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Mac387 Battlestar Galactica: contemporary US scifi

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Session slides used in the Level 3 lecture at the University of Sunderland. Draws on Ott's work found in he book Cylons in America - an excellent book!

Session slides used in the Level 3 lecture at the University of Sunderland. Draws on Ott's work found in he book Cylons in America - an excellent book!

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  • 1. 1  
  • 2. •  “All  of  this  has  happened  before  and  all  of  it  will   happen  again”     –  Leoben  Conoy,  1.08  “Flesh  and  Bone”   –  Laura  Roslin,  1.12  “Kobol’s  Last  Gleaming  Part  1”   –  Six,  1.10  “The  Hand  of  God”   •  “I  see  the  paLerns  ...  It’s  all  there,  I  see  it  and  you   don’t”     –  Leoben  Conoy,  1.08  “Flesh  and  Bone”     •  “If  you  believe  in  the  gods,  then  you  believe  in  the   cycle  of  Ome,  that  we  are  all  playing  our  parts  in  a   story  that  is  told  again,  and  again,  and  again   throughout  eternity.”     –  Laura  Roslin,  1.12  “Kobol’s  Last  Gleaming,  Part  1”   2  
  • 3. The function of sci-fi •  to  depict  “a  world  clearly  and  radically   disconOnuous  from  the  one  we  know,  yet   returns  to  confront  that  known  world  in  some   cogniOve  way”     –  Scholes,  1975:  29   3  
  • 4. The function of sci-fi   •  “[S]cience  ficOon  conjurs  the  invisible  forces  –   technological,  social,  economic,  affecOve,  and   poliOcal  –  that  surrounds  us.    It  makes  those   forces  visible  and  palpable,  and  brings  us  face   to  face  with  them,  however  frightening  and   untoward  they  may  be.”   –  Steven  Shaviro,  2003:  xi   4  
  • 5. The function of sci-fi   •  “Science  ficOon  is  not  about  the  future;  it  uses   the  future  as  a  narraOve  convenOon  to   present  significant  distor-ons  of  the  present”   –  Samuel  R.  Delany,  2005:  291   5  
  • 6. •  Sci-­‐fi  frequently  asks  difficult   quesOons  of  humanity  and  the   present   •  Via:   –  Allegory   –  Metaphor   6  
  • 7. 1978  -­‐  BaLlestar  GalacOca    24  episodes   1980  -­‐  GalacOca  1980    10  episodes   7  
  • 8. 2003  -­‐  Mini  Series     –  2  feature  length  episodes   2004  -­‐  Season  1   –  13  episodes   2005  -­‐  Season  2   –  20  episodes   2006  –  The  Resistance   –  10  webisodes   2006  -­‐  Season  3   –  20  episodes   2007  –  Razor   –  Feature  film   2008  -­‐  Season  4   –  20  episodes   2009  -­‐  The  Plan   –  Feature  film   8  
  • 9. 2010  –  19  episodes   9  
  • 10. 2012  –  10  webisodes/1  feature   10  
  • 11. BSG’s  reimagining  allowed  for   •  “comment  on  things  that  are   happening  in  today’s  society,   from  the  war  against  terror  to   the  quesOon  of  what  happens  to   people  in  the  face  of   unimaginable  catastrophe”     –  BSG  producer  Ronald  D  Moore   cited  in  Bassom,  2005:  12   11  
  • 12. Call  it  ‘NaturalisOc  Science  FicOon’   •  “Our  goal  is  nothing  less  than  the  reinvenOon  of   the  science  ficOon  television  series.  We  take  as  a   given  the  idea  that  the  tradiOonal  space  opera,   with  its  stock  characters,  techno-­‐double-­‐talk,   bumpy-­‐headed  aliens,  thespian  histrionics,  and   empty  heroics  has  run  its  course  and  a  new   approach  is  required.  That  approach  is  to   introduce  realism  into  what  has  heretofore  been   an  aggressively  unrealisOc  genre.”   –  Moore,  2006,  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca: NaturalisOc  Science  FicOon  or  Taking  the  Opera  out  of   Space  Opera     12  
  • 13. Call  it  ‘NaturalisOc  Science  FicOon’   •  “This  idea,  the  presentaOon  of  a  fantasOcal   situaOon  in  naturalisOc  terms,  will  permeate   every  aspect  of  our  series”   –  Moore,  2006,  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca: NaturalisOc  Science  FicOon  or  Taking  the  Opera   out  of  Space  Opera     13  
  • 14. Miniseries  (2003)   14  
  • 15. Sci-­‐fi/fantasy  TV  post  9/11   •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  BSG   Heroes   Lost   Firefly   Fringe   Terminator:  TSCC   V   Etc…   15  
  • 16. Battlestar Galactica 16  
  • 17. Ba%lestar  Galac-ca   17  
  • 18. BSG   •  FluctuaOng  moral  ambiguity:   –  Sympathise  with  the  enemy  (2.10  Pegasus)   –  Inhumanity  of  the  enemy  (2.05  The  Farm)   18  
  • 19. Moral  ambiguity  is   •  ‘symptomaOc  of  many  contemporary   American  television  programs  with  long   running  narraOves  and  extended  series   arcs.    The  character  development  and   narraOve  trajectory  of  the  vampires  Spike   and  Angel  in  Buffy  the  Vampire  Slayer   (1997-­‐2003)  and  Angel  (2000-­‐2004)  is   constantly  in  a  state  of  flux.’   –  Peirse,  2008:  120   19  
  • 20. •   extended  character  depth     •   ongoing  plopng   •   episodic  variaOons   • MiLell,  2006:  23   Start   NarraOve  arc   End   20  
  • 21. Summary so far •  The  fluctuaOng  moral  code  of  the  ficOonal   universe  –  we  are  never  quite  sure  who  to   trust,  or  how  far  they  can  be  trusted   •  Large  narraOve  arcs  –  useful  for  developing   complex  characters  and  their  moOvaOons   21  
  • 22. Sci-­‐fi  post  9/11   •  ‘I  realized  if  you  redo  [BSG]  today,  people  are   going  to  bring  with  them  memories  are   feelings  about  9/11.    And  if  you  chose  to   embrace  it,  it  was  a  chance  to  do  an   interesOng  science-­‐ficOon  show  that  was  also   very  relevant  to  our  Ome’   –  Moore  cited  in  Edwards,  2006   22  
  • 23. Parallels •  9/11   –  Mini-­‐series   •  Camp  X-­‐Ray  in   Guantanamo  Bay   –  3.1  Occupa-on   •  South  African  TRC   –  3.5  Collaborators   23  
  • 24. They look like we do   •  In  the  original  series,  the  Cylons  were   obviously  mechanical;  they  symbolized  the   fear  of  losing  our  humanity  to  technology  (at  a   Ome  of  rapid  technological  innovaOon  no   less).  In  the  new  series,  by  contrast,  the  Cylons   “look”  human  —  a  fact  that  viewers  are   reminded  of  at  the  outset  of  every  episode   –  OL,  2007   24  
  • 25. They look like we do 25  
  • 26. They look like we do •  In  the  new  series,  the  whole  of  humanity  is   threatened  by  a  few  Cylon  sleeper  agents   (read:  terrorists  and  insurgents)  who  “look”   human  (read:  but  aren’t  “really”  human).   Ba%lestar  Galac-ca,  then,  is  a  symbolic   “working  out”  of  social  fears,  namely  the  fear   that  a  network  of  not-­‐really-­‐human  agents   could  suddenly  and  without  warning  destroy   us  and  our  world.     –  OL,  2007   26  
  • 27. Fringe   S2E1  “A  New  Day  In  The  Old  Town”   27  
  • 28. Terminator:  Sarah  Connor  Chronicles   S2E1  “Samson  and  Delilah”   28  
  • 29. Recurrent themes •  •  •  •  •  •  •  PatrioOsm   NaOonalism   Terrorism   Torture   PoliOcal  corrupOon   Genocide   War  crimes   •  •  •  •  •  •  Religious  fanaOcism   Insurgencies     Suicide  bombing   Sleeper  cells   Military  occupaOon   Human  suffering   29  
  • 30. Torture and Otherness •  Dehumanise  the  enemy   •  CreaOon  of  the  ‘Other’  (Hall,  2001)   30  
  • 31. •  1.8  Flesh  and  Bone  -­‐  Starbuck  tortures  Leoben   •  2.10  Pegasus  -­‐  the  crew  of  the  Pegasus  torture   and  rape  Gina;  Lieut.  Thorne  does  the  same  to   Cylon  Sharon   •  3.1  Occupa-on  -­‐  Cylon  Cavil  tortured  Col.  Tigh   •  3.7  A  Measure  of  Salva-on  -­‐  Cylon  D’Anna   tortures  Gaius   •  3.13  Taking  a  Break  From  All  Your  Worries  -­‐    Cmd.   Adama  tortures  Gaius   31  
  • 32. Linguistic devices •  ‘Toasters’   •  ‘Skin-­‐jobs’   •  ‘It’   •  •  •  •  •  Fundamentalists   Terrorists   Extremists   Axis  of  Evil   War  on  Terror   –  OL,  2008:  17   See  George  Lakoff,  2003,  on  metaphor   hLp://www.alternet.org/story/ 15414/?page=1     32  
  • 33. 1.8  Flesh  and  Bone   33  
  • 34. 1.8  Flesh  and  Bone   •  “Unlike  24  and  it’s  glorificaOon  of  torture,  the   psychological  effects  of  using  torture  are   apparent  upon  Starbuck,  and  Leoben  uses  those   effects  against  her  …  Further,  the  torture  is   useless:  Leoben  is  lying  about  the  existence  of  a   nuclear  warhead  and  the  enOre  sequence   appears  to  be  a  sort  of  a  test  of  moral  character,   one  that  the  Colonials  fail.  For  them  the  threat  of   danger  outweigh  the  ethics  that  suggest   democracies  do  not  torture”   –  Stoy,  2010:  p8.   34  
  • 35. 2.10  Pegasus   35  
  • 36. 3.1  Occupa-on   36  
  • 37. 3.1  Occupa-on   •  Cylon  occupaOon  is  ‘an  unmistakeable   metaphor  for  the  US  occupaOon  of  Iraq’     –  (OL,  2008:  22)     37  
  • 38. •  ‘The  really  audacious  stroke  of  this  season  was   showing  us  a  story  about  a  suicide  bomber   from  the  point  of  view  of  the  bomber  and  his   comrades  ...  We  sympathize  with  the   insurgents  wholeheartedly’   –  Miller,  2006   38  
  • 39. CogniOve  dissonance  as  storytelling   device     •  Moore  tosses  out  the  idea  of  doing  an  episode   told  from  the  point  of  view  of  two  of  the  killer   androids.  Then,  the  whole  group  tries  to  figure   out  the  Cylons'  deeper  moOvaOons  via  a  rapid-­‐ fire  series  of  metaphors.  The  Cylons  are  Nazis,   hell-­‐bent  on  solving  the  Human  QuesOon.  The   Cylons  are  Jews,  trying  to  defend  Israel.  The   Cylons  are  U.S.  troops  in  Iraq,  caught  off  guard   by  an  uprising.   –  Rogers,  2006   39  
  • 40. •  BaLlestar  GalacOca’s  easily  decipherable   criOcism  of  the  war  on  terror  is  thus   frequently  interrupted  by  random  bouts  of   noise  emerging  from  the  narraOve   uncertainOes  that  are  mapped  onto  various   aspects  of  the  relaOonship  between  humans,   Cylons,  history  and  technology   –  Kohnen,  2008   40  
  • 41. BSG at the UN   41  
  • 42. Conclusion •  Science  ficOon  encapsulates  contemporary   anxieOes,  oyen  in  ambivalent  ways   •  Metaphor  forces  reflexivity   •  Post  9/11  context  of  suffering/torture   •  The  moral  certainty  of  the  Bush   administraOon  constantly  brought  into   quesOon   42  
  • 43. Sources •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  David  Bassom,  2005,  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca:  The  Official  Companion,  London:  Titan  Books.   Samuel  R.  Delany,  2005,  “Some  Presumptuous  Approaches  to  Science  FicOon”  in  James  Gunn  and  MaLhew   Candelaria  (eds.),  Specula-ons  on  Specula-on:  Theories  of  Science  Fic-on,  Lanham,  MD:  Rowman  &  LiLlefield.   Gavin  Edwards,  2006,  ‘IntergalacOc  Terror:  “BaLlestar  GalacOca”  Tackles  Terrorism  Like  No  Other  Show.”  Rolling   Stone,  hLp://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9183391/intergalacOc_terror     Stuart  Hall,  2001,  ‘Who  Needs  “IdenOty”?’  in  Paul  du  Gay,  Jessica  Evans  &  Peter  Redman  (eds),  Iden-ty:  A  Reader,   Thousand  Oaks,  CA:  Sage.   Melanie  E.  S.  Kohnene,  2008,  ‘Signal  to  Noise:  The  Paradoxes  of  History  and  Technology  in  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca’,   FlowTV,  hLp://flowtv.org/?p=1056     Laura  Miller,  2006,  ‘Space  balls’,  Salon.com,  hLp://www.salon.com/ent/tv/review/2006/11/10/baLlestar/     Jason  MiLell,  2006,”NarraOve  Complexity  in  Contemporary  American  Television”,  The  Velvet  Light  Trap  58  (Fall):   29-­‐40.   Brian  OL,  2008,  ‘(Re)Framing  Fear:  Equipment  for  Living  in  a  Post-­‐9/11  World’  in  Timothy  PoLer  &  C.  W.  Marshall   (eds),  Cylons  in  America:  Cri-cal  Studies  in  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca,  London:  ConOnuum.   Brian  OL,  2007,  ‘Set  Your  Cathode  Rays  To  Stun(ning)’,  Flow.TV,  hLp://flowtv.org/?p=635     Alison  Peirse,  2008,  “Uncanny  Cylons:  resurrecOon  and  Bodies  of  Horror”  in  Tiffany  PoLer  and  C.  W.  Marshall   (eds),  Cylons  in  America:  Cri-cal  Studies  in  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca,  London:  ConOnuum   Adam  Rogers,  2006,  ‘Captain’s  Log’,  Slate,  hLp://www.slate.com/id/2154625/     Robert  Scholes,  1975,  Structural  Fabula-on:  An  Essay  on  Fic-on  of  the  Future,  Notre  Dame,  IN:  University  of  Notre   Dame  Press.   Steven  Shaviro,  2003,  Connected,  or  What  It  Means  to  Live  in  the  Network  Society,  Minneapolis,  MN:  University  of   Minneapolis  Press.   Jennifer  Stoy,  2010,  ‘Of  Great  Zeitgeist  and  Bad  Faith’  in  Jennifer  Stoy  &  Roz  Kaveney  (eds)  Ba%lestar  Galac-ca:   Inves-ga-ng  Flesh,  Spirit  and  Steel,  London:  I.B.  Tauris     43