When plot gives way to characters instead of the other way around

A few minutes ago I was listening to the long-delayed commentary podcast for last week’s episode of “Galactica” — you guys are listening to the podcasts, right? — and I heard executive producer and showrunner Ron Moore say something really interesting, something really revealing about what makes “Battlestar Galactica” the best scripted drama on TV right now.

He was talking about how the show, “Flight of the Phoenix,” ran long and how choices had to be made in editing. It’s an old story. TV invariably runs long in editorial, and invariably the smaller, more character-driven moments have to be cut in order to serve the plot.

Except on “Galactica,” they did exactly the opposite.

Moore describes in his commentary a scene that served the “A” plot, a discussion between Baltar and Six about the virus that had infected Galactica’s computers way back in the premiere of season two. He decided to cut the scene in favor of the “B” plot, which revolved around how some of the characters come to deal with the impossibly bleak situation in which they find themselves. “It call kept circling back to, ‘Tell the story about the family. Tell the story about the family.’ And you had to sort of give a certain amount of screen time to the virus, because you have to do that for plot reasons. And so what ends up happening is that you end up cutting things like the Baltar-Six conversation.”

I know this makes me sound like a big ol’ nerd, but it just makes my heart sing to hear a big-time Hollywood producer talk at length about cutting the “A” plot in order to devote more time to the character arc. Here’s a guy who knows the difference between good storytelling and bad storytelling, y’all. Pay attention, because this sort of thing doesn’t come around very often.