SciFi Weekend Part I: Ron Moore on BSG and ST; Majel Barrett Roddenberry Memorial Services Announced

With the final season of Battlestar Galactica to resume airing on January 16, Ron Moore it looks like Ron Moore has been out on the interview circuit. He discussed the role of religion on the show and the suspense regarding the identity of the final Cylon with SciFi Scanner:

Q: You admitted recently that Battlestar‘s themes of faith and religion were something the network requested after reading a line in the miniseries. How did it evolve?

A: It was very natural. At Trek I was always trying to work in those angles and blur peoples’ religions, but it was very much not a part of what Trek was about — it just wasn’t part of Gene’s vision. It appealed to me because science fiction shows just didn’t go there. I thought the idea of robots who believe in God was just a fascinating concept. And then I really liked the idea of the polytheists versus the monotheists, and that the monotheists were actually the “bad guys” because there’s certain repetition in Western society of the one God driving out the many. There were just layers and layers to play with.

Q: Fast-forward to the Season 4 mid-season finale, when they find their faith has driven them to hell. Was that faith for naught?

A: There’s a lot of that going on. The journey is not over, but certainly both sides are suddenly faced with the prospect, “Maybe it’s all been for nothing. Maybe there is no God, and if that’s the case where do we go from here? What does it all mean and what are we going to do with ourselves?” which I think is a great place to take the characters.

Q: And then you have Baltar, who goes from a man of science to a man of faith.

A: Since the beginning, Baltar has been challenged on that very issue. He begins with a profound, shocking realization that he is personally responsible for the destruction of billions of people, and that there seems to be a God who wants him to do that. He’s gone through so much, and had so many failings — been so vilified– that there’s a part of him that wants somebody to take the responsibility off his shoulders, and is hoping against hope that as a scientist and atheist he’s wrong.

Q: The build-up to the final Cylon has been unprecedented. How is the revelation not going to be a letdown?

A: It will never be as powerful as the build-up. I resigned myself to that a long time ago. The “Who Shot JR” of it all is an instructive lesson: No matter who it is, it’s still going to be a bit of a letdown. But I decided that precisely because of that, it wasn’t going to be in the final episode. I didn’t want that to become the entire series. I’m sure there will be a variety of reactions. Some people will love it, some people will hate it. But I think when you see how the revelation fits into the overall mythology of the show, when all the questions are answered by the end, then it’ll make sense and you’ll think, “Oh, well it kind of had to be that person.”

Moore also considered the ending of The Sopranos to be perfect but I agree this would not work with a show such as Battlestar Galactica:

I felt like the series I was telling, unlike The Sopranos, had a beginning, middle and end. So as much as I love The Sopranos, I never seriously thought that was an option for us because it’s just not part of our narrative. Theirs was about these characters’ lives that presumably were going to continue beyond the final fadeout. Our finale will be the end of our narrative, the period at the end of the sentence.

No, it  would not be satisfying if the series ended with the fleet on the run, the Cylons attacking, and the screen going to black.

Moore was also interviewed by Kate O’Hare. In Part I of the interview he considered whether the upcoming Star Trek movie would be “Star Trek” by looking at how the movies were handled in the past:

“That’ll be everyone’s question,” says Moore. “I don’t think there’s an easy answer. That’s a very individual choice. I don’t think there’s a definitive list of what makes it ‘Star Trek’ or not.

“The difference between the original series ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan’ is a profound one. They are not the same characters; they’re not in the same place in their lives; they’re not on a mission; Kirk’s an admiral. It’s like a completely different world, but it’s absolutely ‘Star Trek.'”

Interestingly there’s one thing that “Khan” and two other installments in the movie franchise featuring the original cast — “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” — have in common, besides being, IMHO, the best of the lot … writer/director Nicholas Meyer.

“He was a man who had no prior relationship to the franchise whatsoever,” Moore says, “never even saw it.  And he was not afraid to not worry about the continuity of it all.

“He was not hung up on who said what in episode 43, and that is a yoke that has to be thrown off at this point.”

While they were not hung up on every continuity point (and there were some errors for purists), it is also notable that the movies did take place in the same Star Trek universe as the television series. The characters were at a different point in their lives but they did not throw out the previous history with a total reboot as some now advocate for Star Trek. Despite several series, The Star Trek universe is flexible enough to allow for such updating and new stories without needing to ignore the past. There is a tremendous difference between trying to reboot a series with a strong history such as Star Trek and totally redoing a weak show such as Battlestar Galactica. In the case of Battlestar Galactica, I agree Moore was best off restarting from scratch rather than being tied down by anything from the original series.

The different versions of Star Trek were discussed in Part II. There was an attempt to modernize the Star Trek television show with Enterprise , hoping to make it more like other hit television shows. In the process, they lost what made Star Trek great, and worthy of surviving since the early 1960’s. I agree with Moore’s assessment :

“I think ‘Enterprise’ misunderstood what the original ‘Trek’ was,” Moore said. “I don’t think they were shooting at the right target.”

In a third post from O’Hare, Moore discussed what he learned about writing from his work on Battlestar Galactica:

“That’s a fundamental lesson. There wasn’t a place we wanted to go that the audience didn’t go there with us. We had episodes that didn’t succeed as well as others, like any show, but I don’t think there was anything philosophically that we wanted to do, that the audience wasn’t willing to go along for the ride.”

“It taught me that you really can stick to your guns and do a good show. You can do a smart show and really ask a lot of the audience. You can challenge them. You can not deliver Pablum, and they will go with you.

“You don’t have to give the easy answers week to week. You don’t have to have uncomplicated heroes who always do the right thing and always save the day, that you can really challenge the audience.

Information has been released on the memorial service for Majel Barrett Roddenberry, which is to be held on Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. in Los Angeles. Additional details are available here.

The other big news of the week was the airing of the Doctor Who Christmas special, The Next Doctor. I was originally going to review this in SciFi Weekend, but as any discussion would include major spoilers for US viewers who have not downloaded the show, I’ll place it in a separate post. I would advise those who plan to watch the show in the future to not read my post, or any other discussion of the show, until after it is viewed.

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