It was a frakking good time at Comic-Con International in San Diego as many of the cast and creative minds behind Syfy’s groundbreaking reboot of Battlestar Galactica reunited to discuss the show in front of an at-capacity crowd eight years after its series end. Syfy announced in the panel that as part of its 25th anniversary celebration this year; the network will be airing a full series marathon of Battlestar Galactica in September.
Executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick joined cast members Tricia Helfer (Number Six), Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), Grace Park (Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii), Tamoh Penikett (Captain Karl “Helo” Agathon), Aaron Douglas (Chief Galen Tyrol) and Michael Trucco (Samuel Anders) onstage for a fun and laughter-filled look back at the adventures of the crew of the Galactica, and to share some behind-the-scenes memories of the production.
The panel began with a sizzle reel that reminded audiences how much of a cultural impact the series had when it debuted in 2003. The reel included clips from shows referencing Galactica including The Office, 30 Rock, Family Guy, and Portlandia, and made a big point to demonstrate how Galactica introduced the new swear word substitute “frak” into the national lexicon.
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Moore discussed the origins of the reboot. “The original  Battlestar had this very dark idea at its core: the holocaust of the human race. The heroes of the show were the survivors who ran off into the night and were pursued by their enemies. I thought — if you take that premise seriously, you would have a unique piece of TV.”
Moore said that Battlestar Galactica was a product of its time, debuting shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “We wrote the show and made it at a very specific time in the country’s history and the world. We were reflecting things that were going on around us and watching things through science-fiction prisms.” He said that if done today, they could not possibly ignore the current events and divisive political climate that dominates headlines. “You would have to take into account this world that we live in now and find a way to not just mock it, but try to find some way to talk about it in a way that was different,” he said. “One of the things we did successfully on the show was to look at issues from different points of view that weren’t the obvious parallel for what was going on.”
Eick joked that if done today, Galactica would have a “crazy, unqualified captain” and themes about colluding with the enemy — which elicited laughter and applause from the audience.
The writers then discussed as to how much of the story was worked out in advance. “We wanted enough of a plan to give everyone in the writers’ room a sense we knew where we were going,” Eick said, but indicated they still wanted to leave doors open for certain big reveal, including who the final five Cylons were. The writers’ room had an “improvisational style that built a structure while allowing certain specific aesthetics to emerge.”
McDonnell joked that one of the biggest plot twists in the series should have been a “mall ship” on the show so that President Roslin could have more than one suit, but then added that the biggest twist was waiting to find out which of the characters were really Cylons. “That was a lot of tension,” she said.
Douglas, whose character was revealed to be one of those Cylons, told the story of how he found out. Months before they shot the scene in which it was revealed that Chief, Anders, Tigh (Michael Hogan) and Tory (Rekha Sharma) were Cylons, he accidentally stumbled on the script while at a production party. The script revealed his fate; he had to pretend he didn’t see that script and keep it secret for three months.
“We finally get to the episode when we’re going to shoot it,” Douglas said. “I talked to Ron on the phone for an hour and a half. He said ‘Have we done right by you so far? Do you trust me? Do you think we know what we’re doing?’ And man, he sure did know what he was doing.”
Park discussed the difficulty of having to play multiple characters on the show. She said when it was only two versions of her character, it was easy. “As I started making more characters, it got confusing. I was lucky I only had two characters we could flesh out over a number of years so they felt three-dimensional.”
Helfer agreed that it was difficult to play multiple versions of her character. She spoke about one of the versions of Six–Gina — who suffered from PTSD. “That was the first character where we could take a departure.”
Penikett and Trucco talked about how their characters existed mostly in isolation from the other characters on the show. “I was simply grateful to return to the series” after his character was left with an ambiguous fate in the pilot. “I was glad to have a job.”
Trucco said his increased role was largely due to Moore wanting to stick it to the haters, who attacked his character and expressed their dislike for him on message boards. “He was like ‘You don’t like Anders? Watch this, mother-frakkers!”
The panelists also discussed Galactica actor Richard Hatch, who passed away earlier this year. Hatch, the star of the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica, was cast on the reboot series as terrorist leader-turned-political prisoner Tom Zarek; a one-episode guest spot in season one that turned into a recurring role on the series.
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Moore recalled meeting Hatch during a Galactica convention shortly before the new series debuted. He had gone to the convention with a trailer of the new series and said he was greeted with boos from the fans of the original series. Hatch, who tried unsuccessfully for years to get his own Galactica reboot on the air, came out and told the crowd that they needed to show respect to Moore and his vision, and while he didn’t necessarily agree with that vision, he would give it a chance. Moore offered him a role on the new series backstage, and after initial hesitation, Hatch later accepted, and the Zarek character became a fan-favorite.
As the panel concluded, Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama) appeared onscreen in a recorded message to pay tribute to Hatch, “one of the closest members of our gang.” He issued words of support and love for his late colleague, and encouraged those in the Comic Con audience to make their appreciation of Hatch known with three rounds of four familiar words made famous by Olmos’ character: “So say we all! So say we all! So say we all!”