When HBO announced that it was teaming up with J.J. Abrams to produce a ‘Westworld’ series, you could be forgiven in anticipating a sci-fi spectacle akin to ‘Jurassic Park’. But the real talent behind the scenes, side stepping Abrams who did indeed recognise the potential, has been Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.
Nolan’s talent and portfolio is there for all to see with credits on ‘Memento’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Interstellar’. He is every bit as talented as his revered brother Christopher Nolan but criminally overlooked.
Lisa Joy is just as, if not more, interesting and crucial to the success of this show. Serving as a writer of Bryan Fuller’s terrific ‘Pushing Daisies’ and a handful of ‘Burn Notice episodes’, Joy found her groove with ‘Person of Interest’ – the holiest of all holy procedural shows.
Her 2013 spec script ‘Reminiscence’ was on the blacklist but is now being developed for the screen by Legendary. One wonders: why now? Nevertheless, the interesting note is this: Lisa Joy is lined up as the screenwriter for, you guessed it, a big screen reboot of ‘Battlestar Galactica’. And you can see why.
‘Westworld’ is, and this is not a detraction of the show but rather a compliment, a reincarnation of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, which is apt considering the themes explored in both shows.
Both shows use a fantastical and ludicrous sci-fi concept to explore something far more important and ultimately more engrossing: character. ‘Westworld’ is smart to ignore the small niggling questions the audience has about the park’s utilities and operation because that’s not what matters. What matters is the narrative … just like ‘Battlestar Galactica’.
It is no coincidence that ‘Westworld’s’ most used shot is one that lingers on the actor’s face: a close up. It is not extreme nor is it too impersonal to invest the audience. It is just so. ‘Battlestar Galactica’, whilst housed on a fantastic set, always defaulted to the very same close up. Because both shows, no matter the larger-than-life genre, were looking to analyse humanity and character.
There are, of course, closer and more intimate parallels to be made between the shows. For instance, both harbour characters that may not actually be who they purport to be. In fact, some don’t even know what they are until it is revealed to them.
Both explore the idea of man and his creation battling to see who prevails as master. Both use that conflict to shine a light on the desensitisation of humanity and the tunnel vision we often subscribe to.
In fact, the two shows are so complimentary to one another that I wouldn’t be surprised if Lisa Joy’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ script reads like a ‘Westworld’ episode. I wouldn’t be surprised of Ronald D. Moore, ‘Battlestar Galactica’s’ showrunner, had a few meetings with Nolan and Joy. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘All Along the Watchtower’ started playing in ‘Westworld’s’ finale.
‘Battlestar Galactica’ fans, and they seem to hide away for one reason or another, must be delighted with what ‘Westworld’ has become. It is a spiritual successor to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ even if it didn’t intend to be that.
Its façade of sci-fi, mystery and intrigue is delicious and one can’t help but lap it up every instalment but it is the heart that keeps yanking us back in. It is the hearts of Humans, of Hosts, of Capricans and of Cylons that linger.