BSG Season 1: 33 Ep. 1 February 29, 2008Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
Tags: Battlestar Galactica, BSG
Baltar’s Imaginary Six: Beauty, Brains and Relentless Religious Faith
In this first episode of the new series, the writers crank up the tension to remind us of what’s at stake. The contrast between the repetitive, tireless attacks by the Cylons every 33 minutes and the worn-beyond-frantic defensive maneuvers of the Humans emphasizes the strengths of sentient machines and human weaknesses. Baltar — symbolically representing humanity and its frailties — is lost in dreams and hallucinations of his Imaginary Six. The ceaseless attacks and his guilty conscience have conspired to push him into a corner.
The monotheistic religion of the Cylons is also contrasted against the polytheistic beliefs of the Humans. To us, monotheism seems to be a natural outcome of cultural and spiritual evolution. We associate monotheistic culture with the rise of western civilization — something that seems inevitable to us from our narrow, rear-view perspective. So when we’re told the Cylons are the monotheists, we’re also being encouraged to see them as an evolutionary inevitability — that they will ultimately triumph over the spiritually-lacking Humans.
Baltar’s atheist views are an interesting contrast as well. His lack of conscience, his belief in rationality (as long as it serves his interests) and his lack of religious faith are all tested when a passenger aboard a civilian ship in the fleet requests a meeting with Roslyn where he will reveal a traitor in their midst. Of course, Baltar assumes he is the traitor and proceeds to freak out. But when the civilian ship (the Olympic Carrier) disappears after a hyperspace jump, Baltar’s time in the “foxhole” (where there are no atheists) makes him susceptible to his Imaginary Six’s suggestions that God is watching out for him. His religious skepticism remains.
When the Olympic Carrier returns unexpectedly, Baltar convinces Roslyn and Adama that the Cylons are playing a trick — that the ship threatens the fleet. As the ship heads towards the fleet despite warnings to veer off from Galactica, the Cylons appear and deploy for an attack. At the same time, Galactica detects nuclear weapons aboard the Olympic Carrier. As Roslyn wavers over whether to destroy the civilian ship or not, Baltar’s freak-out grows more intense. His Imaginary Six encourages him to repent his sins and accept the Cylons’ one true God, and Baltar breaks under the pressure, repenting his sins. At the same moment, Roslyn gives the order to destroy the Olympic Carrier, as if she was directed to do so by the Cylon God after Baltar repented.
This sequence reiterates the just how weak humans are, and Baltar serves as the ultimate example. Baltar’s convictions are malleable, fragile and ultimately break when put under stress. The Cylons are machines. They are repetitive, relentless, and ruthless. They seem unstoppable. But this episode suggests that their motivations and methods are not completely mechanistic. They are driven by a deep religious faith. While we assume that faith is a uniquely human quality and strength, the Cylons’ faith is rooted in their mechanistic nature, making their faith relentless and powerful as well — much more so than the wishy-washy, take-it-or-leave-it, polytheistic faith of the Humans. And while the Humans have faith in each other — perhaps their saving grace — the Cylons are working to undermine this as well by turning what appears to be a harmless civilian ship (just like the 9-11 terrorists did to us) into a threat and by planting human-looking Cylons among the fleet.