...with a follow-up to last week’s story about Battlestar Galactica’s journey towards the silver screen.
While the history of science fiction and television is riddled with "unfinished business", it’s safe to say that Galactica is one of the most notable "unresolved" projects of the last twenty years. Despite accusations that 1978’s Galactica ripped-off 1977’s Star Wars; despite a hideously malformed attempt to revitalize the series in a second season bastardization of the concept; despite protracted absences from the airwaves; Galactica has survived.
And now, it seems, Galactica’s time has come again.
Enter Todd Moyer, the producer of Barb Wire, TimeCop, and the new Wing Commander film. Moyer, a producer noted for making a little money go a long way, has teamed with Galactica creator Glen A. Larson to re-envision the epic saga of a titanic space battleship whose desperate mission is to guide a fleet of bedraggled spacecraft (and the survivors they carry) from their enemy-ravaged homeworlds, towards "a shining planet known as Earth" (where they believe they will find their distant ancestors).
Shortly after posting my initial announcement regarding the new Galactica film project, I had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Moyer, who clarified some already-existing misconceptions about the film project, and offered a few hints as to what kind of Galactica film we might expect to see.
Right out of the gate, I thought I was in trouble. Moyer immediately suggested to that my previous article on the Galactica film had implied his production company (No Prisoners) was only "tangentially" involved with the production of Wing Commander. I did not mean to imply such a thing, as No Prisoners was...in fact...the primary production entity for WC. Any implication to the contrary was unintentional, and incorrect on my part.
As a second order of clarity, Moyer called to my attention a type-o in my article (which was partially adapted from a Reuters / Variety press release).
This guy doesn’t miss a beat.
The Reuters / Variety press release indicated that the film would involve Commander Cain (a character in the original series) searching for the Battlestar Galactica, which had set off on a quest to find the missing tribes of man, who may have come to pre-historic Earth aboard a Battlestar named Atlanits.
In my previous article, I typed "Atlantia", part of a sub-conscious association with the original series, whose opening episode featured an ill-fated Battlestar named Atlantia. Atlantis and Atlantia are two different words. And the difference is very significant in this film. A Battlestar named Atlantis might well have something to do with a particular Earth myth about a "lost city" of the same name, after all...
Now that the amendments and corrections were out of the way, Moyer (who was surprisingly and refreshingly honest, enthusiastic, and forthcoming about this project, and quite pleasant all the way around - even when "correcting" me) turned his attention towards the Reuters / Variety press release which was issued last week, indicating it was actually a bit misleading: "Some people seem to be thinking that the (Variety) plot synopsis suggests the movie will only about Cain looking for Galactica," explained Moyer. "That is not the case at all. The Galactica will be in this movie, and will be an important component in the film. Not to have the Galactica in a Galactica film would be pretty crazy!"
While fans of any franchise inherently resist changes being made to their beloved concept, and worry about what "cool elements" might be left out in a fresh adaptation, Moyer is keenly aware that this Battlestar Galactica project necessitates one particular omission. An omission which is...ironically...likely to be embraced by fans and nay-sayers alike. A few simple words said it all: "No daggits! Please tell the people there will be no daggits in our movie!" (a reference to the fan-lamented mechanical monkey-dog featured in the original series).
When pressed towards more specific details about the production, Moyer referred to the developmental process currently underway at No Prisoners. The company’s in-house visual effects facility (No Prisoners 3DFX) is currently in a design and development phase in an effort to lock down a style and "look" for this new Galactica film. Of NP3DFX’s 19 employees, 12 are former associates of Richard Edlund’s heralded (and now defunct) Boss Film Corporation (2010, Ghostbusters). Currently, five of NP3DFX’s personnel are charged with the specific task of designing vehicles, etc. for Battlestar Galactica.
Which raises the question: how similar to the old series will the new Galactica movie be? Moyer characterized his project as "recognizable as Galactica, with some slight re-thinks. We will see many vehicles and ships which look familiar, we’ll see some entirely new craft as well. We’ve got the structure of a story - and are working with Glen (Larson) to flesh it out, and get everything in order. He’s got a jillion ideas - some of them pretty wild. Right now we’re busy picking and choosing and siphoning which elements will work best for this specific story."
"Once the story has been locked down a little more", continued Moyer (referring to the inherently fluid nature of any project’s story development process), Galactica will then be scripted by a writer named Mike Finch".
Finch and Moyer have worked together before, when Finch made a few revisions to an existing Wing Commander screenplay. His contributions to that project mostly centered on the addition of the dreaded "Pilgrim" subtext which ran throughout the film. Moyer was quick to point out that Finch added the bigotry & discrimination oriented subplot to the WC script at the request of Wing Commander’s director, Chris Roberts. Finch's other credits include adapting Aeon Flux for Paramount, and Silver Surfer for Fox.
"I’d really like everyone to know that we’ve done a lot of thinking about this project," Moyer continued. "This isn’t just something we’re pulling out of the blue, or something we’re doing only because we think it’s cool."
Moyer also alluded to holding over a few specific elements from the original series, such as the flight crews who furiously prepare the fighters for launch, or rush out to lock down the craft once they come in for landing.
And, of course, there will be space battles. "We’re trying to do space battles very differently in this film" offered Moyer. "In Star Wars - and even the original Galactica series - the space battles all take place on a more-or-less flat plain. Ships often chased & attacked each other from behind or the front. We’re looking into the possibility of designing space battles which will be three dimensional. Ships coming at other ships from above, from below, from the sides, diagonally, and so forth. In space, there are an infinite number of maneuvers one can do - it’s not logical that all action should stay horizontal and flat."
When asked whether or not the new film’s "Battlestars" will be recognizable as the Battlestars with which viewers of the original series are familiar, Moyer hesitated, then offered a reinforcement of a previous statement: "there will be some familiar vehicle designs in the film."
THE HATCH FACTOR
As No Prisoners works feverishly to bring Battlestar Galactica to the silver screen, many fans are asking about the fate of original cast member Richard Hatch’s multi-year, heroic effort to resurrect the franchise.
I spoke with Mr. Hatch for quite a while last week. He was very generous with his time - and very sincere in his desire to see "honor" done to the Galactica franchise, and its fans.
I got the strong impression Mr. Hatch is a man deeply devoted to the Galactica cause, and is on a mission to revive the franchise not out of greed or opportunism, but because he believes.
When all was said and done, his production company (Sushan) ended up issuing a press release, which offered the following comments in response last week’s BG movie announcement by No Prisoners (whose release regarding a Galactica feature film was rather pointedly mentioned on MSNBC).
In response to an article presented by Variety and picked up by MSNBC, Producer Richard Hatch (star of the original series as Apollo) offered the following statements and information: "Rumors like the one that circulated the last few days have been part of the Galactica reality for years. I’ve been privy to many including this one, they seem to have a life of their own. Once in awhile, they are the result of some scrap of truth, but not often, and certainly not in this case. My contacts at Universal have stated that Galactica is still owned by Universal, and that no other deal has been consummated."
Hatch continues, "We are completing or trailer piece within the next few days...I’m not at liberty to discuss any of the details as they are obviously sensitive. They (Universal) are very savvy and realize that this project, if handled with the passion that the demand, can easily become a franchise that can continue for yet another Quarter Century. I strongly believe that the most powerful way to keep the legend alive into the new millennium is to infuse the original concept, story, and characters with a fresh new generation of actors, modern effects and visuals, and solid, thoughtful scripts. This is like old fashioned storytelling where tales were passed from one generation to another. We all have an obligation to be true to this, or it will fail. There are millions of new fans growing up and thirsting for fresh stories. The original series is still being shown in many cities around the world. The support I’ve received proves that there are a lot of people who feel the same."
Where others have come and gone, Richard Hatch has been the driving force behind keeping the legend of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA alive for twenty years through his support of loyal fans, guest speaking, and two successful novels based on the series. In the past two years, there has been a tremendous push towards creating a contemporary film using modern films technology and high tech effects. Towards this end, Hatch is currently producing a promotional trailer to help forward negotiations with Universal in obtaining the film’s distribution rights. He raised sufficient collateral, plus backed the project personally to ensure a quality demo that would do justice to the property. He enlisted Oscar winning Director of Photography Dean Cundey (Apollo 13) for some filming, Dreamscape (Independence Day), Emmy winning FX veteran Brick Price / Wonderworks (Star Trek to Deep Impact), and Grammy winning composer Tom Burton (Calico).
According to Tom Burton, one of Hatch’s producers: "When I heard today the rumor (of another Galactica film in production), with one of two of our investors who will be backing the entire project. As far as I’m concerned, the only missing piece needed for a greenlight is how will distribution be handled. The production company mentioned on NBC has not even bothered to contact any of the actors or creatives from the original series. The cache value of having most of the original cast in a remake is priceless. To create the film otherwise would trivialize it, and would yield something entirely different than what the fans are asking for. Any project of this sort needs to pay more than passing homage to the original. If not, I know I would feel cheated. Richard IS, without question, the current heart and soul of Galactica, as any of the show’s followers can tell you. His drive and love of the project is infectious."
Many parallels can be drawn between this write-in effort and that which brought Star Trek to the film screen. In addition, history seems to be re-writing itself in other ways. The original Galactica series came out shortly after the first Star Wars film 22 years ago, and now it seems the Galactica film will fall squarely between the release dates of the next two Star Wars. Hatch stated: "There was keen interest then, and that is definitely the case now. I find it thrilling that this is happening, and would hope that the project comes to pass in a way that properly fulfills the legacy. This is a dream come true for thousands of fans who believe in the original."
Coincidentally, Mr. Hatch left tonight to host a Galactica series in Fiji.
((end press release))
Glen (Oliver) sighs...((then remembers to tell his readers that AICN will feature a more elaborate description of Hatch's above-mentioned promotional "trailer" later this week.))
Needless to say, Sushan's press release necessitated my backtracking to Moyer.
Said backtrack resulted in a response / rebuttal from No Prisoners - a company which in no way, shape, or form holds any animosity towards Mr. Hatch. Indeed, they seem deeply respectful of his self-sacrificial efforts to keep the Galactica franchise alive.
None the less, they felt some issues needed to be cleared up. Here's what they said:
Begin press release
Glen Larson and Todd Moyer wish Richard Hatch the best of luck in pursuing a Battlestar Galactica television series with Universal Studios. However, we feel the rights issues regarding Galactica need to be clarified.
Glen Larson has "separation of rights" under the Writer’s Guild agreement. In simple terms, this means that Universal Studios owns the television rights to Battlestar, and Glen Larson is the sole and exclusive owner of any and all feature film rights to the Battlestar franchise.
Glen Larson and Todd Moyer have formed a joint venture to exploit these rights. Despite rumors to the contrary, Richard Hatch has no rights, legal or otherwise to any elements of the Battlestar Galactica franchise.
This is not meant to preclude Mr. Hatch from some future involvement in the feature film if the producers decide it is appropriate to...or helpful to...the project.
((end press release))
All of which brings to mind a critical question: what about
THE FAN EQUATION ?
Moyer and Larson are keenly aware they not only have many expectations to live up to in the eyes of the fans, but owe the fans a certain debt of gratitude. After all, without the fan’s protracted interest in the franchise, filming a Galactica movie would be both unrealistic and untenable.
As such (and in a move uncharacteristic of many productions of this nature), Moyer and Larson are approaching the development & production of Galactica with surprising forthrightness and openness. "This isn’t going to be a security lock-down" indicated Moyer. "Glen (Larson) and I want the fans to know what’s going on with our project, every step of the way. That’s not to say we’re going to give away all our secrets, but in many ways, the fans will be a vicarious part of the creative and developmental process of this movie. We don’t want them to feel like we’ve taken Galactica away from them, and are keeping it all to ourselves. They’ve waited a long time for this day to come, they deserve to know what’s going on."
Accordingly, Moyer and No Prisoners are currently constructing a web site which will take its visitors on the lengthy, step-by-step journey needed to bring Galactica to the screen. This web site, located at www.battlestarmovie.com, will be frequently updated, and one of its main contributors will be Glen Larson himself. "Glen’s a really philosophical guy" said Moyer of his associate. "I think his contributions to the site will be very interesting, and suggest a lot about how the Galactica universe came about."
((Glen Note: the Galactica movie web site will not go on-line until April 1. AICN will announce its activation as soon as it’s formally up and running. Moyer was also careful to point out that "something very special" will be happening at the site on May 15. More on this in the coming weeks...))
When asked what he would most like the fans to know about Larson & No Prisoner’s updating of Galactica, Moyer thought carefully, then offered...simply..."We really have done a lot of thinking about this movie. I think it’s going to be very special, and very cool."
CAN THEY DO IT ?
There has been a lot of negative fan sentiment surrounding this project since Wing Commander’s debut last week. Many filmgoers simply did not like the film, and are not convinced Moyer & Company are up to the task at hand.
Hell, I didn’t even like Wing Commander all that much. Although I consider it an amazing accomplishment for the limitations and constraints which were imposed on the production (economically), there were some major elements which needed repair (in my humble opinion - screenplay and direction first and foremost).
Watching WC while knowing that No Prisoners was sailing towards Galactica next, I could understand why Galactica would be a project that would interest them, and why Glen Larson could stand beside them in good conscience. There’s something about the "feel" of Wing Commander which...on some level...evoked Galactica. The gritty, dirty desperation to survive, the frantic effort of mankind to hold on to his rightful place in the cosmos. Both of these are elements which a good script and better direction might have expanded into meaningful and effective concepts in WC. Hopefully, Galactica will afford the necessary mix of talent and personalities to transcend some of Wing Comander’s shortcomings.
After spending quite a bit of time on the phone with Moyer, after hearing some of the ideas he and Larson have in mind, after checking-out other sources who worked on Wing Commander (and getting a sense of what happened to drag that project down, who was responsible, and why), I have come a belief that Moyer and No Prisoners should probably be given the benefit of the doubt in this instance. I feel they are keenly aware of what works, what doesn’t, and have the capacity to learn from mistakes - whether or not they are personally responsible for said mistakes. These are very critical components in the making of any film.
Does this guarantee that Moyer and Larson’s Galactica will be a great movie?
No, it doesn’t. Even our greatest filmmaker have made...mistakes. Sometimes "things" just gum up the works..
But I can say that...after speaking with Moyer at some length....I honestly sense that No Prisoners and Larson would like nothing more than to make a great Galactica feature film, and will do everything within their power to make it happen...
Aint It Cool News would like extend a mammoth and heartfelt thanks to TODD MOYER at No Prisoners, and to RICHARD HATCH at Sushan Productions, as well as "Hatch’s people".
Coordinating this article was actually quite an undertaking on many levels, and all parties concerned showed vast amounts of openness, professionalism, and patience during the writing of this piece.
Even though AICN gets contacted by "real people" all the time, we never take it for granted - that they communicate with us at all is always profoundly meaningful.
Especially in situations like this...