[29 January 2009]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Ron Moore helped take a rather cheesy old TV series called “Battlestar Galactica” (1978-79) and make it something special.
As co-executive producer and writer of the current series on the Sci Fi Channel, he gave the show depth through a rich and often complicated mythology and a more serious style in the stories.
Four years and 71 episodes later, “Battlestar Galactica” has picked up two Emmys and a prestigious Peabody Award, akin to a Pulitzer Prize for broadcasting. Viewers have made a cable hit out of the story of a group of human survivors of a space war trying to find a place called Earth after their planets were destroyed.
The final 10 new episodes of the Sci Fi Channel cable series are airing. Moore and co-executive producer David Eick are bringing the series to the conclusion they want.
“I didn’t anticipate the critical acclaim of the show,” Moore says during a telephone interview. “I didn’t anticipate how deeply it would penetrate out into the general audience. That it would be talked about as much as it is. And get the awards that it has and that it would have this kind of spotlight on it. I just sort of thought that it was a good show.”
But he believed the cast and crew were doing something in which they could take pride.
The newer “Battlestar’s” mythology created depth and background about the characters and the story. And the appearance of the characters helped spin tales. For example, the bad guys called the Cylons that were on the old show were robots with a Pong-like light scooting back and forth across their metal foreheads. The new Cylons can take on any of a dozen human forms.
The big revelation in the final season is the identity of the last human-looking Cylon: Ellen Tigh, who is played by Kate Vernon. She never expected her character to become the source of so much speculation and buzz among the show’s fans.
“Ellen is the best role I’ve had in my career,” Vernon says. “And I had no expectations when I auditioned for the part. I was told there might be two or three shows ... As they brought me back with each show, I couldn’t wait to crack open these scripts because these writers seemed to really indulge the naughtiness or the feistiness or the troublemaking or the complicated relations she had with her husband.”
Moore’s glad the show has reached a level where it is being honored by critics and loved by fans. Getting to this point has been the interesting part.
“In terms of creatively, I’m very surprised at where we ended up,” he says. “All the characters and the mythologies. And none of that I had in the beginning. I just sort of trusted that we would figure it out. And we did. But I didn’t really have a grand master plan of how it was all going to fit together.”
It wasn’t until the end of the first season that Moore felt like he had a pretty firm plan as to the show’s trek across the cable galaxy.
Making a successful television show is nothing new to Moore, 44, a graduate of Cornell University. He sold his first script to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1989. Since then, he has been a mainstay of science-fiction television as a writer or producer. His credits include “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Good vs. Evil” and “Roswell.” Moore’s next series, “Caprica,” is a prequel to the galactic disaster that sent the survivors on their trek to Earth.
One of Moore’s writing trademarks is strong female characters. “Battlestar” has been no different. He went so far as to make Starbuck, the hotshot pilot played by Dirk Benedict in the original “Battlestar,” into a female pilot (Katee Sackhoff) for this latest version.
And now Vernon gets to take on a similar strong role. She won’t give many details of where her character is going. It has been hard enough to keep the secret of her place in the “Battlestar Galactica” mythology.
And that mythology has made the new “Battlestar” far different from the original. Despite those differences, Moore says one thing has remained the same from the very first day.
“I felt it was important to never lose sight of the premise of the show, which is that the show is born in an apocalypse - that literally billions of people are wiped out,” he says. “And their world was taken away from them and everything they know is gone. All they’ve got are these four walls and the ceiling and the floor around them. And those are made of metal.”
Moore has promised fans that the series would come to a proper end and he would get the space travelers to Earth. It is only in these last few episodes that viewers realize how complicated things can be. The space travelers reached Earth at the end of last season, only to find a world that had been destroyed more than 2,000 years ago.
Although the show has been a series of twists and turns - from the revelations about the Cylons to the death of major characters - Moore promises the last episode will be the end.
“In terms of the larger mysteries and mythologies and hows and the whys and how everything lays out on Galactica, we set out to answer as many of the questions that we could by the end of the show, and that’s what we did. We didn’t hold anything in reserve,” Moore says.
Just to make the point clear, Moore says these last 10 shows will end the “Battlestar Galactica” story.
The last shows are “the period at the end of the sentence,” he says.