|Press Conference With Ronald D. Moore and David Eick|
|Wednesday, 11 July 2007|
On June 1, 2007, procucers / creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick did a SciFi Channel Press Conference on which reporters could ask anything on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series, its upcoming mid season movie Battlestar Galactica: Razor (coming out in the fall) and Season 4 (to be released in January 2008). Helen Lee got the audio of the full interview from SciFi Channel and made a transcript of it.
Note: questions from reporters are re-phrased and paraphrased for conciseness.
Battlestar Galactica 2003 producers / creators Ron Moore and David Eick
I talked to SciFi Channel executive Mark Stern recently without getting any information on the show's end. Why?
David Eick: I just think he's generally a very shifty character (laughs). This is a decision that took some time to arrive at, and like all decisions this large I think that there are a number of questions that we have asked internally and a creative agenda we wanted to serve. I think we all had to collectively decide when it was time to be definitive about it and that time is now. But you know, I certainly don't blame him for keeping it close to the vest until every side of this equation had been vetted.
Can you tell us about the prequel episode slated to air in the fall?
When will it air?
Ron Moore: It will air on SciFi Channel. I don't have a date for you, but the plan as I understand it is to air the episode on SciFi and then it will be released on DVD either the next day or two days later or something like that. The extended episodes, as we're calling them, will be broadcast in the fall, and the official start of season four will begin in early ‘08.
Was there any pressure from the SciFi Channel to continue the series?
Ron Moore: Well, there was discussion of how long it should go on. To their credit, they were very sensitive to what we wanted to do creatively on the show. And it came from David and I approaching them and saying, look we feel that the show has reached its third act and it's about the resolution of the series, we feel like the storyline is sort of propelling us toward the conclusion. They asked us questions about why we felt that way and they understood the reasons and they wanted us to think about it for a while and make sure this is what we wanted to do, but they didn't really fight us on it. And they expressed concern that the show might be able to go on longer, and they wanted make sure we weren't passing up opportunities to continue telling stories with the series, but they were very accommodating. When David and I were very clear this is what we really definitely wanted to do, they supported it.
Will the show have a closed ending, or will it leave some things unresolved?
What will life after Battlestar Galactica be like for you?
David Eick: I'm trying to make use of the cast as much as I can, because I just have found in the last year that we inadvertently in a lot of ways stumbled upon the greatest collection of actors I've certainly ever been a part of . Katee Sackhoff is someone who was in the pilot for Bionic Woman and once Battlestar Galactica ends, and even when we go on our hiatus, if she's free we may be able to use her in a episode or two of Bionic Woman. And Tricia Helfer was in another pilot I did for Fox called Them which may be flirting with a midseason order and [it's] sort of the same thing there; once she becomes available she can be the nerve center of that project. And then of course the directors who we've come to know and love on Battlestar Galactica, as they become available we'll be looking for opportunities to use them on other things. It's been a great growth and evolution creatively for everybody to come out the end of this show and feel like wow, we've got directors and actors and writers and all sorts of great talent and creative people we'll always stay in touch with and always work with, because once you find those people you don't let them go.
Do you plan to bring closure to all the relationships between characters?
Ron Moore: Well, that's the plan. I mean, that's how we approached the storyline when we were breaking them out for the season. The intention is to certainly concentrate on the characters and their relationships and bring them all to an endpoint. I don't know if we'll resolve every single thing about every single relationship. I think there's value in leaving some things open to the imagination and having some things that are sort of tantalizingly unresolved, but the intention is to move toward what is the final chapter.
Tell us about the possible spinoff, Caprica?
David Eick: We're certainly tremendously excited and enthused by what we were able to develop with Remi Aubuchon into a prequel, a launching point for a new series called Caprica, which would basically take the stories that we come to discover on Battlestar Galactica and go all the way back to their embryo, and the discovery of the technology that will leads to Cylons, specifically. It's a tremendously arresting idea that was really beautifully executed and we're anxious for any opportunity to pursue it because we really think it's a special project.
Are you surprised by the success of the series?
Ron Moore: The response the show has generated, with the amount of press that we've gotten and the acclaim and the awards that the show has gotten--it's been gratifying and very surprising. I think I speak for David and I when I say that at the beginning of the whole process we believed in what we were doing and thought this is going to be good, we can really make a good show here, but I don't think we really anticipated we'd be getting a Peabody and we'd get those kind of accolades. That, then [is] just really icing on the cake of what's been really a wonderful creative experience.
Did you start out with a story plan for the series, or were you just winging it as you went?
Ron Moore: Each season we mapped out where we wanted to go by the end of that season, [that's] how I sort of like to approach that. At the beginning of season one, we talked about where the end of the first year would be, and then into the second year we broke it up into groups of the first 10 and the second 10 and kind of kept that style of planning all through the show. I would say somewhere midway through the second season, I started thinking seriously about what the end of the series itself might be, and those ideas about where we were headed and what it all meant started to really coalesce over the course of the third season. Then in between seasons four and three we started talking in earnest about, okay, if we do end it next year, what would it really be--and it just felt like yeah, this is the right time to do it. In terms of have we had enough time, I feel like we have. We really started taking our cues from the story itself, and it just feels like the story has moved forward aggressively, and that's one of the things I'm proud of about the series- that it's unafraid to take risks and it's been unafraid to move strongly forward instead of trying to tread water. It just feels like the momentum of the series is now moving toward the conclusion.
What about the politics of the show?
David Eick: Part of the point of science fiction, at least in its roots, was always to give the audience an allegory, to present a metaphor for what was taking place in the culture. I think we've always enjoyed and taken a certain satisfaction in the fact that there are those who watch the show and assume there's a liberal bias, and there are those who watch the show and assume there's a pro-military bias. And that's all kind of how it's supposed to work, you're supposed to bring your own point of view to it and then be able to extrapolate out whatever messages you want, and the show tends to not be terribly definitive, you know. We were pretty clear from the outset that this wasn't going to be about protagonists espousing lessons and rules and arriving at the end to save the day and tell everyone what was right and what was wrong. That the line separating the protagonists and the antagonists would often blur, that the audience should often be asking themselves if they're rooting for the right side and there's always going to be a question mark of sorts at the end of most stories. I think that applies to the political element as well, that there really isn't a definitive answer to anything that's being espoused by any given story. It's more just about the idea that there are two sides to every equation.
What is the timing of next season going to be like? Will you split episodes up into groups again?
Ron Moore: At the moment, the network has not settled on a definitive schedule yet. I'd double check that with them. All we can say definitively is that season four begins sometime in early '08 but they don't have any kind of air schedule yet.
How do you feel about the fact that Lost appropriated the "flash forward" technique you used?
David Eick: Yeah, we often refer to them as thieves (laughs)...thieves in the night.
Ron Moore: Did they jump ahead?
Yeah, there's typically those flashbacks in an episode. Well, it turns out that the scenes we were seeing of the lead character, Jack, were actually taking place in the future after they'd been rescued from the island.
Ron Moore: Oh really.
Yeah...you're not really sure what intervened.
Ron Moore: I haven't kept up with it. I didn't know that.
David Eick: We appreciate your alerting us and our attorneys will be notified immediately after we hang up (laughs).
Will the fleet find Earth?
Ron Moore: Well, I don't want to be that definitive about it, but the show has always been about a search for Earth, and I think to end the series without getting to Earth or a version of Earth or something we call Earth, or having at least somebody say "Earth," would be unsatisfying. So it will definitely figure into this year's storyline.
How did the actors feel when you broke the news about the show's end?
David Eick: Well, it sort of depends on the actor. I think some of them were very understanding. Some of them were very understanding of the point of view that the show had reached its natural conclusion and was ready for its third act, as it were, and there were others who believed the show might have a longer life than that or were more surprised by that decision and so it just really depended on the individual. But I think for the most part now, everyone is looking at this season in a way that they might not normally look at a fourth season of a show. Which is to say, rather than just being another big step on a potentially infinite journey it's the concluding step. And I think there's a sense now of everyone really sinking their teeth into this and really grabbing hold of it as tightly as they can, because they know this is the last fling. .
Ron Moore: Yeah, I was up in Vancouver on the set just a week or so ago, and the best way I could describe it was, it felt like the beginning of senior year up there. Everyone was very aware that this was the last time, you know right down to this is the last first day of shooting, this is the last time we're going to do this, and everyone's starting to think about signing each other's yearbooks and all that kind of stuff.
How have the changing politics of the world affected the show?
David Eick: Nothing specific, but the world and the politics of the world around us continue to inform all the discussions in the writers' room and they sort of pop up at unexpected moments. But there's nothing that I can think of off the top of my head that we all said, "Oh yeah, let's do that." They just kind of tend to bubble up even within last minute rewrites scenes. You'll pull a word or a phrase that sort of resonates beyond the show but there's nothing specific,
Have you changed the direction of the show since it began?
Ron Moore: I think it's continued to head in the same general direction as [when] I first started thinking about where to put the endpoint of the series. I think that what's changed is sort of the path to get there. You know, who was going to get there, what it would mean to them and in what context. But I don't know that the endpoint of the series has really changed that much since I first started really thinking about it.
Any words of wisdom to those of us who remember the conclusion of the first Battlestar Galactica series and how it crashed and burned?
David Eick: How did the first Battlestar series end?
They arrived on Earth...
Ron Moore: Oh, the question you're not asking is, will there be any flying motorcycles?
That's right (laughs).
David Eick: How did you know?
Ron Moore: We've been doing a lot of R&D on our motorcycles.
Tell us more about the prequel and how it fits into season two. Is there a specific point when it happens?
Ron Moore: There is a specific point that I cannot remember off the top of my head, to be honest, but essentially ties into the story of the Pegasus which you know was destroyed at the beginning of season two. There are sequences that involve Admiral Cain, but it does not take place during "Pegasus" and "Resurrection Ship" because those episodes pretty much happened in continuous action. Some of the events of Pegasus' backstory back during the original Cylon attack are dramatized and other events after the death of Admiral Cain while the Pegasus was still in the ragtag fleet are covered in the two-parter.
What was fan reaction to the season three finale? Was it in line with your predictions?
Ron Moore: I think it was probably what we anticipated. I took as a guidepost how people reacted to the season two finale. When we made the jump ahead--the year ahead jump--and put them all down on the planet, the reactions were, people were ecstatic and people were outraged. And there wasn't a lot of middle ground. I kind of felt like that's what they're going to do when we reveal the Cylons. And that's pretty much what happened.
Are there any things you didn't have time to do during the series that you regret?
David Eick: We never got Starbuck and Number Six together.
Ron Moore: Well, that's true. I don't know if there are any regrets that we never did--no, I don't think so. I think everything we talked about found its way into the show in one form or another. The only regret that I remember we had toward the end of the third season was saying, too bad we got rid of the Pegasus, that was a great ship, and too bad we couldn't keep it around longer and tell more stories about it. Now we get a chance to do that too. Okay, cool.
Was it less difficult planning this last season of 20 episodes compared to planning the earlier 20-episode seasons?
Ron Moore: Yeah, I think the burden then became okay, now we have a great deal to wrap up and bring resolution to. We wanted to pay off a lot of things, we wanted to tie up a lot of the threads...it felt like we had more than enough to get to where we were going to. Whereas usually when you're facing the 20-episode order, it's like, foof, we need 20 of these, where are we going to get 20 of these? We start breaking them down into smaller bite-size chunks and moving stuff along. This time it was almost like, okay, let's make sure we have enough time to get everywhere we need to go.
Do you regret ever coming up with the subplot about the Sagittarians that was dropped? You expressed chagrin during a Podcast.
David Eick: Because I was standing next to him giving him all these dirty looks, that's why.
Ron Moore: It was a misstep, but also in the planning of it, it was a storyline that we were very excited about, we really liked and it was very charged. It had a lot of racial, political overtones to it which are the things that we generally love to do in the show. So I can look back at it and say, yeah, ultimately that didn't pay off and we had to sort of retrofit a lot of things to cover our tracks, but I think when you're doing a show like this if you're going to swing for the fences and keep trying to knock them out of the park there's going to be a few times you re just going to whiff and you're not going to make it. I think that just comes with the territory.
Will any cast members direct in the show's fourth season?
David Eick: No comment (laughs).
Will Lucy Lawless' character, D'Anna, return?
Ron Moore: It's possible. It's sort of in the planning stages, nothing firm. And it's one of the things we're talking about.
Will we get a view of Earth in the last season?
David Eick: At the end of season three, we showed you a glimpse of Earth. You actually saw it and I think you will see more of it. We will get to a place that we're going to call Earth, by the end of the series. And yeah, you'll get to see it.
But will we actually get to see what existence is like on Earth?
David Eick: I think there's a good chance. I'm being sort of deliberately vague because...not just for surprise but also because we haven't written that show yet.
Will you do any Podcasts between now and the start of season four?
Ron Moore: I'm going to try. I keep promising to do that. I have some plans to do try to do some Podcasts but yeah, because it's going to be a while before we're back on the air and it'd be nice to sort of fill the gap.
Several sci-fi shows have recently tanked after an extended break. Are you pushing SciFi to air the shows a certain way because of that?
Ron Moore: The truth is, they're awfully good ultimately at their own scheduling, and we've been bounced around the schedule a little bit. We started Friday nights--there was a strong lineup, and then some of those other shows were leaving, the "Stargate"s, and so we changed nights. It's never been easy--the circumstances have not been easy--but I think from a marketing and scheduling standpoint it's a really strong network. So we tend not to get real heavily involved in discussions about how we're being repeated or what their air pattern is for these gaps in between original episodes. They've tended to have a aggressive approach, though, to things like making sure the audience that loves Battlestar Galactica is getting some measure of an injection, whether it's marathons or the occasional special that they've done or documentary that they've done, so I think we're pretty confident in whatever it is that they decide to do.
How does it feel to be a Peabody Award winner, one year later? Does not getting an Emmy nod yet sting?
Ron Moore: Hope springs eternal, and we'll see what this year's slate of nominations brings us. Well, you know, hope springs eternal...We certainly hope that we scored some nominations in a lot of different categories. But you never know. And I guess to answer your question, the Peabody was a tremendous honor. It's a singular honor and I think I'm perfectly willing to rest on that laurel. It's just a great moment in the life of the show.
Battlestar Galactica has a lot of diversity, in its cast and behind the scenes. What can other producers learn from this?
Ron Moore: Well, the answer to that question is going to be different for everybody. I think the beauty of a show like "Battlestar" is that we've never been concerned with the ethnicity or, for that matter, the sex of a character. More often than not a character is written and then we have the conversation of should this be a character of color, a character of ethnic diversity, and sometimes we've written characters and decided much later to make the character an a woman instead of a man or vice versa. So I think the answer is, you write great characters and you let the best person , the best actor, the best director, the best writer win the job. And if that's your approach and if you ‘re pure about it, you're going to find yourself with a pretty eclectic group in terms of racial diversity and sexual diversity and so forth. That's just how we've always done it and it seems to have worked.
One third of people in the U.S. are now people of color, so this is more of an issue than ever.
Ron Moore: True, that's very true. Which is why I think you're finding more and more ethnic diversity in situations like the one you're referring to. Because again, if you just close your eyes and pick the best one, you're as likely to pick someone of ethnic diversity as not.
Was there a moment from last season that triggered the idea that it was time to end the show?
Ron Moore: I think it was somewhere around the midpoint of the season, when we were working on the story where they got to the algae planet and discovered the temple and the temple gave D'Anna a glimpse of the Final Five, and then that triggers the beacon that points the way to Earth. Both of those events felt like you were moving strong, you were promising the audience that you were moving towards revelation. And indeed by the end of the season, we had taken that moment, and moved it to, okay, we're going to reveal four of the final five Cylons, and one of our characters has actually been to Earth and seen it. But that was probably the moment when I think we started feeling like, if we don't start paying this off, if we don't really reveal those secrets and really start moving in that direction, you get to a place where you're feeling like you're just jerking off the audience or you're just treading water. And we never wanted to be in that position. We wanted to always be striding forward and always be pushing the show to its limit and not being afraid to move on to the next part of the story and that's probably where it began.
Is Caprica dead?
David Eick: I don't think we know the definitive answer to that. It's not on the immediate front burner, but I don't think anyone's has said to us definitely that it's dead. I think we continue to hope that there will be an opportunity and a forum and a programming need for it. It's certainly something we believe in wholeheartedly and think would not only capture a lot of Battlestar Galactica fans but would open up a whole new audience to this mythology because it's a very, very different kind of show.
It had promise, it seems surprising that it's disappeared from the radar.
David Eick: It's all the network.
Did the prospect of bringing the series to its conclusion feel creatively freeing or restrictive?
Ron Moore: It felt very freeing. It felt like we had a definitive direction. There was a premise: this is a search, the ragtag fleet is searching for Earth with the remainders of humanity and they're pursued by the Cylons, and it just felt like, okay, that's the path and it's a question of what to do along the way. The show just had a strong point of view and a definitive direction. I think it was very helpful.
Do you think this is a good way to approach all TV series?
Ron Moore: I think it's hard to generalize, because I think there's different kind of shows. A procedural doesn't require that sort of thing. I don't think anyone thinks that CSI or Law & Order has suffered because they don't have the expectation of an end point. I think certain kinds of shows demand a beginning, a middle and an end. I think as youre crafting the series, when you're setting up a pilot and setting the rules of your universe, you have to have an idea of what it is you're creating. Are you creating an open-ended franchise, like "CSI" or "Law & Order," that essentially you can do them forever because of the nature of the criminal justice system--there's always going to be a tomorrow and there's always going to be another case, or are you telling something that is tied to a specific narrative that sets up an expectation and then ultimately has to be paid off? I think you just have to understand which show you're doing at the beginning of the run.
Would Caprica have an endpoint, or be open-ended?
David Eick: I think Caprica would have an endpoint, in terms of, we know what the future is, because it's taking place before the events of Battlestar Galactica. There's certainly a place where it would end. It would not go further than where Battlestar Galactica is, for instance. So yeah, it too would have a built-in momentum in narrative.
Will the season four episodes be more serialized, or stand alone?
Ron Moore: I think the term standalone is a bit slippery for us in the best of circumstances. I think the show has worked the best when it has operated in continuity. I think what we' have promised the network is that we will try not to overly serialize the show so that it's impossible to watch an episode out of sequence. What we will continue to do is try to provide each episode with a shape where something begins an ends within the body of that episode, so there's still a hook to get you involved with. So even if you did miss last week, there's something to engage you this week, something to let you sample, to sort of get familiar with the universe and then maybe you can go pick up last week's episode on iTunes.
Did the cast know Starbuck was coming back?
Ron Moore: Uh, no. They didn't. It was quite a process actually. We were trying to keep a secret, and keeping a secret in this business is very, very difficult, especially with the internet and the various ways information leaks out So initially we tried to just let Katee know and not tell anybody else. And of course when the script landed in Vancouver, it was like a small nuclear weapon had been detonated. Various people were up in arms and upset and David and I had to make some sheepish phone calls and gradually bring more people into the circle of knowledge. And let people know what was really happening. It was amazing because we did still manage to hold the secret throughout. It paid off eventually, but it was a bit rocky there for a little while.
Did they yell at you for making them feel bad?
Ron Moore: Well, fortunately by the time we talked to them they'd already finished yelling.
Tell us about the status of Them? It's coming midseason?
David Eick: Well, not yet. They're talking to us about perhaps spending some money on it and trying some things to get it into play for yeah, I guess it would be midseason, so all we know is that it's still in play and it's something the network is still very actively talking about. We'll know more in the next weeks and months.
Ron, where are you with The Thing?
Ron Moore: I'm working on the script.
Is there a date?
Ron Moore: I don't think they've officially decided. I mean until they get the script they don't really make a decision on when it's gonna go.
How did you make the decision on who the four human sleeper Cylons would be?
David Eick: Well, there is a big dartboard in the writers' room and a picture of all the cast members on it. Anyway, [for] the rest you can use your imagination.
Ron Moore: It was a process. We sat and we talked about it, who would be the final four, and actually we gravitated kind of quickly to these four names, for various reasons. Tigh was the sexiest, because he was the one with the biggest hatred for the Cylons, he'd killed his own wife because she collaborated with the Cylons, he was a drunk and he had all these completely human qualities. And there was something amazing about realizing that he's a Cylon. Anders had participated in two resistance movements and was drawn to Kara Thrace for reasons unknown. And she had a specific destiny within the mythos of the show. Tyrol was the everyman, in some ways one of the most human characters and there was something amazing about finding about [him]. He was just very unexpected, to believe that he was a Cylon. And yet we'd already built into his backstory that he'd had a religious connection that seemed greater than anyone else's. When he was on the Temple of the Five on the algae planet, he was sort of drawn there by reasons that had nothing to do with logic or rationality, had a specific connection to them, he had dreamed about being a Cylon. He'd had emotional reactions about them, he was in love with a Cylon at the beginning of the Mini-Series. And then Tory--Tory was a wild card. Tory was the one that we knew the least about and we could have more fun with, because we weren't locked into as many choices with her as we were with the others.
Where will the stories of these four characters go?
Ron Moore; Well, you can see from the end of this third season that they all are still the same people. They're still the same characters. They didn't switch over and become robots suddenly. Essentially you're going to see an extension of that initial moment, where they try to figure out, what does this mean to them. If they're Cylons, when did that begin and what are their true backstories? What are they meant to do? What are they supposed to do? Are they dangerous to each other, are they dangerous to the ship, can they trust any of the people around them, should they keep this secret only among themselves? That's essentially where there stories are going to pick up.
With regard to the religious aspect of the stories, were you ever worried that too much of it would bloat the mythology? What will happen to Laura Roslyn, as the prophet?
Ron Moore: Well, we won't give away what the end of Laura's story is, but we certainly had the caution in our heads all along that, as we ventured into the more mythical or supernatural qualities of the series, we didn't want that to run away with the show. It's always been trying to find a balance between those elements and the secular elements of the show and I think in the third season we would like to bring it all together and understand the coismology of this universe and how it all ties together and what it all sort of means. It's sort of a oneness.
Will the song "All Along the Watchtower," heard in the finale, be referred to again?
Ron Moore: We will touch on it again probably later on in the fourth season. To explain it within the context of the show. It came up in the series, it was something I thought about doing in an earlier season. It's one way of connecting-
David Eick: Before that, before that--it was the Mini-Series we talked about it.
Ron Moore: Oh yeah, that's right. We even talked about for the Mini-Series.
David Eick: We were going to open the Mini-Series with a Simon and Garfunkel song, was it "America"?
Ron Moore: It was "America."
David Eick: We talked ourselves out of it because it felt like were making such a reinvention as it was--it might be a little bit bananas on bananas. Then we were talking about, playing around with I think in episode five of season one, when Helo and Sharon end up in a diner, that maybe there's a jukebox and maybe it still works and maybe Helo's screwing around with it and maybe suddenly he hears the song "Yesterday." And we just don't explain it. We just kind of go on. This felt like one of these one of these ideas that was good enough and big enough that it required its own story point and it just took us until now to figure out how to do it really well.
On January 6th, 2009, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick did a conference call where Battlestar Galactica fansites were invited to talk about the remainder of Season 4, the Battlestarg Galactica movie The Plan and the Caprica series. You can find a transcript of that here: Ronald D. Moore and David Eick Conference Call
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