When we got a chance to take part in a conference call with Ronald D. Moore about Virtuality, there was only one question we wanted to ask him: How is this new show different from Star Trek's holodeck episodes?
Moore, creator of Battlestar Galactica, didn't seem to mind our obnoxious question. Here's what he said:
Well, it's a different concept. The holodeck is a space, and you would go into [it] and 3D forms were created in front of you... This is truly a virtual world, much more akin to a virtual headset. Whereas you have an experiential ability touch things [you're not going into an actual space], so it's a different sort of mechanics. At the story level, we're not explaining the idea that if you die in the virtual space, you die in the real space. [Instead, if you die in the virtual space, you just wake up.]
It's more like gaming is now. You game, you don't get killed, you wake up. We're using it much more psychologically now. The experiences that the astronauts have aboard the spaceship in the virtual space are things that are psychologically motivated. They go in there in and do things for entertainment. [And this reveals something about their personalities, and where they want to spend their time.] When things go wrong in that space, how is it going to affect them in the real world? How does the virtual space affect the real world storyline, and vice versa?
He did admit, in response to another caller, that Virtuality's virtual headsets are pretty similar to the ones you'll see in the BSG prequel Caprica. The main difference is that in Virtuality, there's less of a shared virtual world, and it's not an infinite space with tons of orgy rooms and different environments. Rather, each crewmember has a private virtual reality module, which can be shared but is pretty limited. The show conveys the virtual nature of these environments by filming all the VR scenes in greenscreen, instead of a real setting.
And Moore promises that Virtuality is less serious than the post-apocalyptic BSG. "There's more humor probably in the first 10 minutes of Virtuality than there was in the whole run of Battlestar," he says.
Virtuality is much more about the tensions and manipulations and cross-tensions among a group of people "in a metal tube going in a straight line for a decade or so." In addition to serving in this deep-space exploration mission, they're also taking part in a reality TV show for the viewers at home. And the crew was chosen as much for their diversity and mix of characters — for this reality show — as for their skills, which gives rise to questions over whether the best people for the mission were chosen. Another source of tension: when the crew hears news from Earth (including news of major ecological disasters) they don't know if it's true, or if they're just being fed horrendous news to make the reality TV show better viewing.
These three elements: deep space exploration, VR, and reality TV are "tough to juggle," Moore admits. "It's a very ambitious piece. That was the reaction on the part of Fox when they saw it: It's a very complicated piece with a lot of moving parts." Fox felt the two-hour pilot would have been a great feature film, but weren't sure if it could launch a TV series. But Moore still holds out hope that it could be picked up as a series if the response to the June 26 airing is positive enough. It's also possible the story could be continued as a comic book or as another TV movie.
Also, keep your eyes peeled in the next few days for some special web-only content created for Virtuality:
There is a series of webisodes were created for Virtuailty... The webisodes were episodes of the reality show. You would see pieces of the reality show as it's broadcast back to Earth. That was part of the pitch [to the network. If the show had been picked up, you would have been able to watch installments of Edge of Never, the reality series, on the website.] The concept and plan would have been that you can log in on to the website and there would be information included that would not be accessible to people watching the show. If you wanted to know everything that is going on. The astronauts may not be aware of how the show is being viewed back on Earth, they may not understand how things are. My understanding is right now fox is going to put them up on the Facebook page for Edge of Never In the next few days you'll be able to download or view these webisodes.