Thursday, 24 June 2010

Religion in Science Fiction posts at Only a Game

I recently discovered some very interesting blog posts from 2009 on religion in science fiction. The series is by Chris Bateman on his blog, Only a Game, and consists of the nine posts:
  1. Introduction
  2. Metaphysics of Science Fiction
  3. Dune
  4. Stargate
  5. Star Trek
  6. Doctor Who
  7. Firefly
  8. Battlestar Galactica
  9. Star Wars
I've recently finished re-watching Stargate SG-1 and I find myself very much agreeing with Chris's analysis of the show. He writes: "From the very onset, Stargate had been tied up in an unsophisticated pulp-novel critique of religion." However, as he goes on to argue, SG-1's mission of removing the Goa'uld, who pose as gods, from power is more closely connected to deposing tyrants and freeing slaves than it is an attack on religion per se. Chris then examines seasons nine and ten of the show, posing the question: "did the later seasons alienate Christian fans?" The answer he arrives at is a definite "yes", and he also suggests that it could have played a role in the show's downfall. He writes: "It is almost impossible not to interpret the Ori as a paper-thin parody of Christianity." It is this Ori storyline that makes the show so incredibly frustrating towards the end—it becomes preoccupied with presenting a simplistic and philosophically naïve attack on religion, and on Christianity most of all. Perhaps at some point I'll write a long, ranting post about it, but Chris pretty well sums up my frustrations. Don't get me wrong, I still loved the show (I really wish they'd hurry up and make the third DVD movie). I also think that Stargate Atlantis was, in many ways, what SG-1 should have remained: simple sci-fi fun, which doesn't take itself too seriously. That is perhaps where Stargate Universe is going wrong; it is attempting to be far too serious for show that should be lighthearted and fun (I mean, the premise based on people walking through wormholes to distant planets, for heaven's sake!). Anyway, I'm getting off-topic...

Chris's post on Battlestar Galactica is also very interesting, and he briefly looks at the original 1979 series, which was heavily influenced by Mormonism, before launching into a study of the show's 2003 re-make. I absolutely loved BSG and think it did a really good job of presenting a fairly balanced look at religious themes in a science fictional setting. I also loved the rather bold ending of the series, which, as Chris notes, came as quite a shock to many viewers:
Religiously-minded individuals were stunned at these metaphysical concessions to the idea of something beyond materialism, while anti-religious atheists were up in arms in the indignant edges of the blogosphere – even though, quite frankly, prophecy and mystical dreams had played an integral part of the storyline from the beginning and something preternatural was certainly required to account for this. It was another of those not-so-rare cases of the dogmatic-corners of the atheist community behaving like a fundamentalist religious subculture – a few angry individuals decrying a story because it did not concord with their personal metaphysical beliefs.
With the range of ideas that get discussed throughout the series, Chris attributes Ronald D. Moore and David Eick with creating a "brilliantly ambiguous mythology", one which I thoroughly enjoyed trying to decrypt as I watched the show fanatically during its run.

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