CCI Xtra: "Battlestar Galactica" Panel

Room 20 in the San Diego Convention Center was filled to capacity for the "Battlestar Galactica" panel. Eric Story from the Sci-Fi channel was proud to introduce "Battlestar Galactica's" third appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Story then turned the podium over to moderator Lisa Chambers, feature director at TV Guide and self-described "die-hard 'Battlestar Galactica' fan."

The first panelist to take the stage was Executive Producer Ron Moore. Next came series producer David Eick, former producer on "Xena: Warrior Princess." Then warrior- princess-turned-Cylon Lucy Lawless herself breezed onto the stage, Xena cry and all. James Callis, who plays President Gaius Baltar, was the next cast member introduced, and he came out brandishing the Nixon two-fisted peace signs. The panel was rounded out by actor Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) and Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos (Commander Adama).

Olmos confessed at the top of the panel, "This is my first convention in my life." He went on to assert that "Battlestar" is unequivocally the darkest thing he's ever been a part of. "What you saw at the end of season two becomes the lighter moments in season three."

At the end of "Battlestar"'s second season, the timeline jumps ahead a year. By now, the humans have surrendered to the Cylons, and Baltar has been abducted by their new rulers. "I end up on the Cylon base ship, trying to work out their philosophy," Callis explained.

The producers attributed the time jump, first and foremost, to a bottle of single malt scotch. It was an idea Moore had come up with while working on HBO's "Carnivale," but one that seemed to fit better here. "And Bobby steps out of the shower," Eick quipped, referencing the infamous "Dallas" cliffhanger which revealed that an entire season of the show had been no more than a dream. "It's an homage."

When asked what we'd see of her character this year, Lucy Lawless reported, "No nips." There is nudity however. Callis chimed in, "The Cylons like to walk around naked. This is something Baltar discovers and tries to mimic. He's not as good at it."

Douglas seemed incapable of delivering a serious answer. In season three, Douglas explained, "The chief is fighting the Cylons, surprisingly, and fixing things. I tell you, it's just good writing."

Chambers asked the producers about the proposed spin-off series, "Caprica." "Now it's just a script that we've submitted to the network," Eick told her. Most of the planning for "Caprica" has been handed off to Eick's new writing partner, Remi Aubuchon.

Chambers asked about a rumor that one of the 12 Cylons would be "permanently 86'ed" by their own kind, and Eick confirmed that one model of Cylon would be discontinued forever in the coming season.

Lucy Lawless dished out some season three gossip on show regulars Tigh and Starbuck: "They start to hit it off in a weird way." Still singing the same tune, Olmos chimed in, "Relationships this year are so deeply rooted in hurting each other." Lawless, on the other hand, asserts that, "Relationships splinter and reform in very unlikely and recharged ways."

Of his character's apparent moral ambiguity, Callis confessed that since Baltar is a member of the human race, in his heart he's a member of the resistance, even though he generally appears to be "a totem of human loathing."

"James, what's the meaning of life?" a bemused Eick asked of his fellow panelist. "Later, David," Callis began, "In my room."

At this point, Olmos decided to further expound on the politics of the show. He believes "Battlestar" helps many people confront their demons in a post 9/11 world. The upcoming season sees the humans, ostensibly the heroes of the series, engaging in suicide bombings against their oppressors, and engineering a pandemic to wipe their enemies out. "I dare somebody to tell me who the good guys are and who the bad guy are in the show."

The new season is so dark that Olmos jokingly encouraged viewers not to watch. "Better to watch CNN." But he was also quick to sing the show's praises. In addition to accolades such as being ranked the number one television series of the year by "Time" Magazine, "Battlestar" was a recent recipient of the coveted Peabody award.

Sci-Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" returns for its third season in early October.

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