BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:

Tom DeSanto and Brian Singer

In June of 2000, rumors surfaced of yet another attempt to bring Battlestar Galactica back to life, courtesy of Sci-Fi Channel's then-Executive V.P. Bonnie Hammer:

"We have actually started some preliminary conversations; however, we never knew where they are going to go. I don't want to start any false hopes out there. However, it is definitely something we are looking into."

What was not known as this rumor was circulating was that at about the same time, producer Tom DeSanto and director Brian Singer were sharing a flight to New York for an X-Men press junket; Tom was watching his BSG original series DVDs when Brian leaned over and said, "My God! Battlestar Galactica!" The ensuing conversation resulted in their decision to pursue a revival of that ill-fated franchise. (Note: see our exclusive interview with Tom DeSanto for more.)

January 2001 saw rumors again surface that the Sci-Fi Channel was in preliminary stages of putting together a new Battlestar Galactica series, but that this production bore no real resemblance to the original; there would be no battlestar, there would be no Cylons, and it would be primarily set in "biodome" ships, focusing on the civilian part of the fleet.  Creator Glen Larson was not involved, nor were any of the original cast.  Fans weren't happy - and SciFi Wire, the Sci-Fi Channel's webzine, retracted the confirmation of such a production two days after it was made.

Then on Feb 22, 2001, Variety magazine announced that Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto, the team behind the blockbuster X-Men movie, were heading the effort to bring back Galactica.  Brian Singer was quoted as saying:

"The lesson I learned on X-Men is to have a healthy respect for the fan base of sci-fi fantasy franchises, and I'm confident that the Galactica brand is a sleeping giant.  It was a show I watched during its initial run, from the pilot to the final episode. The essence and the brand name is quite potent in a climate where there's a great deficit of sci-fi programming."

Dan Pasternack of Studios USA (who controlled the television rights to Battlestar Galactica) was quoted on the SciFi Wire, suggesting that the new series might premier as early as mid-season 2002. He also commented that the new project featured Cylons and was endorsed by Glen Larson:

"Bryan Singer's intent is to be very faithful to the spirit and legacy of the original show.... to creatively to go forward in time as the saga has continued in his mind... He is not looking to take it in any direction that would be disappointing to fans of the original show... Bryan and Glen sat down. We wanted to make sure this union was very blessed by Glen. ... He has blessed this and wants to see it go forward. ... We want to make sure that respect is paid. ... It's waited some 20-odd years to be reborn. We're committed to doing it right."

With such support, DeSanto could bring back the universe he fell in love with as a kid, crafting it with all the know-how he had gained from a string of successful movies like The Usual Suspects and the wildly successful X-Men.

"I think it's going to surprise. The same way X-Men surprised the studio, I think this will surprise the network and will become a phenomenon. I don't think people realize the passion people have for this show and the fond memories of the show."

Key staff and cast were being retained and considered, a script was drafted, and by April 2001 the production was officially given the go-ahead.  FOX-TV came aboard, agreeing to host the two-hour pilot for the new series.  Tom DeSanto was elated. "I've dreamed of bringing Battlestar Galactica back for over 10 years now and could not think of a better home for it than FOX" he said.

Glen Larson joined the production as a consulting producer. Dirk "Starbuck" Benedict informed convention-goers in May that he and DeSanto had spoken more than once about his participation in the series; however, a possible roadblock existed in that studio executives were balking at using any of the original series actors.

Still, several FX companies (including Foundation Imaging, Eden FX and the Orphanage) began creating concept art and designs, and sets were planned and started construction in Vancouver, BC; DeSanto had lobbied to have principal photography occur in Los Angeles, but cost-conscious executives decided to shoot in less expensive Canada. "We built the skeletons of two Vipers and started building the bridge set. It was going to be a true rendition of the bridge, only we were going to make it a bit larger."

Shooting was scheduled to begin sometime in November, 2001 and conclude shortly after the New Year; a May 2002 premiere was planned. After directing the pilot, Singer would immediately begin pre-production on X2: X-Men United, which was scheduled to being shooting in May. Dirk Benedict and Herb Jefferson, Jr. ("Boomer") were signed (the "suits" ultimately convinced of the wisdom of the idea); Dirk was quite enthusiastic about reprising one of his favorite roles.  As he reflected in a July, 2002 interview at SciFiPulse:

"I was excited to play Starbuck 20 years older. The same man. Still drinking, smoking and chasing women, but at 50 it has a completely different resonance than when you are in your 20's. Full of pathos. Still romantic and in a way charming and enticing but also lonely and a bit sad. Tom agreed with me on these things. We would not have made him politically correct. I think the fans would have enjoyed it extremely and he would have been marvelous character by which to introduce all the young and the new stars of the revival... Tom DeSanto, as you know, was going to use original members to bridge from what was to what would have been. I regret he was distanced from this project."

Then, on September 11, 2001, this generation suffered its equivalent of Pearl Harbor when terrorists attacked and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, killing over 3,000 people.  Everyone and everything was impacted by these events and the aftermath: travel was impeded for weeks, particularly international flights, as emergency security measures were implemented.  And there was the emotional toll as well. Tom DeSanto was later quoted:

"It was devastating. No one was able to function. It was difficult to focus, and we lost about a month, and that caused the schedule to shift."

With the pre-production schedule of the second X-Men movie looming, Brian Singer was forced to depart the Galactica production to focus on that.  Other directors were approached, but with Singer's departure the support for the production fell apart.  FOX withdrew and threw its support behind Josh Wheden's new effort Firefly; the planned 2002 start date for filming Galactica was canceled.  DeSanto sent a message to the expectant fans:

"Our THANKS TO ALL OF YOU that have signed the petitions, written letters and supported the return of Battlestar Galactica. We are listening to you. And we appreciate your support, past, present and future. We feel that you will not be disappointed with our production for the new Battlestar Galactica. And we hope to bring it to you as soon as it is possible."

However, behind DeSanto's back, the Sci-Fi Channel and Studio USA initiated steps to bring back Battlestar Galactica with a new creative team. David Eick was tapped to head the effort, and Star Trek writing alum Ronald D. Moore was brought in as a co-producer and principal writer.  Very deliberately, a completely different approach was taken.

The official announcement from the Sci-Fi Channel came on April 2, 2002.  Set for premier in December of 2003, a "re-imagining" of Battlestar Galactica was going into production.  There was no connection with the DeSanto/Singer production; that was over, sledgehammers taken to the nearly-completed sets, the idea of a "continuation" discarded.

- written by John Pickard

   and John Larocque