Ron Moore has posted up a new web log for the official Battlestar Site:
A Debate Worth Having
There's an interesting thread on the Galactica message board here at SciFi.Com entitled: "Human Rights abuses in the Show" (http://mboard.scifi.com/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=747225&page=12&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1#747225) The central question debate therein, concerns whether or not Kara was justified in torturing the Cylon prisoner in "Flesh and Bone" as well as some of the other practices and methods we've seen the officers of Galactica use, such as the interrogation of Valence in "Colonial Day."
Not only is this a (by and large) intelligent and thoughtful debate on a serious topic, it also brings up a question I'm often asked -- namely what are the politics of the show and what is its political agendat? The quick answer is that the show doesn't really have a political agenda in the sense that it's neither liberal nor conservative in the way those labels are thrown around in the sound-bite era of demagoguery that currently passes for political discourse in this country. One would be hardpressed to say that watching Laura Roslin break her word to a prisoner and then kick him out an airlock would be advancing a progressive, liberal agenda, or that Adama questioning his society's worthiness to be saved is somehow indicative of a conservative bias.
I certainly have my own political views and it would be disingenuous at best to say that there's some kind of firewall between my beliefs and those portrayed on the show. I'm the head writer -- my views and thoughts are on life are on display every week, including my political predilections. However, I don't see the show as a platform to advance my political belief system or my own views on morality. I do see the show as an opportunity to raise questions in the minds of the audience and ask them to think, which is something of a rariety in these days when politics seems to be about stoking emotionalism and finding simple-minded slogans to stand-in for actual answers to complex problems. ("Culture of Life!" "Right to Die!" "Ban Smoking!" "The Ownership Society!")
Galactica is both mirror and prism through which to view our world. It attempts to mirror the complexities of our lives and our society in turbulent times, while at the same time reflecting and bending that view in order to allow us to extrapolate on notions present in contemporary society but which have not yet come to pass, i.e. a true artificial intelligence becoming self-aware and the existential questions it raises. Our goal is to examine contemporary culture and society, to challenge (and sometimes provoke) our audience, but not to provide easy answers to complex problems.
I firmly believe that what Kara Thrace did to Leoben in "Flesh and Bone" was wrong. I believe that a society which employs torture on the defenseless captives in its custody has crossed a bright shining line that civilized people should not cross. Likewise, I think that Laura Roslin promising a man freedom only to kill him in the end is abhorrent to the ways in which I want my president to behave. However, I also understand why each of them did what they did. I understand the emotional, psychological and moral quandries which can lead two moral, good people to take such ghastly actions. And, in the end, I also believe that it was true to who characters really are, and that trumps everything else.
Would I personally behave the same way in similar circumstances? I hope not, but neither am I so confident of my own immunity to the pressures felt by an interrogator charged with finding a nuclear weapon or to the enormous weight sitting on a chief executive trying to protect her citizenry that I can say I would absolutely have made the more "moral" choice.
Was it wrong for Adama to dissolve a legally constituted judicial tribunal in "Litmus" simply because he sensed it becoming a witch-hunt or was he actually protecting the larger concepts of justice? Was it right for Lee to shoot down a civilian ship knowing full well that it was probably filled with innocent human beings or was he making a pragmatic choice to protect the greater number in the fleet? Is Tyrol a fool for protecting Sharon or is he honoring the most fundamental human emotion of all -- true love?
These are the debates that I hope you have among yourselves, your families, your friends. I want the show to provoke you into thinking about the times you live in and the choices that are being made all around you every day. In a time when the President of the United States actually asserts that he has the power to arrest without warrant and detain indefinitely without charge or appeal, any citizen (indeed any person on the face of the Earth) simply by designating them as an "illegal combatant," we should all be engaged in a vigorous and energetic debate about who we are as a people and as human beings and exactly how we do intend to respond to the very real threat posed to this nation and to the foundations of liberal democracy posed by people capable of, and willing to, fly airplanes into buildings.
I hope this show makes you think. I hope this show makes you question the moral choices that are being made in your name and by your representatives. I hope this show angers you at times and makes you outraged at the actions that good people like Kara and Laura sometimes take. But the show is not a polemic; our aim is not to screech and demagogue these issues in search of facile answers. Good people can make bad, even horrific decisions, just as bad people can make noble, even righteous ones. Balancing civil liberties with security is a complicated, difficult gymnastic act which defies the easy, pat answers typically served up by an hour of episodic television.
If the show does have a single, consistent point of view, it is probably best summed up by something Lincoln said during his second inaugural address:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all..."
Think about that. Debate the meaning of that simple idea. For that, more than anything else, expresses this show and the politics behind it.