Interview with Ron Moore

Date: December 28, 2005
by John Larocque

The following is Ron Moore's answers to a series of questions sent on behalf of The staff of thanks Ron for this opportunity and wishes him the best for 2006. Ron Moore is executive producer of the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica series on the Sci-Fi Channel cable network, which is currently in pre-production for its third season. Battlestar Galactica airs Fridays, and the debut of the second half of season two begins on January 6, 2006.

1. There's speculation that Count Iblis' counterpart in this series is the as-yet-unseen Cylon God. Is there any possibility that elements of the original series "War of the Gods" storyline may weave themselves into the new series?

While I have thought of incorporating the Count Iblis/Ship of Lights mythology from the original show into the series, I've pretty much decided not to go there for now. The theological construct we've been establishing seems more interesting to me at this point and I don't think Iblis will be part of the current show.

2. In the battle scene with the Cylons in "Flight of the Phoenix," some think they see more Vipers than pilots, there is the presence of many Mark VII Vipers, and the Blackbird is in flight before its maiden voyage. Was this effects shot the victim of a script change or something in the editing room? Was the episode originally intended to appear after the Pegasus encounter?

To be honest, I don't recall the exact number of Vipers in the shot or where we were in the continuity at that point. I do recall the topic coming up in various VFX and production meetings, and I think there was at least an initial rationale for the number on screen -- but it's entirely possible that we cheated a bit in Post in order to make the shot a little sexier. Sorry. It happens.

3. Boxey's been more or less written out of the series, but there's always a chance that we might one day see the return of Muffit, or some other form of Man's Best Friend. Might we see the introduction of animals (including Cylon animals) into the Galactica universe? Where would Cylon animals fit in with the Cylon plan (especially in light of "The Farm")? Can Cylon animals reproduce?

The presence of animals in the rag-tag fleet was something that came up in early discussions, but we kinda dropped it from the conversation as the year went on. I don't know if we'll ever get around to doing something in this area or not. It mostly depends on finding a story that supports it in some interesting fashion other than Gaeta finds a kitty. I don't think the Cylons are creating animals as we would define them, but they certainly see the Raiders and other craft as animals vis a vis their relationship with the humanoid Cylons.

4. In "Resistance", it was coffee that broke the camel's back. Tigh reacted angrily to the coffee ship's decision to hold back supplies, and his Marines were pelted with coffee beans before they opened fire. There were also numerous coffee references in the original miniseries script that were excised (including several hilarious scenes with Number Six.) Does the writing staff have a fixation on coffee? Are you guys closet Twin Peaks fans?

The Writers Guild of America should be getting pension monies from Starbucks at this point. Consuming and writing about coffee and its attendant rituals has been the fixation of every writing staff I've ever been on.

5. There are numerous complaints about the use of "technobabble solutions" in Star Trek. An episode spends 40-odd minutes amplifying a critical problem, and someone solves it in a single meaningless sentence. Is the use of religion (both Cylon and Colonial) similar, in that it provides a convenient solution for the writer's dilemma?

I don't think we've used the religious aspects of the show as deus ex machina, but I could be wrong. I've always felt that we wanted to do more than just stand around spouting bromides about faith and religion without ever having a single element of the show which could actually justify the Cylon faith (or the Colonials', for that matter) so there were definitely times when I wanted at least the possibility of the divine. Hopefully, we never used something inexplicable simply as a way to resolve the story, but you be the judge of that.

6. After twenty episodes, many fans have expressed overall fatigue with the Caprica storyline, and were appalled with the idea of idea of revisiting Caprica and Kara's love interest. And yet others seemed eager to explore the soap opera of these doomed characters. Which way will you go with this, and how do you choose who to disappoint?

The show has many different aspects to it and people respond to it for varying reasons, but to me, the Caprica storyline last season was fundamental to the show and so its fallout and ramifications this season continue to interest me. I think that the first season Caprica story definitely had some moments when you could feel us treading water as we tried to figure out where we were going, but I think that the second season tale moved with greater agility and I think it's headed in a good direction.

7. Starbuck's Caprica experience left her even more damaged than before. Are there any more surprises in Starbuck's screwed-up life that we can look forward to?

Oh, definitely. At the end of this season, Kara's life will be virtually nothing like it is now.

8. You've stated that the Caprica storyline was one of the main vehicles to explore the Cylon plan. Yet the storyline itself was almost an afterthought, something intended to bring back the Helo character. Listening to the podcasts and the interviews, there's an impression that the Cylon plan (like the Caprica storyline) was being written almost on the fly. Is there a plan to writing the plan?

I start with basic directions and overall guideposts of where I want to be by a given point in the story and then work my way there. I had a general shape of the entire first season in mind when we started breaking the first six episodes, but I was willing to change the plan along the way and tried to always keep the door open for a better idea that might come along. On the other hand, the Helo storyline is a great example of what can happen if you're just willing to take a flier and see what happens. No, I didn't know where that story was going, but the process of finding out was fun and I loved where we ended up.

9. This show appears to organize its ongoing stories on a season-by-season basis, and the writing is more organic and improvisational than -- say -- Babylon 5 (with its legendary five-year story arc). Do you feel that the way this show is aired (with all its financing, network and season length variables) restricts some of the longer term stories you might want to tell? Would you be writing this differently if you were guaranteed a fixed number of episodes across several seasons?

I can honestly say that we're doing the show just the way I want it. The rhythm of our story arcs suits my tastes and sensibilities and I'm very happy with the results of what I heartily agree is somewhat improvisational.

10. Walt Kelly's Pogo used the phrase "the enemy is us" as part of a 1970's anti-litter campaign, and recently David Eick has cited it as a theme in the longer Pegasus arc of the second season. Some of the show's vocal critics charge that this notion promotes a "Blame America" attitude or is a sort of stealth anti-Americanism. What is this concept supposed to convey as we head into the bottom half of the second season?

The reference is to the fact that human beings are often their own worst enemy. In the context of the show, it means that the real challenges to who and what these people are often comes not from bullets, but from within. I continue to be amazed at how easily one gets tagged with the moniker of "anti-American" these days by those on the right. It's almost... well, anti-American.

11. This series seems to court controversy and push envelopes. In "33", there was a behind the scenes battle over whether or not to show the Colonials firing upon a civilian ship with people on board. In the podcast for "Home, Part II," you cited butting heads with Standards and Pratices over some lines between Tyrol and Adama. There have been other controversial scenes this season such as Kara Thrace's pelvic exam in "The Farm," Adama drowning a baby in "Valley of Darkness" and the sexual assault on Sharon in "Pegasus". At what point does the creative impetus run up against practical concern about viewer backlash?

We make an adult show for adults. I think that the vast majority of people watching our show know the kind of material we do at this point and have made a choice to watch it. I push the show as far as I think it should go and I fight to maintain the truth of what we do day and day out. Each of the scenes you cited was something I felt strongly about for creative reasons and I'd fight each of those battles over again if I had the choice (and probably fight even harder the second time around).

12. The original series did Shane, Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen, and Patton. It's less obvious this time around, but it's still something of a film student's dream. There have been numerous cues (thematic or otherwise) to films such as Sink the Bismarck, Brubaker, Blackhawk Down, Blade Runner, Patton, Peckinpah and Flight of the Phoenix. I recently watched Otto Preminger's political thriller "Advise and Consent" and it felt like a precursor of "Colonial Day," with its dying president, a subplot around a dead body, and a last-minute tiebreaker Senate vote over the president's handpicked candidate. Just how conscious are these film references or tributes?

Writers' rooms are filled with people who watch a lot of film and television and hence there are constant references, some overt, some not, to all the examples you cite (except for "Advise and Consent" which I've heard of, but never seen) in both the story discussion process and in the scripts themselves. Writers like to talk about plots and characters by referencing other works, as well as talking about their own personal experiences, and as a result, we're always sprinkling little in-jokes and homages to our favorite movies and TV shows throughout our work.

13. You're not just the "Star Trek guy," you're also the "Klingon guy," with your Klingon-themed scripts for TNG and DS9. The Klingons have become an important part of the Star Trek culture, and your stories generated a lot of focus on that. What was it about the Klingons that kept you coming back to them?

The first "real" Klingon story I wrote was "Sins of the Father" and I remember being very intrigued and excited by the fact that so little was known or established about one of the bedrock cultures in the Star Trek universe. Just the word "Klingon" had entered the American lexicon, and yet their homeworld didn't even have a name when I wrote "Sins." I began to love both the culture I was (essentially) creating by weaving together different threads established in both the original Trek series, the movies, and the handful of episodes dealing with them in Next Generation and the opportunity to really define this society. As I got deeper into Worf and the Klingons -- their roots, their religion, their social mores -- the more I began to experience something similar to that of the novelist delving deeper into one of his supporting character's backstories and finding it to sometimes be more interesting than the book itself.

14. We're now approaching the second anniversary of the airing of the miniseries. Do you think you've succeeded in what you set out to achieve with Battlestar Galactica?

To be honest, we've achieved more than I could have hoped for two years ago. I always believed in what we were doing, always believed it was going to work, but if you'd told me in 2003 that in 2005 Time would name the show the number one television show on the air, I wouldn't have believed a word of it.