Drawing from Mormonism, Roman polytheism, and even Buddhism, the reimagined sci-fi TV series is steeped in religion.
BY: Ellen Leventry
In the coming months, television executives will be touting not one, not two, butfour
religiously themed shows to audiences. With the death of "Touched by an Angel" and the decline of "Joan of Arcadia," networks are scrambling to find the next spiritual sensation/Nielsen knockout. But viewers don't have to wait for September to enjoy the most religiously relevant show on television. It's already here in the guise of "Battlestar Galactica."
Once lambasted as a prime-time "Star Wars" knock-off, "Battlestar Galactica" has been reincarnated as an edgy, moody human drama. A "reimagining" of the original 1978 series, the current incarnation follows the survivors of the "twelve colonies of man" as they search for the mythical planet Earth following an apocalyptic sneak attack by the Cylons, a mechanical race created by human beings.
Brought back first as a mini-series in 2003, the show debuted on the Sci Fi Channel in 2005 with 3.1 million viewers, making it the network's most-watched premiere. Airing on Friday nights, the show is currently in repeats with the second season scheduled to begin in July.
While fans of the original series may notice some changes to familiar characters-Starbuck is now a woman and the Cylons no longer look like toasters-the truly devoted will also note a change in the show's theology.
That's right. Amidst spaceship shoot-outs, bizarre love triangles, and sketchy political maneuvering is a great deal of theology and religious reflection in the show's writing.
Debates about sin and redemption? "Battlestar" has `em. Philosophical inquiries into religio-political motivations? Got those too. The idea of the legitimacy of the soul? The battle between monotheism and paganism? Holy lands and prophets? Check, check, and check.
But that's really nothing new for the "Galactica" series.
Unbeknownst to most viewers, "Battlestar Galactica" has been steeped in religion since its very inception. First pitched by uber-producer Glen A. Larson as a series of Bible stories set in space called "Adam's Ark," the reworked "Battlestar Galactica" was also influenced by another religious book: the Book of Mormon. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Larson borrowed plot points from his faith's sacred texts.
"'Battlestar Galactica' and the Book of Mormon both start from the premise that civilization is either about to be destroyed or has just been destroyed and that there's this remnant, this ragtag fleet that is preserved," explains Jana Reiss, author of "What Would Buffy Do?" "The story of the Book of Mormon is set in the time frame of the destruction of Jerusalem. The prophetLehi
has a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem and was able to get his family out in time."