Documentary Fetishism in Battlestar Galactica

TV watchers tuning into the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica tonight have more accurate information about humans killed in the show's space battles than they do about civilian deaths in Iraq. This fetish for numerical exactness is part of what makes the show so realistic and appealing to non-scifi fans — but it's also what makes fans so freakishly devoted. Because you can track every single death. And we've done that for you here, in a chart revealing the strangely detailed information Battlestar offers about its fictional population of spacers fighting robots.

Documentary Fetishism in Battlestar Galactica

Cylons have thinned an interplanetary civilization down to 50 thousand members, and as season four begins the humans have been reduced to roughly 41 thousand. We even know roughly how many days it's been since the first Cylon attack. In our chart, we've correlated each population change with an event, including when each new Cylon is revealed.

All this information comes directly from the show, where most episodes begin with a population number. Numbers are also frequently bandied about in trials and policy debates. Many of these numbers were faithfully recorded, in great detail, by the amazing folks behind the Battlestar wiki. Is this emphasis on hard numbers a reflection of the U.S. obsession with numbers of dead in Iraq, or is it just part of a general trend toward realism in science fiction?

Image by Stephanie Fox. Special cylon reporting by Nivair Gabriel.