Battlestar Galactica has developed a reputation for tearing its themes from the headlines, and the latest episode, ‘A Measure of Salvation’, is no exception! The episode is a follow up to last week’s ‘Torn’ where the search for a mythological nebula that might point the way to Earth was high on Cylon and Colonial agendas. With deadly consequences for the Cyclons who found a disease bearing probe floating around and unwisely brought it on board.
When we left off, the Cylons were in fear that any dying Cylon could bring the disease back with them through the resurrection process, effectively wiping out the entire Cylon race. When we pick up this week, the humans on Battlestar Galactica are hoping that will be just the case as they plot to bring Cylon prisoners from the afflicted base-star within range of the Cylons resurrection ship for execution. A plan that should, if all goes well, destroy the Cylons finally.
Naturally this sparks a debate about genocide and biological weapons which is just so in tune with the Battlestar Galactica motif of stealing story-lines from the backwaters of CNN. Granted, it was brought about in a challenging way, the idea of “is genocide right” in this circumstances kinda fell flat. The Cyclons did, after-all, try to nuke the humans out of existence and keep the remains as breeders and pets; the action-adventure space opera fiend in me just won’t allow the conundrum much air time in my brain, it’s clearly a case of tit-for-tat.
But try as I might to stay in Friday night sci-fi mode, ‘A Measure of Salvation’ just kept ripping back to the social and geopolitical undertones. Does Sharon / Boomer / Athena prove that the cylons are redeemable? Did Baltar’s torture just prove that such techniques will more-often-than-not just bare false confession, or worse, faithless allegiances? When, if ever, is genocide justified? When is it ok to use a biological weapon?
The idea that escapist entertainment can be a vehicle for promoting deeper debate on challenging social issues is exciting for sure. And, Clearly, Battlestar Galactica is not going to change when it comes to its obsession with being thinking-persons-sci-fi, but lately the propensity to tip the scales towards sparking social re-evaluation and away from rock-em sock-em sci-fi action has become a little, well tiresome. It’s important for the civic minded folks behind Battlestar Galactica to remember that all parables have an interesting story at their core that functions well with or without its loftier intent.
Luckily, Battlestar Galactica ‘A Measure of Salvation’ has just enough action and adventure mixed in to prevent it from landing as a guest on Crossfire, even though it feels like that’s more where it wants to be.