Saturday, January 17, 2009

mo ryan's interview with ron moore

Excerpts from Maureen Ryan's interview with Battlestar creator Ron Moore (read the full interview here). It's very long, but as per usual, Moore gives fascinating answers.

Why Ellen?

There’s a certain logic to it. I sort of figured out early on that I liked the pairing of her and Tigh. [I liked] that there was something deeper to their marriage and deeper to their relationship, that it was literally a relationship that had transcended time and space, that it was very ancient that had gone on for a very long time. It was something that was [mentioned] in the pilot for “Galactica.”

In the miniseries, Tigh is burning her photo, right?

Yeah, and the very first scene that he’s in, he gets upset because Starbuck is pushing his buttons about her, “What about your wife?” And he kicks over the table and then she slugs him.

There was something really appealing about the idea that of the final five, the two of them were a pair, and they were THIS pair -- you know, as drama-ridden as their relationship had been, the idea that there had always been something deeper and more profound at its center, I always really, really liked.

When did you make that selection?

It was somewhere in the course of the third season [that the possibility was first raised.] We killed Ellen early that season and we didn’t have an inkling of that at that point. But at the point that we killed Ellen, around the same time frame, I was starting to come up with the idea that there were five Cylons that had yet to be revealed.

At the beginning of the third season, Baltar had gone to live on the Cylon base ship for a string of episodes. And it was really that plot move that threw into relief -- well, once Baltar’s over in the Cylon world, why wouldn’t he see all 12 of them? How could we get around that and parcel that out? Then I had this idea, well, what if it’s not random? What if there’s a meaning to the fact that we haven’t seen the five of them? And that’s how the Final Five became part of the mythos.

Over the course of the third season, Ellen came and went in my thinking in terms of who the final five were. It probably wasn’t until we settled on the final four that I knew it was Ellen. When we got to the final four -- Tigh, Anders, Tory and Tyrol -- then it felt like, “and Ellen has to be the fifth.” Because Tigh being revealed as a Cylon was such a profound shift in that character, such a big leap for the show, that it felt really natural that she was also a Cylon.

And he had killed her for collaborating with the Cylons! There were layers and depths to that I felt were really fascinating, about guilt and blame and memory and responsibility, and I just really liked the way that all tied together.

Of the first set of seven (Cylons), how many of them knew? There’s part of me that wonders if Cavil knew and was just messing with Ellen on New Caprica because he could. Obviously you didn’t know then that she would be a Cylon, but the possibility of Cavil or others knowing and then playing that complication out in future episodes, did that help you make your decision?

Yeah, the Cavil thing plays in quite strongly. That will be revealed as we get deeper into the season. But that did all flow together really well.

So we will come to know, in this next set of episodes, who knew that Ellen was a Cylon, and that will play out in what’s coming?


So we’ll see her again. Does she figure prominently in the season?

I don’t want to give too much away, but it won’t be the last time that you see Ellen.

It seems as though a lot of the final Cylons were leading people or important people on New Caprica. Is there something to that?

That was more just watching how their characters behaved in those circumstances. They had no knowledge of their true nature. What were the actions they would take as human beings in those situations, given who their characters were? That’s how they developed. It was the irony of the fact that they were all fundamentally involved in the resistance against the Cylons was interesting to us.

So in writing Season 4, you had a semi-solid idea that it would be Ellen?

Yeah. As we went into Season 4, we had the writers retreat over the hiatus, we talked about what the general storyline was of the last season, we talked specifically about the first half of Season 4 and we talked about it being Ellen and getting to the place where we would reveal it to be Ellen.

So you gave us a clue, then, when Tigh is visiting Caprica Six in the brig in the first half of Season 4 -- he keeps seeing Ellen’s face instead of Six’s. Was that an acknowledgment of that connection or was that just Tigh being in some kind of fog?

It was about both. It was about his innate sense of longing for the woman he truly loved, and it was also sort of hinting that there was a deeper connection between the two.

[On the idea that someone would not handle the news well.] Was there a discussion of who that would be, the person who would pay that cost? How did you settle on [Dualla]?

We did talk about it, and it felt like in some ways, I mean, unfortunately, it was [a case of,] she was kind of the sweetest character. It would be the one that you would expect the least. It also felt right. Her journey had [been] -- she was in love with Billy and then she was in love with this other man and neither one worked out. And all she really had in her life was this hope of getting to Earth some day. Some day it would all be OK.

Her whole family, her whole world, everything had been shattered. After Billy died and after she splits with Lee, probably all Dualla has is [the goal of Earth]. The job doesn’t mean anything -- what does the job mean at that point? There’s no career, it’s just getting through the next day. So what she had is to get to Earth. And she got to Earth and it turned out to be nothing. So it felt like, she’s done. It’s overwith.

That’s the impact of her death, though -- she’s the professional. It’s not like she’s unfeeling, but she’s going to compartmentalize and get the job done and be an officer and do what she needs to do. And then when she couldn’t do that at all... I mean, she could, to have that date with Lee, but then she was done. For someone like that to just end it, that’s very unsettling.

She just said, “My story ends here. I end here.” It gave her a measure of control, it gave her a measure of decision, she was able to say, “My life is going to end at this point.”

That’s what makes the episode so painful, in a way. Nobody can step up. Nobody can get back up off the floor. We’ve seen them pull themselves off the floor so many times, but they can’t do it this time. Adama’s walking into Tigh’s quarters drunk, with a loaded gun. Roslin’s just checked out. Dee kills herself.

It felt like, if we were going to get to a place where we’re going to find Earth mid-season and it’s not going to be what they’d hoped, it’s all going to be ashes, you had to play it truthfully. You had to say it’s really going to devastate them. It’s going to hit them in a way we’ve never seen before. Our heroes are not going to be heroic. They’re not going to be able to come back from this easily. It’s going to take their fondest hope away from them.

[Discussing the chronology of the 13 Tribes of Kobol.] We see the flashback of Tyrol in that marketplace, and it seemed like a planet full of lots of different kinds of people, not just 12 different models. Is that right?


That planet is Earth? We’re not going to find out, “Oh, there’s this other Earth over here...” This is the only Earth we’ll see?

They have found Earth. This is the Earth that the 13th Colony discovered, they christened it Earth. They found Earth.

What I really found surprising about that scene where she appears to find her own body is -- Leoben seems taken aback. Normally he’s the guy who’s spewing this mixture of [not-truth] and truth and getting in her head. But he seems severely freaked out.

Oh yeah. I love the fact that Leoben gets to a place where he says, “I was wrong. I don’t know what to do. I thought I saw streams and rivers and I thought I saw stuff [this refers to Leoben’s dialogue in “Flesh and Bone”], but I don’t know.” That makes him mortal, in a certain sense.

In general with this episode, did anyone at the network or studio say, you know, this is too dark?

I think they had qualms. There were questions about, “Wow, this is really dark. Is anyone ever going to come back and watch the rest of the episodes?” I said, “Well, it is the end of the show.”

My attitude was pretty much, “Look, we’re in the last chapter here. Anyone who’s come this far and doesn’t want to watch the rest -- they’re a minority at best.” People are going to want to see how this turns out. And yeah, this is a very dark chapter. This may not even be the darkest chapter.

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