The New ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Movie Risks Causing Space Fatigue

There's no shortage of intergalactic adventures on the horizon, so how can this one stand out from the pack?
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The last reimagining of Battlestar Galactica may have ended in 2009, but fans of the beloved Syfy series have been seeking more space adventures ever since that final episode aired. Of course, given the show’s popularity, another remake of some kind was bound to happen eventually. Now, it just so happens that the long-gestating film adaptation is moving forward with yet another writer.

The Wrap broke the news that The Girl In the Spider’s Web scribe Jay Basu has been hired to pen the screenplay Universal Pictures’ upcoming makeover of the Glen Larson’s 1978 television space opera, which centered around a ragtag spaceship crew as they headed for Earth seeking refuge and an escape from the Cylons, an evil robot race that wiped out the rest of humankind.

When the first incarnation of Battlestar Galactica TV show hit the small screen, many believed that the show was created to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars. Some people have even claimed that Larson’s sci-fi yarn is one of many rip-offs of George Lucas’s iconic trendsetter. So much so that 20th Century Fox filed a lawsuit against the show back in 1978 because they believed that Battlestar Galactica had stolen ideas from the galaxy far, far away. The drama was settled in 1983 without going to trial, but the legacy of the original series will be forever intertwined with Star Wars.

Despite accusations of plagiarism and unoriginality, though, the original series had its fans and they were sad when the show ended. In 1980, they tried again with the Galactica 1980, a spin-off series that came about as the result of fan demand to bring the original series back following its cancellation. Unfortunately, Galactica 1980 was canned after 10 poorly received episodes, and it wasn’t until years later that the franchise found its spark again.

The 2003 Sci-Fi Channel reboot miniseries and subsequent ongoing saga was a different beast entirely, though. Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining of Larson’s space opera was a much darker affair that garnered heaps of critical acclaim for its mature approach to the genre, as well as its exploration of sociopolitical, religious and philosophical themes. This series marked the longest-running and most successful version of the Battlestar Galactica properties to date and is considered by many as some of the finest science fiction television ever created.

Moore’s series was also followed by Caprica, a short-lived 2010 prequel series that was canceled after one season. There was also Blood and Chrome, an underwhelming web series set in Moore’s universe that aired in 2012. This franchise doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to expanding beyond the main series’. Maybe another reimagining is the best route to take with the new movie?

The upcoming film has been in development since 2011 following the success and popularity of Moore’s series. Bryan Singer was set to direct the movie at one point but he parted ways with the project in 2014. Following the X-Men: Days of the Future Past director’s departure, Transcendence writer Jack Paglen came aboard. That didn’t last either. Then, in 2016, Westworld’s Lisa Joy was hired to write the film, with Francis Lawrence brought on to helm the project.

Until this recent development, we assumed that Joy and Lawrence were still making the movie given that they provided updates back in February. In an interview with ComingSoon, Lawrence even shared some vague details of their reimagining:

“We’re all fans of both series so there will definitely be nods, but for it to be worth doing for us we have to have our own take on it. Without getting into too much detail, there is thematic kind of stuff to make it relevant today. What makes something interesting to do is if there’s a relevance to the world we live in now.”

As you can see, the movie is struggling to garner any real momentum. Whatever this new vision entails, it appears to be far from satisfactory. Perhaps the safest bet would have been to continue the adventures of the Moore series, much like Serenity did for Firefly. Moore’s concept has already proven to be successful and the fanbase is certainly there. That said, a reimagining offers the possibility to reintroduce the franchise as its own blockbuster juggernaut that, if done correctly, could compete with the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek.

But will the audience be there for another space opera? If the mixed response to The Last Jedi and the underwhelming performance of Solo are to be interpreted as signs, the appetite for intergalactic adventures isn’t as healthy as it used to be. When you also consider the abundance of Star Trek projects that are on the horizon, Battlestar Galactica risks encountering fatigue if audiences get fed up with spaceships in the near future.

The latest addition to the writing team isn’t exactly a visionary, either. With all due respect to Basu, the writer of The Girl In the Spider’s Web and the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot doesn’t send ripples of excitement running through people’s veins or even pique much curiosity. A reimagining of a well-established franchise would be more intriguing if they recruited someone unexpected and leftfield. Much like Marvel did when they hired indie auteurs James Gunn and Taika Waititi to oversee space operas for their cinematic universe.

Should Battlestar Galactica aim to capture the zaniness of Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok? Personally, I wouldn’t be against a similar leftfield approach for the franchise. If you’re going to reboot something that’s already been done perfectly before, then why not be bold and do something wild and different? It doesn’t have to be a comedy per se, but if you’re going for a reimagining then why not take some bold, creative risks and hire someone who can deliver such goods? Moore’s reboot was a significant departure from the original series in many ways, so it’s not as if the Battlestar Galactica franchise hasn’t abandoned familiarity in the past.

The spin-offs failed to recapture the magic of the series’ they stemmed from, so the film should be aware of history repeating itself. Remakes always risk alienating established followers, but sometimes a fresh approach can attract a whole new set of fans. A Battlestar Galactica movie is an enticing prospect that could make an impact if it finds a way to stand out from its cinematic peers. Let’s hope it doesn’t get lost in space.

Kieran Fisher: Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.