Podcast:The Oath

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"The Oath" Podcast
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Length of Podcast: 44:54
Speaker(s)
Ronald D. Moore
Ronald D. Moore
Terry Dresbach
Comedy Elements
Scotch:
Smokes:
Word of the Week:
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Teaser

Hello, and welcome to the podcast. This is Ronald D. Moore, executive producer and developer of the new Battlestar Galactica, and I'm here to take you through the podcast for episode fifteen of season four, "The Oath". The smoking lamp is out, unfortunately, tonight. The Scotch is is Scotch, and it is a Scotch called Arran, or Arran, or something, A - R - R - A - N, for those of you following along at home. OK. "The Oath" is the first of the mutiny stories. The mutiny was seen by the writing staff as a key event in the second half of the final season. This is really when things- if you though things were falling apart before this, this is when the battle lines are really drawn, and this is when this Fleet might seriously tear itself apart, which is something that we had always talked about in the background of the series up unti- in previous seasons. We'd always alluded to the fact that there was dissension among the civilian ships, that there were arguments even among people aboard Galactica, but it had really never really broken out into an outright mutiny. And so [coughs] it felt like this was the time to finally bring that to fruition and really have- play the mutiny story aboard ship.

Right here at the beginning we talked about the fact. In early drafts, I think, Adama was being a little bit more- secretive about the fact that he and Laura were now sleeping together. He was- I think in the original story document he came to the door and got coffee from his orderly and sort of protected the fact that Laura was staying there, and in a subsequent draft I think I gave the note to Mark Verheiden, who wrote this episode, "Well, what if he's- Let's make it a little bit more over. He's not trying to hide it. It is what it is. Have Tigh come over in the morning, like he does most mornings, with the morning report, and Laura just like- have her just casually walk out of the back room and just play it like it was no big deal, and play the fun of Tigh's reaction," which I knew would essentially be gold, that Mike would give us a great thing, and that Mary would enjoy playing it off against him. And there was something about this that I really liked, which was to say, OK, if they're sleeping together and they're in love, and they're essentially making no bones about the fact that they're a couple, and Laura's not even trying to be president anymore, then they would just be somewhat domestic in how they dealt with all these things, and how they played together, and I like the feeling of the domesticity of the scene. And counterbalancing, or counterpointing that, would be the mutiny story getting underway.

What was important to me in the mutiny story was that you felt Gaeta's plan unvelop along with- that the audience felt the plan unveloping along with the characters. Clearly we've missed a beat, in that we've missed Gaeta laying out the plan to Zarek and all of his cohorts, but I thought it was a little bit more fun to just go with it and experience it as it happened. Another thing that we added into this episode after the fact, when we were doing the post-production on it, is you'll notice that periodically through throughout this entire episode these chirons will come up on the screen and they'll tell you what time it is and where you are on the ship. That's because when I was watching the initial cuts of this, the director's cut and subsequent cuts, I felt like- I love the story, and it was really moving, but it somehow- it felt like it was taking too long. Like you just kept feeling like, "Well, shouldn't Adama figure this out by now? Shouldn't Gaeta have- is this- are they just taking too long? Is it not happening fast enough?" And then I just hit upon the idea, well if you put a chiron up periodically that just shows you that not very much time has passed because, in truth, very little time is passing between all of these scenes, and this is actually happening at breakneck speed, that the time factor would not only orient you to- the chiron would not only orient you to where you were aboard ship but it also emphasize the point that this was happening lightning fast. And the funny thing was, as soon as we started putting the chirons up on these scenes, the whole show really started to feel like it was roaring ahead. Like you were just- it was- it's sort of a breathless pace in this episode. It's just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and events keep happening. And it's just a very, very simple trick, is just putting up- the running- clock, throughout.

I really like the way these two play off this scene between the two of them. "I'll try to make it home-" I love that. That they're just both knowing and they're both playing against their roles. Adama giving her enough rope to reel her back in, that he knows, on some level, that she might be- that she might still wanna be president again and won't quite help- can't quite help herself.

This is an interesting beat in that when- as originally scripted, I don' t think that there was Zarek taking the wrench out and taking down Laird during this whole thing. That was added later on. I felt like there had to be a little bit more brutality, something a little bit uglier up in the teaser, and so we have this beat coming up here where Zarek clocks this guy with a wrench. It was also important to feel the plausibility of the plan, that there were excuses and there were cover stories for every little event that was happening aboard ship at this moment. That Gaeta had ways of covering all the possibilities, that they had an excuse to get people off the flight deck. That he had answers for Laird's logical questions. He- but the problem was that Laird just won't vary from procedure and he just- he presses the point one step too far. That Gaeta had thought he would only go so far and then Laird takes it, unfortunately, to his own demise here. And I like the fact that it said something about Tom Zarek. That Tom Zarek knows when he has to take matters into his hands. And Tom is a guy who's participated in revolutions and in coups and moments like this and knows that you have to step up and be willing to spill some blood in order to accomplish your purposes. And the reaction of Skulls tells us a lot too. It tells us how deep the divisions really are aboard Galactica and how it's possible that the mutiny could take place at all.

I also really like this division between the two guys at the head of the coup. Their diff- their somewhat conflicting agendas. Gaeta's ideas of why he's doing what he's doing and how he wants to go about it and Zarek's much more pragmatic, much more, "Look, we're doing something illegal. We're doing something dangerous. We can't fuck around here. We're gonna- people are gonna die, and we're probably gonna have to kill 'em, and you gotta do what you gotta do." It's a great show. I mean, that teaser goes by fast. Like I said earlier, this is- when I sat down and started watching all the episodes of the second half of the season, back to back, just for my own pleasure, and I was watching them in a run, this show just- this one is one of the fastest moving shows that I think we've done in the course of the series.

Act 1

Beginning of act one. This episode was directed by John Dahl, who actually worked with my wife, with Terry. Terry was his costume designer on a lot of his movies, actually. Almost all of- of John Dahn's films, Terry was the costume designer on. She was one of his company of people that he liked to work with over and over again. She worked on "Last Seduction" with John, and "Red Rock West", and several other films that were really, really great, and John has- a reputation as one of the great independent film directors and I was t- really intrigued by the idea of working with him on Galactica, and it turned out he was interested in doing it, and came up, and he was prepping his epis- this episode while I was shooting my episode, while I was shooting "Disquiet", and so I didn't get to work with him a lot in prep, but he came down a couple times. We had a couple of conversations and then when he began shooting, I was doing some of my second unit work on Galactica and I went back over to the main stage and watched him work for a while. It was really interesting. What he's brought to this particular episode, which I think is a very difficult thing, especially for a director who hadn't worked on the show before, you'll note that throughout this episode we're constantly cutting around the ship. There's a lot of things happening in different places. And John took our standing sets, and was able to make you feel the size of the Galactica and make you feel a sense of geography where it didn't actually exist. In other words, we have only a limited number of corridors and doorways and intersections and ladders, and so on, and John was able to go into our sets and continually make you feel like you were moving throughout the ship. That people were scattered around in all these disparate corners of Galactica and this one of- this is the first time in the series, actually, that I truly felt the size of the ship, and that's really just about his skill of how he sets- up and stages scenes, and it's as simple as camera movement and actor movement across the camera. You know, is the actor moving left to right, or right to left? Where the cameras position, and how he's making you feel at different points. Like, this is just, where we are here with Anders and playing the little pseudo-pyramid game, this is just one of our multi- this is just our multi-purpose room that is used for many, many things, but the way he set it up and backed up the set piece and chose to film it, it feels almost like, "Oh, here's a new set that we've never seen before. Here's like, a- some kind of gymnasium we haven't been in." And it's really just using existing pieces and being clever about how you light it and how film it, and John did that throughout this whole show. I mean, you'll see it over and over again. You keep feeling like you're jumping around to many- to places on the Galactica that are far apart, when in reality they're the same old sets and this wasn't an extraordinarily expensive episode at all.

I like this little beat here with Seelix and Anders. I like the fact that here in the second half of the last season, we're making efforts to connect in all these disparate threads we've had over time. The Seelix-Anders relationship that never quite got off the ground from a while ago, we can now touch in again and use it as part of the plot and setting up character, and also again drawing lines and making you aware of who's on which side of the coming crisis. And the brutality of it. And the anger that they would have towards the Cylons.

One of the- things that, to me, made this all possible and plausible, was Gaeta's unique position aboard- in the CIC. He's really at a key function. He's controlling communications going in and out. He's controlling damage control efforts. He's a senior deck officer. He's trusted by the inner circle. And he has an ability to manipulate their perceptions of everything happening around the ship. See, I love that. That he's actually the one saying, "Oh, it's not an accident. Maybe something's up." It throws suspicion off of himself completely, makes Adama at ease, makes it all feel very natural. And that's- I kept emphasizing that through- as we developed the script is- you had to feel natural. You had to put yourself in Adama's place and believe that he would believe everything that Gaeta's telling him, and that there would be nothing to raise an eyebrow. It was very important that the mutiny itself take place in a believable way so that Adama didn't look like a fool on his own ship.

Oh, that Starbuck. Fire aboard ship is obviously a very serious thing. I doubt it's the first fire they've had on Galactica that wasn't a combat- result of combat. So it's not completely unheard of. But it's still- it moves people around. There's evacuations. There's damage control things that would swing into place. But all that's been anticipated and all that's been taken care of by Gaeta and the fire is providing the cover for moving men and equipment from A to B, and for taking actions like this, which is to get into a small arms locker and start handing out guns.

One of the other things that I thought made the mutiny possible, and made it believable that word would not travel faster than it does over the course of this time, is just that fact that Galactica at this point in the series is severely undermanned, and has a fair number of civilians on board. The ship was undermanned to begin with in the miniseries, because they had somewhat of a skeleton crew aboard because the ship was getting ready to be decommissioned and put into retirement. And then they took on civilians and they trained new people over the years since, but the ship has never been fully manned ever since, and at this point after the losses on New Caprica and various combat situations, at this point in time the sh- there are probably big ch- areas of the ship that are empty. The security- the internal security is probably a fraction of what it would have been at its- if it had a full complement aboard. And I think Gaeta is smart enough to use that- use those weaknesses against them. Really, they could probably repe- they were able to repel Cylon boarding parties, as we've seen, but a situation like this where an internal insurrection, a mutiny, happens, is just not something that Adama and his security guys are really ready to deal with, 'cause it really was kinda the unthinkable.

In early drafts I believe the situation with Zarek and the quorum happened a little faster, in that Zarek came aboard Colonial One and somewhat quickly had Laura Roslin declared incompetent, or if not incompetent, at least that she had abandoned her post and didn't want anything to do with it, and wanted himself declared president and installed immediately, and I can't remember the exact rationale he gave to the quorum at that point, but the quorum went- the idea was that the quorum went along with his reasoning rather quickly and he was declared president in this episode. And that gave him added authority to deal with things, and Lee didn't want to accept it. Lee refused to accept his authority, and that's what drove Lee back to Galactica to have Laura Roslin take control of the situation. But as the script and the next script developed, I felt that that wasn't the right course. I didn't want the quorum to turn to Zarek so quickly, and it also didn't feel as believable. It just felt like that the coup had to take place at a slightly slower pace and that you had to be straight with how people would really react in these situations.

It's great. Gaeta's just got it all wired. He's disabled communications. He's made the disabling of communications look suspicious, so they know something's up, but they don't really have a method to do anything about it, yet. I mean, they think they're handling it, but they're unaware that they have all this- that the problem is really right there in CIC with them.

And this- is really the crux of the matter. Can you make a deal with the Cylons with the rag tag fleet? Are people really gonna accept that after everything they've gone through fighting the Cylons tooth and nail. Just because we the storytellers have decided to bring them into the Fleet, is everyone gonna accept it?

I love this beat with Kara. I love that. She just shoots him. "I can do this all day." Katee's really good in this episode. This was also an opportunity to bring back Starbuck that we knew and loved, before all the events of "Scar", not "Scar", of when she dies and comes back and who is she and what's she about and her own internal angst. It's nice to put the guns in her hands again and watch her kickin' ass and takin' names.

This is a scary scene. This bothers me every time I see it. They're just in their home and they hear the- you hear that something's out there and dad kinda knows. The little girl. OK, wait a minute. Oh, yeah. And then he comes back from Pegasus. Again, like I said earlier, bringing back the Seelix thread. Bringing back him from Pegasus. It was all- you wanted to put faces to the mutineers and faces to the people who were loyal. And it was an opportunity to bring back a lot of the continuity in the show and make you feel like the whole- that there really was this living, breathing, society.

Act 2

OK. It reminds me a little bit, in some ways, of "Valley of Darkness". Season two episode where the Cylons were aboard and the ship was blacked out and they were trying to defend themselves against the Centurions. It has certain overtones of that, of trying to run from A to B and you never knew what was around the corridor, but somehow this feels scarier, because you're not sure who's friend and who's foe. In that episode there was at least the relief of knowing that the enemy were all the big shiny guys walking around, and in this one you weren't quite sure who's on whose side and you felt everything spiraling out of control. Especially, again, to go back to the earlier point, on a ship the size of Galactica, which is really very, very large. And if you think that a lot of the decks are not manned any more or have become disused over time for one reason or another, and you don't have a full complement of marines. You don't have security taking these guys down, and even- security's even involved in a lot of this stuff. It would be really hard to grapple with this situation that they're faced with. And this is also about the size of the ship. CIC is a fair distance from where this fire is supposed to be. It's not easy to get word all the way back up to CIC. Sends a runner.

I'll just get right over there and help you.

See? This is the point in the podcast where I just start watching the show, 'cause I kinda like the show. [chuckles]

There's not a lot to tell in terms of development of all of this. I mean, a lot of this was in the original story document that I went back and reviewed again, and it was in Mark's original outline and we just expanded upon it and broke it down into disparate scenes. And then here again, this just all John, John Dahl, workin' the sets and making you feel a sense of scale. People running down. Random people. Firefights at every turn. Which direction is Lee supposed to go? Where are the good guys? Where are the bad guys? How can you know the difference? Sometimes people shoot back. Sometimes people give up. I really wanted a sense of chaos. I wanted to feel, from their point of view, I wanted this to feel like a very scary, dangerous environment where just walking down a hallway could potentially put a bullet in your head.

And boom. Jaws spring shut. I like the peoples still holding onto the helm console. It's like they don't- they're still gonna hold onto the controls of the ship.

This is a great moment in the series, to me. This is one of the key decision points in the series, when Adama's own CIC is taken from him.

I mean, it's hard to argue with a lot of things that Gaeta says. I mean, he's right. It's a legitimate point of view to say that Adama's leading them all to hell. They're now- their greatest enemy is now supposed to be their friend and they're just supposed to be OK with that. And especially since Earth turned out to be a bunch of crap. I mean, why are you listening to Bill Adama at this point? Why are you taking orders from a Cylon? Why are you doing any of these things? 'Cause where is it leading?

It's really great that you ca- how much you can physically feel Adama's anger in this scene. I mean, Eddie really just projects this rage through that moment.

Act 3

Gaeta is driven by his leg, but I think also- by losing his leg, but he's also driven by what I think are legitimate concerns. I mean, he's always been- a very skeptical of the Cylons, of putting up with them, of trusting any of them, all the way through, and he worked for Gaius Baltar in New Caprica as his aide-de-camp. He saw life under the occupation. He's gone through a hell of a lot. I mean, they all have, but Gaeta- I don't think Gaeta could ever believe where the Admiral and the president were taking them all. And we kinda built that up over time. From Kar- from going out with Kara out on her crazy mission on the Demetrius on forward, he's been railing against where the leadership of the Fleet is taking them and it just- the leg was really a major snapping point for the man, and then the events that took place during the webisodes when he was adrift on the- in the raptor, and then finally when they started putting Cylon technology aboard the civilian ships and proposing a formal alliance with them. I think something in the man just snapped, and he said, "This far and no farther."

And this is really where Laura comes back. I mean, now Laura- in a crisis, when the shit hits the fan, Laura Roslin is there. Laura steps up. It's- she does- she's not sitting on the couch bemoaning her fate anymore and just wanting to be left alone to die. She really does step to the fore.

And I like this- notion that they're all- people are now on their own. And the ship is big enough that people are starting to barricade their own sections. The civilians are trying to protect themselves. And I love that Baltar is outta here. That Baltar is not manning the barricades with the gun. Baltar's like, "OK. I wish you could all go with me, but I gotta go." Ohh. You gotta love Baltar. [Chuckles] "You can keep the statue."

It's also good to put- there's something fun about putting Lee and Kara back together again with guns in their hands. Fighting side by side. Their circumstances have changed so much, but there's something iconic about Apollo and Starbuck fighting the good fight together, guarding one another's backs. It's great that we got- we were able to get back to that idea here as we approach the final few episodes.

I mean, now the ship is just divided up into isolated pockets of resistance and isolated pockets of control, and it's really dependent on where you are and who's- who you're with that determines whether you're gonna live and die or even- or just be captured in this circumstance.

This is a great sequence. Just the way these two old guys- Tigh and Adama and the way they play this. The physicality of it. The emotion of it. The smarts. The way they know the other's moves. Right there. Just turns on him. And watch how well he plays this. This is just ver- this is just all Eddie. It's just very physical. Just- you're boom! He just comes at him. And Tigh's there ready. It's just a very smart- it's a good plan. And just shoots him down. You don't wanna fuck with these two.

And you don't wanna fuck with her. As subsequent events will show. [chuckles]

I mean, events from this point for- I can say that the end of the series, the finale, the seeds are germinating in all these episodes. I mean the paths that began even in episode thirteen and beyond, but especially here, there are things that actually, in retrospect, when you look back after you've seen the finale, you'll see that all those things that got us to the end point in the series were born in all these episodes. And so all these- the machinations of the different motivation- the machinations of the plot and people's different motivations and how these elements are all swimming together. You can't see the pattern right now in the middle of it, but there is a pattern to everything that's going on, and there's a direction to where the series is going, and it's born in a lot- in these episodes

It's nice that Laura and Baltar get to have this little "Who's more- screwed up, you or I?" in the midst of all this. I always liked the idea of Adama having- being forced to retake his own ship. That was always a really sexy component of these episo- of the mutiny episodes was- it wasn't just Kara and Lee going through the halls. It was something really viscerable about Adama on his own vessel, trying to take his own vessel back from people who had taken it from him.

I like that Tom Zarek- I mean, it was- This was one of the key points of difference between the two, was Zarek knew that Adama should have been executed immediately. And Gaeta has different plans for the Admiral. Gaeta has a different agenda from Zarek, and it's really the difference between those two agendas that will be their undoing, really.

I mean, this is the moment when Laura's back. I mean, this is really when she- this is the moment when she assumes the reigns once again.

I like the fact that he doesn't know how to work the equipment as well as Gaeta does. That it's not as simple as throwing a switch and jamming a signal. That- we were at pains to make all this believable that Laura can get a signal out. It would take 'em at least a couple of minutes for a new crew in CIC to cut it off.

Uh, let's see. See? That's effectively done. That's one of those classic movie moments where the two good guys come around the corners and point guns at one another, but it's really depends on how you stage it. The fact that he was- you're with Kara and Lee mostly, that you're really in their perspective and you come around the corner on their side. You're not cutting between the two. And the way he composes the shot is John came around there with Lee, you the audience are ready to shoot before you see Adama. And it's just- there's a certain [gasps] moment when you realize it's Adama.

Act 4

And back.

We talked a lot about the relationship between Gaeta and Baltar over the years. A lot of that had gone by the wayside over the last season or so but it was- there was something really interesting about it, at it's heart, even at the beginning of the series when we designated Gaeta as hero-worshiping Baltar to an extent because they were both- had an interest in science and Gaeta fancied himself a bit of a- having a bit of a scientific mind. And he did. But Gaius Baltar was a celebrity and a legitimate genius. There was a certain affinity between the two. And Gaeta having no idea of Baltar's responsibility in the destruction of the colonies. And who the- the nature of the man that he was dealing with, and how that would help Baltar, but also make Baltar feel incredibly guilty at the same time. And I was always really fond of that dynamic between those two men, even going so far as to say that when Baltar became president that he would tap Gaeta to be his right hand, and that Gaeta would accept the position, eve- and then remain in it even during the occupation and try to- he believed in Baltar on some- very fundamental level. And that belief was for naught, and I think that also embittered Gaeta and his belief in authority and his belief in following people and his disillusion with Gaius Baltar contributes in a very fundamental way towards his- where he ultimately gets to in these episodes. And I like that Baltar is willing to pick up the phone and try. Baltar is willing to use his personal connection to this man to try to stop this. Baltar's traveling a road too. In many ways, Baltar and Felix are going in opposite directions. Baltar's trying to claw his way back towards the light, as best he can in his own deeply flawed way, and Gaeta is going deeper into the darkness.

There is a missing element in the show now. We shot this before we did the webisodes, so an element that we would've played in the series, had we known that we were gonna do it in the webisodes is of course the relationship between Gaeta and Hoshi. In the webisodes we establish that Gaeta is having- has a relationship with Hoshi, a romantic and probably sexual relationship with Hoshi, and if we had known that at the time we were doing this there clearly would've been a stronger Hoshi element in these episodes. There would've been more fallout. There would've been a question of whose side Hoshi was gonna be on. But that just came later and it was something that we came up with when we were doing the webisodes, which were done after the series had wrapped, afterly- actually, and I like the idea of that relationship in Gaeta's life, and I liked what it did in the webisodes and as we thought back of how it affected these episodes. There's nothing in here that contradicts that relationship. There's nothing that says, "Oh, well they couldn't have been in a relationship because of X, Y, and Z." And I think it's- for people listening to the podcasts and people who are presumably fans of the show, I don't think it takes a tremendous effort to find a rationalization that essentially we're just not seeing those scenes. We're just not seeing the moment of decision between Hoshi and Gaeta, and that they did occur off-camera, and that we the audience just didn't get a chance to see them.

Right there. I love the way that Starbuck and Apollo react when Laura and Adama kiss each other so publicly. And they make no effort to hide this whatsoever. It's almost deliberately in front of all of them. And I love the way that the two kids look at one another like what mom and dad are doing. It's like, OK, whatever. I don't know what to make of this. And that they make a public statement of their love for one another. And that love is not to be questioned or fucked around with in any way. This is now something that's important to the Admiral. It's something that's important to the president. And that's the way it's going to be.

And then we get down here to the f- to the end. To the final place that we end the cliffhanger on. And will they escape? What becomes of Adama? Where are we gonna go in all this? This is a really good- this is the classic place you break the two-parter. Where everything is still hanging in the balance. You're feeling like the show cannot possibly be over. You're looking at your watch going, "No! This can't be it! They're gonna keep going, aren't they?" I mean, it's a good- In many ways it's better than a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger's where you really maximize the tension and you're literally- they're hanging off the cliff and what's gonna happen. This has so much going on. This just feels- this is a- this just feels like we interrupted the story midpoint. And that's the definition of a two-parter, really. It's just- there really are two parts to this that you could watch concurrent- not concurrent. You could watch them sequentially together and it would make a very cohesive story. And we've just chosen to artificially break them in the middle because television demands that we deliver hours instead of two hours.

This we decid- this took a bit of wrangling and figuring out Gaeta's response and how much he would belabor it. Would he give the order? Would he not give the order? It felt like this was a- one of several points of no return for Mr. Gaeta when he orders them to shoot down the Raptor. That felt like he was making a further commitment to the path he was already on.

The two old soldiers gonna just- they're gonna defend this little port until that Raptor gets outta here. That's pretty cool. I like that. I like him shooting between the cracks. There really aren't a lot of ways out of this room. To be continued.

Well, there you have it. That's episode fifteen, "The Oath". I hope you enjoyed it. I think it's a good episode and I think the next one's really good as well. We're on a really good run to the finish. As we say in the writers' room, we're in the mad dash for the logo. So until next time, this is Ronald D. Moore signing off. Good night, and good luck.