Wednesday, April 4

Q & A with Mark Verheiden

Source: Wizard Universe

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t yet watched the “BSG” Season Three finale, stop reading here, for the love of gods!

Have you lost sleep or sanity (or countless work-hours gathered around the water cooler) trying to process all the series-rocking revelations in last Sunday’s “Battlestar Galactica” season finale? Blame Mark Verheiden. As the writer responsible for the episode, titled “Crossroads: Part Two,” he set Gaius Baltar free, revealed four more secret Cylons, brought Starbuck back to life—and showed us Earth.

Wizard went to action stations with the veteran TV and comics scribe and “Battlestar” co-executive producer to look back on Season Three, look forward to Season Four and learn whether Cylons—and Starbuck—can really be trusted…

WIZARD: How did you land the writing chores for the season finale? Is that a real plum gig, or a real hard gig?

VERHEIDEN: Well, [executive producers] Ron Moore and David Eick make the decision of who writes which episodes. Some of it is rotation-based: “Who’s up?” Obviously, when you’re on the last episode, you get to be here longer. So there is that aspect, but I was flattered to be asked to do it and I had a great time doing it. I can’t really tell you exactly why [they asked me], but it’s nice to be trusted with it. By the way, I think that any of the writers could’ve handled it. It’s a great staff here. But it was great that I had a chance to do it.

You had a lot of balls to juggle in that final episode: Baltar’s trial, Laura’s cancer, Adama’s relationship with both Laura and Apollo, Starbuck’s return, the shot of Earth, the opera house dream sequences, the appearance of the Cylon fleet, the revelation of four out of the final five Cylons.…How do you even go about weaving all those threads together?

VERHEIDEN: When you’re here through the entire process, you’ve been following the strain of these stories all along. We all have ideas where we’re going with each one of those stories anyway. It just becomes an issue of sitting down and trying to order them up and figuring out a way to bring some of them to fruition or a close, and which ones do we want to continue into the next season. That’s really a process that comes out of working with Ron and David and in the writers’ room with the rest of the writers; we call that breaking the story. For every episode we do the same thing: We sit down and we look at the balls that are in the air, the stories that we want to tell, and then we break it down on note cards and put it up on a board and say, “This is how we think it should go.”

The interesting thing with “Crossroads” parts one and two is that ultimately, in the editing process, material from what was in part two ended up in part one and stuff in part one ended up in part two. It’s a little bit of a mix-and-match process. Even at that stage, we’re rethinking and configuring what we want to put in the show. Again, with so many balls in the air, I think that even after the fact—when you’re editing, obviously—you’re thinking, “Well, where do we want to present these? Where do we want to cut a story off and pick up the next story?” There are decisions like that, and it’s really just part of the process of figuring out the story. That’s how you do it. You do have a lot of things in the air, and that frankly makes it more fun.

Really? I was wondering if you went into it sighing, wondering how you’re going to pull it off.

VERHEIDEN: We do that with every episode. [Laughs] But it’s not so much a sigh of defeat, but more like, “Wow. A lot of challenges here.” It’s really great, though. One of the wonderful things about this show is the fact that there are so many places that we can turn. We have such a large cast, and each of them has their own idiosyncratic issues that they have to deal with. We have the Cylons. We have science-fiction conceits. We have interpersonal conceits. There are just a lot of ways stories can go. So rather than that being challenging—well, it’s challenging, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity because you’ve just got so many choices that you can make. You’re not locked into any one thing that you sort of need to do or tell. That’s great.

One of the big reveals for this episode was the identity of four new Cylons: Colonel Tigh, Chief Tyrol, Anders and Tory. Around my office, at least, we had a lot of people who couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around people like Tigh and the Chief being Cylons. I know that Ron Moore has said in interviews that they are, but I want to get as many people on the record as possible. So, are these four Cylons? Pinky swear?

VERHEIDEN: [Laughs] They are Cylons. No, this will not be a “Dallas” dream episode where you wake up and go, “We’re not Cylons!” Without getting into any kind of spoiler territory, we will be exploring what that means as we go into Season Four, but they are Cylons. So, harbor no hopes that it’s some kind of dream or nightmare. When we do something like this, first of all, it’s not without considerable thought and planning, and second of all, we don’t do it so that we can pull the rug out from under the audience and say, “We were kidding.” Not with this one anyway.

I’ve seen fans of the show comment that because of the leadership role these characters played in the New Caprican insurgency, it essentially makes that conflict a Cylon civil war, even if these characters weren’t consciously aware of that. Is that one of the long-term planning points that you’re referring to?

VERHEIDEN: Well, I think that what happened on New Caprica will certainly be an issue that we have to think about as we go along. Basically, they are Cylons and we’re going to approach that. I really don’t want to give anything up about what we’re doing next season… [Pause] …that… [Another pause] well, what can I say? I’m trying to think what would be interesting here. [Yet another pause] Well, I think that I’ve said it. We will be exploring what it means to have these guys being Cylons for sure. Oh yeah, I was going to say… [Super-long pause] Well, no. I will end there. [Laughs]

Clearly, they’re a breed apart. For example, we’ve seen a younger Tigh in flashback sequences, so it seems unlikely that there are thousands of regular, aged Colonel Tighs walking around on some base ship somewhere. Are those different rules for these guys something that will be coming up in Season Four?

VERHEIDEN: All stuff that we’ll be exploring. We do know who they are. So in terms of, like, if we’re just winging it and backpedaling as we go? No. We know who they are, and that is going to be a big part of what we get at in Season Four.

Switching gears for a moment, I loved Apollo’s courtroom speech in Gaius Baltar’s trial. It showed that he’s such a noble, likable character even when he’s doing something that you don’t agree with, and it also tied in all these events from the past where characters from the Galactica have committed horrible crimes of treason and been forgiven. How did that speech, and its references to those plot points from all three seasons and the miniseries, come about?

VERHEIDEN: That was a culmination of something that Ron Moore really wanted to do. The entire idea of the trial of Baltar was to explore the concept of guilt or innocence within the fleet, and also to suggest that this is a fleet that only had an ad hoc justice system. We’ve never really seen the justice system in the fleet, and I think internally we always assume that the captains of each ship always dealt with whatever issues came up on a summary basis. So we were interested in just trying to explore how you create justice in this world.

The second question, which is the one that Lee attacks in his speech, is “What is justice?” What does that mean in this particular world, where we’ve basically been reduced to 38,000 people and vengeance and attempts to get retribution for things in the past might not be as valid as they would, say, in a different circumstance. It was also fascinating, I think, that Baltar was the elected president of the 12 colonies and found himself in an untenable position. Lee’s speech was an attempt to address the practical realities of the situation that they found themselves in, and pull us out a little bit from us screaming for blood. That’s where the impulse for that came from. And again, one of the great things about working on a show that has such a rich background as “Battlestar” is that you’re able to pull from a lot of events that happened in past shows to demonstrate how the fleet’s justice system or sense of justice has been tested or not tested, or how forgiveness has been the rule of the day.

Internally, we thought one of the more interesting moments pointing out that [President] Laura [Roslin] had pardoned everyone, so we’re not quite sure why that pardon didn’t manifest itself all the way to Baltar. How come he got excluded from that when we forgave everyone else who may have actually done more heinous crimes than him? Of course, the horrible thing is that Baltar, in fact, is at least complicit in the genocide of the whole civilization, if you go back that far, but that’s kind of one that we can’t really prove. I’m sure that he would have a very facile argument as to why he wasn’t to blame. “It wasn’t me!”

Continue reading at Wizard Universe

No comments: