Thursday, December 7

Grazier: Making Science-Fiction Real

Source: SyFy Portal

The writing team of David Weddle and Bradley Thompson had a great strategy to rescue the colonists trapped on New Caprica on "Battlestar Galactica," but first, they had to find out whether or not it would be practical.

They didn't need to visit special effects -- those guys can do anything. Showrunner Ronald D. Moore? As long as it was entertaining and smart, he would already be onboard.

No, this one needed to go elsewhere, like "Battlestar's" resident science advisor, Dr. Kevin Grazier.

The rescue strategy? Have the Galactica jump well within New Caprica's gravitational pull, and in a free-fall belly-flop of the ship, launch Vipers and jump away before the Galactica crashes to the ground. All of this needed to be figured out quickly, as it was being planned for the fourth episode of the third season, "Exodus, Part 2."

"I said something in my notes about that episode to the effect that I woul dbe remiss in my job if I didn't say that this wouldn't happen like that," Grazier told SyFy Portal's Michael Hinman about the freefall. "It would break up. But because of the high coolness factor, and since this was science-fiction, I wanted to see this."

Not everything in science can be ignored because of the "high coolness" factor, and Grazier is well aware of how tech-savvy many fans of science-fiction are. That means spending a lot of time pouring over scientific details of scripts being planned for both "Battlestar Galactica" and another SciFi Channel original show, "Eureka." Sometimes, the solution can be easy ... other times, Grazier's task could be almost impossible, like when he was asked during the show's second season to explain how Faster-Than-Light drives worked.

"I was told they were writing a large portion of 'The Captain's Hand' on how the drive works, how it can be damaged, and to have the captain, in a 'Wrath of Khan'-like move, save the ship," Grazier said. "So I had to spend five hours figuring out how the RTL drive worked."

Grazier made his first entries into television not simply as a scientist, but as an up-and-coming writer trying to pitch stories to Bryan Fuller for UPN's "Star Trek: Voyager." However, Grazier found out how difficult it is to see a story go from pitch to actually performed in front of the cameras, and the scientist had trouble breaking through. But he didn't give up, and started a friendship with people like Fuller, and even original series star Richard Hatch, who had been working on the "Battlestar Galactica: Second Coming" concept.

When SciFi Channel greenlighted the "Battlestar Galactica" series, Fuller -- who worked closely with Ronald D. Moore in the Star Trek spinoffs -- recommended Grazier to Moore to handle all the tough scientific questions that were bound to pop up. Soon after Hatch, who was already in discussions about coming on board to play political terrorist Tom Zarek, also put in a plug for Grazier, and it wasn't long before the doctor was welcomed aboard.

"Some of the writers will call me from the onset," Grazier said. "They will tell me they're writing a story involving X, and how do we make this happen?" An example of that came at the beginning of Season 2 when co-producer Thompson wanted to find a way to separate the Galactica from the rest of the fleet.

"They wanted to know how do we get into the situation, and how do we get out of it," Grazier said of the episode that became the second season premiere "Scattered." "I felt it was plausible that they just didn't update the coordinates with the others ships in the fleet and go from there."

Unlike Star Trek, however, everyone involved in the production aspect of "Battlestar Galactica" have strict standing orders to not let technology and technobabble overtake the story.

"We are fully aware that this is a character-driven story, I just merely put some polish on it," Grazier said. "We had some episodes that are more technical than others, but it's very rare that it takes over. The character stuff is already firmly established."

Grazier's suggestions sometimes can be spun off into episodes of their own, most notably this coming Friday's episode "The Passage," the penultimate episode to the show's mid-season finale. In that episode, the ragtag fleet faces food shortages after a contamination, and it's up to Kat (Luciana Carro) to make it right.

"I think throughout the series that in terms of basic resources, shortages will always be a recurring theme," Grazier said. "Certainly, things are going to run out, small things would run out. That could really influence things, so many things."

Grazier also has been involved in some of the astronomical road signs that the fleet might use to locate Earth, including the nebula visited in "Torn." Grazier said he also came up with theories on how 12 habitable planets that made up the Twelve Colonies could exist in such close proximity to each other, but don't try to get the details from him: Unless it's aired, there's always a chance it could air, and he doesn't want to kill potential plot points.

With production of the third season of "Battlestar Galactica" wrapping up, Grazier says he's already getting ready for the second season of "Eureka." He continues to watch the new episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" as they air, since he considers himself a true science-fiction fan.

"I often forget I actually get paid for this," Grazier said. "I watched (the original show) in my senior year in high school, so the idea of working on this is just so cool."

"Battlestar Galactica" airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on SciFi Channel. - Article by Michael Hinman

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