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Interview: Ronald D Moore - SciFiNow - The World's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Magazine

Interview: Ronald D Moore

We talk to a genre legend about Battlestar Galactica and Caprica.

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So, Caprica’s been on the air for a while now – it’s well into its run in the United States. Have you been happy with how it’s performed?
Yeah, I think we’re hoping that we get slightly better numbers. There’s been a nice trend in the past couple of episodes where the ratings have been going up and we’ve had a strong response from the critics, so hopefully that combines to get better and better as time goes on.

Is the network factoring in time-shifted viewing?
Yeah, we have a big time-shifted factor.

Caprica has had a lengthy production process from its conception to actually being on the screen. Were there any points where you thought that it might not make it to series?
I always kind of believed that there would be a series, but it did take a long time. They also took a long time from the point where we wrote the pilot to the point where they picked it up to even make a pilot. So the whole thing has always been drawn out.

Would you say that the Writers’ Strike actually helped with the show being greenlit?

I don’t know; that is when they picked it up for pilot, in the middle of the Writers’ Strike. So I suppose the strike gave them time to sit around and think about what they wanted to do, and ask “Oh, what’s that thing over there on the shelf?” and picked it up.

Is Caprica going to be as consistently politically cognisant as Battlestar Galactica ended up being? Ethnicity, terrorism, individuality all seem to be huge themes, so can we expect a lot of allegory in this prequel?
Yes, we very much want to continue to examine contemporary culture and society, and look at it through this science-fiction prism, the same way as we did on Galactica.

Has Battlestar informed how you’re approaching Caprica in terms of structure and creative aspects?
Sure, absolutely, in many ways. But also we’ve decided that we want to be very different from Battlestar in terms of how we structure it, how we shoot it, what the world feels like and the types of story. So we live in the same universe as Battlestar and want to achieve the same high standards, but we also want to set ourselves apart from it, and say that this is our own show and we’re not just doing what we did before.

It does seems like you’re bridging science fiction and more mainstream drama with Caprica, certainly.
Yeah, that’s exactly what we set out to do. The character of Willie Adama is, of course, the only real physical link back to Battlestar Galactica.

Do you think that audiences are going to look at his adult self in a different light after Caprica?
I think they might, if they watch more and more of what happens in the Adama family story. I think they’ll come to understand more aspects of Commander Adama’s character.

Caprica has a very distinctive visual style, and it seems heavily influenced by Fifties America in terms of aesthetic. How much of a challenge has it been for you to build that visual world?
Well, it is a challenge. We set out and said that we were going to make the show look like contemporary culture so that you readily identify with it and feel like it’s about now, with a slightly futuristic tinge to it. But it’s also a period piece, in that it takes place 50 years before Battlestar. So we introduced the costuming, that was a little bit more Fifties with hats and overcoats and ladies hairstyles, fashion, and certain vintage cars. It was giving a sort of retro look and feel to certain pieces of technology. If you look closely you’ll see, scattered throughout the show, they have plasma screens, laptops and so forth, but they also have clunkier, bigger, three-quarter inch tape machines, they have old CRTs, they’ve got telephones with cords. They have a mixture of technologies all through their society, which in some ways is a little more reflective of the way society is; in the world we live in now you run into all kinds of artefacts from the past as well as all kinds of modern technology.
Have you had any word from the network of a possible second season renewal yet?
Not yet, we’re still in the middle of the run in the States, and we probably won’t hear anything about pickup until sometime in the summer.

Coming back to Battlestar Galactica, briefly. We spoke to [BSG actors] Jamie Bamber and Michael Hogan recently, and they said that although the sets were photographed digitally, they don’t think there are going to be any more feature-length productions as such. Was The Plan the last release that we will see?
I think so. The sets are gone, we did digitally capture everything – not anything in particular but we just said grab them all on digital, in case we ever wanted to do something with them, this is the only way they could be preserved, so why not? We’ll just wait and see if there’s some way to use that in the future.

But the series is mostly finished?
I think so.

Going back further in your career, you worked on Star Trek for years. What are your thoughts on the relaunched franchise?
Oh, I thought it was great. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie, and walked out of the theatre with a big smile on my face.

Would that have been the direction that you personally might have taken the franchise?
I said for years that I thought the best thing that the franchise could do was to go back to the beginning and start over, you know? By the time that I left the show, the continuity of all the different TV series and movies had just become so complex it was almost impenetrable. And it was very, very hard, I thought, for a new audience to come to Star Trek; it just didn’t work, you had to learn so much to just enjoy it. It was becoming a problem to create it as well; you would sit in the writers’ rooms and come up with the stories, but you would always have to stop and say, “Well, does this contradict something that might have been in the other shows? What about the history if the Romulans?” You’d get caught up in having to do all of this research on the series, just to pitch new ideas. I thought that was really kind of stultifying and restrictive. So to take the opportunity to go back to the beginning, to wipe it clean and just start again with the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy with a fresh slate is exactly the right move.

Do you ever find that’s a problem on Caprica? Wanting to do something but being restricted by Battlestar?
It’s not as difficult a challenge. We kind of overlapped between the two productions, so as we were working on the last season or two of Battlestar, we could be careful that we didn’t do anything that would interfere with Caprica. And it takes place too far in the past, [so] there’s not any direct continuity problems, and we just didn’t establish very much in the show about how the Cylons were created or what that world was like, so you’re only dealing with four seasons of one series in terms of continuity; it’s just not that difficult.

With regards to one of your previous projects, Virtuality, do you think we’ll see any more of it, or would you say that it’s dead now?
I’d say it’s pretty much over. It’s too bad that Fox didn’t see the potential in it for a series, because I really liked and enjoyed the pilot, but they passed on it, the sets are gone and the cast has dispersed to the four winds, so I don’t think that’ll come back.

So do you have anything outside of Caprica coming up? Any more re-imaginings or adaptations on your slate perhaps?
I did a draft of a prequel to The Thing, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and they’re working on that right now. They’ve brought in a director, there’s a new writer involved, they’re in pre-production right now up in Canada. That picture’s a go. I’ve got some other ideas that I’m working on to develop for film and television, but none of them are set just yet.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow, issue 40 by James Rundle. To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to www.imagineshop.com, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.