Podcast:Daybreak, Part I
RDM: Hello, and welcome to the last podcast of Battlestar Galactica. I'm Ron Moore, the executive producer and developer of the new Battlestar Galactica, here to welcome you to the podcast for Daybreak. And I'm joined, at least for a short while, by my lovely and talented wife, Mrs. Ron, Terry Moore.
Terry: Maybe we should call me Terry this episode.
RDM: We'll just call you Terry, just to sort of-
Terry: Although, I don't know. Should we call me Mrs. Ron for tradition?
RDM: Mrs. Ron to the bitter end.
Well. A lot to talk about. Long episodes, 'cause we're gonna do the whole finale at once. We'll take a break here and there as needed.
Terry: I'm gonna check out a little bit because I think that you guys deserve to have Ron solo, but he didn't wanna do it all completely by himself. And I just wanna say something to the "Okay" thread. I got my- we got our chickens. We got eight chickens sitting in the ref- in the kitchen. Alive chickens. Live chickens, I should say.
RDM: Yes, live chickens.
Terry: Just a little aside.
RDM: The Scotch for night i- the Scotch for tonight is Highland Twenty Five, brand new special bottle for the occasion, and the cigarettes later on, after Mrs. Ron has excused herself, will be Export A's. The taste of Canada.
Terry: And I really don't care that much if Ron has an occasional cigarette. I'm not a smoke Nazi.
RDM: That's right.
Okay. Well, let's talk a little bit about the origins of this. We started talking about the finale episode originally at the Las Vegas writer's retreat a year and a half ago, almost two years ago now.
Terry: Although I think it's kinda stupid.
RDM: And then-
RDM: -we subsequently talked again about it at last year's Lake Tahoe writer's retreat where we really stroked out the arc of the final season and where it was all going to-
Terry: In advance.
RDM: In advance, as best we could. 'Cause we knew that going into the last season we want it to be one basic, essentially one long continuous story all the way to the end. And we talked in general terms about what was going to happen in the finale. I look back in my notes for where the original thoughts were, and I'd say we did some of them, and some of them we clearly abandoned. [cat meows]. There were things- Hello Ella. We abandoned some of these things as we got into the second half of the season because the writer's strike gave me time to reconsider and think about some of the directions that we were going and we decided to abandon some of those ideas. Well, let's talk a little bit about here, this open. The finale-
Terry: It's so pretty.
RDM: The on-air finale is- has been restructured a couple of times from the scripted version.
Terry: I haven't seen this.
RDM: The scripted version of the finale the flashbacks were intermingled all the way through the show, and they were not chronological, in that in the opening you cut from Laura in sick bay with the drip, drip, drip of her IV to the fountain of Laura, and you- the first flashback you saw of Laura was her in the fountain. Likewise you saw pieces of Adama at the strip club. You saw Lee with the broom, and the pigeon. You saw Kara and Lee, together, drinking. And you saw all these things out of order. And as the episode progressed, I just dropped in pieces of backstory for each one of them along the way, and they were, like I said, they were non-linear. They were out of order and when you read it on the page, it was very effective, and people really responded to the script, which was very gratifying to me. They really loved it and liked it and there was something about the non-linear nature of all the flashbacks in the original draft that was really compelling and interesting and you were trying to figure out what the puzzle was about. When you put it together, when it was actually filmed and cut together that way, Mike- one of the first things Michael Rymer did was, he said, "OK. When it's non-linear like that and you're watching it as a piece, it's just too confusing and you couldn't hold all the images in your head at the same time for all these different plot threads. So the first thing he did was to take them and make them chronological. And you did- they were still scattered throughout the show, but they were chronological in that you started at the beginning of the Baltar story, you started at the beginning of the Laura story, etc. etc., and went all the way to the end. That version, with different monkeying around with the version that we initially went through, but then that version didn't seem to work as well. Mark Stern, network executive at SciFi channel who's been the creative exec on this project since the beginning, since the miniseries, he said, "You know what? I'm just- I'm having trouble connecting to it. I'm not connecting to these pieces as well as I should. And I love the script and I'm really supportive of the finale but I just can'e emotionally invest and something's wrong and I can't quite get there." And at first I was sorta like, "Wow. Oh my God. Really? It's not working." And then I just went back in the editing room and sat down with the editors and Andy Seklir, our supervising editor, came up with the idea. He said, "Why don't we just group them? Why don't we start off the show with a block of them? So you kind of understand what the nature of the project is. That you're going in and you're-" As he always said, the- as Andy said, the flashbacks are sorta the "A" story, really, I mean it's really about these characters and who they were and who they've become and where they end up, and why don't we start with that? And suddenly when you blocked them together, when you open the finale with the block of flashbacks and then eventually got to Galactica, it just gave everything a completely different flavor and suddenly the whole thing came together and Mark loved it and then so we realized that the whole piece was gonna work, and it was sort of instructive to watch the process- to be in the process and see how it changed from page to stage to post.
The individual stories that we're telling in the backstories here, some of them were in the original show bible. The story of Laura Roslin's sisters all being killed, and along with her father, in a drunk driving accident, was something actually I wrote in the show bible in part of her character backstory before season one started.
Terry: Do you assume that people have already seen the episode before you tell them that?
RDM: Yeah. I- because the podcast never comes out until the episode's already aired.
Terry: Oh, that's true. What if they wait?
RDM: If they wait, then they shouldn't be listening to the podcast first. 'Cause we give away- I always give away the things in podcasts.
Terry: I know. You're- you can't really complain about spoilers.
RDM: No, you can't.
So the story of Laura was about connecting the pieces of how Laura eventually ended up on Galactica. I mean, the thought behind all the flashbacks was it's about the characters. We were having trouble- I was having trouble breaking the finale in the room with the writers. We had a construct, we had a general idea of what was gonna happen. We knew we had to- that the char- that everyone would have to go rescue Hera from the colony and bring her back and that by the end of it we would arrive at Earth and wrap up the show. And we were struggling with the mechanics of the plot. We were struggling with, "How do they get aboard the colony? What's the battle? What's the big twist? How does A lead to B lead to C?" And it was just really unsatisfying. I had a very difficult day doing it. Came home from a break session. Was in a bad mood, and Terry said, "Why don't you go take a shower and chill out?" And I went upstairs, took a shower, and in the shower I just had this epiphany, then it was, "What am I doing? It's the characters, stupid." It always has been. It's- the show has never been about plot so much as it's been about these people. How these people reacted to the various things that we threw at them.
Terry: I think you should go into that a little bit since people are having such a reaction to that statement.
RDM: Oh, she's reading- Terry's reading some of the online comments on part one of "Daybreak".
Terry: Maybe you should just explain it a little bit better so they know your thinking.
RDM: Well, I always felt that from the beginning, when I pitched the series, I said, "The show's gonna be about the characters, first and foremost. It's gonna be a drama before it's a scifi series. Before it's an action/adventure piece. Before it's anything else, it's a drama. It's about these people. It's about their lives. It's about who they are. What their loves, their likes, their dislikes, their heartbreaks, what it is that makes them human beings-" It was- the series was always going to be about that, and I wanted- then I- that day in the shower I realized, that's how we have to end the show then. The show is going to be about the characters to the end.
Terry: It's not at the expense of the plot. It's that that has been your focus.
RDM: That's always been my focus.
Terry: OK. So you're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
RDM: No. No, no. We had a plot. I mean, the plot was gonna work. I always have faith that you're gonna figure out a plot. But character work is much more difficult and much more nuanced and requires more thought and work.
These- and when I came back into the writers' room the next day and I wrote up on the board, up on the white erase board, "It's the characters, stupid," it kinda freed everybody up. I said, "We're just gonna set aside the plot for the moment. Let's talk about what we wanna do with these characters. What do we wanna learn about them?" And I think it was David Weddle who said, "I just wanna find out about things about these people that I don't know. I'm just interested in their lives and who they are." And I said, "Well the first image I have-," 'cause I'd had this idea in the shower, too, I said, "you know, I just- I don't know what the story is about the characters, but I have this image of a man in a house with a broom, and he's trying to chase a bird out of the house that's gotten into the rafters, and that's an image. Let's just write that on a card and put it up on the board." I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know who had the broom, why there was a bird in his house, or where it was. But I loved it as an image, and just put it up there. And then from then, we started other images, other ideas. Laura in the fountain was something that I'd wanted to do in an episode a long time ago. And, OK, Laura's in the fountain. Why is she in the fountain? And we started talking about her backstory and the car crash and the death of her sisters. And then we started talking about Baltar, and what did we do with Baltar? And I wanted to find out that Baltar had a more complicated life before the miniseries began than we realized. That, in the miniseries he's presented as this playboy. He's this genius scientist playboy rich, lots of women, narcissistic, devil may care, and he's just livin' the life. And I wanted to discover that, actually, nobody really lives like that. Everybody has a family. Everybody has traumas and dramas, and everybody has these sort of things in their life and even Gaius Baltar had a father, and had to deal with him, and had to deal with him getting old and had to deal with his unpleasant reminder of where he came from, with all the emotional baggage that came along with it.
Terry: And what's so great is that it really does explain so much of why he does what he does, later on, that his essential, deep, insecurity that never leaves this character. I mean, why is he willing to do the crazy, stupid shit that he's willing to do.
Terry: You know, and why is he so incredibly insecure? He's the most insecure character on the show.
RDM: And, marrying it into the plot, it also- this storyline shows you how the relationship between him and Caprica-Six came to be, what were the- what was the crucial building block and why would he let this woman access to the mainframe computer that he knew was classified, that he knew was top secret, that he knew he shouldn't be letting anyone in, and there was something fascinating to me about discovering that he did it out of to say, "Thank you," in a way. He did it because she had done his- this generous thing for his father, who she didn't even know, and out of that he grew to love her, in some way, even though he could barely bring himself to think that or say that. He- there was an emotional tie between him and this woman that essentially he decided to do this gen- what he thought was this generous thing that he could get in trouble for and somehow that led to the destruction of the human race. And I thought that was a fascinating, complicated story and how did you look at that and how did you feel about that. But it was a very human story.
Terry: Well, and for somebody as shallow and insecure as Gaius Baltar, to have some woman that he's just screwing around with, to have that kind of act of human compassion has to reach him on some level because he doesn't really believe in who he is.
What's the matter?
RDM: I'm just worried about the Cylons.
So that was the idea behind the flashbacks. There are- there is a chunk of flashbacks that are actually missing from the air version. On the DVD there's gonna be a longer version of the finale, another twenty minutes or so, that was cut for the on air. And there's a series of flashbacks that have to do with Boomer and Helo and Tyrol, when Boomer was a rook aboard Galactica and you see the first time she and Tyrol kissed and you see Cally telling Tyrol not to trust her and you see Helo's longing for her quietly expressed, and ultimately that was the plotline that felt like we didn't need it.
Terry: I love how Laura cleans up.
RDM: Yeah Laura- Yeah, that I love. I love that after she's informed of this- the death of her sisters her reaction is to-
Terry: Was that script or Mary?
RDM: No, that was scripted. That she starts picking up the stuff from the-
Terry: Looking for something to do.
RDM: Yeah, looking for something to do.
Terry: Excuse our cat.
RDM: This- the apartment building where she is is actually the very same apartment complex that Kara's apartment is in. And this image of Laura in the fountain was something I wanted to put into an episode a couple years ago and David Eick talked me out of it. There was an ep- the episode where we did the flashback and we found out that Laura was having the affair with Adar and I wanted to have the beat in there, the day she found out that she got cancer, which is obviously the day of the attack, that she left the doctor's office and she went straight out into the park and sat in a fountain because she didn't know what else to do with her. And we didn't do it then, but I was always struck by this image of Laura irrationally walking into a fountain and sitting underneath the water and just letting it pour down- on her. And that people would just sit there and stare at her and that she wouldn't care, and that there was this sense of loss and this sense of hopelessness and yet- trying to find life, trying to feel something, trying to feel alive, that I felt was just fascinating and interesting and I love the i- I knew Mary would look great doing it and I just- I'm really glad that we finally got to work that in towards the end.
Terry: It's so poignant. Well, just imagine. Your whole family?
RDM: Yeah, essentially. Her whole family. 'Cause her mother was- had already died sometime before that of cancer.
Terry: It's just staggering.
RDM: Going back to what I started the podcast talking about, there was an alternate ending that we were going to do. There was a longer plot that had all to do with- once Ellen woke up aboard the Cylon colony with Cavil and realized who she was and we got through the backstory of the Final Five, which was pretty much the same, the idea was that essentially she was gonna- once she found out that out there somewhere her husband was- that Tigh was actually involved with a Cylon, he was involved with a Six, and that he had impregnated her, that she was essentially become enraged, bitter, anger and all this flood of emotion that was part of Ellen was gonna turn her against them and she was gonna- she and Cavil were going to be become the big baddies of the show. And they were going to kidnap- Hera. I'm looking back at my notes trying to reconstruct this here. Baltar- duh, duh, duh. Tory meets with Cavil, discovers that Ellen is alive. Let me go back a little bit. Well, that's the end of the act.