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Adama - Choices - by iconifer

Top 5: That Old Time Religion

For selenak:


Top 5 Sci Fi Episodes Centered Around Religious Figures

This was actually far more difficult than I anticipated. Boo on sci-fi for not addressing this critical influence (for good and ill) on humanity more often. In the end, I could only come up with four choices, and one is a bit of a cheat. Perhaps the peanut gallery can lend a hand?

1) Passing Through Gethsemane (B5). I heart Brother Theo and want him to be my priest. And I will always appreciate JMS’s respectful attempt to portray atonement and forgiveness as they are viewed in my faith. As for the role of memory – amusingly, the writers for SG1 apparently thought the theme was good enough to copy. *g*

2) Kobol’s Last Gleaming (BSG). Mom and Dad fight about religion and the kids have to choose sides – a conflict that is resolved for the time being, but hopefully not forgotten. Power struggles between equally intelligent, human, sympathetic characters is a kink of mine.

3) Rapture (DS9). Mad Cap’n Benji goes euphoric and accepts his position in Bajoran society – and Jake loves his father and prefers that he live rather than die a religious martyr. I’m a sucker for this one and I’m not really ashamed of it. It was the turning point for the fifth season – the moment the writers realized there was an enormous arc swimming under the surface. And while I don’t really share my f-list’s passionate Winn-love, I do think her scenes with Kira in this episode were fabulous. “I can remember each and every beating that I suffered. And where you had weapons to protect yourself, all I had was my faith… and my courage.” AWESOME.

4) Serenity. Not an “episode,” true – and only an acceptable answer if you believe literal gods need not apply – but the Operative, I believe, is deliberately written as a religious figure. Actually, as I watched the film, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were looking at a proto-Book. Book does seem to know an awful lot about the mindset.


Comments

Stargate? I know only the fanfic of Atlantis, sadly, but SG-1 certainly has more than its share of religious-figure bad guys.
Mmm. I haven't been overly impressed with the Gates' treatment of religion. Nothing from either series is jumping out at me, at least. I'm still trying to catch up on SG1's mid-seasons, though.

Gods of SF

There have been a couple episodes of TXF that stuck with me. One where Scully goes back to her faith, when faced with the cancer, *and* chooses treatment.

Strangely, I think comics have a better record here. And written SF just blows it out of the water.

- hg

Re: Gods of SF

I have an odd memory from seaQuest, when 'everyone was gonna die', but Ted Raimi's character volunteered to be the guy who'd put himself up for the chopping block so the others *might* live - and he justified this because he believed so strongly in his religion's afterlife that it really was a no-brainer non-risk. If he died, he'd then be safe in Heaven, and he'd rather put himself on the line instead of someone without faith at the moment.

I don't remember anything about the episode but that moment.

Re: Gods of SF

Wish I had seen that.

Hobs - how about any of the DS9 eps?

- hg

Re: Gods of SF

Regarding DS9, the one that really stands out for me is Rapture, which is in fact mentioned above.

As for XF, I've never been a fan, so I can't really comment yea or nay.
I liked Passing Through Gethsemane. I thought I didn't when I first watched it, but it's actually very poignant and sad.
The below-mentioned flaws aside, I agree.
We've had our disagreements about B5 in the past, but I just have to speak out against "Passing Through Gethsemane". It's Brad Dourif who makes it work, in spite and not because of the saccharine writing.

The SF-nal concept actually isn't bad, and there were a few glimpses of decent theological questions - I especially love the scene where Dourif's character asks how he can confess sins that he doesn't remember committing - but for the most part the religious imagery is ladled on with a shovel. Was it really necessary to crucify the guy, for instance? And did he really need to tell us that he stayed at the garden of Gethsemane (never mind that, once again, the analogy doesn't hold - he isn't saving anyone by staying put, only ending his own misery. In fact, we might say that by waiting for his killers he's committing an elaborate form of suicide and that therefore his disposition in the afterlife is suspect)? Given how artlessly the writers drop in the Gethsemane issue earlier in the episode ('I've always wondered if I would have had the courage to stay in the garden of Gethsemane...' Gee, I wonder if that's going to be significant later in the episode?), it hardly seems necessary for them to hammer the point in while the guy's dying.

I second the X-Files recommendation, by the way. I always enjoyed the way the series treated Scully's return to faith, and the way that it acknowledged that if God exists, then it can be a very dangerous thing to be called to serve him. There's an episode in the fifth season, I think, where Scully becomes aware of a series of deaths - several disabled girls have been killed in very mysterious means. She realizes that the girls are angels (or some such thing) and are being taken into heaven, and she has to let them die. It's an incredible struggle for her - does she have enough faith in God and in her religion to let these girls die?
but for the most part the religious imagery is ladled on with a shovel.

Everything you say is true, but I'll be frank - it doesn't really bother me. I'm not claiming my list as definitive, or even entirely rational. On the whole, JMS's understanding of theology, history, and politics is incredibly shallow - reading the commentary in his recently released script collections is really driving this home - but having been raised on a diet of Gene Roddenberry's pre-DS9 Trek ("we have evolved beyond religion!"), my standards for religious discussion, you'll find, are shockingly low. JMS, our favorite overgrown adolescent, gets a slow clap from me for trying.

There's an episode in the fifth season, I think, where Scully becomes aware of a series of deaths - several disabled girls have been killed in very mysterious means. She realizes that the girls are angels (or some such thing) and are being taken into heaven, and she has to let them die.

Having never been a fan of XF, I can't comment intelligently on this, but I am uncertain of the theology presented here. Something feels off. [/irrational]
I can think of a couple more DS9 episodes that are pretty awesome on the religious issue. Also that my favorite of the religious-y episodes of BSG so far has been Flesh and Bone. The bit where Kara prays for Leoban after they shove him out the airlock is impressively moving to me.
Out of curiosity, which DS9 episodes would you list?
I quite like "The Collaborator", which is the one where Kira is charged with investigating a massacre that ended with the death of Kai Opaka's son, on the eve of the election to replace her. Eventually we learn that Kai Opaka allowed her son to die to save a bunch of other people. "Destiny" is the one where Sisko is working with the Cardassian science vessel and they're studying a comet that has Bajoran religious implications and is the first episode where Sisko really buys into his role as Emissary. (It's also written by Jane E. from Buffy.)

And of course, "The Reckoning", which is really more of a sequel to Rapture than any of the other Prophet episodes, with Jake being chosen, and Kai Winn saving Ben's son's life against the will of the Prophets. That one I like particularly because all of the supporting characters get a nice little bit, and there's a great part where the writers seem to realize that Worf is religious. (Which I always get a little shocked by, because they always present the Klingons and what Klingons do as a mostly cultural thing, but of course any culture with ancestor worship is actually a religion in and of itself. Duh!)
You know, out of those three, I did consider adding Destiny, but I was fearful of making the list too DS9-heavy and excluding other options in the process. Hence the appeal to the gallery - which actually turned out to be pretty fruitful. Along with the re-examinations of old fandoms, I now have some new ones to explore. Whee!*g*
Strangely, I feel as though there have to be more skiffy fandoms than these four to nominate for 'best religious episodes' but I can't think of them.
The one that sticks in my mind is "Sacred Ground" in Voyager. I love Jayneway's unwavering scepticism, and how it gets outright compared to blind faith in the religeon of Science. I love the spirit guide character and how she's introduced - a gentle trickster if I ever saw one. I love the fact that the aliens are TOTALLY willing to cooperate, and aern't cardboard "no, for you are unbeleivers!" superstitious religeous bad guy steriotypes that show up in so many other Trek Plots of this nature. And I love Janeway's look of utter loss and grief when the Doctor comes up with a perfectly rational explanation for everything.
I lost interest in VOY very early, so I know not of what you speak. *g* But it sounds interesting.
Gutentag. Livejournal is giving Liza-schen difficulties in logging into her accounts so she has asked me to pass on this information.

"It's a third season episode, and there's a trascript for it here -> sadly it's JUST the words, with no stage directions or descriptions of the acting, so you miss alot of the subtext, like how.... lost, and diminishes Janeway looks delivering that last line, and how she walks out and down the corridor, and just for a seccond turns her head like she heard something, and then walks away... it's masterful acting."

I have to say - I like that episode too. Always try to catch it when I'm not busy saving the world, you know.

((Yeah, I'm a dork. But don't you love Kurt? And the XMan priest was so apropos for this topic, anyway...))
Thanks for passing along the info. I don't know when I'll get around to trying VOY again (sabr_matt has been insisting that I do so - boy, is he going to regret it when I start promoting Neelix/Tuvok slash. I'm just saying. *veg*), but when the time comes, I'll keep an eye out.
boy, is he going to regret it when I start promoting Neelix/Tuvok slash. I'm just saying.

...you know, there's this one episode you could that very easily as a masturbation fic.
I always liked Parliment of Dreams for this topic. I think one of the major points of religion is that it is limitlessly diverse and all paths can lead to good or ill. Personally when I think Sci-Fi and religion I think of the end when Sinclair has members of all the Earth religions lined up.
I like Parliament of Dreams as well, but that was more of a grab-bag than an in-depth exploration of faith and its power to inspire both great good and great evil.

On the other hand, now that you've directed my mind towards B5's first season, it occurs to me that Believers might qualify...

Other genre shows that deal with faith

Quantum Leap did a lot of great episodes dealing with faith. I recommend the following:

Season 1: The Right Hand of God
Season 2: So Help Me God, and at least one crucial scene in Pool Hall Blues
Season 3: Leap of Faith, A Little Miracle
Season 4: A Single Drop of Rain, A Song for the Soul, It's a Wonderful Leap

The first 3 seasons are available on DVD now; Season 4 will be available in March.

Also, while Joss Whedon often exhibits an antagonistic attitude towards religion, he's also done some excellent Buffy episodes about dealing with sin, making sacrifices and redemption. In particular, "Amends" from Season 3 is outstanding. The Season 5 finale, "The Gift," uses some great Christ imagery. Willow's fall and redemption in Season 6 is particularly stirring, culminating in the episode "Grave." And Spike's entire story arc is very much about redemption.

Re: Other genre shows that deal with faith

Welcome to LJ, Tom! And thank you for the QL rec. As you know, I'm a bit too young to have seen the show when it originally aired. ;) But I'll look into renting the DVD's after I finally catch up on the mid-seasons (5-7) of SG1.

As for the Buffyverse: Sin is more of a continuing theme in Angel than in BtVS. And I would say Spike's arc is more Ludovico than genuine redemption up until he chooses to fight for his own soul at the end of season six - and even then, I'm not sure Angel was entirely wrong when he classified Spike's redemption as unearned (i.e., "You spent two weeks moaning in a basement and then you were fine!"). But other than those quibbles, your point is taken.

Re: Other genre shows that deal with faith

Yeah, when I said Spike's redemption, I was referring to all the way up to the end of Season 7. It was a long process.

I've seen less of Angel than of BtVS, but I'll take your word for it on sin. Sin was stressed more in the early days of Buffy, when premarital sex had serious consequences. Then they entered college and somehow, consequences no longer exist? *shrug* Don't look at me to explain it. ;)

Re: Other genre shows that deal with faith

If you'll forgive me for drifting only slightly off-topic: regarding Whedon and sin, you might be interested in Abby's post on the matter. I think she does a good job pointing out the flaw in the Mal Reynolds Scheme of Civilization (or lack thereof).

Going back to the topic at hand: I definitely recommend catching up on Angel. Angel himself is a better character on his own show than he ever was on Buffy. In LA, we get a more intimate picture of his struggle with the demonic side of his nature. And more than once, he gets to break out of the Fangs McBroody box. *g*
Thanks for pointing that article out. Excellent stuff. You can see my responses over there.

Additionally: I just got done responding to someone on my blog who couldn't understand why I didn't think Serenity was a great movie. Joss' quote in that article, from the commentary, sums up exactly the problem I have with his philosophy, and therefore that movie.

As for Angel, I saw Season 1 when it first aired, then fell out of watching for a while, then saw Season 5 when it first aired. I'm working on 2 through 4 in the near future. :)
Regarding Serenity: See my reply on your blog.

Regarding Angel: Let me know when you get to season 4. I love season 4 - the writing is tight and very little air time is wasted. And I choose to read the Jasmine arc as Augustinian, which is a big plus in my book. *g*