What are the fundamentals of Battlestar Galactica? Cylon attack on the colonies. Original show is very dark. A show of survival, not the normal s/f pablum. Footage from the original show compared to the new show, with the attack on the homeworld. Side-by-side comparison of the old footage with the new footage of the genocidal attack. Realistically, you don't want to have 'fun' with the attack. It's not that it can't be entertaining, but there has to be a fundamental realism. With the new show, a lot of the attack was off-screen, to make it about the character's reaction rather than just special effects. Somewhat topical, as the pitch for the new show came soon after the September 11th attacks. "You know what it is to wake up one day and find that the world has changed forever." Out in the fog, terrible things are happening, an important element of the show.
The characters are the core of the show: 'The Family Adama'. Everything rotates around the Family of Adama. Footage of the family, side by side, in the old and new. In the old show 'not credible' to have his whole family on the ship. To make the show rooted in our reality, he avoided the hierarchical military state by having Apollo come aboard later in the show. You lose Athena, who had no real purpose. The role of Athena is taken by Starbuck. Instead of Zach dying in the pilot, he's part of the backstory. Welds together how Starbuck, Adama, and Apollo interact.
Footage of new and old Adama. He's key both as the father of the family, but he's also the father-figure for audience and survivors. A man of principle and true beliefs. He's a believer in democracy, and ethics, honorable person. Mixed with the realities of a ship at war, crossing some ethical lines. He's not perfect, 'a human man for a human story.'
Problem with the original story was that there was nothing to balance Adama as an authority figure. Balanced, of course, with the Madam President. Compared with the old show's aging president (weak, non-threatening). President is important in three ways: Balance of military and civil authority, Mother figure of the show (though there is little sexual tension), she is a reminder of the apocalypse. She grounds the series in the context of the tragedy that began the show.
The government: the Quorum of Twelve. The original was a bunch of straw men with stupid ideas ("Let's trust the Cylons!") This time around, a group with more of a backbone. A show about democracy, what it means to be in a society during a time of war. There still has to be a civilian government despite the time of war. Not only that you survive, but the way you survive. The decision to make Starbuck into a woman... lots of 'comment'. Comparison of old starbuck and new Starbuck. Starbuck is a 'load-bearing member' in the architecture of the show. Making her a woman was almost random. Original Starbuck was a cliche (hot-shot pilot, womanizer, gambler), only really worked because of the actor. His attitude made the character okay. The new show: Don't let things be 'okay'. Don't have fun. Everything has consequences. 'This is a screwed up person.' She's been really damaged, and is only functioning in the military environment because it's all she knows.
Colonel Ty, another part of the Family Adama. Provides contemporary for Adama, a confidante for the head of the family. He's a drinker because he wanted the character to be fundamentally different than Commander Riker. Riker's job was to say 'me too'. He wanted an XO with more truth to him, because he's the guy everyone hates. 'The captain's whipping boy'. Make him a screwed up guy so that one of the folks close to Adama can be a poor choice to listen to.
Boomer, very little thought. An extension of family and a second family unit. The part where Boomer was a Pylon suggested by co-producer. "That is fucking brilliant!" Designed to be a very human element, Cylon change made without changing any of her dialogue.
Cylons! Old and new. Comparison between old and new bad guys. The limitations of TV actually help, in ways. Real stuff out of the question. CGI was originally thought to be out of the question. 'What if they look like us?' That idea opened up a lot of the stuff that's the basis of the show. If this was a videogame, they would have spent all their time making 'really cool Cylons'. The limitations of TV actually helped the show a lot by making them do somethiing they might not otherwise have ever done.
Not just 'an attack from the black', but a betrayal. Baltar. Why did he do this? Interesting that he gave up his own race. A lot of problems from within rather than without. He sells out the entire race ... for a woman. He's not even paying attention, but sells out the race just the same. He's kept in the show, with the crew, to make that betrayal last and last. Mmmm torture. Otherwise you end up with a guy chewing the scene and twirling his mustache.
Vipers basically unchanged. Why change something that works? The use of the handheld camera in space grounds a non-real moment in reality. Comparing it with shots of the Enterprise. Audiences are smart, even if they're non-technical. Tying the hands of the animators to make sure that there was always 'a cameraman' for every shot. New locations were guided by the philosophy: People actually live there. Make the controls workable. "Why did all those people in Star Trek have pictures of space on their walls?" They want things that comfort them.
The myth of Kobal and the 13th tribe: the underlying story of the show. Stayed very far away from Egypt/Greece, going for a more pagan/greco-roman element. 'What kind of universe do they live in?' They lost the Star Wars/Star Trek 'populated universe' idea. He was tired of having lots of alien races. Philosophically, he wanted a drama more than s/f. No aliens, no time travel, no evil twins. "You're forcing the show to be internally driven." The story is about the character's lives, not something from outside. The Search for Earth is the underlying driver of the show: Going to the 13th colony. A refuge from the Cylons. The challenge was to make it 'real'. "Why are you only now mentioning Earth?" is the reaction from the audience. Adama is lying, reaffirms what the audience is thinking while making the situation believable. "It's not enough to survive."
Ultimately, he didn't want to destroy the show to save it. Don't wipe the slate clean, take what was important to the show and translate that to a new audience. Telling the same story in different way. They're unique, very special shows. They're different, but they're both very much Battlestar Galactica.
Overall a nice talk by a very talented speaker. Not really sure why this was here ... the organizers may have wanted more Q&A to bring out aspects for game design, but they ran over time.