Cult Corner

Steering a New Course

''Galactica'' exec producers David Eick and Ronald Moore detail for EW's Jeff Jensen how they transformed a '70s TV footnote into a rich sci-fi powerhouse

Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica | GRANDE VISION Moore and Eick set out to put the new Galactica 's focus on drama and characters such as Kara ''Starbuck'' Thrace (Katee Sackhoff)
GRANDE VISION Moore and Eick set out to put the new Galactica's focus on drama and characters such as Kara ''Starbuck'' Thrace (Katee Sackhoff)

Are you watching Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica?

Sure you are. But I wasn't.

That is, not until last June, when I found myself confronted by a group of enlightened EW colleagues one afternoon while I was trying to write a nutty Lost theory about Desmond, Charles Dickens, and some pseudo-scientific business I found during my frequent trolls of Wikipedia. Anyway, these friends — these dear and precious friends — conducted what amounted to a geek intervention. They said: ''You claim to be this sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fanboy — but are you watching Battlestar Galactica, the best frakkin' show on television?''

At the time, I had no reference for the show besides its famously cheesalicious late seventies incarnation, starring that old guy from Bonanza, that funny guy from The A-Team, and all those chrome-plated robots with their ping-ponging crimson eyes and Atari-era videogame voices ("BY. YOUR. COMMAND.") And so I said: ''Frakkin'? What the fudge are you talking about?''

That was all they needed to hear. I was immediately put in a car and whisked away to a remote location with nothing else but a jug of milk, a box of Cocoa Pebbles, and DVDs of every episode of Battlestar Galactica. When the weekend was over, I felt like Paul on the road to Damascus, but without the icky scales falling from eyes. I had been born again. Frakkin' good news, indeed!

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating the details. But that's pretty much my Battlestar Galactica testimony. My reward for becoming a true believer was being given the chance to write EW's recent cover story about the show, in advance of the premiere episode of the third season. I thoroughly enjoyed my immersion into the Galacticaverse, and I've been utterly riveted by the new season, which has found provocative and heartbreaking ways to create an allegory for the moral quagmire that has become America's War on Terror. (I'm totally getting my phone tapped for that one, aren't I?)

If you are still as lame as I once was, I encourage you to give Battlestar a ride. If you do, you'll find it to be one of the most challenging, provocative, and timely tales being told in our pop culture. If that sounds like I'm saying the show isn't always fun — well, yeah, you're right. But it's always riveting, and I dare say it might even be important. To better understand why, I bring you Part One of a conversation with the creative masterminds behind Battlestar's revamp, executive producers David Eick and Ronald Moore, a conversation that I think will also be of interest to hard-core fans. I'll bring you more of the interview next week, and in coming weeks, I'll introduce you more formally to the cast of the show. Until then: Keep on frakkin'!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I'm betting you've told this story many, many times, but since I'm new to Battlestar Galactica and many of our readers are, too, I'd love to know how this project came to you and what your interest was in restarting and revamping this world.
RONALD MOORE: I had done a lot of years at Star Trek, including 10 years at Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I was moving on and doing other things when I got a call from David, whom I had met when I was consulting on a show called Good Vs. Evil. David called me, I think, in like February 2002...

DAVID EICK: No, it was actually December of 2001.

RM: Was it December?

DE: It was really on the heels of 9/11.

RM: Yeah! It was in that winter. He called and said that [Sci-Fi] was looking for somebody with a new take on Battlestar Galactica. The previous version that Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto had been trying to do for Fox had fallen through, and so they were back at square one. I said, ''I'm not sure if I want to do another space opera...'' I knew the original show, but hadn't seen it since — well, literally since it had been on the air in '78. So I said, ''Let me think about it over the weekend.'' I went and found a copy of the original series pilot and watched it again. Like David said, this was all in the aftermath of 9/11, and so here I am, watching this show that opens with this genocidal attack by the Cylons, which wipes out an entire human civilization in a stroke. And then the heroes of the show are the survivors of that attack who escape into space, where they are forever pursued by their enemies... I just felt that if you really took that premise seriously, and you really played that in a sort of emotionally true way, it would have a really strong and incredibly powerful relevance in today's climate. I thought, ''Well, this is a really interesting opportunity.'' Moreover, I had been thinking about some things in science fiction that I wanted to do differently. Like I said, I did Star Trek for so long, there were things that I was just getting tired of. I wanted to reinvent the way you did stories in science fiction. I wanted to lose things like space hair and space costumes and... just make it more real. Break down the barriers between the audience and the drama and really hook into who the characters were and make it more about a drama that happens to be set in space. So I called David back on Monday and said, ''Let's try to make this happen.''

NEXT PAGE: Making the decision to ''take the 'opera' out of space opera''

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