Earlier this week in New York, Battlestar Galactica's co-creators David Eick and Ron Moore, along with cast members Mary McDonnell (President Roslin) and Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama), sat down with the press for a Q&A session following a screening of the last episode. We were just as brimming with questions as you are about the finale, and here are some of the answers we got. Needless to say, what follows below the jump contains MASSIVE SPOILERS if you haven't already seen tonight's show, so don't say you weren't warned!
What exactly was Kara, and were people chasing down a rabbit hole when they assumed her father was Daniel, the missing 8th model cylon?
Ron Moore: Daniel is definitely a rabbit hole. It was an unintentional rabbit hole, to be honest. I was kind of surprised when I started picking up [that] speculation online.
For those of you who don’t know, there was a deep part of the cylon backstory that had to do with one of the cylons that was created by the final five [called Daniel. Daniel] was later sort of aborted by Cavill… it was always intended just to be sort of an interesting bit of backstory about Cavill and his jealously. A Cain and Abel sort of allegory. Then people really started grabbing on to it and seizing on it as some major part of the mythology. In couple of interviews and in the last podcast I tried to go out of my way to say "look, don’t spend too much time and energy on this particular theory," because it was never intended to be that major a piece of the mythology.
David Eick: It’s like Boxey in that way!
Moore: Kara is what you want her to be. It’s easy to put the label on her of “angel” or “messenger of God” or something like that. Kara Thrace died and was resurrected and came back and took the people to their final end. That was her role, her destiny in the show... We debated back and forth in the writers’ room about giving it more clarity and saying definitively what she is. We decided that the more you try to put a name on it, the less interesting it became, and we just decided this was the most interesting way for her to go out, with her just disappearing and [leave people wondering exactly what she was].
We see Galactica jump away from the Colony. Are we to assume there are a lot of pissed off Cavills out there still, or were they destroyed?
Moore: The final [cut] came out a little less clear on that than I intended…. It was scripted and the idea was that when Racetrack hits the nukes—the nukes come in and smack into the colony—it takes the colony out of the stream that was swirling around the singularity and [the colony] fell in and was destroyed. I think as we went through the [editing process], when we kept cutting frames and doing this and that, one of the things that became less apparent was that the colony was doomed. The intention was that everyone who was aboard the colony would perish.
At what point did you decide to make it Earth-of-the-past that we were going to wind up on, and what was your reason for that?
Moore: We decided that a couple of years ago. I don’t think we ever really had a version of the show where we [were] in the future or in the present, those didn’t seem as interesting. In the early [development of the show], we would talk about the fact that we would see a lot of contemporary things in the show from language to wardrobe to all kinds of production design details. That only made sense to us in terms of a lot of things that we see in the show and we feel are taken from our contemporary world are actually theirs to begin with. [They] somehow spread down through eons and came to us through the collective unconsciousness. Or, more directly, [as when] Lee said we would give them the better part of ourselves.
Eick: There was a time when we were talking about “they land, and its Pterodactyls and Tyrannosaurus Rex.” But the idea that they were part of the genus of humankind seemed like the right—and more affordable!—way to do that.
Moore: We also had this image of Six walking through Times Square that we came up with long ago.
Who attacked the original Earth?
Moore: The backstory of the original Earth was supposed to be that the 13th tribe of cylons came to that world, started over and essentially destroyed themselves. There was some internecine warfare that occurred among the cylons themselves, which was another repetition in the cycle of “all of this has happened before and all will happen again.” Even they, who were the rebels that split off, [had] enough of humanity in them as cylons that they eventually destroyed themselves.
Why did Cavill decide to kill himself?
Moore: Cavill killing himself actually came from Dean Stockwell [the actor who played Cavill]. As scripted in that final climatic CIC battle, Tigh was going to grab Cavill and fling him over the edge of the upper level and he was going to fall to his death. Dean called me and said “y’know, I just really think that, in that moment, Cavill would realize the jig is up and it’s all hopeless, and he should just put a gun in his mouth and shoot himself.” And I said: “...Okay!”
For the actors, what was the last scene that you filmed and what was the mood like on the set?
Mary McDonnell: My last scene was Laura Roslin’s last moment in the Raptor. That was about 3:45 am on a very small set. I think I was one of the first people to wrap—she died and we all hugged, and my son and I went to the airport and went back to LA… It happened quickly, it was set to happen a week later and the schedule was changed, so suddenly it was over, it was really interesting, very much like the show for me.
Edward James Olmos: My last day was when I was on the mountainside and it was the last moment that I was on camera. It was quite an experience all the way around, that moment in time. I think everybody had a real easy time [acting] with the emotions that we had at the very end, it’s pretty honest all the way around. The last time that I saw Starbuck and Lee was the last scene where I saw them [in the show]. Pretty intense.
McDonnell: But we’re here, and we’re alive! I wore bright blue so you would know I was alive.
With the use of “All Along The Watchtower,” are you trying to get at some notion that there is some universal consciousness that goes back as far as the human/cylon races’ arrival?
Moore: The notion is sort of how you posited it. The music, the lyrics, the composition, is divine, eternal, it’s something that lives in the collective unconsciousness of everyone in the show and all of us today. It’s a musical theme that repeats itself and crops up in unexpected places. Different people hear it and pluck it out of the ether and write songs. It’s a connection of the divine and the mortal. Music is something that people literally catch out of the air and can’t really define exactly how they composed it. [So] here is a song that transcends many eons and many different people and cultures and the stars, and was ultimately reinvented by one Mr. Bob Dylan here on Earth.
Eick: It was a simple way, I thought, to communicate clearly the idea [the show is not set in the future.] That this is a story about a culture that gave birth to ours. There was an episode in season one in which Helo and Sharon are running for their lives. They hole up in a diner and there’s a cylon centurion cornering them. For the longest time we planned to have an old jukebox in the diner that would play “Yesterday”, or whatever we could afford—
Moore: Not “Yesterday.”
Eick: —Probably not "Yesterday." Something from The Guess Who perhaps. I think we felt it was too soon. It would confuse things and…people would just be thrown by it, but we were thinking about it that far back, that music would be a great way to say to the audience that it follows [a] cyclical theme of “this has all happened before and will happen again.” This culture is the one that gave birth to ours, so that all the colloquialisms and all the slang that you hear and the behavior that is idiosyncratic—playing cards or whatever—we get that from them, not the other way around.
There’s been a lot of talk about how setting an end date for a scripted serial helps to recharge it. Did you find that true?
Moore: In terms of the writers’ room it certainly focused us. We made the decision that fourth season was going to be the last season once we got to the end of the third season. We had writers’ retreats, and we had dedicated sessions to say “this is the end, what’s the last story, what’s the final arc?” It really made everybody very focused and very specific about exactly how this was going to line up. Part of the motivation to make it the final season was that we didn’t want to get to the place where we felt like the ship was keeling over and we were having a problem. We all instinctively felt that the show had the reached the third act by the time the show got to the end of that third season.
Eick: Going back a year before that, Ron and I sat down for our biannual “what the hell do we do this year meeting?” Heading into season three there was a real sense of creative frustration. We wanted to expand the show and … find a new ways [of] story telling. [So season three] became what we call the cylon-centric season. It’s when we introduced the base ship, it’s when we introduced some new cylons. It gave the show life, but after a year of that, when we sat down heading into season four, it was a much shorter conversation. It was basically “okay, what if we end it? What if we just decide it’s over?” Let’s call this…the dovetailing season. If we know that going in, how would that inform story telling decisions?” So it was a very early decision. I remember from my perspective going into that 4th season there was a different energy on the set. There was tremendous focus and concentration that I was getting from the entire ensemble.
McDonnell: Part of what was extraordinary about that is as you are able to view [the end approaching] you can then kick into gear and plot your finish. What that ends up doing is simplifying things for you. You know where your head is and you can let go in many moments were you probably would have worked very hard [before, but] you didn’t need to. So a lot of us felt a kind of simplification. A kind of humility that came over us and that gives you a lot of energy. You just know where you are going and you are proud to be a part of it. And you let go. That was the experience I think many of us had.
Olmos: We had a meeting at the very beginning of the show and we all, 13 of us, sat down in my trailer—
McDonnell: He had the biggest trailer.
Omos: —it was beautiful! And we sat down as we discussed the possibilities. I talked to them about making sure we understood that if, by chance, this situation was to move forward and we were to do this as a series, and this was to go on to for one year, four years, ten years, who knows, that we had to understand what that meant… I just knew that…the story would have a beginning, a middle and an end, and that we had to pace ourselves.
So at the end of the third season, beginning of fourth season, we had a meeting, and we were told then that this was going to be the final season. Everybody got very depressed…I don’t think any of the actors wanted to stop the show… But we had hit the end, we were going into the fourth and final act. And we knew it. So we talked about the very first time we ever got together, and we said it’s like a marathon. In marathon you have to start off fast, really really intensely strong, your first mile has to extraordinary. Then the next 24 miles have to be consistent…. And then the last mile has to be the strongest mile that you’ve run the whole 26 miles…To win it, your final mile has to be your strongest mile… So we knew where we where coming from, we knew where we were, and now we knew where were going… I think that led to some of our strongest performances.
In the last scene, are “Six” and “Baltar” angels or demons?
Moore: I think they’re both. We never try to name exactly what the “Head” characters are—we called them “Head Baltar” and “Head Six” all throughout the show, internally. We never really looked at them as angels or demons because they seemed to periodically say evil things and good things, they tended to save people and they tended to damn people. There was this sense that they worked in service of something else. You could say “a higher power” or you could say “another power,” [but] they were in service to something else that was guiding and helping, sometimes obstructing, and sometimes tempting the people on the show. The idea at the very end was that whatever they are in service to continues and is eternal and is always around. And they too are still around…and with all of us who are the children of Hera. They continue to walk among us and watch, and at some point they may or may not intercede at a key moment.