Saturday, November 17

Answers to your 'Razor' questions and clues about 'Battlestar Galactica's' final season

Source: Chicago Tribune

One of the most anticipated events of the fall is the Nov. 24 Sci Fi broadcast of the TV movie "Battlestar Galactica: Razor." Co-executive producer Michael Taylor, who wrote the film, was kind enough to answer questions from myself and from "Battlestar Galactica" fans who left questions for him on this site.

He not only delved deep into “Razor” and the character of the charismatic Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), but he also talked a bit about the DVD version of the film, which contains crucial developments.

And he delivered some tasty clues about what will happen in Season 4 of “Battlestar Galactica,” which will commence in April. Yep, somebody’s going to die. Someone else will be "back, big time," according to Taylor.

He also gave some insight into the state of mind of the “Battlestar Galactica” writing staff as the strike closes its second week. A fan event Friday at the WGA picket lines in Universal City, where Taylor and the rest of the show’s staff are picketing, should raise their already good spirits. (There's more on that at

By the way, on his new blog, “Battlestar Galactica” executive producer Ron Moore notes that soon fans will be able to listen to a podcast of the original story-breaking session for “Razor." Also, I'll post a long "Razor" feature/review and an interview with Forbes next week.

So anyway, you asked for it, “Battlestar” fans. By your command, here is the Michael Taylor Answer Hour. Enjoy!

WHAT FOLLOWS CONTAINS SPOILERS (though in my opinion, Taylor did a good job of giving us vague yet tantalizing clues and not too many facts or plot points about 'Razor' and Season 4).

Photo: Michelle Forbes as Admiral Helena Cain in "Battlestar Galacica: Razor."

This is your last spoiler warning.

Don't read on if you want to remain unspoiled about "Razor" and Season 4.

Questions are in bold type, Michael's answers are in regular type.

Questions from Mo

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed some of what will be in the DVD version of “Razor,” namely scenes from Helena Cain’s past, and also a scene of Kendra Shaw on Caprica. Are there additional DVD-only scenes, and if so, can you give us a sense of what they are about?

The DVD contains additional scenes involving Young Adama, all of which, I might add, have been shown as part of the Internet webisodes (though I would also argue that you haven’t fully appreciated the quality of the special effects in this flick until you’ve watched Young Adama battle a Centurion in mid-free-fall on your high-def TV). Other action sequences are also extended, and there are also more scenes between Kara and Kendra Shaw, Razor’s new heroine—or anti-heroine.

The scenes from Cain’s past, I thought, give real insight into her later actions. Was it hard to know that they would not be in the TV version of Razor?

At first, yes, very much so. The scenes involving young Cain, included in the DVD version, are kind of the nub of the whole story, in that they help explain Cain’s motivations, as well as the harsh wisdom she in turn passes on to Kendra. They even explain the significance of her omnipresent clasp knife—our literal “razor.”

And yet after watching the TV version on the big screen in its recent one-day theatrical run, I found myself appreciating what is perhaps her most potent scene with Kendra all the more for it being uninterrupted by flashbacks. I now think the TV version tells the larger story in its own very effective and more streamlined way, letting the audience fill in whatever backstory they may think they need to get a handle on a character like Cain.

When the idea of a 2-hour “Battlestar” movie was proposed, was revisiting the Pegasus the first idea? The only idea? Or were other ideas tossed around?

A number of ideas were tossed around, but they all centered on using the movie as an opportunity to revisit the series’ past. I believe an early notion of mine may even have touched on a Terminator-like time-travel scenario that put some of our characters back on Caprica before the attack, but with foreknowledge of what was about to happen. I remember pitching the idea that Adama would have to convince Cain to trust him and then join forces to try to stop the attack.

All the writers were on a conference call with the show’s creators and executive producers, Ron Moore and David Eick, and I recall David in particular perking up at the mention of Cain and Pegasus. It quickly became clear that our story would center around Cain’s ship and its own, very different journey in the aftermath of the Cylon attacks, and with that idea firmly in place the time travel and other kooky stuff quickly fell by the wayside and we began constructing a much more realistic story where our characters’ choices in the face of calamity, rather than through time-travel-enabled hindsight, became the key. But then that’s what Battlestar has always been about: the pressure of making genuine choices in real, and often horrific situations.

Was writing this story made more challenging by the fact that we know that some characters are alive after this point in the “Battlestar Galactica” timeline? In other words, there are some folks on board Pegasus whom fans know won’t die, considering we saw those characters on board the Galactica after the Pegasus was destroyed.

Honestly, while I treasure a well-constructed story, I’ve never been very concerned with the value of plot for plot’s sake. Yes, we may have known in advance about any number of outcomes—from who survives to the death of Cain’s first officer, the massacre of civilians and Gina’s betrayal—but that just made it that much clearer that the real dramatic potential of this story lay in showing how these things came to pass, and the sort of choices and dilemmas these situations created for characters whom, in truth, we barely knew.

In other words, the story isn’t ultimately about what happens, but why. And that “why” has to be explored in terms of character rather than in terms of plot, which again has always been the essence of this show.

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