So what exactly constitutes life? While this is not a philosophical site, last night’s episode of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ did force viewers to examine that question. On the surface a chance to wipe out the entire Cylon race is an enticing endeavor. But what makes the genocide of a race acceptable? Are humans given carte blanche to perform such an act because they created the Cylons, or is it because the Cylon’s tried to do the same first? Either answer raises moral and philosophical dilemmas that can not be answered so hastily as President Roslin did. Here’s the rub though, discounting the moral problems the humans are in a war for survival and the only guarantee of that is if there’s no threat. ‘Battlestar Galactica’ raises all these questions in one episode, and then nullifies it all in a single 30-second scene.

Forgive me for being a traitor or “Cylon lover” but Sharon “Athena” Agethon has really grown on me as a character. She’s now my favorite of the Cylon models, and when the episode opened with her entering the ship it caused me quite a bit of discomfort. While on the ship the Galactica marines find five Cylon models still alive. Doc Cottle says that they can return everyone under quarantine, and having both the Cylons and the beacon that started the plague would be helpful. So Galactica now has some prisoners and they’ve yet to realize the implications of what’s going on. That will change soon enough though.

Doc Cottle, who is now wearing a Colonial Fleet uniform if you weren’t paying attention, tests all the humans and finds them immune to the virus. Of course, Sharon hasn’t been tested yet (you know…dramatic suspense). As for the disease itself, it turns out to be lymphocytic encephalitis. Encephalitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the brain and often death. Humans are immune to the virus. Thus ends this week’s BSG science lesson.

The good doctor has a stopgap treatment to help the Cylons, but it’s decided that rather than helping they should use it to get information. A Simon model is brought in and tells all about the virus, and it’s implications if they died near a Resurrection ship. The entire Cylon race could be wiped out. A fact Apollo realizes immediately, “I think I just thought of a way to solve all of our problems. To get rid of the Cylon threat for once and for all…we could destroy the entire Cylon race.”

Lee goes with Admiral Adama and Helo to President Roslin with a plan. Helo vehemently opposes the genocide of a race. Lee tells him that the Cylons are things with no sons or daughters. To which Helo retorts, “I had a daughter. I held her in my arms.” Helo contends that if humans wipe out the Cylon race, “We’re no better than they are.” As is often the case on the show, a problem arises which causes the viewer to rethink what they’re hearing. Amidst his argument to the President Helo, makes the error of saying the Cylons tried to live with them on New Caprica. Up until then his argument was solid, but this reveals the emotion behind his true intent. He wants to protect Sharon and stand up for her people because it’s what a husband should do. This argument is the catalyst that results in President Roslin’s decision to go through with the genocide.

Before we get to the exciting conclusion of the Cylon race let’s examine Admiral Adama’s reaction to the genocide. It’s clear from his statements to President Roslin and the look on his face when Lee suggests the idea that Adama is morally opposed to the the plan. However, he’s a military man and knows that this is not some little war that shouldn’t be fought. Instead this is the survival of the entire human race, and as such he cannot back down. What he does do is make it apparent to the President that the act would rip away part of humanities soul. This is interesting because we’ve always seen Adama be decisive, and it’s nice to know there are some things that bother him this much as a leader. He counsels the President on his thoughts and then lets her make the decision. We’re definitely far away from season one where he didn’t respect a mere teacher as President.

As for Sharon’s feelings on the subject, Helo finds that she supports the genocide. Not necessarily the genocide itself, but the humans decision to go ahead with it. She chose to put on the Colonial uniform, and is ready to support all that goes along with it. As for the virus, luckily due to the baby, she got the immunity as well. Good job Helo, proving that sex can prevent diseases in the future.

The decision is made, and the Cylon’s are to be wiped out. But as the plan goes into effect and a Resurrection ship appears, Lee and his team of marines find the Cylon prisoners already dead. Somehow the air system was reversed and they suffocated. Interesting, now who would either want to save the Cylons or want to stop the genocide? The question of the genocide is made moot by this turn of events, but what of the initial decision? The annihilation of the Cylon race never happened, but the leaders of mankind were going through with it. Will they rethink the decision if it ever comes up again, or will rage and hatred once again fuel the dilemma?

On the Baltar/Cylon side of things our favorite genius is accused of deliberately trying to wipe out the Cylon race. A mistake that was empowered by Baltar’s innate desire to lie about everything. The head D’Anna model tortures Baltar to get what she believes to be the truth from him. Manifest Caprica helps Baltar by encouraging him to separate his mind and body, which results in his ability to examine the flaws in the D’Anna’s faith. He tells her, “I believe if God exists our knowledge is imperfect…because the stories and myths we have are the products of men…The religious practice based on a theory impossible to prove, yet you bestow it with absoluteness.” There is a single-minded quality to the way the Cylons think about faith, and Baltar has challenged that. An act that probably saved his life, because they were never going to believe he was ignorant of the virus.

It is not my place, in a recap about a television show, to pontificate on my own beliefs regarding anything brought up by ‘Battlestar Galactica’ this week. I’d be remiss if I ignored it all though. The show challenges us to not just ride along and have fun, but to really invest our own emotions into what’s happening. If more shows were willing to take that risk, maybe there would be less junk on the boob tube.

So what did you think of the episode this week? Were the humans right to attempt the genocide? Are the Cylons living creatures or merely machines? When will see the old hotshot Starbuck frackin’ up some Cylons with ridiculously awesome flying maneuvers?

Discuss ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on our forums here.

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