This week television series Battlestar Galactica travelled to where few shows have gone before—a United Nations summit.

Sound surreal?  You can watch the full 2-hour summit here and see just how real science fiction can get.  Sponsored by the U.N’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative, the event juxtaposed scenes from the series with testimony from U.N. representatives who have faced the reality of human rights violations across the globe and discussion with the show’s producers and actors. Stand out moments include when Mary McDonnell speaks on the challenges of portraying a female president whose dispersion of power necessarily reflects the tensions women face today in assuming historically masculine roles. Likewise, Edward James Olmos’ soon to be famous speech on race followed by his invocation of the show’s anthem “So Say We All!” seems to erase the boundaries between Olmos the actor and the powerful Admiral Adama he plays on the series.

It’s exactly this breakdown between fiction and reality that becomes so compelling throughout the summit.  While the social utopianism of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek or the clear moral dichotomies of George Lucas’s Star Wars often seem more escapist than realist, Battlestar Galactica creators Ronald Moore and David Eick have once and for all made the case for realism in science fiction—in escaping, we return to the real issues that we can least afford to escape from. We can have our cake and eat it too.   

By partnering with a television show that brings reality to serious issues that may otherwise seem worlds apart for those living in developed nations, the U.N. has latched onto a strategy that might just work to compel community dialogue and action. And come on, Edward James Olmos at the U.N. chanting “So Say We All”?  That’s just cool.