Jane Espenson on post-The Passage questions
Did you have a lot of resources to consult for the technical aspects of what you wrote, like the details on the FTL drives, radiation issues, etc.? Where did the idea of the whole 'using algae as an initial source of food' come from?
When I was given this episode, all the technical stuff about globular star clusters was given to me. And the writers were really patient in explaining technical stuff about the FTL drive and jump co-ordinates and the fact that you can't talk on the wireless over a jump-boundary -- I originally had Galactica in contact with Sharon-Athena while she out in the cluster doing her original recon, but that obviously didn't make sense. I received lots of help from the show's tech adviser, who is wonderful, and who explained all sorts of interesting things to me about how radiation differs from radioactivity and how gravitational forces are more likely to damage large ships than small ones.... The research that I really did on my own was about figuring out how the fleet had been making food prior to this crisis. The explanation was cut for length, but in one draft it was stated that the fleet "grew" meat from cloned cells and that it was this system that got so badly contaminated. As for the algae, I think that was already in place when I was given the story... it's just an obvious alternative protein source.
Were you a fan of the original series? If so, did it affect your decisions at all when writing these episodes, or do you have to tell yourself that this is not the same Starbuck of old, and therefore she should be written differently (though of course Starbuck was a man in the original series)?
I've never seen the original other than a clip here or there, but I'm sure it wouldn't affect me even if I had been a huge devotee. These characters are so strong and clear that they would swamp any interference from the original. It's like asking if you ever confuse your current best friend with an imaginary friend you had when you were kid.
Do you have any knowledge at all of who the remaining Cylons are and if they are (or are not) "someone" who we've seen before?
I cannot even tell you if I have that knowledge.
Did you write the entire specific dialog for The Hybrid? Even the "nonsense" it speaks before Baltar plunges his hand in? Some noted that the closed captioning said "Zeus" rather than "Jupiter" during the dialog about the "Eye of Jupiter" (the title of an upcoming episode), and some readers seen annoyed that it really was Zeus that was Hera's husband, not Jupiter.
I wrote this for the Hybrid in that pre-grab moment: "Seascape portrait of the woman-child cavern of the soul under pressure-heat ratio--" which is, I think, what we hear. But there is at least one BSG writer who can generate pages of beautiful, haunting and resonant Hybrid-speak at will. He writes lots of her stuff and more power to him!
When I wrote this episode, the upcoming episode was already well along, and it was called "Eye of Zeus." So all the dialogue in my episode reflected that. It got changed to Jupiter later, and I don't know why. It's always hard to get names to legally clear. All you need is one guy named Zeus who lives in North Hollywood and Standards and Practices is all over you to change the name. (deadpan) That's probably what happened.
After seeing the final cut, do you feel you got a fair edit?
I think I got a more-than-fair edit! I was amazed! The draft that was shot was way too long -- we all knew it was too long. So lots of scenes had to be cut -- two Adama/Kat scenes that I can think of. A Lee/Dualla scene, a Lee/Starbuck scene, an Adama/Tigh scene, lots and lots of Sharon/Helo stuff... the fact that the episode holds together, that it makes sense and has emotional punch... wow. And that's not even counting lots of Cylon stuff, Laura stuff and Anders stuff that got cut before shooting! This show is so rich, the world is so full, and there are emotions along every axis between every pairing of characters, that it's incredibly easy to find things that you just HAVE to explore. This is part of what gives the series such a great voyeuristic quality... as a viewer you just KNOW that there are scenes that have played out between these people that you have never seen, and you get to infer what they must've been. I like that the edit of this episode hints at the things unseen. And I love that despite the time pressures, moments were allowed to play out... Kat watching her fellow pilots suffer, Kat in the mirror, the final hospital scene... I think it was a lovely edit.
What can you reveal about the next episode you helped write?
The episode, co-written with Anne Cofell Saunders, is called "Dirty Hands," and as you might guess, it's a look at the people who do the dirty work in the fleet. Knuckle-dragging fun!
I know people expect humor from me. I hope they understand why, given a story about Kat's redemptive and unglamorous death, I kept the funny knob turned down -- couldn't resist the giddy Tigh-Adama scene, however, and my personal favorite line the piece, Baltar's "You've got goo in your hair." Anyway, I hope the fans liked what they saw; I hope it felt real; I hope I get to write more Battlestar episodes, and get to play some more with these wonderful characters and their tragic, human, uplifting lives.