Interrupting this broadcast

I rarely write about TV, because a) I don’t watch much and b) I can barely make ours work. But for the last few days we’ve been re-obsessing with the unparalleled Battlestar Galactica, getting into the third season via iTunes. It’s incredible, a sci-fi show that’s dark, with deep characters, and has managed to make one of the most intense anti-war, or at least provocative pro-thinking statements I’ve seen from popular art about Iraq to date.

For those who haven’t followed: Humans are on the run from the Cylons. There aren’t many humans left. They settle on a planet, but the Cylons catch up with them, and decide that they’re going to make amends for the whole genocide episode by occupying the colony and bringing stability, the hope of peaceful co-existence, and their superior religion. The humans here take the role of Iraqis; there’s an Abu Ghraib, there are prisoners with bags over their heads, there are despised police working with the occupiers, there are occupiers trying to figure out why they’re not being welcomed, and how to win over the locals’ hearts and minds by improving the quality of toilet paper. There is an insurgency. Even suicide bombings.

It’s utterly intense, heartbreaking, great drama. It doesn’t totally make sense (what war scenario really does, come on). But as a way to provoke role-reversal analysis, it’s beautiful, unsubtle, and necessary today.

From a Pittsburgh article a bit ago:

Instead of trying to out-do “Star Trek,” producers went back to the origins of science-fiction, taking their cues from the novels of Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. “Those were all about the allegorical and socio-political commentary, which we felt had been lost in contemporary science fiction. It wasn’t so much about us coming up with a new idea as going back to an old one, using science-fiction as a smokescreen to discuss and invest in issues of the day.” (sez executive producer David Eick)

More power to them. This is popular art done *well,* with a tradition that goes all the way back to Aristophanes’ bitterly anti-war comedies.

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