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'Battlestar Galactica': Edward James Olmos will direct Cylon-centric special feature

August 6, 2008 |  2:42 pm

Ejo250_jy05gonc Months before its final 10 episodes begin airing in January, we now know for certain that "Battlestar Galactica" will live on -- in the form of a two-hour special on the Sci Fi Channel to air in 2009 after the series concludes.

The unnamed feature will be directed by the show's co-star, Edward James Olmos, and written by "Battlestar" writer and former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" brain Jane Espenson.

The stand-alone will document the Cylons' attempts -- those of two agents in particular -- to grapple with human survivors, both those aboard ships and those left alive on planets, shortly after the Cylons' destruction of human home worlds.

So it's a flashback, but not all the way back.

Three confirmed cast members are Michael Trucco (Sam Anders), Aaron Douglas (Galen Tyrol), and Dean Stockwell (Cavil, Cylon model No. 1) -- all Cylons. Shooting will begin promptly in Vancouver, Canada, and Sci Fi promises women regulars are being cast as well, with more names coming soon.

"Razor," the "BSG" event-movie that aired last November, was a successful test. "Not only did it do well on the air, it did phenomenally well in the international and DVD market," said Mark Stern, executive vice president of original programming for Sci Fi.

Produced by the newly-formed Universal Cable Productions (of which Stern is also a co-head), there is also "a disproportionately larger amount of money from foreign and DVD money," more than would be devoted to an average pilot, he said. (Both "Razor" and the two-hour event/pilot of "Caprica" have been produced in this fashion.) "I think it is the Holy Grail for us, in which we get high-quality programming for a lower license fee," Stern said. He declined to reveal the budget, saying that it was "expensive" and "very healthy," and that they were at first "skeptical" that the studio could get it.

"I was impressed with how high they were able to make it," he said.

So the transformation of Sci Fi and its related and parent entities into essentially a film studio was the hold-up to the deal. "What you don't want to do is do them in some half-assed way where they're not as good as they needed to be," he said.

The channel came to executive producer Ronald D. Moore once the finances were set. The story idea Moore brought back from the writers is the one indeed being made, although there was some back-and- forth, with the network's concern being that a new viewer could jump right in. "What was more of a burden to Ron in this particular case was the availability of who's out there," said Stern.

So did the cast, now more well-known thanks to "BSG," play hardball for their rates in the event-movie? "The cast are lovely," said Stern. "That's not to say we're not getting phone calls from their agents saying, 'They're huge now.' And we're respectful of that. We're not expecting anyone to do it because they owe us. There are actors that have come to some prominence; they're helping us out because they want to do it."

And, on the other side, have the news-hungry fans been driving the network crazy? "The short answer is absolutely not," said Stern, who has been a regular target of angry fans. (He was blamed for the death of "Farscape," even though he arrived at the network after it had been killed.) "The longer answer is all of our fans are kind of rowdy and invested," he said. "There's no question that there's an appetite for wanting more -- by the way, which started with us! We're all feeling, 'Does it have to be over already?' "

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So, it does not entirely, though Stern said that more specials would not be produced at the same time as the first, even though some cast and crew would be assembled.

"I promise you that, not having shot a frame of footage, it will blow you away," Stern said.

Oh yes? Let's let the real experts decide.

"I'm a big fan of Edward James Olmos as a director," said Erica Blitz, co-editor of the blog Galactica Sitrep. "All his episodes have been highly unique and really wild, especially that one from Season 3, 'Taking a Break from All Your Worries'? That was wild!"

"I want to see more Jane Espenson," said Annalee Newitz, editor of sci fi blog io9, when consulted, pre-announcement, about her "BSG" future wish list. "I really like her, I like the episodes she's done. She does a really great job with dialogue and character development. She did the episode 'The Hub,' which was like super-amazing."

OK then, so it is on!

-- Choire Sicha

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