The most cited article I’ve ever written was also my first professional publication: “Why Your Mormon Neighbor Knows More About This Shows Than You Do” in Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy from Open Court Press (not to be confused with the Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy from Blackwell Press).
One reason I wrote that article was that while there were a few scattered articles, websites, and other venues that acknowledged LDS/Mormon influence on the original show (and the faint traces of it in the more recent version), nearly all of them got something wrong – often egregiously so.
And while my essay has been cited a few times since then, it doesn’t seem to have improved matters much. A quick survey of BSG related academic work shows most scholars who write on this stuff have not read my essay. Since there’s not a whole lot written on the topic, ignorance is no excuse; many just aren’t doing the da[ng] research. However, there are some happy exceptions here and there.
However, the history of writing on BSG and “Mormonism is overall a dismal one. In Smart Pop’s So Say We All, for example, the only essay that deals with Mormonism and the show is so terrible I have to believe the actual editors (as opposed to the celebrity guest editor Richard Hatch who likely had nothing to do with selecting or fact checking any of the essays) just didn’t care about quality or truth. That essay uses a very clearly anti-Mormon book One Nation Under Gods to argue the new BSG is closer to LDS theology because the Colonials are polytheistic and Mormons also worship multiple gods (which – well, we could get into debates about monotheism vs. henotheism, but even if you claim we’re really henotheistic, we are not in any practical sense polytheistic, since we don’t “worship” multiple gods).
The first academic article to really make any hay of the issue of Mormonism and BSG was back in 1983, when BYU professor James E. Ford published “Battlestar Galactica” and Mormon Theology” in the Journal of Popular Culture. It’s fairly good, even if all he does is just point out the similarities between the show and LDS theology (he doesn’t really do much with it beyond that). However, it’s clear he didn’t double check his details or have a copy edit of any sort – James Talmage is called “Talmade” and the character Baltar is called “Boltar.” However, his most interesting claim (one I disagree with) is that the use of LDS theology in the show come across as “generalized and philosophied [sic].”
This is much like Orson Scott Card’s claim that BSG is no more than superficially LDS. This may even seem true, as An Analytical Guide to Television Battlestar Galactica only mentions Mormonism in passing twice, once to call series creator Glen A. Larson a “former Mormon” and another to mention he was raised Mormon. While the book is otherwise exhaustive on detailing myth, folklore, and other raw material for the worldbuilding of the show, somehow LDS theology just never figures into this analytical guide. On the other hand, if you read my essay, I argue that the original series is, at its core, quite “Mormon” but that because it’s in a deep layer and most people are quite ignorant of LDS theology and belief, later writers and creators (especially in the comics and novels that try to continue the original series) either ignore it completely or get it bizarrely wrong.
As one final note, I have never been able to track down series creator Glen A. Larson’s status as a Church Member. Attempts to contact him directly never went anywhere. One source refers to him as a “former Mormon”, yet I have had a few people (online, so you know you can totally trust them!) who said they had met him that he was either active or inactive or indifferent or even outright apostate. Schrodinger’s Mormon, I guess.
However, here is a copy of the program from his funeral, for those interested: