'Battlestar Galactica' at the UN: A night of geekery, human rights, and fantastic curtains

Bsgun_lThe United Nations already feels like its own alternate universe — one snatched from the 1970s, with its retro-disco architectural design and Swingtown decor — but when I walked into the assembly room where Sci Fi and the UN’s Department of Public Information was holding a Battlestar Galactica retrospective, the illusion was sealed: In front of each of the 200-plus delegate seats (you know, the ones with the mics and the translator ear thingies) was a placard from each of the 12 Colonies of Kobol.

Sci Fi turned the United Nations into the Quorum of Twelve. Which may be the third coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

addCredit(“Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images”)

While the idea of the UN hosting a retrospective on Battlestar Galactica might sound a little odd, as the night went on it started to make perfect sense. From the very beginning, BSGhas dealt with moral issues — what it means to be human, the rule oflaw vs. the military might, the arguable merits of armed insurgency –issues which find themselves on the UN’s docket almost every day. AsRobert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning put it,"You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get peoplethinking about every day."

Moderated by Whoopi Goldberg (pictured, left), who prompted the conversation like agood bartender/stand-up veteran ("The UN is more than a building withfantastic curtains…"), the panel — featuring Edward James Olmos (pictured, right),Mary McDonnell (pictured, center), and executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick– discussed topics ranging from torture to women’s rights to thepitfalls of technology. The only questions from the crowd of 300 or sowere taken from a whip-smart batch of high school students. And it wasnever less than interesting, very often fascinating, and once,powerfully moving.

When one of the UN’s representatives talked about how part of theirmandate was to safeguard the human rights of everyone, regardless ofrace, gender, ethnicity, and station, Olmos got a little heated. "Younever should’ve invited me here," he said, before blasting the UN forcontinuing to use race as a term of separation, of division amongpeoples. His voice rose, steadily, as if years of social activism wascoming to a head on this night. Then, directing his attention to thehigh schoolers: "Adults will never be able to stop using the word’race’ as a cultural determinant….There is only one race: the human race. SO SAY WE ALL!"

I swear to you, everyone in that chamber shouted it right back at him. Because the Admiral asked us to.

And Mary McDonnell leaned over and gently wiped a tear from Olmos’ cheek.

There are many reasons why I’ll miss Battlestar Galactica when it wraps up this Friday. But not the least of which is that it’s allowed me to witness moments like that.

Who else is shedding a tear at BSG’s exit?

UPDATE: The video for the entire panel can be found here. (Thanks, Teresa!)

Comments (61 total) Add your comment
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  • Catherine

    I would have love to be there and say proudly: So say we all!!
    BSG will be greatly miss.

  • BHM1304

    When are Edward James Olmos or Mary McDonnell ever going to find work as satisfyingly brilliant as the work they were given by the brilliant Ron Moore and David Eick? It is going to be a sad day when these two legends aren’t on our televisions Friday nights.
    So say we all!

  • Michael

    It’s so sad!!! I can’t believe BSG is going to be over! There will never be another show like it. And if the Emmy’s don’t recognize that this year, they’re a bunch of fraking morons!

  • kay

    Seriously? “The United Nations already feels like it’s own alternate universe”. I give the frak up if writers for EW don’t know or don’t care about the difference between it’s and its.

  • merges

    SO SAY WE ALL!!!

  • Meredith

    So say we all indeed. If I don’t cry, it will be a miracle.

  • harry

    how can we see this?

  • harry

    So Say WE ALL

  • mjade27


  • Sarah

    Seriously… if we can’t see this, is there a transcript out there for this?? Can you give us a link?

  • Brady

    So say we all!
    That’s frakkin’ awesome!

  • Eric from NY

    Thanks for calling me a whip-smart high schooler but I was the proud UN staff member in a WTF? What The Frack tee and cracked the COMIC-CON joke during Q&A. I am only recently a fan, I have watched the entire series in only the past 3 months. It was the issues discussed at the “QUORUM” that got me hooked for 85+ hours and not just starbuck.
    I asked the most engaging question of the night, it was about capital punishment. I compared the airlock to walking the plank. It got Mary (President Roslin) and Edward James (Adama) to not only get into character a bit, but to reflect on their characters in retrospective.
    Fans of the show will find the TRANSCRIPT showing both actors have strong beliefs in direct contrast to the characters actions in BSG. Issues of abortion and religous beliefs were addressed as well.
    Madame President Roslin blew me a kiss and thanked me for the question.
    Eric from NY
    p.s. I was there and stood up yelling SO SAY WE ALL right back to Adama!!!

  • elly

    I don’t suppose a clip of the UN shouting “so say we all” back to the Old Man will be on youtube any time soon? (fingers crossed so very tight…)

  • Wojo

    It sounds like Olmos went a little overboard. I’m sure none of the women got all heated when they mentioned “gender.” It’s a fact that the human race is made up of different ethnicities, but those differences should be celebrated, not abhorred. Olmos has the right idea, but it sounds like he aimed his anger in the wrong direction. Of course, I’m just basing this off of what you wrote. Maybe I’m getting the wrong idea out of context.

  • Eric from NY

    I read on that the Sci-Fi Channel will be recording the session and a transcript will be released.
    You get to see me nervous and sweating as I ask the question. Those lights were hot and I needed a drink of water plus my heart was racing a mile a minute. You try talking in front of 300 people plus ROSLIN and ADAMA. I can’t wait to see my 15 seconds of sci/fi fame. Yikes!!!
    Seriously though, afterwards I got Edward James and Mary to sign my placard for the event. Mary said to me, “So that was you with the question, I hope I was able to answer it all.” Edward told me he was, grateful to be there in “international territory”.
    Edward James Olmos was right when he commented that he hoped when we are on our deathbeds that the 85+ hours were not a waste of time. It wasn’t.
    Marc Bernardin was so right, this was really something to behold and I am sad to see BSG go Friday.
    Thanks Sci/Fi network and the UN for this event.
    -Eric from NY, but for one night from the colony of LEONI

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