Friday, October 31, 2008

Cylon Pumpkin Invasion

Cylon Pumpkins on the March:

Though that is not the only robot invasion this Halloween:

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Unfinished Business: an interview with Michael Taylor

Just after the Season 4.0 episode “Sine Qua Non” aired earlier this year, Sitrep arranged an interview with Michael Taylor, Co-Executive Producer and Writer on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and on the new pilot VIRTUALITY. He proceeded to get incredibly busy this summer, causing the response to be delayed. Until now.

Taylor joined the BSG writing staff for Season 3, having previously worked as a writer for STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and STAR TREK: VOYAGER, and as producer and writer on THE DEAD ZONE. BSG scripts by Taylor include ”Unfinished Business,” “Taking a Break From All Your Worries,” and “Crossroads Part 1.” This season he penned “Razor,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sine Qua Non,” and the upcoming 4.5 episode “Islanded In A Stream Of Stars.”


Logan Gawain: When did you realize that you would spend your life as a writer?

Michael Taylor: I’m not sure if I’ve ever had that kind of epiphany. Even now, there are days when I may be given to question my longevity in my chosen profession based on what comes out of my computer. But I do know that I’ve pretty much always identified myself as a writer of one kind or another. In school that mostly meant a writer of essays and newspaper stories. I didn’t do any real creative writing until later on in college, when I took a short story workshop with none other than David Milch, who gave me an A and told me never to become a writer, setting the tone for my dysfunctional relationship with my muse. After college, I took a job at a newspaper. Which was great training in its own way—daily deadlines tend to beat the luxury of a “writer’s block” out of you. But I was never really satisfied with that career choice, and lacking the fortitude to make a rational decision to quit, I instead got myself fired, moved to New York and started a rock band. I highly recommend that all aspiring writers start rock bands. My band took to watching The Simpsons after rehearsal, and one day I had an idea for a Simpsons story and ended up writing my first spec script. The script, through some form of Divine Intervention, ended up in the hands of a successful freelance TV writer—Rene Echevarria—who at the time happened to be living across the street from me in New York’s East Village and drinking at the same bar. Rene had been selling scripts to Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he would soon be hired on staff. He encouraged me to try writing a Trek spec, which I did, and which got me the opportunity to pitch to Deep Space Nine. I sold four scripts before I got hired onto the Voyager staff, but it wasn’t till several years after that, when I was on my second job, that it occurred to me that I might actually make a steady living as a writer.

So that’s my long answer to your short question. Glad you asked?

LG: Who were some of your inspirations, role models, or mentors?

MT: I’d have to say that movies have been one of my main inspirations, an enthusiasm my parents helped stoke from an early age, with little concern for “R” ratings. As for role models and mentors, I’d say my friend Rene was probably my first mentor. He helped get me started at Trek as a freelancer by encouraging me to write that spec, then bought one of my first pitches. Once I landed on Voyager, I found a great mentor in Joe Menosky, a truly brilliant writer. But then I also learned a lot from Brannon Braga, Ken Biller, Bryan Fuller, and just about everyone else associated with that show. That’s one of the lessons I’ve tried to keep with me—that you can find inspiration in the work of many of your fellow writers on shows you work on, whether they’re above or below you on the totem pole. And from directors and actors as well, if you have the chance, as I did from fairly early on, to work with them directly.

Michael Piller, my boss at The Dead Zone—my second TV writing gig—was another great mentor and role model. And certainly Ron Moore, on both Battlestar and Virtuality, the Fox pilot we’re doing together, has helped me take my work to a new level.

LG: I was a big fan of Deep Space Nine, and all DS9 fans hold “The Visitor” up as an example of what made that series unique. “And In The Pale Moonlight” pushed the Star Trek utopian universe into much darker territory. Since Ron Moore was co-exec producer of DS9, and David Weddle and Bradley Thompson worked on DS9, do you feel that in some ways DS9 was a sort of beta-test of themes and ideas that would later come into full view with Battlestar Galactica?

MT: Absolutely. And you should know that Ron rewrote my freelancer’s draft of “In the Pale Moonlight,” making it much darker and more profound, so it’s no coincidence that it prefigures some of the concerns and predilections that later found full expression in Galactica.


LG: Michael Angeli described Ira Steven Behr as “a godfather to a bunch of us” and as a “connector.” How would you rate Ira’s effect on you and your work?

MT: I only got to work with Ira when I was freelancing for Deep Space Nine, but I think even then he defined for me what a show runner should be. I remember he came in one morning while we were working on a break for one of my episodes, and said he had almost driven off the road the previous night when he realized we had made a serious mistake with one of the characters. He figured all of us must have had the same reaction. In fact, none of us had, and certainly none of us had narrowly avoided rocketing off an on-ramp while pondering the difficulties of the break. What that told me is that Ira, like all great show runners, never stopped thinking about his show and sweating the problems. The problems of the characters seemed as real to him as his own.

LG: You also worked with Michael Piller on The Dead Zone series. The connections keep piling up, since Piller worked with Ron on ST: TNG, and DS9, as well as with Ira. So, what can you say about what it was like working with Piller and what was it like to know him?

MT: As I mentioned above, I consider Michael one of my mentors, but when I joined the Voyager staff, he was just a consultant on the show. It wasn’t till I joined the Dead Zone staff that I got to work with him directly. Like Ira, he was a consummate pro who was intensely engaged with the characters and stories he created, but who rewarded writers for thinking outside the box and avoiding anything that smacked of convention.

The first rule of Galactica Fight Club is…

ProgGrrl: “Unfinished Business” (and even more so the extended cut included on the season three DVD set) really broadened the view of so many of the personal relationships between the show's characters. Other than establishing the reason for the drastic changes in the Lee and Kara dynamic that were first shown in the season two finale, what other major goals were on the plate when writing this episode?

MT: Well, in a general sense, we just wanted to fill in some of the backstory of that missing year, and to do it through the lens of some single eventful day in the lives of our characters. When I first pitched the idea of doing a Fight Club-like episode, Ron thought it would be the perfect present-day bookend to pair with those beats from the past. But there were no real “goals” beyond that general intent, apart from putting the Kara-Lee relationship front and center and taking it to a new place. The story also evolved in a very organic and unconventional way, partly as a result of production and scheduling issues. Because the New Caprica exterior sets had to be struck before this episode—the eighth of the season—was slated for production, we ended up writing and shooting the entire past storyline first, then returning a couple of months later to shoot the present-day boxing sequences. Given that this was my first Battlestar episode, it was a bracing immersion in the unconventional BSG creative process that Ron Moore fostered (translation: Ron threw me in the deep end of the pool and laughed while I floundered), but ultimately very liberating.

"I don’t care who frakkin’ knows!"
Baggage delivered in UNFINISHED BUSINESS

PG: In an interview you did around the time “Razor” aired you mentioned that the editor of “Unfinished Business,” Michael O’Halloran, was the one who campaigned for the longer cut to get on the DVD. What are your feelings about the broadcast cut versus the longer cut, now that both are available for all to see?

MT: As a writer, my personal tendency is to resist cutting anything in the subconscious hope that the network might be so overwhelmed by the quality of the piece that they would decide to cut the commercials instead. Never seems to happen. So the opportunity to see the entire script play out was very enticing. On the other hand, after watching—make that wallowing—in Mikey O’s luscious extended cut for a spell, I perversely found myself gaining a new appreciation for the concision and compressed energy of the original TV version. In other words, I think they’re both pretty cool.

Adama and Tyrol work out some issues

PG: What has been your reaction, if any, to the various and often heated fan responses to episodes like “Unfinished Business” and “Taking A Break From All Your Worries,” which spend most of their screen time delving deeply into the character’s private and emotional lives, instead of a more typical sci-fi plot?

MT: Hey, I like a good space battle as much as the next geek, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found character drama more satisfying. That’s what drew me to Battlestar in the first place and it also colors my current TV watching habits, as I find myself gravitating to new shows like Mad Men that place a similar premium on character work. Which is not to say that I haven’t relished the opportunity to write shows that are heavy on both character and action (c.f., “Razor”). But one of the things that’s so cool about BSG is that sometimes you can plain forget that most of the action takes place in outer space. For example, I recall that Ron was very proud of the fact that “Unfinished Business” had so little sci-fi business—maybe just one shot of a Raptor flying overhead in an early New Caprica scene. But then the sci-fi trappings of BSG were never the point, which in an odd and perhaps counterintuitive way is why it was such a sci-fi milestone.

"For all his crimes, he’s one of us."

PG: “Taking A Break” brings front and center many of the most profound themes of the show (guilt/culpability/justice/redemption) and aims a magnifying glass at the Baltar and Apollo characters. It also presents a rather unusual tone…I think that comes from so much screen time given over to Baltar’s striking hallucinations. Many fans I talked to back then became fascinated with the meticulous intercutting between Lee’s apology speech to Dualla at the bar, and Baltar’s speech to Gaeta about culpability and forgiveness. What were the goals here, and how much of this came during shooting and cutting?

MT: As I recall, the decision to intercut the scenes was one that Eddie Olmos, who made in post, and which Ron then refined in his editing pass. Battlestar episodes tend to run long, and this one was no exception. But as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case Eddie used intercutting both to condense the material and to find connections between scenes that weren’t necessarily envisioned by my script.

"Kara Thrace and her special destiny?
Sounds like a bad cover band."

LG: How did the episode evolve in discussions with Olmos, and how would you describe working with him on refining and crafting the impact of an episode?

MT: In addition to being a brilliant actor, Eddie is also—as should be pretty obvious by now—a very talented director. His directing process also seems draw from the same well of instinct and intense emotionality that he taps as actor. The result is that he comes up with a lot of ideas and images that that can feel surprising, even startling at first, but ultimately prove very effective means of deepening the meaning of a scene or story. For example, in “Taking a Break,” he initially wanted to have a lot of “little people” crowd around Baltar in his vision tub and then drown him. At first, it seemed weird to me, like an outtake from The Wizard of Oz. But it was really the image that was compelling to Eddie, and as he continued to think about it, the “little people” became children, resulting in one of the most compelling visual sequences of the show, as these burned and bloodied little kids—presumably the youngest casualties of the Cylon attack on Caprica—carried Baltar down to a watery grave.

"In his eyes, he’s the victim, not the criminal."

LG: Eddie also worked with Bear McCreary on selecting songs for the background in Joe’s bar -- did you work with them on the song selections?

MT: Nope. That was all Eddie and Bear. The multi-talented EJO is also a musician and songwriter. In fact, he also created the melody for the little lullaby that Baltar and Number Six sang at the top of the episode.

PG: Do you find any major difference between writing for a serialized drama versus writing for a show that creates more stand-alone stories? Does it ever raise questions knowing how much work the viewers may need to do to catch up?

MT: There is a difference, and Battlestar is definitely the most serialized drama I’ve worked on. But then many of the most compelling dramas of recent years have been equally serialized, whether it’s The Sopranos, Lost or The Wire, etc., so I’d guess that a lot of viewers have gotten used to this. In the case of BSG, I’ve met plenty of fans who watched the show from the beginning, and a roughly equal number who picked it up a season or two in and caught up by watching the DVDs. And call me a “Method” writer, but while there have been plenty of good TV “dramas” that weren’t very serialized (Law and Order, CSI, and a lot of the procedural shows, for example), for my money the real drama comes from character and the evolution of character, and that requires a serialized approach.

LG: I asked Angeli about how “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner,” and “Sine Qua Non” are so closely linked, if you two shared drafts and such to make it all fit so seamlessly, and he said, “As for endings and beginnings, Taylor and I follow each other often and we always hash it out together.” How would you describe that process, and since “The Hub” follows on the heels of “Sine Qua Non,” did you have similar discussions with Jane Espenson?

MT: Whether by intelligent design or mere chance, Michael and I have indeed tended to follow one other. So naturally we talk and swap drafts, and so does the staff as a whole. With “Sine Qua Non,” I decided to pick up from the moment Mike’s show left off by playing out the death of Natalie, the ill-fated Cylon leader. There’s even a more subtle connection or “tribute” here, since I had her mutter the words of the Cylon death prayer (or “Cylon Kaddish,” as Mike likes to call it) that Mike invented in his first Season Three episode, “A Measure of Salvation.”

With “The Hub” and “Sine Qua Non,” Jane and I were telling a pair of stories that were happening at the same time but in different settings and involved different sets of characters. So they weren’t “serialized” in the sense that we typically understand the word. But Jane and I still consulted because there were overlapping story elements, like the Raptor that makes it back to Galactica with a dead pilot aboard. And of course, there are parallel themes at work as both Adama and Laura, through different means circumstances, come to realize how much they love and need each other.

“I can’t live without her.” Adama sets off
to find Roslin in SINE QUA NON

LG: A number of your episodes have been directed by Edward James Olmos. What does working with him bring out in the process?

MT: As I said above, Eddie’s connection to the material—and to the series as a whole—is profoundly emotional. As a result, in my experience he’s less interested in critiquing story elements than in finding means—through aspects of staging or visuals—to bring out deeper layers of meaning from the scripts—layers that sometimes weren’t apparent to the writers. And with Episode 420 (“Islanded In A Stream Of Stars”), all I can tell you is that given Eddie’s deep bond with the series, he takes the show’s theme of “endings” very seriously, and even to a disturbing extreme. But you’ll see.

LG: “The Son Also Rises” introduced Romo Lampkin, and you picked up Romo’s story with the trial in “Crossroads Part 1.” What were some of the challenges in working on that script, since you were basically given the middle piece of a three parter?

MT: The main challenge was trying to maintain the ridiculously high bar that Michael Angeli set when he created the remarkable character of Romo Lampkin, and to give the equally remarkable Mark Shepherd enough scenery to chew. That being said, once I got in the swing of it, it was a lot of fun. As a writer—by definition someone who cares about words—it’s great fun to write a character whose verbal dexterity and intelligence is always threatening to outstrip your own.


PG: In “Razor” you drop the bomb that Kara Thrace and Her Special Destiny might not be so good for humanity. When did the ‘harbinger’ idea get introduced into the writers room -- during the creation of season three, or while breaking “Razor”?

MT: The network wanted a sense that “Razor” was in some way setting the table for the fourth season. We talked it over with Ron, and it ended up boiling down to a few lines of dialogue that I wrote into the ending of the show. We’ve since had to recall the “harbinger” prophecy so many times that I may refrain from ever using the word again. Around the writers’ room, Kara was simply referred to as the “hamburger of death.”

LG: Supposedly Universal Home Video wanted the extended Hybrid Prophesy on the longer DVD cut of “Razor” to kind of promote BSG Season 4. What was the challenge in coming up with that kind of foreshadowing prose poem, that sets up events from the occupation of New Caprica, all the way to the Cylon Civil War and the revelation of the final five?

MT: It was intensely challenging. And fortunately I didn’t have to do it. Since I was already writing another script, the task fell to the estimable Mark Verheiden, who probably knocked it off in all of few minutes or so.

PG: The “Razor” telefilm is labeled as episodes 1 & 2 of Season 4.0. When breaking and writing it, did you feel like you were working on a feature, or on the TV show? Was there any difference for you?

MT: I always thought of it as a movie, if only because that was way cooler. As in, “Hey, I’m writing a frakkin’ movie!” And while the network may’ve required us to break the script into two halves, I’ve never seen actually “Razor” air as anything but a movie. So I’m not sure who, if anyone, has been forced to watch it in two parts. To quote Mr. T, I pity the fools.

PG: On the “Razor” DVD commentary by you and Ron Moore, there is a discussion about the characters on the show who have become female in the reimagined series (Starbuck, Cain, Boomer). You mention that whereas in the 1970s Battlestar, these characters would stalk around flourishing canes, switches or cigars as masculine symbols, now they are “women with real balls.” Many of the female BSG fans I know are completely entranced by all the ballsy women on this show. Do you and the rest of the writers feel you are doing anything new and different for women in science fiction? What do you think about some calling the show a possible “feminist classic”?

MT: I’ve got absolutely no problem with calling Battlestar a “feminist classic,” or for that matter the greatest work of cinematic art ever committed to film, or even the cornerstone of a healthy diet. But the truth is that Ron set the mold with the miniseries, by creating indelible characters like Laura Roslin and Starbuck, and all the rest of us had to do was to fall in love with them and try to sustain them, like a healthy romantic fantasy, for the duration of the series. And personally I do like my women on the ballsy side, if not to the degree that Eddie Murphy might (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I miss Starbuck already.

LG: Were you involved in the casting selection of Nico Cortez? He was perfect as Young Adama.

MT: I was not involved in the casting, but I agree: he was perfect. So perfect that Mojo (Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz), one of our VFX guys, has been relentlessly campaigning for a “Young Adama” series.

LG: Fans of the original BSG (like me) loved seeing the old school Cylons in action. Since the VFX guys pulled it off so well, do you hope to see stuff from the first war again, possibly in future telefilms?

MT: The Old Cylons will rise again. ‘Nuff said.

"She’s the President – not some
frakkin’ skin job I’ve been banging!"
Adama and Tigh come to blows in SINE QUA NON

LG: One of our readers, Ellen Chapman asks: In “Sine Qua Non,” there is a huge number of shocking revelations even for a BSG episode - Caprica's pregnancy, Adama and Tigh's fight, Romo's mental illness, Adama's resignation. Was there much discussion in the writer's room about what you would have to do to avoid the episode becoming soap-like?

MT: No, and it hindsight we should’ve worried about that. But the episode seemed to work well on the page. It was only after it was shot that it became apparent just how much story we were trying to jam into 42 minutes. This is one episode that would be well served by an extended cut, but that’s the way it goes sometimes: if you consistently try to tell ambitious stories, occasionally you bite off a bit more than you can chew. I still dig the episode, though. I just wish all those jostling storylines had more room to breathe, and that Jake the Dog, in particular, had more airtime (more on that later).

LG: It seems by this point in the series, everyone’s emotions are raw. They’ve been stuck in space for all these years clinging to hope of finding earth... They seem emotionally spent and on the edge of sanity by this point. Many are in the throes of uncontrollable, powerful visions. I heard a writer once describe the process as chasing the characters into a tree, and then hurling rocks at them. Did you and the rest of the BSG writers enjoy tossing rocks at the characters and seeing how they react?

MT: Throwing rocks at treed characters strikes me as a somewhat sadistic metaphor. Or is it simile? I prefer to think that if we appear to torment our characters it’s because the way they deal with obstacles and setbacks—which is not always heroically—makes them seem that much more human. So call it “tough love” and I’m with you.

Adama reads to Roslin, and Tory does the deed, in THE TIES THAT BIND

PG: All of us Battlestar Galactica (and Friday Night Lights) fans are waiting patiently for any news about the pilot for Virtuality, written by yourself and Ron Moore and directed by Peter Berg. Were you involved in the shoot this summer? Any news on when we might hear about the show’s fate?

MT: I was involved in the shoot this summer, spending some six weeks in Vancouver with our talented cast and director. We’re editing the show now and have our fingers crossed that The Powers That Be will dig it as much as we do and promptly green-light it to series.

PG: Showrunners, writers and TV producers have a lot of different opinions about interacting with fans in the online space. How do you view the online relationship between the creative team and a show’s fans?

MT: I don’t troll the webs that much, but when I do I often find some really thoughtful critiques—be they raves or pans. You can’t help but respond to that kind of material, and that’s probably how fans’ viewpoints affect me. The flipside of that coin, however, is that I don’t care much about more superficial assessments—fan polls, ratings, etc.—because ultimately I’m not trying to write for some group of strangers. The simple truth is, you can’t. You can only write for yourself and the handful of people you work with and hope that you audience responds to the same things you do.

RAZOR’s ballsy hamburger of death

LG: As the series wraps up, what’s been the best thing about working on BSG, and what will you miss the most?

MT: The best thing was getting the chance to write without worrying about the conventions and boundaries of mainstream television, while working with such a great group of writers. Okay, maybe that’s two things. And to say “frak” a lot. So that’s three things. What I’ll miss most is the chance to work with a remarkable group of writers. Oh, and Starbuck. I’ll really miss Starbuck.


We have some questions for you from Sitrep readers (and to our readers, please note some have been edited for brevity).

One of the Season 4.0 episodes inspired a fan. Permanently.
[Courtesy Battlestar blog]

Peter asks: It seems to me and the fans I talk to, that your episodes are among the most emotionally challenging of the series. How is it decided which episode goes to which writer in this show -- particularly this year, when the whole season is one long story arc?

MT: Pete—can I call you Pete?—often the assignments are dictated just by who’s up next in the rotation. But since we’re each intimately involved in the crafting of the episodes that we’re assigned to, every story ends up being very much a reflection of the individual writer. So if my eps strike some as being among the most emotionally challenging, I guess that’s because I’m clearly the most emotionally challenged writer on staff. Wait, does that make sense? Maybe not but there may still be some truth in it. I’ll have to run it by my therapist.

Joseph asks: how likely is it that we might see more of Young Adama now that there are three BSG movies in the works? I thought Cortez was fantastic and myself would like to see more of the First Cylon War.

MT: So say we all. However, as of this moment, there’s only one movie in the works and it doesn’t feature Young Adama. So, um, you may be shit out of luck. In which case relish his brief shining moment in the sun and buy the action figure, which is also pretty cool.

Nico Cortez as “Husker” in RAZOR

Radii asks: Will the reason for the late emerging self-awareness of the Final Five, especially the fifth, happening so late in the story be explained? Why would the most important Cylon be the last to know?

MT: All will be explained, Grasshopper.

Wouter asks: In an interview last year you said that Boomer would be back “big time” in season 4. We have seen glimpses of her in a few episodes so far…can you confirm that there is more to come? Is this to happen in these remaining “front ten” eps, or later in the season?

MT: There is indeed more Boomer to come when BSG returns next January. She plays a significant role in the final run of episodes.

Karie asks: We haven’t gotten to see Lee and Kara spend much time together so far this year. Is there a specific reason this relationship is being ignored for the time being? Or has it been pushed aside for other things and we should not read anything into the huge gap?

MT: I think as a group we felt that we had taken that relationship as far as it could go for the time being. But rest assured, it will not be entirely resolved until the end of the series.

Ashoka asks: In “Sine Qua Non” are you and the other writers concerned about how colonial democracy is now being presented, with Admiral Adama essentially having veto power to prevent Tom Zarek from becoming president? Shouldn’t the population object to what amounts to a de facto military coup?

MT: No doubt, but I think it’s plain by now that the Fleet is anything but a model democracy. More charitably, it’s the closest thing to a democracy that our hunted and huddled masses can manage given their precarious circumstances and the very real need to balance freedom and security. Which may sound like a neo-conservative viewpoint, but I think if we ever get down to 30,000 people, we might be more forgiving of a benign autocracy.

"A genuine hero of the Resistance" - Jake’s back!

John asks: Could you tell us the story of how the return of Jake the Dog made its way into this last episode?

MT: It was Ron Moore’s idea to give Romo a new pet to replace his dead cat, and to make that new pet Jake. Jake had an even more prominent role in the script, but what was arguably his “big scene” was left on the cutting room the floor. The scene called for Romo to look deeply into Jake’s eyes, as if he might find some answers there to his doleful existential questions. It sounds goofy, but in a show that turned on an invisible dead cat, it was the kind of scene that helped pull together the many strands and dilemmas of the story, boiling them down to a silent but evocative moment between a confused man and a puzzled beast. In the end though, we thought it distracted from Adama’s final moment waiting in the Raptor for Laura. People before dogs, I suppose.

Mike asks: Should we read anything into the fact that the title of your episode "Sine Qua Non" is a Latin phrase translated into English during the course of the show? I.E., is it a hint that BSG is set in our far future?

MT: These are the kind of questions I hesitate to answer. Instead I would say it sounds like an interesting theory, so keep watching to see if you’re right.

"Everyone has his limits." Adama and Lampkin
discuss the meaning of SINE QUA NON

Ann asks: About the poem that Starbuck had written on her apartment wall on Caprica, the one next to the infamous mandala painting: it tells of 'watching a boy turn into a man'. Have the writers discussed if this poem has any import to the story as the painting did or was it just a random writing?

MT: According to David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, who wrote the mandala episode, the art department came up with the poem. So it’s a mystery even to us.

"Do I seem different to you somehow?"

Jeanne asks: I have a question about where Starbuck is at this moment of season four. She gets back after that really intense experience on the Demetrius and now appears to be a well-behaved CAG. She does not seem concerned about the hybrid message, Helo’s attempted mutiny, the Cylon ship she brought back just kidnapped the President, this Earth thing or what happened to her during her two missing months. And it seems that she is no longer under suspicion of being a Cylon and is back to her leadership position in the fleet. I was wondering to what extent these omissions were deliberate, to what extent you were making assumptions here, and to what extent things had to be cut for time or lack of primacy.

MT: As regards Kara’s present situation and her seeming attitude toward it, I would say this: denial is a powerful psychological drive.

Zoe asks: I really enjoyed the Sixth Sense-like game you played with Romo's cat - seeing it around the room when it was really dead, Lee tripping on the empty food dish. Was Romo really pushed over the edge by the cat's death, or was this another one of his calculated emotional manipulations to get Lee to go for the presidency?

MT: I don’t think Romo is quite that calculating, and hence I believe he truly was pushed over the edge by Lance’s death. At the same time, there was doubtless a part of him that wanted confront Lee with his own blind ambition and see if Lee could rise to the occasion, as he did, by forcefully making the case for hope that Romo was afraid to make for himself.

Alanna asks: Why did you guys reveal Lee Adama’s full name as Leland Joseph Adama? How do you choose which new aspects of a character's backstory to introduce in an episode? Have you invented character histories that haven't yet been shown for others on the show?

MT: The characters all have backstories that Ron created and the writers are privy to, but in this case I just up and invented Lee’s full name, thinking perhaps to highlight yet again his connection with his grandfather. And since no one else objected, it stayed.

Grant had several questions for you, and we decided to indulge him…firstly he asks: Who is probably your favorite character on BSG in terms of most enjoyable to write? And which character/relationship arc do you find most appealing?

MT: Gosh, I really do love writing them all. But I guess I would say Tigh is a definite favorite, given that he can be so heartbreaking and also so profanely funny. And from “Unfinished Business” you might rightly intuit that the Starbuck-Lee relationship is the one that probably has the strongest hold on me. The idea of the star-crossed lovers who may or may not be meant to be together hits a lot of personal buttons for me (which in turn may explain why I’m still single). On the other hand, I also dig the relationship between Adama and Tigh, which is equally volatile and yet somehow more grounded. These guys literally beat the crap out of each other and yet they hang onto their friendship. I guess that gives me a lot of hope about the way some relationships can survive no matter how much shit life heaps on them.

Grant asks: What other television shows do you currently watch and love? When you watch those shows, do you sort of subconsciously compare them to BSG and think about what you would've done differently, or are you able to turn "writer mode" off and just enjoy the shows on their own?

MT: I’m currently into Mad Men, Entourage, Californication and True Blood—which means my TIVO does its heaviest lifting on Sunday nights. And naturally if you’re the type of writer who’s never really satisfied with their own work, you can’t help but take lessons from other stuff you think is really good. But generally I don’t compare other shows to BSG, I just enjoy them like any other fan.

A couple of years ago, Time Magazine declared BSG the best show on TV. This year, Mad Men seems to be the series that is getting the most critical attention, and deservedly so—because it’s fresh, brilliant and very cool.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t think Battlestar still isn’t one of the best shows on TV. And come January, I think we’re going to prove it again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Espenson enters the DOLLHOUSE

Joss Whedon posted on his fansite Whedonesque this weekend, and apparently Jane Espenson will be working with him on his new show for Fox, DOLLHOUSE. For those of us keeping track, that's the third BSG alum to join the show (Tahmoh Penikett, Mark Sheppard). Espenson has previously worked on Whedon shows BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL and FIREFLY.

Congrats to Jane!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halfway Through Hiatus

My fellow fans, we are now at the halfway point of our 7-month BATTLESTAR GALACTICA hiatus. It’s a long one …and we all need some distraction. Distraction from wondering what THE PLAN is about…from the endless spoiler discussions… from the disturbing news of the final dismantling of all of BSG’s sets… from worrying about when the frak SciFi is going to air that two hours of CAPRICA. OK, yes, I'll admit there may be a few other things going on right now as well.

What better way to distract ourselves than with...other TV shows and TV news?! Some of the BSG cast and crew seem to be drifting out into the rest of the shows I watch…I recently posted on FanGrrl Magnet a rundown of Fall shows that have my attention.

As we catalog some comings and goings today, we’d love you, dear readers, to chime in here with rec’s for hiatus distractions of your own...

Mark Verheiden has been blogging up a storm lately, pointing out his new Fangoria interview, details about the long awaited release of the feature he wrote, MY NAME IS BRUCE starring the infamous Bruce Campbell, and details about the many comics projects he’s involved in. He also posted about why this month’s Region 2 PAL release of BSG "Season 4" and "Seasons 1-4 Box" are a bit of a misnomer.

Speaking of DVDs…while we Americans wait for the Region 1 DVDs of Season 4.0 that are coming in January, the Galactica Science blog has transcribed all the deleted scenes included on the Region 2 PAL DVD set (here’s the link to Part 1 of 3).

Mark Verheiden is also busy these days working on scripts for the second half of HEROES third season, subtitled VOLUME 4: FUGITIVES. The show just announced a fun new cast member who will appear in the second half of the season: Zeljko Ivanek, who just won an Emmy for his amazing performance in season one of DAMAGES. (I finally caught up with that show in a marathon this August, wow it was great stuff! DAMAGES season 2, which will include new castmembers William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, and Tim Olyphant, begins in early 2009.) After you’ve checked out HEROES on TV, its webisodes, and the massive official site, I highly recommend the blogs by director/producer Greg Beeman, writer/producer Jesse Alexander (who loves fanvids), and "HRG" himself, actor Jack Coleman.

Jane Espenson, when she isn’t writing/producing the BSG movie or the BSG webisodes, or meeting Stephen Colbert, or giving sage advice to budding TV writers, is working on a new BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 8 comic book.

Speaking of comics…io9 has a preview of the spin-off miniseries Battlestar Galactica: Ghosts (out now), and Newsarama has an interview with the writers of Battlestar Galactica: Cylon War, a 4-issue miniseries which debuts in January 2009.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA director/producer Michael Rymer, and CAPRICA co-writer Remi Aubuchon, have both signed on to the new Fox TV show PERSONS UNKNOWN, described as a “Mystery revolving around a group of strangers who wake up in the middle of nowhere and try to figure out how they got there.” Rymer will direct the pilot episode, and Aubuchon will be showrunner. (Does this mean anything to the future of CAPRICA as a series? Unknown…)

We had the scoop a while back on Mary McDonnell’s run on GREY’S ANATOMY this fall, and now Mo Ryan has a lot more detail about her character:

Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long to see Mary McDonnell again. McDonnell...has a new gig on "Grey’s Anatomy," as I reported a few weeks ago. She'll make her "Grey's" debut Nov. 13.

Her character is a doctor named Virginia Dixon, and she’ll appear on “Grey’s” about three or four times this season, according to the network.

Dixon faces a formidable task at Seattle Grace Hospital: She is a surgeon who will do her best to bring “rules and order to the OR” according to ABC. Who better than McDonnell to play a woman faced by a daunting challenge? She’s faced down Cylon armadas, so flirty docs should be no big deal.

In any case, the actress’ “Grey’s” nickname stands at the ready: Some of McDonnell’s “Battlestar” fans nicknamed her “Mary McAwesome” years ago.

Mo also has news about Katee Sackhoff who, in addition to shooting a new pilot LOST AND FOUND with producer Dick (LAW & ORDER) Wolf, will be guest starring in an upcoming episode of LAW & ORDER. It was also recently announced that the very excellent Brian Cox (X-2, DEADWOOD) will co-star in LOST AND FOUND.

Sam Witwer continues his turn as Doomsday on this year’s SMALLVILLE, and I hear things are just getting good on the show. The BSG blog has a bunch of details.

Aaron Douglas spoke recently to the Cort & Fat Boy radio show...his fans are celebrating the recent news that his Canadian TV pilot THE BRIDGE has been picked up for series.

As we mentioned the other day, Stephanie Jacobsen is starting an arc of unknown length over on TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.

Lucy Lawless will guest on the final season of THE L WORD, which will begin airing on Showtime in January 2009.

In a recent interview with MovieHole, Seth Green reconfirmed that Ron Moore (along with Joss Whedon and Seth MacFarlane) will be making a cameo appearance in the forth season premiere of ROBOT CHICKEN in early 2009. The BSG blog noticed that Katee Sackhoff did some great commentary track work for ROBOT CHICKEN’s latest DVD release.

First Showing and several other bloggers attended a TRICK R TREAT screening in LA this week -- this is a film that Tahmoh Penikett is featured in -- and apparently it is big horror fun. Keep your eyes out for it.

CAPRICA pilot director Jeffrey Reimer is a director/producer on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of the best dramas on TV nowadays. In fact Reimer directed the first two wonderful eps this season. The show’s signature style – intimate, with an improvisational feeling and gorgeous cinematography – is based on the movie and TV pilot work by Peter Berg. Berg is the director of, and a producer on, Ron Moore and Michael Taylor’s pilot VIRTUALITY. FNL airs this fall exclusively on DirecTV Network 101, and will run again on NBC in early 2009.

My favorite new show this season, Alan Ball’s TRUE BLOOD, is adding BSG vet Michelle Forbes as a series regular for season 2. Charlaine Harris herself dropped the news on her fansite that Forbes is playing The Maenad, a dangerous and mythical woodland creature. If you want some spoilers about what this character might be up to next season on the show, dig up reviews or synopses for Harris’ second novel, LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS. A peek at what the casting sides allegedly say: “This wild woman is supernatural, articulate and polished. She feeds on the fears of others and is a BIG DEAL in season two. Nudity might be required.” Fun stuff…According to recent announcements, we get our first peek at The Maenad briefly in this season’s finale episode.

One of my other favorite shows, MAD MEN, ends this Sunday. If you’re a fan, don’t forget that Jon Hamm is hosting SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE tomorrow night…and if you live in the New York City area, why not stop by the Basket of Kisses finale episode party here in Manhattan?

Callum Keith Rennie has been a gas as the raunch-soaked and brilliant music producer Lew Ashby on this fall's season 2 of CALIFORNICATION. We're up to ep 205 and he has been in every one of favorite of his scenes thus far involves a shotgun, a hooker and a hair band rolling around in his living room. Lew's house on the show turns out to be the real home of legendary music producer Rick Rubin, according to the production blog.

Although that BSG season 4.5 promo you lucky few got to see at San Diego Comic Con in July has yet to surface elsewhere…we LOST fans have finally got our first taste of new video! Yowza! (Come on SciFi Channel – pony up!)

What are you watching to help make the hiatus go faster?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blu-Ray coming: more evidence

A bit more evidence that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is coming to Blu-Ray DVD from Mark Verheiden's blog:

It's been extremely busy around the estate, polishing the Roman columns and tending the orchids, but in between I'm actually doing a little work...

Next week I'll be doing an on-camera interview for the BSG Season 4 Blu-Ray release... no idea when the discs are due out (hopefully around the release date of the regular DVDs, which right now are scheduled for early Jan. 2009) but I suppose that means BSG is definitely coming to Blu-Ray. Thank goodness I invested in an HD-disc player just before that format went belly up...

So it sounds like we can look forward to getting Season 4 in the latest high-end DVD format...but it remains to be seen if Universal's Home Entertainment department will ever pony up to put the rest of the series on Blu-Ray as well.

How about a 2010 Full Series Blu-Ray Box Set? Wouldn't that be nice.

Speaking of a belly up format: several sites seem to be unloading their BSG Season 1 HD DVD sets at pretty darned low prices right now if you're interested...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Olmos on the end

From Ask Ausiello...

Question: I need some Battlestar Galactica in my life. Scoop, por favor! Thanks! -- Kat

Ausiello: You and me both, Kat. Luckily, one of us has some in his life, it's me, and I'm willing to share. At the High School Musical 3 premiere, Edward James Olmos told me that the show's sendoff "is like a great book. You love reading it and you want to find out what happens in the story, but you also are so sad it is ending. That's how I feel about Battlestar. It has been a great experience for me. I don't want it to end, but I think the ending is so strong that I am happy to have fans see it. People are going to get their minds blown." Mine's already boggled.

Question: Any info on the BSG movie that will follow the series? -- Jamie

Ausiello: As a matter of fact, Olmos had something to say about that, too, as he'd just finished shooting it. "I directed it, so I am in the process of editing it right now," he revealed. "You will actually see it come to a conclusion. That's amazing in my eyes because it is such a large story."

The Galactica Quorum posted an interview with Olmos from DragonCon, along with some excerpts from the BSG panels at the con.

Have you ever visited the blog Fraktastic? They linked to a great Glark post: "Truthful TV Title Cards" (some NSFW) that includes fun art for BSG and one of my other favorite shows MAD MEN.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BattleAwesome AwesomeStar

Sorry to be so late to the game about this unique theater event happening on Saturday in Toronto, but check this out:

Battlestar Galactica improv helps fill galactic gap

Bad Dog Theatre presents Battleawesome Awesomestar, an off-the-cuff goof on the genre favourite


The first half of the final season of TV's sci-fi cult hit is now several months behind us, with the mystery-shrouded 10-episode conclusion still several months ahead. What the frak is the space-starved BSG fan expected to do till then?

You could head over to the Danforth Ave. comedy collective, a plucky little theatre company currently celebrating its fifth anniversary as "Toronto's improv hub," to help fill that galactic gap. Continuing tonight at 10 p.m. and the next two Saturdays after that, Bad Dog's in-house improv veterans present Battleawesome Awesomestar, an off-the-cuff goof on the sombrely portentous genre favourite.

A couple of decades ago, another local comedy troupe did much the same thing with Star Trek, in their case enacting scripts from TV episodes and movies. Before that, The Brady Bunch Live stage show became an unexpected hit in the U.S., inspiring the tongue-in-cheek film spoofs that followed.

Battleawesome takes the concept one step further with an entirely improvised performance, based on an initial audience-suggested "crisis" – at the opening show I caught last week, it was an egg shortage, driving the caricatured characters into a frenzy over, among other repercussions, an absence of omelettes at the breakfast buffet.

Another added improv innovation brings a pre-selected audience member up on stage as the evening's designated "Gaius Baltar," the show's most eccentric character, guided here, as on TV, by his imaginary friend in an evening gown, the sexy Cylon infiltrator Six...

WHO: Bad Dog Theatre

WHEN: Saturdays in October at 10 p.m.

WHERE: 138 Danforth Ave. (east of Broadview)

TICKETS: $10. For reservations: 416-491-3115 or

Sounds HILARIOUS. Wish I could be there... This final show is sold out, but the producers tell me they plan to do more shows early in 2009. Meanwhile here are a couple of Facebook pages with more info.

Adama '08 Hits the Twitterverse

Looks like voting Adama or Tigh has just
become a hot topic on Twitter.

Beware of the Cylons

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Fate But What You Make

At long last, we BSG/T:SCC crossover fans will get to see Stephanie Jacobsen on tomorrow night's new episode of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.

For those of you out there who are watching the TV show that has the second coolest set of awesome deadly femmebots, I hope you caught the first peek at Jacobsen's role in the promo ad that ran two weeks ago after episode 205 ("Goodbye To All That").

This past week, more has been revealed about the character Jacobsen is playing in episode 206:

Stephanie Jacobsen, who turned in an arresting one-off performance as Kendra Shaw in Battlestar Galactica's season 4 opener "Razor," is returning this week to small-screen sci-fi. "The Tower is Tall But the Fall is Short" airs Monday, Oct. 20 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox. Jacobsen guest-stars on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as Jesse, a woman with a sordid past who becomes romantically entangled with Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green). (source)

The T:SCC writers blog posted a few more clips featuring her this weekend...a newer promo:

And a longer clip:

This, plus the fantastic news of T:SCC's full-season pickup, goes a long way in helping get through the latest BSG hiatus. ETA: Bear McCreary points out on his blog that his season 1 soundtrack is coming out next month, you can pre-order on Amazon now -- or wait to try to get one of the signed copies the label will be selling directly. Sweet!

What The Frak is The Deal with BSG?

This post is being constantly updated with all the big news about the BSG Franchise. If you have anything to add, please email proggrrl at gmail dot com.

The final set of BSG webisodes can be found here. They began screening online December 12, 2008.

Full credits for the webisodes are here; the page with the 'sodes also contains "Enhanced" versions with commentary by Jane Espenson.

The American (Region 1) DVD of season 4.0 came out on January 6, 2009.

See here and here for tons of details.

A catch-up special called "BSG: The Top Ten Things You Need To Know" aired on Sci Fi Channel January 11th.

The whole special is now up on Hulu and SciFi.

Season 4.5 began on The SciFi Channel on January 16th.

If you take the most reliable list of 4.5 episode titles (from Mark Verheiden) and match it up with the dates from SciFi Channel, this is what you get:
Jan 16
413: Sometimes a Great Notion

Jan 23
414: A Disquiet Follows My Soul

Jan 30
415: The Oath

Feb 6
416: Blood on the Scales

Feb 13
417: No Exit

Feb 20
418: Deadlock

Feb 27
419: Someone to Watch Over Me

March 6
420: Islanded In A Stream Of Stars

March 13
421: Daybreak 1

March 20
422: Daybreak 2

423: Daybreak 3

Here's a list of the writers and directors of all remaining episodes.

It was recently announced that the season finale is definitely going to be three hours long (Daybreak Parts 1-3); but the air dates of those eps remain TBD. Ron Moore has said in interviews that, if his cut of the series finale goes too long for broadcast, the longer version (along with Moore’s cut of his directorial debut, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”) will end up on the Region 1 DVD release. Whatever, RDM, do what you gotta do…just give us those yummy DVD extras.

After 4.5 airs, there will be a 2-hour TV movie to look forward to.

SciFi has announced the film, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN, will air sometime in late 2009. The film is shot and as of winter 2009 is currently in post-production.

CAPRICA has a 20 episode series order, and will premiere in 2010.

While it's tough to consider how long we have to wait to see it, the news is very good for CAPRICA, the BSG prequel series that takes place 50 years prior to the events of BSG. Sci Fi has greenlit the show, production will begin in mid-2009, and as of now an early 2010 broadcast is planned. You can get all the latest info on the series by rummaging through our posts.

Universal is releasing the uncut, unrated pilot telefilm for CAPRICA on DVD and digital download on April 21, 2009.

The hour and a half long telefilm, a backdoor pilot for the now-greenlit series, is coming out on DVD with several cool extra features. Here is the official site for the DVD release.

Lots to look forward to...

The ultimate fanvid

There is a band up north in Toronto, Radius And Helena. They are way more into BSG than most bands are willing to admit (except, possibly, Anthrax). Check out this promo video they made for their CD release party earlier in the month:

Very cool (an RTF made out of violins and tambourines?!) can find out more about this band and their album Precious Metals over here.

Moore & Olmos at The Jules Verne Festival

The message boards just brought this to our attention – a BSG event at The Jules Verne Festival next weekend in Los Angeles. The festival runs from Friday October 24 to Sunday October 26, and LA Downtown News has more details:

Friday's opening-night program honors Roy E. Disney and Mickey Mouse, both of whom will be in attendance. In the '50s, Disney produced a series of nature documentary shorts called True Life Adventures, and he will introduce his latest production, the documentary Morning Light, which will screen for free at the ImaginAsian. Kids can arrive at 5:30 p.m. to meet Mickey Mouse and watch some of his earliest films in celebration of his 80th anniversary.

Saturday brings sci-fi classics and guests from films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet, with a tribute to "Battlestar Galactica," featuring Edward James Olmos and other cast members of the TV show and the presentation of the Jules Verne Achievement Award to series creator Ron Moore. Apollo astronauts will appear for the L.A. premiere of The Wonder of It All, a documentary about the moon landing.

Spider-Man and Superman films fill out the day at the ImaginAsian Center with guests including Al Gough, the writer and producer of "Smallville." Alain Robert, who has scaled some of the world's tallest buildings with his bare hands, will be in person for the U.S. premiere of a French documentary covering his feats.

On Sunday, the festival presents a 40th-anniversary screening of Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes in hi-def at the ImaginAsian, and actress Linda Harrison, who appeared in both films, will accept the Jules Verne Legendaire Award.

After emailing the festival organizers, we were told that they are screening “the season finale” on Saturday night; I am assuming that means Season 4.0’s finale episode, “Revelations.”

The festival also confirmed that Edward James Olmos and Ron Moore are attending the awards ceremony on Saturday night at 7PM at The Edison. Tickets available via their web site.

One last note from the festival: there will apparently be “other surprise screenings and cast members...” Could be an interesting weekend. If any of you find any more details elsewhere, please comment here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A $70 Million Phenomenon...

...and, somehow, not enough money to greenlight CAPRICA? One tries to remain hopeful.

Either way, it is always great to hear the DVDs are big sellers.

[DVD trade ad via TVShowsOnDVD]

Season 4.5 Premiere Date

The Ausiello Files got SciFi Channel to give them the actual premiere date for the last set of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA episodes.

Good news: A Sci Fi source confirms to me exclusively that the last half of season 4 premieres on Friday, January 16, at 10 p.m. Which, by my calculations, puts the series finale (boo-hoo!) at Friday, March 20. Viewing party at Tim Stack's place and you're all invited!

3 more months to go till the starting gun...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Forget to Scream

Don't forget to vote for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA for this year's Scream Awards...deadline is Friday, October 17th.


Vote: BEST ACTOR / SCIENCE FICTION (Edward James Olmos)


The Scream Awards will air on SPIKE TV on October 21.

Bear McCreary in Seattle Tomorrow Night

Attention fans in the Seattle area, now is your chance to see Bear McCreary live in person. The Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum will host the event tomorrow:

Exposed: Inside Film

An Evening with Composer Bear McCreary

Wednesday, October 15th 2008 at 7:00pm

Click here for all the details

During my interview, we will present clips from Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Wrong Turn 2, and some snippets of the Music of Battlestar Galactica documentary that premiered at my BG concerts in April.

And I’ll also show bits of my concert and student film work I did in college. I can hear the beginning seeds of my Galactica score in these older projects and it will be fun to share them with the crowd.

If you’re in the Seattle area, it would be great to finally meet some of you who’ve been reading and commenting on this blog for so long! I hope you can make it out to the event.

So Say We All!


I just checked in with the EMP/SFM box office, they said tickets are still available and the theater opens at 6:30pm. What fun!

And for those of you who cannot be there, here's a recent McCreary interview with Geek In The City to tide you over...

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Adamas get the cover

UGO's TV Blog has posted the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Season 4.0 DVD cover art for the US DVD release, coming January 6th.

How to get under Dwight Schrute's skin

Last night's new episode of THE OFFICE included a fun BATTLESTAR GALACTICA shout-out, via the biggest BSG fan on television, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson).

The set-up: Jim tortures Dwight after the staff sit through a meeting about office ethics and "time theft"...

The shout-out: Jim knows the best way to drive Dwight to time theft...

[Hat tip to Alan Sepinwall.]

ETA: if you can't see Hulu, try it over here at io9.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Believe it or not, a Yom Kippur post

Usually when we post holiday-related items, they have to do with pumpkin carving or gift-giving.

This time, we have a piece by CBC News' Richard Handler, on what current world leaders could learn from Admiral Bill Adama.

Bill Adama would probably use Jack Miles' book for kindling.