A few years ago I got my hands on the Series Bible for Battlestar Galactica (BSG). As a huge fan of the show and writing it was a huge deal for me. How did it come into my possession? The tried and true relative of a friend with connections route. To protect my sources, I was reluctant to write about but now since it’s been leaked to the internet and seeing that I’m re-watching the series on DVD, now seems to be a good time.
What is a series bible? A series bible is a document written to guide for directors of episodes as they move through the Galactica universe. Producers Ronald Moore and David Eick can’t oversee every element of show development and the series bible is particularly important at the beginning of a series. Once a show a has run for 15 or 20 episodes it’s much easier for a directors to know the tone of the show and understand what it’s about.
Ronald Moore made his name with Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). He was responsible for some of my favorite episodes that delved into Worf’s dishonor and redemption. He also worked in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) and briefly on Star Trek: Voyager (Voyager). Star Trek starting to lose me during the run of the DS9 and completely lost me during Voyager. But what I remember the most about Moore, was his self- criticism during the DVD commentary of Star Trek: Generations. While commentary tracks gloss over problems, Moore was candid that limitations from the studio greatly hampered the screenplay. It was refreshing to hear a writer speak so candidly about a high profile project.
When I heard that Moore was helping to develop the new Battlestar Galactica for the SciFi channel I had high hopes that is wouldn’t be the typical schlock peddled by the network.
I was not disappointed, The BSG miniseries was everything that the original Galactica wasn’t- serious, edgy, and relevant. But could the tone be maintained? The series bible helped the the early episode “stay on target” and continue to deliver.
Right out of the gate Moore sets the bar high, “Our goal in nothing less than the reinvention of the science fiction television series.”
Over the next 49 pages sets out the BSG back story and indentifies the elements that will drive the show.
Character driven stories. No techno-babble. No alien of the week. The characters of BSG “…are you and me.”
The people of BSG “…[are] deeply flawed, deeply human characters. They are not, by nature, innately heroic or noble creatures.” Their actions will have repercussions that carry on from one episode to the next- there is no magical reset switch in the BSG universe, a constant gripe about various incarnations of Star Trek.
Looking back on BSG, I believe the series bible was a key element in its success. If you’re a BSG fan I highly recommend you track down a copy.
If you’re a writer I recommend you read it to see a great example of how to set boundaries for a project.