Science fiction is often notorious for focusing on hard, technical environments and characters while leaving little room for interpretations of religious ideologies or any sort of examinations of faith. However, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick’s 2004-2009 remake of Glen A. Larson’s TV series Battlestar Galactica is a tremendous exception. The show is so littered with parallels and references to the Christian Bible that it could almost be viewed (partially, at least) as a re-imagining of the text. Not only does this make for solid storytelling, but setting biblical narratives in this futuristic universe strengthens the material for modern viewers.
The image above depicts the essential characters of the series recreating the famous Da Vinci painting “The Last Supper”. For reference, this is the original:
The photo was taken and distributed primarily as a promotional device for Battlestar Galactica‘s fourth and final season, but it is also indicative of the biblical material used in the series. Although the characters taking the place of the apostles and other acquaintances of Jesus in the first image do not suggest much, the placement of Number Six (one of 12 Cylon models made to look like humans who was directly responsible for the initial attack on humanity at the beginning of the series) in the center. Throughout the series, Six appears exclusively to Dr. Gaius Baltar, a scientist and programmer specializing in Cylon technology. At first, Six explains that he is the only one who can see her because of a chip she implanted in his brain during their relationship together on Caprica (a human colony), before he knew she was a Cylon. Although the Cylon attack kills her, this image of her appears to Gaius throughout his time on Galactica. This makes her much like what the the canonical gospels in the New Testament of the Bible describe as the “holy ghost”. In the book of John, Jesus is described as saying that after his crucifixion, he will come back as a spirit “whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14.17).
The central story of Battlestar Galactica is also incredibly close to the narrative presented in Exodus in the Old Testament. After a devastating attack on all 12 of humanity’s colonies, the survivors band together in one small space fleet to escape and find a fabled planet in this society’s sacred scriptures: Earth. Because all the other successors to the position were killed, the Secretary of Education, Laura Roslin, becomes president of what remains of the colonies. Near the end of the first season, it is revealed through further study of the ancient scriptures that she finds a prophecy of a dying leader that would guide what remains of humanity to the ancient world of Kobol (which is where humans were thought to have originated from to found the 12 colonies) and, eventually, a path to Earth. After it is revealed to the fleet that Roslin is dying of breast cancer, she accepts this role. Roslin is much like Moses in Exodus, leading the chosen people “up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle” (Exodus 13.18). She spends much of the series being doubted and in some instances attacked by the people of the fleet, much like Moses is throughout the journey to their promised land. It also appears to be no coincidence that there were 12 tribes of Israel, just like the 12 colonies (which, in this universe, were referred to as “tribes” in the past) of Kobol.
These biblical narratives make an excellent transition the setting presented in Battlestar Galactica. It can be appreciated by audiences who now have a growing appreciation for science fiction given the advancements in computer technology, space travel, etc. The series also works in a contemporary social context with its references to current events (many episodes contain the line “we will not negotiate with terrorists” and other allusions to Iraq and other conflicts). It also addresses sexual equality in the subversion of gender roles, such as having the Moses role here played by a woman, or the first child between a human and a Cylon (the closest the series has to a messiah) being a female. These stories thrive in Battlestar Galactica‘s environment.
Attridge, Harold W., Wayne A. Meeks, and Jouette M. Bassler. The Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, With The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. Student. San Francisco, CA: Harper One, 2006. Print.
Storm, Jo. Frak You!: The Ultimate Unauthorized Guide to Battlestar Galactica. Toronto: ECW, 2007. Print.
Roz, Kaveney, and Jennifer Stoy. Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh, Spirit and Steel . New York: I.B. Taurus & Co Ltd, 2010. Print.
D. Moore, Ronald. Battlestar Galactica: Series Bible . Self-published, 2003. Print.
Fair use: The two images are within fair use limitations as they were used solely with the purpose of illustrating the points made above.