Born-Again 'Battlestar'

Drawing from Mormonism, Roman polytheism, and even Buddhism, the reimagined sci-fi TV series is steeped in religion.

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This led Moore to flesh out the character of Number Six, a domineering, gorgeous, blonde Cylon who is the personification of the Madonna/whore complex (played by former Victoria's Secret model Tricia Helfer, left). Forever trying to win the love of atheist Dr. Baltar, the human who unwittingly helped the Cylons destroy mankind, she vacillates between seductress and fire-and-brimstone preacher. Number Six incessantly tells Baltar that he must believe in God, that God has a plan for him, that he must repent, while simultaneously leading him to the bedroom. Now that's a missionary position!

"It seems so far that the Cylons are almost a caricature of robotic evangelicalism," says Reiss. "It could be that the writers are trying to make a statement that this is what happens when evangelical Christianity runs amok, the militant nature of it. If that is the statement they're trying to make I find that very sad, that's a caricature of evangelicalism. On the other hand, I'm willing to say it's probably more complex than that."

"I think that the clash between a polytheistic culture and a monotheistic enemy helps to moderate somewhat the parallel that the show seems to draw with the current conflict between the Western world and Islamic fundamentalism," says a reader on Televisionwithoutpity.com's message boards. "By giving the Cylons the 'good' kind of religion and the humans the 'backward' kind, it makes the parallel less clunky and simplistic."

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And while it certainly seems that the Cylons could be painted with the broad strokes of Christian or Islamic fundamentalism, another Cylon on the show, Leoben Conoy, espouses seemingly Buddhist beliefs when revealing, during an interrogation, he'll be "reincarnated" in an exact duplicate.

Moore concedes that the belief system of the Cylons encompasses aspects from Christian fundamentalism, Islamic jihad, and even Eastern concepts, but says that he still really hasn't "sat down and defined the theology of the Cylons."

But that's the beauty of "Battlestar Galactica." It provokes discussion without giving definitions, without giving answers.

"What's so interesting is to see how different viewers respond to the show," remarks Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "On one message board, one person had been very upset about the anti-Christianity of [the show], while another one fired back that this was an anti-Muslim program."

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