Sources:Concurring Opinions Interview with Ron Moore and David Eick/Part 2
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This part of the interview covers the subjects of politics and the economical structures with the Fleet.
Dave Hoffman: I'm going to explore with you some of the political and economic themes in the show. Just like the [topics of the] legal system and torture that we've been talking about, [let's discuss] the [Colonials'] political and economic systems under severe stress. I wanted to talk a little bit about the economy to start.
So in the [Season Two] episode "Black Market", we learn that their current economic system looks like Soviet-era Russia with a state-run distribution of economic goods, supplemented by a black market [with] luxury [items] and medicines. [Earlier], in [Season One's] "Bastille Day", we learn that the Fleet has engaged in forced labor in the past. Finally, we know from [Season Three's] "Dirty Hands", and maybe after "Dirty Hands", that there's a work rotation in place. All these systems imply an absence of a market economy. We know very little, however, about how the economy is supposed to work. Was this a deliberate dramatic choice?
David Eick: Before either of us answers, I just want to say that I'm sorry that [Dave] mentioned "Black Market." I meant to send a memo before this that no one was allowed to bring that up.
Hoffman: What's wrong with "Black Market"?
Eick (laughing): Oh nothing!
Hoffman: Ah. . . .
Moore: [Regarding] the economic system, we started from the assumption [that] the Colonial society that was destroyed was very analogous to our own [American society]. It was a capitalist society; it was a democratic society. The culture was very similar [to our own]. We wanted all those touchstones. We assumed that there was an economic system very similar to that in which we operate now. We then started thinking in broader terms: Okay, there's twelve colonies. Each one is on its own planet, [and] they probably have a lot of variation [between] them. Probably more than the states [in the US] do between them, but maybe not [as much] as nations do between them. [The variation among them is] in some sort of middle ground between the two, [with] a certain amount of autonomy to each Colony, but they were in some federal existence.
Also, [they were] in some kind of trade partnership with one another [with] some commonwealth [like] notion. Then, after the apocalypse and the exodus from the Twelve Colonies, now [the people are] just in space, in just these ships. At that point, you had the top-down system. "Okay, we've got to distribute; we've got to divide up the supplies; we have to ration certain things; we have to make sure everyone is getting fed, everyone is getting clothed, everyone has fuel for their ships." It just felt like there had to be this very strong hand of authority from above.
But as things went on [the] black market would develop. Naturally, there would be the impulse to return to capitalist systems [and] that the market would assert itself. There would be a tension. The idea of the episode, "Black Market" -- which was a little too complex for television (and certainly in the way we went about it) -- was to try to illustrate that tension. Okay, here Laura [Roslin] is trying to guide them back to a market-driven system and introduce a currency [in an attempt to] move them off of an authoritarian scheme, but the black market was already getting more and more powerful. It was starting to devolve into power bases, and ruthlessness, and killings, and all these other things. It was supposed to be an episode to try to say: "The market will be heard even in that place, and you have to make some accommodation for the fact that people will be people. They will always try to trade what they have, and they will always seek out what they don't have."
Hoffman: So you guys don't feel like that episode succeeded as dramatically as you hoped it would. Is that one of the reasons you haven't returned to trying to figure out what daily economic life looks like on a civilian ship?
Moore: Partially, but also we were scalded by the experience dramatically. ["Black Market"] failed dramatically as a character piece and as a story. I just wasn't satisfied with it. It's also limited by the fact that, in a production sense for the show, production constraints are such that we have a great difficulty setting episodes aboard other civilian ships. It's very, very expensive and requires a lot of resources. We've generally chosen to put those resources into other areas, instead of completely setting up civilian society and an economic system somewhere else and really explore it.
But we've done a little bit [in that regard]. In "Dirty Hands," we went over and saw conditions aboard the [tylium] refinery ship and [explored the issue of] labor. [Also,] we brought civilians aboard Galactica in season three and put them downstairs in the hangar deck [a.k.a. "Dogsville"]. We wanted this [civilian group] to be its own little socioeconomic sub-group, but it just never quite pulled the drama for us as storytellers. We just kept on finding other things to do.
Eick: As Michael Rymer (our producer [who] directed the mini-series and [our] most memorable episodes) likes to say -- he's Australian -- "when I do somethin', I do it prop'rly". It's very, very difficult to do stories like that "prop'rly" because, as Ron was saying, [we have limited] production resources. And you'd be surprised [at how difficult it is to] cram the density of stories like this into 40 minutes. (That's what an hour of TV is now -- 40 minutes.)
Since it's difficult, you find yourself left to make the decision to spend those resources [between] the areas [of]: "Let's build a new ship. Let's do this, let's do that." Then you get into the cutting room and the episode's 20 minutes too long. Guess what goes? All the stuff you spent your resources building because the reality of the show [is that it] ultimately wants to be about these people in the places that the audience has been accustomed to seeing them. [By spending your resources building unique sets and other trappings] it just becomes a luxury you can't afford either economically or time-wise. I think eventually we gave up trying to make that a staple of the show.
It's worth mentioning that in the selling of the show, we had to go to great lengths to assure the network that the show would not be war-culture rooted. [We had to assure the network] that we would be exploring the elementary school ship, the shopping mall ship, the Disney Land ship, and the nightclub ships. None of that ever really happened.
Hoffman: It seems like that in the first and second season there were more forays into [life on ships in the Fleet], like the meeting ship [Cloud 9] or the movie theater ship. [Transcriber's Note: Hoffman is likely referring to "Final Cut" when the Cylons are watching D'Anna [Biers]'s transmission in a movie theater, which is presumably on the Colonies and not set in a ship.] [And this] didn't really go through, [so the answer to my earlier question] is going to be no. You're not going to do an episode from the perspective of ordinary Fleet members.
Moore: Yeah, but the trick on those episodes (even in Trek) [is] that the point of view is usually [of] someone [who] is a low-ranking crewmember who is already aboard the Enterprise [like TNG's "Lower Decks"] or on board the space station. You're just shifting the perspective slightly, but not literally taking it off the ship and planting it somewhere else.
Hoffman: Right. I guess the big question is: Why do people do any work on the Fleet? In the absence of economic incentive to do so, are they forced to work at gunpoint? Is everyone like the folks [on the tylium ship] in "Dirty Hands"?
Eick: We've had a lot of conversation about that in "33," which is the first episode of the one-hour series. I remember boiling it down to a particular moment in which a mistake that [Anastasia] Dualla had made [in losing the Olympic Carrier] had cost them dearly, and [Colonel Saul] Tigh, walking up and down the CIC, was yelling: "We're all here to do our jobs."
I remember looking at the footage, and everyone's exhausted. They haven't slept in days and days and days. They look like they're about to keel over, and there was a part of you . . . . (I can't remember, Ron, if we talked about this in the story phase or the script phase, or edit phase. . . I can't remember), but there was a part of you that was [asking]: Why are they doing their jobs? Why don't they just say, "Blow me!" and throw up their hands and walk away? I remember the answer being [that] particularly when people are in dire straits, when it is all about survival, it's surprising how they do take solace in having a purpose, in having a role to play in that community structure, in the idea that they're a smaller part of a greater whole. That's actually part of human survival, and we would talk a lot about things like [for example, the fact that the Jews in Germany] would still have Hanukkah in concentration camps [during World War II]. There were jobs. There was a social structure within even the most desperate situations.
It's a really compelling question to me because I know that was a big question for us very early on. We all just said: "You know, they do it because to not do it is to die on some level."
Moore: There was an interesting line that [Tom] Zarek had in [season one's] "Colonial Day", where he's making his case for a collectivist approach to their government, and [arguing that] they should leave all the trappings behind [from] the old system. He was with some reporters, walking around on that ship that had a simulated outdoors [Cloud 9], and he pointed over to a gardener and said, "This guy gets up every morning and goes to work, and he gardens. Why? To what end?" He said, "It's like we [are] all just repeating the motions. We're just repeating these tasks we used to do. We have lawyers who are still pretend to be lawyers." There was a sense of inertia, at least in those early days, that they all were going to continue to try to just keep doing what they used to do, because to give up that identity (to give up your identity as "the gardener," to give up your identity as "the lawyer") was to essentially cast [yourself] into the abyss. You would have no identity. So there were those pressures on these people as well.
Hoffman: I get that, essentially in the early seasons. I get that with the military and other collectivist sub-cultures. But after they have the interim on the planet [New Caprica] and then they go back to the Fleet, the question I've always had was: "Why are there journalists still?"
Moore: The society does have to do things like propagate information, so it seemed like there was an incentive for the government to want to have a press, to want to have ways of conveying information. If you believed in a free press, and if you believed that it was fundamental to a democratic society, you would allow the journalists to continue to operate like that and not appoint your own minister of propaganda.
Hoffman: I understand why the government would want it, but what do the people (such as the journalists) get out of it?
Moore: Yeah, one of the things that we've skirted around a little bit is how they are compensated. We initially were going to dispense with the idea of money, that the whole thing was going to evolve to a barter system. That became very awkward just for dramatic purposes, to continually just barter for everything. You'll see some examples of that in the early days. [Gaius] Baltar bets his shirt in a poker [triad] game [in "Water"] and et cetera.
We just defaulted to an idea that they're still going to use currency. We want to keep using currency in the show for dramatic purposes. Let's just assume that, somehow, the economic system has asserted itself. They still place value in money in some way, shape, or form. They all decided [to continue to place value on their currency], like we decide in this strange dream of a world where pieces of paper with dead presidents on it has real value. Somehow, they ascribe the same meaning to whatever form of currency they've got. It's still scarce; it's still buys you things; it still wants to make you accumulate it; it accrues wealth and status to you if you have it.
Once we've accepted that premise, it felt like somebody's paying somebody in some fashion we don't quite understand and we don't want to examine. We don't know what really stands behind it. There's nothing of intrinsic value backing up the currency, but let's just slide by that because if we look too closely to that aspect of the culture, it collapses and, darn it, we need them to be making bets in the poker game with something.
Eick: The journalist thing is so funny. I can't remember what the first episode ["Litmus"] was that we introduced the press conference in, but I was on the set, and somehow or another, that question came up. It may have been Eddie Olmos who asked. He loves to provoke exactly this category of things. "Why would they do that!?" [And I would say], "Eddie, you're not in the scene." [And he would reply:] "I don't care, why would they [do that]?"
I remember saying to the director, "You see those people over there? Those 8, 16, or 20 extras that we have? They were journalists back in the day, before the attack. It's what they know." It's like what Ron was saying earlier: It's a way they have of maintaining their identity. "You see those 4 people over there? They always wanted to be journalists, but they couldn't get arrested before the attacks, and now here's their chance! And you see those three people over there? They fucking hate journalism and think the whole thing is a crock, and they've basically infiltrated the room because they can see if they can somehow undermine it."
Everyone went, "Ok, that works!" There was at least a system of logic, even though when you watch the episode there's no telling the difference between the three categories.
Hoffman: But one of them [D'Anna Biers] was a Cylon, as we learn later. . . And I guess that makes a good transition to [what] Deven's going to talk to you about the Cylons . . . although I can talk to you about the economy all day long.