You Will Know the Disgrace
By Bryan Caplan
[Warning: Battlestar Galactica spoilers!]
The series finale of Battlestar Galactica was a disgrace. Contrary to the propaganda, we still don’t “Know the truth,” but I’m now confident that the writers didn’t actually construct any truth for us to know.
All fanboy petulance aside, though, the social science of the last half hour was absurd.
One of the great strengths of BSG has always been its realistic depiction of the ubiquity of human conflict. Even when it looks like there’s only one sensible course of action, there are always vociferous dissenters. Indeed, one could easily argue that BSG downplays human beings’ tendency to pull together in the face of a common enemy.
So what happens when the colonists finally reach Earth (the nice fertile one, not the unexplained irradiated copy) and make a lasting peace with the Cylons? They magically and unanimously embrace Apollo’s bizarre Luddite epiphany, and voluntarily return to a hunter-gatherer existence!
There are a few instances in history of societies abandoning technology – Japan pretty successfully banned the gun in the 1500s. But it takes centralized, brutal sanctions to turn back the technological clock. The contentious liberal democracy shown in BSG could never accomplish such a thing – especially considering that they’re giving up practically all their technology – not just advanced weapons. The BSG‘s writers’ only defense of this ridiculous scenario is to posit a near-universal “desire for a clean slate.”
Back in season 1, Colonel Tigh scoffed at civilians’ inability to cope with the lack of water for daily bathing:
There’s gonna be riots
on those ships. Civilians don’t like hearing they can’t take a bath or
wash their clothes or drink more than a thimble a day.
Now we’re supposed to believe that these same people are willing to starve, freeze, toil, and fight hostile natives with their bare hands in order to get a “clean slate” from the technologies they’ve known all their lives? Harumph!
P.S. If you never started BSG, the original miniseries, the first two seasons, and most of season three remain sublime. Don’t let the writers’ lazy nihilism in the final season deter you from appreciating the artistry of their original vision.