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They Have a Plan: The "Battlestar Galactica" All Access Event

It's no secret: longtime readers of this site know that I am a hardcore Battlestar Galactica devotee. So it was with a certain relish that I got to attend last night's BSG: All Access event at the famed Cinerama Dome at the Arclight in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to catch the two-hour finale on the big screen, what with work matters and such, but I managed to sneak into the theatre a few minutes before the panel began and the audience was shown a stirring retrospective of the past three seasons of Battlestar Galactica. (I don't know about anyone else in the audience, but I got goosebumps!)

For those of you wondering what all the hubbub is about, this is most likely one of the last times that the cast and crew of Battlestar will come together in a public forum, what with the series being cancelled and all, after the next batch of 22 episodes. (Sniffle.) So you can imagine the sort of fervor and warmth of reception--a standing ovation, no less--when moderator/former BSG actor Lucy Lawless (looking divine in a stunning floor-length black dress) introduced the panelists: creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick and BSG actors Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff.

(Aside: can Lucy Lawless, a source of bawdy humor, witty questions, and flawless timing, moderate every industry panel/discussion I attend? Besides looking gorgeous, she kept the discussion moving along and injected a wicked sense of humor to the proceedings.)

The topic on everyone's minds was what Lawless called "the elephant in the room": Sci Fi's decision to end Battlestar after the current fourth season. Moore said that around the series' second season, he and Eick began to talk about how many chapters were left to tell of this story. Around the time of Season Three's "Eye of Jupiter"/"Rapture" combo, both were struck by how it was the first time the story was really going to a specific place in terms of resolution and that course was set in stone by the time they got around to revealing, in the third season finale, the identities of four of the final Cylons and the fact that not only was Kara alive, but she had been to Earth. (Cue "All Along the Watchtower.")

As for where Season Four is headed, it's the final chapter of the BSG story, broken into two pieces (most likely part one will air beginning in January 2008; with the second batch of episodes perhaps being held until 2009?). The crew of the Galactica WILL head to Earth, whatever Earth may be. (Hmmm.)

In the meantime, however, there is the two-hour Battlestar "movie" that will air this fall on Sci Fi (before swiftly getting a DVD release thereafter), entitled "Razor," that fills in the blanks on some questions fans have been posing. It won't be set after Season Three, however, but will jump about in different times from pre-Season Three: from the Cylon attack on Caprica, the Pegasus under Admiral Cain, Lee's first tour of duty as the commander of the Pegasus, and even before the events of the miniseries. "Razor" features the main cast in a variety of cameos and starring roles, brings back the hard-edged Cain (Michelle Forbes), and introduces a new character: Kendra. Attendees were treated to a sneak peek at a trailer for the two-hour event, which promises some Number Six machinations; she appears aboard the Pegasus talking about how everyone aboard is alike. "We're all human here," she says coyly...

But back to the event on hand. Edward James Olmos says he feels "terrible" about the cancellation. "They can keep my paycheck," he said, were the series to continue. "I'd support the show myself if I could. I don't think the Powers That Be understand what this show has really done, in terms of holding a mirror up to society." Later, he emphasized how unique BSG really is. "You will never see another program like this again in your lifetime."

As for the fact that ratings are allegedly to blame for the network's decision to end the series, Olmos stated that the current ratings system doesn't take into account Latino, African-American, and Asian viewers. "Nielsen needs a hole in the head," he said, to applause from the crowd.

McDonnell also underscored the "passion and emotion" that all of the actors were feeling upon reaching the end of the road for Battlestar. "It's a hard one to contemplate giving this up," she said. "But it's a luxury as an artist to see a show to completion."

Lawless turned to Bamber and Sackhoff (the "young ones") to see how they're coping with their roles as Lee and Starbuck respectively coming to an end. "I'm a British actor and like nothing better than to moan," said Bamber, recalling how he moaned at signing a six-year contract initially and how each year was an opportunity "to be Ron and Dave's bitch for another year." But now Bamber said he'd "look back on this with such nostalgia it will hurt."

For her part, Sackhoff recalled the phone call she received at the beginning of Season Three that began with "We just want you to know we love you but... we're going to kill you." Sackhoff was in on the plan to bring Starbuck back to the series and even went so far as to really "sell" the lie to the rest of the cast, bringing her mother along for "moral support" on her last day of shooting. For the cast and crew's part, they brought her a cake and champagne on that final day; some crew members now still seem unsure about whether Sackhoff is back.

Turning to a more bawdy subject, Lawless talked about her favorite "nudie moments" from the series (apparently, there are a lot): when Jamie Bamber's towel (ahem) "held itself up." Sackhoff recalled the infamous "pasty incident" in which she finally ripped off her pasties during her and Callum Keith Rennie's painting scene; when told by the director that she was now, er, visible, Rennie planted his paint-laden hands on her goods, solving the problem.

What else did I learn from last night?

-Jamie Bamber says Season Four is "so muscular" and "can't help but be riveting."

-Ronald D. Moore originally wanted to use "All Along the Watchtower" in Season One when Helo and Sharon hide out in a diner on Caprica; the song was going to play in the background on an old jukebox. Moore has wanted to use the song since his days as a writer on Roswell, after executive producer Jason Katims converted him to a Dylan fan. (He almost wrote an entire Roswell episode based around the song.)

-When asked if Adama would ever get laid, Olmos said it was more a question for Roslin. McDonnell replied that she's assumed something's been going on between them, as Adama is "always shaving, getting ready for something." McDonnell said that the two of them "shared something" back in the boxing episode.

-Katee Sackhoff usually craves Taco Bell when, er, using certain controlled substances. McDonnell, however, never craved that particular food.

-Wondering where Bulldog (Alias' Carl Lumbly) is? Jokingly, we're told that he's, er, enjoying himself on the fleet's brothel ship.

-Head Six will be back next season with some new riffs. Moore and Eick decided to downplay the Head Six/Baltar storyline when it seemed that they were just repeating the same note over and over again.

-Sackhoff's inspiration for portraying Starbuck? Her brother.

-Sci Fi pushed for more "happy endings" during the course of the rather dark series, giving Moore and Eick notes to include happier events like birthday parties. Apparently, Mark Stern (SVP, Original Programming at Sci Fi) even suggested a "Maypole dance." To this end, Lawless proposed "there will be balloons when they get to Earth!"

And there you have it. (It all comes down, in the end, to balloons.) To the cast and crew of Battlestar Galactica, thank you for four wonderful seasons of a series that defied all preconceptions and definitions of what sci fi was "supposed" to be. We'll miss these characters and their stories. So say we all!

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Pirate Master (CBS); My Name is Earl/30 Rock (NBC); Smallville (CW); Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (FOX)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); The Office/Scrubs (NBC); Supernatural (CW); So You Think You Can Dance (FOX)

10 pm: Shark (CBS); Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Pirate Master.

On tonight's episode ("Pirates, Guns, and Money"), Joe Don gets a little too comfortable as the ship's tyrannical captain, while one player may be out of the game following an injury during an expedition.

8:30 pm: 30 Rock.

It's a repeat of my favorite new series of the year. On tonight's episode of 30 Rock ("Jack Meets Dennis"), after Liz returns to the arms of her ex-boyfriend (guest star Dean Winters) simply because he asked her to, Jack decides to become her mentor and teach her a thing or two about life.

9 pm: The Office.

On tonight's repeat episode of The Office ("Grief Counseling"), following the death of his former regional manager, Michael forces the staff of Dunder-Mifflin to attend grief counseling, Michael Scott-style.

Comments

The CineManiac said…
I wasn't privileged enough to have a guaranteed seat, although thanks to a friend I did still end up in the VIP section, so my day of BSG started at about 11:20am when I showed up to get in line for the event. (My love for BSG got me a wicked sunburn)
Around 1:30ish the "MC" Christian came out to greet the fans and hand out "FRAK OFF" shirts to everyone in line. He also conducted a trivia contest giving out VIP tix, DVD Box Sets (4 lucky winners got Seasons 1, 2.0, & 2.5) and to a few random people just walking by Frak Off T-Shirts (yes he made these people work for the shirts everyone else got for free)
At a little after 5 Bodie "Hotdog" Olmos came by and just said thanks to the fans and spoke for a minute, and then a few minutes after that Edward James Olmos came out and said hi and "answered" some fan questions (I place "answered" in quotations because he seemed to almost dance around the questions and say whatever he wanted to)
The one really interesting think Olmos had to say was that the line "So Say We All" wasn't in the script. He said it was his first day of filming and the emotional resonance of what they were filming was getting to everyone and he just made it up off the cuff, and now it's a part of TV history.
We were then led in to watch the finale, but it was actually only Crossroads Part 2, so only 45 minutes. But I had the privilege of sitting behind Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin) and the two Olmos' while we watched it and their reactions were great. EJO seemed more excited than most of the fans to be watching it in HD on the big screen.
As for the screening the only thing I feel you left out was the next to last question:
A man calling himself something along the lines of "Tennessee Dan" (It was a state and a first name) mumbled something about if they had a genie and he could wish them any role what would it be: and everyone on stage just sort of laughed and looked around at each other like they were trying to figure out what the frak he was talking about until Jamie finally said "F--- It, Hamlet!" it then returned to silence from the stage until Jamie said the others were wusses (to paraphrase) and that he "had put his balls out there" prompting Lucy to say "And what a fine pair they are"
Anonymous said…
This whole thing has me so confused. Was this an actual cancellation? I thought that Ron had said the story was naturally running its course.
Anonymous said…
This was a fantastic event. Lucy Lawless should definitely moderate all entertainment panel events. She was hilarious and gorgeous and really kept the ball moving.

It's obvious that the creators and writers of BSG are brilliant but I was delighted to see how thoughtful and insightful the cast was as well. Edward James Olmos IS Adama. Through and through. And I was very impressed by how articulate Jamie Bamber was as well. It's obvious that the cast is now like family and you could tell that the end of the show weighed heavy on their hearts.

As depressed as I am that the show is ending, I just thank the Gods that they know in advance and can wrap it up in a way that will be meaningful to both the people that work on the show and to the fans.
Anonymous said…
You repeatedly refer to the series as having been canceled, which is incorrect. Ronald Moore and David Eick decided to close out the story next season. There have been multiple articles regarding this decision over the past week.

Also, other fans in attendence have stated that a large part of the evening was used to discuss that very thing.

Mistakes happen but you might want to correct that here and in your film.com article, you are going to confuse a lot of fans.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous,

I've been following this story for weeks and was also at the event. It's called reading between the lines. It's clear that Sci Fi has been unhappy with the series' ratings and while Moore and Eick wanted to wrap up the series, the decision to end the series at the end of the 4th season was clearly the network's. Thus, the show is being cancelled. Whether or not it is being wrapped up is moot; the fact is that it will not be renewed for another year. Olmos himself talked about how the poor Nielsen ratings were a factor in the decision.

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