We chatted with Michael Taylor about the two-hour Virtuality movie that he brought to life with Ronald D. Moore. We cleared up rumors about the plight of this series, and ventured into virtual world of the cutest crew member.
So you mentioned that you got involved with Virtuality to do something to for the genre similar to what BSG did. What will Virtuality change, what does it have to offer to the world that BSG did?
For Virtuality, I think our focus is more technological. It's more about the technology we are already dealing with and how that will change our lives. I would say that, that reality is the internet. The technology which enables us to communicate with other people. We conduct a lot of our lives though websites dating sites, facebook, email, phone links that allow us to get in contact with people on the other side of the world. But there's no physical contact. In other words we're already living our lives in a kind of virtual reality. This is what the show Virtuality looks to explore. How that kind of technology will change us... In that sense, it's a very different kind of show than Battlestar, a very new show. But with a cultural reference that is just as profound... It's looking ahead.
We read a lot of rumors about the show getting changed from the original pilot script? Did a lot of things change?
The show that will air on June 26 is not really changed at all from what we shot. On the other hand, the show did start out as a one hour pilot. NBC Universal and Fox the airing network [asked us] to turn it into a two hour movie. In a way, that had to change the nature of the script that had been widely circulated on the internet (for the original one hour show). It deepens the draw in some ways, it complicates it in others. I think when Fox saw the end result, they thought, "wow this is a very heady mix." Or as one Fox executive said, it's "Very cool but kind of dense."
Clearly they were afraid that it was not the kind of network material they were used to. Initially Peter Berg, our marvelous director, said, "I think I can boil this down to an hour, and maybe that will make it an easier sell for you guys. Let me try." So they gave him the legway to do that, and he did it in a one-hour cut. It turned out very interesting, but very different — and it would have to be. To make a two hour movie from a one hour, you have to make a lot of changes and focus on different things.
In the end, I don't think Fox found that [one-hour cut] more compelling than the two hours. There were compromises made along the route. There are things Ron and I would love to change, or Pete would love to change if we had the opportunity or the budget. The chance to reshoot some stuff, to work even better as a two hour. But what you will see is essentially what we set out to make, for better, hopefully, and for worse too. It's a show that we're all really proud of and we think is really cool. But I should say that it looks more like an indie move than Mission Impossible 3.
We read that the gay couple might have been edited out or removed?
None of that is true. I think that was at the point where the network said, "Gosh this is very cool but I don't know if this is for us." They basically took their hands off. They didn't give us any budget to do some of the things we wanted to do, but they said, "Do what you want."
Fox's involvement at this point is giving us great help in terms of promotion on the web. And the rest is pretty hands off. It's been put out on a night that I've heard is sort of the graveyard/boneyard of television. You won't see a billboard or a bus shelter sign. There is no overt promotion in that sense, but we have a wonderful publicity department at Fox, who really love the show and is helping us push it on the internet as much as we can. We cannot squawk that anyone messed with it, we can always [see] the things we didn't get to do [and] the things we wanted to make it even better, but it's still very much the show we set off to make and that we made. We hope people dig it.
How much time do your characters spend in the virtual world and is it different for each character?
Every astronaut on the show has their own personal reality module. A chance to create a space that is unique for them, and they occupy it on their own. They can share it or leave it if they want to. But by and large, they are considered private spaces. In the course of the show, I would say we spend about 10 - 20% in these environments.
Because we're meeting the group for the first time, we're setting a lot of balls in motion as far as the plot and what the story and the situation is. So it requires us to spend a lot of time in the reality of the spaceship. Also it's expensive to produce these virtual realities. They were all created digitally — there are no real back drops to these virtual environments. Everything was created in the computer. We are creating a true virtuality. And that's expensive. We get windows into our characters' experiences, which are kind of mind blowing in some places. But the meat of the show takes place in the reality of the spaceship. But by the end of the show, you may start to wonder what is real and what is not. Which is one of the themes of the series as a whole.
Could you describe one character's virtual world?
One of our characters, he name is Billie Kashmiri (Kerry Bishe) she's a young computer scientist on the ship. And she's kind of shy, she's still finding her confidence she's in with a lot of seasoned astronauts. What is her virtual reality? She's created a alternate ego for herself. She's very much a Buckaroo Banzai, a character who is a rock n' roll superspy. It's very funny and tongue in cheek. It's whimsical, and kind of James Bondy. We get to see a bit of it. So in a way, her environment is an expression of who she is, or who she wants to be. It tells a lot about her, but is also a lot of fun for the audience to see. The other characters' environments are more serious, exploring issues that they are grappling with perhaps, situations in their lives. Secrets, even. But it can be a restful retreat, from environments where you can work through issues to pure wish fulfillment and entertainment.
We heard that the movie will no longer become a series. Is that true?
I can't confirm that. Fox has not given us the official word. I have to be honest, I think the scheduling of this the way it is... it does not look good. The chances are very slender. Slim to none — who knows? It would take pretty much a miracle for that to happen. It would take millions of people watching, on this night when people normally aren't watching television in general. I can say if a lot of people watch it and like it, and make their feelings known whether it's writing a letter to Peter Rice, or even better, to someone like Mark Stern at the Syfy Network, who really does love the show. It's part of the NBC Universal family, and I think they'd love to put it on if they could afford to put it on. If they could find backing, that would be amazing a miracle. Neither Ron nor I are holding our breath for a miracle. We're just happy people have a chance to watch what we made.