The United Nations already feels like its own alternate universe — one snatched from the 1970s, with its retro-disco architectural design and Swingtown decor — but when I walked into the assembly room where Sci Fi and the UN’s Department of Public Information was holding a Battlestar Galactica retrospective, the illusion was sealed: In front of each of the 200-plus delegate seats (you know, the ones with the mics and the translator ear thingies) was a placard from each of the 12 Colonies of Kobol.

Sci Fi turned the United Nations into the Quorum of Twelve. Which may be the third coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

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While the idea of the UN hosting a retrospective on Battlestar Galactica might sound a little odd, as the night went on it started to make perfect sense. From the very beginning, BSGhas dealt with moral issues — what it means to be human, the rule oflaw vs. the military might, the arguable merits of armed insurgency –issues which find themselves on the UN’s docket almost every day. AsRobert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning put it,”You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get peoplethinking about every day.”

Moderated by Whoopi Goldberg (pictured, left), who prompted the conversation like agood bartender/stand-up veteran (“The UN is more than a building withfantastic curtains…”), the panel — featuring Edward James Olmos (pictured, right),Mary McDonnell (pictured, center), and executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick– discussed topics ranging from torture to women’s rights to thepitfalls of technology. The only questions from the crowd of 300 or sowere taken from a whip-smart batch of high school students. And it wasnever less than interesting, very often fascinating, and once,powerfully moving.

When one of the UN’s representatives talked about how part of theirmandate was to safeguard the human rights of everyone, regardless ofrace, gender, ethnicity, and station, Olmos got a little heated. “Younever should’ve invited me here,” he said, before blasting the UN forcontinuing to use race as a term of separation, of division amongpeoples. His voice rose, steadily, as if years of social activism wascoming to a head on this night. Then, directing his attention to thehigh schoolers: “Adults will never be able to stop using the word’race’ as a cultural determinant….There is only one race: the human race. SO SAY WE ALL!”

I swear to you, everyone in that chamber shouted it right back at him. Because the Admiral asked us to.

And Mary McDonnell leaned over and gently wiped a tear from Olmos’ cheek.

There are many reasons why I’ll miss Battlestar Galactica when it wraps up this Friday. But not the least of which is that it’s allowed me to witness moments like that.

Who else is shedding a tear at BSG’s exit?

UPDATE: The video for the entire panel can be found here. (Thanks, Teresa!)

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Battlestar Galactica
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