Sunday, January 8, 2012

Battlestar back on track

I haven't written about Battlestar Galactica in a while because the third season has been different from the first two. Much of it has been character drive, specifically Apollo and Starbuck. But with this episode, called Dirty Hands which is co-written by Buffy alumn Jane Espenson, we get back to what BSG was the first two seasons.

They pack a ton of political issues into this episode. There is unions, collective bargaining, class, equality, aristocracy, due process, indefinite detention, free speech, and probably one or two more I'm forgetting. Basically the workers are unhappy with their work conditions so they stop producing fuel. As with every issue on BSG, the circumstances they face make it a bit different than the political issues we face in the US. Fuel production for us probably isn't life or death. But for the fleet it could turn into a life or death situation if the cylons attack.

So you can understand why Adama and Roslin take a firm stance with the workers and the chief, who takes their side and stages a strike. They have to worry about the safety of the entire fleet. But eventually Roslin agrees with the chief that if more isn't done to improve work conditions and the lives of workers in general there won't be much of a fleet to keep safe. This is very similar to the rhetoric you hear about the middle class in the US. And I think it's correct for the most part. The lack of a viable or at least stable working class is probably a reason for the civic unrest throughout the middle east. And you would see a much different political environment here in the US if our middle class deteriorated. That's why unions are the notions of equality of opportunity are so important.

The other politically relevant part of the episode involved Dr. Baltar. In the episode before this one we were left with Roslin calling for Baltar to stand trial. It's unclear how much time has passed since then. But there is no talk of a trial. And Baltar is having his writings seized by Roslin and kept in his cell without much due process to speak of. Baltar is no Bradley Manning, who is still being held and treated poorly by our military. And Baltar did have a hand in the enslavement of the fleet that inhabited New Caprica. So his situation is not quite as disgraceful as Manning's. But regardless of his crimes, Baltar should be afforded due process. If he is guilty of a crime he should stand trial and be convicted.

And he should be able to distribute his writings. If his book was inciting the overthrow of Roslin or the gov't she would have cause to seize them. But from what we are told Baltar is simply warning the fleet of the dangers of a budding aristocracy. He even has a hand in convincing the chief to lead the workers on their strike and get concessions from Roslin. Part of what convinces the chief is his wife, who read Baltar's book, discussing how all of the officers on Galactica are from richer colonies while the workers are from poorer colonies. So while Baltar has done some bad things, he relates his life story to the people of the fleet who are struggling and brings important issues to the forefront. Perhaps there is hope for some redemption for him yet.

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