Ron Moore on Politics and Battlestar Galactica

In my post on the Battlestar Galactica season finale I promised to provide information on Ron Moore’s interview in Salon. Since this interview was posted, Moore has revealed more in subsequent interviews. I’ll review the Salon interview as planned, but stick around. The next post will reveal far more about next season. The interview begins with a comparison between Baltar’s trial and the current scandal over the pressure on prosecutors to follow the political lead of the Bush administration:

One of the things people like about “Battlestar Galactica” is the way it seems to touch upon the issues of our time without stooping to obvious connect-the-dots political commentary. In last week’s episode, the lawyer prosecuting the big human rights trial in the season finale told an aide to President Laura Roslin to back off, and then added, “Of course, I do serve at the pleasure of the president.” I thought you either had to be working much faster than is humanly possible, or “Battlestar Galactica” has become prophetic.

Wasn’t that wild? We wrote and filmed that line months ago, before it became part of the current conversation. That was shot in November or October. It’s a phrase I’ve been familiar with and I put it in the show because that’s the expression used about people who serve for the president.

Do you often find the show echoing current events even when you didn’t intend it to, or is that pretty rare?

It happens. It’s an odd confluence of events sometimes. When we’re working on a show and developing the story lines and scripts we’re certainly keenly aware of what’s going on in the world. You can project some things out to where the world might be when the show airs. But with some things, like that line, there’s a bit of serendipity that happens.

What’s especially weird about it is that the situation is so similar to the ones that led to the Alberto Gonzales scandal.

Yeah, it is. It’s Laura trying to tell the prosecutor what to charge, what crime to prosecute. It’s been interesting to watch that.

There are futher questions on the influence of politics on the show. This led to a question on the military, which also tied into comparing Battlestar Galactica to those in Starfleet on Star Trek:

It’s also got to be difficult to go that route in a show that’s substantially about the military. The armed services is an aspect of society people tend to be absolutist about. Was the military setting one of the things that got you interested in the project to begin with?

Well, that was in the concept itself. The original show was a war show. From my point of view, updating it meant that I wanted to treat the military aspects differently. I wanted to make it clear that the people who are serving are human beings, not exalted icons. They do have flaws and make bad judgments and are afflicted by the same curses as everyone else. There are drunks and womanizers and all kinds of different people who go into the military because they’re just people.

It was important to me to portray it like that partly because of working on “Star Trek” for so long. One of the central ideas of “Star Trek” is that the people on the Enterprise and in Star Fleet were the best of the best. They were better than you and I, a better breed of human beings who were not torn with petty differences, jealousies and all the things that make people human. That stuff was almost bred out of them at Star Fleet, and that made the drama hard to convey. You were more distant from them as characters.

So I wanted the people on Galactica to be a very different crop. It wasn’t going to be the best ship in the fleet crewed by an elite crew. It was going to be an old ship getting ready to go into retirement, and there were going to be a lot of misfits on that ship. What happens when the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders? That’s a far more interesting question to me.

Again, science fiction gives me a lot of license. This is not an aircraft carrier. I don’t have to be so careful not to offend people who serve in the Navy or have relatives in the Navy, or people who just want to posture about what people are really like in the Navy and you’re besmirching the names of our fair soldiers and sailors and all that crap. This is a made-up universe. It’s certainly modeled on the U.S. military and we do a lot of the interior character work centering around military culture and how they treat each other, but it’s not meant to be a direct representation of the people who are serving.

Moore also spoke a little about the upcoming extended episode to air before Battlestar Galactica resumes in 2008 and plans for the spin off show, Caprica:

We won’t be seeing Season 4 until January 2008, but I understand there’s going to be some kind of miniseries or movie coming before then?

There is something that they’re calling “extra episodes” or “extended episodes” — they keep shifting the nomenclature. Essentially, we are shooting two hours of “Galactica” that will be broadcast on SciFi Channel sometime in the fall. Let’s say they broadcast it on a Friday; then, on the following Monday, it will be available on DVD.

That story will not pick up our cliffhanger at the end of Season 3. That didn’t seem right. The story will be set on the Battleship Pegasus and will take place in the past, relative to where we are in Season 3. But the events set up in that story will then pay off in Season 4.

What was the reasoning behind doing that?

They came to us. It gives Home Video something to sell in the stores. Since we won’t be back until January, which is a long time to be off the air, it gives the fans something to see and keeps the show alive. So it serves multiple masters. There was no way we could pick up the cliffhanger in that format, and then ask people to wait to really start the season later. One of the story lines everyone had really liked was the Pegasus story and the character of Admiral Cain, so we decided to go with that.

There’s been talk of you doing another series called “Caprica,” set before the cylon attack on the colony of that name. Is that still happening?

It’s possible. It’s been in development at SciFi for a while and they haven’t picked it up. And I don’t know if they’re going to pick it up at this point. There’s talk of doing it as a TV movie and seeing how that works, as a back-door pilot, much as we did with the “Galactica” miniseries. Right now there’s nothing telling me that they’re going to move on it anytime soon, so I’m starting to feel that it’s going to remain on the development shelf.

It was a different kind of show. Instead of an action-adventure sci-fi piece, it was more of a prime-time soap, a sci-fi “Dallas.” It was about a family, the Adamas, and a company, and it was about the creation of the cylons 50 years ago. It was not going to be space-based, but set entirely on the planet of Caprica. But it would have sci-fi touches, and it would deal with issues like artificial intelligence and the various schemings and backbitings that you get in the traditional soap opera.

Stay tuned for the next interview, which really does reveal some information about where Season 4 is headed in light of this week’s cliff hangers.

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