Thursday, 3 December 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Razor Revisited

Sometimes we have to do things that we never thought we were capable of, if only to show the enemy our will. - Admiral Cain

I've to say that BSG is one of the very few contemporary series I have faithfully followed and been genuinely inspired and moved by. Admiral Cain, of course, is one of the landmark character in the BSG universe. The Pegasus episode, and the sound of her voice accompanied by the mellow, dream-like piece of soundtrack, marked the arrival of someone special, a character so incredibly present and intense. In me, she instilled so much emotion including fear, dislike as well as a sense of comfort as a strong, driven leader. The Pegasus story arc was albeit too brief. Luckily enough, the ship and the captain are revived in Razor, which is, well, incredible. It does make demands on the viewer by switching back between 3 time periods, and being told from the viewpoint of a never-before-seen character Kendra Shaw, but that makes the story even more compelling. Most importantly, we really get to know Cain and the forces that drive her. It's an excellent performance by Michelle, and the rest of the cast, a movie I often watch again and again.

Now, what do you like about Razor? - Randy
Moving portrayal of high emotions at times of distress true to the Battlestar Galactica style. You just can't be wrong with the writers of BSG. And you won't be disappointed with RAZOR. Michelle Forbes's acting as Admiral Helena Cain is once again bold, heartpounding and perfect; it goes on to illustrate the even tougher side of this leader, as well as the human side of her. Unlike all the other movies out there where a protagonist and antagonist stands out, there are no truly "good" or "evil" in RAZOR. And that's exactly the case with human society. Each character is uniquely portrayed with each of their own ambitions, fears, motives, strengths and weakenesses.

"Battlestar Galactica" has always been sci-fi at its best -- an exploration of politics and morality in their purest state: post-apocalypse...the Battlestar community is no longer a civilization in the traditional sense. All rules have been broken or bent beyond recognition. The necessities of war have stripped society down to its essence, for better and worse.
In "Razor," written by Michael Taylor, those issues and tensions are embodied by Cain and Shaw. How much collateral damage can the greater good afford? What is the greater good? How far is too far when survival is at stake, and what decisions will the soul simply refuse to bear?
...good science fiction has always dealt with that which plagues the poets and the playwrights -- the nature of love, the value of loyalty, the nature of power, the split-second decisions that change our lives. Shaw is not the only character haunted on "Battlestar Galactica." With its metallic blues and grays, its eerie lighting, echoing corridors and New Age drumbeats, the ship itself is ghostly at times, its inhabitants all damaged, by events and the choices they have made; resilience has become the new heroism.
Source: LA Times

When does the will turn malignant? When do the actions that a person takes to survive make that individual no longer worthy of the title “human”? When do the ends no longer justify the means?
Those are the questions that the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” has asked for the past few years. And the genius of the series is that it asks these questions obliquely, without preaching or grandstanding. The solutions to these dilemmas aren’t easy, and the show doesn’t insult its audience by pretending that they are.
Source: Chicago Tribune, The Watcher

She became very misguided at that time [of Gina's betrayal]. I feel the actions that she took in that misguided place still were along the lines of what she felt she needed to do. And there’s nothing that she did that some world leader has not done.

It’s very painful, what she did to Gina. There was such a deep sadness, but [for her] duty overrides that sadness, otherwise things don’t get done. There’s a lot of sorrow [in Cain]. It was not a punishment as much of a means to an end...

What got left out of the TV version [of ‘Razor’] was what happened to Cain in the first Cylon war. She lost her family. That trauma at that young age is what shaped her. As a child, on her own, she had to find a way to survive and that was by hardening herself. In the TV version, you don’t get to see that. And if that hadn’t happened, who’s to say [who Cain would have become]?
Source: Chicago Tribune, Interview with Michelle

[Michelle]'s almost like a force of nature in a way. She's really - if she was just - just her focus and her intensity I have to say that working with her was one of the - she made this one of the easiest jobs I've ever done in a sense.
Because responding to what she provides on set as a fellow actor is absolutely effortless. It's like she does almost everything. You just have to listen to her and watch her. Yes, she's incredible. I recommended working with her to anyone. - Stephanie Jacobsen

The story isn’t ultimately about what happens, but why. And that “why” has to be explored in terms of character rather than in terms of plot, which again has always been the essence of this show.

Cain skirts the boundary of the limits we set for our leaders, and indeed for ourselves, in wartime. She has the strength to inhabit that grey area and yet plunge ahead with black-and-white resolution. I think we find her conviction compelling, especially when we understand the kind of experience and choices that shaped it.
Source: Chicago Tribune, Michael Taylor Q&A

From the DVD commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor:

Razor began life with a phone call from the Home Video Department at Universal, saying they'd be interested in doing a project where we'd do two episodes for a one-time showing on SyFy and then have those almost immediately released on DVD...a stand-alone project, not tied in to the continuity of the show.

We were drawn to tell some sort of story from the past that we hadn't seen before...One idea we had involved Pegasus...and suddenly David Eick was like: “Pegasus Yeah!” and that was sort of our inspiration to focus on that.

One of the treats...was revisiting Admiral Cain. I really wanted the chance to bring Michelle Forbes back...I was really happy that she was available and she was really happy to do it. She had just come in and created this indelible character...and it was great to go back and see who she was just before the attack. We had long conversations about who she was and where she came from, and what her attitudes were like.

One of the challenges of the character was that she was set up to be so hard core and so unflinching in the original Pegasus episode, so this was our opportunity to go back and humanise her a little bit, and show who she was as a person before all these events happened.
There were a couple of hints we sort of took up on this show to sort of expand...and enlarge her character...there was a sense [in the Pegasus story arc]...that maybe she and Adama had turned the corner and can now work together, that there was regret on her part for a number of the things she had done.

The thing about Michelle though, it's like Eddie, they're both such captains, I mean they're real captains on the set on each of their sides on the show...Michelle brings such an intensity to this role. She really inspired a lot of our other actors too.

When we did Pegasus and Resurrection Ship, as we were shooting, I remember all of us saying collectively:"Wow, it's a shame we're killing Admiral Cain and we're getting rid of her because she's so good...The whole series would've had to change fundamentally for her to stick around...It would've been a whole different was never constructed to be that...There was always this general of 'what a shamE it is we couldn't have kept Admiral Cain and the Pegasus around a little bit longer'. And this was a great opportunity to go back and revisit a really rich area of the show.

Cain & Gina
There was also another aspect...the intensity for her hatred for Gina...where did that come from?
Cain seemed to have more than just commander's interest... in a scene in the original Pegasus episode...the moment she says: "She was close to us, she sat at our table"...the way Michelle played it, you really felt that...there was a real backstory.

Michelle Forbes called me: “So we're gonna do is, ah?...and this is part of who she is?” I said “yeah, how do you feel about that?” She said, “well, I'm surprised but I think it works. I just want to see what your intention was, and why...” and I talked to her on the phone for a little while and she said “...sounds good, let's do it,” and she just went for it.

We didn't want to make a villain out of a gay character. This was their relationship. This was who she was in love with.

There wasn't an actual love scene because we wanted to tell the story through Kendra's eyes. make your choices and you live with them and in the end you are those choices.- Kendra Shaw