Sunday, June 16, 2013

Battlestar Galactica (2004): The Politics of Leadership

An interesting piece appeared on The Monkey Cage the other day by a former grad student colleague about the politics of Battlestar Galactica (2004).  It got me to thinking how much I had enjoyed the show but never really paid much attention to executive decisionmaking portrayed in the series.  So now I'm going back to watch all the episodes and plan to selectively blog about some of the highlights from a political science perspective.  I'll try not to spoil the episodes for those who have not seen the series.  For those who have, perhaps you'll see it from a different perspective.

Main Characters:
  • Commander William Adama (Commander of the Battlestar Galactica)
  • Laura Roslyn (Education Secretary, 43rd in line to the presidency)
  • Gaius Baltar (philanderer, scientist, traitor)
  • Number Six (one of the 12 models of human looking Cylons)  
  • Starbuck (Galactica's top fighter pilot) 

Battlestar Galactica: The Mini-Series (Episodes 1 & 2 on Netflix)

 The series revolves around the ongoing war between the human created Cylons and their creators (an analogy to the war man has declared against God, according to some biblical expositors).  One of the main characters, Commander William Adama, makes an allusion to this in his farewell address as the Battlestar Galactica is set to be decommissioned when he compares human beings to God. 

The series begins with the arrival of Education Secretary Roslyn aboard Battlestar Galactica for the decommissioning ceremony.  Commander Adama greets Secretary Roslyn and immediately lays down the ground networked computers aboard Galactica.  We see this rule enforced again when his son, Captain Lee Adama, arrives and is instructed he must do a 'hands on' landing rather than an automated one, per the commander's orders.  One of the themes we will see in the series is the recurring struggle between the leaders and those under their authority, much as we see in the political arena.  Adama is a military leader so he is used to simply giving an order and expecting his subordinates to carry it out.  Roslyn, on the other hand, is a political leader who must rely on skills such as persuasion and popularity to get things done, especially by those who disagree with her. 

After a devastating Cylon attack on Caprica, everything changes.  Laura Roslyn is sworn in as president on board Colonial 1 in a scene eerily familiar to when LBJ took office.  Commander Adama decides to take control of the military fleet after the death of the admiral and an ensuing power struggle between military and civilian control begins.  Roslyn must learn the art of persuasion while Adama must learn how to deal with challenges to his authority. 

More next time....

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