology is not?).
Despite BSG's decidedly Next Generation influence — Star Trek didn't tackle religion so directly — their episodes mostly focused on ethical and moral questions. Ethics and morals are generally considered in the realm of religion but TNG (and to an extent, the original series) showed us that they relate simply to humanity.
This kind of Sci-fi, which aims for intellectual satisfaction, usually reflects the time in which it was made. TNG shows us a humanity (and a good part of the universe) united. A practical utopia with no disease and no wants. But yet questions of how to be a good human remain. But BSG and Lost reflect a more tortured and divided population. It makes for decidedly less idealism, but a more hard hitting approach to issues.
Whether it's Battlestar Galactica's approach, Lost's or Star Trek: The Next Generation's — all are worthy, as long as they try to foster an intelligent discussion. Sci-fi doesn't have to address the issues but it should.
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