Law and Politics in Battlestar Galactica:

On Concurring Opinions, lawprofs Daniel Solove, Deven Desai, and David Hoffman have a fascinating interview with Ronald D. Moore and Dan Eick, creators of the outstanding science fiction TV series Battlestar Galactica. The interview focuses on the many interesting legal and political issues the show tackles and will be appearing in several installments over the next few days.

As most sci-fi fans know, Battlestar Galactica is a reconceptualization of the 1978 television series of the same name. It focuses on the story of a "rag tag fleet" of human survivors of a devastating Cylon attack on their home planets which has wiped out nearly all of the human race. The show has taken on a wide range of legal, political, and moral issues.

The series' mostly left-wing politics are very far from my own. In addition, I have some reservations about the way the show's premise is set up. For example, the "colonial" humans' political system seems far too similar to that of the United States, given that these humans supposedly developed in complete isolation from Earth for thousands of years. Many of the show's moral and political dilemmas seem a bit trivial in a setting where most of the human race has already been wiped out through genocide and the few survivors are in grave danger of suffering the same fate. In such an extreme situation, drastic measures such as the use of torture and suspension of due process are surely justified (assuming that they really are effective in staving off annihalation). The show's attempts to make these questions seem difficult strike me as unpersuasive. The more difficult question, of course, is whether these and similar measures can be defended in the much less dire circumstances we face in the real world. To a certain exent, BSG's creators were boxed in by the scenario they inherited from the original 1978 series; there is sometimes a poor fit between the show's basic premise and the issues they want to explore.

Despite these reservations, BSG is one of the best and most thoughtful science fiction TV series of the last 30 years and the Concurring Opinions interview has many interesting insights about the show's treatment of legal and political issues.