BG4: “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

QUIET SPOILERS AHEAD: After the shock and awe of the last episode, A Disquiet Follows My Soul marks the beginning of the final story arcs of this series.  This episode is all about picking up the pieces and getting back to the journey at hand after debilitating setbacks.  The tone is fitting, because it was the first episode written and produced after the WGA strike crippled the show during production of last week’s episode, threatening to end the series early. 

After many months of anxious waiting, production resumed in March 2007 and all of us working on Galactica breathed a collective sigh of relief.  I will always remember these emotions when I see this episode’s opening scene. 

Adama wakes up, feeling groggy and disoriented, but gets up and returns to work.  Recent events have exhausted him, but he’s grateful to have a purpose again.  That’s basically how we all felt.

I asked writer / director / executive producer Ron Moore if this similarity between life and art were were intentional and he told me “it is pretty much a coincidence, because the opening montage was actually written before the strike began.  However, the actual production certainly was influenced by the fact that the family was getting back together after the strike and Adama’s morning routine was the very first thing we shot.”


(Ron and I at the “Revelations” premiere last June)

The first episode back after the strike is also unique because it was Ron Moore’s first time behind the camera as director.  This added an extra layer of pressure to my experience, since I knew Ron would be listening even more carefully to every note, and I wanted to do my part to make sure his episode rocked.  I wasn’t alone.  Co-executive producer and writer Mark Verheiden, who wrote next week’s The Oath, told me “when you’re following a Ron Moore episode, you kind of want to bring your ‘A’ game.” 

Disquiet starts the engines on several story arcs, all of which will be essential as we go forward.  One of these is the long-dormant Tom Zarek storyline.  For the small percentage of you who may not know, Zarek is played by Richard Hatch, the actor who originated the lead role of Apollo in the classic Battlestar Galactica. 

Zarek has been a part of this series since early in the first season, Bastille Day, where he memorably sparred against Jamie Bamber’s new Apollo. 

As the series progressed, Zarek became less of a villain, and more a conflicted protagonist.  I asked Richard Hatch to compare the experiences of playing the original Apollo and Tom Zarek: “For me, Tom Zarek is quite different from Apollo in many ways.  And to be honest although I loved playing Apollo in the original series, I found Tom to be a much more challenging and interesting character for me to play in this day and age.  The complexity and unresolved issues that Tom and many of the BG characters had to deal with made acting in this series an extraordinary experience. 

‘And yes, Apollo and Tom Zarek may have had some similar qualities back when Tom was young and undamaged, which is why they seem to have this strange affinity for each other, but the way they would have dealt with adversity and hardship would have been totally different and two quite unique and distinct personalities would have emerged.  However that being said, I have to say that playing a revolutionary is what being an artist is all about.  I’ve always been a pirate at heart!”

Despite his character’s prominence, I’ve regrettably never had a worthy opportunity to write him his own theme.  His scenes have almost always focused on his impact on the people around him, and rarely dealt with his internal thoughts or motivations (Colonial Day for example).  However, that streak came to a close with tonight’s episode.  I finally composed the Zarek Theme:

The first time his theme appears is under Tom’s moving speech to the quorum.  This scene is a rare glimpse into the complex, divided and multi-faceted character of Tom Zarek. 

I asked Richard about this scene and he told me “In my opinion, I don’t know if we learn all that much more about Tom Zarek on a personal level; his backstory so to speak, but we do see just how strongly and passionately he feels about what he believes to be the hypocrisy of the Roslin/Adama regime and their condescending and arrogant attitude towards the opinions of the Council of the twelve, true democracy, which he feels no longer exists, and of himself in particular.   I believe we get to see that Roslin and Adama may be as flawed as they believe Tom Zarek is.”

I knew the instant I saw this scene that it required a theme that reflected the sadness, anger and determination broiling inside his mind.  As a result, Zarek’s tune is more melodic and lyrical than most major character themes on Battlestar Galactica.  It appears first in E minor and modulates to G# minor when the percussion kicks in and the arrangement grows darker.  Something about this theme in G# really clicked for me.  For the rest of the series, the theme will be heard almost exclusively in G# minor and performed, as it is here, by Paul Cartwright on the electric violin.

(The next DVD set will feature a deleted scene where Zarek’s theme actually appears even earlier in the episode, first underscoring the initial confrontation between Adama and Zarek in his office.)

Richard’s powerful performance with Eddie in the brig towards the end of the episode required no music.   However, as Zarek caves in and gives Adama the location of the missing Tylium ship, Cartwright’s violin sneaks in a melancholy and lonely statement of the Zarek Theme.  Zarek’s hit rock bottom: back to the prison cell where we first met him. 

I asked Ron about his experience working with Richard, taking the Zarek character into darker territory.  He said “It was fun, to know where the character was going.  I enjoying starting him off on this journey after all these years and I found him incredibly professional and prepared on the set.  There was a line he was having trouble with in the script (the last bit of the brig scene with Adama) and, while he was committed to making it work, we could both see that it wasn’t and so we rewrote the lines together on the fly and they played beautifully.”

Richard Hatch agreed, telling me that “working with Ron was a true pleasure.  I’m not just saying that.  I was truly impressed with Ron in his directorial debut.  He listened to and valued every one’s opinions, and made very intelligent and intuitive decisions regarding script changes, performances and the interactions of the camera with the actors.  He had a very good eye for what worked and what didn’t.  A rare gift indeed, especially for a first time director.  I believe directing is another one of Ron’s many talents and he should definitely do more of it.”

This episode marks the beginning of an unusual partnership, that of Tom Zarek and Felix Gaeta.  Actor Alessandro Juliani described the experience of working together: “I’d never had much to do with Richard over the seasons, but I remember thinking to myself how strange it was: that I had gone from playing with a likeness of Richard as a child (an action figure I still have by the way) to playing with the real live Richard! By the way, he’s a way better actor than his action figure.”

The Zarek Theme returns for a final statement as his storyline in Disquiet concludes.  Zarek recruits Gaeta to join his cause in a secret meeting in the brig.   However, this time the musical arrangement grows in intensity.  The lonely electric violin is joined by growing ranks of percussion, representing Zarek’s transition from isolated loner to political revolutionary.  This is not the last we shall see of this new partnership, nor the last we’ll hear of the Zarek theme.

“In regards to the music and the Tom Zarek theme what can I say?” Richard told me.  “What an honor to finally get my own theme and one so on the mark, complex and nuanced.  I would think that writing such a theme must have been quite challenging as Tom Zarek is truly an enigma to both himself and to those around him.  His struggle to reconcile his idealistic self with the wounded and deeply damaged man he had become after his many years of prison time left Tom with little faith in God or the powers that be.  Thanks Bear, it’s about time!”

This scene also represents a crucial shift in Gaeta’s character.  I asked Alessandro Juliani when he first learned that Gaeta would become a baddie.  And he quickly replied “Baddie? Who said anything about being a baddie? I mean, if resisting an alliance with a race of malevolent, deceitful robot-people responsible for the genocide of humankind, enforced by a bunch of ‘leaders’ who time and time again had proven to be completely misguided and hypocritical in their policies is bad…who wants to be good? If what you meant to ask was when did I find out that Felix was to assume the mantle of being the moral center of the show, then I believe it was during the filming of the now infamous ‘Stump Serenade’ that a certain Emmy-nominated writer who shall remain nameless first hinted at his heroic destiny.”

The score to Disquiet is comprised of much more than just the Gaeta and Zarek themes.  Many familiar themes are brought back, some of them in very unusual settings.

Baltar’s religious transformation continues and so his gamelan-inspired religious theme, new to Season 4, makes several appearances in the episode:

In the second half of the episode, he takes a darker turn.  His sermon is now brimming with rage, as he questions the existence of God and tries to understand the tragic revelations of Earth. 

I collapsed the augmented major harmonies of his religious theme into dissonant, diminished and minor chords.  The gamelan arpeggio of his theme is still present and unaltered, but it is now accompanied by darkness, frustration and ambiguity. 

As he riles the crowd into a frenzy, a fight breaks out between Tyrol and Hotdog.  A battery of taikos kicks in, accompanying the energetic membrane flute solo played by Chris Bleth. 

The music is an obvious and intentional homage to my rousing boxing music, “Fight Night,” from Season 3’s Unfinished Business. 

In the middle of the brawl, Head Six appears and attempts to comfort Baltar.  The pounding taiko drums momentarily give way as I shift gears to address their conversation.  I re-state Baltar’s religious theme in the gamelan, but now with the proper major harmonies restored, and a simple harmonium drone underneath.  For this brief moment, the Baltar Religious theme sounds like it did throughout the first half of Season 4.

Baltar’s dismal sermon required that his tune go through some moderate tweaks.  However, the theme to undergo the most drastic cosmetic surgery in tonight’s episode was “Roslin and Adama:”

Originally composed for Season 2’s Resurrection Ship, Parts 1 & 2, it has made numerous appearances since, always underscoring the deep, affectionate relationship between the President and the Admiral.  The last significant appearance of this theme was during the final scene of The Hub.

Their theme is traditionally played on the acoustic fiddle by Paul Cartwright.  Listen during the scene where Roslin decides to throw away her medication and you’ll hear a simple, clear statement of it.

Later in the episode, the sequence where Roslin jogs through the ship provided me an opportunity to take their theme to unexplored territory.  The arrangement I wrote for it is the most active, mysterious and complex version of “Roslin and Adama” yet.  

This particular cue happens to be subject of a new documentary Matthew Gilna and I are producing about the Galactica score.  After the success of our mockumentary, “The Music of Battlestar Galactica”, we decided that we’d make a real documentary that genuinely covers how I score the show.

This doc is still a work in progress in its early stages, but I figured BG fans would appreciate a little sneak peek!  A snippet is embedded below.  Let me know what you guys think.  Would you be interested in seeing a longer, more detailed version of a film like this?  (Matthew and I are also toying around with the idea of doing similar documentaries of the finale and possibly Caprica.)

(You’ll need Quicktime to view the video)

As you can see from the video, we recorded live orchestra on this cue at the Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage, the same studio where we’ve produced many other great BG  scores and, most recently, Caprica. The scene begins with unidentified feet jogging through the halls of Galactica.  A simple minor third ostinato starts in the gamelan and piano, accompanied by small shakers and shime daiko:

We cut to Adama, awoken by a phone call. The violins and violas enter, stating an elongated version of “Roslin and Adama.” 

I initially struggled to find the right emotional tone that would work on both stories as we cut back and forth between Adama’s quarters and Roslin jogging.  As if this sequence weren’t complex enough already, I had to write a cue that would fit over two distinctly different versions of the sequence!  In the director’s cut you’ll eventually see on DVD, the phone conversation plays for a totally different emotional beat, and there’s actually a scene that interrupts this jogging sequence.  As a result, my score needed to be flexible, since I didn’t have time to score both versions separately.  I had to write a single cue that would function in both versions.

After the first phrase of their theme, the strings split into two contrapuntal lines.  The violas and celli slowly drift away from the violins as the lower phrase cascades downward, to join the incoming bass line.  After the second phrase finishes, the strings pick up the minor third ostinato from the gamelan and piano, and the frame drums enter.  The music noticeably picks up steam as Roslin’s pace quickens.

(photo courtesy of Dan Goldwasser)

As we reveal that the mysterious jogger is, in fact, Laura Roslin, the cue modulates from C minor to A minor and a much fuller statement of their theme begins.  The scene reaches its climax as Roslin shifts from jogging to a full sprint.  For this moment, I added to the ensemble the full arsenal of taikos and percussion, but somehow, the score was still failing to add enough excitement.  An inspired idea came from my college mentor and dear friend Jim Hopkins, who was helping us out with the orchestral sessions for Disquiet and Notion. 

At Jim’s suggestion, I kept the music in the new key of A minor for only a single phrase, then suddenly modulated it back to the home key of C minor for the second phrase.   At that point, we’d only heard one phrase in the new tonic of A minor.  This unexpected departure from A minor has the disorienting affect of jarringly propelling the score into an unanticipated key.  However, we’re back in the home key of C for only the second phrase, probably less than ten seconds, when, after a tremendous taiko drum fill, the score modulates again back to A.  This final modulation arrives exactly at the cut to Roslin at her full sprint.  The result of this slippery little harmonic trick makes this reveal far more satisfying and emotionally powerful.  (Good idea, Jim!)  

During all these transpositions, the contour of the “Roslin and Adama” melody remains the same, but it feels like we’re jumping around in exciting, new harmonic progressions.  This may sound like a lot of technical musical jargon to some of you, but I’ll bet everyone could hear there was something special about this moment, something that made it different from every other version of “Roslin and Adama” we’ve heard in the past.  The harmonic shifts, orchestration, melody and percussion all come together for the climax of this scene.

(photo courtesy of Dan Goldwasser)

Speaking of “percussion climaxes,” Disquiet also has the distinction of being the first episode to finally clarify the relationship between Roslin and Adama.  The episode ends as it began, with Adama exhausted in bed.  But this time, for a different reason.  :) 

It was clear this unusually warm and romantic moment also needed the “Roslin and Adama” theme.  As with the conclusion of The Hub, I used the lyrical and rarely quoted B-Section from the theme, which I know is a fan favorite:

To shake things up a bit, the theme begins with Chris Bleth on the bansuri, an unusual instrumental choice for this theme that renders it a bit harder to recognize (how long did it take you guys to catch it?). 

However, halfway through, Paul Cartwright’s signature acoustic fiddle picks up the melody and takes us home, carrying us gently over the cut to black.

So much of this episode centers on the uneasy relationship between Roslin and Adama that it inspired the episode’s unusual title.  “I just started playing around with the word ‘Disquiet’ and landed on the title after I’d written the script,” Ron Moore told me. “It just seemed to convey the emotional journey of Adama and Laura who’ve never seemed to get a break or a rest since the show began.”

Unlike the incredibly epic episodes leading up to it, Disquiet was a particular challenge because the general feel was more restrained, muted and simple.  I had to tread lightly, so as not to overload the subtle nuances and emotional connections Ron established in his script.  Of the finished music, Ron said “I thought the score matched the mood and tone of the scenes very well.  I liked the way you found the emotional center of each scene and allowed the music to carry it forward without getting in the way or telegraphing what the audience should or should not feel.”

(Richard and I after our Comic Con panel, 2008)

Richard Hatch added When it comes to the music of ‘Battlestar,’ no one is more of a fan than me.  Bear’s themes not only support the drama in this story, but magnify and illuminate it.  A composer has to delve into the marrow of the characters and story and truly capture the subtext, the visual and emotional threads and colors weaving through each scene.  Bear has a gift from heaven for doing all of this and more and he does it in the most original and unexpected way imaginable.  I’m sure we’ll see a lot more from this highly gifted and very rare composer.”

So Say We All,

-Bear