First printed before the transmission of the mini-series in the UK.
Battlestar Galactica, the mini-series comes to Sky Movies this month. Elise Harris talked to the new, female, Starbuck – Katee Sackhoff.
Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, the original Battlestar Galactica appeared. It was a glossy, cheesy show, a bit of a Star Wars rip-off, but well-loved and fondly remembered.
Over the years there have been a number of attempts to remake the series – Brian Singer was linked with the project at one time, and Richard Hatch, the original Apollo, even sunk his own money into two ‘trailers’ to try and persuade people to put money into his vision of a sequel – starring many of the original cast members.
It has taken 20 years to get the show back on TV - and Sky Movies is showing the result this month.
The new show is not the Richard Hatch version and has none of the original cast. It is slicker and more serious in tone than the original, but it’s still great fun. It’s a little like Top Gun this time around, only with more sex.
Many of the original characters have stayed – but in a cunning twist some of them are now played by women, notably Starbuck – originally Dirk Benedict and now Katee Sackhoff, and Boomer – in the 1970s series a gruff black man, now a tough Asian woman, played by Grace Park.
Katee thinks that there are a few differences between the original Starbuck and the new. Apart from the obvious.
‘I think if you used the exact same script and put a guy in that character it still works. My character is really masculine and confident in what she does – but there are subtle differences in that the original Starbuck was more of a slapstick character . He had a great comeback for every situation, he was more like the goofy guy, but he was also a romantic guy, a womaniser who se attempts to be the womaniser were funny. He’d get into scrapes and situations all the time. ‘
Starbuck in this series is strong and pumped up – she looks a little like rock chick Pink. She can throw a punch without breaking any fingers (or indeed nails). The new Starbuck still smokes a cigar and is if anything tougher than the original. Certainly a lot more aggressive.
‘My character is very strong and really angry. That’s the difference between this and the original series - it’s a lot more dark. She’s in her twenties and she’s a girl –she’s all sorts of confused.’
She has a past with Apollo – they were childhood friends – and she was engaged to his brother before he died. So is there any sexual tension between Starbuck and Apollo (Jamie Bamber) in this series? (Was there in the original?)
‘Have you seen Jamie Bamber? He’s gorgeous. They are still buddy-buddy pilots and I think that’s the base of our friendship. We grew up together, I’ve got his back, he’s got mine – we fly together, we’re just great friends.
‘At the beginning of the mini-series. we haven’t seen each other for two years. You sort of see Starbuck’s guard come down – and you can see how, if we do go to series, there will be a romantic thing there. But I don’t know where the writers and the producers want to go with that.
Maybe it would be better unresolved – there would be more time to play it out: ‘I can see it as that whole X-Files thing five years down the road.’
Katee has met Dirk Benedict, the original Starbuck, and there were no hard feelings.
‘There was a little special that aired – Battlestar Galactica the Lowdown, which was an hour behind the scenes, interviews with the new cast and some of the old cast – Richard Hatch was there.
‘I had never met Dirk and he had never met me and I was a little freaked out. I had seen The A Team when I was like10 – so I was all “Ooh it’s Face”. We were hysterical together – I laughed harder in that hour than I have ever laughed in my life – he and I were just back and forth. It was really cute – we had a great time. We talked a little about the character and stuff like that, but mostly back and forth banter – it was really light hearted. It’s good for the fans to see that.’
Katee says the new series was well received when it was shown in the states in December 2003: ‘I think that the fans really like it. I think some of the purists – the fans of the original show are just going to be really hard to please. I think that even if it was the best thing ever put on television, they would still hate it. ‘
She realises some of them are never going to won over. ‘I think we are just going to have to say this is the old show, this is the new show – we’re probably going to have a completely different fan base, and I’m just going to try and focus on that right now – the new fans love it.’
The new series has the usual array of shiny special effects, but Katee thinks they are ‘just icing’
‘I watched a rough-cut without the effects - the beauty of this show, is that even without the special effects it was still amazing. Ron Moore the writer did such a great job writing the characters and making the characters and the script. So even though there are just as many special effects they are almost not needed, It’s such a rare thing to find it’s not relying on the special effects. The base of the show is the human condition, and the character interaction. It’s beautiful.’
The Cylons, the baddies from the original, still have an important part to play in this series.
Katee thinks they are, if anything, more important now.
‘The new Cylons are a cross between Predator and The Terminator, metal wise. Terrifying, they really are. They’re so cool.
‘I think what’s interesting about the Cylons, is because they look like humans now – very realistic – is that you’re second guessing everybody’s motives all around you. You’re looking at everybody and wondering if they’re Cylons – with really no proof behind it. It’s very interesting to see how people turn against other people when they’re scared. ‘
The ‘traditional ‘metal Cylons don’t appear for long – but they are effectively utilised in several key scenes. Notably in the introductory sequence.
‘They still have the little light things. From what I understand it’s actually the exact same timing as the ones in the original. So, every time someone says “but Starbuck’s a woman” I’m like “but the light – they move!” you’ve got something.’
Although the two part mini-series I has a complete storyline it paves the way for a possible series.
‘There is such an opening at the end that you think there’s another two-hour mini-series. It leaves you on the edge of your seat with your mouth open going “oh come on” – so I think we’re going to have to do at least one season just to appease the fans – or appease the actors, because we’re all going “what’s next, what’s next”
Katee can see her character progressing if it goes to series. She says, ‘I keep hoping I get some of the cute guys around set. I’m going “that guy – I want him in the next episode.”
‘I think that’s the thing about my character is she’s so all over the board and she’s such a loose cannon it can go anywhere and that’s really exciting because it leaves every door open. For the series as well I there are so many different places it can go - I mean if you can invent a planet you can do anything. I really hope it goes to series, I think the fans will be happy and the cast will be happy. We’ll see.’
Commander William Adama
Played in the original by Lorne Greene – in the new series by Edward James Olmos. Adama is an old school military man, the father of Apollo. Unexpectedly becomes the highest ranking officer alive after the Cylons attack the 12 colonies.
Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama
Played by Richard Hatch in the original and Jamie Bamber this time round. Apollo is estranged from his father – who he blames for the death of his brother. He and Starbuck are old friends.
Lieutenant Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace
Male in the original series, and played by Dirk Benedict. In this series she’s a woman, played by Katee Sackhoff. Cruder than the original, and always ready to rumble. There is a possiblility of sparks between her and Apollo. She was engaged to Apollo’s brother – so that could get in the way of a romance. Has a reputation as the best fighter pilot - and the most disruptive.
The Cylon siren is played by Tricia Helfer. She’s sexy, manipulative, and cannot die – if her body is destroyed her mind will be sent to another identical model.
Mary McDonnell plays the unprepared new president.
Dr Gaius Baltar
Duped by Number 6 into revealing the secrets of the colonies’ defence s, Dr Gaius becomes an unwilling pawn in the Cylons’ plans. James Callis plays him here – in the original he was Count Balthar, played by John Colicos, and was far more culpable .
Lieutenant Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii
Grace Park takes over from Herb Jefferson Jnr.She has secrets of her own.