The stars of "Battlestar Galactica" traveled for hours from London, New York and Canada or, even worse, Malibu, to attend a very special screening Friday night at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; the final episode of their late, great series was an occasion that felt at times like an Irish wake but was for most of the night more like a retirement party for an old friend who was leaving at the top of the game.
There was a lot emotion (and wine) in the lobby before the screening, and it was great to catch up with so many people that I had met on the set in Vancouver and interviewed through the years. I was surprised to see Jamie Bamber (Lee "Apollo" Adama) there since he’s been working overseas and he seemed a bit surprised himself. "I just flew in from London. I was working but I finished up, we wrapped yesterday, and I thought to myself, ‘Why not go?’ So we flew in. I can’t wait to see it. I haven’t seen it yet. I think it’s going to be pretty emotional for us."
Katee Sackhoff, who walks through a room like a gunslinger in a miniskirt, was rarely sentimental in her role as Starbuck and scoffed when I asked if she might get misty during the final act of the bleak broadcast epic that stretches back to December 2003. "Cry? Nah. I got other stuff, I’m working on the next thing. Well, all right, maybe I will get a little emotional at certain parts."
The old admiral, Edward James Olmos, strode through the crowded room like a proud father at his daughter’s wedding, shaking hands, slapping backs and kissing cheeks; I caught up to him by the food table and he shook his head. "Can you believe it? These young actors, I’m not sure they really know yet how special this show was. I do." I told him that he now can say he was in the best science fiction film ever made, "Blade Runner," and the best science fiction television show with "Battlestar," and he winked at me. "That’s a pretty good batting average, isn’t it?"
Tahmoh Penikett, tall in a town where most stars aren’t, is only 33, but he seemed well aware of the historical resonance of "Battlestar." The actor who played the heartfelt (and heartsick) pilot Karl ”Helo” Agathon brought his father to the event and took great pride in circling the room to introduce him to his "Battlestar" peerage. He also seemed to be fretting about the fate of his new show, "Dollhouse." "We’re waiting to see how it all goes," he told me. "We’re hoping to get the numbers up…."
Michael Nankin, one of the stand-out directors from the show’s run, said, like most people in the room, that he had been avoiding all reports and reviews of the final epsiode so he could enjoy it on the big screen and with the impeccable sound — as well as the very special audience. "This is going to be very special for us," said Nankin (who is pictured on the right with cast members on the set of the show in Vancouver). "Battlestar" fans take note: Nankin has an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" coming up in April that has a sci-fi fan plot and some familiar faces, including Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh) and Ronald D. Moore, the "Battlestar" executive producer.
Mary McDonnell’s work on the show as President Laura Roslin was a mix of Earth Mother and FDR as she followed her faith and struggled with her personal health crisis during the darkest days of war. She was fresh from the unusual "Battlestar" discussion hosted by the United Nations and still clearly caught up in everything it represented. "I feel there was the energy and this belief that there are things we can do to carry these ideas forward," she said. "There’s more to do. It was an amazing thing."
Inside the screening room (which, by the way, is a wonderful place to see and hear a film) Sci Fi executive Mark Stern read some of the amazing reviews for "Battlestar" and introduced Dave Eick, the show’s co-executive producer, who talked about the pressures on most television shows to "lighten it up and brighten it up," and how "Battlestar" became so special by bucking those conventions. Eick also praised Michael Rymer, the director of more than three dozen "Battlestar" episodes (including the final one) as "the unsung hero of ‘Battlestar,’ " and compared Rymer to brash former NFL star Michael Irvin, a guy who never got the credit he deserved for his work ethic and emotional value to his teammates.
Then it was time for Ron Moore, the architect of "Battlestar" and the man who wrote a manifesto of sorts that set the show on its path of political, religious and ethical explorations when, really, it could have just been a show about killer robots. Moore struggled to keep his voice steady. "I don’t want this day to happen. I want it to be rescheduled, rethought, removed and recalled…. All I know is that today there is a show called ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and tomorrow there was." He also said that he and all his compatriots on the show will never forget the series. "I was part of ‘Battlestar’…. It was an honor to be your storyteller."
The lights went dark, the music started and the show absolutely delivered. Afterward, McDonnell was the first out of her seat for the standing ovation. Olmos yanked a reluctant Moore back onstage and jammed a microphone in his hand. The producer didn’t have a written statement ready this time, but he found just the right words: "It was a helluva show. So say we all!"
So say we all….
– Geoff Boucher
RECENT AND RELATED
PHOTO GALLERY: What’s next for the "Battlestar" cast?
Photos: Michael Nankin
UPDATE: YES I know Tahmoh is 33, not 23! I mistyped. Sorry. It was wrong in earlier version it’s corrected now. We all frak up once in a while…