I watched the Battle Star Galactica series in fascination. That a finely produced, 21st Century series would have a plot which is, at essence, spiritual delighted me. With the (apparently rushed) final episode ending with a disappointing Planet of the Apes moment, I was reminded of the hollow content of the original BSG series after it switched from the telling of a very human spiritual journey to a shoot-‘em-up children’s show-- complete with the robot dog and with an eye toward toy sales in lieu of the hard work of telling an important story.
I had, therefore, low expectations of Caprica. I did not bother to watch the first two episodes when they were originally aired due to the grudge I held after the final BSG episode which seemed to seek to make the point, “it doesn’t matter, it means nothing.” So, I was ready to take the writers at their word, and assume that Caprica would, in the end, mean nothing.
However, it may be that Caprica is determined to tell an important story after all:
In the midst of a culture in which humans begrudgingly hold to old traditions for the sake of the tradition rather than purpose and meaning, the seed of envy is planted in a new self awareness of being in the Cylons. But this is not the classic “robots are people, too” sci-fi theme ever since Stanislaw Lem [e,g, I Robot, the HAL 9000 in Clarke’s (and Kubrick’s, really, since he saw more in Clarke’s story than was written in the novel) 2001: A Space Odyssey and Asimov’s, Bicentennial Man]; rather it is a spiritual tale of the desire for transcendence. The Cylons, imbued with the essence of a human soul from the start, envy the hope of transcendence which is possessed by natural beings (but all but discarded as irrelevant) by these creators.
It is a conservative story, told in a classical liberal manner. Conservative, in that the search for meaning includes a sense of “from whence we come” and liberal in that the change which the answer demands requires the individual to act—not some vague “others.”
I’ll try to undergird that last thought. A columnist in San Diego back in the late 1990’s wrote a piece about Hollywood liberalism. In his piece, he noted how the charities and causes which are most popular among the Hollywood elite were of the type which required no personal commitment—no change in ones own life and habits-- apart from writing a check.
Using a Christian illustration, the popular Hollywood causes could not (and would not) include feeding the hungry, visiting the sick or in prison, clothing the naked, or doing anything else which required personal interaction with other human persons in need. Rather, the emphasis tended to be on trees, whales, oil drilling, politics, unions, and so on. I am reminded of one of the Dallas Cowboy football players saying that the players were going on strike for “human rights” which (of course) was ultimately defined by the number of zeros in his already hefty paycheck.
You get it, right? Spiritual Beings (that would be us) denying the obvious so that they (we!) may pretend to be simply “beings” of no spiritual nature. Those are the persons who make up the Caprica society.
Knowing the BSG story line (not counting the cheapening final episode) we know that the self-awareness combined with the unproven spirituality of the Cylons in Caprica will become an increasingly desperate inner conflict forced outward against humans, but all for the purpose of demanding to share in the spiritual nature of their creators—not their freedoms, not their rights, but their souls become treasured.
In the ancient Church there was a heretical sect known, colloquially, as the “two-thirds-ers.” They have another formal name, but this one serves my purpose. What got this sect in trouble with the rest of the Church was that they sought to define Christ as fully God, but only partially human. They claimed that Christ had only two of the three components of the classic tri-partied person: body, mind and soul.
We now, in our post-enlightenment age, have dimmed our view of our own selves to the damning definition of humanity as being merely body and mind.
I think it shows.