Interview: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Creators Ron Moore and David Eick

     January 7, 2009

Written by Matt Goldberg

“Battlestar Galactica” is almost at an end. On January 16th, the series will begin airing its final ten episodes. It’s been a show unlike any other on television and hopefully its impact on science fiction television will be felt for years to come. Creators Ron Moore and David Eick were good enough to sit down for a conference call with various publications and answer our questions. But being the short-attention span creatures that we are (and knowing that we wouldn’t get them to spill any spoilers about the finale), a lot of these questions revolve around the “Battlestar”-spinoff, “Caprica” as well as the next BSG movie, “The Plan”.

As for my final thoughts, I think the show will go out on a high note even if the first half of season four was wildly uneven (I think “Sine Qua Non” was the worst episode in the entire series). But if you’re like me and need some psyching-up for the rest of the journey, read this in-depth interview with Moore and Eick as “Galactica” starts its final descent.

The final episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” resume at 10 PM on Friday, January 16th on SCI FI.

What are you guys most proud about, about the way that the series ended?

David Eick: I would have to say that I’m probably most proud of the fact that I think we were able to answer most of the questions that we had raised over the years. And sort of to resolve most of the mysteries and sort of the grander questions of the show. And also at the same time give, you know, a resolution to all the character arcs. And sort of to wrap it all up by the end. I think you’ll find that in – we don’t sort of save everything until the last episode. We sort of start answering questions along the way. You know, and that over the course of these last 10 we sort of, you know, bring a conclusion to a lot of things that we had set up, you know, over the years.

Ron Moore: Yes, I would add that it’s so rare that you get to end things in the way that you intended. There are myriad details of course that changed and shifted. But we talked about ending the show this way I think two years ago. And just the idea that we were able to actually dovetail it in that direction is very satisfying.

How did you feel about the way the season ended and what does this show mean to you as a writer and a producer?

Moore: I would say I found it very satisfying. I mean I was very pleased with the way that the show ended, you know, creatively and personally. It just feels leick we’ve completed, you know, the piece. And now to sort of be able to step back a little bit and look at it from beginning to end I feel good about, you know, the complete story that is “Battlestar Galactica”. And so it’s just a tremendous amount of satisfaction in doing it. And creatively and on a personal level it’s just been a tremendous experience. And I’ve, you know, it’s easily been the highlight of my career. And the people that I’ve gotten to know and the cast and the crew and the production staff are just, you know, mean the world to me. And I was just very proud of all the people I worked with. And very proud of what we were, you know, able to put on the screen.

Eick: You know, it’s also and I think telling that the show has provided such a great professional springboard for both of us. You know, we don’t tend to talk about that as much. But the reality is I started writing on this show. I didn’t, I hadn’t been a writer prior to it. Ron started directing. Both of us have had doors opened for us. And, you know, met people I don’t think we ever would have met in the industry. And gotten (have had) some opportunities that will probably continue for some time. And that’s no small thing. You know, it’s hard to find those situations, that kind of fertile topsoil. And this show really, beyond just the show itself, has meant a great deal to us I think in terms of our future.

Two-part question: A, what’s in the future for both of you? And B, what’s the latest on “Caprica”?

Moore: Well I think we both have, you know, I have, we both have various projects under way. “Caprica” has been picked up for a full season. We start shooting that probably in July. We’re putting the writing staff together now and the crew. And, you know, just staffing up and getting ready to go. We’ll start breaking stories probably in February or maybe even as soon as the end of this month, kind of depending when all the pieces go together. We have a game plan of sort of what the general story line is and sort of some direction. So we’re not starting completely from scratch. So things are well in hand. In “Caprica” we feel really good about that. And beyond that, you know, there’s, I’ve got some future things in development and sort of waiting to see what will happen with “Virtuality” which is a pilot at Fox. And I’ll let David speak for himself.

Eick: Nothing really, I’m going to shoot some pool. Try to do a lot of drinking. No, there’s a lot, as I said, there’s a, you know, we both have deals at Universal. So there’s a pretty active development slate for both of us in terms of pilots. There are two at NBC right now that I have that are in serious contention and, you know, various and sundry things elsewhere. So it’s an act of time. But I think, you know, our focus, our most primary focus right now is “Caprica” because that really is the next at bat.

Just speaking of “Caprica” I was wondering how is that story, I know it’s a prequel that takes place 50 years before. is it going to tie into the mythos of what we learned throughout “Battlestar Galactica”? And how much will you have to know about “Battlestar Galactica” to appreciate “Caprica”?

Moore: They’ll certainly tie in. But we sort of set out deliberately to set up “Caprica” in a way that you didn’t have to see “Battlestar”. I mean I think you could literally watch the pilot to “Caprica” without seeing a frame of film on “Galactica” and you would get it. And you could invest in that story completely on its own and just go from there. Because we wanted it to stand as its own project and we didn’t want you to have to study up on “Battlestar” in order to enjoy “Caprica”.

There are questions remaining and hopefully they’ll be answered in these final 10 episodes. But how do you answer them without making it feel perfunctory?

Moore: Oh, well I didn’t say it wouldn’t be perfunctory.

Eick: I was going to say who said it wouldn’t be perfunctory? [laughter]

Moore: Yes what are you talking about? Some if it will just be on a crawl in the end credit. By the way, in case you were wondering. [laughter] Well, you know, I mean it’s – that’s the trick of doing it. You know, you, we – the first decision was not to try to answer every single thing in the last episode. Because then the last episode just becomes, you know, a running tally of, oh and there’s this question, and oh and there’s that question and so and so and so and so. And we wanted to kind of, you know, there were certain things that would be raised naturally earlier in the story line. And then you could sort of deal with them on a case by case basis. And you just wanted each sort of revelation and each sort of answer to sort of have its own kind of moment in the sun, and not to make everything a giant mystery. And to sort of let it proceed organically. It was a bit of a trick. But it didn’t seem like it was too burdensome as we went through it. It felt kind of natural. And as we broke out the last 10 episodes there seemed like there were natural sort of places where we could explain this. And oh that revelation can go here. And, you know, and oh we’ll fill this detail in there. And we’ll still save these pieces for the end.

With The Final Four, what can fans expect for the remainder of the series?

Moore: Well they’ll certainly be heavily into the story line. You know, what can I tell you about that. I mean with the discovery of Earth and the discovery of what Earth is, it certainly throws everyone’s lives into question. And, you know, I think where we wanted to get to at the mid season break was what if you took everyone’s fondest hope and dream away from them? And then what happens to these people? And so the final four are sort of in the same boat with everyone else. And that’s they’re having to sort of re-evaluate well where do we go from here? And what does this mean for us? And I guess most profoundly for the final four is what are our specific origins? How did we come to be? What is our relationship with the rest of the Cylons? And what does this all mean for us specifically? And those story lines will definitely play out in a very large way over the last 10 episodes.

Now speaking of the Cylons, when we get into “Caprica”, how do you think the fans will receive the whole Cylon thread? Considering that we already know how that pans out in the future?

Moore: Well hopefully they view it as is intended, which is a period piece. You know, we’re doing a period piece. And in any period piece you kind of know what lays in the future if you’re doing madmen you know, you know, the ’60s are a-coming. And you know that that whole world is going to collapse. If you’re doing a World War II piece, you know the Nazis are going to lose. But, you know, you still are able to tell, you know, fascinating and compelling stories as periods. And I think that’s what we’re doing for this as well. I mean that’s at least the intent.

As you guys are coming up on the finale, is there a sense of relief, sadness, excitement?

Moore: All of the above.

Eick: Yes.

Why did you choose to end it now like instead of drawing it out over a few more years? Like was there pressure from SCI FI for you guys to keep it going?

Moore: The truth is we both just have too much money.

Eick: Yes.

Moore: I just don’t know what to do with all the money I have so, you know.

I wish I had the same problem. I just had one more quick thing about “The Plan”. Like what’s the status in “The Plan”? Will that air between the finale? Like how does that fit in?

Moore: I don’t know that we have an air date for “The Plan” yet. And I don’t know that we have an air date for “Caprica” yet. So I think those are probably up to SCI FI. “The Plan” has been completed. It’s shot. It’s being edited. I haven’t seen the cut yet. But it is done. Or it’s in the can as it were. And I don’t know what their plans are for air dates yet.

One more quick thing Ron, are you still involved with the “The Thing”?

Moore: Yes.

What’s the status on that?

Moore: Just working on some re-writes. And no, it hasn’t been green lit or, you know, anything bigger then that. Futures just run on their own pace. Much slower then the TV pace. And, you know, I’m working on a re-write of the draft right now. And, you know, they still like it and everyone still happy. We’ll just kind of wait and see when and if it happens.

Okay so you’re just going to bounce back and forth between “Caprica” and that.

Moore: Yes.

So I’m just curious about your intentions with these like Webisodes and the clues on the SCI FI site. I mean how much can viewers glean there? Will it ever be much more than what’s shown on television?

Moore: I think there is, there are things that are not on TV on the Web site certainly. The, everything from deleted scenes to the Webisodes to podcasts and behind the scenes video blogs, and there’s a wealth of extra material. I think we’ve designed it so that there is enough material there that you could go and enjoy. But if, you know, it’s not going to give away the store. It’s, you know, it was very carefully thought out so that you couldn’t just go to the Web site and discern all the remaining mysteries. But you could certainly get a leg up. And you could sort of explore the universe a little deeper and understand things on a different level.

I was just wondering if you monitor the Web sites to kind of see what those people are saying or?

Moore: I have a habit of going and sort of monitoring Web sites on the night that a – that a new episode airs. I’ll kind of surf around a few Web sites just to kind of pick up, you know, fan reaction. I get a kick out of sort of seeing message boards entries as the show was on the air. I’ll try to go to like a, I’ll put a couple windows up on my computer and watch sort of, you know, live reactions to people as they get to act breaks. I think that’s kind of enjoyable. And sort of receive some reviews and kind of see what the general tenor of it is. But after that I kind of don’t, I don’t monitor it very closely beyond that.

Have you ever read a theory you think that somebody got right?

Moore: Oh sure. Yes there’s, there’s theories out there of things, of guesses about different parts of the mythology or different revelations that are spot on. Fortunately they’re buried with so many other bad ideas that it’s like, you know, you just leave them alone and, you know. But I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone who’s nailed the whole thing. Or anyone who’s gotten exactly what the show is going to be at the end or anything.

Eick: Yes usually the most vociferous and, you know, intensely felt theories are the ones that are furthest off.

Moore: Yes. Yes those are always my favorite, the ones that are really adamant about it. Like “Oh really?”

So how long are we going to have to wait for the biggest mysteries? You know, the Final Cylon?

Moore: Oh well that, you know, all I will tell you is that it is not in the final episode.

Okay. I think that would make a lot of people happy actually just hearing that much.

Moore: Yes it’s not, it is not the final – the last frame or the last shot or anything like that.

One of the things that interests me about “Battlestar Galactica” is that it’s really the most religious show on television. Meaning that religion is such an important subject on the show.

And I’m just wondering how did this get woven into the story? I mean it must be deliberate because when you think of science fiction shows they’re, usually just don’t even touch any of those themes.

Eick: Do you want to tell them the Michael Jackson story?

Moore: Yes. It was, it came very early on. The first draft of the mini-series and there was just a line in it, in a scene with Number 6 in Baltar where she said to him “God is Love”. And when I wrote it I didn’t really know what it meant. But I thought it was an interesting thing for a robot to say. And I just kind of liked it and kept it in there. And when we got notes back from the network there was an executive at the time named Michael Jackson who really liked it. And said this is a really interesting idea. You already have certain things going on with Al Qaeda and religious fundamentalism that are sort of thematic into the piece if you go further in this direction. And I thought well Hell, I’m not going to get the note to have more religious content on the show very often. And I just went for it. And then it, but it just played, it was also very organic. It played into things that were already inherent in the show. You know, there was already the – there was a lot of terms, you know, taken from the Greek gods and the Roman gods that were already in the show. And it felt natural to then make the colonials polytheists and then, you know, if Number 6 says the God, singular, is love, it made her a monotheist. And then I thought well that’s fascinating already. The monotheists versus the polytheists and we’re, you know, the colonial – the humans are the polytheists. And it just all became a really fascinating sort of blend of ideas.

Of these last 10 episodes would you say that overall there – if it’s a definite kind of end to the series? Or is it an open-ended ending to the series in overall tone? Are there questions we’ll still have when we’re done? Will there, you know, will that be the end of it all and we can all go home without any question marks in our heads?

Moore: I think it’s pretty definitive.

Eick: It’s pretty much over.

Moore: Yes, I mean this is it. You know, this is the end of the story. I think that there might be some things that are still somewhat ambiguous or you might want to think about more that are not spelled out in bold letters. But, you know, by and large I’d say the vast majority of the questions will have been answered. They may not be satisfying answers, but they will be answers.

Just a quick “Caprica” question, originally there was some talk that it – they were just creating a stand alone two-hour movie, which kind of implied that air that two hours and then do a series. At this point is it all going to air together in sequence as a series? Or would we see the already shot pilot beforehand do you think?

Moore: I don’t know that they’ve made a call on that yet.

How did you choose who the final five Cylons would be? Was it like picking a name out of a hat? Or did you have it from the very beginning?

Moore: I think David has a dartboard and we…

Eick: The answer is it was a little of both.

Moore: Yes, it was a little of both. I mean the final four came up literally in a moment in a writer’s room where we were struggling with the end of season three. And trying to figure out certain things. And I just said, you know, because it was all about the trial of Baltar. And we had always set that up to be the end of the season. And it was, the structure was working fine. But it just didn’t seem to satisfy. And it didn’t quite seem as big an idea to me. And I said, you know, I just wish that there was, we had some bigger revelation here. And I just said, you know, I just got this image of like four – four of our people walking from different areas of the ship and all ending up in one room together. And they all close the doors and they look at each other. And they say, okay we’re Cylon. And then we just reveal like four of them, you know, in one fell swoop. And everyone was kind of taken a back in the moment. And then we, the more we talked about it, it just became well let’s, well why not. Why don’t we really do that? And then we just talked about who they – who those final four would be with an idea of holding out the last one for the last season. And then settling on the last one. We kind of had a good idea going into the last season who the final Cylon was. And, but we were willing to sort of, you know, look at other candidates and see who it could be and which one makes the most sense in the mythology. And ultimately we stuck with the original choice because it just made the most sense in terms of the history of the show and what it means for the characters.

So during the reveal, “All Along the Watchtower” of course was playing. Does that song have any significance to you particularly or to the story? Or how did you choose that as their signal?

Moore: I had personally been obsessed with the song for a while. So, I had – I just thought it was a fascinating song and the lyrics. And I had wanted to work it into a project of mine since, you know, for the last several years. In fact I wanted to do a whole “Roswell” episode about it. And so it was just sort of always in the back of my mind. And as we started talking about music and using music as a trigger, I just immediately said oh and it has to be “All Along the Watchtower”. And everybody kind of laughed. And then I just was very much, you know, dogged about it. And kept going and made, you know, and then we got the rights. And that became the song.

I know that watching the series I kind of just want to watch it all at once. Is there a particular reason why you split up the season into two parts? Or is that just something that you had in mind of doing the whole time?

Moore: It’s pretty much SCI FI. I mean it’s really been more about their scheduling and when they want to air the episodes. And, you know, we sort just got used to building in a mid season cliffhanger. And then left it up to them about, you know, how long the break in between the 10th and the 11th episode would be each year.

We’ve heard a lot of rumors about a very, very dark ending. How dark can we get?

Moore: I don’t know, is there a limit?

Eick: Compared to where we are now I mean.

Moore: Yes exactly.

Eick: You know, I don’t think we’ve ever, I don’t think either of us have ever entirely understood that word. You know, it’s funny, we had a kind of a controversial debate very early on in the show’s birth, the first season. About wanting to see more people sort of, you know, the society at large. And people come, going on. And figuring out ways to still enjoy life despite their desperate straits. And the one thing we disagreed with, that note or that impulse, but to Ron and I it just seemed that okay so if you show people celebrating and then suddenly something blows up, isn’t that worse than just having the thing blow up? And so I just think that it’s a kind of chic word to use in TV analysis because people like to analyze whether or not dark works on TV or doesn’t work on TV. And I just think it’s such a subjective word. You know, I don’t know if you would characterize the ending as dark or not. I would venture to say no. But certainly we’ve said no with the – emphatically before. And had people look at us like we were insane so. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

Is there, you know, and obviously with all the scheduling difficulties and, between the writer strike and everything else. That must have had a large effect on how you, the decisions that you made regarding the story itself. Number 1, is that the case? And Number 2, has it affected the way you would look at writing going forward?

Moore: Oh I don’t know if it’s affected much going forward. I don’t think I took any grand lessons from it except that there is, well maybe I did. I’d say the one thing is that I took for – took from the break from the writer’s strike was that there is a need every once in a while to stop and take a breath and be sure you like where you’re going. Because we had structured out the end of the show, the last 10 episodes, and had locked them in and had begun writing some drafts. And we were working actively on them when the strike hit. But over the course of the strike it gave me a chance to pause and reflect. And think that I just wasn’t satisfied with some of the directions we were going. And when the strike was over we gathered the staff together and right off the bat and said, you know what, I had some time. And I think we’re making a mistake with a couple of these story lines. So let’s go back and let’s re-break them and re-visit them. And I was very happy for that. And, you know, maybe the lesson going forward is just, you know, just that. Every once in a while take a time out, even though you think that you’re, there’s this relentless pace that you have to maintain. And you’re afraid to start over again. And sometimes it’s worth it. And I’m ultimately very happy that we did have that break and I did get a chance to re-visit some of those ideas. And I think we have a stronger story as a result.

One other question I had for Ron was the transition that you’re going to be going through from “Battlestar Galactica” to “Caprica” being more of a period piece. How does that affect you as a writer just kind of dealing with the thematic transition of that?

Moore: Oh it’s challenging. You know, it’s a different thing. We set out to do a very different show. And you have to go back and start over. And it’s a new cast of characters, new people, new story line. You know, we have to sort of, you can’t just go on a glide path and say okay, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. We know what this is all about because, you know, in this case we don’t. This is a different feel. You know, it’s a different style. It’s a different method of story telling. It’s a different group of characters. It’s a different mood. I mean everything about “Caprica” was designed specifically to not repeat what we had done in “Galactica”. And so now it’s a challenge. Now it’s about wow, okay now its back to square one. We have to sort of re-invent this. And we have to really make it work. And, you know, there’s no guarantees that people will accept it. And we have to really, you know, rise to the challenge.

I was just wondering, if you were re-imagining, I suppose, if “Battlestar Galactica” were to be re-made in 30, 25 years time. What would you least want someone to change about what you created?

Eick: Oh God I have no idea. I would hope that they just come in and, you know, use their own best judgment. If you’re going to re-invent, if somebody was going to do a new take on this version of “Battlestar Galactica”, you know, I’d want it to be fresh. I’d want them to sort of do what I did when I approached the old series, which was to just go in and take no prisoners. And say, okay I’m going to keep what works and I’m going to discard what doesn’t. And this is what we’re going to set out to do. I mean I would feel – personally I would feel honored if someone does want to do that. You know, it sort of says that then you’ve created something that has stood the test of time and that people are still interested in. And people want to continue to tell stories in this universe. And they’re interested in these characters. And they want to keep, you know, trying to explore different aspects of the show that we weren’t able to explore.

I was just wondering if you could comment on, you know, with “Battlestar” you were writing it for the most part with a distinct ending in mind, a definite ending. With “Caprica” are – you mentioned how you’re trying to keep it different from “Battlestar”. So in that sense, do you – are you trying to keep this ending more loose and open-ended?

Moore: Well right now we’re nowhere near even thinking about what the end of “Caprica” is. And that’s kind of the way it was with “Battlestar”. Although I guess with “Battlestar” we always kind of knew that eventually you were going to have to find Earth or not. With “Caprica” I guess we sort of have the same challenge in that we know that there’s a war looming ahead of them. And the destruction of their entire race is looming ahead of them.

But, you know, that’s 50 years away. And I suppose the show could run 50 years.

Eick: Or at the end of that three we could just cut to 50 years later.

Moore: Yes, 50 years later. But we have no – we haven’t had any discussions on what the end of “Caprica” is.

And as for the characters, I mean do you find that you’re trying to also keep them very different from “Battlestar’s” characters? I don’t know if you can mention any examples.

Moore: Well they are different. I mean I would say that there’s probably going to be similarities only in that the way we like to do characters. And the way we like to make them ambiguous and challenging and surprising. You know, we – that still matters to David and I a lot. And so I – we will continue to try to do that. But I don’t know that there’s any particular, you know, stand in for any of the “Battlestar” characters. I don’t think, you know, oh here’s this – here’s their version of Starbuck and here’s “Caprica’s” version of Helo or anybody. It’s just, it’s its own thing.

Eick: I mean there’s a character for example who is Esai Morales’s brother who in the realization of the pilot turned out really fantastically. The actor was sensational. And I remember thinking as we were looking at it, you know, this is another great character. And there’s no one even remotely like this on “Battlestar”.So I think that there’s always going to be a, hopefully if we’re lucky, a distinction – a distinctive quality to the characters. But I do think that they will all feel very different and apart from those you’ve come to know from “Battlestar”. I don’t think there’s the Tigh guy for example, or the, you know, Tyrol guy.

Ron having worked on “Star Trek” in years past, we’re there any, I don’t know, lessons that you took home from those spin off series that you’re now able to apply to “Caprica” as a spin off of the “Battlestar” universe?

Moore: Probably first and foremost that you don’t try to repeat the formula. You know, I think that, you know, I questioned at the time “Trek’s”, when “Star Trek” – after “Deep Space Nine” when they developed the “Voyager”, and then subsequently “Enterprise”. Both those projects felt too similar to “Next Generation” and to the original series for me and by my lights. And I felt that, you know, “Deep Space” was the way to do a spin off series of an existing franchise where you really are doing a very different show. It’s a different format. It’s a different feeling. You know, and the “Deep Space Nine” station lent itself to continuing stories. “The Next Generation” was episodic. I mean they were just very different animals. And I felt that it was more creatively satisfying to do that instead of doing a, you know, a spin off that just felt like a different version of the mother ship. And so that definitely informed, you know, the process as we went into “Caprica”.

There’s a lot of talk about “Caprica”. And I really wanted to know because there were some – there was some success with “Razor”. And most definitely will be with “The Plan”. Do you think that there are – will be any more opportunities for a prequel for “Battlestar” and for “Caprica”, you know, movie offshoots.

Moore: Don’t know about “Caprica”. Haven’t had – haven’t even thought about that direction. I don’t know that there’s really any opportunity to do more “Battlestar” pieces.We’ve struck the set. You know, I mean the sets are gone. So that alone, you know, raises a huge hurdle to try to do any more. Because, you know, I don’t know what, how they would scrape together the money to reassemble that ship. But, you know, there’s always virtual versions of the ship. And you never say never. But I would say it’s very, very unlikely that there would be any more.

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