Saturday, December 29
Just saw the news that Letterman’s World Wide Pants company has signed a side deal with the WGA and will be returning to the air with the entire writing staff.
Good for them and good for the WGA in cutting the deal.
There are some bitchy comments out there in the blogosphere from “unnamed” feature writers complaining that it’s somehow “unfair” that Letterman’s writers are going back to work and they’re not. The Guild has already stated as a matter of policy that they’re willing to negotiate deals with individual companies outside the umbrella (butterfly net?) of the AMPTP, so the fact that they’ve been able to pull off one such deal shouldn’t be the occasion for whining about how “I’m not working and they are,” it should be a time to celebrate the fact that at least one company doesn’t feel the Guild’s demands are ridiculous or particularly onerous. It should also be a time to congratulate the writers of the Late Show and wish them all well as they take back the airwaves and hopefully pepper the show with not-so-subtle digs at CBS, et al for keeping this strike going this long (they walked away from the table, you may recall -- twice, for those of you keeping score).
I know what’s getting a season pass on my Tivo.
Sunday, December 23
Finally it seems possible to complete your Battlestar Collection.The DVD cover art has been released on the web, place down your cubits and pre-order your copy now!!
1. 1- 1 Galactica Discovers Earth (1)
2. 1- 2 Galactica Discovers Earth (2)
3. 1- 3 Galactica Discovers Earth (3)
4. 1- 4 The Super Scouts (1)
5. 1- 5 The Super Scouts (2)
6. 1- 6 Spaceball
7. 1- 7 The Night the Cylons Landed (1)
8. 1- 8 The Night the Cylons Landed (2)
9. 1- 9 Space Croppers
10. 1-10 The Return of Starbuck
Friday, December 21
Michael Trucco, who plays lovelorn Sam Anders on the Sci Fi Channel series, was recently involved in something scarier than any battle with the Cylons: a serious car accident. On December 2, Trucco was a passenger in a Ferrari that overturned after the driver lost control on a curve and went down an embankment. The driver walked away unharmed, but the roof of the car had crumpled, fracturing four of Trucco's vertebrae.
The good news is that Trucco is now out of the hospital and expected to make a full recovery. In a message posted on his official board, he explained the situation and thanked fans for their support:
"It's been a crazy week and a half to say the least. The paramedics on the scene that tended to me first said I was lucky to even be alive, let alone be able to pull myself outta the damn thing. The roof completely collapsed on the passenger side. I knew the second we rolled over and crashed down hard on the asphalt that something was seriously wrong with my neck. Then somehow I managed to crawl out on the driver's side after my friend got out and get to the side of the highway and lay down. From there I made a couple of calls and waited for the ambulance with my friend and about a dozen or so other motorists who pulled over to help. From there I was taken down the road to a waiting helicopter ready to take me to UCLA Trauma Center. It got progressively more frightening from that point on as the seriousness of what just happened started to set in."
While in the hospital, doctors were able to fuse Trucco's C-6 and C-7 vertebrae to his C-5 vertebrae. They told him he was lucky to be alive, and especially lucky not to be paralyzed, as his injury is very similar to that which crippled actor Christopher Reeve. Trucco will have to remain in a neck brace for about six weeks, but after that he should be fine.
Battlestar Galactica is not currently filming due to the writers' strike, so Trucco's injury will have no effect on production of the series.
Monday, December 17
The Writers Guild of America will put a strategy in action Monday to scatter the oppostion during these strike negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The guild will propose bypassing AMPTP and negotiating separate contracts directly with the individual studios themselves. It's a very long shot as that scenario promises heaping piles of headaches across the industry. If each fantasy factory were to dictate unique terms with the WGA, there could be different royalty rates, different salary ranges, etc., from network to network, studio to studio.
In New York, David Letterman is doing his part to aid his writers while muddying the strike landscape. His Worldwide Pants production company negotiated a preliminary exemption allowing his writers to return to work. Could other TV production companies do the same by ignoring their network alliances to hire writers on their own dime? Could powerful, fan-rich shows like Galactica, Heroes or Lost return to the air with writing staff forged by similar exempt guild deals?
Saturday, December 15
It seems like we've been waiting ages for any hints of what's to come in Battlestar Galactica's fourth season, which will be beginning in March on the Sci Fi channel. Now, thanks to a recent convention that many of the stars attended in Burbank, some news is starting to leak out as to where our favorite characters may end up. Read on if you want to know what to expect when Battlestar Galactica returns to the airwaves, including the big news of which deceased character may be returning.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the convention is that Ellen Tigh, played by Kate Vernon, will be returning to the show in season four. Fans who speculated that she may be the final Cylon appear to be wrong, as it seems Ellen will only be appearing in flashbacks or dream sequences. Now that Colonel Tigh (Michael Hogan) has discovered his true Cylon nature, his issues over murdering his wife are going to return to the forefront. After all, he did kill her due to the fact that she collaborated with the Toasters, so his discovery of his true nature is going to bring about some intense and complicated new feelings.
The other big character we've all been wondering about is Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), who was last seen returning in the finale after being presumed dead. In season four we can expect to see Kara Thrace in the brig, interacting more with Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), hanging out often with the Cylon ladies, and having less flirtatious screen time with Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber). We can also expect to see Kara spending a lot of time with Leoben, the Cylon who was once her captor.
All of this interaction with the Cylons really leaves me wondering if Starbuck will be the final model, but Katee Sackhoff hinted that she doesn't believe she is. It looks like the identity of the final Cylon will end up being one of the biggest mysteries of the season.
As for Lee Adama, Jamie Bamber mentioned that he had not yet been back in a Viper pilot uniform while filming the first batch of episodes, and that his character will be involved in something else. I can only speculate what that may be, but it's possible that Lee enjoyed being a lawyer so much that he'll continue to explore that in the new season.
We still have three months until the return of Battlestar Galactica, which means that more hints of what's to come should be on the horizon.
Wednesday, December 12
Here’s what I said:
Hello, I’m Ronald D. Moore, Writer and Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica, and member of the WGA since 1989 -- and I’d like to welcome you to Pencil Day here at Johnny Carson park.
What you see behind me is the culmination of a grassroots effort on the part of thousands of television fans across the United States and in some cases, from overseas. A group of fans, led by Brenda Lawhorn, Chris Bridgesm, and Adam Levemore-Rich, but including many others, were looking for ways in which they could support the WGA during the strike. They put together a website: Fans4writers.com, where fans could come together and talk with each other as well as with the writers from their favorite shows, and these fans came up with what became the Pencils Campaign.
Some of you might remember the famous “nuts” campaign on behalf of “Jericho” where fans send packages of nuts to CBS to save the show from cancellation or the “Tabasco” campaign conducted to save “Roswell.” Well, these fans came up with the idea to send pencils to the moguls heading the major studios and networks represented at the bargaining table. Fans were able to buy boxes of pencils in the name of their favorite show for $1, which would then be delivered to each of the six major companies today.
The pencils will be delivered to:
Leslie Moonves, President, CEO/CBS Corporation
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO General Electric (NBC/Universal)
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, CEO News Corporation (Fox)
Jeffrey L. Bewkes, President, COO Time Warner Inc. (Warner Brothers)
Robert Iger, President, CEO Walt Disney Company
Sumner Redstone, Chairman Viacom
In less than three weeks, the fans bought over a half a million pencils, which you see here today.
Simply put, the message they’re trying to send by this effort is that members of the audience itself – the market for our shows and films – both understand and sympathize with the position of the Guild and want a return to collective bargaining. Lest this be dismissed as a small group of fans, it’s worth remembering that recent national surveys have shown solid majority support for the writers in this labor dispute.
The WGA is still at the table, waiting for the studios to return to good faith negotiations. While we believe our proposals to be fair and reasonable, the Guild has always been willing to engage in legitimate bargaining on each point of the contract.
But we need a partner to negotiate with.
Issuing ultimatums, staging walk-outs and releasing factually-challenged press statements tinged with manufactured outrage does little to resolve this dispute. There is no reason why the studios cannot return to the bargaining table, sit down, and work out a fair and equitable settlement for everyone involved, and we hope that this symbolic action on the part of the fans will serve to remind the studios and networks that their audience is indeed watching and listening, and they know the difference between posturing and bargaining.
Monday, December 10
Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica fans are taking different sides of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike -- akin to a democrat vs. republican debate (only with spaceships).
Galactica fans take the pro-labor side, often coming up with creative ways to show support for the picketing writers.
But, the ever-loyal Trekkers take more of a pro-management stance because they feel the strike threatens the eagerly awaited Star Trek 11 flick. The Trek loyalists fear the strike will prevent J.J. Abrams from producing the best film he can envision because rewrites are currently "illegal."
I think it's safe to assume that Abrams ad his cast can manage an on-set improvisation to save a scene without the Writers Guild firing its photon torpedos. But, as this clip shows, next summer's Batman sequel, Dark Knight, could've used the attention of the striking writers before it was too late.
Sunday, December 9
Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore wants fans of the show to support the writers' strike, and he's offering some very enticing incentives for those who do. Over at Pencils2MediaMoguls.com, you can spend one dollar to send a box of pencils to one of the six media moguls who run the corporate conglomerates that the writers are striking against. If you mention that the show you're supporting is Battlestar Galactica, you'll automatically be entered into a raffle where you could win some very interesting prizes.
When you go to Pencils2Media Moguls, you have the option of entering the name of which show you're supporting, as well as an actor's name. Type in "Battlestar Galactica Aaron Douglas," and you'll be entered into a contest where you can win a chance to go to a hockey game with Chief Tyrol himself up in Vancouver. Enter the names of Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan, or Michael Trucco, and you can win a personal phone call from that actor.
However, most fans will agree that the best reward comes courtesy of Jamie Bamber, who has offered to sign and donate three towels to the cause that he has worn himself. The first two will go to the fans who purchase the most pencils in Jamie's name, and the third will be raffled off at random. If that's not enough incentive to buy a truckload of pencils, I don't know what is.
There's no word on when the contest will end, but Ron Moore teases that there may be exciting offers from other cast members in the near future.
Monday, December 3
Sunday, December 2
Your favourite Cylon, Alberta-bred Tricia Helfer, slides on hot pants and thigh-high boots as Walk All Over Me's dominatrix.
As much as her new movie, Walk All Over Me, makes a great case that she was born to wear PVC hot pants, Tricia Helfer wasn't exactly convinced she was a sex bomb during her high-school years.
"I grew up a farm girl where I was into sports and into school," the 33-year-old former supermodel says, interviewed in Vancouver's just-off–Main Street Argo Cafe. "I was very tall and gangly, and you certainly don't think that's very pretty when you're a kid."
There's no point pretending otherwise today: Helfer is hot. You don't have to be sitting across the table from her for confirmation of that. She's squeezed into a booth at the Argo, a retro-cool '40s diner where the tables are vintage green Arborite and the specials are scrawled on chalkboards. Helfer, more La La Land than Lotusland, doesn't look like she's from around these parts, even though she splits her time between Vancouver, where she keeps a condo for work, and Los Angeles, where she lives with her lawyer husband and six cats.
She's wearing a low-cut grey sweater, skinny-leg jeans, and black stiletto boots. Her teeth are impossibly white, her hair off-blond, and her eyes Caribbean-ocean blue. The first thing you notice about her is that she looks different in person: preternaturally beautiful and somehow less hypersexualized than what you might have seen in Maxim, Stuff, and the countless other men's magazines that regularly name her one of the most desirable women on the planet.
The world, of course, has seen plenty of Helfer over the years, whether it's been as the elegant face of Chanel's Cristalle perfume or the host of Canada's Next Top Model. But these days, her profile has never been higher. Science-fiction aficionados who rarely leave their parents' basements know her as the ass-kicking Cylon operative Number Six on the critically lauded Battlestar Galactica. Those who buy Playboy for more than the articles were delighted to find a revealing shoot in the magazine's February 2007 issue, which celebrated its coup by putting her on the cover. And she's evidently on the speed-dial of whoever's job it is at Maxim to get hot women to pose in glorified dental floss. On Friday (December 7) she'll hit local multiplexes in Canadian director Robert Cuffley's Walk All Over Me, a comedy-thriller in which she plays a dominatrix who aspires to something more.
Even when she's not wearing fishnets and thigh-high boots, Helfer is one of those lucky few who's going to turn heads wherever she goes. What's refreshing about her, though, is that she doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is about.
"I certainly didn't think that I could ever be a model," she says. "And I had no ambition to be an actor. I was petrified of being on-stage; I wasn't a singer and I wasn't a dancer. I was much more of a tomboy into basketball, volleyball, track and field, and soccer. And, again, I worked on the farm: I drove tractors and fixed farm machinery."
Today, Helfer is a world or two removed from her rural hometown of Donalda, Alberta, whose main claim to fame is that it's the home of the world's biggest lamp. But despite that, she clearly hasn't forgotten her humble, stubble-jumper roots. Reached at home in Calgary, Cuffley recalls Helfer arriving on the set of Walk All Over Me and promptly winning over the entire crew.
"The way she did that was by making herself accommodating," he remembers. "No ego, just, 'Can I do that again? What can I do to make this shot easier? Would it help you guys if I did this?' Those were all phrases that would come out of her mouth. After a while, you'd be like, 'Wow, she's not a prima donna Cylon from Galactica. She's a down-to-earth farm girl.'"
In Walk All Over Me, Helfer's Celene has hightailed it out of Buttnugget, Alberta, for Vancouver, where she pulls down big bucks humiliating sex slaves. Although she finds herself saddled with a delinquent younger sister played by Leelee Sobieski, Celene hasn't given up on Hollywood and an acting career. Suggest to Helfer that Celene's story somewhat mirrors her own–albeit without the whips and fetishwear–and she quickly shoots that down.
"From an outsider's perspective, the movie looks like it maybe mirrors my own life," Helfer says. "Celene leaves this small town to go be an actress, and I left a small town to model and now act. The difference is Celene didn't like where she grew up and couldn't wait to leave. I, on the other hand, had a great childhood and loved where I lived."
Her journey out of Donalda started in a theatre lineup in 1991. Helfer was out for a night at the movies when she caught the eye of a modelling scout. That was the start of a celebrated career that would take her to runways around the world and land her on the covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan. As much as the jump from small-town Canada to international 17-year-old jet setter had its challenges, Helfer was ready for them.
"I worked on the farm for a wage and had to do budgets, so I knew how to take care of myself," she recalls. "A lot of people going out on their own don't have a strong family base. I knew that if I got into trouble, I could call my parents and they would be there for me. Not everyone has that support. That really helped me to be comfortable with taking risks."
Taking a major risk was exactly what Helfer did a half-decade ago. Realizing that–unless your name is Kate Moss–modelling is a profession with an early pull date, she decided some advance career planning was in order.
"I thought I'd take an acting class," Helfer says. "I instantly fell in love with it. Part of the reason that I have this passion for acting is that I like the idea of getting inside someone's brain to study their characteristics–why it is that they do the things they do. My focus was suddenly very clear on what I wanted to do after modelling."
Assuming you're not running for president of the Tricia Helfer fan club, things you might not know about her include the fact that had she not been "discovered", she probably would have gone on to become an animal behaviourist. Beyond that, she eats fish and the occasional turkey burger but consumes no red meat. She's concerned about the environment but is not holier-than-thou about it; although she's currently building a solar-powered "green" vacation home in rural Alberta, she guiltily admits to riding a Harley and driving a Porsche. She's never been a party girl, which explains why you won't find a single mention of her on PerezHilton.com. She was raised without television but now loves "smart comedy" like South Park and Arrested Development. She doesn't have much use for fantasy fare like The Lord of the Rings, admitting she's more drawn to darker, reality-based films like Requiem for a Dream. She would love to work with Cate Blanchett, Quentin Tarantino, and Darren Aronofsky. She excelled at sports in high school, but these days she's focusing almost all her energy in one area: acting.
With major roles in two feature films this year, Helfer has given every indication that she isn't going to be another Cindy Crawford when it comes to leaving the catwalk for the screen. Georgia Straight contributor and Vancouver native Mark Leiren-Young directed Helfer in his 2007 movie, The Green Chain, which looks at the issue of logging old-growth forests from various sides. Helfer, who plays a celebrity jumping on the green bandwagon, blew his mind when she showed up for filming and proceeded to rattle off a 13-minute monologue in one perfect take.
"I kept asking her, 'So, no theatre experience at all?' 'No,'" Leiren-Young tells the Straight by phone. "I had trouble believing she wasn't a theatre-trained actor. She was just astonishing."
Helfer's first high-profile role found her playing–what else?–a model on a 2002 episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She credits her big break, however, to Battlestar Galactica, where she landed in 2003, a year after she quit modelling and left New York for L.A. to pursue acting full-time. What started as a miniseries reimagining a sci-fi show that impressed no one in the late '70s has hit big with both audiences and critics. Battlestar Galactica in now headed into its fourth season, with Helfer's platinum-wig–sporting Number Six salivated over by Comic-Con obsessives who can tell you which ship Saul Tigh served on during the first Cylon war. Helfer never saw the original Battlestar Galactica before signing on for the miniseries; her main attraction to the project, she says, was that she'd be learning from the Oscar-nominated likes of Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell.
"As a new actor, I looked at it as a great opportunity to work with these people and maybe pick up a few things," she says. "In the grand scheme of things, I got really lucky. I got Battlestar when I'd been acting for a year. To get a show that goes on to win Peabody and AFI [American Film Institute] awards is pretty lucky, I'd say."
Battlestar, filmed in Vancouver, has taken Helfer to a level of celebrity well beyond anything she experienced during her modelling days. What makes her feel blessed is that she's been able to maintain a degree of anonymity.
"On Battlestar, most of my characters–and I say characters because I'm a robot–have white hair, which is a wig, so people almost never recognize me," she says. "When I'm at the airport or on my own time, I don't have makeup on; I have my hair in a ponytail. People only seem to recognize me if I'm done up. For me, it's a blessing in disguise because you can really retain a normal life."
Not that most people living normal lives end up fielding offers from Playboy. Helfer says she thought long and hard before she agreed to do the shoot for the magazine. "If I was going to be sitting there spread-eagled and smoking a cigarette, then it would have been a big deal," she offers with a big laugh. "But I had total control over the shots, and coming from a modelling background, I believe that photos are art."
With Battlestar Galactica currently filming its final season, Helfer is now working on getting an amnesia-themed film titled Unforgettable off the ground on this side of the border, and thinking about pitching an HGTV–style series about building her green-themed house. For the immediate future, Cuffley rightly figures Walk All Over Me will end any arguments over whether or not she is just another genetically superior face.
"The bubble she is poised to burst, and I saw her burst it at the Toronto Film Festival," Cuffley says, "is that people go in [to Walk All Over Me] saying, 'Jeez, I don't know, this could be a sink-or-swim for Tricia Helfer because she's the second lead in the film.' I overheard some of this, saw some of it with my own eyes, and heard some of it secondhand. Every single time, people came out going, 'Holy cow, she's really good.'"
Getting Helfer to admit that is, predictably, not easy. "Obviously, after four seasons on Battlestar and a couple of films, I'm getting more used to it than when I started," she says. "It's a learning process, and I hope to never stop learning. I don't want to get to a place where I feel like I know it all."
If those sound like the words of a down-to-earth kid from the sticks, that's no accident. Except you somehow get the feeling that by the time this unmistakably driven farm girl is finished, Donalda, Alberta, will be famous for more than being the home of the world's largest lamp.
Saturday, December 1
While Jamie Bamber has gained much success from starring in the SCI FI Channel's Battlestar Galactica, he admits that there was a time when he seriously doubted the quality of the sci-fi genre.
"I did have reservations about doing sci-fi," Bamber, who plays Lee “Apollo” Adama, told TV Guide. "In my mind, it had been reduced to sort of post-Star Trek goofiness on TV. I would never, ever watch it, not in a million years."
All that changed, however, when he read the script for Battlestar Galactica and came to know about the show's aim to "really make a stink about our own civilization and what we do to ourselves on this planet." Now, with three seasons under his belt and another one on the way, Bamber is one of the most loved actors on the show. He is also considered by many as one of the sexiest men in sci-fi television today, and although he says that he does not see himself in that way, he is grateful to be reminded nonetheless.
“It's genuinely exhilarating to be reminded that some people do think of me in that way,” Jamie Bamber said. “I find as many men come up to me and go, 'I need you to sign this for my wife' or, 'I want this for my brother. We love the show.' [But] the women tend to have a different angle: They request photos of me without my shirt on and stuff like that. And they get a little bit giggly at times. And the men don't tend to do that so much."
Battlestar Galactica itself has become a hit among fans of the genre, although in the beginning, many expressed skepticism over the re-imagined series. Some were not so keen on watching a revival, while others were worried that the new series would compromise the integrity of the original. All this, however, did not intimidate Bamber, who was even excited to hear “so many different opinions flying around.”
"I had no idea that the mainstream and even sort of high-brow press would really champion it as groundbreaking and thought-provoking television,” he added.
Friday, November 30
Okay, this is pretty cool.
How would you like to go to a hockey game with the Chief?
That's right, our own Aaron Douglas will take one fan to a Canucks hockey game, along with another buddy of his up in Vancouver. And how can you score this treat? Simple. By going to Pencils2MediaMoguls.com and buying as many boxes of pencils as you can. On the first page (which is a subset of United Hollywood) you'll see a place to identify which show you're supporting. Type in "BSG Aaron Douglas" and we'll enter your name into a raffle, with the lucky winner getting to attend the hockey game with Aaron.
In case you haven't heard, the Pencils Campaign is designed to send a huge amount of pencils to the major studios as a symbol of fan support for the strike. More information can be found on their website.
Look for other offers from other members of the Galactica cast in the near future -- no idea what the offers will be or how many there may be. I'll keep you informed.
Since I’ve been such a good little whore for all things Galactica this month, the folks at Universal gave today gave me 1 hr to come up with some questions to ask the great Ron Moore, creator/producer of BSG. So I shot these over to one of my contacts and he got
1) What was the genesis of the idea to do Razor?
It came from Universal Home Entertainment. They had an idea of releasing a video version of Galactica in the fall. It had done well on DVD in the release of its seasons. We weren’t going to broadcast season four until spring of ‘08, so it made sense to have a BSG release in the fall. They would broadcast it once on Sci Fi and release it within a week on DVD. It quickly came about. We ended the third season on a cliffhanger, so that didn’t make sense to tie that in – we had to go back in time and do a story before the cliffhanger. We decided to revisit some aspect of the Pegasus/Admiral Cain storyline and see the original attack on the colonies and from Pegasus’ point of view with the original Cylon attack. The writers kicked around story ideas and went through it at my house. We have 10-15 minutes more on the DVD, including young Adama and the first Cylon War. There is more footage with young Helena Cain as a child during the first Cylon War, plus extended version of other scenes. It doesn’t predate the series. It just happens to take place around the original Cylon war – it skips around chronologically.
2) How do you see Razor fitting into the overall BSG mythology?
It fleshes out events referred to previously. You see the first mission that Lee gets when he takes command of Pegasus. It’s a broadening of stories in the series.
3) There’s a pretty big spoiler about Kara at the end of Razor, can you talk a bit about it?
We were looking for information that we put in Razor that changes the audience’s expectation of that storyline. We darken that – could be a positive or dangerous element. We won’t know until season four.
4) How do you feel about the rumor that Sci-Fi is going to split the final season into two seasons?
It is under consideration. The writers’ strike is complicating everything. Even before the strike, we didn’t know. There will definitely be a break between the first half and the second half. The season was designed with a midseason cliffhanger.
5) It doesn’t feel like it’s real, more like a stunt to “artificially” stretch the show for another year and charge loyal fans for extra DVDs.
It is a network decision – the DVDs are the concern of the studio. It is not the same people making those decisions. The network doesn’t care about the DVD. The studio doesn’t have any say over the network schedule. The season is up to Sci Fi and how they are going to program their channel. Do they have other shows up and running? Do they want BSG to run into the summer? It’s all about scheduling issues with Sci Fi.
6) Blu-Ray or HD-DVD and why?
I am avoiding both – I am a skeptic until they settled on one format. It’s not worth my time or effort until then.
7) Since BSG isn’t scheduled to air until next April, how does the current strike affect what you are doing?
The shows that start in April are already in the can. We started shooting in June and have finished 10 weeks worth of shows.
8) What is your reaction to the fanboy reaction over the whole Razor Lesbian reference?
We knew it would cause a stir – let it stir. These were things that we had already established between the characters. This really influenced how they reacted to each other. The lesbian angle was fresh territory and an attractive component.
9) Last year I listened to your post show Podcasts. What made you decide to do it and will you continue them this year as well?
Depending on the strike, we will see where we are. I don’t do them until the week that they air. SciFi.Com approached me in the first season and asked me. I did it at home and sent them the disc. It became fun. For me it was the last act of producing the series. It’s usually the last time I see it – the final act of completion. I can look at it and see what we were trying to do.
10) How much leeway does Sci-Fi give you in terms of your schedule and the content of the show?
They give me quite a bit of leeway. They have opinions and notes. Most of the major battles were fought early on in the first season, but they let me do the show that I wanted to do. I cannot say that they did not let me do the show I wanted to do.
11) Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming DVD and high-def releases of BSG?
They have been putting together the box set for season three. There is a very long extended episode of “Unfinished Business” – 70 minutes long. The editor and I did a commentary track for it. That was the biggest editing challenge of the third season.
12) I checked out the BSG game on X-Box Live arcade last week and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very happy with it. How much involvement did you have in it?
They never even show them to me. I was appalled to see that it was lambasted in the reviews. I made my displeasure known, and the word got out. There should be a closer consultation in the future. Historically, merchandising, licensing and games were all spun off into different divisions. The companies are trying to integrate them more into the process, but typically, the divisions don’t talk to one another and go off and do their own thing. There is still a lot inertia.
13) I was at GDC a few years ago for your well received keynote about Games and Film. Rumors started going around that you were going to do something within the game industry, perhaps a BSG Next Gen Game, but those rumors quickly died. What are your current thoughts on the Video Game Industry?
I met a lot of people and had conversations, but nothing tangible came of it. They were more about new projects, and it still interests me, but I haven’t been able to focus on it.
14) I talked with Jason Behr a few months ago and apparently there have been some initial movement on a possible Roswell reunion do you know anything about it?
This is the first I’ve heard of it. I haven’t spoken to the
15) What do you think about web video and do you have any plans for the medium?
We did a webisode last year, but they have been tabled. That’s one of the key issues of the strike. We have said no because none of it has been covered by the Guild. At this point, once the strike is settled, I don’t know that there will be time or appetite to get web content running before the end of the series.
16) When NBC Universal makes a move like abandoning iTunes, do they consult with producers like you, whose show was a consistent top seller on that platform?
They did not, nor did they consult with me when they put it onto iTunes. To them, it’s a strange palace of secrets that they will not speak. Now you see why there’s a strike. This is a source of a great deal of argument. When I get a residuals check, it will say for DVD. Somewhere in that sum is buried what they are saying for iTunes. There is no record of how many units it reflects. It’s
17) Do you think you’ll pull a Joss Whedon and continue BSG in Comic Book form?
I don’t have any plans to do that. The plan is to end the show definitively. I don’t know if there’s another story beyond that that I want to tell in comic book form.
18) What’s next for you after BSG?
I have a series in development at NBC. I am supervising another series at Fox Broadcasting. I have some features in development that I’m writing – the sequel to iRobot and a version of The Thing for Universal. It’s connected to the 1982 film.
19) What do you think of what you’ve accomplished with BSG for sci fi on TV?
Space opera sci fi is still a tough sell on TV. There aren’t many proven successes beyond Star Trek. You have to go to
20) How do you feel about the general state of the genre?
There is a big appetite for horror/fantasy/science fiction on the part of the public. There always has been and always will be. But you have to do it right. There is a cynicism that gets applied to this genre very easily.
Thursday, November 29
Katee Sackhoff wants to set the record straight. "I have no plans to leave Bionic Woman, and Michelle Ryan" — who fills the title role — "is doing a great job. There's not one ounce of bad blood between us."
Sackhoff, whose flamboyant turn as Sarah Corvus has overshadowed Ryan on the struggling NBC series, tells TV Guide that she absolutely did not diss either BW or its star at a recent convention. (News of the alleged cattiness came from a blogger who attended the sci-fi confab.) "It's sad," says Sackhoff, "because you want to connect with the fans, and then they throw it in your face in a negative light."
Sackhoff confides she's meeting with producers "to discuss my involvement in the show, which was pretty limited this year" — pre-strike, she was slated for seven episodes — "because of my obligations to Battlestar Galactica." Making clear she's "contractually obligated to a six-year deal" on BW, she insists she'd be "happy as a clam" to stay that long. "It's fun and it's a physical role, and god knows that's what I love to do." That said, "If they want to cut my involvement, that's totally fine. I understand that it's called Bionic Woman, not "Women." It would be nice to actually do a pilot season."
Available she might be. NBC hasn't called for additional episodes of BW, as it has done with fellow newbies Chuck and Life, so there's talk that last night's episode may have been an unexpected finale.
Wednesday, November 28
It’s fitting that Bear McCreary has used BATTLESTAR GALACTICA to reveal himself as one of the most innovative, and intriguing composers on tv. For few other, already-clichéd ’70s sci-fi shows seemed to promise further (if lovable) goofiness than this STAR WARS knock off. Yet no tv relic has ended up being so brilliant in its in-your-face revisionism, particularly as heard in its music. For what started off as the dull, beat-heavy music of Richard Gibb’s pilot would soon turn into something wondrous under McCreary’s stewardship. As the show found its footing, the its music opened up into a seemingly limitless galaxy of melodies, among them the dangerous percussion of space battle, ethnic melodies for the twelve colonies, and the ethereal atmospheres for the gods they worshiped. It was a religioso sound that made heroes and villains into one glorious enigma. The heavy orchestra you’d expect was out the airlock (at least until the second season), proving that this young composing Turk wasn’t John Williams – thank Kobol. And with every slow step that the Galactica took towards earth, Bear McCreary unveiled some new, melodic mystery that he doesn’t so much intend to solve as explore.
That sense of discovery reached new heights in Season 3, where music seemed to carry the show more than ever before, especially in some episode’s knowing void of dialogue. The interior of the Cylon ships became a haunting, lone piano. Dark bluegrass embodied a recall of war crimes. An Indian Sitar became a space battle cry, and the unforgettable, and frankly insane of use of “All Along the Watchtower” rose Starbuck from the dead while revealing unlikely Cylons in Galactica’s midst. But old musical friends returned as well to re-affirm McCreary’s musical continuity, among them the bagpipe theme for Lee Adama and his stern father, as well as the lush, flowing string melody that announces a new generation of Cylons that prove them as more human than human.
Once again, La La Land records has collected McCreary’s standout cues for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: SEASON 3- perhaps the best of the show’s trio of “greatest hits” albums. At just about 80 minutes, this is a flowing, and well-chosen representation of McCreary’s utterly unique space opera. It can have the orchestral somberness of Elgar, repetitive strings that Philip Glass would be proud of, the bounce of a Scottish jig, a violin that echoes the loneliness of the stars, or a lovely voice that promises redemption for the show’s weary travelers- something that will hopefully arrive in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s next, and last season. And even if GALACTICA have realized that the show has run its course (not counting spin-off’s of course), the biggest bummer will be that next years means the end of McCreary’s run with the program. Thankfully, he’s also scoring EUREKA and the forthcoming SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES. If sci-fi tv is a galaxy that McCreary’s trying to conquer, then I welcome the invasion.
Hopefully someone out there in bigscreen Hollywood is listening. But in the meantime, McCreary is knocking direct-to-dvd horror scores out of the park- beginning with REST STOP, and now continuing in devilish, backwoods style for WRONG TURN 2 (also just released by La La Land). Where McCreary had last dealt with a murderous driver in desert county, he now gets to stalk the woods with “mutant hillbillies.” And the result plays like a murderously fun, hopped-up take on DELIVERANCE. All the redneck strings are here, from the banjo to the fiddle and mandolin- with accordions, autoharps and the sitar thrown in for good measure. All race about with a happily murderous pace. If you can imagine “Dueling Banjos” turning into a competition where the players’ fingers blow off into a goofy, bloody hoedown in a roadhouse from hell, than this soundtrack is it in spades.
Showing just as much love for percussive, ethnic music here as he does on GALACTICA, McCreary gives the music of WRONG TURN 2 a ferocious, fun energy. Better yet, it never sounds like “horror music” as such. And with its detours into guitars and whistling, the score even dares to run down the Spaghetti Western road. After hearing this blast of a score, McCreary has me down for a rental to see how the heck anything this cool could accompany one more moviegoing band of bloodthirsty mutants.
But whether he’s accompanying a legendary quest for Earth, or some beautiful young things trying not to get axed in half, McCreary’s new soundtrack releases continue to show him off as one of the freshest talents in the scoring business. As fun as they are innovative, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: SEASON 3 and WRONG TURN 2 show that McCreary’s adventure has just begun, much to our listening pleasure.
To buy Bear McCreary’s soundtracks for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: SEASON 3 go here.
The NBC show “Bionic Woman” had one good thing going for it — Katee Sackhoff. But, that may be about to end, which could spell the end of BW.
At a recent Battlestar Galactica CON Sackhoff indicated that her days on the Bionic show as Sarah Corvus, a recurring character and nemesis of Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan), could soon be over. Both TVGuide and IGN have picked up on those statements by the actress and are reporting that she is done with the series.
Apparently Sackhoff had a meeting with one of the producers some time after the Thanksgiving holiday “but does not expect to return to the show even if it does resume production” following the current Writers Guild strike, according to IGN.
While no official reason is being given by Sackhoff for her supposed departure, some are speculating that there may be bad chemistry between her and lead star Michelle Ryan. If that is true, then whether Ryan will ever admit it or not, she just put herself out of a job, because everyone else on that show, especially Sackhoff, were the ones carrying it.
Tonight’s episode may well be the final one of the season. With slipping ratings and the possible departure of Katee, it’s not likely the “Bionic Woman” will be able to muster up enough strength to finish out season one, much less get picked up for a second.
Tuesday, November 27
SPOILER WARNING: I'm referencing the extended DVD version of Razor. I don't really give anything away, but be warned nonetheless...
Battlestar Galactica: Razor was a very unusual project to work on. While it is being promoted as a TV movie, or "event," it's essentially a lost chapter from Season 2. So, I found myself returning to characters and storylines from many episodes past, with the experience and sensibilities I'd acquired throughout Season 3.
The story is rather fragmented, and gives us many layers of flashbacks and back-story for several characters. Much of the film focuses on the Battlestar Pegasus and Admiral Cain's escape from the initial Cylon attack. We get to witness firsthand events that were only described in dialog in the Season 2 episode Pegasus.
My first inclination was to bring back some of the rock-inspired sounds of that episode's score. However, when I watched a rough cut of the film I realized that all of the flashbacks and diverse storylines actually hinged on a new character, Kendra Shaw.
Kendra serves as our narrative voice, and we witness most of the events through her eyes. It was instantly clear that the music I had composed for Pegasus would be woefully inappropriate for Razor. Virtually the entire score is constructed around a simple theme I wrote for Kendra. I wasn't very subtle about using it either. I wanted to help cement the film's narrative to her character, so this theme comes pretty close to hammering you over the head throughout the entire movie (at least as close as any theme does on this show).
With the Kendra Theme providing the bulk of the dramatic material, I was free to explore the most exciting sequences in Razor, which are of course, the big battle scenes.
The first one is the Cylon attack on the Pegasus, and it is my personal favorite. I had unrealistic intentions of keeping the music very minimal here, to make room for the inevitable onslaught of explosions and gunfire sound effects. So, the music in this scene is very simple. The shime daiko and nagado daiko pound out a relentless 6/4 pattern while the orchestra and soloists play a chant-like drone of Cm - Ab - Ebm - Db. The rhythmic pattern literally never changes and the harmonies only break free of their pattern for a couple bars towards the end. Yet, somehow this cue ended up being one of the hugest and most epic I've ever written. I'm honestly not sure how it happened, but that's the fun of working on a show like this. You can surprise yourself.
Several of the other stand-out musical cues will only be heard in the DVD version of the film (the superior version in my opinion). The end of the DVD cut features an extended monologue montage, which has some great guitar work by Steve Bartek. Also, there is another flashback that includes a snippet of my theme for Admiral Cain.
The Young Adama flashback is really impressive on DVD and I pulled out all the stops for it. The battle sequence features ship-design from the original 1970's series, so the score includes a triumphant brass statement of Stu Phillips' classic Battlestar Galactica theme (making it's first appearance since the Season 2 episode Final Cut).
Unlike Final Cut's "Colonial Anthem" arrangement, this version needed to function as score. So, the brass fanfare is now playing against the full arsenal of taiko drums and ethnic soloists that embody the sound of the new Galactica. Not surprisingly, when the original Galactica theme is set against pounding taiko drums the result suddenly brings to mind Basil Poledouris' score to Conan The Barbarian. This is, admittedly, not a coincidence, since that score is one of my favorites. In fact, the Husker battle cue in Razor features 24 tracks of French horns, as a reference to the Conan Main Title, which was scored for 24 horns, strings and percussion. It's not a detail that I expect any Galactica fans to catch, but hey... I think it's cool.
Towards the end of that space battle, there is a tragic moment where the duduk plays a sorrowful version of Stu Phillips' theme, set in minor mode. After I scored this sequence, Stu told me he can't recall ever using the theme in a purely minor mode... so this moment in Razor might be the first time it's ever been heard that way!
I've gotten a ton of email requests about the soundtrack for Razor... and it hasn't even aired yet, so I'm sure I'm about to get a lot more. As I mentioned in my FAQ, there will NOT be an immediate soundtrack release, though I haven't ruled out the possibility of releasing it later. However, the best cues will be included on the upcoming Season 4 CD.
While it may not push the grand story forward, Razor serves as a great way to get your Galactica fix before the long-awaited Season 4 premiere in April. In the coming weeks I'll be posting an official concert date for my next Galactica score concert, which will also be in April. Also, keep your fingers crossed that the Writers Guild strike ends soon... or else there's little to no hope of seeing the incredible conclusion of Battlestar Galactica before 2009.
So Say We All,
PS: By the way, I've already seen the first 10 episodes of Season 4 and... it's frakkin' incredible. Totally worth the wait!
Man, it has been too long since we got together like this, to talk about last night's Battlestar Galactica. And I've missed you. Really. Okay, maybe the last time we spoke, things were a little chilly. It was me, not you. But here we are, with the only new Galactica we're likely to get for a long, long while. Good thing it was awesome.
The battlestar Pegasus is a ghost ship, haunted by the mistakes of the past. Her first commander, Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), was a stern taskmaster, forced by circumstances to make decisions as she saw fit, decisions that are judged by the Galactica crew (and, by extension, us) to have been disasters. Then came Commander Fisk (Graham Beckel), her executive officer, who let greed pull the shining battlestar further into the muck. And then Commander Garner (William Heard), an engineer who, seeing the machine but not the men, couldn't right the ship.
Razor follows two stories, both of which revolve around a young Pegasus officer named Kendra Shaw: Admiral Cain's experiences during, and following, the Cylon attack on the colonies, and newly minted commander Lee Adama's first mission at Pegasus' helm. (There's also a mini-detour further back in time to peep at Bill Adama's first mission as a Viper pilot.)
And we pick up Razor as Lee Adama takes command of the Pegasus. He says to his new crew, ''We can't always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we handle them.'' As if these people hadn't already learned that lesson the hard way. We can see the price they've paid on Kendra Shaw's (easy on the eyes) face, as she stands in front of her new commanding officer. She's worn, beaten — and not just a little bit high — and surprised by Lee's offer of a promotion to XO. Especially after her priceless ''Your daddy just gave you a battlestar'' line. If Lee's learned one thing under his father's command, it's that you need to have someone willing to tell truth to power.
Scorpion Fleet Shipyards, 10 months ago. A scene we've seen in almost every space opera since classic Trek: the officer getting his/her first look at a new commission.
So many little character touches. The introduction of Cain's executive officer, Colonel Belzen, as a man with a wife and kids — a family that knows Cain well enough to want to see her on shore leave. It only makes it that much more devastating when she shoots that XO in the dome for not following an order. Just after he tells her, ''Once in a while, it's okay to get off the treadmill,'' she starts to run even faster, a tacit rebuttal of that very concept, that it's okay to ever relax when you're in command.
A Cylon as a network administrator. Fitting, considering they would use those very networks to cripple the fleet. Gina's last name, Envierre, means ''resurrection.'' Again, those little throwaway things. God, as they say, is in the details.
So, that's what the Cylon attack looked like. There are times, and this is one of them, that I'm amazed at what BSG's effects dudes (and dudettes) can pull off. To not only render the scope of this all-out attack on the shipyards — complete with Raider carpet-bombings — but to do it in a faux hand-held style — man, that's tough.
Say what you will about Cain, she's good in a crisis. Her choice to order a blind FTL jump underlines the idea that, sometimes, what matters is not that you made the right decision, it's that you made any decision at all. If the choice falls between certain death and possible death...well, that's not much of a choice, is it?
Okay, now we're back in the ''present.'' (You'll have to forgive these blunt little way markers; there's so much temporal shifting in these two hours that keeping it all straight requires some bluntness.) Adama gives Lee his first mission: a search-and-rescue operation, looking for some missing scientists. (Before we get any further, I just want to take a moment to say how refreshing it is to see Edward James Olmos again. After a fall TV season full of man-boys — Reaper, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory — it's nice to see a real solid hunk of maturity again. Sometimes, I just wanna hug him.)
(Too much with that last bit there? I get that. Sorry.)
Back in the ''past,'' we learn the defining ethos that separates Cain from Adama. She tells Shaw, ''Hold on to that anger, and you keep it close. It'll stop you being afraid the next time, and it'll tell you what to do.'' The mark of Cain is anger. The mark of Adama? Duty. When push came to shove, Cain gave free rein to her anger and lashed out, while Adama circled the wagons. (It also helped that Adama — and he admits as much — had President Roslin perched on his shoulder.) ''War is our imperative...payback.''
(And I'm not gonna mention the purportedly rousing but actually pretty cheesy ''So say we all'' rally. No, sir.)
And when Cain dropped her anger, just for a moment, to find solace in the arms of Gina Six, Gina's treachery only encouraged Cain to wear her anger as a shield, to wield it as a weapon. Alas, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. If it wasn't clear before, it seems the Six model was created for the express purpose of seduction. (Six is, after all, just one vowel away from sex.) Caprica Six seduced the secrets right out of Gaius Baltar, and Gina Six made with the hot love to get in good with Cain and, by extension, her crew, allowing her to get the access codes (to somethingorother) from Shaw.
''Present'': Holy crap! Classic Cylon raiders. You know, from the '70s show. Bearing down on Starbuck and Pegasus. Just when you think that BSG has left the past behind, out come those same shiny rocket plates that Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict did battle with. ''By your command,'' indeed. And I love that Starbuck is faced with an officer who's as crazy-reckless-brilliant as she is. And Kara doesn't know what to do with that. I got the feeling watching Razor that Shaw is exactly what Starbuck would've become without Adama's guiding hand — and Starbuck sees that, and it scares her a little.
''Past'': And here's that moment we heard about, back when Tigh and Fisk were sharing an officer-to-officer drink-up in the Pegasus two-parter: Cain shooting her own XO for failing to follow an order. The scariest thing? I'm sure that Cain is everything they teach commanding officers to be in, er, commanding-officer school. Just without the temperance that life teaches you. And if she ever had a touch of that, it was burned out the minute Shaw revealed Gina Six to, indeed, be a Cylon.
''Way past'' (and, yes, I know this is getting confusing): On the mention of a Cylon hybrid — the missing link between machine and organic being — Adama flashes back to a mission during the first Cylon War. And damned if the guy they got to play young Adama, Nico Cortez, doesn't look more like Olmos than his own son, Bodie (who plays Hotdog, one of Galactica's Viper jocks). Young Bill Adama stumbles onto what looks like the set for a direct-to-DVD Hellraiser sequel. Blood, viscera, and distended body parts everywhere. Truth to be told, this stuff was my least favorite segment of Razor. While it's kinda neat to see ''Husker'' on his first mission, it doesn't really add anything to the story. That material actually plays much better as stand-alone webisodes, à la ''Resistence.'' And that's all I'm gonna say about that.
''Present'': Didja ever find yourself working on a project or something, one you knew you could do perfectly well, and your father was hovering over you — not actively undermining you, but taking you off your game with his very presence? (Yeah, I just revealed a little too much there.) But that's how Lee must've felt when dear old Dad transferred ''his flag'' over to Pegasus for the mission to rescue their lost crewmen from this Cylon hybrid.
''Past'': Torturing Gina. The fact that we now know the events leading up to the Cylon's debasement doesn't justify it — but we understand the motivation behind it. (I actually typed ''her debasement'' and then deleted it. A machine can't be a ''her,'' can it? Ah, the eternal Galactica debate rages on, if only in my head.) Cain wanted Gina to feel as crappy about herself as Cain did. Cain felt abused, and so must Gina. Doesn't make it any easier to watch, though, knowing what'll happen.
If, as Cain explained to her crew, war is their imperative, it makes perfect sense that the Pegasus would strip-mine that civilian fleet of everything worth having. And it makes sense that Shaw would become the instrument of that imperative — and the catalyst for that massacre — since she ''came of age'' under Cain's guidance. Again, doesn't make it right, but I get it. And I get that shooting those innocent people would leave Shaw a husk of a woman, who could fill that void with either drugs or redemption. And drugs are easier.
I wanna take a moment to talk about Michelle Forbes, who rises to the task of transforming what could easily be a one-dimensional character into a woman you can empathize with, even just a little bit. The things she does are horrible. But she knows this. And she does them anyway, even if those actions cost her her soul. But she believes, and that belief is what allows us to pity her more than we hate her. And Forbes walks that tightrope like a ninja.
''Present'': The big rescue. Standard top-flight Galactica. Smart action, great effects (though part of me wanted the old Centurions to be dudes in suits, and not CG), requisite moral quandaries. (Should Lee nuke the basestar? Who will stay behind to set off the bomb?) Of course, you knew that Starbuck wasn't gonna buy it, not here. That's the only problem with this episode: that you basically knew that Shaw wasn't going to make it back alive, since we never saw her before. So once that crossroads appeared on the horizon, you knew who was gonna stay behind.
Meeting the Hybrid 1.0 was cool, though. Cryptic. Serene. Dropping that ominous hint about Kara Thrace — that ''she will lead the human race to its end....She is the herald of the apocalypse'' — which will echo clear through to the upcoming fourth season.
All in all, Razor was pretty much everything you could ask for — provided you didn't ask for it to further the ongoing story lines. But as a stand-alone adventure, it satisfied the hunger that so many of us have had for Galactica — good Galactica — since midway through last season.
Now, if only the wait for next season didn't feel so interminable...
What do you think? Was Kendra Shaw's story a tragic or a heroic one? Can one find redemption for actions so horrific? Was the Cylon hybrid telling the truth about Kara, or is it another Cylon trick?
On the run from the relentless Cylons, the Battlestar Galactica and its ragtag fleet, remnants of a multiplanet human civilization nearly eradicated in nuclear attacks, search through the vast reaches of space for a mythical world called Earth.
Twenty-two episodes from now, one way or the other, the search will end.
The march to the fourth-season -- and series -- finale of Sci Fi Channel's acclaimed drama "Battlestar Galactica" begins on Saturday, with "Battlestar Galactica: Razor," a two-hour episode that relates an untold tale from the series' back story and offers a tantalizing glimpse at future plot twists (hint: don't tune out early). The rest of the season is set to air beginning in early April 2008.
"It's been bittersweet for a while now," executive producer Ronald D. Moore says. "The set is very much having senior year, is what it feels like. It's been that way pretty much since we made the decision and told everybody. Now you're up there (on the sets in Vancouver, Canada), and people get starry-eyed on 'This is the last Thursday of production on episode four ...'
"It'll go on for a while, and it's genuine. I feel it, too. It's hard for me. It's hard for everybody. I think it's balanced by the fact that, especially among the cast and the writers, there's a tremendous amount of satisfaction of being able to bring the story to a conclusion and resolve a lot of things that we set up, and go out on our own terms."
Launched in late 2003 as a mini-series, Sci Fi Channel's reimagined version of the short-lived 1970s space opera "Battlestar Galactica" evolved into a weekly series and has become a favorite of regular viewers and the Hollywood entertainment elite.
Lauded for its bold storytelling, finely drawn characters and such relevant themes as war, survival, freedom and faith, "Battlestar" has chosen to go out on top. Part of the reason for this lies in the work history of Moore, who began his TV-writing career on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which aired seven seasons in first-run syndication.
"If you asked us all, to a man, on the writing staff (of that show)," Moore says, "we felt the sixth season was our best. We felt really good about it. We had pushed things, tried different stuff, and we felt really good. Then our seventh season, the last one, was very unsatisfying. ... We were just tired. The show was tired. We all felt, one year too many."
If "Razor" is any indication, the fourth season of "Battlestar" maintains the show's tradition of tackling tough subjects. It flashes back to fighter pilot Lee Adama's (Jamie Bamber) first mission as commander of the Battlestar Pegasus, which also survived the original Cylon attack on the human Colonies, but suffered a far different fate from Galactica. Accompanying him is fellow pilot and on-and-off lover Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), whose destiny is intertwined with that of the human survivors.
The story within this story is another flashback, looking at how the Pegasus' original commander, Adm. Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), saved her ship, as seen through the eyes of ambitious young officer Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen).
Sunday, November 25
"Sometimes we have to do things that we never thought we were capable of, if only to show the enemy our will."
-- Admiral Helena Cain, "Battlestar Galactica: Razor"
Now there's a statement worthy of debate. When does the will turn malignant? When do the actions that a person takes to survive make that individual no longer worthy of the title "human"? When do the ends no longer justify the means?
Those are the questions that the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica" has asked for the past few years. The genius of the series is that it asks these questions obliquely, without preaching or grandstanding. The solutions to these dilemmas aren't easy, and the show doesn't insult its audience by pretending that they are.
Characters sometimes openly debate complicated, life-and-death issues, but more typically, the Big Questions are woven into the fabric of an absorbing, well-crafted character-driven drama. It's nearly possible to ignore the moral dimension of the series -- which is its most timely, bracing element -- and focus on the rock 'em, sock 'em space battles, the energetic direction, the spectacular special effects and the deft relationship drama.
Admiral Helena Cain, the charismatic leader at the heart of the 2-hour film "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" (8 p.m. Saturday, Sci Fi Channel), is yet another fascinating embodiment of the "Battlestar" storytelling method. She does terrible things in order to ensure the survival of the crew of her battleship. Was she right to do them? Was she wrong to pass on her brutal philosophy to the impressionable young officer Kendra Shaw (played by talented newcomer Stephanie Jacobsen)?
Fans will be debating that question for months (or at least until the series returns for its final season in April). But whatever you think of Cain, as played by Michelle Forbes, she's a woman you can't take your eyes off. Cain, who first appeared in several Season 2 episodes of the show, is not a cardboard cut-out or a monster. She is never less than human, and she actually possesses many admirable qualities.
"I think what made her so compelling even prior to 'Razor' was our sense that there was more going on beneath [Cain's] stony exterior than we could guess at," said "Battlestar Galactica" co-executive producer Michael Taylor, who wrote "Razor." "The challenge and fun of the movie, from a writer's point of view, was getting under that character's skin, showing what shaped her and really made her tick, and in the process making us at least understand, if not sympathize, with the harsh choices she made."
We meet the admiral just before her ship is hit by a wave of attacks from the Cylon race. As the Pegasus crew reels from the damage and begins to pursue the enemy, Cain's new aide, Shaw, learns lessons from Cain that no officer's training ever prepared her for.
"I think you can argue that Cain is ... a character who makes us question how far we might go, given similar responsibilities in similar circumstances," Taylor said. "Cain skirts the boundary of the limits we set for our leaders, and for ourselves, in wartime. ... I think we find her conviction compelling, especially when we understand the kind of experience and choices that shaped it."
"We want someone who seems fearless" as a leader, Forbes said. "I think that there is something compelling ... about her sense of duty, and her sense of getting the job done at whatever cost. There is comfort in that in difficult times, in times of war. But people like that may be misguided."
Though "Razor" boasts solid performances from the entire cast, the narrative thrust of the film does falter a bit toward the end of the film. There are some wonderful action set pieces in the second half of "Razor," but by then there's also familiarity to the trajectory of Shaw's story.
All things considered, however, the propulsive "Razor" has much to recommend it.
With his lilting British accent and what can only be described as a gentlemanly demeanor, Jamie Bamber isn't much like his troubled character Lee "Apollo" Adama. The sexy actor shared his insights about the new Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Saturday, Nov. 24 at 9 pm/ET, Sci Fi), the two-hour special chronicles the first days of Apollo's command over the starship Pegasus — and, in flashbacks, the experience of its former commander, Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), as she and her crew contend with the Cylon attack on the colonies. "Every one of us in the Galactica family has always nurtured a not-so-secret passion to try and make a movie out of the show," says Bamber. "It was great to tell a huge arc and to have a bit more money to throw at it."
New to the cast in Razor is the character of Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen), an officer who served under Cain and "represents the old Pegasus that has to be won over," says Bamber. "That's largely what the story is about for Lee — gaining the respect of a crew that's had its own leaders fall."
Razor is a departure from the regular series' storyline, a tangential tale of past events. When the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica returns in the spring, it will pick up literally seconds after the shocking end of Season 3. For Bamber, the experience of getting to play out Apollo's first days of commanding his own starship was a welcome change of direction. "I remember it being one of the pivotal moments in playing Lee — that moment where he sort of puts on his father's [Admiral William Adama's] work clothes and takes the helm of the Pegasus in a crisis."
Bamber wasn't always eager about jumping on board with Battlestar Galactica. "I did have reservations about doing sci fi," he says. "In my mind, it had been reduced to sort of post-Star Trek goofiness on TV. I would never, ever watch it, not in a million years." And as for the role itself: "At the beginning, I was a bit intimidated by the name — by Apollo. I was this, you know, British actor suddenly asked to be this Greek-named heroic type." But the script — and Battlestar Galactica's aim to "really make a stink about our own civilization and what we do to ourselves on this planet" — spoke to him immediately.
Apollo — and Bamber himself — has certainly become a fan favorite. Not only that, he's without a doubt one of the sexiest men in sci fi today. "That's not how I think of myself," says Bamber when TVGuide.com points this out to him, "but thanks for reminding me. It's genuinely exhilarating to be reminded that some people do think of me in that way. I find as many men come up to me and go, 'I need you to sign this for my wife' or, 'I want this for my brother. We love the show.' [But] the women tend to have a different angle: They request photos of me without my shirt on and stuff like that. And they get a little bit giggly at times. And the men don't tend to do that so much."
Although it has become both a critics' favorite and popular hit among many sci-fi devotees, when the new iteration of Battlestar Galactica was initially announced, there were plenty of skeptics about the undertaking. Some groaned at the notion of reviving the kitschy '70s franchise, and others didn't want their beloved cult favorite messed with. "To me it was exciting to have so many different opinions flying around," says Bamber. "I had no idea that the mainstream and even sort of high-brow press would really champion it as groundbreaking and thought-provoking television."
And now that the series is approaching its final season, Bamber is starting to feel separation pangs about the show — but he doesn't regret the timing. "The most important thing is to be able to finish this story in a way that is up to the people who create [it], and not up to the audience or up to a network or to the financial criteria of [making] a TV show. Every day that we're up here [shooting] in Vancouver, there is an element of nostalgia about moments passing and little scenes that will never be revisited. I think if there was anything in particular that I would love to take, it's the horrendous green flight suit that we wore in all those cockpit Viper scenes. I would love to have that."
Battlestar Galactica's TV-movie gives the show's rabid fans a hint of what's to come.
Tired of waiting for Battlestar Galactica to frakking return already? The fourth and final season of Sci Fi Channel's space opera won't start until April, but a special two-hour extended episode — Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Saturday, Nov. 24 at 9 pm/ET on Sci Fi) — arrives Nov. 24 to bring relief to the show's hard-core addicts.
It's also a chance to raise the dead. Razor flashes back to the eve of the first devastating attack on humans by the robotic Cylons, when Helena Cain — the deliciously maniacal admiral played by Michelle Forbes — was helming the battlestar Pegasus. Cain, or "Saddam Hussein in bangs" as Forbes calls her, was big with fans but was assassinated by the Cylon agent Gina (Tricia Helfer) in Season 2, something executive producer Ron Moore regretted even as it was happening.
"Cain was ripe with possibilities and Michelle was sensational," Moore says. "In the middle of her last episode, we were going, 'Wow. It's too bad we're killing her off. Are we crazy?' But we'd boxed ourselves into a corner." No prob. Razor remedies that, plus it throws in a jaw-dropping revelation — Cain and Gina had a lesbian fling goin' on! — and drops some seismic scoop about Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) that's sure to shake up expectations for Season 4.
"Like BSG, Razor doesn't mess around," Forbes says. "It hits you with those tough moral questions and then doesn't answer them because there are no answers." Razor boasts sharp supporting turns by several BSG heavyweights — Sackhoff, Helfer, Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama), Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama) — but it primarily focuses on Cain's mentoring of Kendra Shaw, a young officer played by Aussie newcomer Stephanie Jacobsen. She eventually becomes a razor — military-speak for an unflinching warrior determined to survive.
The BSG execs were dazzled by Jacobsen when she auditioned for the lead in Bionic Woman (David Eick produces both shows). On the Razor set in Vancouver, it's easy to see why. Though a short slip of a thing, Jacobsen stands tall and tough amid a sea of extras who are playing freaked-out civilians. Under Cain's orders, Kendra is leaving these humans to almost certain annihilation by the Cylons in order to protect the human race as a whole. As lunch is called, Jacobsen is clearly shaken.
"This is so difficult, because I'm really a good, compassionate person," she says. "The only way I can do this is to stay focused on Kendra's goal — to preserve the species." But the actress eventually lightens up. "This beats the hell out of wearing a floral dress and being someone's weepy, pouty girlfriend," she notes with a laugh. "I could be quite happy playing this kind of character for years."
Forbes is equally jazzed to be back in command. "After they killed me I became a real fan of BSG," she says. "I returned to the show in awe and a little bit shy." Well, not that shy. In BSG lore there are 12 Cylon models that look like humans. So far on the show, 11 have been revealed. Says Forbes, "I'm dying to know the identity of the last Cylon, so I was asking everyone on the set, 'Who do you think it is? C'mon, tell me!'" She got nowhere.
Forbes' Cain isn't the only one who's back from the dead. Fan favorite Graham Beckel returns as Col. Jack Fisk, who took charge of Pegasus after Cain's murder but was himself garroted soon after. "My son read on the Internet that I was going to be playing Fisk again and I thought, 'No way!'" Beckel says. "Sure enough, a few days later I got the call. I think the audience is gonna go crazy for this."
That's the plan. An extended-cut DVD of Razor hits stores Dec. 4, and Moore fancies "there are more bits of BSG lore than could be similarly expanded." That would get Forbes' vote. "I'm as gutted as everyone else that we're coming to the end," she says. "I understand wanting to go out in a blaze of glory, but I hope this universe doesn't die altogether. There are so many more stories to tell."
The triumph of the two-hour episode that kicks off the fourth and final season of "Battlestar Galactica" on the Sci Fi Channel is that it's possible to enjoy without knowing a single other thing about the series' incredibly tangled history.
Its appeal will be richer for those who have followed Galatica's dramatic flight, mission and quest during the past 30 years. But it's a good adventure yarn for anyone, and along the way it raises uncomfortable questions about mankind and warfare that turn out to have even more uncomfortable answers.
Since war lies at the heart of everything about "Battlestar Galactica," it's not surprising it's a centerpiece again here. What's striking is that unlike in many other popular sci-fi epics, like "Star Wars," the good guys here sometimes show as little concern for life as the bad guys.
That may be realistic. It's just not very reassuring.
To oversimplify a bit, Battlestar Galactica is an armed spaceship containing a small band of humans who are fleeing through distant space after most of their civilization was wiped out by a deadly force of robotic Cylons. Their goal is to find Earth and link up with their fellow humans there.
"Razor," a prequel of sorts, is designed in part to position the characters who presumably will move to the forefront during this 20-episode season.
That includes Kendra Shaw, a young lieutenant who became battle-hardened during a previous Cylon siege on another ship, Battlestar Pegasus. The situation there became so desperate that Shaw's commander, the late Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), was forced to choose between sacrificing some of her own troops and civilians or possibly losing everything.
Surviving that kind of experience turns soldiers into "razors," shorthand for smart, hard-edged realists, and when Shaw moves on to Galactica, she is named chief aide to new commander Lee Adama (Jamie Barber). Lee inherited the post from his legendary father (Edward James Olmos), which is only one burden with which the kid struggles.
Prominent as well in "Razor" are returnees like ace pilot Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff).
Viewers who find action sci-fi just gives them a headache, with great metal shapes hurtling across the screen into constant explosions, won't find respite in "Razor," which is full of that stuff. The nuances of the back story are also a little dense.
But the film does pretty well at poking under the sci-fi flash to find a basic tale of conflict and survival where nobody feels very good about what they do, but everyone knows it must be done.
With the Battlestar Galactica podcast, you can listen to exclusive commentary by executive producer Ronald D. Moore about each episode, while you're watching it.
Commentary by the producers is presented unedited and uncensored, and may contain adult language. Listener discretion is advised.
(Beware of spoilers! Although the commentary is provided before you watch the episode, it is meant to be listened to while watching the episode. Listening to it beforehand might ruin certain dramatic surprises.)
There are three ways to enjoy this feature:
Subscribe to our podcast feed, subscribe to our enhanced podcast feed, or download individual audio files.
Visit the above link to download the podcast
Saturday, November 24
If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, chances are, you’ve already got your DVR set to record the special 2-hour “Razor” episode, which is set to air tonight (Saturday, 11/24) on Sci Fi. Having seen the episode in its entirety, I can say with all certainty that it’s definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of the series. Especially considering this is the only new BSG we’re going to see until next spring.
While “Razor” does feature most of the main characters from the series, the bulk of the story focuses on the Battlestar Pegasus, told from the perspective of Kendra Shaw, a crewmember who worked under Helena Cain. The episode takes place around the time that Lee Adama took over as commander of the Pegasus. Shaw has a hard time coming to grips with the person she’s become and is plagued by the memories she has of the things she saw and was ordered to do when Cain was running the show. For a more in depth (and mildly spoilery) review of the episode, Click here.
In the weeks leading up to the episode premiere, Sci Fi has been airing special “Razor” flashbacks. These flashbacks (see below) give us a brief glimpse into something that happened to Admiral Adama (who went by the name “Husker” back during the first Cylon war) when he was a young guy, on his first mission. The flashbacks aren’t actual clips from “Razor,” though the most relevant portion is shown at one point during the episode.
Battlestar Galactica: Razor premieres on SciFi on Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 9:00 p.m. The DVD for the episode will be released on December 4th.
Thursday, November 22
Unrated Extended Edition - 2007 (2007) - Sci-Fi Channel (Universal)
Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B
Razor is a somewhat different beast than the typical Battlestar Galactica episode. It's certainly bigger and more epic than most installments in the series. But while it tells a solid action story, it's really meant to fill in some critical gaps in the series' overall arc, while also hinting at things to come in Season Four. The fact that it manages to accomplish most of this fairly well, while also offering an homage to the original Battlestar TV series AND being entertaining too, is no small achievement.
In terms of continuity, Razor takes place near the end of Season Two, right after the episode The Captain's Hand, just as Lee Adama takes command of the Pegasus. It's a difficult assignment for Lee, as the position of Pegasus Actual has been something of a revolving door in the wake of the deaths of her three previous commanders. Lee means give the Pegasus' crew back its pride, and so he enlists the help of a new character, one Lt. Kendra Shaw, to serve as his XO. Shaw was a favorite of the ship's original commander, Admiral Helena Cain, but following Cain's death she was busted down to KP duty for insubordination.
Fans will recall that in the episodes Pegasus and Resurrection Ship, Parts I and II, we learned that the Pegasus had been in spacedock for refit during the original Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies, and had barely escaped. We also learned that Cain had subsequently given several questionable orders, leading to a number of deaths, both military and civilian. Shaw is clearly haunted by these events, and finally we get to see them in flashback as she recalls her own involvement in them. These scenes personalize not only Shaw, but also Cain and go a long way toward explaining the Admiral's actions - actions that have been previously hard to understand or empathize with. Actress Michelle Forbes reprises Cain in a very substantial role in Razor, and she simply chews up the screen.
The action in Razor is personal to others as well, particuarly Admiral Adama. Bill Adama was just a rookie Viper pilot at the end of the First Cylon War, but his first and last combat mission was a serious furball. During the battle, he crashed on a Cylon outpost and discovered that the original mechanical Cylons were conducting horrific experiments on the crews of missing Colonial vessels. It seems they were trying to create the next step in their evolution - a hybrid between themselves and humans, that would be the precursor to the familiar humanoid Cylons that have dominated the series to date. Years later, as Lee Adama and Kendra Shaw lead the Pegasus on their first mission in search of a missing Raptor, they turn up clues that suggest that this original hybrid might still survive... and that the now obsolete original Cylons have continued their experiments.
As the story of Razor plays out, we'll learn still more about the histories of the Cylons, as well both Admirals Cain and Adama. We'll learn more about another Cylon too... the character of Gina plays a key role in the flashback events. Most of the major Galactica characters are involved in some way (though to varying degrees - some appear in only one or two scenes), and there's plenty of dazzling spectacle and CG action. Two combat sequences in particular are as balls-out as this series has ever gone. One bit actually finds young Bill Adama grappling hand-to-hand with an old-school Cylon as they fall through a planet's atmosphere after ejecting from their fighters. I'm not kidding. The effects work is spectacular, particularly given the show's TV budget. Fans of the original 1970s Battlestar series may get a kick out of seeing classic Cylon warriors, Baseships and Raiders in several scenes.
If there are any points for criticism with Razor, chief among them would be that some of the flashbacks are a bit too long. As much of the story seems to take place in the past as it does in the present, and the transitions between the time periods are a bit awkward, as they often take place in the middle of scenes of dialogue. The ultimate resolution of the story - specifically, who sacrifices what and why - is also a little predictable. Still, fans should enjoy every minute of this, and there's a critical bit of information revealed at the very end of Razor that casts a major character in a surprising new light going into the show's final season.
Universal's DVD release is a treat. Not only do you get the original 87-minute broadcast version of Razor in full anamorphic widescreen video, the studio has used seamless branching and a dual-layered disc to offer the 103-minute extended version as well. The latter features added material in many scenes, including instances of more graphic violence and gore, as well as bits of dialogue not fit for TV broadcast. Young Bill Adama refers to a Cylon as a 'cocksucker' in combat in his trademark gravelly voice, for example, and this particular space battle is eliminated entirely in the broadcast version. There's a major bit of Cain's personal history that's added here as well, along with additional moments of tension between Shaw and Starbuck. Suffice it to say, the extended version is definitely the one to watch.
The video quality is very good, if not quite great. There's some artifacting here and there, and you'll notice that in some scenes, there's a bit more 'grain' than others. I believe the show is shot digitally, so this must be a deliberate choice - something added to acheve the series' hallmark gritty look. Color and contrast are generally excellent, however. It's not perfect, but fans should be happy. Personally, I can't wait to see the future HD-DVD version of this. The audio is presented in a very active Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that places you right center in the middle of the action. There's good use of the surrounds, a nice wide front stage and the LFE support is terrific. Just wait until you hear the thunderous sound of a Battlestar... well, better leave that for all of you to discover yourselves.
The DVD offers a surprising amount of extras, including a full-length audio commentary track with series creator Ron Moore and writer Michael Taylor. Moore's commentaries are always interesting and informative, and this one is no exception. You'll be treated to tons of little insights into the story, the characters and the production process. You'll learn of roads not taken, how the entire structure of Razor was changed in editing and much more. Three featurettes are included too. My Favorite Episode So Far has the cast and crew describing their favorite moments while working on the series to date. In The Look of Battlestar Galactica, DP Stephen McNutt and the producers talk about their gritty, documentary-style approach to shooting the series. And in Season Four Sneak Peek, the cast and crew hint at some of the events to come. You also get a teaser trailer for Season Four and a pair of deleted scenes from Razor. Finally - and this came as a surprise because it wasn't advertised by Universal - the DVD includes all of the Sci-Fi Channel preview Flashbacks that have been shown in recent weeks (they're called Minisodes here). These include a couple of additional scenes not in either version of Razor. Best of all, everything but the deleted scenes is presented in full anamorphic widescreen video.
Battlestar Galactica: Razor has been a long time coming, but I'm pleased to say that it's been mostly worth the wait. Despite a few flaws, Razor delivers. And that's a very good thing, because it's now going to be another long dry spell until the start of Galactica's final season. Season Four is tentatively set to begin airing on Sci-Fi in April 2008... but that could be pushed back even further due to the ongoing writer's strike. With that in mind, Universal should do Battlestar fans a solid and move up the DVD release of Season Three to ease the wait. In any case, here's hoping that you enjoy every single minute of Razor... and every single added minute that's on this DVD... as much as I did. To borrow the show's vernacular: Don't frackin' miss it.