Battlestar Galactica and Sophocles’ Ajax

In case this blog isn’t nerdy enough, I thought I would up the nerd factor a little bit and write about not only classics, but Battlestar Galactica. I’m not usually a big fan of sci-fi anything, but people kept telling me to watch this show so I finally broke down and started it. Now I’m addicted. I should note here that I have just started the 3rd season and therefore I may be missing things and I will most likely not be spoiling much.  For the sake of this post not being incredibly long and unfocused, I would like to ignore some of the more obvious allusions to Greek mythology like the usage of Greek gods and even the less obvious use of the Pythia oracle. This post will focus on one (possibly accidental) reference to Greek mythology: The relationship between Gaius and Number 6 (also known as Caprica 6, but she shall be called Number 6 here).

Their relationship is definitely a large focal point for the show, but what got me really interested in it is that after only a few episodes I saw a parallel between their relationship and that of Ajax and Athena in Sophocles’ Ajax. In the Greek tragedy Ajax is continually manipulated by Athena who speaks directly to him. Some scholars have interpreted Athena as Ajax’s madness incarnate (well sort of since she’s a goddess).  Some theatrical interpretations and adaptations have shown Athena as only being seen by Ajax and being on stage the entire time to direct the events of the play. The use of deities as mental illnesses or madness in many of Sophocles’ plays has been contemplated by scholars. I enjoy entertaining the notion that Greek playwrights used the gods to portray what we today would consider internal working of the mind as well as mental health issues.

As I have not finished the series yet I cannot say what is going on between Gaius and Number 6, but when she is instructing him and manipulating him aboard Galactica while he is the only one who can see her, there is a striking resemblance to Ajax and Athena. I look forward to seeing how this plays out, if he is crazy, a cylon, or there is another explanation. No matter what though, there is no denying the similarities between the two relationships. I wonder if this was influence or accidental, but either way it is awesome.

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4 thoughts on “Battlestar Galactica and Sophocles’ Ajax

  1. I like this parallel early in the series, but it will shortly be problematized for you when not only does Gaius have a Head6, but one of the 6s will have a HeadGaius.

    And AFAIAC, the series ending can be ignored altogether in this discussion; it adds more grist for the mill, but feels very off-arc.

  2. Pete Laberge says:

    Have you looked up the original series with Lorne Greene (AKA Ben Cartright of Bonanza, AKA CBC’s “Voice of Doom”) , which you could find on DVD? You might find it interesting to compare with the new version.

  3. Maciej Roszkowski says:

    Very interesting observation about Baltar and Number 6 on one hand and Ajax and Athena (in Sophocles) on the other. The relation between Baltar and Number 6 reminds me also of the goddess Athena appearing to Achilles or Odysseus, giving them sound advice.
    One of my favourite classical parallels i Battlestar Gallactica is from season 4, episode 14 “Blood and Scales”, when Laura Roslin is ordered by Tom Zarek to surrender along with the friendly base ship. She swears that she will use every cannon, every gun, every weapon she can find, every bullet down to her own eye-teeth to destroy them all [relating from memory]. It seems to be a parallel to the seventh book of Herodotus (VII.225.3), who describes the last stand of Leonidas in Thermopylae as:

    “In that place they defended themselves with swords, if they still had them, and with hands and teeth”.
    [1920, A. D. Goodley translation].

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