Space Ships vs Castles

I’ve gotten a good many requests to bring “Battlestar Galactica” to VS, mostly from voices in my head. My problem has been finding a proper opponent. Paw Patrol? PJ Masks? Are there any other shows besides those two? Not in my house there aren’t!

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a middle-aged father of a four-year-old wracking his failing brain to cough up some small bit of his, once encyclopedic, knowledge of useless pop-culture.

Thankfully, I stayed up too late last night finishing the third season of “Man in the High Castle”. That works. BSG vs MITHC. There ya go. I don’t need encyclopedic knowledge to write this stuff. Wine and poor priorities is more than enough fuel.

Looking at Battlestar vs er…Man? High? Castle? Shows should have titles that easily whittle down to one word. In any case, comparing the two is a bleak endeavor.  Step one for both shows is genocide. See, you’re already less happy than you were ten seconds ago from reading the word alone. You can’t start at any lower point.

In Battlestar Galactica’s first movie/pilot thing, humanity is wiped off the faces of twelve planets by the Cylons (A race of human-created robots that got out of hand, started a war, went into exile, continued to evolve until some of them passed for human, and finally, came back to do what I was just talking about.)

Just over 10,000 people survive the attack long enough to run like hell in the direction of “AWAY”. Fleet Commander, William Adama and Secretary of Education come newly-minted President (she was 43rd in line for it) Laura Rosalind repackage their terror driven retreat into the void of space as “a lengthy pilgrimage to the mythical planet Earth” and present said package to the unwashed masses as a long planned of plan for just such a crisis. Their thinking being that the 10,000 survivors need hope if they’re going to endure being space refugees for god knows how long. Kind of sets them up for a lot of “Are we there yet?” , but I see their angle.

Oh, and Cylons pursue, of course. They can wipe out 12 planets worth of people on a random Tuesday, but catching these pesky refugees turns out to be a real challenge.

Over in the High Castle it’s not such a different situation. The Axis powers won WWII. The Japanese occupy the West Coast and the Nazis the East. While not quite a literal post-apocalyptic tale like Battlestar, it’s got a bleak enough “humanity has suffered a horrible fate” tone to warrant being declared an honorary post-apocalypse story. Again, the crux of the story is hope. In High Castle that stems from a series of mysterious news-reel films showing the Allies winning the war that are circulating both underground and at the highest ranks of Nazi and Japanese power.  

There’s your premise for each show, but premise only gets you so far in life. You need characters. Battlestar has all the characters and all have great arcs. You have your Starbuck who goes from hotshot pilot to hotshot pilot who saw God/s kinda. You have Apollo the other hotshot pilot who has less charisma because he’s very serious, who…maybe becomes a lawyer? Did I dream that? You have the guy who played Apollo in the 1970’s BSG (Did I fail to mention this was a remake of a short- lived sci-fi show that spawned some rabid fans? Am I gonna get death threats now? You guys sent death threats to 22-year-old Katie Sackhoff for playing Starbuck, who was originally played by Dirk Benedict and a cigar. Apparently, you felt the character’s always off-screen penis was essential to the show even though she totally brought a cigar. That somehow warranted death? It’s as if the Taliban switched gears and got really into science fiction. I’m struggling here because I so want to make a joke about bringing a *blank* to a sausage party and totally ruling, but I couldn’t think of an appropriately respectful slang, food-related term for women’s genitals that conveys that she absolutely kicked ass in the part to fill in the *blank* , so maybe you can imagine your own.) Anyway, the guy who played Apollo is back as a terrorist and then…a presidential candidate? I think? It’s been four years since the last time I watched it.

I could go on. There’re loads of fascinating characters. Loads. I can’t mention them all. Go watch the show.

Over in the High Castle, they have characters too. There’s…The guy who owns the shop, the guy with glasses, Ed who is masterfully played by that guy you’ll look up on IMDB because you know you’ve seen him whenever they need a skinny guy with a big nose, and also the woman whose name begins with J. Jules? Juliet?

Okay, so High Castle doesn’t quite pay off in the character department as much as Battlestar. Fine. It’s still good, and you will care about what happens to everyone even if their name’s fall into the same pit that claims the names of your Tinder dates.

And speaking of characters…still, everyone on screen is written to matter to the audience in theses shows.. That means the horrific genocidal villains do more than mustache twirling. They are fleshed out genocidal villains whose circumstances drive their actions in ways the audience can invest in. Everyone is stuck in a machine that no one can stop, and everyone is trying not to be ground in the gears.

Who doesn’t relate to that? Other than me.

This all leads to a good amount of moral gray area in both shows. (um…for the record, the genocide is NOT the gray area. How people react to the world the genocide creates is.) Battlestar pulls no punches in exploring just how low humanity will sink given the opportunity. You have 10,000 freaking survivors, and, once things get rolling, you have terrorists, cult leaders, torture and a society teetering on the brink of fascism. So, pretty much like life on 2019 Earth.

Why are they coming here again?

High Castle doesn’t often go too deeply into how low the “good guys” will go, but they do explore how being a dedicated patriot to an absolutely awful government might not work out that well for a person in the long run, which is equally interesting. It’s nice to see people who aid and abet genocidal monsters begin to wonder if their lives might have taken a wrong turn at some point.  

Another kind of strange similarity between these thinly veiled reality shows is that there’s a strong thread of spirituality and fate woven into both. I don’t mean Bible thumping. I mean there is a sense that there is some greater plan here that is a product of higher powers, and those powers are trying to drop a few hints to people that there might be a better course. It’s not there to appeal to the religious folks in the audience. It’s just kind of part of the cultures involved in all of it, and it makes sense in a nifty and surprising way. When faced with such extreme situations I think it seems natural to try to understand what one’s place in the universe is.   Or drink a lot. Some people just drink a lot.

These shows are both deep pits full of stuff. Both are worth a few re-watches. I know some people weren’t satisfied with the Battlestar ending, but I thought it was fine. It certainly doesn’t leave you hanging, and it doesn’t turn out they were dead all along. High Castle has at least one more season coming, but it seems like it’s wrapping up.

So that’s it for VS this go ‘round. Enjoy contemplating the worst of humanity. Be sure to have a glance at the internet to make sure you get to see the BSG movies and webisodes and such that also added a lot to the show.