The Battlestar Galactica prequel series, Caprica, really started to hit its straps at about Episode 4: ‘Gravedancing’ (for more on BSG-related topics from Tyrone and Eric, visit here, here, and here).
Caprica is set on the planet of the same name, a planet possessing technology a decade or so more advanced than ours, and on the brink of developing artificial intelligence. The planet Caprica is controlled by global business and a world government, exercising effective political control over the other eleven of the twelve colonies, and wielding a powerful law enforcement and intelligence service called the Global Defense Department (G.D.D.). The parallels to our own political situation (in descending order of power: global business, the U.S. government, and the F.B.I.) are obvious.
The only apparent threat to established power is posed by the terrorist group, Soldiers of The One, whose monorail bomb explosion in the first, pilot episode killed Zoë Graystone, daughter of artificial intelligence entrepreneur, Daniel Graystone. The dominant religious belief within the twelve colonies is polytheism, one more or less based on the ancient Greek pantheon. This polytheistic religion is practiced more nominally and with less literalism on Caprica than it is on other planets, such as the more fundamentalist Gemenon and Tauron. By contrast, the religious innovation of the Soldiers of The One (S.T.O) is monotheism, belief in one God, a belief that sets them against the secularizing and nominally polytheistic Caprican government.
This clash in worldviews – and again the parallels with life on Earth in 2010 are obvious – produces some fiery religious dialogue, punctuated with the usual half-truths, ignorance, fear, and prejudice. When the G.D.D. confronts Amanda Graystone (Zoë Graystone’s mother) and proceeds to force a search of Zoë’s possessions for evidence of her links with the S.T.O., the confrontation produces one of the best lines of the season to this point:
Amanda Graystone (Zoë’s mother): What do you think you’re going to find here?
Jordan (GDD Agent): I really don’t know. Maybe who she met with. Who brainwashed her into believing in a moral dictator called ‘God’…
The GDD agent then delivers a line which nicely captures the inevitable conflict which arises when a political power and a rival religious power each claim absolute authority – and the resulting systemic violence from the political hegemony, defended as though it were benignly protecting the existing order from unaccountable violence:
Jordan (GDD Agent): I’m sorry if we have to take your daughter’s life apart in order to put other terrorists behind bars. But if we have to, then so be it.
After Zoë’s involvement with the S.T.O. is made public, the Graystones are invited on a comedian’s talk show – the media form in which most Caprican young people receive their news. The theme of religious conflict is further developed on the show. Amanda Graystone is asked why she didn’t report her daughter as a terrorist, and replies that she never knew:
Amanda Graystone: When was I supposed to call the cops?
Baxter Sarno: Well, I don’t know, maybe when she started worshiping the big Destructo-God-In-The-Sky, maybe?
Daniel Graystone (Zoë’s father): We didn’t know, there weren’t any signs.
Baxter Sarno: You said she was ‘troubled’.
Daniel Graystone: See… she was angry. That’s a better word. My wife’s right.
Baxter Sarno: Well, ok, ‘angry’, but I would also like to add – “morally blank”. Because the virtual world is a poor teacher and doesn’t provide boundaries…
Daniel Graystone: You know who would completely agree with that – that is Zoe. And that’s exactly how the S.T.O. [Soldiers of The One] got to her… She saw things in the virtual world – ritual sacrifices, games like New Cap City, and she felt the absence of moral guidelines, just like you do, like a lot of folks do. And into that absence steps the S.T.O., offering this marvelous ultimate moral arbiter. It’s quite appealing – for a teenage girl especially.
This exchange captures something Bruce Lincoln notes in Holy Terrors. The typical response of the U.S. to Muslim terrorism was to deny that the terrorists operated from religious motivations; to instead paint them as amoral agents acting merely for political – or even selfish – purposes. Such a slant is completely contradicted by the nature of the instructions which each of the 9/11 bombers were issued and followed before the attack – which stressed the religious rationale for their actions at almost every step of the way, and which was couched in language which emphasized their overall goals of holiness, cleansing, and purity. If any religious element was mentioned in official U.S. media reports, it was painted as a variety opposed to “true Islam” – as though the religion the 9/11 bombers practised was somehow not a valid form of religion. But while it is certainly not a valid form of Islam for the vast majority of Muslims, it does constitute “genuine” Islam for some.
Before her death, Zoë created a virtual copy of herself, the program for which becomes the prototype for artificial intelligence and the creation of the Cylons.
As the Mother of an entirely new species, her name, Zoë, takes on a special significance. It means “Life” in Greek, for which the corresponding Hebrew name is חוה (Ḥavvah): “Eve”.