Science Fiction Film & Television

‘Does all this have to happen again?’

Excavating heritage in Battlestar Galactica

Science Fiction Film & Television (2014), 7, (1), 1–30.


Details

In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (US 2003-9), the scriptural phrase ‘life here began out there’ prompts the survivors of the Cylon attack to seek refuge in the mythic home-world Earth. While the planet's location lies buried in the obscure corners of cultural memory, the Colonial fleet manages to take its bearings from artefacts, ruins and substrata along the way. As a critical medium for investing and investigating historical and cultural identity in objects, archaeology also challenges the Colonials to evaluate the hierarchical distinctions between things and people that underlie their antagonism with the Cylon ‘machines’. Cylons and humans alike search for their origins, identity and even survival among the shards of their shared material history in the race to Earth. BSG's archaeological mise-en-scène affords metatextual reflection on the central ethical and philosophical question fuelling the exodus narrative: how to understand and define humanity's purpose out of the ruins of the contemporary world? The answer is that the Cylon Wars will rage until Colonial humanity accepts the Cylons' desire to transcend the status of historical objects and become historical agents. Finding a (co-)habitable destination requires both sides to open the archaeological record to inclusive narratives of origin.

Bassom, David. Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion. London: Titan, 2005. Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion Google Scholar

Bennett, Eve. ‘Techno-butterfly: Orientalism Old and New in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 23-46. ‘Techno-butterfly: Orientalism Old and New in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5 23 46 Google Scholar

Bernbeck, Reinhard, and Susan Pollock. ‘The Political Economy of Archaeological Practice and the Production of Heritage in the Middle East’. A Companion to Social Archaeology. Ed. Lynn Meskell and Robert W. Preucel. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 335-52. A Companion to Social Archaeology 335 52 Google Scholar

Bernhardsson, Magnus. Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq. Austin: U of Texas P, 2005. Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq Google Scholar

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. The Location of Culture Google Scholar

Bogdanos, Matthew. The Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine's Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World's Greatest Stolen Treasures. New York: Bloomsbury, 2005. The Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine's Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World's Greatest Stolen Treasures Google Scholar

Butler, Anthea D., and Diane Winston. ‘A Vagina Ain't a Halo: Gender and Religion in Saving Grace and Battlestar Galactica’. Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion. Ed Diane Winston. Waco: Baylor UP, 2009. 259-88. Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion 259 88 Google Scholar

Call, Lewis. ‘Death, Sex and the Cylon: Living Authenticity on Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 85-113. ‘Death, Sex and the Cylon: Living Authenticity on Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5 85 113 Google Scholar

Dillon, Grace L. ‘Diaspora Narrative in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 1-21. ‘Diaspora Narrative in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5 1 21 Google Scholar

Dinello, Dan. ‘The Wretched of New Caprica’. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 185-200. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 185 200 Google Scholar

Emberling, Geoff, and Katharyn Hanson (eds). Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the U of Chicago, 2008. Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past Google Scholar

Erickson, Christian. ‘Counter-Terror Culture: Ambiguity, Subversion, or Legitimization’. Security Dialogue 38.2 (2007): 197-214. ‘Counter-Terror Culture: Ambiguity, Subversion, or Legitimization’ Security Dialogue 38 197 214 Google Scholar

Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia UP, 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object Google Scholar

Fagan, Garrett G., and Kenneth L Feder. ‘Crusading against Straw Men: An Alternative View of Alternative Archaeologies: Response to Holtorf’. World Archaeology 38.4 (2006): 718-29. ‘Crusading against Straw Men: An Alternative View of Alternative Archaeologies: Response to Holtorf’ World Archaeology 38 718 29 Google Scholar

Gullapalli, Praveena. ‘Heterogeneous Encounters: Colonial Histories and Archaeological Experiences’. Archaeology and the Postcolonial Critique. Ed. Matthew Liebmann and Uzma Z. Rizvi. New York: Altamira, 2008. 35-52. Archaeology and the Postcolonial Critique 35 52 Google Scholar

Gumpert, Matthew. ‘Hybridity's End’. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica. Ed. Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2008. 143-55. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica 143 55 Google Scholar

Hamilakis, Yannis. ‘From Ethics to Politics’. Archaeology and Capitalism: From Ethics to Politics. Ed. Yannis Hamilakis and Philip Duke. Walnut Creek: Left Coast, 2007. 15-40. Archaeology and Capitalism: From Ethics to Politics 15 40 Google Scholar

Hamilakis, Yannis. ‘Iraq, Stewardship and "the Record": An Ethical Crisis for Archaeology’. Public Archaeology (2003): 104-11. ‘Iraq, Stewardship and "the Record": An Ethical Crisis for Archaeology’ Public Archaeology 104 11 Google Scholar

Hamilakis, Yannis. ‘The "War on Terror" and the Military-Archaeology Complex: Iraq, Ethics, and Neo-Colonialism’. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5.1 (2009): 39-65. ‘The "War on Terror" and the Military-Archaeology Complex: Iraq, Ethics, and Neo-Colonialism’ Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5 39 65 Google Scholar

Hamilakis, Yannis. ‘We Are All Middle Easterners Now: Globalization, Immanence, Archaeology’. Controlling the Past, Owning the Future. Ed. R. Boytner, L. S. Dodd and B. J. Parker. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2010. 217-29. Controlling the Past, Owning the Future 217 29 Google Scholar

Hamilakis, Yannis. ‘Whose World and Whose Archaeology? The Colonial Present and the Return of the Political’. Archaeologies 1.2 (2005): 94-101. ‘Whose World and Whose Archaeology? The Colonial Present and the Return of the Political’ Archaeologies 1 94 101 Google Scholar

Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women Google Scholar

Holtorf, Cornelius. Archaeology Is a Brand! The Meaning of Archaeology in Contemporary Popular Culture. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2007. Archaeology Is a Brand! The Meaning of Archaeology in Contemporary Popular Culture Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and other Science Fictions. New York: Verso, 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and other Science Fictions Google Scholar

Johnson-Lewis, Ericka. ‘Torture, Terrorism, and Other Aspects of Human Nature’. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica. Ed. Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2008. 27-39. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica 27 39 Google Scholar

Kerslake, Patricia. Science Fiction and Empire. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2007. Science Fiction and Empire Google Scholar

Kind, Amy. ‘You Can't Rape a Machine’. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 117-28. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 117 28 Google Scholar

Leaver, Tama. ‘"Humanity's Children": Constructing and Confronting the Cylons’. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There. Ed. Jason T. Eberl. Malden: Blackwell, 2008. 169-80. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There 169 80 Google Scholar

Liedl, Janice. ‘The Battle for History in Battlestar Galactica’. Space and Time: Essays on Vision of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Ed. David C. Wright, Jr and Allan W. Austin. Jefferson: McFarland, 2010. 289-307. Battlestar Galactica’. Space and Time: Essays on Vision of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television 289 307 Google Scholar

McGuire, Randall H. Archaeology as Political Action. Berkeley: U of California P, 2008. Archaeology as Political Action Google Scholar

McHenry, Bryan. ‘Weapons of Mass Salvation’. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 221-32. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 221 32 Google Scholar

McKnight, Nadine. ‘Black Markets and Black Mystics: Racial Shorthand in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 47-66. ‘Black Markets and Black Mystics: Racial Shorthand in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5 47 66 Google Scholar

Melançon, Louis. ‘Secrets and Lies: Balancing Security and Democracy in the Colonial Fleet’. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 211-20. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 211 20 Google Scholar

Meskell, Lynn, and Robert W. Preucel (eds). A Companion to Social Archaeology. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. A Companion to Social Archaeology Google Scholar

Moylan, Katie. ‘"Nothing Is What It Appears to Be": Event Fidelity and Critique in Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 67-84. ‘"Nothing Is What It Appears to Be": Event Fidelity and Critique in Battlestar Galactica Dollhouse’. Science Fiction Film and Television 5 67 84 Google Scholar

Mulligan, Rikk. ‘The Cain Mutiny: Reflecting the Faces of Military Leadership in a Time of Fear’. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica. Ed. Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2008. 52-63. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica 52 63 Google Scholar

Ott, Brian L. ‘(Re)Framing Fear: Equipment for Living in a Post-9/11 World’. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica. Ed. Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2008. 13-26. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica 13 26 Google Scholar

Pearson, Mike, and Michael Shanks. Theatre/Archaeology. New York: Routledge, 2001. Theatre/Archaeology Google Scholar

Peters, Ian M. ‘Choosing Sides: Occupation or Resistance?’ Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 201-10. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 201 10 Google Scholar

Pinedo, Isabel. ‘Playing with Fire without Getting Burned: Blowback Re-imagined’. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. 173-84. Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? 173 84 Google Scholar

Potter, Tiffany, and C. W. Marshall (eds). Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica. New York: Continuum, 2008. Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica Google Scholar

Preucel, Robert W. Archaeological Semiotics. Malden: Blackwell, 2006. Archaeological Semiotics Google Scholar

Rawle, Steven. ‘Real-imagining Terror in Battlestar Galactica: Negotiating Real and Fantasy in Battlestar Galactica's Political Metaphor’. Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh, Spirit and Steel. Ed. Roz Kaveney and Jennifer Stoy. New York: Tauris, 2012. 129-53. Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh, Spirit and Steel 129 53 Google Scholar

Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2008. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Rizvi, Uzma Z. ‘Conclusion: Archaeological Futures and the Postcolonial Critique’. Archaeology and the Postcolonial Critique. Ed. Matthew Liebmann and Uzma Z. Rizvi. New York: Altamira, 2008. 197-203. Archaeology and the Postcolonial Critique 197 203 Google Scholar

Rothfield, Lawrence (ed.). Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War. New York: Altamira, 2008. Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War Google Scholar

Sharp, Patrick B. ‘Starbuck as "American Amazon": Captivity Narrative and the Colonial Imagination in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 3.1 (2010): 57-78. ‘Starbuck as "American Amazon": Captivity Narrative and the Colonial Imagination in Battlestar Galactica’. Science Fiction Film and Television 3 57 78 Google Scholar

Silverman, Eric J. ‘Adama's True Lie: Earth and the Problem of Knowledge’. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There. Ed. Jason T. Eberl. Malden: Blackwell, 2008. 192-202. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There 192 202 Google Scholar

Stone, Peter G., and Joanne F. Bajjaly (eds). The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq Google Scholar

Steele, Caroline. ‘Who Has Not Eaten Cherries with the Devil? Archaeology under Challenge’. Archaeologies of the Middle East: Critical Perspectives. Ed. Susan Pollock and Reinhard Bernbeck. New York: Blackwell, 2005. 45-65. Archaeologies of the Middle East: Critical Perspectives 45 65 Google Scholar

Teijgeler, René. ‘Embedded Archaeology: An Exercise in Self-Reflection’. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Ed. Peter G. Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008. 173-82. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq 173 82 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Author details

Malley, Shawn