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SYFY WIRE Battlestar Galactica

A history of the long development hell of the 'Battlestar Galactica' movie

We haven't gotten a Battlestar Galactica movie yet, but it feels closer than ever.

By Matthew Jackson
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell

It makes sense that the popularity of Battlestar Galactica exploded in the mid-2000s, in the wake of the acclaimed SYFY original series spearheaded by Ronald D. Moore. Moore's show — an update of Glen Larson's original 1978 concept that focused heavily on thematic weight, character development, and realistic military science fiction — quickly became one of the most acclaimed series not just of its era, but of all time, which meant follow-ups were inevitable. 

In the years immediately following Battlestar's 2003 premiere on SYFY, we got the prequel series Caprica, the spinoff web series Blood & Chrome, and even a couple of TV movies that expanded on various pieces of the show's mythology. We also got quite a bit of talk about a feature film adaptation of the franchise, and we've been talking about it ever since. Talking about it, but not seeing it. 

Yes, if it feels like you've been hearing about a Battlestar Galactica movie forever, that's because it's been more than 20 years since talk of a movie started to seriously surface. Now, with X-Men powerhouse Simon Kinberg set up as writer and producer on the project, the movie feels closer than ever, but it hasn't always seemed that way. So, with the movie on the right track at this point, let's take a look back at the long development history of a Battlestar Galactica feature film. 

Our story begins even before Moore's Battlestar series got off the ground, in 1999. That was the year that Larson and producer Todd Moyer (Wing Commander) announced plans for a new feature film adaptation of the franchise, that unfortunately, never made it off the ground. Two years later, filmmaker Bryan Singer, fresh off the success of X-Men, was set to helm a new TV series based on the franchise that would serve as a continuation of Larson's original show, a childhood favorite of the director's. Singer was all set to direct a pilot episode for the Fox network, and was just weeks away from filming when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. The network, fearing certain elements of the BSG plot would hit too close to home, decided to delay the project. Singer went on to make X2, and the sequel series lay fallow until Moore's own take on the material emerged two years later.

Flash forward eight years. The SYFY series was on the cusp of finishing its run as a major cable hit, and Universal Pictures was eager to come up with some new Battlestar material moving forward. So, they reached out to Larson and began negotiating a feature film deal for the first-ever big-screen Battlestar Galactica movie. A few months later, Singer's dream of making a BSG project seemed to come true when he signed on to direct the project. 

Battlestar Galactica Key Art 1920x1080

If you were following entertainment news in the early 2010s, you know that in certain fandom circles, "Bryan Singer's Battlestar Galactica" was a hotly anticipated item around the web, and it stayed that way for quite a while, even as Singer spent the next two years working on other projects like the ultimately ill-fated Jack the Giant Slayer. In 2011, the project moved forward again when John Orloff (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleA Mighty Heart) signed on to script the project as another childhood fan of BSG who'd longed to be involved in the franchise. 

Despite the excited new writer, though, the project seemed to stall again when Singer went back to the X-Men universe to make Days of Future Past and, eventually, its follow-up, Apocalypse. By 2014, news reports on the project no longer included him as director, but the BSG film did secure a new writer around that time. In April of 2014, we heard that Transcendence writer Jack Paglen was set to script a "complete reimagining" of the story for Universal. Later that year, Larson, who was still signed on as a producer at that point, passed away. By 2016, producers Scott Stuber and Michael De Luca, and Dylan Clark were on board to oversee the project. 

The new producing team moved relatively quickly on the next iteration of BSG, drafting Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy to write a new script and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence as a potential new helmer. Flash forward two more years, and Universal brought on another writer, Jay Basu (The Girl in the Spider's Web) for what was reportedly a "rewrite" of Joy's work. 

Here's where things get slightly more complicated. While Universal Pictures was still developing the BSG movie, NBCUniversal's new streaming service, Peacock, decided it was worth exploring another avenue for the franchise, and in 2019 drafted Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail to begin work on what he dubbed "a new story within the mythology" and not a reboot of the 2003 Ronald D. Moore series. A year later, the studio reaffirmed its commitment to a feature film version simultaneously, when Kinberg was brought in as both writer and producer on the movie side of things. 

So, if you're keeping score, that's five writers and two directors, that we know of, who've worked on the Battlestar film since 2009, and this is just the short version of the story. Where does that leave us now? Earlier this year, Kinberg teased that he's ready to take the film project to potential directors, though no one has signed on as of this writing, and the film could potentially ramp up as early as next year. As for the show, Kinberg noted there is "synergy" between his story and Esmail's, but didn't elaborate. 

Right now, that means that if we're lucky, we could see not one, but two new versions of Battlestar Galactica emerge in the next few years. So say we all!

Battlestar Galactica is streaming on Peacock.