I do not believe in God. I’m not against possibly being proven there is a God, but the current evidence at my disposal leads me to the same conclusion I have come to about fairies, boggarts, and compassionate conservatives: they do not exist.
That said I still do experience spirituality, that feeling that there’s more to reality than what I can physically touch and see. And once or twice I have experienced things that could be construed as religious. Having thirty seconds with Martin Scorsese after a press conference there was one thing I wanted to tell him, and one thing only: “If church made me feel the way The Last Temptation of Christ makes me feel, I’d be there every Sunday.” He was pretty happy to hear that.
The finale of Battlestar Galactica didn’t quite bring me to that level, but there was a scene at the end, where Baltar giving Caprica Six access to the Twelve Colonies’ defense mainframe was simultaneously recast as an act of love and as a moment integral to the plan of God, that I felt that spirituality hit me. That horrible betrayal was billions of times worse than what Judas did to Jesus, but just as important. But unlike Judas, Baltar was able to experience the grace and redemption of God, and it was a beautiful moment, possibly one of the most uplifting in recent television history.
I won’t say that the finale was flawless – there was stuff that didn’t work and things that felt rushed (I would have liked to see Adama allow the fleet to decide what to do once they had found the new Earth. A rousing vote of agreement would have been completely moving and would have made this epochal decision feel democratic, and not just the whim of Lee. I do believe the show set up the reasoning for why such a measure would have passed, I just would have liked to have seen it happen), and the ending was a touch on the nose – but Ron Moore and his team brought disparate elements together with unexpected elegance. Character arcs paid off brilliantly and emotional beats were solid and honest and never heavy handed. And the show ended not with a bang or a cheer but a slow winding down, a peacefulness that was unlike any series finale I can remember. When they found New Earth and the show still had 45 minutes left, I wondered what the hell could be coming next: another twist? Another final showdown? No, just a slow relaxing, an almost quiet letting go.
But Moore doesn’t fully let go at the end. While the last scene – 150,000 years in the future, aka modern day Earth – is glaringly message oriented, with Head Baltar and Head Six reading over Moore’s shoulder about Mitochondrial Eve (aka Hera) as robots dance on TV screens to All Along the Watchtower and everybody discusses the cyclical nature of reality, it’s also intriguing in ways that the show never had been before. All of a sudden I wish this wasn’t the end but a transition to a new show, one about God. Because the theology that Moore explicates here in this little exchange feels strange and modern and intriguing. It posits a God for whom the term God is ill-fitting (and one He doesn’t like), but why? Is it because He’s not all-knowing and all-powerful? Is it because it’s as descriptive as calling a human being Meat? And what does it mean that this God keeps allowing – or setting into motion – the same events again and again? Is it that God doesn’t know how to break the cycle that the final Colonials tried to break by going eternally camping? Or is it all about free will? Maybe this God – or whatever you would call it – just believes in humanity so very much that He’s willing to let us keep trying again and again until we finally get it right all on our own.
And I like that. That’s something I kind of wish had been sprinkled through the show a little more. There was some talk about the nature of God, but in the end Moore while comes down solidly on the side of His existance and His involvement in our lives, he leaves these other philosophical questions hanging. And because the final moments have big Messages in them, I think this aspect could be ignored in favor of talking about robots and from where Bob Dylan gets his songs. A perfect world would have Ron Moore and novelist Christopher Moore (there’s no relation… as far as I know), author of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, one of the finest religious books I have ever read, getting together and following Head Six and Baltar down the street and back to whoever employs them. Getting to the next level.
When all of the God stuff came into the show, I hated it. I felt it didn’t belong in a science fiction show that was about the nature of man and politics and war. It felt like a fantasy component. And, in many ways, it is. But Moore was smart in how he doled it out – it isn’t until everything is truly fucked, until Chief has broken the link and the errant Raptor has fired nukes, that God steps in and really does something. It was the one thing that He miraculously set in motion earlier, the one place where He really got into the middle of it (even the opera house stuff was more portent than anything – I think by the end Six and Baltar would have followed Hera because that was the mission, and in fact it wasn’t until right when they got to CIC that they realized what it all meant). And while the God stuff comes down pretty hard, it comes down satisfyingly. God wasn’t there walking everybody through everything – a lot of bad stuff happened, and a lot of people died, and a lot of bad choices got made – but He was there at the exact moment when He needed to be. That’s hopeful, and not a cheat. I don’t believe it any more than I believe in the Twelve Colonies, but it still resonates.
There’s more about God that we could talk about – Baltar’s sublime character arc that makes him a saint (and like all the best saints, he began as very much a sinner), and the way that Cylons were right but so very wrong at the same time – but that’s for a book. I look forward to someone with a real degree in Theology, who will know the works of various religious thinkers, sitting down with the whole of Battlestar Galactica and finding the deeper religious meanings. I’ll buy that book.
For a little while at the end I thought Battlestar had lost the way. I was at the point where I was skipping weeks, catching up on episodes in big huge chunks. Like the members of that ragtag fleet, I had lost hope. But at the end it all started coming together; while everybody else seems to have hated the last few episodes I got caught up again after the mutiny. I began to see that things were shaping up, and they did, often in unexpected ways (or, in the case of the Colonials being Ancient Astronauts, ways that were so expected as to be back to unexpected again). And by the end things had paid off. I don’t think the show was perfect, but the flaws came from where Moore and his team took chances and stretched themselves. They made storytelling decisions that were guaranteed to be unpopular, and occasionally exploded in their faces. But that’s what real art is about – not about getting it perfect but trying to get it right. I like that the show had the balls to go with big science fiction ideas as well as big theological ones. I like that they were unafraid to look silly. I like that they were unafraid to be earnest. I like that they pulled it off.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey