An interview with Jamie Bamber (Apollo) conducted just after the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica for Death Ray #21.
The End of the Affair
Actor Jamie Bamber, lately multi-talented space jock Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama, talks philosophically about the end of the very much brilliant (and very much lamented) Battlestar Galactica.
Pilot, captain, lawyer, politician… but some of Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama’s jobs on the Galactica. The career of the actor who portrayed him, US/English Jamie Bamber, is less diverse, being mostly restricted to actor, but we could add the label ‘environmentalist’ to him. For Bamber, BSG was a grand allegory for the problems facing us right now on our dear old Earth. Ask him what the show’s greatest achievement was, and he’ll say ‘relevance’.
“It’s a modern Odyssey,” says Jamie Bamber, “and it’s not even ridiculous to say that. The mainstream media have written so many column inches about it, the show has been so relevant to the political social and environmental changes that are going in the world. It could have been marginalised and ignored. But it managed to maintain its relevance and yet be mythological at the same time. Ron [Moore] was very purposeful about that. He knew what he was doing, when I first read the script there was a two page mission statement saying that he wanted to turn it into a documentary-real, tangible world. He wanted it to be plausible, not to wow the viewer with otherness and strange esoteric lifeforms, but to be a human drama that just happens to be set in space. He was true to that all the way through.”
Like Apollo and his dad, Bamber is something of a realist. He downplays the religious aspects of the show (even Starbuck’s abrupt disappearance is open to interpretation, he says), insisting there is no definitive answer in the series regarding the existence of god(s) or not. Rather, for him, the show is not spiritual, more about the human spirit. Lessons are learnt all round, but they seem particularly hard for Apollo. His father flies away. About to protest his love for Starbuck, she disappears. Top candidate to run a civilisation that disincorporates itself. Isn’t he left with nothing?
“Well no, he decides to abandon civilisation and its trappings. That’s the one mature lesson these people have learned – life is not about objects and technology. Life is about existence, it’s about connecting with your surroundings. That’s a lesson that we can learn today. Everyone’s in a position of contemplation, about where they’ve come, what they’ve learned, what the purpose of all this has been. And like Gaius Baltar reconnecting to his roots, all those moments are personal rather than communal, but I don’t think that’s to say that these people won’t live together from then on, I think that’s being maybe a bit too literal about the fact that people are alone on screen at the end. You learn these lessons at moments of quiet on your own rather that talking about them, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t live in a community.”
It did seem like they had achieved some great thing, like they’d run a marathon and it was over.
“That’s the analogy that I always use for the cast as well. I mean, people ask if we were sad to finish the show, but there’s no way you can view crossing the finishing line in a marathon with anything but joy! It’s the end of a lot of pain. But there will be moments in the calm and the rest afterwards where you yearn for the action. You’ve learnt what it is to put yourself through all this stuff, and you’re physically and emotionally wiser, and that’s what I get from the ending, a sense that the human experience can be beautiful when reviewed calmly, and even the most horrendous things can lead to a calm.”
Bamber speaks of the parallel between the colonial Civilisation’s fall and our creeping ecological crisis, both caused, to an extent, by a love of technology. We have to ask, how he thinks we would fare if presented with a catastrophe of a similar scale. After all, both are complex societies, where everyone fills highly specialised roles, and we have lost many of the basic survival skills possessed by our ancestors…
“Oh gosh, I think it would depend on the people who survived. I think you’re right, we are all very fragile, in the sense that we rely on machines. Even tasks like cleaning the house or doing the washing up, these are so mechanised now that it would be a massive shock. We’d realise just how time consuming it is to fulfill our basic physical needs. But I think that would cure a lot of things. I think lot of depression and the ennui and the sense of alienation that a lot of people in the modern world experience would disappear. So whilst it might be tough, I also think it would be invigorating. I don’t want to wish a holocaust on the planet or anything,” he adds, “but I think we’ve kind of got one anyway. We have many, many challenges, and I think if we engage more with those challenges than on our quest for comfort and ease and four holidays a year, then we might find it all a bit more fulfilling.”
There’s a degree of pessimism to our era, there’s not a day goes by without some headline screaming societal collapse or environmental disaster. Contrarily, there would not be six billion people on Earth, most living in relative peace, if there weren’t a very high level of co-operation between human beings. Surely our problems are not beyond our capability to solve?
“I agree, I agree, that’s true,” he says. “But I guess our position right now, we’re coming to the realise for the first time that the planet is small compared to the number of us, and that’s a very new thought.
“If Battlestar’s about anything, it is about the search for meaning in life, In the show we pare the whole of a complex civilisation to a bunch of people rattling around inside a small spacecraft, and they are faced with the reality that we are born astride a grave and are left trying to figure out what’s the point to it all. It’s a realistic message, where you realise that the trappings of life, if looked at closely, are kind of cold, but we nevertheless infuse life with warmth, just because that’s what we have to do. That’s really what the show was about, the beauty of human nobility in the starkest realities.”