Full Interview With Battlestar Galactica's Ron Moore And David Eick
Author: Kelly West
published: 2009-01-07 16:48:27
Yesterday we posted some of the highlights from the conference call with Battlestar Galacticaís Ron Moore and David Eick. Today, we have the full transcript from the call, which includes their thoughts on Caprica, The Plan and of course, the second half of the final season of Battlestar Galactica, which premieres in a little over a week!
What are you guys most proud about, about the way that the series ended?
David Eick: I would have to say that I'm probably most proud of the fact that I think we were able to answer most of the questions that we had raised over the years. And to resolve most of the mysteries and sort of the grander questions of the show. And also at the same time give a resolution to all the character arcs and to wrap it all up by the end. I think you'll find that we don't save everything until the last episode. We start answering questions along the way.
You know, and that over the course of these last 10 we bring a conclusion to a lot of things that we had set up over the years.
Ron Moore: Yes, I would add that it's so rare that you get to end things in the way that you intended. There are myriad details of course that changed and shifted. But we talked about ending the show this way I think two years ago. And just the idea that we were able to actually dovetail it in that direction is very satisfying.
How did you feel about the way the season ended? I mean with the way the series ends? I mean what does it do for you as a writer and a producer? What does this show mean to you?
Ron Moore: I would say I found it very satisfying. I was very pleased with the way that the show ended creatively and personally. It just feels like we've completed the piece. And now to be able to step back a little bit and look at it from beginning to end I feel good about the complete story that is Battlestar Galactica. And so it's just a tremendous amount of satisfaction in doing it. Creatively and on a personal level it's just been a tremendous experience. It's easily been the highlight of my career. The people that I've gotten to know and the cast and the crew and the production staff are just, you know, mean the world to me. I was just very proud of all the people I worked with and very proud of what we were able to put on the screen.
David Eick: It's telling that the show has provided such a great professional springboard for both of us. We don't tend to talk about that as much. But the reality is I started writing on this show. I hadn't been a writer prior to it. Ron started directing. Both of us have had doors opened for us. And, met people I don't think we ever would have met in the industry and [have had] some opportunities that will probably continue for some time. That's no small thing. It's hard to find those situations, that kind of fertile topsoil. This show really, beyond just the show itself, has meant a great deal to us I think in terms of our future.
Why should fans tune in? What are we going to get?
Ron Moore: Well I mean, why finish the end of the book? You've come this far. Don't you want to see how it all turns out? That seems like the most fundamental reason to watch the end. And it really is the end. It's the conclusion of their stories. Itís what happening - happened to them finally. Where did they end up and under what circumstance? And who made it and who died? And who's the last Cylon and sort of what did it all mean? I mean if you've been a fan of the show at all up until now why wouldn't you want to watch how it all concludes?
What's in the future for both of you? And what's the latest on Caprica?
Ron Moore: Well I think we both have various projects under way. Caprica has been picked up for a full season. We start shooting that probably in July. We're putting the writing staff together now and the crew. And, just staffing up and getting ready to go. We'll start breaking stories probably in February or maybe even as soon as the end of this month, kind of depending when all the pieces go together. We have a game plan of sort of what the general story line is and sort of some direction. So we're not starting completely from scratch.
So things are well in hand. In Caprica we feel really good about that. And beyond that, you know, there's, I've got some future things in development and sort of waiting to see what will happen with Virtuality which is a pilot at Fox.
David Eick: Nothing really, I'm going to shoot some pool. Try to do a lot of drinking. No, there's a lot, as I said, we both have deals at Universal. So there's a pretty active development slate for both of us in terms of pilots. There are two at NBC right now that I have that are in serious contention and, you know, various and sundry things elsewhere. So it's an act of time. But I think our focus, our most primary focus right now is Caprica because that really is the next at bat.
Just speaking of Caprica I was wondering how is that story, I know it's a prequel that takes place 50 years before. But is it going to tie into the mythos of what we learned throughout Battlestar Galactica? And how much will you have to know about Battlestar Galactica to appreciate Caprica?
Ron Moore: They'll certainly tie in. But we sort of set out deliberately to set up Caprica in a way that you didn't have to see Battlestar. I mean I think you could literally watch the pilot to Caprica without seeing a frame of film on Galactica and you would get it. And you could invest in that story completely on its own and just go from there. Because we wanted it to stand as its own project and we didn't want you to have to study up on Battlestar in order to enjoy Caprica.
There are questions remaining and hopefully they'll be answered in these final 10 episodes. But how do you answer them without making it feel perfunctory?
Ron Moore: Oh, well I didn't say it wouldn't be perfunctory.
David Eick: I was going to say who said it wouldn't be perfunctory?
Ron Moore: Yes what are you talking about? Some if it will just be on a crawl in the end credit. By the way, in case you were wondering.
Well, thatís the trick of doing it. The first decision was not to try to answer every single thing in the last episode. Because then the last episode just becomes a running tally of, oh and there's this question, and oh and there's that question and so and so and so and so. There were certain things that would be raised naturally earlier in the story line. Then you could sort of deal with them on a case by case basis. And you just wanted each sort of revelation and each answer to have its own kind of moment in the sun, and not to make everything a giant mystery. And to let it proceed organically. It was a bit of a trick. But it didn't seem like it was too burdensome as we went through it. It felt kind of natural.
As we broke out the last 10 episodes there seemed like there were natural places where we could explain this. And oh that revelation can go here. And, oh we'll fill this detail in there. And we'll still save these pieces for the end.
Battlestar Galactica is in essence a science fiction novel, a complete novel, with a beginning, middle and end. Thatís only ever been done once before with a show called Babylon 5. So I'm just wondering what is your feeling on being essentially a historical event in terms of TV history?
David Eick: I don't know. My mind's a blank.
Ron Moore: Yes, it's just, this is just the show that we work on. I tend to sort of think of it just as a show that, you know, David and I put on for our friends and family and for the cast members. I mean it's just our show. And I'm always surprised when anybody watches the damn thing, you know. This is the idea that it's something larger. It's, well that's interesting. But it doesn't, I don't know, I'm not really emotionally connected to that idea.
David Eick: We try not to, I mean I think both of us have a tendency to be pretty pragmatic anyway. We like to keep normal hours. We don't like a lot of drama in our life. We like to have a happy group of people working together. There's not a lot of Hollywood hysteria. I think along with that comes a certain pragmatism in how we look at the work. Itís a lot of hard work. It's long hours. It's a lot of sweat. And if you try to take a step back from it and say to yourself look at us, we're making Peabody Award-winning work.
Or gee aren't we special. I think you lose your way. So we I think try to keep our nose to the grindstone. I think it will probably be a couple years before we're able to kind of step back and go - and assess it with any kind of objectivity.
I was just curious with the final four, what can fans expect for the remainder of the series?
Ron Moore: Well they'll certainly be heavily into the story line. What can I tell you about that. I mean with the discovery of Earth and the discovery of what Earth is, it certainly throws everyone's lives into question. I think where we wanted to get to at the mid season break was what if you took everyone's fondest hope and dream away from them?
Then what happens to these people? So the final four are sort of in the same boat with everyone else. And that's they're having to sort of re-evaluate well where do we go from here? What does this mean for us? I guess most profoundly for the final four is what are our specific origins? How did we come to be? What is our relationship with the rest of the Cylons? And what does this all mean for us specifically? Those story lines will definitely play out in a very large way over the last 10 episodes.
Speaking of the Cylons, when we get into Caprica, how do you think the fans will receive the whole Cylon thread? Considering that we already know how that pans out in the future?
Ron Moore: Well hopefully they view it as is intended, which is a period piece. We're doing a period piece. In any period piece you kind of know what lays in the future if you're doing Mad Men you know the '60s are a-coming. And you know that that whole world is going to collapse. If you're doing a World War II piece, you know the Nazis are going to lose. But, you know, you still are able to tell, you know, fascinating and compelling stories as periods. I think that's what we're doing for this as well. I mean that's at least the intent.
What's the status in The Plan? Will that air between the finale? Like how does that fit in?
Ron Moore: I don't know that we have an air date for The Plan yet. And I don't know that we have an air date for Caprica yet. So I think those are probably up to SCI FI. The Plan has been completed. It's shot. It's being edited. I haven't seen the cut yet. But it is done. Or it's in the can as it were. And I don't know what their plans are for air dates yet.
Ron, are you still involved with the - The Thing?
Ron Moore: Yes.
What's the status on that?
Ron Moore: Just working on some re-writes. And no, it hasn't been green lit or anything bigger than that. Features just run on their own pace. Much slower then the TV pace. I'm working on a re-write of the draft right now. They still like it and everyone still happy. We'll just kind of wait and see when and if it happens.
So I'm just curious about your intentions with these like Webisodes and the clues on the SCI FI site. I mean how much can viewers glean there? Will it ever be much more than what's shown on television?
Ron Moore: I think there is, there are things that are not on TV on the Web site certainly. Everything from deleted scenes to the Webisodes to podcasts and behind the scenes video blogs, and there's a wealth of extra material. I think we've designed it so that there is enough material there that you could go and enjoy. But if it's not going to give away the story. It was very carefully thought out so that you couldn't just go to the Web site and discern all the remaining mysteries.
But you could certainly get a leg up. And you could sort of explore the universe a little deeper and understand things on a different level.
Well it's interesting you say that because of the - as part of the Webisodes I know on the Internet I've seen all the way through 10, except for one particular one that wasn't leaked. Do you know anything about that? I mean people are speculating it's intentional?
Ron Moore: Of Webisode 10?
Webisode 9. Ten has actually been leaked out.
Ron Moore: Oh really?
Ron Moore: No, I haven't, to be honest I haven't tracked that very closely. I don't think it's a deliberate stratagem.
Well that just goes to show that how paranoid people are on the Internet. And I was just wondering if you monitor the Web sites to kind of see what those people are saying or?
Ron Moore: I have a habit of going and sort of monitoring Web sites on the night that a - that a new episode airs. I'll kind of surf around a few Web sites just to kind of pick up fan reaction. I get a kick out of sort of seeing message boards entries as the show was on the air. I'll try to go to like a, I'll put a couple windows up on my computer and watch live reactions to people as they get to act breaks. I think that's kind of enjoyable. And sort of receive some reviews and kind of see what the general tenor of it is. But after that I kind of don't, I don't monitor it very closely beyond that.
Have you ever read a theory you think that somebody got right?
Ron Moore: Oh sure. Yes there's theories out there of things, of guesses about different parts of the mythology or different revelations that are spot on. Fortunately they're buried with so many other bad ideas that it's like you just leave them alone. But I don't know that I've seen anyone who's nailed the whole thing. Or anyone whoís gotten exactly what the show is going to be at the end or anything.
David Eick: Yes usually the most vociferous and, you know, intensely felt theories are the ones that are furthest off.
Ron Moore: Yes. Yes those are always my favorite, the ones that are really adamant about it. Like oh really?
So how long are we going to have to wait for the biggest mysteries? You know, the final Cylon?
Ron Moore: Oh well that all I will tell you is that it is not in the final episode.
I think that would make a lot of people happy actually just hearing that much.
Ron Moore: Yes it's not, it is not the final - the last frame or the last shot or anything like that.
One of the things that interests me about Battlestar Galactica is that it's really the most religious show on television. Meaning that religion is such an important subject on the show. And I'm just wondering how did this get woven into the story? I mean it must be deliberate because when you think of science fiction shows they're, usually just don't even touch any of those themes.
David Eick: Do you want to tell them the Michael Jackson story?
Ron Moore: Yes. It was, it came very early on. The first draft of the mini-series and there was just a line in it, in a scene with Number 6 in Baltar where she said to him "God is Love". And when I wrote it I didn't really know what it meant. But I thought it was an interesting thing for a robot to say. And I just kind of liked it and kept it in there. And when we got notes back from the network there was an executive at the time named Michael Jackson who really liked it. And said this is a really interesting idea. You already have certain things going on with Al Qaeda and religious fundamentalism that are sort of thematic into the piece if you go further in this direction. And I thought well Hell, I'm not going to get the note to have more religious content on the show very often. And I just went for it. And then it, but it just played, it was also very organic.
It played into things that were already inherent in the show. You know, there was already the - there was a lot of terms, you know, taken from the Greek gods and the Roman gods that were already in the show. It felt natural to then make the colonials polytheists and then, you know, if Number 6 says the God, singular, is love, it made her a monotheist. And then I thought well that's fascinating already. The monotheists versus the polytheists and we're, you know, the colonial - the humans are the polytheists. And it just all became a really fascinating sort of blend of ideas.
Of these last 10 episodes would you say that overall there - if it's a definite kind of end to the series? Or is it an open-ended ending to the series in overall tone? Are there questions we'll still have when we're done? Will there, you know, will that be the end of it all and we can all go home without any question marks in our heads?
Ron Moore: I think it's pretty definitive.
David Eick: It's pretty much over.
Ron Moore: Yes, I mean this is it. You know, this is the end of the story. I think that there might be some things that are still somewhat ambiguous or you might want to think about more that are not spelled out in bold letters. But by and large I'd say the vast majority of the questions will have been answered. They may not be satisfying answers, but they will be answers.
How did you choose who the final five Cylons would be? Was it like picking a name out of a hat? Or did you have it from the very beginning?
Ron Moore: I think David has a dartboard and we...
David Eick: The answer is it was a little of both.
Ron Moore: Yes, it was a little of both. I mean the final four came up literally in a moment in a writer's room where we were struggling with the end of season three. And trying to figure out certain things. I just said because it was all about the trial of Baltar. And we had always set that up to be the end of the season. It was, the structure was working fine. But it just didnít seem to satisfy. It didn't quite seem as big an idea to me. I said, I just wish that there was, we had some bigger revelation here. I just said, you know, I just got this image of like four of our people walking from different areas of the ship and all ending up in one room together.
They all close the doors and they look at each other. And they say, okay we're Cylon. And then we just reveal like four of them, you know, in one fell swoop. Everyone was kind of taken a back in the moment. And then we, the more we talked about it, it just became well let's, well why not. Why don't we really do that? Then we just talked about who they - who those final four would be with an idea of holding out the last one for the last season.
Then settling on the last one. We kind of had a good idea going into the last season who the final Cylon was. And, but we were willing to sort of, you know, look at other candidates and see who it could be and which one makes the most sense in the mythology. Ultimately we stuck with the original choice because it just made the most sense in terms of the history of the show and what it means for the characters.
So during the reveal, "All Along the Watchtower" of course was playing. Does that song have any significance to you particularly or to the story? Or how did you choose that as their signal?
Ron Moore: I had personally been obsessed with the song for a while. So, I had - I just thought it was a fascinating song and the lyrics. I had wanted to work it into a project of mine since, you know, for the last several years. In fact I wanted to do a whole Roswell episode about it. So it was just sort of always in the back of my mind. And as we started talking about music and using music as a trigger, I just immediately said oh and it has to be "All Along the Watchtower". Everybody kind of laughed. Then I just was very much, you know, dogged about it. And kept going and made, you know, and then we got the rights. And that became the song.
I know that watching the series I kind of just want to watch it all at once. Is there a particular reason why you split up the season into two parts? Or is that just something that you had in mind of doing the whole time?
Ron Moore: It's pretty much SCI FI. I mean it's really been more about their scheduling and when they want to air the episodes. We just got used to building in a mid season cliffhanger. And then left it up to them about how long the break in between the 10th and the 11th episode would be each year.
We've heard a lot of rumors about a very, very dark ending. And I suppose how dark can we get?
Ron Moore: I don't know, is there a limit?
David Eick: Compared to where we are now I mean.
Ron Moore: Yes exactly.
David Eick: I don't think we've ever, I don't think either of us have ever entirely understood that word. It's funny, we had a kind of a controversial debate very early on in the show's birth, the first season. About wanting to see more people sort of, you know, the society at large. And figuring out ways to still enjoy life despite their desperate straits.
And the one thing we disagreed with, that note or that impulse, but to Ron and I it just seemed that okay so if you show people celebrating and then suddenly something blows up, isn't that worse than just having the thing blow up? And so I just think that it's a kind of chic word to use in TV analysis because people like to analyze whether or not dark works on TV or doesn't work on TV.
I just think it's such a subjective word. You know, I don't know if you would characterize the ending as dark or not. I would venture to say no. But certainly we've said no with the - emphatically before. And had people look at us like we were insane so. It's in the eye of the beholder.
Obviously with all the scheduling difficulties and, between the writer strike and everything else. That must have had a large effect on how you, the decisions that you made regarding the story itself. Is that the case and has it affected the way you would look at writing going forward?
Ron Moore: Oh I don't know if it's affected much going forward. I don't think I took any grand lessons from it except that there is, well maybe I did. I'd say the one thing is that I took for - took from the break from the writer's strike was that there is a need every once in a while to stop and take a breath and be sure you like where you're going. Because we had structured out the end of the show, the last 10 episodes, and had locked them in and had begun writing some drafts.
And we were working actively on them when the strike hit. But over the course of the strike it gave me a chance to pause and reflect. And think that I just wasn't satisfied with some of the directions we were going. And when the strike was over we gathered the staff together and right off the bat and said, you know what, I had some time. And I think we're making a mistake with a couple of these story lines. So let's go back and let's re-break them and re-visit them. And I was very happy for that. And, you know, maybe the lesson going forward is just, you know, just that.
Every once in a while take a time out, even though you think that you're, there's this relentless pace that you have to maintain. And you're afraid to start over again. And sometimes it's worth it. And I'm ultimately very happy that we did have that break and I did get a chance to re-visit some of those ideas. And I think we have a stronger story as a result.
I'm glad to hear we're getting what you feel is the best ending.
Ron Moore: Yes. I think for good or for bad. I think this is in my opinion the best ending.
My question is regarding the length of the final episodes. There's been some mention as to possibly increasing these beyond just the finale itself. Have you been able to nail that down to an actual number of episodes that are going to have, you know, a longer - they're going to be longer or is this going to be all of them?
Ron Moore: Well I'm not sure - essentially the finale, the last story, is three-air hour - three on air hours. It's not in run time. But, you know, if you cut it up into three it would be three episodes. I think the intention is to show them all at once, you know, on the last night. I think there's still scheduling issues about they might show one episode, I don't - they're still playing around with the actual air schedule of it. About how they program those three hours. But they will be shown, it is my understanding, there will be at least one showing of all three of them together. And that means that overall there are 10 episodes, with the 10th episode being 3 parts. I mean it's all confusing of how you break it down. That's essentially how it is. There's 3 - there's 10 stories left, let's put it that way.
And the other episodes are going to be the standard one-hour episodes?
Ron Moore: Yes.
One other question I had for Ron was the transition that you're going to be going through from Battlestar Galactica to Galactica the Series, being more of a period piece. How does that affect you as a writer just kind of dealing with the thematic transition of that?
Ron Moore: Oh it's challenging. You know, it's a different thing. We set out to do a very different show. And you have to go back and start over. And it's a new cast of characters, new people, new story line. You know, we have to sort of, you can't just go on a glide path and say okay, let's just keep doing what we're doing. We know what this is all about because, you know, in this case we don't. This is a different feel. You know, it's a different style. It's a different method of story telling. It's a different group of characters. It's a different mood. I mean everything about Caprica was designed specifically to not repeat what we had done in Galactica.
And so now it's a challenge. Now it's about wow, okay now itís back to square one. We have to sort of re-invent this. And we have to really make it work. And, you know, there's no guarantees that people will accept it. And we have to really, you know, rise to the challenge.
If you were re-imagining, I suppose, if Battlestar Galactica were to be re-made in 30, 25 years time. What would you least want someone to change about what you created?
David Eick: Oh God I have no idea. I would hope that they just come in and, you know, use their own best judgment. If you're going to re-invent, if somebody was going to do a new take on this version of Battlestar Galactica, you know, I'd want it to be fresh. I'd want them to sort of do what I did when I approached the old series, which was to just go in and take no prisoners. And say, okay I'm going to keep what works and I'm going to discard what doesn't.
This is what we're going to set out to do. I mean I would feel - personally I would feel honored if someone does want to do that. You know, it sort of says that then you've created something that has stood the test of time and that people are still interested in. People want to continue to tell stories in this universe. And they're interested in these characters. And they want to keep, you know, trying to explore different aspects of the show that we weren't able to explore.
We're all very excited about that as well as the remaining episodes of Battlestar. I was just wondering if you could comment on, you know, with Battlestar you were writing it for the most part with a distinct ending in mind, a definite ending. With Caprica are - you mentioned how you're trying to keep it different from Battlestar. So in that sense, do you - are you trying to keep this ending more loose and open-ended?
Ron Moore: Well right now we're nowhere near even thinking about what the end of Caprica is. And that's kind of the way it was with Battlestar. Although I guess with Battlestar we always kind of knew that eventually you were going to have to find Earth or not. With Caprica I guess we sort of have the same challenge in that we know that there's a war looming ahead of them. And the destruction of their entire race is looming ahead of them. But, you know, that's 50 years away. And I suppose the show could run 50 years.
David Eick: Or at the end of that three we could just cut to 50 years later.
Ron Moore: Yes, 50 years later. But we have no - we haven't had any discussions on what the end of Caprica is.
And as for the characters, I mean do you find that you're trying to also keep them very different from Battlestar's characters? I don't know if you can mention any examples.
Ron Moore: Well they are different. I mean I would say that there's probably going to be similarities only in that the way we like to do characters. And the way we like to make them ambiguous and challenging and surprising. That still matters to David and I a lot. And so I - we will continue to try to do that. But I don't know that there's any particular, you know, stand in for any of the Battlestar characters. I don't think, you know, oh here's this - here's their version of Starbuck and here's Caprica's version of Helo or anybody. It's just, it's its own thing.
David Eick: I mean there's a character for example who is Esai Morales's brother who in the realization of the pilot turned out really fantastically. The actor was sensational. And I remember thinking as we were looking at it, you know, this is another great character. And there's no one even remotely like this on Battlestar. So I think that there's always going to be a, hopefully if we're lucky, a distinction - a distinctive quality to the characters. But I do think that they will all feel very different and apart from those you've come to know from Battlestar. I don't think there's the Tigh guy for example, or the, you know, Tyrol guy.
Ron, having worked on Star Trek in years past, we're there any lessons that you took home from those spin off series that you're now able to apply to Caprica as a spinoff of the Battlestar universe?
Ron Moore: Probably first and foremost that you don't try to repeat the formula. You know, I think that, you know, I questioned at the time Trek's, when Star Tre - after Deep Space Nine when they developed the Voyager, and then subsequently Enterprise. Both those projects felt too similar to Next Generation and to the original series for me and by my lights.
I felt that, Deep Space was the way to do a spin off series of an existing franchise where you really are doing a very different show. It's a different format. It's a different feeling. You know, and the Deep Space Nine station lent itself to continuing stories. The Next Generation was episodic. I mean they were just very different animals. I felt that it was more creatively satisfying to do that instead of doing a, you know, a spin off that just felt like a different version of the mother ship. And so that definitely informed, you know, the process as we went into Caprica.
There's a lot of talk about Caprica. And I really wanted to know because there were some - there was some success with Razor. And most definitely will be with The Plan. Do you think that there will be any more opportunities for a prequel for Battlestar and for Caprica, you know, movie offshoots.
Ron Moore: Don't know about Caprica. Haven't had - haven't even thought about that direction. I don't know that there's really any opportunity to do more Battlestar pieces. We've struck the set. You know, I mean the sets are gone. So that alone, you know, raises a huge hurdle to try to do any more. Because, I don't know what, how they would scrape together the money to reassemble that ship. But, you know, there's always virtual versions of the ship. And you never say never. But I would say it's very, very unlikely that there would be any more.
Season 4.5 of Battlestar Galactica premieres on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:00 PM ET on Sci Fi.
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