How ‘Star Trek: DS9’ Paved The Way For Ron Moore’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ – Exclusive ‘So Say We All’ Excerpt

In this exclusive excerpt from the new Tor Books hardcover, So Say We All, an oral history spanning both the 1978 and 2004 Battlestar Galactica series (as well as the short-lived Galactica 1980), authors Mark A. Altman (better known as a writer/producer for such TV shows as The Librarians, Agent X and Castle) and Edward Gross (Empire Magazine), who both co-wrote the bestselling 2016 two-volume oral history of Star Trek, The Fifty-Year Mission, chronicle how Ronald D. Moore’s growing disillusionment with the limitations of the Star Trek universe led to creation of one of the greatest science fiction series ever made, spearheaded by him and a writers room of Star Trek veterans.


DEEP BATTLESTAR NINE

The seeds for the new Battlestar Galactica were already being planted as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came to an end in June 1999. By that point, writer Ronald D. Moore had spent a decade writing in the world of Star Trek, having begun as a freelancer for The Next Generation hired by TNG showrunner Michael Piller on the basis of his brilliant spec script submission, “The Bonding,” and gradually was elevated to the position of co- producer. With that series coming to an end — and after co-writing the first two Next Generation feature films with fellow uber talent Brannon Braga—he made the jump to DS9, eventually becoming co-executive producer.

As a part of the Star Trek franchise, Deep Space Nine was unique and underrated. It embraced serialized storytelling, delved into a darker dramatic territory that was atypical of the franchise to date. In the pre peak TV/DVR era, it pushed the envelope at a time when few shows were taking those kind of dramatic risks, and yet for Moore it still wasn’t enough.

One of the members of the DS9 writing staff that included showrunner Ira Steven Behr, Rene Echevarria, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Hans Beimler, Moore felt a creative freedom on that show that he had never felt before. And yet still felt that the show wasn’t pushing hard or far enough; that there was untapped potential yet to be explored and television conventions still to be abandoned. When the series ended, following a critically acclaimed, if ratings challenged, seven-season run, he shifted over to the next installment of the franchise, Voyager, which at the time was getting ready to enter its fifth season after an increasingly rocky voyage.

It should have been the perfect match. After all, the show’s newly-installed showrunner was Brannon Braga, Moore’s close friend and frequent collaborator. However, in this particular hierarchy he was co-executive producer installed under Braga, an important distinction to be made compared to their previous collaborative working relationship where he had been the “senior partner” of the writing team.

Upon joining Voyager, Moore had some very clear notions in mind on how he wanted to tackle the Star Trek franchise, updating the format for 21st Century. Unfortunately, he would soon find out it was not a vision shared by the rest of the staff.

BRANNON BRAGA (executive producer, Star Trek: Voyager)

Ron came aboard as a writer and he came aboard wanting the show to do all sorts of things. He wanted the show to have continuity. When the ship got fucked up, he wanted it to stay fucked up. For characters to have lasting consequences. He was really into that. He wanted to eradicate the so-called reset button, and that’s not something the studio was interested in, because this thing was a big seller in syndication. It wasn’t until season three of Enterprise [the next spin-off] that we were allowed to do serialization, and that was only because the show needed some kind of boost to it, because it was flat. I made a big mistake by not supporting Ron in that decision or in supporting Ron in general when he came aboard the show. That was a dark chapter for me and Ron and [executive producer] Rick Berman. It was a bad scene.

RONALD D. MOORE (co-executive producer, Star Trek: Voyager)

One of my few regrets with my association with the franchise is that brief, but very unhappy period at Voyager. It was just a very unhappy experience and a mistake I shouldn’t have made. I should not have taken that gig. I think I took it for the wrong reasons and went into it with the wrong expectations. When it went south, I clearly wanted to get the hell out of there. I remember when Brannon said he really wanted me to do it and we had talked about it through that last season of Deep Space Nine. I did it just because I just didn’t want to leave Trek. I had been there for ten years. I was comfortable there. I was making a lot of money. I loved Star Trek. It was just what I did. It’s weird to think of now, but it was ten years of my life and it was my first ten years of being a professional writer. Every year I just kept coming back. I took my two-weeks vacation and showed up and started the next season. That was my life. That was part of my routine and it was hard to imagine not doing it. I didn’t really want to go out and I didn’t have a pilot I was desperate to go pitch and I didn’t exactly want to learn another show. And not one of those reasons was, “Oh my God, I’m so intrigued by Voyager.”

If anything, I stepped into it feeling like I was going to fix Voyager. I felt it was flawed and problematic and wasn’t working very well. And in my hubris at the time, I thought, well, I’m going to go and I’ll show them how to do a Star Trek show. I’ll fix that show. Brannon and I, we’ve worked together for years. It’ll be fine. He and I together — we’ll turn this into a really great show. I came in and tried to change things, tried to play with the concept, but it was all different. Brannon was in a different space. He was in charge.

BRANNON BRAGA
Ron came in with a very strong point of view and I was irrationally resistant, because I felt that I had just earned my keep as a showrunner. I felt a little threatened by my old colleague, which was silly of me. Ron is always one to push the boundaries and I wish I’d listened to him.

RONALD D. MOORE

This is from my perspective, but he seemed less willing to take chances. He seemed more afraid of changing the show, and his arguments were feeling a lot like Rick [Berman]’s arguments about what Star Trek was and what it wasn’t. He still had his Brannon ideas about weird science-fiction things and strange concepts and bizarro time travel. Things that were kind of his signature at the time. But the character work, he was not as receptive to really challenging the characters. A lot of things I eventually put into Battlestar Galactica, I started pitching to him originally.

But the bottom line is that it was his show and I acted like it was my show, which was not the smartest move. I really underestimated what it would be like to go work with him again. In my heart, I was ready to move on. I should have left Trek at the end of Deep Space Nine and taken on other challenges. Instead I went for comfort and ease and it blew up on me.

BRANNON BRAGA
Now I think it was best he left, because he was frustrated with me. On the one hand I wish I had responded differently, because I think the show would have been better for it. But then again, if he had remained, Ron might not have gone on to do Battlestar Galactica—which, in my view, is what he wanted to do with Star Trek. Every show creator has their moment, their show, and I really think Battlestar was Ron’s best work. It was what he was yearning to do with Star Trek, but was constrained by the premise.

DAVID WEDDLE (executive story editor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
We were privy to his frustration on Star Trek. We were still in a box of things we couldn’t do on Deep Space Nine, because of all of the rules that had been put in place. Ron was always very vocal in the room and saying to Ira Behr, “Are you gonna take this?” And Ira responded as best he could. And as you know, Ron went over to Voyager and really tried to change it, and Rick Berman didn’t like it and he ended up leaving and eventually created Galactica.

BRADLEY THOMPSON (executive story editor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
There’s a beautiful story that illustrated what Ron was trying to do on Star Trek. On Deep Space Nine there was an episode called “One Little Ship,” and in it the Jem’Hadar take over the ship, the Defiant. They say, “Okay, you’re going to do X, Y, and Z. You’re gonna get these engines up, and we’re gong to go do something really, really bad. And if you don’t do it, we’re going to shoot this young ensign.” The stock version we gave to Ron was the captain says, “Don’t worry, Ensign. Everything’s going to be fine.” Because it’s our captain, we’re keeping him strong. And Ron took the pass, he took the same line, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” And the Jem’Hadar blows her head off and says, “No it won’t.”

DAVID WEDDLE
And then that had to be taken out.

BRADLEY THOMPSON
The studio just totally freaked out when they saw that.

DAVID WEDDLE
And there you can see the beginning of the birth of Battlestar Galactica.


So Say We All available now

So Say We All, the new oral history of Battlestar Galactica by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, went on sale on August 21st. The 720-page hardcover edition is available now at Amazon, discounted to $19.49. The Kindle edition is available for $12.48.

Ron Moore and So Say We All authors at NYCC

For more on the origin of Battlestar Galactica join co-author Mark A. Altman and Sony Pictures Television Co-President Chris Parnell as they conduct a master class with Ronald D. Moore as he discusses his career at New York Comic Con on October 5th at 3:30 – 5 PM. Tickets are on-sale now at: showclix.com.

Altman and Gross will also be signing and discussing So Say We All: From A To Dr Z, on Thursday, October 4th at New York Comic Con at 8 :30  -10PM. Tickets are on sale now at: newyorkcomiccon.com.

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odradek

Ron Moore? Has Cat Stevens renamed himself again?

PaulB

Well, that’s about as random and nonsensical as a comment can be. How on Earth did you connect Ron Moore with Cat Stevens changing his name? What a baffling comment…

Gregory Collingswood

I think Cat Stevens’s look during the 70s might be your answer :)

PaulB

Well, that’s a double duh on me! I didn’t even make the connection despite watching endless hours of Cat concerts.

(sigh) odradek made perfect sense once you gave that hint. Thanks! :)

RNase-free Jeff

This confirms my theory about Ron Moore and Brannon Braga and their writing styles: Brannon was better at coming up with the plot conventions (time travel, wacky scifi concepts, spatial anomalies) and Ron was better at challenging and exploring the characters. And I think this paradigm can be seen in their best work together (All Good Things and First Contact). There’s a big part of me that wishes Brannon and Rick had listened to Ron regarding Voyager, because it was severely lacking in narrative heft throughout its entire run, and Brannon and Rick didn’t get to course correcting this until the third season of Enterprise, which was way too late. But on the other side, I absolutely adore Ron’s version of Battlestar Galactica, because it’s one of the finest dramas ever made and it was able to go to places that Trek couldn’t go. And it’s nice that in hind sight Brannon acknowledges that he should have listened to Ron more during Voyager. I’m curious if Rick Berman would ever acknowledge that mistake or any mistakes made during his tenure as the head of Trek.

John Chilton

I doubt that “Mr Berman” – as he is want to be known – would ever acknowledge any mistake during his tenure on Trek, he just doesn’t seem to be that kind of chap!

PaulB

Mr. Berman–as people are referred to professionally–has repeatedly acknowledged making mistakes during his time on Trek. For example, this interview on the official Star Trek site includes this admission about messing up the finale of Enterprise. “I would have never done it if I had known how people were going to react.” “This idea, which Brannon and I came up with – and I take full responsibility – pissed a lot of people off, and we certainly didn’t mean it to.” “In retrospect it was a bad idea.” “Too many people felt that way for them to be wrong. Brannon and I felt terrible that we’d let a lot of people down.”

Like him or not, please don’t lie about the man. He admits to mistakes. http://www.startrek.com/article/rick-berman-looks-back-at-18-years-of-trek-part-1

noraa

I wonder, and it doesn’t really matter in the long wrong, if Berman actually understands why fans didn’t like “These Are the Voyages…” He obviously understands that fans didn’t like the episode, and he obviously feels bad about that, but I’m not sure how much he actually understands how much of it felt like a slap in the face to many of the fans.

I like that episode, personally. But I’m in the minority on that.

Tiger2

I would never understand why people want to villianize show runners, writers, directors, etc. It’s sooo disgusting to me personally. I didn’t love everything he did but he was trying to make a show fans like. I don’t think anyone in his position wakes up and says to themselves, “How can we really piss off these people that I make my livlihood on?” Sadly you see what’s going on Star Wars fandom right now and you would think the people involved in making TLJ are part of the Third Reich.

Yes he made mistakes and admitted it. I would love it if Trump ever could and he’s the damn President.

Danpaine

Don’t hold your breath on that last comment there, Tiger…:). What a mess.

RNase-free Jeff

Also, I’m currently halfway through the First 25 years book of Altman and Gross’s Fifty Year Mission series, and it’s really good. Looking forward to the second book and subsequently reading this book on the history of Battlestar.

Phil

Love Moore’s BSG. I generally don’t buy these type of books, I might make an exception here…

Phil

Sometimes it’s the little details that stick with you. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one that was bugged when a Voyager episode saw the ship get curb stomped, and next week, ta da, showroom fresh. After seven years, not so much as wilted flowers in the captains quarters.

I don’t think that’s inexplicable. They replicate the materials they need and make repairs between episodes. A little on the fanciful side, but no more so than transporters and universal translators. That’s bullcrap, but it’s bullcrap I can live with.

That said, it would have been a cool idea for the ship to degrade over the course of the series and for them to basically have to limp home on duct tape and paper clips.

ML31

The thing is, they were only out there for 6 1/2 years. It is reasonable that they would still be pretty well functioning in that time. Now had they hit the 2nd or 3rd decade… THEN it would make sense that the ship was starting to need a little help. Year of Hell they took a pounding consistently for a year. It was like two years worth of damage every month. But that wasn’t quite the pounding the ship took the rest of the show.

Danpaine

That’s why “Year of Hell” was one of their best episodes. Grit, realism, good sci-fi.

DaveCGN

VOY had great stand-alone episodes but except the development of Seven of Nine and the Doc the series wasn’t really coherent. Year of hell is how VOY should have been the whole series. And yes, that’s why it was one of their best episodes, if not the best episode.

Tiger2

Yeah that bothered a lot of people about Voyager. I really do think that’s what the network wanted because TV was more episodic back then and the argument was they didn’t want people to feel lost if they miss a few episodes and had to catch up.

It’s funny how things change because now almost everything is serialized, especially sci fi. I think the Voyager premise was made for the wrong era. If they made it today it would be 100% like Discovery is now and that every episode connects. I would love to see a version of Voyager done today.

ML31

” If they made it today it would be 100% like Discovery is now”

Except when one compares who was running both shows Voyager would undoubtedly be much much better of the two today.

Voyager IS the better of the two. It’s not even close. In my opinion, of course.

BorgKlingon

Give DSC a couple more seasons and perhaps they will sell out like Voyager did for ratings — except this time instead of pandering to male fans with a sexy actress in spandex that is suppose to be part cyborg (Rick B, are you f’ing kidding us? Lol), maybe this time we will get a model —whoops, I mean an alien character (lol) — in body paint only…bad-a-bing! One might assume that you, and fictional posters with names like MS-Ofiice 32 and Lion King 3 would give that a free pass? For my part, this sort of pandering is borderline masogonystic, and goes against what I would like Star Trek to be.

Of course we won’t get that though, because this creative team are not sell-outs just trying to keep things going like Berman and company did in the later part of that era.

ML31

I would agree. As is Voyager is the vastly superior show.

DeanH

Wow that is great info on DS9 and BSG. In retrospect, I too probably would not have been able to accept that much darkness and plot twists on a Berman era Star Trek show. In the end, BSG came out of all the behind the scenes conflict, so everything turned out just fine. Maybe they had the right idea but at the wrong time. I think I am more open to what we see on Disco now because it has been many years since Enterprise and I went into watching it – accepting the fact that this was going to be a different type of Star Trek. Also seeing the production panel at the Toronto Fan Expo last September before the premiere, prepared me for a completely different look and feel to the show.

ReidFleming

Ron Moore’s involvement with Deep Sleep 9 would certainly explain why the Battlescar Garbagica reboot was so disappointing.

Phil

You are in a very small minority there, amigo.

ML31

That is a very rare opinion. Not that there is anything wrong with that… :)

John Chilton

Would it be right to assume you’re the kinda guy that really enjoyed Voyager? ……:-)

I love Voyager. I love Battlestar Galactica. I … like Deep Space Nine.

Douglas

I beg to differ Reid Fleming. Battlestar Galactica has more praise from science fiction and non science fiction fans than any show in that genre in decades. The brilliance of it is almost miraculous in the high pressure world of television series.

Trellium G

I guess you can’t please everyone.

I loved the BSG remake and DS9. It’s too bad he wasn’t in charge of Voyager.

BorgKlingon

OK, troll

Daniel

I think you are in the minority with that opinion.

Denny C

Sci Fi was lucky to get Moore back when the show went to series. Moore had written the pilot and stepped away to work on “Carnivale” for HBO, resulting in a second writer being brought in to pick up where Moore had left off for re-writes and revisions to the script. What was added ultimately didn’t work since it felt a bit removed from what Moore had envisioned and how he paced a scene. Had Moore not been available when Galactica went to series there’s no telling what direction the show may have taken. As good as the mini-series was, the first regular episode in 2004 (“33”) was among Galactica’s best and allowed Moore to set the tone for the series moving forward.

PaulB

The miniseries and “33” are some of the best hours of sci-fi TV ever. Much of nuBSG did not work for me, but those first hours are darned near flawless IMHO! Even thinking about a non-Ron BSG is chilling.

Literally the only good thing about Carnivale being canceled. But that’s a pretty dang good thing.

Tiger2

I always described BSG as if DS9 and VOY had a very dysfunctional baby lol. It did feel like a bit of both of those shows, but strictly on Moore’s terms. And yes BSG felt a lot more realistic in terms of it’s struggles of searching for a new home and not feeling like what happened last week was totally forgotten about like Voyager was.

I remember reading an interview of how Moore saw Voyager being done differently it was just a lot more realistic and structured than what we got and I like Voyager. But it didn’t live up to it’s premise completely and it was clear that’s what Moore wanted to do with it.

BorgKlingon

The 50 Year Mission is the best Trek non-fiction book ever written. So I am definitely picking this up.

BorgKlingon

And Moore’s BSG influence is definitely felt in The Expanse.

John Chilton

Yeah …. but really Naren Shankar & Ronald D Moore’s talent were both forged in the writer’s room of DS9. Both of their talents developed separately and together. I feel it’s unfair to say that BSG is due to Moore’s influence – it isn’t – the style of the genre may have been establsihed by Moore’s BSG, though The Expanse is Shankar’s baby and truly has it’s own style and flavours (!). Just sayin’….

BorgKlingon

John, great point!

Douglas

I agree, The Expanse has roots in BSG in its attention to science and compelling characters.

John Chilton

I love R.D.Moore’s work. DS9, BSG, Outlander … with the current poor outing of Trek in the guise of Discovery – and the same creatives moving on to do the Picard series (and other shows) – it just makes me ACHE & SCREAM for Moore to be given the role that Kurtzman currently holds. Moore mightn’t want it – but ohhh lordy that man would be in his prime to take over today’s iterations of Trek. That would be a dream come true (for me).

Tiger2

Would LOVE if Moore could come back and do the Picard show. Even if he can just create the basic premise and characters and leave it to other writers to produce the actual episodes.

I think Voyager, Enterprise and Discovery would’ve all benefited if he was involved on them from the beginning.

VZX

I second that! But I think you should get both Moore and Braga together to co-write the Picard show.

Tiger2

Would have no issues with that at all. Sadly though Braga has been vilianized so I don’t see that happening (that and running the Orville).

But yeah they were an amazing team at one point. It would at least be fun to see what they came up with.

ML31

Nightmare scenario… Berg & Herberts come back to run the Picard show!

john t burford

Ion powered space collider(2 space ships & satellite sensor target. Ion powered time machine, worm hole & rotating space port.

albatrosity

Thank the gods history turned out the way it did in this regard. I’d gladly trade Voyager for BSG, cuz BSG is in my opinion the greatest sci-fi work of all time. I wish it had held together better towards the end, but what we got is more than enough.

noraa

I remember during the waning days of the heyday of Trek, many people (rightly so) blamed both Berman and Braga for Trek’s decline. However, outside of “Threshold” (may that episode be stricken from canon for all time), I always felt Braga was a good plot storyteller, he just need a good character person to go along with him. On some level, the above interview proves that point. Really, in the end, I think what killed Trek was Rick Berman being completely adverse to change, and Brannon Braga, instead of challenging Berman, just went along with it. Just imagine how much better VOY could have been with Moore on board…then again, as Braga stated, we may never have gotten BSG if Moore had stayed on. And BSG was phenomenal.

ML31

As I’ve been rewatching Voyager for the first time, I have found another episode that I think out-Thresholds Threshold. “The Fight”. Ugh… That was a bad episode. But I have to say, most of Voyager’s episodes have been slightly above average to good.

DIGINON

Didn’t Braga and Berman both want the first season of ENT to take place on Earth, basically being the run-up to the ship’s launch? However, that idea was shot down by the studio? It’s hard to know who was “completely adverse to change”. From interviews I’ve read it seems that Berman saw himself as the keeper of Gene’s vision. That meant that he probably opposed things that he thought went against the “spirit” that Gene had envisioned for the TNG era. However, it seems that there was also a lot of studio interference, with the studio being very adverse to experiments.

Honestly, even “Threshold” isn’t that bad. It’s quite good up until the whackadoo ending … and even that is at least an attempt to do something unusual. I think that episode gets a bad rap.

DaveCGN

Yep. I enjoyed that episode. It was at least more sci-fi and enjoyable than a singing hologramm who wants to become an opera star.

ML31

Yeah.. As much as I liked the Doctor’s character on Voyager, the fact that he was a essentially a sentient hologram bugged me a lot. The obvious implications of that are just mindboggling and have NEVER been dealt with in Trek.