Colony and Morality in Science Fiction

For me the most interesting science fiction series right now is probably Colony. One thing I like is that it’s the closest representation of Eastern European communism that I’ve seen (including western TV or movies explicitly set in Eastern Europe). While some people make strained analogies with apartheid or the nazis for me the parallels with the Warsaw Pact countries (1944-89) are by far the most convincing.

The set up is that a year or so before the series begins an event referred to as “The Arrival” took place whereby aliens (referred to as ‘the Hosts’) destroyed human defenses within a matter of hours and pacified much of the population and have rounded up the rest into ‘colonies’ surrounded by giant impassible walls with almost no contact with each other. A group of humans selected by the aliens ‘the Authority’ are in charged with keeping the population under control with the help of a secret police force and military police.

The second thing I like about it is that it revisits a perpetually interesting science fiction theme – what if the aliens are so far out of your league that there’s no fighting them? The Colony has a mostly useless and futile “Resistance” but they accomplish a little against the authority but are no more a threat to the Hosts than fire ants at a picnic in Manhattan are a threat to the Empire State building. Almost everyone in the Authority at some level justifies their cooperation with the Hosts with the argument that if the population becomes too much of a nuisance the aliens can simply kill them all. The implication throughout is that the resistance far from being humanity’s last hope are an active threat by being a lightning rod for retribution by the Hosts.

The Hosts are never seen (just some of their technology is) and one character who has seen them described them as making him feel just how insignificant humanity is.

The show is far from perfect and sometimes not very good and made the bad mistake of killing probably the most interesting character early on (Kathy Baker as the head of the secret police who wants to put down the resistance before they get everybody killed). But it’s the only show on now that actually is using science fiction to address big moral questions.

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4 Responses to Colony and Morality in Science Fiction

  1. The show really hurt itself by having such a slow first season, but I’m glad things picked up for the second season so I’m looking forward to the third. One of the great successes of this show is that it actually presents a scenario that makes it equally likely AND moral to cooperate with the invaders and collaborate. Most shows simply just divide the morality up as resistance: good; collaboration: evil. This show takes the more interesting route.

    • cliff arroyo says:

      I don’t mind the slow pace especially, it’s reality building and I like it when the show lets people put the pieces together themselves rather than bringing them up to speed with a bunch of narration or “As you remember, Biff…”.
      But definitely the best part is that there are good reasons to collaborate (though that has a moral price) and good reasons to resist (which also has a moral price) there aren’t any moral free lunches and I hope it stays that way.

      It reminds me a little of the Xenogenesis series by Octavia Butler where the aliens essentially domesticate humans and there’s nothing the humans can really do about it.

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