Recently, it was suggested that America should build a Death Star, but this PhD is here to tell you otherwise. I recommend that we swap our science fiction franchises, and go with the titular space ship from one of television’s best space operas of all time, Battlestar Galactica. So, Death Star be damned; let’s build us a BATTLESTAR instead, and here’s why…
First off, why would we want to associate with something built by one of popular culture’s most notorious villainous entities? Is a Galactic Empire ruled by the Dark Lord of the Sith really the path we want to walk down? By contrast, the Battlestars represent multiple planets coming together peacefully, under a united colonial government, to fight not against fellow humans, but rather against machines. The Empire used Death Stars to keep people in line, whereas the Twelve Colonies used Battlestars to protect their people from an inhuman threat.
What’s in a name? Well, a lot, actually! Death Star simply sounds evil, whereas Battle Star sounds bad ass! Wouldn’t you rather have your tax dollars go toward something that promotes strength and the good fight, instead of something that is 100% focused on murder and destruction?
Look at the crew of the Galactica versus the Death Stars. The Galactica employs people of diverse backgrounds, whereas practically everyone on the Death Star is a white male. If we want something that truly represents the multicultural heritage of our beloved Blue Marble, surely we would want to go with something crewed by people of both genders and most ethnic backgrounds?
Let’s be honest. The whole point of the Death Star is to blow stuff up. Sure, the Galactica can also threaten whole planets with nuclear destruction, but it has also defended fleets, played a role in winning the First Cylon War, and was even a museum for a time. A space ship that doubles as a museum and a warship provides practical defensive purposes, as well as entertainment value during times of peace.
Unlike the Death Stars, which do not have much in the way of adventures, Galactica operates in a manner somewhat akin to the Starship Enterprise (and if anybody is up for making the argument that a Starship should be built, we would love to hear it,) experiencing all sorts of adventures while exploring space. It even establishes a settlement on New Caprica, before laying the foundation for human civilization on what becomes our version of Earth. As such, the Galactica functions as a ship of exploration, as much as a ship of conquest.
The Death Star seeks to preserve an absolutist Empire, dissolving the Imperial Senate in a manner reminiscent of how King Charles I of England tried to rule without Parliament from 1629 to 1640, or the French Kings without the Estates General from 1614 to 1789, or even the Russians without the Assembly of the Land after 1653. By contrast, even in the face of near annihilation, the Galactica preserves democracy; any brief coup attempts are quickly thwarted. The crew of Galactica is ultimately subordinate not to a Dark Lord or an Emperor, but rather a President, as well as a sort of representative body called the Quorum of Twelve. As such, we see in the Galactica various hallmarks of democracies beyond government. People practice diverse religions, largely based on Greek mythology, and people have distinct personalities. The crew members of the Death Stars seem practically interchangeable and devoid of individual expression, by contrast.
Based on several popular web forums, people are clamoring for the construction of a Battlestar, and are actively debating the feasibility of such a project. At the same time, others are going to great effort to construct virtual replicas in mediums such as Minecraft. In addition, a real life-size Viper (one of the smaller assault ships housed on a Battlestar) is in the works, so we are clearly ready for the next big thing, and that thing is certainly not a Death Star.
No matter how hard the Galactic Empire tried, they built two Death Stars, only to have the rebels find some kind of catastrophic design flaw both times. This allowed both Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian to destroy the moon-resembling space stations with one epic explosion each. Compare that with the Galactica. That ship took a tremendous pounding for years and survived multiple battles, while still possessing nuclear weapons capable of threatening a planet. Yet, despite many efforts, the Cyclons never managed to blow the ship up in just one battle.
Again, just think about that: at its first big battle, the Death Star was totally destroyed. Then, the second Death Star is soon obliterated during its “grand opening.” Talk about wasting a crazy amount of time, effort, and life into something that can’t even survive one stinkin’ battle, which leads us to…
Battlestars Galactica and Pegasus survive an apocalypse for some time, whereas the two Death Stars cannot even survive one battle each. Battlestars are built Colonial tough and, as such, protect an entire fleet of survivors long enough for them to resettle on a planet. The Death Stars thus represent a costly, and embarrassing, disaster for the Empire that results in its collapse, whereas the most famous of the Battlestars manages to preserve humanity and, in that series’ story, it does so in such a way that it allows for mankind of the develop and thrive on Earth!
Besides, as the show suggested, all this has happened before and has happened again. Maybe we need to prove that message right, so as to keep mankind alive for when the next time robots rise against us. Speaking of which…
Ultimately, creating such costly vessels to combat military threats must have a valid threat to fight. What is more likely to attack us? Laser sword-wielding martial artists who can also shoot lightning out of their hands, or man-made robots? Watching a few reruns of Attack of the Show would teach you all about the numerous advances in robotics, including in military use. Whether or not a Terminator or Matrix type of Robot Apocalypse is coming is debatable, but we are undeniably making all sorts of drones that fly by remote, increasingly human-like robots. These, along with so much more, look like clear precursors to some of the robots imagined in science fiction films and television.
By contrast, barring sudden hostile alien contact, what is the likelihood we will encounter threats like the kind seen in Star Wars? We have not seen much to suggest that we’re on the brink of joining some Galactic Empire; we certainly have not detected any massive space ships flying around our Solar System. Yet, we continue to develop robotics, and the possibility that they might eventually get out of hand seems much more plausible. Having a Battlestar running on a code separate from one that these robots can corrupt, seems like a reasonable defense mechanism against them.
If you’re as convinced of this idea as I am, perhaps we can get our own White House petition going, just as the Death Star had. If you do, however, please be serious and make the most of the Government’s time. After all, a real serious case could be made for interplanetary space travel. Should anything ever happen to Earth, our survival as a species requires that we have the ability to journey elsewhere.
Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS is the author of Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men, available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere.