Drawing from Mormonism, Roman polytheism, and even Buddhism, the reimagined sci-fi TV series is steeped in religion.
BY: Ellen Leventry
There are many other similarities between the show and the Latter-day Saint scripture. While not purely a Mormon concept, the idea of the "Lost Tribes of Israel"--that ten tribes of Israel were "lost" to history after they were exiled--plays an important role in both the religion and in the show. "The idea of there being these other civilizations that have the gospel is a main tenet in Mormonism," notes Reiss. "There is this idea, in the show, that Earth will be this colony that they don't have a record of but they believe it exists."
Additionally, on the original series, the ruling colonial governmental body was known as "The Quorum of Twelve," the name given to the top leadership council of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Perhaps the most obvious parallel between Mormonism and the show is the Kolob/Kobol connection. Continues Reiss, "Kobol on 'Battlestar Galactica' is where the gods live and in Mormonism Kolob is supposed to be the greatest star in the universe and is the dwelling place of God."
While developer and executive producer Ronald D. Moore did not intentionally move away from the original show's basic Mormon cosmology in the current incarnation, he chose not to expand upon it.
"I was aware that Glen had used Mormon influences and how he had created the cosmology, but I'm not that familiar with Mormon belief or practice so it was kind of like whatever was in the show is what I was dealing with," concedes Moore, who also worked on the "Star Trek" franchise. "I essentially looked at the original series as mythos and the way it dealt with religion in sort of a global sense."
Taking inspiration from a post-9/11 world, the religious universe of the new "Battlestar Galactica" is as diverse and as complex as our own.
The refugee humans, the Colonials, are polytheists in the mold of the Romans and Greeks, while their creations, the mechanical Cylons, have a strict belief in a singular God and in the soul, and are on a mission to eradicate the non-believing humans.
"I sort of assumed that the Colonials would have a belief system and figured it would probably be polytheistic, that seemed to be what they referred to in the original," explains Moore. "But it wasn't really until relatively late in the game that I sort of randomly gave the Cylons a belief system."
"I was in the middle of creating the characters and I was working on some lines for Number Six (a Cylon character) and I thought it was interesting if she professed a belief in God, in a single God." Inspired by the theme of the rise of monotheism in the Western world and how it came to displace pagan religion, Moore decided to delve deeper.
"There came this notion of this outside monotheistic belief of the one true God that could not tolerate others, that started to drive out pagan worship and that fit very nicely with what we were doing with the show."
Among the show's human beings, there are those who believe in the gods, the Lords of Kobol, and those who are atheists. The most spiritually complex of the humans is President Laura Roslin, played by Mary McDonnell. The only high government official to survive the apocalypse, she begins to take on the role of a "born-again" prophet/oracle. She experiences visions brought on by medication used to treat her aggressive breast cancer and attempts to lead the remnant fleet to the holy land known as Earth.
While we see subtle acts of devotion on the human side, it is the religious zeal of the Cylons that drives the show.
When not busy hunting down the last of the twelve tribes of man, or trying to convert those who can help them, the Cylons spend much of their time musing about metaphysical matters: the nature of their souls and the legitimacy of their claims, as machines, that they possess souls at all.
"The Cylons in the show focus on the soul; they firmly believe that they have a soul. .Human beings have souls given by the gods, and Cylons have a soul given by their one true god and that has to be just as valid," says Moore.