18th Mar2009

you like BATTLESTAR!?

by jerad.formby

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Galactica Creator Ronald D. Moore Got His Skills Trekkin’

Battlestar Galactica ends on Friday. The good ship might get destroyed. Any number of characters might die. We might find out Kara’s father was a Seven (what?! Yeah, I’m putting my guess on the record). I think about Battlestar a lot, but when ever I do, I always think of the show’s developer/head writer Ronald D. Moore. He got his start on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He wrote Star Trek for ten years of his life. He never wanted to stop. And then one day, he quit.

The late Michael Piller hired him out of the stacks of fan scripts that were always flooding in to the TNG offices. If Piller hadn’t called, Moore was set to ship off with the Navy. I’d hate to explore that alternate timeline.

Ronald D. Moore’s last day at Star Trek ended with Bryan Fuller, a fellow writer, giving him a bat’leth for his birthday. The bat’leth was made by the prop department right there at the studio and was as authentic as any seen on the show.

His final input to the Star Trek franchise was on VOYAGER. He wanted to keep writing Star Trek, so his decision to leave Star Trek was agonizing. I like to think he left because Brannon Braga didn’t know what bat’leth was… but nobody knows for sure why he left. What he could have contributed, we’ll never know… well maybe that’s not entirely correct.

You see Ronald D. Moore eventually made his version of Voyager. It’s called Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica is heralded as some of the best science fiction on the planet. It is viewed as intense and edgy. It has a reputation for its violence and unflinching characters. Is it any wonder that the guy responsible for this show got his start writing Klingon themed shows for the Next Generation? Worf’s stories can be viewed as perhaps the only contributions in the TNG canon to reflect the words I used to describe Galactica. I often credit Moore with almost everything Worf.

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Moore also was the co-writer for the Trek films Generations and First Contact –which happens to be a lot of people’s favorite Trek movie (fan or no). Somewhere in the midst of writing major motion pictures for Trek, Moore also found time and space to join Deep Space Nine’s writing staff –a Trek format that obviously agreed with Moore’s sensibilities.

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The writing staff for that space station show agreed with a lot Moore’s eagerness to shake up Trek. I heard that they did have to politely refuse his suggestion to blow up the station at the end of the series.

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After successfully rocking Deep Space Nine, Moore moved on to Voyager. He is credited with writing only one episode. He is credited with co-story on another. To my knowledge he hasn’t even seen the finished episodes, but he did end up watching Equinox Part II, which was the hot item when they first hired him. So early into the experience, he was thrilled to help. His favorite exchange between Chakotay and Janeway remains intact.

But the end of Equinox II left a bad taste in his mouth. It seemed that with all of the fire and ice between the ship’s most powerful characters, nothing was going to change between them. He littered the margins of Equinox II with notes about the characters. He wrote about how Chakotay and Janeway shouldn’t be able to go back to their relationship as it was after such firm character disagreements had been introduced. Every time Voyager producers seemed to dare, they quickly took their teeth out.

Teeth doesn’t have to mean violence and wanton destruction. It’s simply drama that matters and will stick around from week to week. In other words, what could have happened between Janeway and Chakotay down the line.

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In addition to discussing Equinox, he was expected to do something Klingon right away. So he did homework on Voyager’s only Klingon –well half-Klingon. He watched a lot of the show to prepare, but discovered he had no real firm grip on B’Elanna Torres. When he asked for help, none of his fellow staffers seemed concerned. He was told that he could do whatever he wanted with her, as nothing really mattered.

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This idea disturbed Moore –and understandably. Voyager was no spring chicken Star Trek… it was well passed it’s three-years-to-find-its-legs-excuse. It had hit its stride… with a group of characters who never really coped with very much of anything. This lack of having to cope ensured that none of them had really changed since they’d been first introduced. Just as their ship was always fine next week, so was the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager.

One of Moore’s frustrations was that they should have been coping all the time. He argued that for a ship that was supposed to be so far away from Earth –they sure seemed to go to Earth a lot. For a ship in another Quadrant a lot of familiar species seemed to keep popping up. He hated the fact that everyone on the ship acted like they’d be home in the next couple of hours (since that’s how they were written)!

Moore believed that if Voyager got damaged, it should stay damaged. It should get hurt. That Voyager might become a loveable bird with its crew making any adaptations to keep her afloat.

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Ronald D. Moore pitched a concept to Voyager that was passed on. He thought it would be interesting to see the crew more frustrated with their situation –so frustrated that they blame Janeway. The crew would, in essence, put Janeway on trial and demand that she justify the choices that had impacted all of their lives –certainly not typical Trek, but strangely, specifically Voyager-Trek. Or at least what could have been Voyager-Trek.

We all know where that idea ended up.

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The Next Generation quickly gained its own identity and distinction from The Original Series. Deep Space Nine most definitely found its own voice –a voice some trekkies are still hesitant to embrace. That never really happened for Voyager, did it? I’m telling you all right now that it wasn’t from lack of trying!

Moore pondered how the crew might change over the voyage. Was it possible that Voyager’s crew would become so close-quartered and so changed from who they were that they might not develop their own culture –influenced by possible new alien crew members? When they got back to Earth, would they discover that Earth isn’t what they needed after all that (shockingly) maybe they just needed each other? None of these questions he asked interested his peers. They were happy to just keep putting Earth off and soft-peddle Star Trek that they kept wishing was The Next Generation.

Their “TNG” was terrorists mixing with Starfleet Officers which makes no sense to me. Just write the terrorists, for crying out loud! They are trapped on a ship and are trying desperately to get home. It’s amazing how quickly they all start agreeing with each other and start helping each other. I understand that to fit in to Star Trek idealism they do have to get along… but does it have to be so tidy all the time? I agree with Ronald D. Moore’s criticisms for Voyager. I’m really happy that he kept notes in those meetings.

Finally, unable to reconcile their differences (Moore wanting a show that rocked and the staff happy puttering week to week), Moore went on to explore other horizons and options –bat’leth in hand. And Star Trek let him. Was it good riddance? Did they curse his name and wonder why Ron D. Moore has to be such an uncompromising visionary? Did anybody run out the door to stop him? Heck no.

He just left.

He went on to develop a another space show. It was to be about a ship without a home. This ship would be searching for Earth. This ship would be lived in. When things were looking really bad for them, they would understand that had to start making babies to ensure the future of the ship.

The ship would get scars. Human beings who carried pain and had to see each other’s faces all the time would operate the ship. Disagreements between its officers would change their character dynamics, but not always their love for each other. The ship would reflect the pain of its occupants.

The ship I’m talking about might not even make it past the last episode. But we all know it’s not really about the ship. And it’s not really about finding Earth, is it?

Battlestar Galactica is championed as the best science fiction on television and it could have been ours.

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The Alpha-Wiki Star Trek site could be exploding with character beats as intense as anything between Adama and Tigh. It could be crammed with jpegs of space chases where the stakes couldn’t be any higher. There would be pictures of Seven of Nine dressed with a little more dignity (don’t read not sexy, cause you don’t need to show to be sexy on BSG –unless you’re a FRACKING CYLON!). People would speak about it as the roughest Star Trek show there ever was.

It would be Galactica tempered with Star Trek. It would be DS9 without the politics –since the ship’s always moving, right? I suspect we’d laugh a lot more watching Battlestar: Voyager. I think we’d cry harder too. Star Trek has always worked from its relationships and that’s all Moore really wanted to do for the Voyager staff –give us characters that mattered, a story that would change them for the rest of their fictional lives.

This sort of approach to Voyager certainly would have helped stamp out the reputation that Star Trek was going downhill. I think it would have made the show more magazine-cover worthy to be sure –you know, covers for Janeway and Chakotay… not just Seven all the time. People might have even talked about the show as aggressively as they do Battlestar. It could have turned Trek around, I’m just offering an argument for an alternate universe wherein Voyager might have made Galactica unnecessary.

A cool Voyager would have changed everything.

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So if things had gone differently, Voyager could have landed Moore a job on Enterprise.  Might even have been the first show he would ever develop… he seems to be good at it, right?

A Chuck Yeager Star Trek with Moore at the helm? Are you kidding me???

What a radical idea. How refreshing to think of our precious canon and continuity being handled with something more delicate than a seal’s flipper. Intact canon and a very special attention to detail? And the guy who developed the new Battlestar Galactica?

Just so we’re all on the same page, Moore was the biggest Trek nerd that was actually working for the show. Now let’s see… going back over the canon… hmm… the Earth/Romulan war wasn’t fought with spatial torpedoes, pulse cannons, nor photonic torpedoes. It was fought with… gosh… I don’t know, my memory’s so fuzzy on…

It’s coming…

If not photon…

Something…

Else…

Not…

Ah!

Now I remember!

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I really wish somebody had stopped him. In the alternate universe I imagine, Brannon Braga stops him at the door.

Braga: Don’t go!

Moore: Got to.

Braga: Can’t you stop being an uncompromising visionary for just one–

Moore: One what? One career? No, Brannon. I can’t stop. Not even for a week. Nor a month. I can’t stop being an uncompromising visionary for a day. Not even for an hour.

Zack Snyder: Hey guys, what’s up? I’m a visionary.

Braga and Moore: SHUT UP!

Braga: Ron, seriously. You’re ideas are really good. I’m just stoned all the time.

Moore: Really?

Braga: What else could it be?

Moore: Hmm.

Braga: Come back to us. We can make this happen.

Moore: I want to change Seven’s uniform. It does a disservice to Jeri Ryan’s actual talent.

Braga: We’ll talk about it. C’mon… let me carry your stuff. What’s with the Worf-Sword?

Moore: That’s a bat’leth, Brannon.

Braga: Wow. Heavy, huh?

Moore: Yeah. Heavy.

And the two of them go back inside. Everything gets smoothed over. Voyager is the first series to exceed seven seasons and that makes world news. Voyager hits its true stride and defines itself. Neelix stops being annoying. The episodes stop revolving around Robert Picardo. Ensign Kim gets promoted and has stuff to do! Paris never gets fat. Robert Beltran likes working there.

And then, when its all over?

Chuck-Yeager-Frakking-Star-Trek developed by Ronald D. Moore.

In this alternate timeline, we don’t need no stinkin’ Abrams. In this timeline, everything’s fine.

In that alternate world, brothers and sisters, even Brannon Braga knows what a bat’leth is.

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While you contemplate leaving a comment, I urge you to watch this Battlestar: Voyager.

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  • Romulan Ale

    A lot of good points Jared. WHile I liked Voyager for what it was it could have been so much MOORE. I like Battlestar but the way SciFi has cut it up and dragged it out has left me less anticipation and more wanting to get it over with. Perhaps when I watch all the season uninterrupted I’ll enjoy it more but I have been too frustrated about the seasons being broken up. Many of the characters on Voyager feel like they are just “there” and breathing. Even the much maligned Kes could have been much more. Jennifer Lien given a decent script could have really played the character better. The episode “Warlord” showed she could do it with a decent script. But alas they wanted the show to be too much like TNG and always be bubbly with a happy ending. I watched TNG and Voyager because they were Star Trek but I watched DS9 because it was great drama. Thanks for the great article.

  • Damon

    Ron put the Kibash on Daniel being Kara’s father in this weeks podcast. He said Daniel was not to be something special so don’t expect anything like that.

  • VegasAndorian

    Not much to say here except, it certainly explains why DS9 is my favorite series of the post-TOS era!

    I’ve noticed Voyager fans are often critical of DS9’s infighting, while DS9 fans are turned off by Voyager’s lovefest. So while Battlestar: Voyager would’ve been one badass series, mayhap lots of Trek fans would’ve been disappointed.

    I dunno. Anyway, what’s Moore doing next?

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  • Grunt

    Spot on once again. Voyager is indeed where the rot set in, where everything became safe and comfortable and entirely, boringly risk free. I seem to recall reading Moore’s comments about Voyager at the time and completely agreeing about the lies we’d been sold about the premise of a show that had no other interest but pressing the reset button after every 45 minutes. Oh yes, and showing lots of shots of Jeri Ryan’s bountiful borg breasts. Admittedly lovely though they were/are, this schoolboy approach cheapened the character of 7of9 beyond belief, cheapened Star Trek as a whole, and, as you say, ignored much of that excellent actresses’ fine acting abilities (ref: Dark Skies).

    After enjoying TNG and loving DS9 through 14 happy years, I felt both betrayed and insulted by Voyager, only catching up with many of the latter episodes years later when a friend loaned me the DVDs.

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  • Clay

    So true. All hail the Moore!

  • Clay

    I wonder if Paramount, after BSG’s success, look back at the last two seasons of Voyager and Enterprise saying to themselves, “Why didn’t we get that guy again?”

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