The Caprica Times: First, please allow me to begin by profoundly extending my gratitude for your work on Caprica. I think I can speak for a multitude of fans and say that the results of your labor was one of the finest television shows we’ve seen as of late. It deeply saddens me that Caprica does not have an immediate future but what you and the rest of the Caprica team have left us with has been a great inspiration for me and I know it has touched the hearts and lives of many.
Taking Over as Show Runner
The Caprica Times: I understand that Jane Espenson had requested to step down as Caprica Show Runner in order to be more involved with the writing team. Did you feel this was the best decision for both you and her?
Kevin Murphy: At the time, I didn’t know if it was a good idea. In retrospect, yes, it was the best decision. Jane and I clicked as a team and I think the show got incrementally better as season 1.5 went on. For the record, Jane is awesome and I would totally eat a bug for her.
The Caprica Times: How were you approached to take over the role?
Kevin Murphy: Ron [Moore] had a number of notes on episode 10, some of which were fundamental questions about the nature of the Monad/Poly conflicts. Jane didn’t think the notes could be addressed without unraveling other stories coming down the pike. So Ron gave me his notes with an unusual mandate. As an experiment, he said he wanted me to rewrite episode 10, making it into whatever I thought would make the best possible episode of Caprica. Ron said I was free to incorporate his notes or dismiss them (I incorporated them, in case you were wondering). But I only had 24 hours. I went home, drank a great deal of coffee, did the rewrite. The next morning, Ron and David called me at home and offered me the showrunner position. Ron said he’d gotten a similar promotion while working on Carnivale and joked that I wouldn’t necessarily be thanking him for this promotion when all was said and done. Turns out he was wrong. It was a great opportunity for which I’m very grateful.
The Caprica Times: When you took over as Show Runner, did you have a list of things that you wanted to do? If so, what were they?
Kevin Murphy: I didn’t actually make a list, but if I had, it might have read:
- Get back to the BSG roots. Less teen angst, more stories set in space and on the other planets.
- No dancing robots.
- Make the religion coherent.
- Figure out what is motivating Clarice.
- Get Zoe out of V-World and back into a skin job body so she can interact with our A-list cast, and not require an expensive location shoot (New Cap City) or expensive CGI (the U-87 intercutting was all VFX) to work her into the storylines.
- Make people care about the rather unlikable Graystone family.
- Figure out an ongoing reason for the Adama family to interact with the Graystone family.
- Develop the theme that the human race needs to be rebooted and therefore “God wants Battlestar Galactica to happen.”
- No dancing robots.
The Direction of Caprica Season 1.5
The Caprica Times: From my understanding, there was a conscious effort to bring elements of Battlestar Galactica into the second half of Season 1 of Caprica. Was there an event that caused everyone to reach an agreement that this was the way to proceed?
Kevin Murphy: There was no event, per se, but that was the vision I presented to the studio and network, and everyone seemed to like where we were headed. I was a rabid BSG fan, of both the original from my childhood and the Ron Moore reimagining. I wanted to make the show I would watch. The great thing about being asked to take the wheel of the Titanic is that it discourages back seat driving. One of the problems on Caprica when I arrived was that nature abhors a vacuum and there were too many cooks trying to make the soup. I don’t know if my choices were the same choices Ron would have made had he been day-to-day on Caprica, but he supported me 100%.
The Caprica Times: There were many restrictions to Season 1.5 that prevented you from telling the story you originally intended to tell, such as the unavailability of James Callis and Tricia Helfer to make guest appearances as head characters. Can you talk about some of the difficulties you faced due to scheduling and financial setbacks?
Kevin Murphy: It would be most uncool to my partners at NBCU to cite specific numbers, but I think I’m on safe ground saying that upon my arrival, the reality was that the show cost way more than the studio had initially anticipated. On a show like BSG, it’s (relatively) easy to write a “bottle show” that conserves money by limiting a given episode to standing sets on the ship. You do the boxing episode, or the hostage episode. Because BSG was a war show with a potential extinction event as the ongoing central jeopardy, you could spend an entire episode on the bridge of the Galactica and still have a compelling, white-knuckle ride. Caprica was envisioned a sprawling big-canvas soap like Dallas. And it was set on another world, sometimes two or three. We had to be outside and we had to disguise the fact that we were shooting in downtown Vancouver.
Dallas Season 1 Intro
We had a huge cast and the myriad CGI set enhancements made everything just a little more expensive. By the time I showed up, the cookie jar was way beyond empty. NBCU was in the process of being sold to Comcast and the bottom line of all of the NBC corporate assets took on great significance. As a result, we had to be clever about scheduling and plotting. We did a lot of “block-shooting,” in which we maximize efficiency by shooting scenes for different episodes on the same day to avoid cost of moving from set to set. One day I remember we had three directors – Michael Nankin, Omar Madha and John Dahl all on set on the same day taking turns to shoot their scenes.
Image by The 13th Colony
We also did bottle shows as best we could: “Blowback” puts a lot of action on a single set, a spaceship. Same with “Dirteaters” where half the show takes place in a single room on Tauron. “Here Be Dragons” has a “Panic Room” component and is largely set in the Graystone mansion which is one of our standing sets. Probably the most painful blow was lacking the financial flexibility to work around Tricia Helfer’s movie schedule which would have cost us less than $10K, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t huge in the context of an overall episodic budget of over $2m. I think it would have been good for Caprica to have been able to feature her as a guest star.
The Caprica Times: Was Season 1.5 of Caprica plotted out in order to set up for Season 2?
Kevin Murphy: Yes. Everyone learned a lot over the first 10 episodes, and we all were discovering what worked and what didn’t work together. Some discoveries seemed obvious in retrospect, such as the long-term deleterious effect of trapping Zoe in V-World. In the pilot, it’s compelling and shocking. Over the course of many episodes, however, the writers began to realize that there were no stakes in V-World. The worst that could happen is you “die” and get barred from playing New Cap City ever again.
This problem was exacerbated because Alessandra was the center of the SyFy promotional campaign. The image of Zoe with the apple was the public face of Caprica and we’d written ourselves into a situation in which the flesh and blood actress couldn’t have scenes with our A-players Eric and Paula. Any time we saw Zoe, it was either as an expensive CGI robot effect, or it was in New Cap City which was an expensive location that required CGI treatment. Getting Zoe into the real world was a major goal for 1.5. Getting away from the naval-gazing religious theory of bloated Caprica at peace and into high-stakes conflict of a system on the brink of war was the other big goal.
The Caprica Times: When did you hear that Caprica would not be continuing?
Kevin Murphy: More or less when everyone else did. I got the original job offer on Caprica in the Fall of 2009, two days after I sold a pilot Hellcats for the CW which eventually went to series. Even if Caprica had come back, I wouldn’t have been contractually free to work on it. The best I could have hoped for would have been some manner of consultant position.
The Caprica Times: What were your thoughts upon hearing the news?
Kevin Murphy: Terribly disappointed. I think there were so many stories left to tell about that era in the BSG mythology. And how often do you get a cast like that all in one place outside of premium cable?
Image Copyright NBC Universal
The Caprica Times: Do you feel that the way the series was handled by Syfy was appropriate?
Kevin Murphy: Notions of appropriateness go out the window when you’re talking about corporate decision-making. It’s tempting to equate the actions of a corporation with the individual people working for that corporation, but it’s a mistake. Mark Stern loved Caprica and was very vocal about it to anyone who would listen. Tom and Chris and Eric (NBCU) were enormous fans of the show, great partners, and completely jazzed about how we managed to shift the creative direction in such a short time. I don’t know exactly why the final five episodes were yanked from the air, but I imagine if you scratch the surface, it has something to do with holding back episodes to air as a tax write-down in 2011 or some sort of number-crunching motivation completely divorced from the people who have to execute policy.
The Caprica Times: Do you think there are possibilities to continue the stories of Caprica? If so what do you think they are?
Kevin Murphy: I’d write the comic book in a Minnesota minute.
Caprica Season 2
The Caprica Times: On the commentary tracks for the Caprica Season 1.5 DVD you’ve mentioned that Season 1.5 was intentionally meant to shift into a new direction. Can you elaborate on what the plan was?
Kevin Murphy: You’re talking about plans concocted a year and a half ago, so I’ll apologize in advance for any BSG continuity errors I may make. We planned to jump five years, then fill in the blanks in flashback, while moving the storyline against the backdrop of the 12 worlds on the brink of war with the Cylons.
Zoe is a Caprican Legionnaire. She’s a skin-job, but not the undetectable kind from BSG. It’s a rudimentary version of the technology. She’s more like Arnold in Terminator. The writers reasoned that nobody in the future BSG series was aware this early skin-job existed because Daniel went to great pain and expense to keep it hidden. We would have learned that Jordan Duram survived his gunshot wounds, has permanently left the GDD and is Zoe’s commanding officer. He figures out her secret and helps her keep quiet in return for her assistance on sensitive black-ops missions. As for Zoe, she is mother of Cylons. Some ineffable portion of her “soul” remains in every Cylon for reasons connected to why U-87s are so curiously protective of Zoe’s BFF Lacy. But Zoe has turned against her “children” and has decided to cast her lot in with her human family and the human race.
Clarice is considered a terrorist on Caprica and has been traveling the other worlds in exile as a notable Cylon rights activist and critic of the Caprican government and Daniel Graystone in particular. She’s also forming a church in V-world that’s accessible to Cylons when they power down and “dream.” Her religion is a violent one that foments insurrection and rebellion. Lacy and Odin take advantage of Lacy’s odd affinity with the u-87s to drive Mother from power and enforce peace on Gemenon. The trouble is that Cylons scare the crap out of the population at large, and Lacy is perceived by Capricans as the head of a crazy cult of toaster-lovers. Circumstances would have forced Lacy into an awkward marriage of convenience with Clarice.
We would have dealt with Joseph and his civil rights work. He would have had an affair with Fidi behind Evelyn’s back. Young Bill would have been a spooky, intense kid with a lot of anger over being named for his dead older brother.
During the five-year gap, we would have told the story (in flashback) of the many wrong turns along the road to creating skin-job Zoe. No matter how hard our two geniuses (along with plastic surgeon Amanda) tried, they couldn’t bridge the “uncanny valley” of revulsion humans experience when they meet a robot that’s almost human. While moving through V-World, frustrated by three years of repeated failure, Zoe disappears into V-World, convinced that she’ll never get back into a decent body. She’ll never hug anyone for real again. While in V-World, she sees something fleeting and strange, some manner of portent. We hadn’t settle on exactly what, but it’s all in service of god having big plans for Zoe Graystone. Zoe gives chase, like Alice chasing the White Rabbit, using her code manipulation power to open any access and bridge any firewall within the V-World system. She just keeps moving, and soon finds herself further than she’s ever been within the network of overlapping V-worlds. The metaphor we were using was how Zoe can jump from one wi-fi system to another if the signals happen to be overlapping and then jump from that signal to another, etc, etc.
Michael Taylor had a rather inspired notion to intersect Zoe with the final five, who at the time of Caprica are well-into a long, long space journey to the 12 worlds. The idea was that Zoe would eventually have run into a V-World that’s a sleepy little earth-like fishing village. A man is fishing at the end of a long pier and it turns out to be Aaron Douglas. The Final Five keep their brains active on their long journey to the 12 worlds by using their own V-World programs. They fish together for a while. Tyrol is very interested when she explains who she is and what her family is trying to accomplish. He gives her the gift of a fishing lure. When Zoe returns, the lure turns out to be code that gives them the piece they’ve been missing and Zoe gets a goo-bath. Years later, when the Final Five arrive in the flesh, we imagined Tyrol would have been very curious to see what was done with his gift from many years before.
The Caprica Times: By the end of Caprica Season 1, the cylons have spread from Caprica to Tauron and Gemenon. With the integration of cylons into Caprican society can we assume that they were accepted on all 12 worlds?
Kevin Murphy: I would never assume that. Universal acceptance is the most boring of all possible choices. I think every world would have a slightly different take. For example, I think they would be extremely controversial as tireless slave laborers in agrarian economies. I think labor unions would want them labeled as dangerous weapons. It’s one of those things that we would have sat down with the staff and adjusted our ongoing bible to figure out how each world reacted to this sea-change technology, given what’s been previously established about each world.
The Caprica Times: Lacy, together with Odin, has risen to power among the Monotheists. But what happened to Mother?
Kevin Murphy: I would never ever kill Meg Tilly! She’s in exile and wants her old job back. She would have had a killer scene with Stoltz, as Daniel would see her as an uneasy ally against Clarice. Neither wants to see Clarice stirring up a robot insurrection. Clarice would have been allied with Lacy, so this would have created a father/daughter firestorm once Zoe got wind of what Dad was trying to pull against her once and future BFF.
The Caprica Times: Were we to learn in Season 2 who the biological mother of William Adama really is?
Kevin Murphy: It was Evelyn. The name of the Admiral’s birth mother was established in BSG. It was on a prop or set-dressing, I forget exactly what. Once we figured out what was going to happen to poor doomed Willy, I went back into the first 10 episodes (which hadn’t been finished yet) and retroactively changed the name of Teryl Rothery’s character from “Justine” to “Evelyn.” You can see the ADR moments in the cuts if you’re watching the first 10 carefully. You never see anyone’s lips say the name “Evelyn” on camera in a close angle.
The Caprica Times: Just what happened to Tamara?
Kevin Murphy: I’m hazy now, but I believe she eventually became the basis for the Eights. Zoe was the Sixes. I forget the details. You’d have to ask Jane or Michael Taylor.
The Caprica Times: What did you personally take away from working on Caprica?
Kevin Murphy: Every stapler I could fit into my bag.
The Caprica Times: Would you like to promote any projects you’re working on for fans that would like to see more of your work?
Kevin Murphy: Well, Hellcats is a great “Where’s Waldo” drinking game for Caprica fans who want to see that cast in a totally different alternate universe context. I repurposed most of the Vancouver cast for Hellcats because I love these actors.
- Teryl Rothery (Evelyn)
- Ben Cotton (Atreus)
- Brian Markinson (Jordan Duram)
- Magda Aponowicz (Lacy, and yes that’s really her doing backflips)
- Ryan Kennedy (Odin)
- Carmen Moore (Fidelia)
- John Pyper-Ferguson (Vergis)
- Steve McNutt (cinematographer for BSG, Caprica… and Hellcats!)
And for Galactica fans – Aaron (Chief) Douglas plays a recurring role on Hellcats, and fellow Final Fiver Rekha (Tory) Sharma did a guest shot. They never had a scene together, but I did put a photo of the two of them on camera in episode 114 smiling with their arms around one another… which I found amusing given where Tyrol and Tory ended up at the end of BSG.
The Caprica Times: Do you have anything you would like to say to the fans of Caprica?
Kevin Murphy: Thanks for watching and caring. I love BSG and couldn’t have been more honored to have been able to make some small contribution to its overall mythology.
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