Faithless

Ta-Nehisi Coates has some sharp words for Battlestar Galactica, Gaius Baltar, and Number Six:

There are many things wrong with this first season–the hokey court-drama during that “tribunal” episode, the long extended nothing of the Helo/Boomer arc (I like Helo, but goddamn, can something actually happen please), the hamfisted War on Terror parallelism. But unquestionably the worst aspect of the show is the acting of Tricia Helfer as “Number Six.” My God. Helfer mistake cooing and grinding for sexiness, the way Karl Rove mistakes reading a book a week for wisdom. Here is an actor who has all the externals of her character down, but none of the internals.

I think this is basically correct, although axing Six would have left James Callis without the opportunity to exercise his considerable gifts for physical comedy. I also think it would have been difficult to develop Baltar’s neuroses absent some sort of internal monologue, so perhaps fantasy was a necessary expedient.

What really bothered me about the Six-Baltar relationship, however, was its shallow treatment of religious faith. Many observers (Joe Carter of Culture11 comes to mind) have praised Ronald Moore and Co. for their treatment of organized religion. Barring an amazingly well-thought out finale, I think the show’s approach owes more to convoluted mysticism than deep religious introspection, and the Six-Baltar dialogues were a particularly bad example of this tendency.

Baltar’s religious inclinations are a bit like my own circa 7th grade: we both pray for instant gratification – avoiding detention in my case, not getting exposed for crimes against humanity in his – and then take the result as conclusive evidence of God’s existence (my religious enthusiasm was highly dependent on the clemency of various teachers). Real faith, of course, is nothing like this, which is why religious belief is such an ambiguous, trying experience. Baltar and Six’s interaction suggests that personalized, made-to-order miracles are a prerequisite for faith, which is a bit insulting to people who pray and go to church without ever encountering Tricia Helfer.

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3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Religion, Science Fiction

3 responses to “Faithless

  1. Alex

    Boomer is “the only compelling one”?

  2. I want to read this post, but as I have only watched season 1 of Battlestar, I don’t want any spoilers. I know, I know, I’m way behind. I only started watching the show a couple months ago. This is a symptom of not owning a TV and watching everything on a laptop…

    Cheers!

  3. I don’t have cable TV, so I sympathize with your plight.

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