In the second part of the exclusive TrekMovie.com interview with Ronald D. Moore [see part 1], we talk about how on TNG he railed against the Trek clichés, how on DS9 he and the team were given more latitude, how he wished it went differently with Voyager and how his time with Trek influenced his new show, Battlestar Galactica.
[AUDIO + Transcript below]
LISTEN: Ron Moore TrekMovie.com Interview – Part 2
(sorry about the buzz)
TrekMovie: A lot of scripts you wrote…when you look at "Data’s Day" in the end the Enterprise loses, it is not a winning situation to get duped. And in "Rejoined" you have the kiss, and "Family" there is no sci-fi story, and [in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume"] you have one of the characters suddenly having this dark past. Did you have a lot of resistance from above to do these kinds of breaking-the-mold notions?
Ron Moore: There was a bit of a fight. I always sort of always fighting to take stories into darker directions or go out on more ambiguous notes or make the Enterprise lose occasionally. A lot of it was in service of doing things differently. I think I was looking at molds to break. We were doing so many episodes a year, twenty six a year which seems unfathomable…
TrekMovie: Well you are doing twenty [with Battlestar Galactica]
Ron Moore: Hey let me tell you, those extra six make a big difference. [laughs] Somewhere around show eighteen your eyes would start rolling into the back of your head on Trek. For me show eighteen was always the backbreaker, you were going ‘oh my god we’ve got eight more to do…how are we going to get eight more?’ It was killing ya.
TrekMovie: Just slap some latex on some foreheads and you’ll figure it out
Ron Moore: Oh yeah it was nuts. You were doing so many episodes. We had this big board that were the Star Trek clichés. After every pitch session, because we were taking endless amounts of writers coming to pitch, the writers would all sort of gleefully go to the cliché board and we would log how many of the Trek clichés we heard that day: Data becomes man, Data becomes god, they discover a planet and the planet is alive…there were just all these categories and we would just tally each one to keep ourselves sane. Because of that and because there were so many Trek clichés and so many patterns doing shows, I was always looking for the show that was different. I was looking for the one we hadn’t done. Well we hadn’t done one where the Enterprise loses, that alone makes me want to do it. We haven’t done the one where we it ends on a darker note. We haven’t done the one where Picard kills the guy instead of saves the guy. I was always the one that wanted to do something different and as a result I was always usually the one getting in the most fights. I was the guy in the room who was always arguing and fighting and kicking cans around trying to do something a little different and trying to take the show in directions where sometimes the show couldn’t go. The showrunners were right sometimes. I was just trying to take us to a place where Star Trek couldn’t comfortably go.
Riker faces a moral dilemma and ends up in the brig in Moore’s 7th season
TNG episode "The Pegasus"
TrekMovie: Do feel that Battlestar [Galactica] is a natural successor to Deep Space Nine?
Ron Moore: I think there is certainly a lineage to it. A lot of the things that I do in Battlestar had their birth in discussions in the writers room in Deep Space. Things we said we couldn’t do. Character turns that we could never really do. We were always try and roughen up and screw up the characters on Deep Space whenever possible and you can only go so far and do so much with their flaws. It got me thinking in terms of flawed characters and being much edgier and much braver in terms of what an audience can tolerate from their main cast and what it meant to write a war series. Our war against The Dominion in Deep Space and limits in how far we can go with that and how ugly it can be and how difficult it could be and how far you can go to deal with the characters in a state of perpetual war like that and ya a lot of my thinking started there.
TrekMovie.com: You guys were kind of just left on your own and kind of the weird people, with Deep Space Nine…
Ron Moore: Yah we kind of prided ourselves on being the bastard stepchildren of the Trek franchise. We were the only one that truly different. Every other series was essentially about a starship boldly going somewhere, and we weren’t. We were proud of that. And we were kind of proud we didn’t get the same publicity and that we were the forgotten ones. It was something we sort of wore as a badge of honor amongst the writers. …. I think they missed an opportunity by not continuing to diversify what the franchise overall meant. You could do a starship show, then you did this radically different space station show. OK then there could have been another version that was even radically different from the previous two. It was unfortunate that they went back to it being just a starship again and sort of doing another riff on The Original Series or Next Gen.
TrekMovie: You mean with Voyager and Enterprise?
Ron Moore: Voyager and Enterprise — they are both essentially the same format. I mean you mix up the crews, you mix up the sort of fundamental mission of it all in each show but you are still getting back to the notion that Star Trek equals a starship going someplace with a big viewscreen and that was what Trek had to be and I felt that we had proved that it didn’t have to be that and that to me implied that it could be many other things too. I always wanted the franchise to try and figure out what those other things might be.
Moore’s 6th season DS9 episode "Waltz", takes place mostly in a cave focusing on the characters of Sisko, Dukat (and Dukat’s inner demons)
TrekMovie: Much has been said about how after Deep Space Nine you moved over, very briefly, to Voyager and then just left, and possibly on unpleasant terms. So what happened between you and Brannon and…
Ron Moore: That’s the past. It is all water under the bridge and I don’t want to talk about it in any great detail. Essentially I went over. I probably shouldn’t have gone over. I probably should have left the nest at that point and made a clean break. I went over with different expectations than that show was prepared to do creatively and internally. And Brannon and I had a falling out and a creative clash and a personal clash and I just decided I didn’t want to work like this. I had always been proud of the fact that I tenure at Star Trek there were only two days I didn’t want to show up at work in the ten years of being there. Then I was at Voyager and found I didn’t want to go into work any day, so I just quit because I didn’t want to work like that.
TrekMovie: You and Brannon are OK now?
Ron Moore: Yah, absolutely. That was a long time ago. We’ve made up over the years. We don’t work together anymore so we don’t have the kind of relationship that we once did, but that is mostly because our career paths have gone in different directions.
TrekMovie: On Voyager and Battlestar, it is a ship on its way to Earth with no infrastructure, there are some parallels. Would ‘Ron Moore’s Voyager’ be like Battlestar, if you were the showrunner?
Ron Moore: Yah…probably…when I was on my brief tenure on Voyager and I was starting to think in terms of what I wanted to do, I remember sitting with the writing staff and saying ‘I really think…that when Voyager gets damaged it should get damaged, we should stop repairing the ship, the ship should be broken down more and devolving a little bit more.’ One of the ideas I had is that they should start developing their own culture within the starship and letting go of Starfleet protocols and stop thinking of themselves as Starfleet people on some level, even though they still wear the uniform and still try to adhere to the regulations. I thought it would be interesting that by the time this ship got back to Earth, that it didn’t even belong at Earth anymore. That it sort of had become its own culture, it had formed its own civilization which was dissimilar to that which they had left behind…Now that you mention this there was somebody, I don’t think it was me, somebody had pitched the notion of them having to guard some alien ships they had encountered. It was a convoy and through some plot I can’t remember that they had agreed to protect and Sheppard through some hostile star systems on their journey. And they were going to be the warship tending the little convey of civilian ships. And I was really taken with it and really liked the idea and thought it would be cool and it was sort of Galactica. We might have even mentioned Galactica….but to your question, If I had been the showrunner from the beginning I probably would have sent it into a darker direction and sent it into a more harrowing journey yes. And made them more on the run and more less of a pretty journey getting back, and at the same time, I probably would have felt compelled to stay within certain boundaries of what Trek was and how Trek had established itself. So I don’t think I could have taken Voyager to the places I have taken Galactica, even if I did have the reins.
TrekMovie: Turning that around. On Galactica you guys have the no anomalies no aliens rule. Do you guys ever sit around, I know there are a lot of DS9 guys in the writers room, and think ‘god I just thought of a great anomaly’ or ‘wouldn’t it be great if we ran into this species’? Does that Trek DNA ever come back?
Ron Moore: No I don’t every remember it coming up like that. [laughs] I think what has come up every once in a while is sort of we will have a problem between us and the Cylons and maybe we start talking about a tech solution to get out of it or a tech way of dealing with it. We usually shy away from them, but sometimes we go forward and try and make it as anti-Star Trek as possible. Sort of like when Sharon plugged herself into the CIC computer system [BSG: "Flight of the Phoenix"] as a way of warding off the attack. That was about as techie as we wanted to get and it was sort of a Star Trek-esque way of getting out of a problem, but by and large I don’t remember us ever saying ‘what if we met an alien race’ or ‘what if we ran into a subspace anomaly’ or anything like that. It seems like we have all been freed and are sort of grateful we don’t have to do that anymore.
TrekMovie: We know everything about how the Enterprise and all the various ships work. We know the names of all the components, how the warp drive works, we have seen the schematics, and there really has never really been any explanation about how anything works in Battlestar…for good reason. When you finally went to the engine room of the Pegasus [BSG: "The Captain’s Hand"] it looked like something out of a World War II battleship, almost steam powered. Were you saying ‘this is nothing like the engine room of the Enterprise’ was that a conscious effort?
Ron Moore: Oh yah. We had discussions about it. I said ‘It should not look anything like the engine room of the Enterprise.’ It should not have lots of blinky lights. It should feel very hands on – valves, gauges, lots of things to press and pull. It should be a hot, sweaty place to work. Part of it is justified by the fact that the Colonials had gone with a very retro technology in dealing with how the Cylons had taken advantage of them in the first Cylon War. So that gave us a lot of freedom to sort keep playing with phones with cords on them and things were really hands on. It was a great aesthetic to bring into a spaceship because so many spaceships had just become this flat panels of blinking lights, and they had become very boring and very sterile and I wanted the engine room to feel more like engine rooms that I had been in in the Navy. When you go down into a destroyer’s engine room it was a hot noisy difficult place to work. It wasn’t a pleasant place you wanted to hang out in and talk with Scotty. It was a place you really wanted to get out of as soon as you could and that is how I wanted the Battlestar engine room to feel as well.
No giant glowing warp core in the Battlestar engine room
TrekMovie: You mentioned the Navy. Nick Meyer introduced a lot of Naval feeling into Trek with Star Trek II, which seemed to go away again in the Next Gen era. You have injected a lot of Navy into Battlestar Galactica. Did you try bring some Navy into Next Gen?
Ron Moore: Oh yah all the time…there were all sorts of little protocols and little traditions I would try to inject whenever possible. Like in "Data’s Day" just the fact that the day begins with Riker coming on and relieving Data’s watch and Data has to report to him the state of the ship and then the formality of "I relieve you sir" "I stand relieved" and Data walking off and the sense of a new watch coming on board. I started referring to watches and bridge officers and being certified as a deck officer. Just all those things I wanted to infuse the ship with because that is how Navy ships run and that is the tradition all the way back to the beginning. It was set up as a Navy command structure and Gene [Roddenberry] always mentioned Horatio Hornblower as one of the inspirations for Captain Kirk and I always thought of the Naval lineage as an important component of Star Trek.
Data is relieved in Moore’s TNG episode "Data’s Day"
More Moore coming up
The final part of the interview coming up later this week will discuss Moore’s Trek feature films, the new Star Trek film and Moore’s new TV and film projects