Ronald D Moore interview: Caprica, Battlestar Galactica, Virtuality and more

Ronald D Moore chats to us about Caprica, Battlestar Galactica, I, Robot 2, Virtuality, Star Trek and a whole lot more...

As Caprica makes it to DVD in the UK, we got the rare opporunity to speak to the genius that is Ronald D Moore about the show, his love of sci-fi and a lot more besides. Geekbumps at the ready, here we go…

How daunting was the prospect of finishing Battlestar Galactica, giving that it’s being called one of the greatest TV shows of all-time?

Well, I kind of felt like the story had moved into its final chapter; so I felt pretty confident that it was the right time to end the show.

The awards that you’ve won for Battlestar Galactica and so forth, do they spur you on or do they make you sit back and relax?

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Uh, I don’t know. They look pretty on my mantle. [laughs] I think the awards and the acclaim are surprising and gratifying and you’re always amazed that people like what you do, and it’s even more surprising when you find the critics, the publications, and organisations like that, give the show awards, it’s great. It’s incidental to the process. You try to make the best story you can and you don’t really make them in order to earn the awards, but it’s certainly nice when they come.

So what made you stick with the Galactica story instead of trying something new?

Well, it came up a couple of years ago. David Eick and I had spent some time causally talking about the possibility of doing a spin-off series of Battlestar Galactica while we were still producing the show, and we said if we did do it, it would probably be about the creation of the Cylons, but we didn’t really take those discussions any further.

It wasn’t until another writer, Remi Aubuchon, completely separately went to Universal Studios and pitched them an idea for a show about artificial intelligence that things started to happen. Universal then said that maybe Remi, David and I should sit down together and talk, and we did. It was really out of those discussions that we decided to do Caprica.

I notice you’ve not directed a lot, but that you’ve directed an episode of Caprica. Are there plans to do more in that field?

I think I would. I enjoyed directing and I really found that it was a great new field to try my hand in. So, yes, I would definitely like to direct again in the future.

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I wanna get a bit geeky here. Is there a connection between the Daniel mentioned toward the end of Galactica and Daniel Graystone?

No, that was a complete coincidence of name. I didn’t realise how much people would glom onto that coincidence and start to read all kinds of things into it. There’s really nothing there.

Does your work on the Star Trek series influence the way you approached Battlestar?

Yeah, working at Star Trek all those years really was the place that I learned the craft of television writing, in story, in plot, structure, and character. It taught me how to write and produce TV. When I came to Battlestar, I also decided I wanted to break all the rules that Star Trek had about how it did stories. From the beginning, we decided that if Star Trek did something, Battlestar was not going to do it and we would try to, in every way we could, make a different show than what Star Trek did.

I’ve read that you went into Battlestar without a plan as to who was a Cylon and so forth. Did you approach Caprica in the same way, or did you have to take Battlestar‘s history into consideration?

It was slightly different. The field was wide open when we approached Battlestar. There was literally nothing that we couldn’t do and we had tons that we could make up and invent, an entire history.

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Caprica is a little different, some of these things have now been set in place and we know generally what the outline of colonial history is, so we have sort of a general guideline, but still there’s really no preconceived plan about how long the show will run, how far into the future the show will go, or what the last episode is or anything like that.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

I’m developing a couple of feature films and some other television programmes, but there’s nothing definitive yet.

So, can you tell us a little about your involvement in I, Robot 2?

Well, I did a couple of drafts of that a couple of years ago and it’s still at the studio and I haven’t heard anything about it in quite some time. But, feature films can often take a very long time. I don’t know if they’re still interested in making the movie or not.

I did a draft of a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and they’ve hired a director and brought in another writer as well. They are in pre-production on that film and are to begin shooting up in Canada in the next couple of months.

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Looking forward to that! Can you tell us a little more about the Virtuality pilot that you made? Do you plan to pursue it further?

Well, I was very happy with the pilot. I thought it was a really interesting piece of work. Unfortunately, Fox broadcasting decided that they didn’t think it would make a good series. So, they just made the pilot. It was aired and put out on DVD and they decided not to make any more. I thought it was kind of a shame. But no, there’s no future for Virtuality.

What are the chances of seeing more Battlestar Galactica content?

I don’t think so. You never say never but there’s really no plans for more Battlestar. The sets are gone, [but] we did digitally archive all the sets and props and costumes in case we wanted to do something, but at the moment there are no talks of any more Battlestar projects.

Is there any chance that more characters from Battlestar will turn up in Caprica?

I don’t think so. We do talk every once in a while about seeing someone else’s ancestor because no-one else from Battlestar are really old enough to be present at the time of Caprica. If we do that, it may just be once or twice, but probably not any time soon.

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Is the re-using of actors from Battlestar in Caprica, is it a direct reference to ancestry?

We’re kind of being vague about that. We’re not really specifically saying that those are the actual ancestors of the characters they played, but if the audience would like to think that, there’s really no reason why they can’t.

What initially got you interested in sci-fi? What were your influences?

What got my interested in science fiction was actually the American space program. When I grew up, I saw the moon landing and I was fascinated watching them as a child and that’s what really turned me onto space and science fiction and I started watching things like Lost In Space and that led me to Star Trek, which was a major influence on my life.

Were you a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica then?

I wasn’t a big fan of it, but I saw it in its original run. I certainly watched it every week. Since it went off the air in 78, I didn’t really see it again until I was offered the opportunity to re-do it, so I didn’t watch it for twenty years or so.

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Were Caprica and Virtuality being pitched at the same time? And which one were you secretly hoping would win out?

They were made at around the same time, yes. The Caprica script was written about a year before Sci-Fi decided to make the pilot and the next year we wrote the Virtuality script and they both were put into production within about a month of each other. I don’t know if I have a favourite between the two. I was really hoping that they were both going to go.

When you were picking actors for Caprica, what made you go with people like James Marsters? And will we be seeing his character a lot more in the future?

A lot of that came from within. Jane Espenson had worked on Buffy and was a huge fan of James Marsters and she suggested him for the role, and the network was very excited to have him. We definitely will [see him more]. His character has a multi-episode arc in the show.

If you were to make another spin-off, where do you think you would go with that?

It’s really hard to say. I think there are other periods in the Galactica universe that might be worth exploring, including events that happened. It really depends on how far we take Caprica.

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How important was it to capture a real sense of reality within the Tauron back-story and culture?

We wanted to show Caprican society had problems, people coming to the planet and the city who were facing the classic immigrant questions of assimilation and cultural identity, and the different colonies are our stand-in for racial and national tensions of our own. So, we did want that element in the show, to see cultures and races colliding in different ways, so we decided that Adama was going to be from Tauron and that he wasn’t really a native of Caprica and that his story was part of an immigrant’s tale.

The style of the show is very early 20th century, what made you go with that as opposed to any other period, more up to date?

Well, we wanted the show to mostly look like today. A show that looks contemporary in its city and landscapes and so on, which had elements of futuristic technology. But, because the show takes place 50 years before Battlestar Galactica, I thought it was also important that it has a period feel, that you’re reminded that this was something that took place before Battlestar, so we went with the idea of giving it a slightly retro feel, and giving it a 1940s and 1950s fashion and touchstones of the culture and having vintage automobiles and things like that, just to remind you that it’s something of a period piece.

I want to just touch briefly on Tamara and Zoe caught up in the virtual world. Will that feature heavily in the series or will it branch out into the real world? Will they interact with other people in the real world?

We’ll do both. We’ll go back into the virtual world with more Tamara and Zoe stories, but their stories will also cross into the real world as well. It’s kind of hard to answer, but there will be answers to those questions in this season.

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If someone offered you a Star Trek series of your own, would you take it?

I’d seriously consider it. I think ,at the moment, the franchise is in good hands. JJ Abrams has a really good take on it, I thought the last movie was very good. I’m confident that he’s going to chart a direction for Star Trek for the foreseeable future.

What does the rest of the season have in store for us?

There are a lot of twists and turns. There are more revelations about characters that you don’t expect. I think you’re going to be surprised at some of the directions that Graystone Industries takes and the relationship between Daniel and Joseph will shift and change as the season goes on, and certainly the life of Sister Clarice will change quite a bit as well.

Ronald D Moore, thank you very much!

Caprica is on DVD now.

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