This document is ©2005, John Larocque. All rights reserved.
"Both Ken Thomson and I have talked *separately* with individuals who can confirm events leading to the Sci-Fi Channel's pursuit of Battlestar Galactica. Only the Sci-Fi executives -- or press agents -- can confirm or deny the validity. And we're waiting, like you, to see what develops next, if any time soon. This could be information-gathering by the Sci-Fi Channel; this could be pre-production efforts. Or something totally unrelated to Battlestar Galactica."
Over a year later, Ken described his part in uncovering this story. "The bio-domes concept was revealed to me at Paramount while I was pitching scripts to Star Trek: Voyager, because they knew I was a Galactica fan. It was told directly to me, by someone we pitched to, who didn't care for the idea, and was a fan of the original, but 'she (unnamed) was a friend of his.' That's all I will say... [It] was also corroborated by another source in the FX business who'd also heard it." They prepared a news release which made its way to several media outlets, including Aint It Cool News, which posted it on January 16:
The Sci-Fi Channel may be considering a new Battlestar Galactica series!! It's our hope to someday soon announce the return of Battlestar Galactica. Specifically, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming with the original cast, crew, themes -- plus some new ones, too. Regrettably, reliable sources have indicated that the Sci-Fi Channel (U.S.) has recently considered bringing back Battlestar Galactica. And may be proceeding with a new production effort at this time.
In a nutshell:
- A new Battlestar Galactica with various ships of the fleet, but no battlestar. No, we're NOT kidding.
- A main starship with biodomes. (The "new" Galactica? An unintentional retread of "The Starlost"??)
- NO involvement from Richard Hatch nor Glen A. Larson.
Additionally, SciFi.com's S.C.I.F.I. World (http://www.scifi.com/scifiworld/) has posed the question this week. The timing is TOO coincidental: "How viable would a new Battlestar Galactica series be today?" Fans are asked to post to the Sci-Fi Channel's site. Over 200 individual postings are made in less than 12 hours. Sci-Fi's InterGalacticLand bulletin board (coincidentally) also asks, as it's discussion topic, "How viable would a new Battlestar Galactica series be today?" 100% of the answers are YES. 99% of the responses are pro-Richard Hatch. And postings continue to be made, in support of Battlestar's return staying true to the original series, not a remake or alteration of the series.
We want to STRONGLY recommend that you speak up. If you have ever wanted Battlestar Galactica brought back speak your peace NOW.
Their source also indicated that the idea for the biodomes ship came from Bonnie Hammer, senior vice president of programming for the Sci-Fi Channel. Fans were in an uproar, and many inquiries were sent to the network, to no avail. "The rumors remain rumors as of 1/24/01. I believe they are founded in fact, based on evidence that Ken Thomson and I have heard from different direct Hollywood sources." Finally, on January 26, the network relented and confirmed their worst fears:
"SCI FI Eyes New Galactica -- A spokesman for The SCI FI Channel confirmed to SCI FI Wire rumors that the network is considering reviving the 1970s series Battlestar Galactica -- but without original producer Glen A. Larson or actor Richard Hatch (Apollo). The series would resemble its predecessor in name only, offering new characters, a new villain to replace the Cylons and a new ship, the spokesman confirmed."
On January 28, additional confirmation came from an email to Ken Thomson from John Ainsworth, Viewer Liaison of Sci-Fi Channel Europe. "The proposed new version of Battlestar Galactica is being produced by the US Sci-Fi Channel with whom we have no connection." On January 27, the SciFi Wire news bulletin was mysteriously removed from the site, and on January 29 they published a retraction:
"Galactica News Premature -- SCI FI Wire jumped the gun on news that The SCI FI Channel was developing a series based on the 1970s SF show Battlestar Galactica. In fact, a spokesman for SCI FI did not confirm rumors that such a series was in development."
That was the last time news surfaced regarding this project. Michael Faries was not impressed, and on January 30, he wrote, "This is FAR from over... I personally believe Sci-Fi Channel is proceeding in some capacity -- and hopes this will dissuade fans and press from writing/calling." Then, a month later, a new chapter opened in the Battlestar Galactica saga, with the announcement in Variety of a new version of Galactica, to be produced by Tom DeSanto and Bryan Singer, the creative team behind the X-Men.
"We were on a plane going to the X-Men press junket in early July  before X-Men comes out. Before that, Bryan said, what do you think'll be the next big thing? When I said Battlestar Galactica, he got it instantly. His face lit up and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Battlestar Galactica is a sleeping giant. It's the number three science fiction franchise on the planet behind Star Wars and Star Trek. It's the number two internationally, I think, surpassing Star Trek just out of fans behind Star Wars. I brought him the DVD of the original movie and he watched it on the plane going out there. Afterwards he said, you know, let's do it! So then we started to sketch things out at that point, seriously, as opposed to me doing it with books in private. When we took it to StudiosUSA, Dave Kissinger [president] and Dan Pasternack [vice president of drama programming] got it immediately. They were really enthusiastic about doing it with us."
The success of X-Men had removed any rights issues as a stumbling block and led the team to StudiosUSA, as he explained in a 2003 interview:
"While developing the script for X-Men in the late 90's, I contacted Universal several times about Galactica but the answer always came back that the rights issues were not clear... With Bryan involved and X-Men's $54 million dollar opening weekend, our agency William Morris was able to solve the rights issues that had blocked me for over three years in about two weeks. The rights ended up being at StudiosUSA, which had purchased the former TV arm of Universal."
A deal was struck, and announced to the public in Variety on February 28, 2001. Based on the above, BattlestarGalactica.com webmaster Michael Faries estimated that the project had been in preproduction since August 2000. Bryan Singer's name was a selling point of the project. StudiosUSA president David Kissinger told Variety:
"I never dreamed a filmmaker of Bryan's stature would be enough of a hard-core fan that he saw this as a franchise that could be reinvented. In the initial meeting, I was wary that he might be just another feature guy looking to slap his name on a TV project, but it was immediately clear this wasn't so. He's got a whole mythology and arc for the series already worked out... With Bryan's vision and a brand name which has international appeal, we're optimistic we'll be able to make it on the grand scale he imagines. The visual imagery he's talking about is unprecedented in its effects and scope."
Early press releases went out of their way to distinguish their project from the "biodomes" Galactica, which featured no Galactica, no Cylons, no Glen Larson. DeSanto told Fandom.com, "Tell the fans not to worry that the ship won't be in it. The ship will be in it. The Galactica will be in it, but I can't say anything more about it." The Variety announcement indicated that Glen Larson was aboard the production. Dan Pasternack told SciFi Wire that Bryan and Glen Larson sat down and met. "We wanted to make sure this union was very blessed by Glen. He has blessed this and wants it to go forward." Also, "I think it's safe to say you can't do Battlestar Galactica without Cylons."
They also assured the original series fanbase that this would be something that would appeal to them. Dan Pasternack told the SciFi Wire that "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." Tom DeSanto told Fandom.com:
"I promise that old fans and people who haven't heard of it like will be happy with the new series... I'm a hardcore fan. I know the Battleship Pegasus and I know Commander Cain, Count Iblis, and all those things, but allow us to work our story and not for the hardcore fans to jump on anything in a negative way until they see it. I think everybody's going to be happy and people who haven't seen Galactica before will find it accessible and it will get a whole new generation of fans."
Although much is known about the later phases of the project, details of the early Bryan Singer concept are sketchy at best. Dan Pasternack told SciFi Wire, "I don't know if [finding Earth] is the goal in this show. We could be on a different exodus." In July 2005, Tom discussed this phase of the project to Radio IFB:
"For me it was never a question of a remake. It was always going to be a continuation. It was really about how far we were going to set it in the future, and whether it was going to be a continuation à la Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was going to be something completely different, where everyone in the past was dead, and they were referenced, and you might have Bones show up in the first episode, but that was it. Once Bryan saw the fanbase out there, he started to become convinced that it could be 25 years later, which was, I think, the best way to take the show."
"The Sci-Fi Channel is indeed bringing back Battlestar Galactica. And true to fears, it WILL likely be the 'Battlecreek 90210' scenario using younger actors as the primary cast and NO INVOLVEMENT with the original cast. Will they use Bonnie Hammer's bio-domes idea? Maybe, I kid you not. Will they remain true to the original show? Doubtful. Will this be a 're-imagining' of the original show? YES. Definitely YES. Will Tom DeSanto be involved? At this point, that remains to be determined. This came as a complete surprise to him and others. Why did this blindsiding happen? That remains to be seen. Will Battlestar web sites rally against this concept? Possibly. We want to hear from the new producer(s) on their plans before initiating anything... And are folks upset by this? YES. In the past three hours, I've gotten 200 e-mails on the subject. NONE of them are supportive of this. Most of the e-mails comment that this is a disaster for Battlestar Galactica.
Tom DeSanto contacted Chris Feehan of the Battlestar Galactica Fan Club, who had this to say a day later:
"This news came as a shock to Tom as well as to the rest of us, and appears to have come out of nowhere. Tom did confirm the news with both the President of StudiosUSA and the Sci-Fi Channel and his role going forward in the production is unclear. Tom has set up a meeting late next week to discuss his role and determine what direction they intend to go with the series. If they decide to go with their original plan from 01/10/01, the series would have no Battlestar, Bio-domes, all new actors, and basically be 90210 in space. If this is the case I am sure Tom would not want to be a part of that, but at this point this is only speculation... Tom wanted me to thank everyone for the support they have shown in his efforts. He is working to be included in this production to bring back the show the way the fans want to see it. I will update everyone as soon as we have more information, let's all hope that Tom will be included and what we have all been fighting for will be realized."
Not all fans were credulous of the early story rumors. In one note, Jim Bennett wrote, "'Bio-domes' and '90210' keep getting bandied about to spook the faithful, but, in fact, we have no clue that that's what these people are planning. For all we know, that's what DeSanto was planning. We have second hand sources that tell us that's not the case, but DeSanto never bothered to approach fandom on any level." Michael responded on April 8. "'Biodomes' and '90210' were terms told to me by those in the know. They aren't published in Sci-Fi Channel's release, but from what I've been told by more than one connected source, the terms seem to be correct at the moment until confirmed otherwise." In the same note, Michael provided descriptions of this storyline. Surprisingly, they bear a strong resemblance neither to Ron Moore's miniseries script (reviewed later in 2002), nor previously published biodomes details from 2001, but rather, the original Bryan Singer concept for Galactica:
"[It's been] 130-160 yahrens since the original series, as I've been told, if one of the script ideas holds. And the possibility exists that this BG universe might be in the same universe in a different future timeline with different circumstances. Yes, there's Cylons as antogonists, but that's about the only thing I'm hearing that's related to the original series (by name only.) Even the show's namesake hasn't been defined yet. Are they re-imagining that, too?"
In a June 2002 interview with SFX, Ron Moore categorically rejected the rumors. Responding to the first, "There is no ship called Galactica", he said, "Oh, that's bullshit. What??" To the second, "This ship will be called 90210 in space, focusing on teens," he replied "Not even remotely close." In a May 16 interview with Ian Cullen, he further sounded off. "Some of the things we WON'T be doing. Galactica 90210? This will not be a show dedicated to sex and wacky teenage hijinks. Battlestar Galactica without a battlestar named Galactica? This has to be one of the craziest rumors I've heard. An all-male cast? Quite the contrary. There will be a strong female component to the show, including more women pilots than in the original." These types of rumors continued to dog Moore as late as September, prompting him to post the message, "Yes, Virginia, there are Cylons."
Much of the early speculation centered on the level of Bonnie Hammer's influence and direction over the Ron Moore script. In September 2002, he emphasized that the "remake" option was his choice. "When I was invited to pitch an idea for a Galactica series, my hands were not tied in any way by the network and I was free to go in with anything I wanted. This is what I wanted and you are free to hate me for it, but your venom is misdirected if you blame Bonnie Hammer et al." In a May 2003 interview at the Cylon Alliance, he said, "The notes I received on the script were well within the bounds of legitimate creative debate. I can say with some certainty that not a single major story point or character arc changed significantly from first draft to final. Also, Bonnie Hammer did not mandate any such changes or damage the show in any way. To be perfectly clear: I wrote the script and if you hate it, the buck stops with me."
From a timeline and studio standpoint, this is problematic. In a June 2000 chat, Sci-Fi Channel executive vice president Bonnie Hammer had incicated that the cable network was considering producing new epsiodes of Battlestar Galactica. The "biodomes" rumors which resurfaced the following January indicated that it was a Sci-Fi Channel production. The DeSanto/Singer Galactica began no earlier than July/August 2000, when their pursuit of the Battlestar Galactica property led them to them to StudiosUSA. The deal they brokered was to be produced by StudiosUSA, and to be shopped around at several networks (In June 2001 it landed at Fox.) While there was always a possibility that they might "dual air" the project on the Sci-Fi Channel, what was announced in February was not something being developed at the network, but by StudiosUSA.
Although the "biodomes" Galactica and DeSanto/Singer appear to be two separate productions, the initial reaction to the "biodomes" project by original series fans was something very much on the minds of DeSanto/Singer and StudiosUSA. As mentioned above, the earliest press releases distanced the new production from specific "biodomes" plot elements. The original series fanbase was also the main factor in Bryan Singer's decision to steer away from a Star Trek: The Next Generation style continuation in favor of one set a generation after the events of the 1978 series, and which would have included members of the original cast. It's entirely possible that the Next Generation plot elements attributed to the "biodomes" Galactica in 2002 originated from one of the early Bryan Singer scripts.
There was a great deal of speculation on the role this defunct project played in the Ron Moore production. Moore's denials, the lack of similarity between "biodomes" Galactica and the miniseries, and his repeated insistence that he be held responsible for the creative decisions of his production are reasons to treat the early speculation as unsubstantiated rumor.