I’ve always been fascinated by show bibles. These documents contain the guiding concepts behind a TV series, set the rules for what should or should not happen on the TV series and often contain the kind of background detail that a nerd like me finds irresistible. My first show bible was actually for Star Trek: The Next Generation, bought at a Star Trek convention just as the new show was about to air. It was, obviously, a bootleg, and I didn’t stick with the show, which I don’t like, but I found the peek behind the creative curtain invigorating.
It’s fitting I tell you that my first was a Star Trek bible, because Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica show bible - penned after the miniseries aired - is almost a completely anti-Star Trek document. From dismissing bumpy headed aliens to outlining specific Trek-ish plot points that will never be on Battlestar (they will never turn into gods, they will never turn into children, they will never investigate a space anomaly, they will never come to a planet where Adama finds his dead wife and doesn’t want to leave - these are all mentioned as no nos in the bible) to actually explaining why Battlestar will eschew Trek-like shots and FX, the bible reads a bit like Moore’s reaction to his time as a Trek showrunner.
I remain a fan of Battlestar, and I love the show’s highly controversial ending, but those looking to make a tired ‘They made it up as they went along’ case against the show (yes, they make ALL serialized TV shows up as they go along) will find plenty of evidence in the bible. There’s no mention of the Final Five or a hint of Tigh’s background*. But there is a really interesting section that makes me believe that Moore knew, in very broad strokes, how he wanted the show to end:
By the time of the pilot the Colonials have lived on their worlds for several
thousand years and yet their technology is not that much more advanced than our
own. This presents two possible backstories: 1) the twelve tribes evidently
abandoned whatever advanced technology they had (which is possibly a recurrent
theme); or 2) they arrived in a relatively primitive state to begin with (which would
have certain overtones of being cast out of “Eden” in a “naked” state).
Backstory 1 is the end of the series. Backstory 2 could have made a very interesting end as well, though.
But the most interesting part of the bible for me is how it reads like a manifesto; it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Battlestar was at the time it premiered, and that’s largely because of Moore’s vision for a science fiction show that wasn’t cheesy or silly or walking in the tired footsteps of all that came before. Moore’s bible is a peek at the fire that informed his efforts to create the most unique and groundbreaking science fiction show television had seen in decades.
* but be reasonable: if Moore knew that stuff he COULDN’T have included it in this bible, which would be highly leakable (see me, as a kid, getting the Next Generation bible at a Trek convention. That was well before pdfs and the internet).