9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

Some original test animations from Bryan Singer's abortive 2001 relaunch of Battlestar Galactica were shown for the first time ever at Comic-Con, and we were there. The new-old BSG, which would have been a continuation of the original series, was eight weeks away from filming, with sets partially built - when Sept. 11, 2001 happened, and network execs panicked that the story of a Cylon sneak attack was "too close to home." Details below.

The unfinished CGI animations looked incredibly cool, but super video game-y and old-fashioned, coming from 2001. There was a scene on an "agro-ship," with plants in a giant hangar space. The shots of vipers and raptors flying around were made to look like 16-mm. newsreel footage, with a camera attached to the tail or front of the vipers. And the vipers were designed to be able to flip around. We saw footage of the New Caprica space colony, with streets and street signs, on a planet. The show's version of Battlestar Galactica had big battleship-type guns, like in a World War II film. The animatics looked very clean and crisp, and the vipers looked very nimble. And we saw vipers being launched through tubes on the side of the Battlestar, followed by a shootout inside an asteroid field and a game of chicken on a barren planetoid. And then there was footage of the Cylons, doing backflips and looking acrobatic, then squatting down with their legs apart and shooting. There was even a funny clip of a Cylon lifting its leg, winding up, and throwing a baseball.

The show would have had designs by Guy Hendrix Dyas, who also worked on Singer's X-Men movies.

In the abortive 2001 version, it was 20 years after the original series, and the humans had taken a vote and decided to abandon the search for Earth. They'd found an asteroid field and set up the New Caprica colony there, and over the following two decades they'd gotten decadant and become obsessed with glitz and pleasure domes and gambling. According to producer Tom DeSanto, it was as if the Jews had stopped at Mount Sinai and set up Las Vegas. And then the Cylons show up and attack.

That was the part, with the cylon sneak attack on the colonies, that worried the Fox execs. They put the pilot on hold for a month or so, with casting only partly complete. And by the time the network regained its nerve, Bryan Singer "had to do a Sophie's Choice" and choose between BSG and X-Men 2. He went off to work on X-2, leaving BSG unfinished.

In the end of pilot, we would go to the planet Cylon, and the camera would dive through the mysterious clouds, down through a tangle of mechanized buildings, and you'd hear the voice that has been instructing the Cylon attackers earlier in the show. You would zoom in on the source of the voice as it talks about the future and the need to convert humanity. And it turns out the Cylons are led by a group of humans who have been "converted" into Cylons. And the leader of this group is none other than Richard Hatch, aka Apollo. It turns out Apollo was captured and became part of the "Cylon collective." (Yes, just like the Borg.) The series would have been about the relationship between Apollo and his son, who's the new Commander of Galactica. The son would have been struggling to redeem his father's humanity and bring him back from Cylon-hood.

Producer Tom DeSanto told Comic-Con Singer's production company was working on a $13.5 million backdoor pilot for a new BSG, which would air on Fox and then on the Sci Fi Channel. The episodes would have been letterboxed, and the repeat airings on Sci Fi would have had extra footage. DeSanto said the story of the humans "forgetting their purpose" and living in super-capitalist decadence on New Caprica mirrored what he was seeing of his friends during the tech boom around 1999-2000, with people obsessing about their stock portfolios. And just like the Cylon attacks in the abortive Singer pilot, 9/11 brought people back to a sense of purpose.

And here's some BSG 2001 concept art from Nathan Shroeder. More at the link:

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica

9/11 Killed Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica