Sources:Interview with Ronald D. Moore, March 6, 2004 (RDM)

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This interview was conducted by Koenigrules on March 3, 2004. The interviewee was Ronald D. Moore.
This interview was originally posted on Galactica2003.net. It is posted here with permission.


Pre-Interview

So there I was waiting for Ron D. Moore to pick up the phone. I felt a bit intimidated. After all, this was THE man responsible for breathing a new, reimaged life into one of my favorite shows during my late adolescence. When he did answer, I immediately thanked him for taking some time out to talk to me. And I also congratulated him on the Sci-Fi Channel’s pickup of his series. After this ice breaker (which calmed my nerves immensely), I commenced with the interview….

Interview

Koenigrules: Let me start by asking you Ron, what would you consider some of the high points of the miniseries. In other words, what really worked for you in the miniseries?

Ron D. Moore: I think visually it worked extraordinarily well. I really liked the effects sequences. I really liked the combat and the way the dog fights were realized. I thought all that was tremendous. I enjoyed the cast. I thought it was an interesting ensemble that we put together.

And I really liked the tone. Overall, I think the thing that I enjoyed the most was the tone of it...the very sort of grounded in reality perspective. It felt like all this was really happening. It was watching real people go through horrific events, the struggle with them, and what was happening to them. And I was very pleased with it.

KR: What would you like to see happen in Battlestar’s first season? Would you want to show more of the same as the miniseries? Or would you want some differences introduced?

RDM: I think it’s a different challenge for the series as opposed to the miniseries. The mini is all about the attack and the escape. It’s one long, sort of day or two days that it covers. And it’s setting up all the characters and then watching the events play out and seeing them eventually escape off into the night. All that is just setting up the series. The series then takes all of those characters and expands and deepens them and starts to play out consequences of things that were set up in the pilot. So there are very sort of different expectations.

The series won’t be one long combat sequence. Once the miniseries gets going, once the attack happens, it’s just tension and action packed from beginning to end. The series will have tension, but it won’t be nearly as action packed. We won’t be doing combat every single week. A) It’s very expensive to do every week. And B) it just gets boring. I don’t think you’d be interested in watching a space dog fight battle every single week as the climax of the show.

The series depends much more on a character piece. It depends on the drama and the interactions among the characters. It also depends on bringing out the innate tension and jeopardy that is inherent in their situation. These people are on ships without support, way off by themselves. They have only the clothes on their backs and whatever supplies happen to be on the ships when they escaped. And our job is to take that seriously, to play the truth of that, to really see what will happen to these people. How do they organize themselves? What is their society going to be like? Where are they going to get food and fuel? How are they going to replace the most basic things? Where are they going to get the bullets for the guns?

All these sorts of questions are typically swept away in sci-fi where you just press buttons and things appear and you never question how the ship gets repaired and where the food came from and what about people who have different points of view. What about people in the fleet that don’t like Laura Roslin, that don’t think she’s the legitimate President- who question her authority and legitimacy to give commands? I think all those things are inherently dramatic and interesting. And they’re more dramatic and interesting than simply having the Cylons show up and do a dog fight every week.

KR: Well, you brought up a lot of issues that I wanted to ask you about. Apparently, they are going to need to find places where there is fuel, where there is food. They need to solve some of these problems if they are to survive, right?

RDM: They are going to have to grapple with them. And some of the problems they’ll never solve. And they may just have “stop gap” measures to tide them over until they find the next supply.

KR: You know, one of the most interesting things of the original Battlestar pilot was after the colonies were destroyed and they’re off in space…they were scavenging for food and they explored that. I take it that you’re going to be concentrating on those issues more. Maybe even the “in fighting” among each other, among the ships that have and those that don’t?

RDM: Yeah, I think there are natural tensions built into the situation like I said. I always liked the episodes of TOS where…there was an episode (I still don’t have all the titles in my head yet, but I’ve watched them all at this point)…an episode where they had a problem with the grain supplies and the grains had been wiped out. They went down to this planet. It was essentially a Western town and there were these pig-faced people that came riding into the night. And Starbuck becomes the marshal and that whole thing. The premise of that episode, that their grain supply was wiped out which forced them to hunt for other sources, was a good one.

And I always liked it when TOS was playing those kind of “we’re in a tight situation” and these are the realities of it. In the original pilot, they have the conflict with Sire Uri and his ship, The Rising Star. Then there’s a new Quorum of Twelve. And you start to see the tensions between Adama and the new civilian government. All those sorts of themes were there in the original. They just tend to get swamped by some of the more traditional TV plot lines that the old show fell into. But a lot of the things that we want to play in this are actually there in the original and we just want to bring them forward.

KR: Now, that brings me to another question. Is there going to be a Council of Twelve?

RDM: There will be something like that. I think that’s one of the challenges that Laura Roslin faces after the first couple episodes. The first episode picks them up a few days after the mini and they’re in a crisis…an intense emergency crisis which doesn’t really give them a chance to stop and take stock in what’s going on. But once they have a chance to do that, several of the questions that will come up early are: Does Roslin have the right to give orders and be the President? Who represents the voices of these other 50,000 people? Are their ships’ captains going to speak for everybody? What’s the representation of the 12 colonies?

If you think that there are 12 colonies, roughly analogous to 12 countries or 12 states or however you want to divide it up, well those people want to have a voice in their government on some level. Even in an emergency, they have needs and wants. And some ships are going to be in worse straits than others. People are going to want fairness in distribution of supplies and access to them. I mean, some of these ships are luxurious. Some of these ships are cramped.

There’s going to be a need for some type of government that Laura will form. And how close will it be to the government that was there originally in the 12 colonies? Her whole legitimacy as President is predicated on the idea of succession. The analogy is to our US Constitution. She has been constitutionally sworn in as President. You would think that she would have to have some allegiance to the original constitution of the colonies- which we call The Articles of Colonization. Well, it means things like representatives, things like the Council of Twelve. It has all the messiness of democracy.

So it’s going to be hard for her [Roslin] to uphold the banner of democratic government which is the whole basis of her Presidency without bringing in representatives of the people. This then throws you into, well, sometimes those representatives are real pains in the asses. And they have competing interests. And it opens up the whole can of worms.

KR: I remember one of the things from the miniseries, Adama saying `Let’s make babies.’ That brings up the issue: if there’s a scarcity of resources, shouldn’t there also be a consideration of limited population growth?

RDM: Oh yeah, that is one of the things we are definitely going to tackle. They are going to have to start making babies, and are they going to start ordering people to start making babies? What does it do to the role of women in the society and their freedom of choice? These are all going to be difficult questions for this particular culture to have to grapple with.

KR: And of course there’s that whole aspect of Roslin as civilian leader and Adama, a military leader. So you have that tension of civilian and military conflict. I take it you’re going to be continuing to show those conflicts?

RDM: Yeah, there’s a natural tension between the military and the civilian world. And its inherent in a democracy that the civilian authority is supreme to the military. Well, in this situation the military is really keeping them alive on a daily basis. So Adama’s power is much stronger than a peace-time leader would have. And how does he wield that authority? When does he choose to weigh in? When does he choose to back out? When does Laura push him? It’s an interesting balancing act that the two of them will have to do.

KR: Is there going to be some sexual tension there between them?

RDM: I don’t know how strongly. I think it’s inherent in almost any interaction between a man and woman. And I think people in their positions…you know they are two isolated leaders at the top who don’t really have anybody else as contemporaries. So there will probably be a natural sort of sexual tension in the room between them. But I don’t see how that is going to bring them together, at least not in Season 1. I can’t imagine that they’re going to end up in bed together this year or anything like that, because I don’t think their positions and what’s going on in their two worlds is really conducive to that.

KR: And what about Roslin’s cancer? Is there going to be some way of her having that illness and yet still surviving for awhile?

RDM: Yeah, she’s going to have to grapple with it for the remainder of the series. She’s going to have to start figuring out, `Are there any doctors left in the fleet?’ I’m sure there are. And then [she has to] figure out which doctors she can trust with her secret, how they’re going to treat it, what treatments are possible given the circumstances. Regardless of whatever treatment options are available back on Caprica, clearly they don’t have all those options available to them now. And she has to be able to strike a balance between treating a very serious disease and not taking herself out of the picture and being completely debilitated because she has to lead this remainder of a civilization. And she can’t let it be generally known that the President that they’re all putting their hopes on has a terminal disease.

KR: Right, right. The Cylons….I know in the miniseries you certainly wanted to take the point of view (POV) of the humans and the catastrophe that confronted them. Now in the series, will you “flesh” out the Cylons more, maybe take their POV?

RDM: Yeah, we will open up the Cylon world a little bit more. You want to do it slowly and carefully because they are really interesting the more mysterious they are. And it’s striking the balance between preserving the mystery of the Cylons and letting the audience fill in the blanks in their heads. You have to continue to discover new things about them, but you don’t want to specifically define all the aspects of their society quickly.

KR: Is there going to be a more advanced type of Cylon than Number Six? I’m recalling Imperious Leader from TOS. Are we going to see a more advanced level as well as the original tin heads in some capacity?

RDM: We will see more mechanoid Cylons as the series goes on. But right now I don’t have any plans for Imperious Leader. The humanoid Cylons are the pinnacle of Cylon evolution at the moment.

KR: In terms of the number units, the number designations of the humanoid Cylons, are those tied more with the way their bodies look or do they have a hierarchy? Is there someone higher than Number Six ? For instance, is Number Four on the lower end?

RDM: There’s no hierarchy to the numbers. It’s just that there are 12 models and she’s the sixth model. The number really doesn’t have anything to do with their hierarchy.

KR: And of course there’s Boomer. How does she fit into the Cylon universe?

RDM: You’ll see [keeping his view hidden for the moment].

KR: One of the things I wanted to ask you about is: there have been some postings on the Internet that you are going to be trying to get some of the old cast back. One in particular was mentioned on www.tvtome.com: Anne Lockhart. Is there any truth to that?

RDM: I haven’t had any contact with Anne Lockhart or made any moves in that direction. My position on the original cast, overall, is I would like to find a way to use them in the show. I think it would be interesting. I think it would be fun. I think it would be a nice way to bridge the two versions. It would be a hoot for everybody! I’m developing new characters and stories, but I haven’t pitched it to any of the original actors yet. It’s in the hopper, but it’s not really like happened yet. I don’t know how long it will take or if it’s going to happen at all.

KR: And I would take it those roles would be different from TOS series’ roles that the actors were in? That they would be different characters.

RDM: They would be different characters.

KR: I was very impressed with your work on Carnivale.

RDM: Thanks.

KR: I loved watching it. I’m sort of torn between your going to BSG now and the direction that Carnivale is going to take in its second year. I loved the open-ending to [Carnivale’s] Season One. Obviously it’s leading to a Season Two and beyond. Would you be doing the same thing with Battlestar? Will there be some issue or crisis that’s beginning to develop in the episodes that takes dominance by the end of Season One that eventually needs to be resolved?

RDM: Yes [he chuckles, not adding anything more than that].

KR: So maybe cliffhanger-like?

RDM: Possibly. It’s a little premature. I know how I want the season to end, and it’s definitely a story that would then demand a follow-up.

KR: How are you doing just physically with all this? I know Sci-Fi was late in the game of notifying you guys after the option was picked up- a month later in fact. Do you feel you have enough time to flesh out all of these 13 episodes.

RDM: Oh yeah. There’s more than enough time. I’m used to working at this pace. And this is the way that the game is played. They delayed the pickup a little bit, but not dangerously so. I have a full writing staff now. We’re working full time. There’s already two drafts of the first episode written. I’m beginning the second episode. We’re breaking the third. I know what the story arcs are. Overall, I’m pretty confident we’re going to be able to do everything we want to do.

KR: Are these all going to be new episodes? I know there’s been some discussion of reimagings of some of TOS episodes, but right now- all new episodes?

RDM: For the moment they’re all new episodes. There’s a possibility of revisiting one or two of the original episodes. But if we do it, it wouldn’t be until the latter half, the latter maybe third of Season One. It’s more likely it would be Season Two.

KR: So you’re hoping for a Season Two?

RDM: That’s my hope [he chuckles].

KR: I’m glad that you’re working on this philosophy that you’re not giving us aliens with bumps on their noses, and no time travel or evil duplicates- which is standard fare for a lot of sci-fi shows, as you know.

RDM: Oh yeah.

KR: Even Star Trek.

RDM: I wrote a lot of them [he begins to laugh].

KR: Doesn’t that present more challenges instead of less?

RDM: It does. This is a harder direction to go in those terms. This is a harder series to pull off because you’re not going to the familiar forms. You are not pulling out all the usual suspects in terms of story and character. It’s an unusual way to do a science fiction series, especially a space opera. It’s more ambitious. It’s a challenge, but that’s why I want to do it. I mean, this is a harder thing to pull off. And it’s going to be a harder thing to get an audience for. It’s just a higher mountain to climb…..[he pauses several moments]

{Then he continues] Why do this job if you don’t want to challenge yourself? Why be a writer in television if you’re not trying to constantly push the form, to try new things, to write stuff that hasn’t been done before, and to try to keep it interesting and fresh? Why do this job if you want to do the same thing day in and day out?

KR: Right, right. Some die hard fans of the old series will probably never like the new series. This is a really hard question for me to ask because I don’t think there’s a simple answer to it. Will we ever see a coming together of old and new fans?

RDM: I don’t know. It’s a hard thing. And this is always the most difficult question I get in these interviews. Because inevitably what I say seems to piss off the old fans. And then there’s flame wars back and forth between the new and the old.

From my perspective I feel like I’ve been willing to engage in a conversation with all the fans. And that’s unusual in this business. There aren’t a lot of other people in my position who are willing to do that, to have the conversation. So to me, to have the conversation, to be willing to do the interviews like this one and to go on line, to trying to be open and honest with people about what our intentions are- is a way of me reaching out.

Now some of the fans will say, `That’s not enough, that you’re not listening to us, that you’re not making the changes that we’re asking for and you’re basically ignoring us and telling us to go f*** ourselves.’ That’s not really my attitude. I mean, I’m trying to let people know what the show is and not to pretend that we’re doing something that we’re not. I really want to find a way of bridging the two [fandoms]. I just don’t know what that is yet.

KR: If you wanted to provide any stimulating tidbit of information in terms of tuning in to the series, what would you be telling people?

RDM: We’re going to be trying to give you something different. We’re going to try to give you a different kind of science fiction series than you’ve seen before. We’re going to try to avoid all the clichés of the genre. We’re going to try to reinvent the form. That’s been our goal from the very beginning.

We’re going to try to give you something that’s going to get you talking and thinking each week- where it’s not the predictable ending, where it’s not the easy answers every week…where you come out of it and you might feel shocked at what happened, where you might feel challenged at what happened. You might feel confused at some of the motivations, you might be angered. But you’re always going to be interested. And you’re always going to find something in the show that’s going to make you think.

I’m more interested in drama that makes you think about things than drama that wiles away a couple hours of your afternoon or evening and just wastes your time in front of the TV.

KR: I thank you, Mr. Moore, for this chance to interview you. I know I’ve asked you a bit about the psychology and sociology of the series. I find that to be the most fascinating part to the new series. It sounds to me like you’re going to go more in depth with those topics than the miniseries.

RDM: That’s the goal!

KR: And I have a feeling you will accomplish what you set out to do.

RDM: Hopefully.

KR: Oh, I think you will. You take care. Thank you so much!

RDM: Thank you. Bye now.

Conclusion

And so the interview concluded, and I came away from it quite literally blown away! If Ron Moore does half the things he wants to do in the series, he will make an important (and significant) contribution to sci-fi television. I was very impressed with his answers. And I do believe that he will contribute to the legacy of Battlestar: Galactica in a positive way.

Furthermore, I do believe he wants to unite both the old and new fandoms. But it won’t be his words that will bring TOS and Mini groups together; it will be his BSG episodes.

I am looking forward more than ever to seeing Moore’s weekly version of BSG. I hope we can continue to dialogue with RDM and even set up a weekly chat with him when each episode airs. Signing off for now.