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Exclusive: John Jackson Miller on Dynamite's new laser-blasting Battlestar Galactica series

Contributed by
Aug 30, 2018

Can you frakkin' believe it? The original Battlestar Galactica TV series from 1978 turns 40 on September 17, and loyal acolytes of this seminal space opera show are breaking out their bell-bottoms and puka shells to mark this stellar birthday in style.

To help celebrate the occasion, Dynamite Comics has a fresh new Battlestar Galactica series fueled and primed in the launch tubes to blast into fandom like a screaming Colonial Viper in full burn.

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Written by New York Times best-selling author John Jackson Miller (Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo) and hitched to bold art by Daniel HDR (Red Sonja), this anniversary title will strike in early October with a special 35-cent retro #0 issue that has sparked a meteor storm of interest for the upcoming title.

The ambitious six-issue miniseries will focus on the epic plight of the scattered remains of humanity fleeing the Cylon menace, until a second armada of alien fugitives joins the party. Commander Adama views this as an opportunity to strike back against their metallic foes, but should he continue chasing after the mythical planet Earth, or attack while victory is near?

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SYFY WIRE spoke to Miller on his intense love of the Battlestar Galactica universe, his memories of watching the colorful sci-fi series on Sunday nights, how he got attached to the nostalgic project, and what makes the franchise still so relevant after four decades.

After the chat, check out our exclusive page preview in the gallery below. By our command! Dynamite's Battlestar Galactica #0 blasts off on October 3, followed by Battlestar Galactica #1 on November 7.

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Can you take us on a tour of this cool Battlestar Galactica revival miniseries and what can readers expect in the "Counterstrike" storyline?

The series is set some time after the final episode of the original 1978-79 season, when the Galactica and her fleet have been on the run for a while and are running low on fuel, just as they’re in a large nebula that is frustratingly short on fuel sources. Commander Adama is having to cut corners and make other compromises that he’s not comfortable with at all — and the question he continually faces really is “How far must we shortchange our principles just to stay alive?”

Into this enter the Okaati, an industrious race with a similar-sized fleet — on the run from tormentors of their own. To a large degree, the capabilities of the two fleets complement one another — opening up a lot of new options. Teaming up might make escape easier, but it also could make counterstrike possible, potentially solving both their problems. And Adama struggles with that question. He knows humanity has enemies enough in the Cylons — yet the whole war started because humanity came to another species’ aid. How can he balance his people’s ideals with their safety? 

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How did you get involved with Dynamite's 40th-anniversary project, and what were your associations with the original Battlestar Galactica show growing up?

I was one of those millions of kids watching the original series every week. I was far too young to have seen Star Trek in its first run, so apart from maybe the brief Logan’s Run series on CBS, this was my first brush with science fiction as weekly appointment television. The fact that it was on TV gave it an immediacy and reach, making it something kids were talking about in school the next day. And while I never was able to score any of the toys, I did build the models for the Cylon Raider and the Colonial Viper — the latter remaining one of my favorite fighter ships in all live-action science fiction.

I have written comics and prose for a lot of licenses — Star Wars, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, even Conan – and knew Dynamite was big into licensed comics, so it was a matter of time before we connected. I had just done a Star Wars comic signing for Dynamic Forces when Nick Barrucci and I started discussing some possibilities. The idea of writing the original Galactica was pretty much an instant sell for me; I’d read the Marvel comics as a kid, and had gotten some distance toward a script for one of the other license-holders in between. That project never happened, but it’s just as well — since we were able to time this one for an important anniversary year.

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What sort of research did you do in preparation for composing the new BSG plot?

To a large degree, I had plenty of research under my belt already — again, from 40 years ago, when I watched every episode as a kid. Later on, working for Comics Buyer’s Guide, I did an interview with the late Richard Hatch for the 20th anniversary.

But it’s always important to refresh your memory — and so I rewatched the pilot movie with my kids, who were really impressed at what was able to be done in terms of special effects with physical models for television back then. I dug into a lot of the lore, and particularly studied the interior and exterior schematics of the ships, to jog my memory. I realized I’d misremembered where the launch tubes on the Galactica were located. (They’re angled alongside the long sides of the hangar decks, rather than pointed out the front of those sections.) It is always possible to learn something! 

Why does Battlestar Galactica endure, and why was it so much more than just a "Star Wars ripoff"?

I talk about this in an essay in the introductory issue. In Galactica, the war is basically over, for most purposes; the series is about the aftermath, about the struggle to get away, and find someplace safe. Further, I think there’s a dynamic to the fighter squadrons that puts them more front and center of the series. I’ve joked before that Galactica in some ways is the final, never-filmed season of Black Sheep Squadron, another Universal series on which Galactica scriptwriter Donald Bellisario had also worked; I think there’s something to that, because it really does have a lot of focus on the pilots and their missions, and sort of the “island of the week” — or, rather, “planet of the week."

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How does Daniel HDR's bold art complement your story with its retro style and brash panels?

I’m really impressed with how he’s been able to capture the look and feel of the ships and the sets we first saw so long ago. There’s an energy to what he does with the Vipers  in the dogfights — and yet also I really like how he’s caught the moodiness of the shipboard scenes, as Adama struggles with the many decisions he faces. I think it’s going to be a great ride!

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