Podcast:The Hand of God
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Hello and welcome to the podcast of commentary on episode 10, "The Hand of God", on Battlestar Galactica. I'm Ronald D. Moore and I'll be your skipper and guide here for the next five days and four enchanting nights as we talk about The Hand of God.
This particular episode is one that remains virtually the same from the story outline onward. David Eick, the-my partner and the other executive producer on this show, often refer to this episode as 'The Big Mac' and 'The Big Mac' is what we tended to call it around the offices. 'The Big Mac' because it's sort of fast food - its like here's the guilty pleasure, let's go out and blow a lot of stuff up, let's have some fun, let's do a war story, let's sort of get back to the roots of what the show is about, which essentially is a combat series about an aircraft carrier in space and fighting its foes.
Part of the concept of this series overall was that we knew going in that we would not be able to - nor did we really want to - do a battle episode every single week. We knew right away that was not going to be economically viable for us - we simply couldn't have enough money to produce that week in/week out - with Vipers continually engaging the Cylon Raiders and etc., in a never-ending battle. And also, creatively, I never really wanted that to be the show. I always saw the show, as I've said many times before, as a drama first and an action-adventure series or science fiction series a distant second. So I always wanted to make the characters front and center. Which is in part one of the reasons why Laura Roslin was invented in the first place as long as we're- she's on the screen here.
The role of the President, as I have probably also mentioned before, I always thought was vital to the life of this series as opposed to the original series because I was always interested in playing a civilian versus military dynamic - the tension between those two and I thought also just given the sort of more realistic approach to the genre that we were going to take I knew that the President was going to have to have a role -a strong role - and that the political leadership of the survi- the remnants of humanity and the survivors of our rag-tag fleet was going to be a very important story and I wanted to play it and that it would have to be this way that you would have to have someone in charge of the government - we couldn't just have Adama week in and week out making these decisions for all these civilians.
This particular scene, with - obviously Laura's having hallucinations about snakes, which dovetails into our backstory and running subplot about her cancer and her hallucinations which are brought on by the drug that she's taking. This is also one of our press conference scenes - which to me was a way of sort of reinforcing the notion that Colonial One is our analog to Air Force One and that you sort of needed something larger than the Oval Office to sort of convey the White House as it were - I mean, we have sort of her office aboard Colonial One that we will see in a moment (or maybe we won't) and that was never really enough to convey sort of the power and the importance of the Presidency, so we came up with this idea of using the press conference because it's essentially such a familiar fixture in our day-to-day politics in the United States - the press conference, the press corps asking questions, the President standing behind the podium - it's such a familiar - the iconogra - the iconography of that is so familiar that it sort of reinforces this idea that she is the President over and over again.
To get back to the plot here for a second - Crashdown and Sharon are out hunting for Tylium fuel. Tylium fuel is lifted directly from the original Battlestar Galactica series. Unlike Star Trek and other futuristic sort of space operas, which sort of posit in Star Trek's case the Enterprise runs on matter/antimatter engines and there are books and reams of material and technical data that you can find that tell you exactly how the Enterprise engines work but essentially it's like this - the collision of matter and antimatter creates such an enormous release of energy that it drives the Enterprise forward.
The original Battlestar Galactica simply said that they had fuel. It was something called tylium fuel. And you had to find it, you had to refine it, and you had to put it in your gas tank to go. I liked that idea; I thought it was - it fit well within the sort of the retro-technology point of view that I was taking in this version of the series. So I kept it as opposed to simply giving the Colonials and the Cylons some vers - some variant of nuclear energy or again matter/antimatter or some out there sounding sort of space notions of what would drive these ships. Fuel is a good thing. I think it's a limitation; it's something that you can - you can run out of periodically, your supplies can be threatened, it gives you a need to go do things, ships have to be refueled; it's just sort of an interesting bit of texture in the series and it's sort of another way we tend to depart from what sort of has become the contemporary accepted conventions of science fiction. I think I've spoken about this sequence in previous podcasts but once again this is our upcoming shots of tonight's episode which is really an homage to Space: 1999. And I will save the rest of my comments back to the show to the other side of the main title.
Act 1, "Hand of God". "Hand of God", as I said at the outset, is virtually the same episode that we set out to tell at the very beginning. Which is somewhat of a rarity, and also something that is nice when it does happen.
This particular episode was written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, a team of writers that I worked with on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during its last couple of years and two of the first people that I thought about bringing aboard Battlestar Galactica because I knew that their sensibility would match up quite well with what I wanted to do in the series. Bradley in particular has a vast (laughing) and interesting knowledge of military lore and and technical jargon and tactics and sort of shares the - his -shares my interest as an amateur historian in military issues and I knew he would be a great addition.
His partner, David Weddle, is very different than Bradley in many many ways, David's a writer for the - a sometimes writer for the L.A. Times, he has also written a fine, fine biography of Sam Peckinpah which I recommend to all my listeners, called If They Move, Kill Em, and he's appeared in a couple of documentaries about Peckinpah and is a movie - is somewhat of a movie historian himself. In any case, they came up with this story in response to the request of David Eick and I to come up with 'The Big Mac'; we need a combat show.
And as I think I started to say, the idea of combat in the series from the get-go, when I pitched it to the network originally, I was very clear that we not going to be fighting the Cylons continuously. We would probably encounter and have combat episodes every third or fourth episode roughly. Both for budgetary reasons and creative reasons. The creative reason was - I did not see how you ran into the Cylons every week and defeated them every week - which you kind of have to do in order to just keep the series moving forward - and still maintain the Cylons as this sort of frightening, unstoppable foe. This was a problem that I had run into in some ways before at the Star Trek franchise where there was an enemy known as the Borg, which was this cybernetic sort of half human or half organic and half synthetic creatures that assimilated -- cultures and they were essentially set up as the perfect unstoppable force that you could not reason with you could not talk to and you could not defeat and they would just keep coming. Well, the problem was they were so cool you kept going back to them and time after time the Enterprise would find a way to defeat them. So, eventually, the Borg sort of become somewhat toothless; they just sort of lose the scare factor because you beat them every week. I didn't want us to fall into the same trap here, so right from the get-go I made it very clear we were only going to do combat in small bursts, we were going to try to always keep it scary, our losses would be real, we were never going to really be cute about how we beat the Cylons, we were never going to really be pulling something out at the last minute - some virus inserted into their computers or anything like that. We would play it as real as we can given the parameters of dramatic television, of course.
This scene between Elosha and Laura is moving Laura Roslin along a path that sort of ties into the larger Battlestar Galactica mythos. Just as Tylium was something that was found in the Original Series, so was this idea that there was a larger mythos to Galactica. The original Galactica series began with this short prologue and the main title sequence voiced by Patrick Macnee which began 'There are those who believe that life here began out there' and he proceeded to talk about how that some people believe that the pyramids and the Mayan civilizations and other ruins of past civilizations on Earth were actually built or aided in some ways by ancient astronauts. This was an idea that was very current in the 1970s - Chariots of the Gods was a best-seller - In Search of, Leonard Nimoy explored the issue many times. So the idea that there were past visitors to Earth who were either human beings from some other part of the galaxy or were true aliens who came down and helped us - or influenced our development in some way shape or form - this is something that was built into the original series.
As I approached Galactica, the new version, I decided pretty early on that I wanted to keep that part of the mythos, I didn't want to play it too heavily up front in the mini-series or the first couple of episodes, because I felt it was more important to establish the characters, sink into the world, set up kind of a storytelling that we were doing, and really hook the audience into the show before we sort of start to introduce this more grandiose, mythological concepts. But it was very important so -- at this point in the series, in the latter episodes of the first season, you'll start to see more and more pieces of Laura, starting to realize there are connections - not just a connection between themselves and what they believe is the possibly mythical planet of Earth, but also that there is a larger story that was perhaps being told. There is a larger, more eternal tale that all of them are wrapped up in.
Leoben, the Cylon had referred to this with Kara in the episode "Flesh and Bone", there is a quote of the scripture that is used time and again called: 'All of this has happened before and all of this has happened again'. Which is a phrase that I have always been in love with because, if memory serves me correct - and I haven't actually pulled out the movie and checked this - but I believe it is the opening words of the Disney animated version of Peter Pan which I love the connection to and I thought it was just an elegant phrase; there's something really kinda nice about that. I mean, Peter Pan, and all that sorta symbolism about fantasy and reality and growing up sort of those sort of notions and I love that that's sort of part of their mythos and their scriptural belief that all of this has happened before and all of this has happened again. Which I think is marvelous.
Anyway, enough with the mythos, back to the hard core action of the show. This is the Big Board, as we called it. This came out of a creative - again a creative and budgetary problem, as so many sort of things in the show do. They sort of have both parents of budget and creative. How do you illustrate and dramatize to the audience a complicated military plan in space? I'd gone round these -round and round these sorts of ideas many times before - again, primarily at Star Trek, both NextGen and Deep Space 9 where occasionally we would do battles and we would have tactical plans that had to be elaborated to the audience and sort of ideas that had to be conveyed in somewhat succinct terms. And the conundrum you always find is that you never quite have enough money to just do it all in exterior space shots - and show all the movement of all the ships and set up all the geography correctly and see them going from A to B and this ship is over here and that base is there and we're trying to get over here. And it's confusing - even if you did have the money, it's all the ships against black, I mean, really unless you're like in the orbit of a planet or something, the backdrop in every single shot is the same starry blackness. And it's very hard to convey a sense of geography - that is, where ships are in relationship to one another, particularly when they're moving. So, you have that problem. Also, the other problem is that if you go with the more obvious answer to that, it's to simply do it all on a computer screen - to hand it over to the art department and your computer graphics people and visual effects and okay 'show me on a map, on some kind of flat 2-D surface that I can do a close-up insert shot of where the Galactica is, where the Vipers are, where the station is, where the Cylon Raiders are, show me how the plan's supposed to be, move all the dots from here to there, give me a red line between the Vipers and the Galatica that's moving' - you get into these long detailed technical discussions with various skilled artists who give you everything that you ask for. The problem is, when you get those on-screen schematic graphics, and you put them in your show, nine times out of ten, they don't make sense. Real graphics, if you look at real, usable, functional graphics as they would be in say an Aegis cruiser in the United States Navy trying to track multiple aircraft and ships and missiles and what have you in the Persian Gulf, say, it is a confusing jumble of symbols and iconography and notations and colors that makes perfect sense to the people who use it. And it looks really cool, but it doesn't tell you the story quickly and easily. And the trick in these kind of shows is to tell the story - you want to tell the audience what the plan is. You're not trying to sort of wow them with how technical you are and how close you're emulating sort of the technical reality of the show. You're trying to simply get across an easy story idea. The Cylons are there, we're coming from here, we're going to go over there, we're doing this other thing. So then you -- what ends up happening if you go down the computer graphics road is that you end up simplifying and simplifying and simplifying the graphic until it looks like something out of Fischer-Price where the Enterprise say is a bright yellow dot that's labeled Enterprise and moves in a very precise, straight way to some other dot that says 'Klingon Ship' and it's moving in a very easy to understand way and suddenly all of the interesting tactical movements are wiped away and you sort of fall in the cracks - you never quite have a way to convey a complicated battle in anything remotely resembling a satisfying manner. Which is why the most successful space battles are the kind of the simplest ones in space - generally. The Enterprise is being attacked by the Reliant in Star Trek 2 is essentially two ships going at each other. I'll be back.
Two ships going at each other - I'll come back to the I'm sure intriguing discussion of graphics and tactics in a moment. This scene is one of my favorites in the show and one of my favorites in the series. I love it for several reasons - there's the actors involved, who I adore, there's the material of it, and there's the continuity of it. The continuity element was something that is very important to me in the series; that is to maintain a sense of reality from show to show to say that events that happen in one show impact things that happen in the other show that we don't essentially push the reset button at the end of the episode and everybody's back exactly the way they were. On Galactica, we don't have a magical sickbay which sort of wipes away all your wounds and makes everything - makes your body just like it was at the beginning of the show. People have -- people suffer, people go through surgery, people have to go through rehab, like Starbuck does. And that the notion that Starbuck would sustain such a terrible knee injury that she - that actually, in her backstory, she had injured it once already - I don't know if we've ever said this in the series yet, but part of Starbuck's backstory is that she was a pyramid player - which is a physical game - again an homage to the original - it came to sort of a racketball/handball/basketball type game we haven't seen yet. She wanted to be a pyramid player, she blew out her knee, was not then - basically could not be scouted by the pros, her career was over or so she thought, and so she decided to become a Viper pilot. Sorry to back up - she was in the Academy - she had joined the Colonial Fleet Academy on some kind of athletic scholarship primarily to play pyramid and she saw it as a means to an ends when she was there she blew out her knee and had to find other employment and when she got in the cockpit or flew for the first time she realized she had found her true calling. In any case, someone with that kind of backstory who suffers another injury shouldn't just get up and walk away from it and I wanted to play out the ramifications and the impacts of that over the course of many episodes, and then the great thing was in this episode it gave us a chance to make her stay behind - make our best pilot stay behind when we have the big 'Big Mac' mission to go on.
Which gives us this lovely scene between Starbuck and Apollo where Starbuck calls her on the fact that she doesn't think he's up to the mission. Which I thought was really interesting; it wasn't just sort of the easy surface 'Attaboy, you can do it without me' and Lee saying 'Oh, come on, I'm not up to you and I wish you were with us' and each of them sort of golly-geeing the other one and holding their fears deep inside which is sort of the standard way you do these scenes. I like the fact that they're at each other again, that she really doesn't think he's up to it. That's what comes through. And that he's pissed about it, and he doesn't like it, he thinks he is up to it. Or at least wants a chance to prove it. I like the conflict of the two characters more than I like the sort of false and easy going camaraderie that is so often the case in these shows.
Cylon occupied Caprica - Origin- the only big change to happen in this show, really, and its development, really - originally this show was going - was slated to be episode 8 -excuse me, it was slated to be episode 9 - and it became episode 10. At the last minute I decided to split the two episodes in production order because I realized that the end of Flesh and Bone - where Leoben whispers into Laura Roslin's ear that (whispers) 'Adama is a Cylon' - was the perfect way to springboard us into the episode that was all about paranoia and all about who's a Cylon and could Adama be a Cylon? Which became "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down". So at the last minute, I pulled a fast one and sent everybody scrambling to sort of switch the order so that it could be episode ten, and that Tigh Me Up could be episode 9. The only thing that then had to change substantially in the two episodes was this Cylon occupied Caprica story. These were the scenes that were originally targeted to be in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" and then the scenes that you saw in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" - the scenes of them running through the sewers and Doral and Six walking down into the vast underground chamber - all those little pieces were originally going to be in "Hand of God", because would've been in episode 9. And these sequences would have all been in episode 10.
This - in this story, this is maybe the first hint that maybe something is up with Sharon, in case you haven't been paying attention. Helo doesn't see it because hey, he wasn't looking at the television monitor like you were. And this story is again is developing slowly over time, we've taken our time with it all season long. I think it's been a bit of a challenge to the traditional audience because they're very used to these episodes being -particularly science fiction in particular as being very standalone, very episodic, you don't have to see last week in order to understand this week. And I've been very pleased so far with the response of the audience and ratings - that the audience is willing to be patient, they are willing to invest themselves in a sci-fi show that asks its audience to remember things that happened, or if they missed last week's episode to at least take the leap of faith and get into it and not worry about the fact that they may have missed something.
This scene is an interesting scene between Adama and Lee. It's been interesting to sort of watch the evolution of their father/son dynamic since the Miniseries where it began -for those of you have seen the miniseries - and I'm sure all of you have - in the original miniseries, Lee has a huge chip on his shoulder vis-a-vis his father. His father has tremendous feelings of guilt and anger of his own - both, both relating to -- both of their feelings relating to the death of Adama's other son, Zak. And it took us a while to sort of move the relationship past that - in many ways, the death of Zak and the hard feelings between father and son over that really colored and defined their relationship for quite some time. What's good about this is that it's really a separate idea; it's really about Adama's belief or non-belief in his son -- and it's -- it's again, it's Lee realizing what the people around him think of him, which I think is an interesting way of going at this - that here's this handsome, heroic lead pilot character in the drama, who starts to realize that the people around him - his own father, his best friend - don't really think he's up to snuff, that his dad doesn't - thinks that he might not come back and gives him a lucky charm (laugh) to guide him back and to get him to kind of spunk him up and that Starbuck has to stand in rooms and sort of walk him through all the tactics. And it kinda - I think it's a weight that the character carries with him. And it's the determination - (right here) it's the determination in Lee that I think is most telling. He's tenacious, he is not somebody who gives up easily and I think that in probably throughout his life I think many people have underestimated Lee Adama.
And it's raining on the hangar deck - no it's not, we're back on Cylon-occupied Caprica. One of the things that became troublesome, of course, was the worry that the audience was going to get confused about where was Sharon? Which is Sharon? Why is Sharon on the planet? Why is she also on the battlestar? There were countless, countless, countless discussions of this idea - how to differentiate the two and the audience confusion factor was always something that was like uppermost in a lot of executive's minds. And, fortunately we overcame that and I think we split the difference and we were able to sort of compromise in a lot of areas that it was ok to compromise in to spell out the difference. This comes up just because she's beaten and sort of had some scarring going on which started to help differenterate-differentiate the two visually to the audience, which is always the sort of the fundamental idea. It's like OK at a glance you want to know this is not the same Sharon that you're watching back on the Galactica. Even if you don't know all the reasons why. And, I guess they're going to run and get on a horse and fly away. No they're not.
So here we go with the plan. I like that we didn't tell you everything that goes on in the tactical plan, that there are hidden secrets within it, some things that are hidden even from the President, which I think dramatically is interesting because it gives the audience a sense of fun and a sense of excitement and a sense that something could change at any moment. It's a bit of a trick, I mean, it's a writer's device to sort of lead you down a certain path; we've essentially told you what the plan was in very general terms, without spelling too much of it out, and now here you are, you're going to watch it unfold and you're expecting the Cylons to do something unexpected, you're expecting that the Cylons will pull something at the last minute, that they will act in a way that we don't anticipate, and you're--you the audience, are anticipating that in turn, and you're kind of looking forward to it and seeing how it happens. Now, what we did on top of that in this episode was then to also to bury the card of what will Galactica - what piece of the Galactica plan has not been conveyed to you the audience that either anticipates this Cylon unexpected maneuver or outmaneuvers it at the last minute. All of this is very conceptual and I'm not even sure if it is even remotely interesting to most of you in the audience. But, in essence, it's a way of constructing these dramatic scenes in such a way (coughs) that just as you feel familiar with where it's going - and you know as an audience member that certain twists are on the horizon - you still can enjoy it because we still have some legitimate surprises to come out later.
All of this, these sequences, of course, are very influenced by classic action movies, classic World War II movies, real life documentaries of the carrier war in the Pacific, and later to some extent to the Korean and Vietnam war, and even in the carrier -- carrier combat and aircraft - aircraft something, a word that I can't - I'm reaching for but can't find - (laughs) in the way the aircraft are detailed and put into battle in the present day.
Back to the table itself - the Big Board. As I was saying earlier, once you've eliminated the idea of doing everything in space shots and also that computer graphics are not going to help you too much we came up with this idea of let's go back to what some of the great World War II movies used to do. Which was based on something very real - these big boards of pieces, ships and troops, and maneuvering tactical units - putting them on a very big map and having people move them around with sticks is something that really happened in mostly in World War II and in earlier eras as a way of sort of seeing it visually. As human beings, we're very visually oriented, we like to see where all the pieces are. And in several classic Second World War movies like Sink the Bismark! or Tora! Tora! Tora! or even much much less a movie called Midway - about the Battle of Midway - they used these large boards. With ships. Labeled them, carrier task groups and where they are in relation to the different islands. And the idea of using that in our show was unique - as far as I know. I don't remember anybody else having done this exactly like this. Or even remotely like this. And we all got really excited about it and at first our notion was to be very real. Again, always is the underlying drive in our series is to be as real as possible. And the initial pieces we were sort of going to put on this board were like the real ones which were very nondescript - they were just essentially little blocks, little pieces of paper, or construction paper or little blocks that just had very simple designators on them - you know, just sort of dry words and carrier group numbers and that sort of thing. And what we found is that it wasn't going to be visually interesting at all. It just wasn't going to conve- again, it was getting kind of boring visually to the audience, and hard to understand. And the whole point of doing this was not just to be realistic, but also to be entertaining and also to tell the story. So I believe it was Richard Hudolin, who is our production designer -- simply suggests why don't we use little models. And it's such a simple idea and at first I kind of resisted it cause I thought it was a little hokey. It was so great and I was so glad he did it and I'm glad that we went for it because it makes this entire sequence work.
And we're back. Using the models on the table makes it work in a very real way. You look down, you see the Raptor, you know those are the Raptors. You see the Vipers. There's the Vipers. Here's the Cylons. Here's Galactica. It's so much - this is so easy to convey this idea. There. What's going on? The Vipers are heading back to Galactica. It would have cost quite a bit of money to do it in space. That's a simple shot. Cylons flip over, head away from those transports. That's great but if I cut to another shot of Vipers doing the same thing somewhere else you might be confused into the relative position of one another. But on the board, you get it. You get what's going on on the board.
Now coming up, of course, is another -- yet another little homage to the original Battlestar Galactica. Because there are many little homages to the original Battlestar Galactica. Contrary to the views of many of our detractors, who think that we spend our time dancing up and down on the grave of the original one. That we enjoy chances to put a stake through the heart of the old show. Actually, we're kinda -we're quite fond of the old show, we mean it no disrespect, and there are many fans of the original- in the visual effects department in particular - who delight in sprinkling our rag-tag fleet with models and ships from the original. And coming up is one of those original ships from the original Battlestar Galactica which was featured prominently virtually every week because it was one of their stock shots that they used over and over and over again- which -- not that we don't use stock shots over and over again but it was one of the more recognizable ships of their fleet. And there it is! I believe that was called the Colonial Movers. And it's hiding our Vipers. Which I think is such a cool gag - when the guys came up with this (helicopter noises) --this -- the -- I'm sorry, there's an aircraft going overhead - I am in my undisclosed location somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area - and they are looking for me constantly.
Anyway, this whole sequence is in large large measure has - is a salute to the efforts of everyone at Zoic and many other artists and artisans beyond Zoic who aided in this episode in our visual effects department. And Gary Hutzel - who is our Visual Effects Supervisor - who's just one of the key players on our team - and he - Gary -- the director and the writers worked very closely on all this. I - my rewrite - and I've said before that I do production rewrites (helicopter noise) - again the aircraft - the black helicopters are hunting me even as we speak -- I always do a rewrite and a pass through of scripts of varying degrees - this was the script I did the least of. I didn't do a huge rewrite on this episode -- it's really a salute to the writers and the director and Gary Hutzel how where this- how well this all works out. This is all very complicated material, this is all expensive material, we had to save our pennies and hoard our visual effects budget for quite a while to make all this work. What's nice about this sort of show and these episodes are all these other Viper pilots, I think, because you need to put faces to these other pilots to care about them and you'll recognize Kat is one of the faces you saw go by very briefly and Kat was one of the nuggets, one of the new pilots that Kara had trained way back in "Act of Contrition". Which again was -- is another nice little bit of continuity.
All of this -- all of this action is influenced very heavily by the way real pilots conduct tactical missions, coming in along the deck, how they respond and try to avoid and evade and sometimes not evade anti-aircraft fire. Certainly, these are all reminiscent of scenes we have all seen from shots of pilots over Baghdad in both Gulf Wars. We tried very hard to be as true to those tactics and those missions as we could. We couldn't do everything, there are certainly valid areas of criticism, I think, that a real pilot and a real military officers will bring to the series. And they do. And I think that's perfectly legitimate. We- as much as I want it to be a documentary-like series, it's not a documentary, it is a dramatic show and we try really hard to give it a sense of realness. It's a sense of realism that you want. You want to believe these things are really happening, even thought they're not. So we do strive and we have technical advisors and we strive every week to make these things feel like they're really happening. But in the end there are always compromises and always little things that don't quite work and I'll take the responsibility for all of that. A lot of -- there are things in this episode - some of the pilot jargon back and forth - some of the wireless transmissions between the pilots - that doesn't quite ring true, that the writers called me on. There are things I did in post-production just because I had to move the story forward and sometimes you make compromises on the fly because you don't have time to do anything else and later you go 'Oh, God, he really wouldn't have said that'. But, all that aside, I think this is in many ways this is a more successful and more exciting battle sequence than we had in the miniseries. I think it's visually interesting, I think the objectives and the tactics are more complicated than the miniseries. The miniseries battles were essentially 'There they are, they're coming at us, oh, let's try and get away'. This is go into a target, set up decoys, suppression fire on the anti-aircraft, and then we've got this. This is -- this is Apollo doing the Luke Skywalker gag. I mean, this is -- we talked about it. This is an homage, in some ways, to Star Wars. There's no doubt about that. It's go down into the trench go down into something and fly your Viper and do something hangin' it out there over the edge. Because the whole char-- and it's in service of a character thing; it's not not so much the plot device of how to destroy the Cylon base -- it's really a character gag. We wanted Lee to do something crazy. Like Kara would do. That was the whole point. Apollo doing really a Starbuck move to prove to himself and everyone else that he's capable of doing these kinds of things.
What I did tell Gary Hutzel on this run through the tunnel was I said make it look as difficult as possible but don't make it look impossible. I don't want it to be like the sequence in Return of the Jedi where the X-Wings, the Millennium Falcon go inside the battlestar -- the Death Star -- under construction. And you just don't believe for a second that they could really fly in it- that the tolerances are so tight and they have to move so quickly and there's just no way - you just know that they'd smash into the wall. So in that sequence you just watch. The Viper is not moving at an impossible speed, it's not moving in an impossible way and the tunnel is not so narrow that he could not have piloted through it. Given that it is a spaceship and not an aircraft -- so the fact that he could stop and do that -- see, that's all great stuff. This breaks this sort of language that you usually have in space opera, that ships move like aircraft or like naval vessels. I wanted the spaceships to move like spaceships which means they can stop, they can turn around, they can flip end over end, they can -- they are not bound by the same aerodynamic limitations that real aircraft are. They are spaceships, they are bounded by the laws of physics. So, Gary and Zoic worked very hard under that dictum and we often send shots back because we don't want them to look like planes in air we want them to look like spaceships in space. And for the most part I think we're quite successful at that. And I think what's interesting is that many times you see the spaceships moving like a fighter --like a traditional fighter -- and then it does something like you just saw where it stops, spins, turns, and goes the other direction. And it catches you completely off guard and it reminds you 'Oh, yeah these are spaceships'.
These kinds of scenes are interesting to me because these are the kinds of scenes I'm usually afraid of, frankly, in scripts. I'm usually afraid of the moment when you script the- 'and the crew gives out a cheer and everybody breaks into applause' -- because my experience is usually those moments fall flat and that usually it feels forced and phony and you don't really buy it. What's interesting in our show is whenever we've asked for one of those moments they have felt genuine and they have felt - I felt - an emotional release. And like this little bit here, this lovely bit between Laura and Starbuck, and she hugs her. I just love that. It moves me. It makes me feel these are real people. All these people feel like real -- all these characters feel like real people to me. And I think that's the key, is what we have tried so hard in the show is to convey a sense of realism so that you can accept these characters as flesh and blood human beings. And once you cross that threshold, then you share their victories and you cry in their defeats and this is one of those moments where you just believe it - you believe given this whole episode you've seen that they would need a release that they would actually celebrate. And that they would be happy and it doesn't just feel like forced frivolity to me, it feels like genuine release of emotion, which I think is the key.
What's also interesting about this little bit is that - the cigar. Y'know what, I don't care what the anti-smoking folks, the PC tobacco folks wanna say - I like it, we're gonna keep doing it. People smoke, they're human beings, it's their choice, let 'em. And I think it's a symbol -- in areas -- tok -- lighting up the stogie -- like many, many, many fighter pilots have beforehand and many will after in the moment of celebration and I think that's great.
And there's the lighter back to Dad.
It's a honest episode. It's a Big Mac, but sometimes Big Macs are really good and they taste really good. You just have to be sure that you make them well. And I think we made this one pretty well.
Now the coda to this, this little bit with Baltar and Six which we haven't talked on at all, also continues in his continuity, his movement through the show in a philosophical and religious sense to the point where he's starting to wonder what's going on. We've made all these connections and him as a rational, secular scientist has to look around him and realize that things are maybe are not what they seem, that much as much as he wants to deny the existence of God, and certainly the Cylon God, things do tend to work the way Six tells him. God's hand does seem to be in play in many ways in this episode. And in the series. And what does that say? What does that say to Gaius Baltar, the skeptic and secularist, what does it say to him. How does he start to put this all together? In his mind, as evidence piles atop evidence, that perhaps there is a God and perhaps it is her God, perhaps he has been visited by not just a chip in his head, or by a subconscious psychotic break, but perhaps God is speaking to him in some bizarre way. And where will that take him? Where will it take him by the end of the series is a fascinating question and one that myself and the other writers are enjoying exploring at this very moment.
I think, --yeah, we're getting ready for the close of the episode, and we are moving to one of my favorite shots in the series, I have favorite moments and character bits, and then there is this shot, which I believe is actually David Eick's idea. David spends far more time on the actual set than I do. He's in Canada far more than I am, I sort of bounce back and forth between the L.A. writers office and post-production is down here and the Vancouver shooting stages. And David up there much more. He's directly - sitting next to the director many times. And this upcoming shot where we end the episode, I believe, was David's idea. And as soon as I saw it, I fell on the floor laughing and just loving it. This. (laughs) You gotta love that.
Well, thank you ladies and gentlemen, and I will be talking to you again on "Colonial Day".