My priorities are screwed up: in advance of this week’s finale for the web series “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome,” I got the chance to talk with “Battlestar Galactica” writer and producer David Eick and all I wanted to do was talk about his work on the short-lived CBS series “American Gothic.” Eick was able to drawn a direct line between that show, which featured Gary Cole as a small-town sheriff with a sinister agenda, to his “Battlestar” work involving morally complicated heroes.
He says that like “American Gothic,” which was born out of CBS executives’ need for a horror series featuring a kid (because the then-president of the network was in love with “Stand By Me”), the 2004 reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” came from a similar sort of place: we’ve got a rough idea of what we want to do, so how could they make it interesting and complex?
“If I were to take a look back at my work in a big-picture sense, when I’ve had the ability to do so–because you don’t always get to do what you want to do with things, “Bionic Woman” being exhibit A–you might find a thread of irreverence [and] subversive protagonists,” Eick tells me, taking a broader view of his nearly 20 years of work in TV and film. He says that in “Battlestar” we just as often found ourselves appalled at our heroes as we were rooting for the villains. Case in point here: William Adama, played in the reboot by Edward James Olmos and as a young pilot by Luke Pasqualino in “Blood & Chrome,” is one such character, struggling with the need to protect the galactic fleet and loyalty to his crew even as he finds some of them might be Cylon infiltrators.
He says working in cable has allowed him to get away from the “likeability” factor that’s sometimes demanded in broadcast TV–that’s to say, how much to you like your hero and his/her choices in the show? Eick says there’s a clear line between easily likeable characters like the cast of broadcast dramas like “NCIS,” but it’s not necessarily something that appeals to him as a writer.
The time period in which “Blood & Chrome” is set allowed Eick to explore how Adama became the difficult character evolved into as an Admiral and one of the people integral in protecting the last of humanity during the second Cylon War. Adama’s pilot days also lent themselves perfectly to the cliffhanger format of “Blood & Chrome,” which sees the character joining the fight in the first Cylon war.
“The stories about the colonial pilots and the admiralty [of “Battlestar”] is built on this history of wars and missions,” Eick explains, adding that this was also a nice bridge between the short-lived “Caprica” and “Battlestar Galactica”: “This missing link was what was Adama like when he was [his son] Lee’s age, when he was a crackerjack hotshot who was getting his ass handed to him. But moreover, where did this hatred of Cylons come from, and what kind of surprises would come from that origin?” Eick says that knowing that figuring out that as the end point allowed them to find a direction for “Blood & Chrome” and a trajectory for Adama in the series.
It all comes back to the same grey areas which allow the “Battlestar” universe to tell different types of stories with the same, prickly, dangerous, emotionally real characters. While the main series was a straight up war drama with a blend of War On Terror-era politics mixed in, “Caprica” was a slow moving family drama–almost a soap opera–about the birth of the AI that would come to be the Cylon race. “Blood & Chrome” is somewhere in between, more of a direct action series with seeds of the reboot history to help us understand later incarnations of the characters better.
I asked if he could ever be coaxed back to telling stories set after the conclusion of the main series which saw the colonial fleet make its way to Earth (or at least some kind of new home): “That would be tricky–you’re really talking about a story involving terraforming and learning to build a civilization. That feels a little familiar to me. A lot of shows have traded on that premise […], having said that, there were a lot of space operas before ’Battlestar,’ so there’s no telling what kind of spin we can put on it.”