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Ronald D. Moore Dishes on the Original, 4-Hour Concept for the Battlestar Galactica Finale

Battlestar Galactica doing the whole Last Supper thing.
Battlestar Galactica doing the whole Last Supper thing.
Image: NBC

This is a really long finale, said the joker to the thief. At roughly 141 minutes, the three-parter that ended Battlestar Galactica way back in 2009 wasn’t a short ending by any stretch of the imagination. But the original cut, which clocked in at around four hours, was even more extensive. The only problem was, it wasn’t as compelling.

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This is according to Ronald D. Moore himself, who talked to Collider about the original shape of the show’s ending and if there’s ever a possibility of seeing that four-hour cut. As for what happened, and why nearly two hours were cut from the ending episodes, Moore sums it up pretty clearly:

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. You would see the end Laura’s story before you saw the beginning of it and then you’d come back to the present. Then you’d see another piece of Adama’s story. It was really very challenging. When you read it…it was like “Wow!” It was really a huge thing to wrap your mind around. Everyone got really excited about it. 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. So it just became a more linear piece in that all the flashbacks lined up chronologically instead of doing them all the flashbacks out of order. Once you did that it changed the fundamental structure. There were some scenes that worked and some scenes going too long. So that’s 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.

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For a show often as experimental and daring as Battlestar Galactica, it’s interesting to note that the experimental version of the finale is the one that didn’t work. Sometimes, there’s just too much information and narrative to get across in creative ways, and you just have to plow through it.

That lengthy cut, according to Moore, has yet to see the light of day, though he’s confident it’s out there somewhere.

“I frankly haven’t seen it myself since that initial viewing,” he told Collider. “I probably have it burned on a DVD someplace. I’m sure if I asked Universal where the masters are they’d say, ‘oh yeah we have all the masters in a salt mine somewhere’ and then they’d never be able to find them. It exists. It was put together that way. It would be fun to watch it again.”

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He did caution, however, that this original version is pretty unfinished—green screen, missing shots, that sort of thing.

As for Battlestar Galactica, a reboot is incoming on Peacock sometime in the future. It’ll also be where you can watch Moore’s, uh, original reboot.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

Unlike seemingly the majority of the audience, I never hated the finale. There was a lot I loved; the brilliantly staged battle, the beautiful final scene with Lara and Adama, the Earth reveal.

Sadly there was nearly as much that I disliked to no end. Those hallucinations that Rosalind has about running through an ancient Opera house? They basically had no idea what that was supposed to mean so then it just became her running through the Cylon base to find the girl. Why did they get rid of their advanced technology? Because Lee said so. Was Kara... what the fuck WAS Kara? The writers had no idea so they just tell us “We want to let the viewers interpret it.” That’s some A Level bullshit right there.