November 7, 2006

The Man Who Killed Kirk

Print More

An enthusiastic crowd of sci-fi fans packed the Willard Straight Theatre last week to welcome back Ronald D. Moore ’86 and listen to him discuss his current project, Battlestar Galactica. Moore bummed around Hollywood for three years doing odd jobs until landing his big-break selling a spec-script to Star Trek: The Next Generation. For the next 10 years, Moore played a major role in shaping the Star Trek universe.
Daze: You had a complex relationship with Cornell.
Moore: No, it was very simple. I didn’t go to class and they asked me to leave. That was about it.
Daze: But now you’ve come home a conquering hero. How does it feel to be so wanted after being asked to leave?
Moore: It’s really nice. I haven’t really been back in almost 20 years and the campus has changed and Collegetown has changed. I walk around the campus and it feels very familiar. There’s a sense of coming home on some level that I wasn’t really expecting.
Daze: You worked on two Star Trek series, but grew up watching the original. What was it about Gene Roddenberry’s vision that you found compelling?
Moore: It was this forward-looking show about a future where we solved a lot of problems. There was a positive view of what could happen to people and it was heroic in the truest sense of the word. James Kirk, on a fundamental level, was an influential person in my life — I mean, he was a fictional hero of mine. The way he carried himself and the way he dealt with problems and the kind of man he was were things that I aspired to be … he was a soldier who believed in the fundamental values of democracy and the republic, and he was influential in terms of me going into Navy ROTC and wanting to study government and politics.
Daze: And you got to write the death of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Generations.
Moore: I killed my idol. The psychological ramifications of that have yet to be defined. But I really wanted to write the story of Kirk’s death and I couldn’t tell you why. There must be some Freudian or Jungian kind of answer to it all, but … yeah I actually killed a childhood hero and that’s a strange thing to have done.
Daze: You use the Internet to interact with fans through your blog and podcasts. When starting Battlestar Galactica, was this something you originally set out to do?
Moore: I wanted to do it because I had gotten used to interacting on the internet at Star Trek … in television I don’t get the experience of walking into the back of the theatre like a feature writer or a playwright and watching the audience respond to my work. So, the internet became this method of getting feedback from the audience in a much faster way than snail mail would give it to you.
Daze: Does reading fan message boards and blogs alter your direction of Battlestar Galactica?
Moore: Not really. I’m sure it must on some subconscious level, but, for the most part, the show is not a democracy. I don’t let it be influenced by what most fans think they like or don’t like. But if it’s a show I like and they don’t, it doesn’t really change my opinion of it. It just becomes … “wow, they didn’t get from this what I got from this” and that’s a shame.
Daze: You’ve worked in science fiction your entire career and fans of that genre are notorious for being obsessive. In an SNL sketch, William Shatner famously told Trekkies to “get a life.” Have you ever had a “get a life” moment?
Moore: No, but things have astonished me. A fan gave me the entire play of Hamlet translated into Klingon. I’ve had encounters with fans dressed up in costumes from episodes — they seemed to be unaware that they weren’t actually the characters. There was a guy who used to walk around as Data at Star Trek conventions and he never broke character. He was always Data and I started to question whether he had lost his mind or not. But, for the most part, they were all just very sweet people that were really in love with this thing I was doing. They loved it so much that they wanted to live in that world and tried to live in it as much as they could. And, you know, of all the things you can get caught up in, Star Trek is pretty benign. I’ve never really had a problem with it. I always thought it was kind of sweet that people loved it that much.