With ‘Caprica,' Ronald D. Moore flies ‘Battlestar Galactica' to its past

by Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

23 April 2009


Ronald D. Moore just spent more than half a decade working on the television series “Battlestar Galactica.” The result was a four-season run on the Sci Fi Channel that took a rag-tag group of space travelers from a devastating raid by robots called Cylons to a new beginning.

You would think Moore would be tired of the franchise by now. He’s not. Moore is an executive producer and writer of “Caprica.” The new series, scheduled to launch on the Sci Fi Channel in 2010, looks at life 51 years before the Cylon attack.

You don’t have to wait until next year to get a glimpse of the series. The feature-length opener was released Tuesday on DVD.

The early release is meant to satisfy “Battlestar Galactica” fans who might be going through some withdrawals now that the series has ended, says Hilary Hoffman, senior vice president, brand and digital marketing for Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It will also be a way to create some buzz before the show launches.

“Caprica” looks at two rival families. Their patriarchs - Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) - are dealing with the growth of technology that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons.

“Battlestar” fans know that the Cylons will eventually wipe out most of the population - knowledge that would seem to be a stumbling block in creating tension for the new series.

“I think the tension comes from the fact that you do know where it’s going,” Moore says during an interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “The idea is to say all of this, this world that you’re about to visit, is doomed in some way, shape, or form. There’s a sense of dread and an ominousness that gathers over all the characters.

“In terms of the narrative and the story structure, it’s like any period piece. You know how World War II turns out. You know the Nazis are going to lose, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t tell compelling stories in the time frame.”

Moore’s confident the story will lure fans to the new show. He’s got a pretty good idea what science- fiction fans want in their television shows - he has worked on such series as “Roswell,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Not since Gene Roddenberry launched “Star Trek” in the ‘60s has anyone had as much influence on the science-fiction TV market as Moore.

Ideas for the new show were kicked around as “Battlestar” was headed toward its finale. Some kind of companion series to “Battlestar” was sought.

A storyline about the First Cylon War was considered and rejected in favor of a completely different direction. Moore says “Caprica” is nothing like “Battlestar.”

“It has a completely different tone, completely different mood, completely different way of telling stories. It’s shot very different,” Moore says. “I think I was particularly attracted to the idea of doing a science-fiction piece that was not built on a foundation of action adventure. It wasn’t about Vipers and it wasn’t about the Cylons attacking every other week.

“It was really a character piece. It was really a drama you can infuse with a lot of political commentary and a lot of religious overtones and really dig into a people and a society and how and why it all came unglued.”

The show was different enough to draw Stoltz to the project. He describes the script for the first episode as “wonderful, rich, surprisingly smart.”

Series star Polly Walker had just completed work on the cable series “Rome” when she got the “Caprica” script.

“You only see so much when you read a pilot. But there just seems to be so much sort of scope and places that I could go. It’s a very strong character. It’s a woman that’s on her own, in a sense. She’s not attached to anybody. And she has very strong convictions. And I think and believe that I can do something equally interesting with it,” Walker says.

As for “Caprica” taking place 51 years before the attack that launched “Battlestar Galactica,” that comes from bits of the series mythos revealed during the four-year run.

“We had said that no one had seen or heard from the Cylons in 40 years. We had kind of said that the First Cylon War was a multiyear conflict. So this gives us a little more of a cushion and sort of still be expansive on exactly how long the initial war took place,” Moore says.

“And we were also locked into the idea of we wanted William Adama (the character played by Edward James Olmos in “Battlestar Galactica) to be a character in this piece, albeit a boy. With his age and doing math - which is not one of our strengths - we came up with 51 years.”

//Mixed media