In the early 2000’s, Ronald D. Moore rebooted Battlestar Galactica for the Syfy Channel and it was like nothing else on television. Before going any further, you need to remember Battlestar premiered a little over two years after the September 11, 2001 attacks and the world was a much different place. America had gone to war in Iraq in early 2003, George W. Bush was President and using the “War on Terror” to go after al-Qaeda around the world and in Afghanistan, and many people felt less safe due to terrorism concerns.
So when Battlestar Galactica premiered in the fall of 2003 with a three-hour miniseries that showed the destruction of a civilization with only a handful of survivors, it absolutely struck a nerve. Here was this science-fiction drama trying to talk about the war on terror with complicated and morally gray characters that were debating religion, life, and trying to survive while being chased through space by an android race set to wipe them out. I was hooked from day one and it was universally hailed by critics as something special.
Anyway, last week I landed an extended interview with Moore as part of the Collider Connected interview series and we spent a lot of time talking about Battlestar Gactica. He went into great detail about how the series happened, how the reboot could talk about what was happening in the real world with 9/11 and terrorism, what it was like making the series with all the critical acclaim and buzz, making the series on a limited budget, why they only planned for ten episodes ahead and not having a long term plan, and so much more.
However, while the entire conversation was interesting, there was one thing that really stood out and that was how the original cut of the Battlestar Galactica series finale was four hours and a lot different. If you remember, the series finale, called “Daybreak”, original aired as a three-part episode which ran about 141 minutes. But when they started working on the edit, the original cut was four hours and a lot different in the way the story played out. Here’s Moore on what it was and why it changed:
“The original cut was probably closer to four hours. There was a different structure in the script than what ended up on screen. The structure in the script was much less linear – it was very non-linear. I was doing flashbacks and current stuff and mixing up the flashbacks. You would see the end Laura’s story before you saw the beginning of it and then you’d come back to the present. Then you’d see another piece of Adama’s story. It was really very challenging. When you read it…it was like “Wow!” It was really a huge thing to wrap your mind around. Everyone got really excited about it. When you laid it out like that in film it was really hard to follow. As much as I wanted it to work, people around me were going “I’m not sure it works. Maybe you should make it linear.” Then I started feeling like maybe you’re right. So it just became a more linear piece in that all the flashbacks lined up chronologically instead of doing them all the flashbacks out of order. Once you did that it changed the fundamental structure. There were some scenes that worked and some scenes going too long. So that’s the difference between the four hour and the three hour was. It was really just changing the structure, tightening up, and making the usual cuts and edits you do on almost any piece of film to just get it down to its fighting weight.”
Of course I was curious if fans had ever seen this uncut version of the finale and if they ever talked about showing it at Comic-Con.
“I frankly haven’t seen it myself since that initial viewing. I probably have it burned on a DVD someplace. I’m sure if I asked Universal where the masters are they’d say, “oh yeah we have all the masters in a salt mine somewhere” and then they’d never be able to find them. It exists. It was put together that way. It would be fun to watch it again. There is also a version of the mini-series that was never seen to that was much longer. But a lot of times longer is not better. I’m used to watching original directors cuts and early cuts of episodes and movies and they’re always long but that doesn’t mean that they’re better. They just have more stuff and some of that stuff just needs to go because it’s not working or the joke is not playing. A lot of the editing of these things is really to its betterment. But, that said, I wouldn’t mind…it’d be kind of a hoot to find the original cut and take a look at it.”
While it would be cool to watch this alternative version of the finale, it’s important to realize it would not be like watching a finished episode with final VFX. I asked how much would it be storyboards and green screen?
“You wouldn’t see storyboards…you would probably see a lot of green screen and you would see…in terms of the vipers and Battlestar fighting stuff there might be temporary shots. There could be pre-viz shots which are kind of grey scale models. There could be missing shots with cards that say what’s going to happen. It would be really rough. It wouldn’t be close to a finished product.”
Even though I’m sure this alt version of the series finale was cut for a reason and what aired was the best version, I’d love for Moore to show it at a Comic-Con for the fans. I definitely show up. And if he brings the alt finale, also bring the alt version of the mini-series!
Check out everything Moore had to say about Battlestar Galactica below and further down the page is exactly what we talked about.
- How did the Battlestar Galactica reboot first happen?
- What was it like making the series with all the critical acclaim and buzz?
- Shares a great story about going to their first Comic-Con with the cast before the series aired.
- How going to Comic-Con changed for them in the second and third years.
- How Comic-Con has changed over the past two decades.
- What was it like writing the series knowing they had a limited budget?
- How they used the mini-series to build the sets they would need and how it was going to be a character story so they could pick their battles about when they would have space sequences and go outside the ship.
- How much were they figuring it out as they went?
- How they planned ten episodes ahead.
- How they crafted the finale season and the series finale.
- How the series finale was originally going to be a two hour episode and as they started editing they realized they had too much footage so it became a three part episode.
- How the original cut of the series finale was four hours.