I recently caught up with genra television writer and former executive producer of ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Ron Moore and quizzed him about his plans for the proposed remake of the ‘Classic’ Battlestar Galactica series of the late seventies. Below is a copy of the E – Mail questions and answers session I had with Ron: You said in the recent interview on zap2it that you are looking to go back to the beginning with Galactica. What sort of changes can we expect to see?
“I’m in the middle of working on the script and I’m making many of those creative decisions right now, so I’ll have to be vague and give you what won’t be a very satisfying answer. The basis of the mini-series will be a retelling of the origin story; that is, the events that cause Galactica and the fugitive fleet to begin their journey. There will be familiar characters from the original show, and new ones as well. I’m trying to flesh out the backstory of what led up to these cataclysmic events as well as round out many of the characters and their relationships. I can tell you that both the studio and the network were very happy with the outline and that things are going exceptionally well with this project so far.” “Some of the things we WON’T be doing: “Galactica 90210.” This will not be a show dedicated to sex and wacky teenage hijinks. Battlestar Galactica without a battlestar named Galactica. This has to be one of the craziest rumors I’ve heard. An all-male cast. Quite the contrary. There will be a strong female component to the show, including more women pilots than in the original.”
In a recent interview with SFX Magazine. You were quoted by the magazine as having said the following:
“Doing a sequel crossed my mind,” says the writer Ronald D Moore, late of Deep Space Nine and Roswell, “but I just wasn’t interested in that so much as I was in going back and starting over. Part of it is on a practical level. I think if you’re going to pick up from where you left off, you basically reduce the audience to those who know and love the original already. Let’s face it, Battlestar Galactica is just not Star Trek and we’re not going to pretend that it is this giant pop-cultural phenomenon where you literally could pick up 75 years later and continue going.”
On this I am inclined to agree with you to a point, but feel that a lot of Battlestar fans may have taken the above quote out of context, and wondered if you would like to address this further. I also feel that you’re maybe under-estimating the BG Fan Base a little here.
“The quote is dealing with two different subjects: one is the creative decision to remake the show and the other is the practical considerations of attracting an audience. Let’s talk about them one at a time.”
“The creative decision came first. Basically, I saw more inherently interesting to me as a writer with going back and redoing the initial story and launching a whole new version of Galactica than I did with picking up the original narrative years later. That’s not to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with doing a sequel, it’s just not a direction I was interested in pursuing, and as a writer, there has to be something in the material that interests me.”
“In my mind, one of the factors that argued most strongly against doing a sequel, was the fact that Lorne Greene and John Colicos are no longer with us, and hence, any sequel would have to forego using both Adama and Baltar. Yes, you could promote someone else to command Galactica and yes, you could create a new villain, but to me, it’s sort of like saying you could do the first Trek movie without Kirk & McCoy as long as you promote someone else to command the Enterprise and create another doctor.”
“To my way of thinking, those are pretty fundamental cast and character changes and personally, I’d rather go back to the beginning and retell the whole saga with both Adama and Baltar intact. In my opinion, they’re at the heart of the show and I can’t imagine Galactica without them.” “When I sat down and watched the original pilot again, I was struck by the underlying premise and how much stronger a piece it could be today. The premise of a bolt-from-the-blue attack which wipes out an entire civilization has an entirely different emotional resonance today in the post 9/11 world than it did in the 1970s. In those days, all-out nuclear war may have been a chilling sword of Damocles which hung over our heads, but we had not gone through the emotional trauma of 9/11 which continues to reverberate through our society to this very day.”
“I think that retelling the origin story has value. I think it speaks more directly to our lives and our current experiences and will have a greater relevance than picking up the story many years later. That’s my gut instinct, and basically that’s what a writer does, he follows his instincts and hopes they lead him in the right direction.” “Now, on a practical level, a dollars and cents, commercial level, I think that doing a remake simply has a greater potential audience than a sequel. By definition, a sequel is a continuation of a story. It presupposes a familiarity with the narrative thus far. That in turn, tends to keep new viewers away because they’ll feel like “I don’t know what’s going on.” You can re-run the original pilot all you want, but you’re still going to be fighting to bring in new viewers who may not have a good memory (or any) of the original show. (And let’s be clear here — I’m talking about the general audience, not the fan base.)”
“When I made the comparison to Star Trek, I was referring primarily to this issue. When Trek returned in 1979, it had only been off the air for about a decade, and it had become a pop cultural icon. People knew what transporters and phasers were and because of the episodic nature of the original series, there wasn’t a complicated backstory that the audience had to understand in order to enjoy the movie “sequel.” “With Galactica, the show’s been off the air for over twenty years, and there is a very specific, very involved backstory that you’ve got to know in order to enjoy the show. Who are these people? Are they from Earth? What happened to their planet(s)? Who are the Cylons? Why did they attack? Why are they still chasing them? Who was this Adama? Who was Baltar? Why are they looking for Earth?” “I’m not saying it’s impossible to answer all these questions in a sequel, but that still doesn’t address the problem of getting them to watch in the first place. And even then, you’ve still got to fill in an awful lot of backstory. To me, it’s better to start fresh with the audience and let them experience the key moments first hand.”
You mentioned to Zap2it that you were a fan of BSG when you were a kid. Thinking back to then, what were the things that sold you on the show, and what aspects of the show did you not like so much. Which in part must have helped make your mind up on the proposed re imagining. Also which characters did you relate to in the 70s show.
“At the time, I was jazzed that there was a high-profile science fiction show on TV at all. There hadn’t really been anything since Trek, (not counting Space: 1999, which was syndicated) and I was just happy to have what was sort of a Star Wars/Star Trek hybrid on every week. I liked the VFX, the action, and I kinda dug the fact that it had a pretty dark premise.” “Discretion being the better part of valor, I will politely decline the invitation to start pointing out flaws in the old show.” “As far as characters, I guess I was most interested in Adama and Baltar, and as I said above, that definitely influenced my thinking on doing a remake.”
As a writer and also with your experiences communicating with the fans on the old aol message boards. If a board was set up online for you to communicate directly to the fans of BG in much the same way as you did throughout your involvement with Trek. Would you consider that helpful and informative for yourself as a writer to develop the best BG show.
“At some point I might set up the same kind of situation I had with fans on the AOL board, but not yet. At the moment, I can’t really have an intelligent discussion about the show without giving away major plot points and character details and I’m not about to do that. Once it’s on the air, then we can have a more open forum.”
Was there ever any discussions about a prequel to BSG at the studio, because I remember a scene in the original three hour pilot where Tigh and Adama were discussing when they used to fly in the vipers. There was also quite a lot of back story in the original that would make good material to work on. I also think that if you decided on a prequel it could well cause you less trouble with the fan base and you would still get the newer uninitiated viewers signing on for it as well. So am wondering if this angle has been thought about?
“We never discussed a prequel and I never considered doing one. As far as problems with the fan base… well, I respect the fan base enough to say that despite whatever controversy there may be right now, when it comes down to it, I believe there will be only one criteria in the end:” Is the show any good? “I cannot imagine a scenario where a good show gets rejected by the fan community. It just won’t happen. If it’s good, the fans will accept it and if it’s bad they’ll reject it. They’re not idiots, they’re not going to boycott something of quality just out of spite, and I firmly believe the new Battlestar Galactica is going to be something of quality.”
I Would like to thank Ron D Moore for taking time out of his busy schedule to discuss this with us.