Law and Politics in Battlestar Galactica:

On Concurring Opinions, lawprofs Daniel Solove, Deven Desai, and David Hoffman have a fascinating interview with Ronald D. Moore and Dan Eick, creators of the outstanding science fiction TV series Battlestar Galactica. The interview focuses on the many interesting legal and political issues the show tackles and will be appearing in several installments over the next few days.

As most sci-fi fans know, Battlestar Galactica is a reconceptualization of the 1978 television series of the same name. It focuses on the story of a "rag tag fleet" of human survivors of a devastating Cylon attack on their home planets which has wiped out nearly all of the human race. The show has taken on a wide range of legal, political, and moral issues.

The series' mostly left-wing politics are very far from my own. In addition, I have some reservations about the way the show's premise is set up. For example, the "colonial" humans' political system seems far too similar to that of the United States, given that these humans supposedly developed in complete isolation from Earth for thousands of years. Many of the show's moral and political dilemmas seem a bit trivial in a setting where most of the human race has already been wiped out through genocide and the few survivors are in grave danger of suffering the same fate. In such an extreme situation, drastic measures such as the use of torture and suspension of due process are surely justified (assuming that they really are effective in staving off annihalation). The show's attempts to make these questions seem difficult strike me as unpersuasive. The more difficult question, of course, is whether these and similar measures can be defended in the much less dire circumstances we face in the real world. To a certain exent, BSG's creators were boxed in by the scenario they inherited from the original 1978 series; there is sometimes a poor fit between the show's basic premise and the issues they want to explore.

Despite these reservations, BSG is one of the best and most thoughtful science fiction TV series of the last 30 years and the Concurring Opinions interview has many interesting insights about the show's treatment of legal and political issues.

More on Law and Politics in Battlestar Galactica:

Part II of Concurring Opinions' interview with Battlestar Galactica co-creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick is now available here. This part focuses on the political and economic system of the Twelve Colonies, both before and after the Cylon attack. More fun for sci-fi fans with an interest in legal and political issues.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Cylon Politics and Religion:
  2. More on Law and Politics in Battlestar Galactica:
  3. Law and Politics in Battlestar Galactica:
Cylon Politics and Religion:

The final installment of Concurring Opinions' interview with the creators of Battlestar Galactica is now available here. This part focuses on the Cylons.

Personally, I find the Cylons less interesting than the rest of the BSG setting. The issues they raise (e.g. - the moral status of intelligent artificial life) have been done to death in earlier science fiction. Moreover, it's very difficult to take the moral claims of the Cylons seriously in light of the fact that they have just exterminated tens of billions of innocent people and nearly wiped out the human race. Some interesting issues are raised by the Cylons' monotheistic religion (contrasted with the polytheistic paganism of the series' humans). BSG co-creator Ronald D. Moore deserves credit for being one of the few producers of science fiction TV series willing to take religion seriously (which he also did in his earlier work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - the best of the Star Trek TV series in my distinctly minority view).

Most people raised in the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish traditions unquestioningly assume that monotheism is clearly superior to polytheism. By making the "bad guys" dogmatic monotheists and the "good guy" humans a combination of polytheists and atheists, BSG questions that assumption.