Last Friday night, October 22, at the Experience Music Project— the Frank Gehry-designed building that suggests Frank Gehry spent too much time staring at Post Alley’s Gum Wall —fans of the SyFy network’s Battlestar Galactica crowded into the EMP’s cathedral-like party space, the Sky Church, and got their geek on.
The occasion: The premiere of EMP’s Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition, and guest appearances by Battlestar actors and the creators of both the campy, original 1978 series and the brilliantly reimagined 2004 series.
Yes, the crowd had its share of grown men dressed as Galactica fighter pilots and other displays of conspicuous nerdom—including a pillowy 40-something in a Boba Fett T-shirt, and a trench-coated pair who debated the superiority of Star Trek spinoffs ( Voyager! No! Deep Space Nine!) as if they were Rossi and Murray sparing over health care.
But rabid fans of Battlestar, particularly those of the reimagined series, have always been different than rabid fans of, say, Star Wars. For one, the newer series is anything but escapist. The last remaining humans (survivors of a nuclear holocaust) are stalked and killed by the Cylons, cybernetic organisms who look exactly like humans and infiltrate their ranks. The show’s vision of life in space— filthy, water-deprived, racked with paranoia and suicide —feels more akin to life in a gulag than to the dashing existence aboard the Millennium Falcon. And unlike George Lucas’s spaghetti western in the stars, Battlestar is absent of “good guys” and “bad guys”—color coded in black and white, or otherwise. Instead, the moral center is a constantly moving target. Commander William Adama (played by Edward James Olmos) is as likely to condone torture and genocide as save lives.
So in addition to props from the show—three lifesize spacecraft, weapons, uniforms—the exhibit, at EMP till March 4, 2012, includes kiosks in which the museum goer is challenged to wade through some of the moral quandaries in the series; video clips accompany questions like, Would you torture a Cylon if it might save lives?
But first, fans got to quiz their heroes in the Sky Church. On stage: Michael Hogan, who played cranky one-eyed officer Saul Tigh; Kate Vernon who played Tigh’s sultry temptress wife, Ellen; Richard Hatch, who had roles in both incarnations of the series; original series creator Glen A. Larson: reimagined series creator Ronald D. Moore, who looks like George Lucas on the South Beach Diet; and Olmos, who has grown his hair into a gray ponytail since Battlestar ’s four-season run ended in March 2009.
After reading pre-submitted audience questions (“What was it like acting with one eye?”; “Who decided that all the Cylons would be hot?”) and soliciting answers from the relevant person on stage, EMP exhibit curator Brooks Peck tried to wrap up the event. The crowd, wanting more, booed.
Olmos, channeling Adama, grabbed the microphone and fielded more Qs before finally wrapping up with a raised fist and the oft quoted mantra from the series: “So say we all!”—fully expecting fans to chant the phrase back at him.
And they did.