Reaching Daybreak: An Oral History Of Battlestar Galactica's Final Season [Exclusive]


On March 20, 2009, "Battlestar Galactica" concluded with its series finale "Daybreak." What an awesome show it was! A reboot from its short 1970s run, Battlestar Galactica follows an interstellar fleet searching for Earth after humanity's home of twelve Colonies of Man are destroyed by Cylon robots - something I didn't do regularly on its initial airing due to being too young; thanks to Netflix I made sure to binge-watch the whole series during summer vacation before starting high school!

"Battlestar," my very first show spanning four seasons (70 episodes), is one I watched from its inception to completion. While I cherish Star Trek as much as any show can, "Battlestar" stands out by going further than even its creator Ronald D Moore ever dared at pushing. Moore first got his start writing TV scripts for Star Trek before setting his sights on something even darker: creating "Deep Space Nine", his darkest "Trek".

As Moore wrote for "Star Trek", all good things must come to an end, including Galactica's final flight. Some reviews, both contemporary and retrospective, contend too many poorly laid twists left the show feeling less than it could have been; most notably "Daybreak", in which there is the hint that events on board the Galactica took place prior to modern history - something many found unnerving if true! However, I won't argue against its conclusion being confident since that would mean losing all good aspects about it too - can we then move onto Star Trek VI?

As part of my celebration for this show's 15th anniversary, I spoke with several writers and actors involved with its bifurcated final season to get their take on its journey from inside. Though their memories may have faded over the years, their passion remains undiminished for its legacy.

The new genesis of Galactica

David Eick: I had just completed a pilot with Sean Cassidy for USA Network that had died and so I was really depressed, walking on my treadmill — which I occasionally still do. And the phone rang, it was David Kissinger, who's Henry Kissinger's son, but at the time was the president of Universal TV. He said, "One day you'll look back on this conversation as the one that got you your house in the south of France," and I was like, "Okay. Yeah, I'm bummed out with it." And Universal TV had been in mid-prep on a "Battlestar Galactica" two-hour new series. Not a reboot per se, I think it was more of a sequel. Bryan Singer was helming and nobody liked the script that much but it was a put deal with Fox and they were looking for any way out.

What Kissinger was saying was we were foolish to have sold this to Fox in the first place, we have our own sci-fi channel in the corporate structure [Sci-Fi, now known as Syfy], we should have just sold to them. I'm like, "I've never seen 'Battlestar Galactica,' all I remember about it was the cheesy rip-off of 'Star Wars.'" [...] I was just like, "I need to start over again," and [Kissinger] said, "Fine, fine, fine."

So I set about looking for a writer and Ron [Moore] was somebody who had consulted on a show I had overseen as an executive when I was running development for USA Network and Sci-Fi Channel. I [got] to know him through that relationship and now I've crossed over and I'm back to producing. So I called him in and, honestly, he wasn't my first choice just because I had other guys I was closer friends with and I knew Ron from "Star Trek" and all I knew was I didn't want to do anything like "Star Trek." Whatever "Star Trek" was, I didn't even know that much about "Star Trek," I just knew that it felt antiseptic and simplistic. I know people love it and I take my hat off to it, I'm sure it's none of those things, that was just my impression at the time — we're talking 2001 here.

But what happened was Ron came into my office, and it was February of '02 at this point, so we're four months or so after 9/11. And we start talking about the ironic parallels between this goofy, cheesy '70s "Battlestar Galactica" that begins with this holocaust, this destruction of a planet, and how oddly it mirrored what we were reading in The New York Times and watching on CNN and whatever. And that's where he and I started to really bond because I didn't know how to not do "Star Trek," but here was a guy who, oddly, knew everything about "Star Trek" [...] and what I didn't know about Ron was that he was sick of "Star Trek."

He had lived with it, he had been on it, he had deviated a bit but had, at that point, really not worked very much outside of it and so I think he was excited by the challenge of doing the kind of space show that I think would cut against all of the tropes and cliches. We came together so effortlessly on those principles that the details from then on, all the early discussions, were fun, productive, and, by the time we pitched it, we just had it down.

When you were making the pilot miniseries, did you know that this was going to lead into a series, or was it just assumed this would be a one-off?

Eick: Well, no, we did not. One advantage we had is that because again, I had been behind enemy lines and I knew a little bit about what was going on at the company having been an executive there, I advised Ron — and he had not an iota of resistance — to write it, shoot it, cut it like it's a pilot. Don't have any illusions about it. [...] The way we ended that was Sharon coming out and saying "We'll find them" and you're going, "Holy sh*t, she's a Cylon" [...] I think that it was such a cool chilling ending that they went with it. We just treated it like a pilot from jump street.

One little-discussed advantage of that set of circumstances that I always marveled that we got away with, is because it wasn't a pilot, it was technically a miniseries, the deals that we made, we had series holds on Eddie [James Olmos, Commander Adama] and Mary [McDonnell, President Roslin] and maybe Katee [Sackhoff, Starbuck] and maybe James [Callis, Baltar] and Jamie [Bamber, Lee Adama] [...] I think Six had a series hold, Tricia [Helfer] [...] but not on anybody else. So, so many of the characters that became the lifeblood of the show, Gaeta and Tyrol and Tigh [and] Dee and I can go on and on, we never had to jump through network approval hoops, we would just cast them, they were just basically day players with no series holds on them.

Not that they hadn't worked before, certainly, Michael Hogan [Tigh] had done a ton of work, but they weren't stars, they weren't names and most of them were Canadian so they weren't being viewed as, "Oh, we got to lock them down so they don't get away." They were all available to sign series deals a year and change later when we finally got the green light. And it's remarkable to me because I know we go through such pain casting these things and every little role has to go through nine hoops of approvals. You just look at how significant those supporting actors became to the success of the show creatively that you scratch your head at why the process has to be so complicated.

Read More