Re-imagined Futures in the Wake of 9/11: Ideology and Aesthetics in Battlestar Galactica

  • Aalia Khalid

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Abstract The University of ManchesterAalia N. KhalidMaster of Philosophy'Re-imagined Futures in the Wake of 9/11: Ideology and Aesthetics in Battlestar Galactica'2012Science fiction has never been a stranger to post-war commentary. Since the world changing events of the attacks on American soil on September 11th 2001, new global discourses have reverberated throughout the world. Science fiction television's response to the events of 9/11 has interestingly implemented these new ideologies and discourses into its narratives and its aesthetics in fascinating ways. I intend to examine the re-imaging of American science fiction television programme Battlestar Galactica (Syfy, 2004-9), and investigate how it exhibits and reflects post-9/11 discourses within its narrative and audiovisual design elements. Battlestar and its ideological and aesthetic elements are grounded and important within a socio-historical context; it appeared at a specific moment in history, in a post-9/11 world where notions of Western civilisation were in decline, and emerged from an anxiety in Western culture concerning its relationship with the rest of the world. In a world which appears to be shifting away from an American-Euro-centric view, Battlestar, has decided to display these discourses through a nihilistic dystopia, ruined by terrorism, political and military corruption and religious polarisation. Battlestar's critical success must be ascribed, not only to the very current and harrowing narratives it touches upon, but also to its innovative use of captivating production elements embedded within its audiovisual aesthetic; innovative cinematography, misé-en-scene and set design; and its use of non-Western musical influences. Within American science fiction's past, associating the future of humanity with the music of cultures other than Western societies would perhaps be unthinkable. Thus, the very fact that these elements are featured in an American television programme is extremely remarkable and unusual, especially at this exact moment in American history. The non-Western influences within contemporary science fiction television, which form part of the core of the study, operate as signifiers laden with meaning and not just in terms of authorial intent.This study examines Battlestar's audiovisual design in relation to the socio-political ideologies that were produced in America in this post-9/11 period. I demonstrate that many design elements such as set, lighting, CGI, special effects, music and sound design can be vital to a programme's overall aesthetic interpretation. Battlestar contains several aural and visual tapestries of textures overlapping and interconnecting to produce deep and powerful meanings as well as creating beautiful and interesting atmospheres unfamiliar in American science fiction television to date. Battlestar showcases innovative aesthetic techniques and audiovisual complexity which contribute greatly to the programmes' overall aesthetic, and in turn, its overall socio-political themes and ideological stance.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Butler (Supervisor) & Rajinder Dudrah (Supervisor)


  • Science Fiction
  • Audiovisual Design

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