I understand that Battlestar Galactica is just the new girl; she’s different, she’s dangerous, she’s got some moves you haven’t seen before and it’s all very exciting for a while. But she’s not going to hold up in the long haul, I don’t think. Talk to me when BSG completes its fourteenth consecutive season of delighting audiences across the television entertainment galaxy.
That said, it’s a little harsh to be over and done with it after a single mention. Especially since the experience of this rag-tag fugitive fleet seems to offer some surprising parallels to our daily life here in this home on this planet.
This didn’t strike us so much during the show’s pilot, as planets were exploding willy-nilly. But when we watched the first couple of episodes, suddenly I found myself exchanging meaningful, secret glances with the missus.
The episodes begin with a video montage with titles—little recap for anyone who missed the pilot or simply wasn’t paying attention. The titles go like this:
The Cylons were created by man.
They look and feel human.
Some are even programmed to think they are human.
There are many copies.
And they have a plan.
Cut from this to the bridge of the Galactica. The situation is quiet but clearly very tense. All hands are at the ready. But what’s this? The always-buttoned-up Petty Officer Dualla has just indulged in a significant yawn while on duty. And the XO is looking pretty ragged, now that you mention it. Even the stalwart leader, Commander Adama, has removed his glasses to rub the fatigue from his eyes.
The cause of this weariness is made clear in a moment. The Cylons have found a way to track the fleet’s hyper-space jumps, trailing them relentlessly across the galaxies. So now, instead of earning the kind of respite and privacy you’d expect from an FTL jump, the fleet has only 33 minutes of peace before the alarms go off and the Cylons are there, requiring some serious attention. Half an hour and change. That, in case you’re wondering, is barely enough time to do the work required to plot and execute an FTL jump.
It is also, fyi, just about how much time our new baby seems willing to give us between crises. Half an hour and change indeed. Sometimes these crises are small, requiring little attention—a new diaper, a quick burp—and sometimes they are more involved—a feeding, a meltdown—but they’re well spaced and regular. Not so bad during the day, but as night falls I begin to feel the kind of dread that one saw on the faces of the Battlestar crew. Can I do it? Or is tonight the night I crack? Am I up to it?
Although for all that, what choice do we have but to move forward. We are much like Commander Adama’s crew in that regard.
And that’s not where the similarities end. Suddenly the words of the introduction seemed to be a kind of warning. Created by man. Wasn’t our baby created by man—well, woman, mostly, but by human effort, instinct and ingenuity? Definitely.
They rebelled. What is this talked-of mystery of birth but a kind of definitive rebellion against the emprisonment of the womb. And what is this mindless, animal caterwauling but a rebellion against peace and the natural order of things.
They look and feel human. Pretty much. Smaller. And their shit doesn’t stink, but, yes, for sure, they look and feel human. Check.
Some are even programmed to believe they are human. Can’t say for sure on this one. Would have to speculate. But he sure seems to believe himself the center of the universe, which is a distinctly human trait, in my experience.
There are many copies. I would say the population is fairly well shot through with these little agents, each one cuter than the last. And ask yourself this: You know how when a baby is born there is immediately much discussion amongst the family as to who the little infant most resembles—the father, the mother, the uncle, the brother, et cetera, et cetera. You know who they really resemble? Other babies. They may not all look exactly alike, but you never mistake them for anything else.
They have a plan. Here I am at a loss. It is indiscernible to me. Then again, if the Cylons on the show have a plan, it’s also indiscernible to me, unless it is to stretch things out to fill shows, stretch shows to fill seasons and keep the story going at all costs. And that may, in fact, be our baby Cylon’s plan as well. Just keep the ball in the air, keep things moving and see what develops. If memory serves, it starts getting really fun around season three or four.
Not that it’s not fun now. It is. It’s amazing, in fact. The drama. The daily discoveries. The miracle of life developing before your eyes. The pooping. But the lack of sleep and the poor quality of what sleep there is is a common lament of new parents for good reason. When the crew of the Galactica has made some 260 jumps in a row at 33-minute intervals, they reach a point where the idea of a quick nap is starting to outweigh the need to save the species from extinction. Judgment, temper, humor—these basic human functions are oiled by sleep.
But what do we really know about this land of dreams and forgetfulness in which we spend, if we are lucky, a third of our lives? Not a lot, in the end.
About eight or ten years ago, a coworker I was just starting to get to know told me, in the course of chatting about our days and whatnot, that she woke every morning at a certain time—just about half past three, I think—and that often that would be it for her sleep for the night. Some nights she might try to get back to sleep. Others she would just begin her day.
I was fascinated—not by the woman, of course, as I was married—but by her situation and I began reading about sleep to see what I could learn. One of the pioneers of sleep research, William Dement, wrote this awesome book called The Promise of Sleep which—well, it’s a promise I can pretty much deliver on if I get going, but suffice it to say I learned a lot from that book.
For example, to this day no one really understands exactly why we sleep. It isn’t to rest the body—the energy saved compared to just lying down is negligible, equivalent to the calories in a piece of toast. It isn’t to rest the mind—the brain is incredibly active during much of sleep. But we know if we don’t sleep the side effects are unequivocal—grogginess, impaired reasoning, loss of memory, decrease in the ability to perform simple tasks—so, in effect, we sleep because we have to.
In the course of reading this book, I learned about cycles of sleep, about the freaky world of hypnogogic and hypnopompic sleep, about directed dreaming, sleep apnea and all sorts of things. I also learned that there are many ways to fall in love, that it doesn’t always happen at the most convenient time. And I learned that it is sometimes better to take some risk and fear into your life, and therefore into the lives of those closest to you, rather than chance sleeping through it entirely.
I suspect my coworker’s insomnia was of the transient variety, caused by too much on her mind. Over the course of the night, the mind naturally dives deep into sleep and rises again to near consciousness, like a porpoise diving and breaching, diving and breaching. When the surface is briefly broken, it doesn’t take much—a recently broken heart, an uncertain future, a longing for what’s next—to grab this porpoise’s attention and hold him from diving deep again. In this way, I suppose, our central porpoise is looking out for ourselves.
At any rate, I think maybe there was something important missing from my coworker’s life. Something she needed and had yet to find. I hope so anyway because I can tell you that she now sleeps very soundly indeed, as solidly and quietly as you could hope—or at least she did until we brought this little Cylon into our life.
So on we go, this rag-tag fugitive fleet, refugees from sleep, in our ongoing struggle with the invading Cylon, knowing that if he cannot be conquered, perhaps he can be gently won over and persuaded to see the beauty in this world he seems set on destroying. In this regard, I have tremendous confidence in my partner since that is pretty much what she did for me all those years ago.
Because it’s been a while since I’ve tossed a poem in and because earlier in the blog I found myself making cheap use of a line from this one and because I’ve always loved it, here’s a little number from my main man which is short enough that I will just stick it here:
The surest thing there is is we are riders,
And though none too successful at it, guiders,
Through everything presented, land and tide
And now the very air, of what we ride.
What is this talked-of mystery of birth
But being mounted bareback on the earth?
We can just see the infant up astride,
His small fist buried in the bushy hide.
There is our wildest mount--a headless horse.
But though it runs unbridled off its course,
And all our blandishments would seem defied,
We have ideas yet that we haven't tried.