What does the television series Battlestar Galactica have in common with Virgil’s Aeneid and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? A lot more than you might think.

“These are very fundamental stories of our culture,” says Peggy Heller, the Foundation Year Programme director at the University of King’s College in Halifax. The overlapping theme is about how something turns against man.

Heller will be speaking about this topic in a lecture titled Stories of Exile and Revenge at the University Women’s Club of Vancouver (1489 McRae Ave.) on Feb. 5.

Organized by the local King’s alumni chapter, “It’s a way of us connecting both with our alumni and with people who maybe want to join us to give them a sense of what goes on here and meet people,” says Heller.

In Battlestar Galactica, a group of humans flee into outer space, persecuted by the machines they created. In The Aeneid, a small group of survivors flee a burning city and are pursued by a vengeful god. In Frankenstein, a scientist creates a being in the likeness of man, but the creature turns against him.

Heller was drawn to Battlestar Galactica because she came to see it “as a kind of retelling and mixture of this ancient and modern myth.” She likes how it’s plotted, its complexity, and because it raises “all sorts of profound questions at the same time.”

Profound questions, you say?

“All science fiction probably raises questions about what it is to be human in relation to machines, technology in general, what’s our future, what does it mean to live on an earth that might disappear,” says Heller. “We have a certain sense of time I think that’s different than people used to have in that we think of the possibility we ourselves might destroy our own homeland, which I think is probably unimaginable in previous eras.”

Much like ancient Greek drama was a way of self-reflection, Heller says popular television is the modern way of social commentary. “Looking back to the myths of the past, they would take these ancient stories and would retell them in a way that was a commentary on the dilemmas they were facing. It seems certain television does that today,” she says.

“Present stories stumble on to an ancient tradition,” says Heller. “Consciously or unconsciously, they draw upon older stories, problems we’ve been wrestling with all the time.”