OK, so Friday night’s Battlestar Galactica finale might not have left every last inch of backstory unturned, but at least it didn’t wrap with Lee, his dad, Roslin and Starbuck sitting in a diner, perusing menus, with Tigh struggling to parallel park outside, and Cavill suddenly wandering in off the street to use the men’s room…
This past Monday, as a hundred or so television critics were treated to an advanced screening of “Daybreak, Part 2,” the lucky gathering were also granted an opportunity to address any lingering “What the frak….?” concerns with exec producers Ron Moore and David Eick, and stars Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos.
Seeking just one iota more of enlightment? Read on.
What exactly was Kara? Was she an angel? And were we all chasing down a rabbit hole when we assumed her father was Daniel, the missing Cylon?
Ron Moore: Daniel is definitely a rabbit hole. It was an unintentional rabbit hole, to be honest. I was kind of surprised when I started picking up speculation online that Daniel (for those of you that don’t know, there was a deep part of the Cylon backstory that had to with one of the Cylon skinjobs that was created by the final five that was later sort of aborted by Brother Cavil in the deep, deep backstory of the show). And it was always intended to just be sort of an interesting bit of backstory about Cavill, and his jealousy. The Cain and Abel sort of allegory. And then people started really grabbing onto it and seizing onto it as some major part of the mythology. In a couple of interviews, and in the last podcast, I kinda went out of my way to say, “Look, don’t spend too much time on this particular theory, because it was never intended to be that major a piece of the mythology.” It was never intended to take that kind of load-bearing weight. It’s much like boxing in that way.
Kara is what you want her to be. It’s easy to put the label on her of angel, or messenger of God or something like that. Kara Thrace died, and was resurrected and came back, and took the people to their final end. And that was sort of her role, her destiny on the show. We debated back and forth in the writers’ room for awhile about giving it more definition, more clarity and saying this is definitively what she is. And we decided that the more you try to outline and to give voice to it, the less interesting it became. We just decided this was the most interesting way to go out – with her just disappearing and wondering exactly, to name what she was.
We see the Galactica jump away from the Colony. Are we to assume that there are a lot of pissed off Cavills out there? Is there a definitive answer- were they destroyed?
Ron Moore: The final, final came out a little less clear on that level than I intended. It’s one of those things that we didn’t quite see all the way to the end. It was scripted and the idea was, that when Racetrack bumps, hits the nukes, the nukes come in smack into the Colony. It takes the Colony out, it was destroyed and torn apart. As we went through the show and we kept pulling out time and we kept cutting frames, one of the things that sort of became less apparent was that the Colony was doomed, and everyone aboard the Colony perished. That was the intention.
Ron, at what point did you decide to make it Earth of the past that we were going to wind up with?
Ron Moore: We decided that quite awhile ago actually – a couple years ago. I don’t think we ever really had a version of the show where we talked about being in the future or the present. Those didn’t seem as interesting. In the early goings, we started talking about the fact that we would see a lot of contemporary things in the show, from language to wardrobe, to all sorts of production design sort of details. That only sort of made sense to us in terms of actually a lot of the things we see in the show and we feel are taken from our contemporary world are actually theirs to begin with and somehow actually spread down through the eons and came to us through the collective unconscious, or more directly like Lee said, we would give them the better part of ourselves.
David Eick: There was a time when we were talking about literally, they land and there are pteradactyls, tyrannosaurus rex, but it was really the idea that they were the genus of humankind. This seemed like the right (and more affordable way) to do that rather than “Jurassic Park.” The image of Six walking through Times Square – we came up with that a long time ago.
Do you have any clues to who attacked the original Earth? And why did Cavill go for the quick out and shoot himself?
Ron Moore: The backstory of the original Earth was supposed to be that the 13th tribe of Cylons came to that world, started over, and essentially destroyed themselves in some unforeseen warfare occurred among the Cylons themselves, which was another repetition of the cycle that “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.” That even they, who were the rebels and split off, left to their own devices, there was enough of humanity in them, as Cylons even, that eventually they destroyed themselves.
Cavill killing himself came from Dean Stockwell actually, to be honest. As scripted, in that final climactic CIC battle, Tigh was going to grab Cavill and fling him over the edge of the upper level in the CIC and was going to fall to his death. Dean called me himself and said “You know, I just really think that in that moment, Cavill would realize the jig is up and it’s all hopeless. He should just put a gun in his mouth and shoot himself.” And I said, “OK.”
What was the last scene that you filmed, and what was the mood like on the set? How hard was it to film that?
Mary McDonnell: My last scene was Laura Roslin’s last moment in the Raptor. That was at about 3:45 am on a very small set. I think I was one of the first people to wrap, and she died. We all hugged each other and then my son and I went to the airport and flew back to LA. That was my last scene, and it happened quickly. It wasn’t set to happen then. It was set to happen a week later, and the schedule was changed, so suddenly it was over. It was really interesting, very much like the show, for me. Eddie’s last day of course was different.
Edward James Olmos: My last day was the last day when I was on the mountainside. It was the last moment that I was on camera. It was quite an experience all the way around, that moment in time. It was real easy. I think everybody had a real easy time with the last time, with the emotions that we hit at the very end. It was pretty honest all the way around. It was the last time that I saw Starbuck and Lee – the scene where I saw them in the field. Then I went off by myself and did my own shooting with myself with the crew for the last scene and then left. It was pretty intense.
About the song “All Along the Watchtower”: I recall Anders on the destroyed Earth, flashing back to remembering having played the song. Later we see that Kara recalls these notes that she picked up either directly or indirectly from her father. Are you trying to get some notion that this is some kind of universal consciousness that goes back as far as the human/cylon race has existed, or is there some history to the song and this narrative that I’m missing here?
Ron Moore: Yes! The notion is sort of how you posited it. It’s that the music, the lyrics, the composition of some things are divine. It’s eternal, it lives in the collective unconsciousness and in everyone in the show, and all of us today. It’s a musical theme that sort of repeats itself and crops up in unexpected places and different people hear it, and pluck it out of the ether, and write songs and hear it and it sort of a connection of the divine and the mortal that music is something that people literally catch out of the air. You can’t really define how they compose it, and here is a song that transcends many eons and many different people and cultures and literally across the stars, and ultimately was re-invented by one Mr. Bob Dylan here on earth.
Eick: It was a simple way I thought to communicate clearly that this was not the future. That this is the story about a culture that sort of gave birth to ours. There was an episode in Season 1 in which Helo and Sharon are running for their lives and they hole up in a diner and there’s a Cylon centurion sort of cornering them. And for the longest time we had a plan to have an old jukebox in the diner that would play “Yesterday” or something we could afford. And I think we felt it was too soon, and that it would confuse things and it would be so non-specific that people would just be thrown by it. But we were thinking about it that far back. That music would be a great way to say to the audience “No, no, this follows that cyclical theme that this has all happened before and will happen again.” But this culture is the one that gave birth to ours, so all the colloquialisms and all the slang that you hear, and all the ways in which behavior and idiosyncratic nuance and how people inter-relate (playing cards) or whatever, that we get that from them, not the other way around.
There’s been a lot of talk about how setting an end date for a heavily scripted series helps to recharge it (like with “Lost”). Did you find that that did in fact make things clearer?
Moore: I know in terms of the writers’ room, it certainly focused us. We made the decision that the fourth season was going to be the last season once we got to the end of the third season. We had writers’ retreats and dedicated sessions where we got to hash out, this is the end, what’s the last story? What’s the final arc? It really made everything very focused and very specific on how this is going to line up. I think part of the motivation to make it the final season was that we didn’t want to get to the place where we felt like the ship was keeling over and we were having a problem. We all sort of instinctually felt that the show had reached the third act by the time we got to the end of that third season.
Eick: Heading into Season 3, I think there was a real sense of creative frustration that we wanted to expand the show and broaden the reach conceptually and to find a new way in the storytelling. That became the Cylon-centric season, where we introduced the base ship, some new Cylons, and it gave the show new life. After a year of that, we basically thought, what if we end it? What if we just decide it’s over? Let’s call this the third act, let’s call this the dovetailing season. If we knew that going in, how would that inform certain storytelling decisions and how would we go about arcing out the characters over the season? So it was a very early decision.
McDonnell: Part of what was extraordinary about that is that as you are able to do when you’re doing a play, you can then kick into gear and plot your finish. What that ends up doing really is simplifying things because you know where you’re headed and you can let go and many moments you probably would have worked very hard, you didn’t need to. So I think a lot of us felt a kind of simplification and a kind of humility that came over us. That gives you a lot of energy. You just know where you’re going and you’re proud to be a part of it and you let go. That was the experience I think many of us had.
Olmos: We had a meeting at the very beginning of the show, right when we started to do the mini-series, and we sat down in my trailer and we all (13 of us) discussed the possibilities of where we were going, and what we were doing. In it, I talked to them about making sure that we understood that if by chance this situation was to move forward and we were to this as a series, and we were to go on to do one year, four years, ten years, that we had to understand what that meant. I don’t think anyone had really done a complete series at that point. I just knew that if we were going to do this, we were gonna go through the story. And that the story would have a beginning, a middle and an end, and that we had to pace ourselves. So at the end of the third season, we had a meeting. We were told then that this was going to be the final season, so everyone got very, very, very depressed. I don’t think there was anyone that wanted to stop the show. Ron had made it very clear, from the very conception, however, that there was going to be a beginning, a middle and an end. We had hit the end – we were going into the fourth and final act, and we knew it. So in our meeting, we talked about the first time we got together and said it’s like a marathon. You really have to realize, in a marathon, you have to start off very fast and strong. Your first mile has to be extraordinary. The next 25 miles has to be consistent. Then the last mile has to be the strongest one yet. So we all knew that going into the final situation. We knew where we were coming from, we knew where we were, and now we knew where we were going. It’s the basic fundamental of structure, of story and character makeup. That really made it strong for us.
That very last scene with Caprica 6 and Gaius- are they angels or are they demons?
Moore: Well I think they’re both. We never tried to name exactly what they were (We called them the Head Baltar and Head 6 internally). We never really looked at them as angels or demons because they seemed to periodically say evil things and good things, they tended to save people and they tended to damn people. There was this sense that they worked in service of something else, you could say a higher power, you could say another power, they were in service to something else that was guiding and helping, sometimes obstructing, sometimes tempting the mortal people on the show. The idea at the very end was whatever they are in service of is continues and is eternal and is always around, and they too are still around and they too are still here with us and with all of us, who are the children of Hera in one way shape or form. They continue to walk among us and watch, and at some point they may or may not intercede at a key moment. That was the concept behind the last images.
Yes, it’s over, fans, but that doesn’t mean we can’t steep ourselves in denial and nostaliga for just a little (or a lot) while longer. Watch all your favorite past Battlestar episodes, over and over again, right here on Fancast.