As Rod Stewart so adequately phrased it, “”Tonight’s the night!”” Part one of the SciFi Channel’s “”Battlestar Galactica mini-series airs this evening. We had the opportunity to chat with writer/producer Ronald D. Moore about how he came to the project and what he wanted to accomplish. The result is an interesting and thought provoking interview.
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Moore I got a call from David Eick, who I’d worked with on the brief, but cool, series “”GvsE”” asking me if I’d be interested in doing a new version of Galactica. David had a producing deal at Universal and they’d told him that the Singer/Desanto project had collapsed and they were looking for someone to bring in a new take on the property. I thought about it over a weekend, watched the original pilot again and realized that this was a unique opportunity to both revisit a classic show and try something new in the genre at the same time. The challenge from the beginning was in deciding how much of the original to keep and how much to let go.
EM Outside of your scripts for “”Carnivale””, this is possibly the bestwriting of your career. That suggests that these characters and circumstances resonate for you in a way most others do not. Why is that so?
Moore That’s very kind, thank you. I think these characters and their story did end up being nearer and dearer to my heart than I thought they would at the beginning. I think it’s because of my own personal history with, and interest in, the military and my desire to explore real characters and situations within the science fiction genre. I felt that I could identify with and understand each of the characters in this series, from the estranged father/son relationship to the hotheaded pilot to the coward and the president. They drew me in deeper and deeper as I wrote the first draft and by the time I’d finished, I felt like I had created a new family for myself, one that I was intimately connected with and wanted to spend time with.
EM This not a knock on the original, but the characters of the Galactica mini-series seem more three-dimensional: Cmdr Adam is divorced and facing retirement, and his son hasn’t spoken to him in a couple years; there’s a suggestion of desparation behind the gusto with which Starbuck attacks her life; Number Six appears to be having some problems with her human emotions, and so on. How much of this is writing, and how much is acting and direction?
Moore Like any show, what’s on camera represents a melding of script and stage. The characters were there on the page, but it took the actors and director to truly bring them to life. It was very important to me from the very beginning to make them three-dimensional people with real emotions and reactions. Too much science fiction, in my opinion, relies on stock characters that are outlines of people created to serve the plot rather than flesh and blood human beings.
EM Lee Adama holds his father responsible for his brother’s death; Laura Roslin has cancer; Kara Thrace has a huge secret. What prompted you to give these characters such tough challenges even before the Cyclon attack?
Moore I didn’t want the characters to be an elite force of heroic, larger-than-life figures. I wanted them to be flawed and deeply human. It seems to me more heroic when the everyday person rises to the challenge during a crisis rather than the superhero.
EM Glen A. Larson, the creator of the original series, took severalelements from his personal belief system and integrated them into the fabric of the series. In the pilot, there were nods toward these elements. Should Galactica go to series, how would these elements be brought into play?
Moore We’ll keep the elements that are present in the pilot, but I doubt they’ll play a bigger role than they do now.
EM I found the opening sequence a bit on the gratuitous side. It didn’t strike me as being particularly relevant to the rest of the mini-series – though it was one heckuvan introduction to Number Six [almost as memorable as Cameron Diaz’s entrance in “”The Mask.”” Is the sequence meant to show the utter ruthlessness of the Cyclons, orhint that Six has some kind of ability to project pheremones, or what? Inquiring minds want to know.
Moore The opening served a few functions: It was a way to layer in backstory by having the opening crawl take place over a stand alone scene without interfering with other, more crucial scene work. It introduced the audience to the ruthlessness of the Cylons and basically “”put the shark in the water”” in the opening minutes so we could take our time in the next hour with character. It set up the multi-model nature of the Cylons in that she’s clearly destroyed in the open and then reappears in the same Act. And also, I just think it’s a cool scene.
EM Another character that seems like a lot more fun than the original, is Dr. Gaius Baltar. He’s not the power hungry villain from the original series, but is still very much ego-centric. I get the impression that he might have been the most fun to write. True? And if so, why?
Moore He was a great deal of fun to write, but I’d say that James’ protrayal was even better than it was on the page. I liked Baltar because of the complexities of the character and the contradictions inherent in his make-up. He’s brilliant, arrogant, the consummate egotist. He’s also a coward and a weak man unable to face responsibility in any form. And yet, Baltar is human — he does not long for mankind’s destruction anymore than you or I. He wants his race to survive, its people to prosper and is not about to willingly get into league with the Cylons… unless it’s the only way for him to survive. He’s a fascinating character and he’ll be great to write for if we go to series.
EM When you write and SF/fantasy series, you almost invariably have scenes that require special effects work. Do you write F/X scenes full-script, or do you give your F/X people an idea of what the scene should be, and give a specific length of time it has to fill? Or is theresome middle ground, depending on the F/X people you’re working with?
Moore I usually write as detailed action as possible with as many camera angles as I want. The more detail, the better for the VFX people. It gives them a good idea of exactly what I want, and greatly aids the process.Eclipse You have both a writer’s credit and an Executive Producer’s credit on Galactica. What were your duties and responsibilities as an Executive Producer?
Moore My producer duties were mostly done in the pre-production phase — I weighed in with the look and tone of the series, the way it should be shot, the VFX philosophy and so on. However, I had to break away and take over as show-runner on “”Carnivale”” mid-way into prep, so the lion’s share of production and post-production work was done by David Eick.
EM Should Galactica go to series, would be you want to be showrunner?
Eclipse Now that Galactica is about to be air, how do you view the finished project? What do you think worked, and is there anything you’d like to change?
Moore I’m extraordinarily pleased. As I said at the premiere, it is the fervent wish of every writer in this town (whether they admit it or not) that a production team with take their script and make it better. And that is exactly what happened to my script. I have the rare opportunity to say that the final product has realized exactly what I hoped to do when I first went in to pitch USA on my take on Galactica almost two years ago. I wouldn’t change a thing.