I distinctively remember discovering Battlestar Galactica during my high school years and becoming so entranced by the characters and the storyline. It was the commanding presence of Admiral William Adama, the ruthlessness of Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, and the undeniable strength of President Laura Roslin that kept me tuning in. However, it wasn’t until I was enjoying one of my occasional Battlestar Galactica marathons recently that I began noticing the anti-intellectualism present throughout the course of the reimagined series.
This anti-intellectualism (the blatant mistrust of intellect and intellectuals, and the view that science is detestable) can be seen considerably when examining the brilliant character of Gaius Baltar (played by James Callis).
It is the characterisation of Gaius Baltar that contributes so significantly to the anti-intellectualism present throughout Battlestar Galactica. Within the majority of mainstream television shows, movies, books and comics, scientists are regularly portrayed as socially awkward and eccentric, wearing stereotypical dark-rimmed glasses and often depicted as complete outsiders compared to the rest of the characters. This is, without a doubt, definitely the case with Gaius.
Viewers usually see Gaius wandering around the halls of Galactica interacting with Number Six (Tricia Helfer), who is visible only to him. Consequently, this makes it appear as though he is talking to himself or being pushed around by some invisible force, leaving members of the battlestar to create an image of him as anything other than the brilliant scientist he truly is. In turn, this causes him to often be looked down on. Additionally, he is never within the circle of main protagonists and is numerously brought in to ‘save the day’ all whilst needing to explain himself to members of the fleet and apologising for doing something ingenious.
During the earlier seasons of the series, Gaius begins his journey as a man of science, fully entrusting the fact that he understands how the world works with a tinge of arrogance. The majority of his story arc, however, is spent in cowardice, and his failures were often the direct result of his constant need for self-preservation. There is no doubt that Gaius feared death. It was this fear that often powered and fuelled his decision-making. Arguably, the fear that he possessed, the cowardice, was due to his lack of faith (something that over the course of four seasons changed drastically, in my opinion). He knew how the world worked scientifically, but there was no logical understanding that he could apply on life-after-death.
Though, despite his self-preservation leading to several failures, Gaius was able to save the life of President Roslin and was the successful mastermind behind the device capable of detecting who was a cylon. Yet, these victories were not enough to redeem the character of Gaius Baltar. His redemption wasn’t able to transpire until the very end, in the episode ‘Day Break II’, when he willingly forgoes giving up technology and science, and decides to settle on Earth and return to his farming roots.
There have definitely been a number of other television shows that display this anti-intellectualism (such as Lost), but Battlestar Galactica clearly states that science and technology is the problem, and that embracing the simplest things in life is the only way for salvation. It is disappointing that Battlestar Galactica, a show that realistically portrays the division between the human race, would end with everyone agreeing to give up on technology. However, this supports the fact that anti-intellectualism is a major theme. The characterisation and story arc of Gaius Baltar, as well as using him as a gateway to present this issue, further reinforces this.
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