'Definitely colluding with the enemy would apply,' David Eick joked at Thursday's Comic-Con panel

By Jeff Jensen
July 21, 2017 at 09:43 AM EDT
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The Battlestar Galactica reunion panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego was a nostalgia fest that trafficked in familiar tales about the sci-fi landmark’s origins and trumpeted the show’s pop culture influence. (Cue video clips of Veronica Mars going “Frak!” and the classic Portlandia spoof of obsessed fandom.) But the most provocative moment came when creators David Eick and Ronald D. Moore were asked how their politically charged series — one of TV’s essential, nuanced 9/11-era stories — might reflect our Trump-framed times.

“The crazy unqualified captain,” quipped Eick.

“Boxey would be president,” joked Moore, referring to the 6-year-old child of Captain Apollo from the original Battlestar Galactica of the late ’70s.

After the laughter subsided, Moore offered a more thoughtful elaboration: “If you were doing it today, you would have to take into account this world that we live in now and find a way to not just mock it and not just take an easy shot at it, but find some way to have empathy for it.” Eick rounded out the response with another pointed barb: “Definitely colluding with the enemy would apply.”

Moderated by Variety’s Maureen Ryan, the panel took place in Ballroom 20, one of Comic-Con’s largest venues. It was packed; everyone was there to get their “So say we all!” on. Representing the cast: Tricia Helfer (Six), Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), Grace Park (Boomer), Tahmoh Penikett (Helo), Aaron Douglas (Chief), and Michael Trucco (Sam Anders). The panel bookended an earlier reunion at the ATX Television Festival which included Moore, Helfer, Park, Trucco, McDonnell, Edward James Olmos (Commander Adama), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), and James Callis (Gaius Baltar).

Moore made news at the Austin event by revealing that despite a pre-credit sequence declaring that the intergalactic robot Cylon tyranny hounding the Galactica and its fleet of refugee spaceships had a “plan,” the writers never really knew the exact nature of the scheme that the robots had devised. Ryan asked Eick to respond to his partner’s confession. “See what happens when you don’t go to panels?” he said, adding that while Moore was basically correct, the writers always had some loose ideas. Moore said the journey of invention helped make Battlestar Galactica so special. “So many things were discovered along the way, it wouldn’t have been the same show if we locked into a vision from the beginning.”

Other highlights from the Comic-Con panel:

+The producers and cast were asked what ideas were discarded or abandoned as the creative direction took shape. Moore said they intended to spend more time exploring different ships in the fleet, but they dialed down that ambition due to expenses and changing interest. McDonnell — in what was likely a joke — said that there was going to be a mall ship. Ditching the idea disappointed her — a mall ship would have meant “I would have had more than one suit.”

+Moore revealed that Callis’ portrayal of Baltar changed the writing of the villainous character and added an important tone. “When I wrote him initially, he was a lot of things — sociopathic, brilliant, arrogant, etc. — but I never thought he was funny. James brought a sense of humor to him. And we started writing toward his sense of humor.”

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+The most entertaining moments came when the cast discussed how they were impacted by a story line in which several seemingly human characters were revealed to be Cylons. “There was lots of emotional tension” waiting to find out who was and wasn’t a robot, said McDonnell. In a spirited, hilarious anecdote, Douglas revealed how he learned the Chief was a Cylon. Arriving early to a potluck dinner for cast and crew at producer Michael Rymer’s home during season 3, the actor found plot outlines for the year’s final episodes. Wanting to know what was in store for his character, Douglas snuck the pages into a bathroom, read them, and learned the truth. He tried to sneak them out of the bathroom by stuffing the paper down his pants. It would be several more months before the intel was officially shared with the actors. Douglas spent the time pretending not to know what was coming. “For four months, I’d walk by Eick and go ‘Anything coming for Chief?’ No. ‘Liar!’”

+Among regrets, Penikett — whose character spent a lot of time with Boomer but not so much with the others — wished he could have had more scenes with other actors. Helfer wished her Cylon characters could have the chance to let loose with a “Frak!” Douglas wished he could have spent more time on a Cylon sex ship.

+Moore sung the praises of Richard Hatch, star of the first Battlestar Galactica, who passed away at the age of 71 last February. Moore repeated some famous stories about how fans of the original series were initially hostile to the reboot, but Hatch — while an early skeptic — encouraged them to give it a chance. He eventually joined the show in a recurring role as Tom Zarek. The panel ended with a video message from Edward James Olmos, currently in Spain, offering his own personal salute to Hatch, and leading the audience in a “So say we all!” tribute.

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