What does it say about America when the best drama on TV is science fiction?
We have given ourselves over to parable and burlesque in our entertainment. But it begs the question, "why do we need to entertain ourselves?"
I think the metaphor of "holding a mirror up to reality" is good. But I think that entertainment also serves the proverbial "soul" the same way religion does. So, no wonder religion fights as hard against other religions as it does against art, the non-movement movement.
Well, I take that back. Movements in art are motivating, just like religion. But religion leans toward more organized, authoritarian movements, and art has always been religion's free-form cousin.
Just as "a DJ saved my life", art saved the life of Michaelangelo, surely a homosexual living on the cusp of the darkest of ages in Italy, supported by a closeted Vatican and moneyed aristocrats and merchants.
Then, also, draw the parallels between the art and music movements in the 1960s and 1970s and the creation of one of America's lasting cultural institutions: Star Trek.
In many ways, Star Trek was the free-love movement vicariously offered to the "can't get laid" set on the small screen. Here was man and woman's potential.. really, human potential as a whole, represented as a Utopian future without war, disease, poverty or greed.
Well of course Star Trek got a lot more interesting when the cracks in the system were shown. Some of these innovations came with "The Next Generation", aptly named because it, in 1989, brought my generation into the Star Trek fold. Most came with a much-ignored but critically acclaimed off-shoot called "Deep Space Nine."
"Deep Space Nine" broke many of the unspoken rules of the too-perfect Star Trek universe: thou shalt not foment dissent between Federation allies, thou shalt not invoke religious wars, thou shalt not question the goodness of the Federation, thou shalt not make morally ambiguous decisions and mostly, thou shalt not pin humanity down as the underdog and suggest that they may not win.
All of the things that made "Deep Space Nine" interesting were by and large the result of the direction of junior television producer Ronald D. Moore. However, Moore's vision of the Roddenberry's universe led to a great deal of controversy and Moore's eventual departure from the show.
Years later my roommate at the time Larry and I were watching an episode of "Stargate: SG1" where during a commercial break the Sci-Fi Channel ran a minute long trailer for a mini-series based on the canonically cheesy late-1970s sci-fi TV series "Battlestar Gallactica" that would star Edward James Olmos (of "Miami Vice" fame) in the lead and, shockingly, cast the swaggering fighter pilot Starbuck as a woman!
"I hope that doesn't suck," I told Larry.
"It's going to suck, I'm sure of it" he responded.
Needless to say, the mini-series and resulting Sci-Fi Channel series has exceeded my expectations in every way. And it is all thanks to the vision of that junior producer of "Deep Space Nine" fame, Ronald D. Moore.
Edit: the reason I was prompted to post this was because of Nana Visitor's guest spot on this week's BSG. Nana Visitor played Major Kira on DS9.