'Battlestar Galactica' Takes a Side Trip

The SciFi Channel airs Razor, a Battlestar Galactica movie that follows a subplot from the series. Executive producer David Eick talks about its making and gives a glimpse of what to expect next season.

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MATT MARTINEZ: Alison and Rachel, I did a short newscast because I want to spend all my time talking about this.

(Soundbite of theme song, "Battlestar Galactica")

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Yeah, that apparently is the theme song…

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

And what is that?

STEWART: …from "Battlestar Galactica."

MARTIN: Of course, it is.

STEWART: Of course, it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: This past weekend, a two-hour "Battlestar Galactica" movie called, "Razor" - I feel like I should say it like that - premiered on the Sci-Fi Network. And "BSG" fans - "BSG" stands for "Battlestar Galactica…"

MARTIN: Thank you. Thank you.

STEWART: …for the uninitiated. Well, they're just flipping out. Most of that flipping out has to do with the fact that there haven't been any new "BSG" episodes for eight months now. They're missing their sci-fi/politically prescient/fantasy show. The fourth and final season doesn't begin until April.

We need to have "BSG" super fan Matt Martinez, our supervising producer and newscaster today to tell us…

MARTINEZ: And desert topping and floor wax, and all those things.

STEWART: …what this is all about?

MARTIN: Matt?

MARTINEZ: Well, the movie was a side story from the second season about the Battlestar Pegasus. And basically, it follows the maniacal Admiral Helena Cain. And the woman who plays her is named Michelle Forbes, and she's called this character, Admiral Cain, Saddam Hussein with bangs.

STEWART: Oh, my.

MARTIN: Oh.

MARTINEZ: Oh yeah. It was a really, really dark movie. And just to give you an example, here's what happens when her first officer refused to carry out an order.

(Soundbite of movie, "Razor")

Mr. STEVE BACIC (Actor): (As Colonel Jurgen Belzen) This is exactly what you said we wouldn't do. Even if we succeed, is this really, really what the lives and (unintelligible) will cost?

Ms. MICHELLE FORBES (Actress): (As Admiral Helena Cain) Mr. Belzen, are you refusing to carry out my orders?

Mr. BACIC: (As Colonel Jurgen Belzen) Sir, I cannot, in good conscience obey them.

(Soundbite of drumbeat)

Ms. FORBES: (As Admiral Helena Cain) Mr. Belzen, give me your sidearm.

Mr. BACIC: (As Colonel Jurgen Belzen) Sir?

Ms. FORBES: I said give me your sidearm. Now.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of gun shot)

MARTINEZ: She shoots him in front of the crew.

STEWART: Hey, Matt, what if I'm going rent it?

MARTIN: Wow.

MARTINEZ: Well, I just gave it away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh.

MARTINEZ: I'm sorry.

MARTIN: Wow. That was intense.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. It was an intense movie, and everybody's abuzz about it. They really are.

STEWART: So I, you know, I pulled out a favor. I got a friend who knows the executive producer…

MARTINEZ: You know somebody.

STEWART: …of "Battlestar Galactica."

MARTIN: What?

MARTINEZ: First of all, apology. I took part in the interview.

STEWART: You had to.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

STEWART: And it was - and David Eick, who is the EP of "Battlestar Galactica" and the "Bionic Woman," was very cool about it and answered Matt's super fan questions, and told us all about why this movie and how this movie came to be. So let's listen.

Mr. DAVID EICK (Executive Producer, "Battlestar Galactica"): This emerged, basically, as a corporate endeavor, of all things, first of all, because it seemed that with the DVD attention that this series was getting and the sales being what they were, that there was an opportunity to do a straight-to-video movie that would take place in between the end of season three and the beginning of season four, and it would have an initial window on the network itself.

So it was a way for two divisions of the corporation NBC-Universal - those being the SciFi Channel and Universal Home Video - to sort of converge and do something together. And by virtue of that, we had access to two, you know, two budgets, two different ways to market and sort of push the show, and, give us a little more money to make the movie with. And also, most importantly, gave us an opportunity to go to tell a story that we wouldn't really - in maintaining the continuity with the season arc - we wouldn't have the opportunity to do.

STEWART: Why the long time between seasons? Between - why you make those fans wait?

Mr. EICK: Well, you know, I think that the - it's really a programming decision. And it's one that, you know, I can genuinely see both sides of the debate on. I mean, HBO was roundly criticized at first for the delay in between seasons of "The Sopranos," and yet it seemed to have only benefited the show in terms of, you know, creating a lot of anticipation and making the fans really salivate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EICK: And they're waiting for the next season to begin. And so it's hard to say whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing. I think that there was probably - it was probably viewed as something that the network had the flexibilities to do this time around because of this two-hour movie. Because, again, the two-hour movie does not maintain the continuity of where we are in the series. It actually goes back in time to tell a story, as if to say little did you know, but during season two, here's a story that we didn't tell you. And that provided us some great creative opportunities that we wouldn't have had otherwise that also, you know, allowed the network, I think, to have a tent pole in between concluding season three and starting season four.

STEWART: I can tell Matt wants to ask a question.

MARTINEZ: Well, no, I was just going - I just wanted to comment. For a geek like me it was heaven, but for somebody coming in, not only was it jumping back and forth in time, but, you know, it was jumping back to the second season. So you're going back to the second season, and then you're jumping back and forth in time within the episode. So it was like your mind will explode.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: You know, I was just going crazy, but…

Mr. EICK: Well, you know, I think - while Ron Moore, my partner and I, have varying degrees of stamina and pain thresholds for what constitutes something being too confusing, we're both - we both tend to be a little happily reckless about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EICK: I think we like to - we like to give the fans, you know, the benefit of the doubt in terms of what they can understand on what an audience can follow, and, you know, you're talking to someone who - gosh, back in season one, did an episode called "Act of Contrition" in which we had a flashback within a flashback. And I remember at the time, you know, they are all these, you know, intellectual discussions that sounded like, you know, Mr. Scott from "Star Trek" - well, you can't have a flashback within a flashback. And we, you know, we got away with it, and I think there's a - that there's always going to be, you know, a tendency for this show to push some of those boundaries.

STEWART: If you just drop in to the "Battlestar Galactica" series, you can still enjoy it because there are these broad themes that reflect a lot of the political goings on currently. There's a themes about occupations of certain places. There's themes that might remind one of the illegal immigration issues. Is that going to continue in season four?

Mr. EICK: For sure. I mean, I think that there's always been a tendency for this show to sort of lean in in those, you know, allegorical directions. And it's a staple not just of our show, but I think classic science fiction in general, which has always been sort of used as a mirror to hold up to society and to talk about the issues of the day in, you know, metaphorical terms so that - so you can get away with it, really. I mean, so you can open up discussion without it being still charged with passion and emotion.

It's definitely going to remain a staple of the show. However, the other thing that will remain is there's never a self-conscious effort to let, you know, to do - let's do Abu Ghraib or let's do Iraq or let's do, you know, the vice president. Or - I mean, there's rarely that kind of transparency to it. It oftentimes just emerges in story meetings. Everyone in the room tends to be educated. Ron and I are both sort of political junkies by nature and history buffs, and we were both, you know, poli sci majors in school. And I just like there's a natural inclination in that direction anyway. And, you know, before you know it, you're doing an episode about prison torture while it happens to be happening on CNN.

And it's more the kind of thing you reflect back on and realize that you've been impacted by the events of your culture, versus a show like "Law & Order," where they very, you know, unapologetically will take the headlines off the New York Times and make episodes out of them.

STEWART: Well, David Eick, executive producer of "Battlestar Galactica" and the "Bionic Woman." You're a great sport for letting us grill you like this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EICK: It's been my pleasure, believe me.

MARTINEZ: That was awesome.

STEWART: You had a super geeky question you didn't include in there.

MARTINEZ: No, I cut it out…

STEWART: Super geeky.

MARTINEZ: …because I would sound so much like a fan boy if I kept it in. It would have been Sigur Ros all over again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: It was fantastic.

So Matt Martinez, thanks for the back up on the "BSG" (unintelligible).

MARTINEZ: Ah, you're welcome.

MARTIN: I'm better for it.

STEWART: Thanks, Matt.

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