The one mysterious ingredient in the second half of the final season of Battlestar Galactica? Ass-kicking. In the trailer for the final ten episodes of the show shown at the start of Saturday's BSG panel at Comic-Con, what stood out most was the artillery displayed by a surprising number of cast members as the show hurtles towards a destructive conclusion. And as the cast members discussed their memories of the show during the panel, the best moments of shooting also involved... well, shooting.
In a panel moderated by Kevin Smith (who admitted, "I have nothing to do with the show, which is probably why it's so good. There was a rumor last year that I would be involved, but fucking Ronald D. Moore nipped that one in the bud"), the cast and crew of "the single best show in the history of television" (Smith's words) talked about what made the show so good, refused to spoil the identity of the final Cylon, but did reveal who was almost one of the final four.
The panel started with David Eick and Ron Moore discussing the downbeat ending of Revelations, where - spoilers! - everyone finds Earth:
Eick: We knew we had to end the midseason with something. We argued about whether to reveal that Baltar was the fifth cylon or... wait a minute.
Moore: The end of the first half was almost the end of the show, because of the writers' strike. We were all, well, that would kind of suck. "They get to Earth and it sucks. Thank you! Goodbye!" ...There's a fair amount of, what do we do next? And then the story continues in unexpected ways. There's a tremendous amount of unheaval. It's not really the most happy-go-lucky ten episodes we've ever done, which I'm sure doesn't come as a surprise.
Eick: Lee gets REALLY fat this time.
Eick and James Callis also explained how it had taken him so long to come to terms with the contradictory nature of Gaius Baltar:
Callis: In an American story, the bad guy gets more tail, is that it? I found making the first stuff... when you're preaching that you love god, can you be a complete nymphomaniac on the side? Does that make you less spirtitual? It took me three years to work that out. There are so many people who have goodness in their heart, but they're obsessed with something. One particular thing. These last few reasons, I've found that Gaius makes peace with himself on that.
Eick: These are the kind of discussions we have when, in the script, it says "And then Baltar has sex with her." An hour later, we're like, James, please, go have sex with her.
Katee Sackhoff, meanwhile, also had a hard time with her own character's flaws:
It's nice, I guess, to be a role model? It's a little scary at times, I guess. I hope that people teach their children to take Starbuck's bad and throw it away, the drinking a lot and sleeping around... Use protection. I'm just rambling a lot now, because I have no idea to answer that question... There's a fine line that we've tried to walk with her, where she's very good at her job, and then there's a fine line of turning her into some kind of superhero. There's a fine line of what's realistic and what's not.
Jamie Bamber admitted that Apollo had taken on the traditionally female role in the series, and kept having to be rescued by Starbuck, to which Sackhoff told him that it was okay; he should just sit there and look pretty instead of worrying. Bamber did praise what he called the show's "gender blindness," however:
The show is groundbreaking in many areas, especially the way it deals with genders. The men and women on the show, they shower together, fly together and still sleep together. It doesn't matter.
The revelation of the show's four final Cylons came as a relief to Michael Trucco, who plays Anders:
I'm just a freeloader up here. I'm the Johnny Come Lately. Katee Sackhoff I thank sincerely for my existence. It was like winning the lottery... It was a dream job. I stuck around, and at the end of season 3, they give me a script that says you're a cylon and I'm like, fucking wow. Guess I'll be around for awhile... Aaron Douglas was the first one to tell me [I was a cylon]. He was like, dude dude dude, you heard? We're gonna be Cylons. And I was like, shut up. They don't even know my name on this set. They're even calling me Steve.
Eick admitted that, even up to the decision being made, the producers were wavering:
It was like Gaeta? Anders? Gaeta? Anders? for awhile.
Asked by Smith for their most kick-ass moments from the show ("It sounds wrong when I say it," complained Callis. "Kick-arse."), a certain theme started to appear:
Michael Trucco: When I came on the show. My Mexican standoff with Helo and Sackhoff.
Sackhoff: When Galactica fires its cannons. They're really neat. I like it, it's neat. My other one has to do with guns as well... The Mexican standoff with Trucco reminded me... When Helo and I rescued Anders, our stuntguy gave me two machine guns and says, "You can have two machine guns" and I'm like awesome. Trucco: The propguy didn't hand you two guns, Sackhoff fucking demanded two guns.
Sackhoff: Jamie always asks me, why are you always the only swat guys in a t-shirt, and I'm like, why not? I just did it. The two guns, why not? Two are better than one.
Helfer: I got to shoot some guns. Finally. James and I, we started the first scene of the miniseries having sex and we finished the main shooting [of the series] with shooting.
Callis: Filming the end of Battlestar was like being in Apocalypse Now.
Producer David Eick has an entirely different favorite memory, however:
Eick: It's hard to pick one... Hard to identify one as the best. For me, the most memorable moment was watching Starbuck and Number Six pound the entire living shit out've each other for an entire act at the end of season one.
Sackhoff: We beat the living crap out've each other. I think we became friends that day.
Eick: They wouldn't kiss, though, no matter how much I begged them.
Sackhoff: They always said that if the ratings dropped then they'd do that fight again , but with Jello.
Tricia Helfer: Thank you for keeping the ratings up.
As to what to expect from the finale of the series, no-one was really giving anything away, especially not the identity of the final Cylon; Ron Moore did offer "I can tell you it's someone you've seen. It won't be a guest-star," leading David Eick to joke, "We didn't even have to recast Boxey." The cast did feel that the finale lived up to everything that had come before, however:
Bamber: The ending is an ending. It's utterly sublime and a perfect way to finish the show. It took me by surprise. I remember the final readthrough was a disgraceful exhibit of tears and lower lip wivvering as we got to the end. It does everything justice.
Tahmoh Penikett: I die a horrible death, so that's closure [for me]. I'm joking - Well, maybe I am. No, the final two episodes are perfect. There's a lot of closure to a lot of the storylines, but there are still some questions, which are the way that things should be.
Before the panel closed with the trailer for Caprica, Ron Moore explained what made Battlestar Galactica work for him:
I thought the original show had such a great premise that they couldn't stay true to in their day. Let's take that and take it seriously and be bold. Let's never be afraid to make a mistake. You try to raise the bar every single episode, year in year out, right to the very end.