Moore on Battlestar Galactica
December 8th, 2002
It's been a long time since Mister X came forward with something juicy. Long time readers know he has uncanny timing when it comes to his appearances. That X has provided inside information on projects from several different studios, I can be assured he is not a plant for one specific company. Today, Mister X sent me an interesting document, one purported to be from the hand of Ronald D. Moore himself, that accompanied the teleplay to the powers that be at Studio USA and the Sci-Fi Channel and helped get the greenlight for the project. And yes, the miniseries is greenlit, folks. So, without further ado, Mr. Moore's Battlestar Galactica mission statement...
Our goal is nothing less than the reinvention of the science fiction television series. We take as a given the idea that the traditional space opera, with its stock characters, techno-double-talk, bumpy-headed aliens, thespian histrionics, and empty heroics has run its course and a new approach is required. That approach is to introduce realism into what has heretofore been an aggressively unrealistic genre.
Call it "Naturalistic Science Fiction."
This idea, the presentation of a fantastical situation in naturalistic terms, will permeate every aspect of our series:
Visual. The first thing that will leap out at viewers is the dynamic use of the documentary or cinema verite style. Through the extensive use of hand-held cameras, practical lighting, and functional set design, the battlestar Galactica will feel on every level like a real place.
This shift in tone and look cannot be overemphasized. It is our intention to deliver a show that does not look like any other science fiction series ever produced. A casual viewer should for a moment feel like he or she has accidentally surfed onto a "60 Minutes" documentary piece about life aboard an aircraft carrier until someone starts talking about Cylons and battlestars.
That is not to say we're shooting on videotape under fluorescent lights, but we will be striving for a verisimilitude that is sorely lacking in virtually every other science fiction series ever attempted. We're looking for filmic truth, not manufactured "pretty pictures" or the "way cool" factor.
Perhaps nowhere will this be more surprising than in our visual effects shots. Our ships will be treated like real ships that someone had to go out and film with a real camera. That means no 3-D "hero" shots panning and zooming wildly with the touch of a mousepad. The questions we will ask before every VFX shot are things like: "How did we get this shot? Where is the camera? Who's holding it? Is the cameraman in another spacecraft? Is the camera mounted on the wing?" This philosophy will generate images that will present an audience jaded and bored with the same old "Wow -- it's a CGI shot!" with a different texture and a different cinematic language that will force them to re-evaluate their notions of science fiction.
Another way to challenge the audience visually will be our extensive use of the multi-split screen format. By combining multiple angles during dogfights, for example, we will be able to present an entirely new take on what has become a tired and familiar sequence that has not changed materially since George Lucas established it in the mid 1970s.
Finally, our visual style will also capitalize on the possibilities inherent in the series concept itself to deliver unusual imagery not typically seen in this genre. That is, the inclusion of a variety of civilian ships each of which will have unique properties and visual references that can be in stark contrast to the military life aboard Galactica. For example, we have a vessel in our rag-tag fleet which was designed to be a space-going marketplace or "City Walk" environment. The juxtaposition of this high-gloss, sexy atmosphere against the gritty reality of a story for survival will give us more textures and levels to play than in typical genre fare.
Editorial. Our style will avoid the now clichéd MTV fast-cutting while at the same time foregoing Star Trek's somewhat ponderous and lugubrious "master, two-shot, close-up, close-up, two-shot, back to master" pattern. If there is a model here, it would be vaguely Hitchcockian -- that is, a sense of building suspense and dramatic tension through the use of extending takes and long masters which pull the audience into the reality of the action rather than the distract through the use of ostentatious cutting patterns.
Story. We will eschew the usual stories about parallel universes, time-travel, mind-control, evil twins, God-like powers and all the other clichés of the genre. Our show is first and foremost a drama. It is about people. Real people that the audience can identify with and become engaged in. It is not a show about hardware or bizarre alien cultures. It is a show about us. It is an allegory for our own society, our own people and it should be immediately recognizable to any member of the audience.
Science. Our spaceships don't make noise because there is no noise in space. Sound will be provided from sources inside the ships -- the whine of an engine audible to the pilot for instance. Our fighters are not airplanes and they will not be shackled by the conventions of WWII dogfights. The speed of light is a law and there will be no moving violations.
And finally, Character. This is perhaps, the biggest departure from the science fiction norm. We do not have "the cocky guy" "the fast-talker" "the brain" "the wacky alien sidekick" or any of the other usual characters who populate a space series. Our characters are living, breathing people with all the emotional complexity and contradictions present in quality dramas like "The West Wing" or "The Sopranos." In this way, we hope to challenge our audience in ways that other genre pieces do not. We want the audience to connect with the characters of Galactica as people. Our characters are not super-heroes. They are not an elite. They are everyday people caught up in a enormous cataclysm and trying to survive it as best they can.
They are you and me.
As I read this mission statement, I knew one thing... the "Galactica" fanboys who have reacted to our story last week with almost unanimous derision would probably go apoplectic when they read this. More protests will be called for. More slurs will be made upon Moore and those in charge at the various companies within Vivendi Universal who would allow such a disgraceful, disrespectful version of "Galactica" be brought forth, when there are people like Richard Hatch, Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto who do respect the original series and are willing to work towards a continuation of the original storyline.
And they might indeed have a point.
But it doesn't matter.
The greatest problem with the Internet is that it has mistakenly been promoted as a way the average person can have a voice and that anything and everything they say will be heard and will matter. Only part of this is true. The part a number of Netheads still haven't learned is that it's not how much you speak out, it's HOW you speak out.
Let's take a look at one specific post left on the Sci-Fi Channel BBoard concerning Galactica. This young studboy decided the best way to get Ronald D. Moore to listen to his opinion was to call Moore "The AIDS Virus Of Televised Science Fiction." What this person needs to realize is that not only will his voice not be heard, but his post is one of the myriad of reasons most entertainment companies do not take the power of the Internet seriously. The childish, obscenity-filled posts on the Sci-Fi BBoard will not help the BSG fanboy cause any. At best, I can imagine only one Sci-Fi BBoard regular, Michael Faries of Battlestar Galactica.com, to have read any part of Mr. Moore's teleplay for the new series. I know I haven't seen anything yet. All this attitude is solely based on the secondhand synopsis of someone hired by the casting director to summarize the script for agents to have an idea if any of their clients might be a match for any of the roles.
That Moore is obviously trying to do something different, to bring it into the 21st Century and make sure that it's given the treatment it deserves to get it back on the air as a regular series, seems to be lost. That the original show was cancelled after 22 episodes because the ratings did not support the cost of producing the show seems to be lost. That "Star Trek" was able to grow and flourish not as a continuation of the original series but as a free standing series within the timeline, seems to be lost, although the original fears of Trekkies are coming true now with the abysmal "Enterprise" atrocity. That "Galactica" was a product of a time long since past, and would not work on the same level with new viewers they way it did then, seems to be lost. That despite the best intentions of Richard Hatch and Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto, their different visions for BSG did not illicit the support of the people who were putting up the budget for the project, seems to be lost.
A project must continually evolve in order to survive. Newton's First Law of Motion. I haven't read or seen any of what Hatch or Singer and De Santo were working on, so I will not judge the merits or faults of those projects. And I haven't read or seen any of what Moore is working on now outside of what has been printed on this site, so I will not judge Moore's vision until his vision is ready for airing next Winter.
But then, I don't have cable, so I'll probably end up missing it anyway.