At present it would be unfair to say that genre television has not taken on some interesting twists and turns over the last few years and one show which has stirred up much press coverage over the last two years is the controversial re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica. In a recent interview for SciFi Pulse in collaboration with Battlestargalactica.com Ron Moore answered some quick fire questions and gave some valuable insights with regards to what we could see in the forthcoming third season of the show.
One of the taglines for the show throughout the first two seasons is that the ‘Cylons have a plan’ yet we haven’t really seen a great deal of this plan being formed, other than maybe the potential for a Cylon Civil war which seemed to be getting set up in the episode ‘Downloaded’. How do you plan to address this in the coming season, are there likely to be more episodes like ‘Downloaded’ where the viewers get to see the Cylon perspective? Now that the Cylons have occupied New Caprica how much of this plan is likely to be revealed and is Baltar the Cylon God?
“We will definitely be seeing more of the Cylons and getting a better understanding of how their society operates this season. We’re doing a whole arc taking place entirely on one of the Cylon Baseships and a great deal of information will be detailed about their faith and their culture. Baltar may or may not be the Cylon God and he may or may not be a Cylon and both questions will be raised (but not necessarily answered) this year.”
One of your famous quips is that you killed Captain Kirk. Now given that none of the principal cast on Galactica have died as of yet, only really a few supporting characters. What sort of story element do you think it would take to maybe kill off one of your main cast members and how do you think such a bold move would reverberate across the fan base for your show?
“I think it’s all about how you do something like this. Killing Kirk was a great concept and had the potential to resonate throughout the Star Trek franchise, but the execution (no pun intended) was flawed and the impact was not what we’d hoped for on any level. Killing off a main character in this show is somewhat different because “Galactica” is more of an ensemble piece than Trek ever was, but I’d still take the lessons I learned from “Generations” into account if I were going down that road. I think it would have to service the larger story of Galactica and it would have to be a pivotal event in the show’s history, so that in retrospect you’d say “I hated the moment they killed X, but if they hadn’t, it wouldn’t ended up as great as it did.”
A hot topic of conversation right now is the recent announcement of the prequel series you are going to produce called ‘Caprica,’ what can you tell us about this and how do you intend to tie it into the Galactica story line, will you be linking from one show to the other, say mentioning historical notes in Galactica which refer to Caprica in past tense?
“‘Caprica’ is about the creation of the Cylons and takes place about 50 years before the events seen in ‘Galactica.’ There will be a strong tie to the series in that it will deal with Adama’s family and the pivotal role his family played in those events, but there aren’t other character ties being discussed as yet. We might mention events from ‘Caprica’ in ‘Galactica’ at some point, but that would be well into Season Four at the earliest. I can also tell you that ‘Caprica’ is a very different show in that it’s planet-based, is not action-adventure, and has no space battles whatsoever. It’s a family drama set in the corporate world, but does deal with many of the same thematic issues as ‘Galactica,’ like faith, ethics, reason, and what it means to be human.”
One of your passions is military history especially when it concerns the US Navy. Now given that you may or may not be familiar with British Military history, am wondering if you have heard of a famous world war II fighter pilot called Douglas Bader who lost both his legs in Combat and still led squadrons in spite of this disability. Have you ever thought of maybe severely disabling one of Galactica’s pilot’s as a means to maybe adding more depth to them, i.e. that characters struggle to get back into a Viper cockpit or something along those lines and them having to deal with the trauma of losing said limb or limbs? I do know it was done on Star Trek but the one problem with that is it was all healed up in the space of two episodes.
“I have heard the story of Douglas Bader, but I’ve never really thought about doing something in the show along these lines. It’s an interesting idea and I’ll think about that. (No, you do not get story credit.)”
Okay a crunch question here. Many folks have been going on for years about there never having been a gay relationship played out as part of the furniture in the Star Trek shows, in fact it has been one of those things which has been a constant since it was revealed that there were plans to have a Gay character in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So this said, and the fact that you always seem to refer back to Star Trek about things you could not do on that, do you have any plans or have you even thought about perhaps having a gay relationship play out as part of your take on the Galactica universe?
“This is something that get discussed periodically in the writers’ room. I’d like to at least establish that homosexuality exists in the Galactica world, but I’ve yet to hit on a way of doing it that doesn’t feel like it flashes a neon light saying, “See, here’s our gay show!” I think this is a valid thing to do in the series and I’m somewhat ashamed that I’ve been unimaginative in this area. All I can do is promise to keep it under discussion.”
Galactica actually lost a rather substantial 28% of its audience at the start of season Two and the ratings have gradually bottomed out with between a 1.7 being the worst and 1.9 market share according to the Nielson overnights. How much of this ratings drop do you think could possibly be attributed to various websites leaking your scripts in advance and how much of the drop off do you view as acceptable losses given that historically many shows seems to lose a largish chunk of their pick up audience during the 2nd season or at the midway point of the first?
“I don’t think the script leaks have anything to do with the ratings, I really don’t. Leaking scripts and spoilers irritates me and the other people on the show who are working so hard to present a finished product to the audience, but I doubt that it has any real impact in terms of viewership. I mean, if you care enough to read a leaked script, chances are you’re watching the show anyway. I don’t have a theory about the ratings and the patterns of viewership. Often, the shows we think are going to tank in the ratings turn out to be the most popular and vice-versa. It’s a crapshoot as far as I can see and all you can do is make the best show you possibly can and hope that the audience responds.”
According to one of your blog entries at Scfi.com you expressed a degree of dissatisfaction with certain episodes of the last half of the second season. What episodes in particular could you reference as examples and where do you think you could have improved them if you had the luxury of a little more time?
“I’ve bashed both ‘Black Market’ and ‘Sacrifice’ on the podcasts for not measuring up to what I’d hoped. I think in retrospect, we should’ve taken different tacks on both scripts and simply made them… better. As the head writer and show-runner, it’s my job to see problems on the page before they make it to screen, so the buck in both instances stops with me.”
Back to the issue of leaked scripts. One fan in particular has posed an interesting question which asks about your apparent attitude with regards to creating the show which ‘You want’ to do. Did you have this same wish when you did Star Trek, or was Star Trek so constrained that many times you were never really able to tell the stories you wanted too? Also would not having samples of scripts out there not be beneficial in regards to inviting some fan input so that you are able to create a show which both you and the fans are happier with?
“On ‘Star Trek’ I often railed against the strictures of the show itself, which I felt constrained us from taking more chances. I believed then, and still do today, that ‘Trek’ had such an enormous fan base and such a huge pop cultural prominence that we could really explore much more provocative themes and that we didn’t have to play it so safe with the characters. On ‘Galactica’ I get to decide what is and what isn’t the show and the freedom of being in that position is incredibly gratifying.”
“My chief bitch with leaked scripts is that it’s like letting the general public in during a rehearsal or a production meeting before the show is aired. The product isn’t finished yet. The script goes through multiple drafts and then it changes on the set and again in post production. Let us finish the work, then show it to you. If, after you’ve seen, it you’re still interested in how it was made, then go ahead and read the scripts, listen to a podcast of a writers’ meeting — whatever. But give us a chance to present the material on our own terms first.
“On the subject of fan input, I have to say that while I’m interested in fan reaction to the show, I’m not really eliciting input. This isn’t a democracy; it’s a television show. I love seeing what people like and what they don’t like and I really do read a great deal of fan criticism of the show, but at the end of the day, I still go with what I want to write and with what I think is a good piece of drama. To me, that’s the only way this crazy process can work.”
In a very recent interview you expressed a wish to do some interactive stories that would allow fans to interact in the story via games and what not via an online environment a little like Everquest or perhaps through a series or games for consoles and PC’s. What kind of stories do you think you’d be able to tell in these formats and how open ended do you think they would be?
“I’m actually exploring some of these ideas right now and I’d like to wait and talk about it in more detail at a later time.”
Given that there is still a large chunk of the fan base that would like to see some sort of continuation of the original series in perhaps a straight to DVD format, and also given the fact that Tom DeSanto remains interested in continuing the original story. Do you think that the two Universes would be able to co-exist without either side of the fan base losing out, and given that should this other project ever get greenlighted would you yourself support it, given that you could not really see a way to go for updating the original story when you started this journey back in May of 2002?
“I have no problem with Tom or anyone else who wants to do a revival of the original cast and characters or do some kind of continuation. If they can get a good story together and get the pieces lined up to do it, then more power to them.”
Written By Ian M. Cullen