Ron Moore Provides Further Insights About His Take On Galactica
By Ian M. Cullen
About two weeks ago certain information about the remake of Battlestar Galactica was leaked via the Filmjerk website. Although the information was accurate and confirmed by Ron Moore to myself and Battlestargalactica.com's Michael Faries, Moore stated that the character breakdowns should be in no way considered to be an accurate synopsis of Sci Fi's 4 part Galactica mini series.
I caught up with Ron in e-mail and asked if he would like the opportunity to clarify a few things with regard to the leaked information. The following is an E mail Q&A between myself and Ron Moore about the proposed and greenlighted mini series.
First and foremost thank you for agreeing to this follow up work.
It would appear that the casting sheet for the remake of Galactica that you have been working on got leaked, as to who leaked what is as much a mystery to me as it is to you. But the following questions am hoping will offer you the opportunity to clarifie a few things.
1. First and foremost, I would say that the issue that has gotton most fans in uproar is your decision to make Starbuck a lady. This one has even the most casual fans somewhat upset. How are you going to justify this in the historical context that the original show established, and what was it from your creative viewpoint that sparked the idea of Starbuck being a she rather than a he?
The idea of making Starbuck a woman was literally one of the first things I thought of, and it was in my original pitch to both the studio and the network.
On paper, the Starbuck character, as originally conceved, was a bit of a cliche, even in the 1970s -- the hotshot who does things his own way, chases women, smokes, gambles, drinks, etc., but then always pulls it together in time for a mission and is the best gall-darn pilot anyone's ever seen. The saving grace of the original character, in my opinion, was Dirk Benedict, who had an innate easy charm about him and who seemed to always play Starbuck with a wink and a nod to the audience which made the more familiar aspects of the character slide by a little easier. Even then, people were forever making unfavorable comparisons to Han Solo.
So updating and revitalizing the character was a given, but the question in my mind was how? While it may surprise some to hear it, I wasn't interested in completely throwing out the character and creating a whole new person. I like the notion of Starbuck the rogue, the best pilot in the fleet, who is constantly getting pulled into problems by his best friend, the supposedly more level-headed Apollo. So how to avoid the cliches yet keep the essential aspects of the character?
One of the things that's changed between then and now is that women have become much more integrated into the US armed forces and they are edging ever closer to full-on combatants. Even so, it still feels strange to see women warriors, because we're not used to them yet. While science fiction has postulated the fully gender-integrated military of the future for some now, it's seldom portrayed realistically. Issues of privacy, living situations, and the all important male/female interaction and its impact on unit cohesion and morale are usually just brushed aside as in the Trekkian model of the perfect future where no one sleeps with someone they're not supposed to because Starfleet officers are just better than us. The original Galactica was a product of its time and was obviously sexist in the way even the notion of female pilots was considered crazy until all the men were waylaid by some virus and then (Holy Lords of Kobol!) the women had to fly the Vipers. I wanted the new Galactica to fully intergrate women into the equation, but not blink from it, not avoid the unpleasant fact that this won't always go smoothly and that there will be problems along the way.
Enter Kara Thrace. By simply changing Starbuck's gender, the rogue pilot suddenly becomes less of a cliche and more interesting if for no other reason than we haven't seen it a hundred times already. Ironically, by making Starbuck a woman I'm able to retain more of the original character traits simply by virtue of the fact that a woman doesn't usually play the role of the fighter jock. It plays fresher and more intriguing, because the interpersonal dynamics are now slightly different between Starbuck and Apollo.
To be clear, they are warriors first, friends second, and potential lovers a long way third. There's nary a kiss, a suggestive remark, or even an exchange of sexy banter between them in the entire script. Which is not to say their relationship couldn't turn into something more down the line, but it would be incredibly destructive to the morale of the squadron and I doubt very much that either of them wants to go there. Not to mention the fact that they share a history that makes it unlikely for the foreseeable future anyway. So that means we have the unusual pairing of the son of a great man, a good pilot in his own right, and now the leader of the last surviving fighter squadron and his female best friend, the hotshot rogue pilot who does things her own way, drinks, gambles, carouses, etc. It's a duo I haven't seen before and it plays really well.
I also just think it's a cool idea.
2. One of the things that you have commented on in the past, is that you felt Galactica lacked strong female roles. You have addressed this with the character of President Laura Roslin who finds herself taking on a strong leadership role during the aftermath of the Cylon attack. The information on the casting sheet for her was somewhat sketchy, would you care to explain how she fits into the scheme of things.
Laura Roslin is an educator who has risen to the upper levels of government. She is essentially the secretary of education, who in her opening scene discovers that she has terminal cancer and is forced to grapple with the fact of her own mortality. This also happens to be the day the world ended. Far down in the line of succession, Laura is suddenly called upon to take over the presidency, assemble a new government, set about find the elements of Colonial society that survived the holocaust, bring them together, and find a new home.
In assuming her role as president, she also comes into conflict with Adama, in that he is the senior surviving military leader. The tensions between the military and the civilian leadership is a natural, and for the most part, healthy aspect of a democracy and the reality of the Galactica world demands that the president have a strong role, not simply relegated to the caricature of the 'weak-willed' president that the wise military minds must constantly overcome. Laura has the burden of responsibility for the entire society, not just the warships under Adama's command.
3. Antother interesting aspect is the feud between Adama and Lee Apollo, now there were a few minor tussles between Apollo and his Father in the original, but nothing really earth shattering. Am I correct in assuming that by having Father and Son feud you are looking to try and recreate a more realistic Father Son Relationship.
I wouldn't call it a feud. There is an estrangement, a history of misunderstandings and emotional damage, but underneath it all is the eternal bond of father and son. Theirs is a complicated relationship made more complicated by the death of Lee's brother Zak, and by the fact that Adama has a closer relationship with Kara Thrace than with Lee. Kara and Adama are both 'old school.' Warriors to the bone. Wary of change and committed to the ideals that saved humanity in the past and will be tested again in the future. Lee is more like his mother, more intellectual, more progressive, but ironically still a man who took up his father's profession and has risen through the ranks on his own merits. It's a story of two men thrown together by circumstance who have to grapple with the additional complexity of emotion present in the ever-changing dynamic between father and son.
5. Baltar in the classic series was always really a victom of his own ego. In your creation you have Baltar being more like an innocent bystander who inadvertantly betrays humanity through his own ignorence. An element that has the fans concerned here is how will Number Six fit in with Balter, is Baltar blatently the victom here or is it a little more complex than that.
Baltar is not a victim. He is a brilliant, arrogant, and deeply flawed man who willingly breaks laws and ethics for his own personal gain and whose actions lead directly to the destruction of his entire world. He may not have foresee the consequences of his actions, but I doubt even Baltar thinks of himself as a victim. He let Number Six (which is an homage to 'The Prisoner' by the way, not 'Voyager' ) have access to sensitive information and systems both for personal reasons and for his own career ambitions. He is more than willing to sacrifice those around him to guarantee his own survival, and he is desperate that his secret not be found out. Baltar is not a nice man.
6. One aspect of the information that was leaked which also has tongues wagging is the fact that it says that the Cylons were created by the humans. This point was always a little sketchy in the original series, and was only ever truly hit upon once in the series, and fans were led to believe that the Cylons had evolved from a race of reptiles. Could you shed some light on this for us please.
As you point out, the original backstory was always a bit vague, and to me it seemed a little generic: robots out to conqueor the universe. Okay, reptilian creatures who became robots out to conqueor the universe.
One of the first questions we had to ask ourselves was what is the nature of the conflict between the Colonials and the Cylons? Why do the Cylons feel so strongly that they must wipe out humanity that they're willing to chase them across the galaxy? I mean, they just wiped out several billion human beings, their civilization is destroyed, and the Cylons are far and way the victor in their struggle, why chase after a few thousand humans running away?
'Well...... because they're EVIL.'
That didn't seem like a very satisfying answer during the original run and it seems even less satisfying now. To just write it off to Cylon 'programming' also seems rather dull and vaguely Borg-like. No, to sustain this kind of never-ending threat requires a deeper motivation, a more profound conflict between two civilizations.
I will be the first to admit that the idea of robots becoming sentient and then rising against their masters is not a new one. However, in this case it provides a logic and texture that makes the premise work for the first time. Also, I have to say that we've created something unique in exactly who the Cylons are, their philosophical and theological underpinnings, and in what they seek that I think differentiates them from, say, the replicants in 'Blade Runner.'It's hard to get into without giving it all away, but they are more complicated and textured, and the relationship between them and Colonial society is closer to that of offspring and parent writ large.
I've heard people say that because the Colonials created them, they have created their own problems, therefore they lose our sympathy. Well, yes and no. Certainly a parent bears some responsibility for the actions of their children, but where does that responsibility end? What are the limits? When does a child become an adult to be judged on their own merits? What does the child owe the parent? What does it resent? What qualities of the parent does the child retain? And when the analogy of parent and child is expanded into the realm of entire civilizations, how do the fundamental emotions of love and hate influence the story?
The Cylons are going to be very special creations in this version of Galactica. They will be unique to the series. And they will be cool at the same time.
Thanks go out to Ron for answering these questions, additional information for the new mini series may well be popping up over the next few months, so stay tuned and stay calm.