Saturday, March 21, 2009

So Say We All!

I've been around awhile and seen many things. In the midst of the banality that is television and I have seen something new. Last night was the series finale for Battlestar Galactica and before you role your eyes and issue your nerd alert, stop. If you haven't seen the show then you should, more importantly you need to see the show from beginning to the end so that you can fully appreciate what it has accomplished in just four years.

Watching from day one I could tell that the show as going to be different, significant in some way. More than a cultural phenomenon like Star Trek though it told the stories of today in a similar metaphorical way. Galactica made its points with the blunt force trauma realism of Cinéma vérité. In 2006 the show won a Peabody Award for Electronic Media Production. Peabody Award recipients stand as hallmarks of excellence in news, documentary, comedy, drama, education and public service. Battlestar treated contemporary issues from an angle that really make you think about those issues, issues of race, gender, all those things are dealt with in that context of a dramatic narrative.

This is not the Galactica of the 1980's

This Battlestar Galactica tells the story of the last survivors of an Earth-like planetary system destroyed in a nuclear holocaust orchestrated by the Cylons, synthetic humans and robots who live amongst them. The 50,000 survivors wander the space desert and are alternately captors and captives, executing enemies for treason but also using suicide bombers when it suits their political motives. Battlestar Galactica has addressed the issues of the paranoid post-9/11 world without flinching. Already it’s hard to remember how courageous this was back in 2003 when the show was first aired. If every generation gets the TV show it deserves, then Battlestar Galactica captures the ethical bankruptcy needed to wage a war on an undefinable enemy. “We are continually committing crimes to convince ourselves that we are right,” said Mary McDonnell, who plays President Laura Roslin, who alternately orders waterboarding of opponents but draws the line at Galactica soldiers serving as suicide bombers.

These remarks were made earlier in the week when the cast and producers were asked to speak on a panel at the United Nations. A singular honor for a broadcast television show that has portrayed humanity at its best and at its worst.

The event was organized by Human Rights Deputy Director Craig Mokhiber who lamented that even the Utopian ideal the United Nations was formed around was considered, by some, science fiction. "We look at it in a different way," Mokhiber explained. "It's true that we are an idealistic organization... but we are focused on international law and diplomacy to settle disputes. We don't see it as utopian, we see it as the only reasonable alternative to what inevitably would be a horrific dystopian society."

The presentation was Moderated by Whoopi Goldberg and topics ranging from torture to women's rights to the pitfalls of technology. When one of the UN's representatives talked about how part of their mandate was to safeguard the human rights of everyone, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and station, Olmos got a little heated. "You never should've invited me here," he said, before blasting the UN for continuing to use race as a term of separation, of division among peoples. His voice rose, steadily, as if years of social activism was coming to a head on this night. Then, directing his attention to the high schoolers in the room: "Adults will never be able to stop using the word 'race' as a cultural determinant....

There is only one race: the human race. SO SAY WE ALL!"

I swear to you, everyone in that chamber shouted it right back at him. Because Admiral Adama had asked us to. Mary McDonnell leaned over and gently wiped a tear from Olmos' cheek.

Tears were a theme last night watching the final episode with my best friend both of us crying (I'm not even kidding) This could have been the finest 2 hours of TV I have ever seen. All of the fears, hopes, and dreams for humanity were packed tightly into the conclusion in a way that was not just satisfying as a viewer of the show but somehow connecting with the post Obama election hope of today.

In true Ron Moore fashion, it didn't end the way we though it would, in fact this show has never been predictable, never fallen into SciFi genre cliche. This ending was better.

So say we all!

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