It’s been well over a decade since the final episode of space opera Battlestar Galactica first aired, seeing a conclusion to the tale of the last of humanity’s survival after being hounded for years by the robotic and cyborg Cylons. The series’ creator and showrunner Ronald D. Moore recently spoke about the finale and among other things, revealed how it was originally far longer than that which aired.
The end of the series brings the story to its final conclusion, seeing the human survivors and rebel Cylons find a new home on Earth, our Earth circa 150,000 BC, and the theological implications of their journey and everything they experienced along the way being dealt with more directly. Titled “Daybreak,” the plot ran to about two hours and twenty minutes over three parts, but according to Moore, there was much more of it.
“The original cut was probably closer to four hours. There was a different structure in the script than what ended up on screen. The structure in the script was much less linear – it was very non-linear. I was doing flashbacks and current stuff and mixing up the flashbacks.”
He went on to explain the decision, saying:
“When you laid it out like that in film it was really hard to follow. As much as I wanted it to work, people around me were going ‘I’m not sure it works. Maybe you should make it linear.’ Then I started feeling like maybe you’re right.”
After making the change, he found the structure was fundamentally altered, stating:
“There were some scenes that worked and some scenes going too long. So that’s what the difference between the four-hour and the three-hour was. It was really just changing the structure, tightening up, and making the usual cuts and edits you do on almost any piece of film to just get it down to its fighting weight.”
Although Battlestar Galactica began strong, it had started to waver long before its end, particularly in the early episodes of season 3, where the moral ambiguity and multi-layered individuals made way for characters taking various roles in a ham-fisted allegory of America’s occupation of Iraq.
A significant issue, aside from a series of uninteresting romantic subplots and the reneged upon promise of the adequate resolution of earlier mysteries, was the increasingly unsubtle religious subtext that the finale capped off with hallucinatory characters revealed to be angels, and a final revelation of “Uh, yeah, God did it” in an explanation that would have had a first-year creative writing student publicly pilloried for even considering, along with God’s final message to humanity being the lyrics to “All Along the Watchtower,” suggesting that God himself is in fact Jimi Hendrix.
Snarking aside, it sounds like Moore made the best decision for the material as it was, as making something needlessly complicated only risks alienating your audience. However, as we now live in a world where fans demanding an alternate version of something loudly enough for long enough can get their way, it might not be long before Battlestar Galactica gets caught up in this, with cries of #ReleaseTheMooreCut doing the rounds.