Jane Espenson: What We Realize (4×04) (April 26, 2008)

What We Realize
By: Jane Espenson
Date: April 26, 2008
Source: Jane in Progress


WEBMISTRESS NOTE: Jane Espenson, the writer of last weeks Battlestar Galactica episode (4×04: Escape Velocity) discusses the bar scene with the Chief and Adama from that episode in her latest blog post.

WARNING: If you have not watched this episode, there are spoilers.


Did you see my episode of Battlestar Galactica that aired last night? I myself did not, as I was on a soundstage, watching even fresher Battlestar being made. So instead, to celebrate, I reread the script this morning and I thought I might show you all a little excerpt to illustrate how simple it can be to do something that might look tricky on the screen.

SPOILERS… if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you might want to wait. Anyway, there’s a moment in the episode where something plays out and then you realize it didn’t really happen, that it was just one character’s fantasy/fear/hallucination/projection/SOMETHING…. Here’s how I scripted it (I’m just showing you a scene fragment here):

…Awkward pause. Adama signals the bartender, then says:


We all miss her, Chief. I understand if you want time off. Or even if… if you want more shifts, want to keep busy. None of us knows how we’ll react to a loss. What we’ll need.

Don’t need anything special, sir.


The bartender slides a drink to Adama (he knows his preference without asking).


I guess it was just more than she could take, huh? Being married to a Cylon who made her the mother to a half-breed abomination.


Tyrol blinks at Adama. Who is JUST NOW BEING SERVED HIS DRINK. We realize that was a small moment of surreal fantasy (a la Tigh’s imagined shooting of Adama in episode three).


ADAMA (cont’d)
(to bartender)
Thank you.
She was a good woman.


See what I did? Almost nothin’. I just said what happened using emphasis so the eyes of careless reader wouldn’t miss it, and then with a “We realize…” sentence. I love “We realize,” because what you’re really doing is conveying to the reader the intended experience of the viewer. You’re not forcing them to guess about what you want the viewer to understand at that moment, and you’re not using dialogue to over-explain something that a character wouldn’t say out loud. I find it incredibly useful as long as it’s not being used to try to convince a reader that something would be clear to a viewer when in fact it would not. It’s a powerful weapon, use it well.