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Old February 24 2013, 08:17 AM   #1
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Location: The Shadow Gallery
RDM interview in a military blog (in 4 parts)

Ron D Moore recently gave an interview to a personal military blog for veterans:

It doesn't really cover any new ground; just some fans who are veterans, nice of RDM to drop in; so it focused on how the show tried to capture the realistic aspects of a military vessel -- i.e. how their mission statement was literally "this is going to be like a realistic portrayal of life on a military ship -- so realistic, filmed with shakey handicams with bad lighting cinema verite style, that the hope is that non-viewers randomly flipping channels and coming in halfway, who only see interior shots and don't instantly see it's a spaceship...will be honestly convinced they've stumbled upon a real-life documentary about an aircraft carrier."

Reading through all 4 parts (again they don't say anything not said elsewhere), in particular when Ron says how important his month in ROTC was and how much he always wanted to be part of that world of Hornet jets taking off and landing from a carrier, the "esprit de corps" of the fighter pilots and lower decks and commanders...

...well, this wasn't RDM's choice, but the interviewer points out fanmail that says that even Trek inspired people to be in the military.

Fundamentally, Starfleet is not "a military" in that sense. They're more like modern-day NASA astronauts: explorers, scientists, and diplomats.

On this point I must stress very strongly. Starfleet does have defensive duties, but it *isn't* that "esprit de corps" feeling of military honor and such. Spock is a scientist, McCoy is a doctor/scientist. Geordi is more of an astrophysicist than a military engineer.

Starfleet does have protocol, rank structure and such, people who break the rules might be court-martialed, but they simply don't equate to that world.

My point is that I think Picard's sense of honor, restraint, diplomacy, and "command"....are not based on his capacity as a "military ship commander". Picard frequently stressed that he is an explorer and diplomat and became angry when accused of being a "warrior".

Let's even leave out the question of violence; I mean even compared to a military vessel on purely peacetime patron duty today....Picard's mission is simply different from that.

Picard, and Starfleet, the whole standard of "command", "masculinity", "honor" whathaveyou that they presented....was more of a "Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird" style of restraint and idealistic belief in the capacity of human beings to be good and rationally overcome problems.

Of course, on a related note, a thing that RDM mentions once again in the interview is that he can't handle logistics, i.e. the large amount of paperwork and reports the military needs. Ron didn't know how to keep on a schedule, he's always had that problem: Movie 7 ate up all of their time so he frantically wrote "All Good Things..." in a handful of weeks, yet surprisingly he turned out so great he won an Emmy -- from how he keeps talking about it in interviews, I think this really validated in his mind that he's capable of working to the last minute -- which as anyone who listened to the podcasts knows is what kept happening in Seasons 3 and 4; frantic re-writes up to the last possible moment, instead of getting things done on time.

I've said before that I think that fundamentally, what happened to BSG starting with Season 3 is that:

  1. Ron Moore has an intentionally loose command style, as a reaction to the restrictive writing environment on TNG under Berman and Braga.
  2. This extends to how "command style" in the writers' room; he openly admitted that he'd keep incorporating new subplots from other writers or even actors, without ever trying to tie them all together coherently.
  3. Literally HALF of the core writing staff left under mysterious circumstances between Season 2 and 3 (i.e. story editor Tony Graphia) and yet Ron & Eick never so much as mentioned their departure publicly.
  4. The network forced them to drop their running storylines in season 3 because "standalones will hook new viewers" -- which only revealed more quickly that they weren't planning out the core direction of the show. Either way, Ron never really admitted that they dropped the running storylines until season 3 was over the dishonesty was what made it worse.
This interview made me think over "Point 2" again in particular: I think the other writers thought that if Ron accepted their idea for a new subplot, he'd also figured out how to make it fit into existing storylines, when in fact he didn't (hey! Let's have a hybrid baby! etc.) In the podcasts, Ron frequently praises how he loves it when actors and directors ad lib on the set, or how he just generally has a "hands off" approach and lets writers shape an individual episode.

Meanwhile, it sunk in about just how little control Ron was willing to exert and ultimately the show spun out of control and they painted themselves into a corner.

And it hit me: above all, this was a TV show about command structures and the responsibility of command....and Ron himself turned out to be a bad commander.

Think about it: even as they were writing Season 4, with Admiral Adama - this character on script pages - trying to keep disciplined command structure on his military vessel.....Ron Moore, the lead writer, was leading a markedly *UNdisciplined* writer's room. This was a show ABOUT the pressures of command!

Consider that the villain captains on the show all tended to be martinets and tyrants: Admiral Cain was a tyrant, Commander Garner on Pegasus -- while a good episode -- his whole episode had the moral that he was a martinet who tried to control his crew too tightly.

Never was there a circumstance where the "bad" commander was someone who had too LOOSE of a command style. But either extreme is ultimately bad. (Yes, Fisk was in the Black Market and such...for the opening act of one episode and then he was killed; they didn't really dwell on it).

So just the contrast is really ironic; they're writing characters set on a military ship, and they're supposed to be creating stories about characters making "command decisions" -- when Ron himself was indecisive, frequently working until the last minute, throwing out and revizing subplots at the last minute, and showing an overall unwillingness to assert control over the writing staff or even himself.
"Its about the characters, stupid" - Ron D Moore
"What baloney. BSG was about the writers wanting to achieve a pre-determined end point, and they jerked the characters around so that they would achieve that goal." - Temis the Vorta
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