I haven't written about Battlestar Galactica in a while. I'm about halfway through season 2. I'm still really enjoying it. The first of the two episodes I watched this weekend was the one where they Battlestar Pegasus finds the fleet. The big story in this episode is Odama having to give up command of the fleet to the higher officer aboard Pegasus. Until now Odama was the more military minded counter point to the President. He tended to make the cold, calculating decisions based on military strategy while the President made the more sympathetic decisions.
They were good checks on each other. Their conflicts tended to result in good decisions being made. Now we get to see a more extreme version of Odama, which I think serves to cast Odama in a more sympathetic light. And that was before I found out about all the crazy stuff the Admiral was doing, or letting her crew do. What they did to the cylon they had captured gets at what I think is a central question the show raises, which is what does it mean to be human.
The crew of the Pegasus brutally tortures the cylon they captured, a cylon which by their account has killed several people. But not only do they torture it for revenge, they take pleasure in raping her and making her suffer. Since the cylon looks and acts like a human being I can't help but feel sorry for it and repulsed by the behavior of the soldiers. Its easy for them to see it as a robot. But I think the people writing and creating the show mean for the audience to see it only as a human.
And in that case I can't help but draw the parallel between their torture of the cylon and our torture of terrorists. Like the cylons, terrorists (at least some of them, certainly not all of them) have killed people, or are a threat to do so. So right away we feel afraid and angry. When we don't move past those feelings we act as the soldiers in the show and the Bush administration. Its a bit different in BSG in that the person is actually a robot on some level. But in real life terrorists are still human beings.
What I really liked is how Gyus does what professional interrogators say is the best way to extract information, which is to not torture them, but to build a rapport with them. He treats the cylon like a human being that deserves some base amount of respect. And by doing so he gets the information that the Admiral needed. Like with KSM, we didn't get good information from waterboarding him. We got it after we stopped doing that and treated him like a human being.
The second episode ended with both Odama and the Admiral ordering a soldier to terminate the command of the other. Perhaps this could be a way of showing how difficult it could be for someone who is ordered to torture someone to do go against it. It will be interesting to see how Starbuck and the other officer handle the situation. The other guy seems to not endorse the actions of the Admiral. But Starbuck has a vested interest in going back to Caprica, which the Admiral wants to do. I can't wait to see what happens. And the next time public officials want to take notes on how to conduct interrogations like the Bush administration did with '24', I hope they watch BSG instead.