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.
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.
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.”
And then that had to be taken out.
The studio just totally freaked out when they saw that.
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.