Saturday, June 27, 2009

Virtuality on Hulu



The pilot of Virtuality is now on Hulu and on Fox On Demand.

Watch it! Virtuality was one of the best pilots I've seen in a while, written with deep intelligence and given depth with engaging characters. I found it gripping from the start all through the end. The characters are all interesting and mysterious -- you can see that there is more going on with them behind their eyes, in their inner lives.

Perfectly cast, a brilliant music score, and great direction from Peter Berg, the show was engaging all the way through.

So, check it out.

More Clips from Virtuality







Friday, June 26, 2009

Watch Virtuality Tonight -- So Say We All: An Interview with Michael Taylor



"Virtuality" a two-hour backdoor pilot from Battlestar Galactica writers Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor airs on FOX from 8 to 10 p.m. tonight.

Writer and co-creator of Virtuality, Michael Taylor was kind enough to sit down for a brief phone interview with me:

Galactica Sitrep: What was your starting point for the idea/concept? What interested you the most about a long term space mission?

Michael Taylor: It started with producers Lloyd Braun and Gail Berman. Lloyd had this idea for a space show about a long space mission, where the ship would whip around the sun and go off on a long voyage. In my back pocket I had an idea for a Mars Colony story. Lloyd then suggested Ron and I get together to work on it. Ron came in and was fascinated with the idea of what astronauts would experience on a long term mission and how they would keep the crew sane for that duration. So, he keyed on the idea of virtual reality. In the show we use the VR for Mission critical skills and training, so that they are able to rehearse and prepare for their mission to Epsilon Eridani all while traveling there. We also show them using VR to control the ship. That became the nub for what the show was about. We see today, contemporary astronauts sending messages home to their families, and doing broadcasts from space for school kids.

Then we keyed on the idea of a reality show. That became the third element. We have the Space mission, virtual reality modules and then the idea of a layer of this reality show they were forced to do, since the reality show is a corporate sponsor of the mission. That crystalized the whole story. It allows us to explore what is real, what is not real? Do things that happen in our mind have as much weight as what happens in real life?

Through VR, we can focus on the inner lives of the characters. The most satisfying thing was writing about people in-depth. Just as in BSG, the most essential part was the lives of the characters. Here we have 12 characters stuck in a test tube, and we get to explore their fantasies and fears.


GS: What was the process like working with Ron Moore to create it?

MT: Working with Ron is like working with a guy who's got a genie in a bottle. He guided the show every step of the way. He guided the script. We had a real partnership. We really wanted to work on new territory together. Ron worked closely with director Peter Berg. We were very lucky to have Peter Berg. We both loved Friday Night Lights, and The Kingdom. He has a great visual style, with a lot of hand held camera and close-ups. Pete is very improvisational. We actually shot ten webisodes while filming the pilot. Only two are online. Those stories were outlined, but not scripted. Pete and the actors got to improvise their webisodes. A lot of the confessional material used in the pilot for the reality show segments, was drawn from the webisode filming, all purely improvised, with Pete Berg prodding them and provoking them to explore inside their characters heads, and inner lives. It gave a vitality to the project, getting us off the page, almost like a theatrical experience. Pete brought a wonderful energy and vitality to the whole project.

GS: What were some of the genre films and TV show touch stones for you and Ron as you developed it?

MT: Ron is even less about influences than I am. Certainly I have been inspired by films like 2001, and Solaris, the original Russian film, as well as the Steven Soderbergh remake, films that explore inner space as much as outer space. With Ron its about leaving those influences behind and moving into new and original territory to move the genre forward. That was the goal.

GS: Have you heard of Prof. Nick Bostrom's simulation theory? Is the idea of “what is reality” something you want to explore?

MT: Actually I read about String theory. The idea that the whole universe and everything in it is a projection or vibration of these strings. So, the universe is a kind of virtual reality. The idea that everything in the universe itself could be a kind of simulation was intriguing to me. If we get deeper into the show we will be exploring what is real, and does it even matter?

GS: You've said you consulted with folks at NASA, what were some of those contributions?

MT: I talked to one NASA person, a wonderful psychologist named Nick Kanas, from tracking him down online. He was helpful in understanding of the reality of long term space flight and the human interactions of the crew. He told me any mission like this would definitely have a medical doctor and a psychologist to monitor the crew's mental health. NASA is exploring these ideas to test isolation effects on astronauts for long term missions.

GS: What was Fox's reaction to the inclusion of a gay couple in Virtuality?

MT: We had no resistance from Fox at all. It just made sense on a whole lot of levels. We wanted to explore all kinds of relationships in a realistic way. Fox was really excited about all aspects of the show really. And the character relationships are the focus of the drama.

We really hope they roll the dice. The climate today in network TV is very knee jerk and reflexive and fear based. The TV business is changing under our feet. But, we're getting great reviews. People are really into it and are gravitating toward it. ABC took a chance on LOST, and it's proved successful. We think there's an audience out there for this kind of show, but people need to vote with their eyeballs on Friday night.

Originally Fox was going to air it on July 4th, which would have given it no chance. But, they've moved it up and Fox Publicity is pushing it like hell and we're getting media attention. And the options on all the actors haven't expired yet. So, I've told the cast not let your heart get broken again. But the material is getting out there. We just need viewers to vote with their eyeballs on Friday night.


GS: You and Ron sketched out some broad strokes of where the show would go in the first season... If the show were to somehow be picked up somewhere would you continue along those lines?

MT: Yeah, we'll be off at a gallop. We really want to do a show full of suspense, action, and drama. It's also a murder mystery. An Existential murder mystery. The pilot episode raises questions. Great SF is always about asking questions. Tune in and we hope to get to provide the answers.

GS: Why will BSG fans like this show? One major source of BSG's strength was its willingness to tackle tough topical issues. What problems and issues, if any, does Virtuality explore?

MT: What I think BSG fans really love is exploring the characters. Through this new show, we're taking SF into a whole new contemporary area. Virtuality does the same thing as BSG in that sense. Here again we are trying to do something new, and take the genre in yet another step further. It's a fresh flavor. We literally have a a new vehicle, the Phaeton, and it takes us into new territory. Ron and I have a lot of new ideas we want to explore. BSG was more political and of its time. It really crystallized during the New Caprica plot line in early season three. BSG examined our political situation over the last eight years. But, Virtuality is a different beast. It's less political and more technological. It's more contemporary in dealing with how technology is effecting us. How we are changing with the internet, spending our time looking at screens, deluged by TV, reality shows, and news media. We are already living in a virtuality, and we have relationships with people online. Like much of SF it is really a mediation of the present, through a futuristic prism. This show resonates culturally, where we live right now, right here, in this moment.

GS: With Earth in peril how is Virtuality's take on the concept fresh?

MT: It raises the stakes of their mission. It's what they are told, and our characters will always wonder what the truth is. What is reality is a central question to the whole story. Certainly 30 years from now, if we don't change our ways, our ecology is in danger. Global warming is changing our lives right now on this planet. In the context of the show, one of our characters says, "We've got bigger problems back home." But, it's certainly a question if they are being told the truth. What is real, what is not.

GS: The Clea Duvall character Sue Parsons seems very reminiscent of Starbuck. How are they similar? How are they different?

MT: Certainly Starbuck was a staring point. Sue Parsons is a pilot, a flyer. She's tough. But, that's just a starting point. You think you are getting a character you've seen before, but you will realize she's very different than Starbuck. Starbuck was a bit of an inspiration a bit of a touch stone, but she's more self-aware and more aware of her baggage from the start, whereas it took Starbuck years to get to that point of understanding.

GS: Can we expect some conflict with the ship's omniscient computer system, as in 2001 or Alien?

MT: Our AI is named Jean, a female, AI. Later on in the show, the crew begins to wonder if something has gone wrong with the AI. But, AI is implicated in a much broader sense. Just as in video games, your actions in the environment effect the game and affect the game's AI. It's something we want to explore.

GS: If a series happens would there be any further overlap of BSG talent - writers, producers, actors?

MT: We'd love to have staff from BSG. Everyone is kinda scattered. Jane Espenson and I are working on Caprica. Michael Angeli is writing pilots. David Weddle and Bradley Thompson are on CSI. But, it would be lovely to bring the team back together again someday.

We begin shooting Caprica in a few weeks. It's a very exciting time for all of us. Ron is going up to Canada and is directing one of the first ones. We have a bunch of scripts were all working on and we're getting our ducks in a row. It's going to be great.


GS: Final thoughts on Virtuality?

MT: Watch it! If you care about good SF and you read great speculative fiction by writers like Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert, here's your chance to lay your eyes on something new. People need to watch. It's a fun two hours, and it's worth you time. Vote with your eyeballs. Do you have anything better to do on a Friday night?


Trailer for "Edge of Never" Virtuality's reality show, within the show.











Cast interviews collected by nobodysleepsanymore.


Also, Michael Taylor talked to Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune about Virtuality and Caprica. (Read Mo's review of the pilot of Virtuality here.)

Taylor was interviewed as well by AMC's Sci-Fi Scanner Blog and by Televisionary.

And check out his great recent talk with Hitfix.

Alan Sepinwall reviewed Virtuality "Go No Go" for NJ.com. Heather Havrilesky writes a review for Salon.

James Poniewozik for Time Magazine reviews "Virtuality's bold lonely mission."

And Brian Ford Sullivan previewed the pilot film for The Futon Critic. Sullivan also interviewed the cast and crew, here.

And ScriptPhD reviews the show and writes:

Indeed, Virtuality bears several trademark Ronald D. Moore stamps: great science, terrific characters, and humanity-driven conflict and desperation. While Battlestar Galactica’s primary science angle focused on Cylon artificial intelligence, in Virtuality, astrophysics, geology and astrobiology take center stage. Especially pertinent amidst NASA’s recent exploratory missions, the Phaeton module employs top of the line physics to propel itself to far reaches of outer space, while self-contained greenhouses and laboratories analyze evolutionary life origins and biological compositions of space. Colorful characters abound on the Phaeton crew, including lead navigator/designer with a painful past Jules Braun (Erik Jensen), aggressive, self-destructive pilot Sue Parsons (Clea DuVall), paraplegic, self-doubting co-pilot Jimmy Johnson (Richie Coster), gay couple Val Orlovsky (Gene Farber) and Manny Rodriguez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) providing an infusion of hope and optimism, and married astrobiologists Kenji Yamamoto (Nelson Lee) and Alice Thibadeau (Joy Bryant) debating the pros and cons of raising a child aboard the confined ship. Compounding the stress and importance of Phaeton’s mission are your basic everyday problems: the ship’s only doctor (Omar Metwally) has Parkinson’s Disease, there aren’t enough medical supplies to sustain a ten-year mission, an escalating conflict of personalities and strategies between Captain Pike and his co-pilot, and the rampant obliteration of Earth by natural disasters. As he did in Battlestar, Moore does an exemplary job of using the scientific questions of our time as a platform to probe deeper into the meaning of life, humanity, and the ethical limits of an imminent fight for survival.

The most attractive aspect of Virtuality is how hip, modern and current it feels. With sleek, bright sets, fast-paced camera action from director Pete Berg, and gorgeous computer generated imaging of outer space and the virtual reality scenes, the show departs visually from the austerity that is often a sci-fi staple. It is also a shrewd, tongue-in-cheek satire about our obsession with “celebrity” against the backdrop of an all too plausible environmental reality here on Earth. The action aboard the Phaeton is being broadcast back on Earth as the most popular reality show of all time, “The Edge of Never,” being seen by billions every week. Orchestrated by Dr. Roger Fallon (James D’Arcy), whose simultaneous roles as reality show producer and on-board psychologist come into conflict, the show combines the drama of Earth’s impending doom and the search for other habitable planets with our modern televised voyeurism. Hosted by the well-meaning but invasive Billie Kashmiri (Kerry Bishé), the show meticulously follows every facet of the crew’s quotidian existence, complete with ubiquitous cameras throughout the ship, Big Brother-style confessional rooms, and manufactured conflict to entertain the masses. Combining Star Trek and The Hills, Virtuality adds yet another layer to the confounding question of what is real, what is virtual, and where the twain shall meet. All of this action and philosophy culminates in a shocking surprise twist that you will never see coming. It will test the sense of trust and camaraderie aboard the vessel, raise questions about the boundaries of escapism in a virtual world, and put in danger the crew’s psychological capacity for their ten-year mission in outer space.



Michael Hinman at Alpha Airlock examines the FX unitized in the pilot.

Actor Jose Pablo Cantillo who plays Manny on Virtuality is interviewed Michael Jensen, editor of After Elton.

Good Ship Phaeton has extensive coverage of the show including Michael Taylor's Top Ten Reasons to Check out Virtuality:
10. Free “Friend of Ron Moore” ball cap (normally only available on “Ron Moore Day” at Dodgers stadium).
9. Get reserved seats at the hottest panel at Comicon next year!
8. Receive your very own easy-to-assemble Starship Phaeton, no pilot’s license needed to operate provided you stay within the solar system and always wear a helmet.
7. What else are you gonna do on a Friday night? Um, okay, so maybe that’s a crappy reason but hey, that’s why it’s up here at number 7.
6. Yes, I know, by asking you to forward this message I’m essentially involving you in a pop culture pyramid scheme. But look at it this way: You’re getting in on the ground floor! So after this letter has propagated for 10 generations, you’ll be able to tell, um, 100 billion people “I told you so” when they write back to say they liked the show!
5. It’ll give my Mom something to brag about.
4. By staying in and watching the show, you’ll save gas and help save the environment! It’s socially responsible!
3. After watching the show, you too will be able to use the word “virtuality” in a sentence!
2. Because if enough people watch the show this Friday, there’s a decent chance it’ll actually get to become a full-blown TV series. And the number one reason to check out “Virtuality” on Friday and encourage your friends to do the same:
1. ’Cause it’s a frakkin’ cool show!

Don’t forget, Virtuality is airing this Friday at 8/7c!


Last week Ronald D. Moore, co-creator of Virtuality with Michael Taylor, did an extensive conference call with members of the media to discuss the show and it's potential future. Angel Cohn of televisionwithoutpity provides a complete transcript. Other reports on the conference call from: Wired, IF, Miss Geeky, TV Week, IESB, MovieWeb, The Deadbolt, Daemon's TV and TV Guide.

Images and clips from Virtuality.

And check out Trek Movie Report's full briefing on Virtuality.

Tune in to FOX tonight at 8:00 P.M. to see Virtuality.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sad News


Big Light Productions reports that Lorena Gale (Elosha on BSG) passed away on Sunday after a brief but courageous battle with stomach cancer.

Saturn Awards

BSG was a winner at the Saturn Awards, Variety reports:

On the TV side, “Battlestar Galactica” drew three nods: cable-syndicated series, TV actor (Edward James Olmos) and TV actress (Mary McDonnell). “Lost” took network series honors.


THE WINNERS OF THE 35TH ANNUAL SATURN AWARDS:

Science Fiction Film:
"Iron Man"

Fantasy Film:
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Horror Film:
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Action/Adventure/Thriller Film:
"The Dark Knight"

Actor:
Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man")

Actress:
Angelina Jolie ("Changeling")

Supporting Actor:
Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight")

Supporting Actress:
Tilda Swinton ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")

Performance by a Younger Actor:
Jaden Christopher Smith ("The Day the Earth Stood Still")

Director:
Jon Favreau ("Iron Man")

Writer:
Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan ("The Dark Knight")

Music:
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard ("The Dark Knight")

Costume:
Mary Zophres ("Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull")

Make-Up:
Greg Cannom ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")

Special Effects:
Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber, Paul J. Franklin ("The Dark Knight")

International Film:
"Let the Right One In"

Animated Film:
"Wall-E"

Television Series:
"Lost"

Syndicated/Cable Television Series:
"Battlestar Galactica"

Presentation on Television:
"The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice"

Actor on Television:
Edward James Olmos ("Battlestar Galactica")

Actress on Television:
Mary McDonnell ("Battlestar Galactica")

Supporting Actor on Television:
Adrian Pasdar ("Heroes")

Supporting Actress on Televison:
Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter")

Guest Starring Role on Television:
Jimmy Smits ("Dexter")

DVD Release:
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer"

DVD Special Edition Release:
Stephen King’s The Mist" - 2 disc Special Edition

DVD Classic Film Release:
"Psycho" - Universal Legacy Series

DVD Collection:
"The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration"

Series on DVD:
"Moonlight"

Retro Series on DVD:
"The Invaders"

The Life Career Award:
Lance Henriksen

The Lifetime Achievement Award:
Leonard Nimoy

The Visionary Award:
Jeffrey Katzenberg


Also TV GUIDE recently ranked the top 100 television episodes of all time in their June 15th issue. The only BSG episode on the list was Blood on the Scales which came in at #43.

Really, in season 4, the two parter The Oath and Blood on the Scales were the most representative of what BSG is all about.

Blood on the Scales had a propulsive plot, lots of action, but with great character moments. The focus of Michael Angeli's script was really on the relationships between Apollo/Starbuck, Roslin/Adama, Adama/Tigh, and even Felix and Baltar.

All Things Considered



Listen to BSG composer Bear McCreary on NPR's All Things Considered:

Insurgency, religious fanaticism, technology run amok: a few of the themes explored in Battlestar Galactica, the science-fiction TV series about a civilization running for its life from human-like robots. The series has been honored with a Peabody, as well as awards for acting, visual effects and sound design. But its unsung character has been its music — until now.

Bear McCreary composes the scores for Battlestar Galactica. He's conducting a series of summer concerts featuring the show's music — and the performances are selling out.

"It's still dawning on me how many people out there are passionate about the music," he says.

McCreary recently visited the NPR West studios to discuss his compositions with host Guy Raz. He says he draws inspiration from Asian and Middle Eastern music, but he's also influenced by the orchestral traditions of the Western canon.

His compositions bear little resemblance to the sounds typically associated with science-fiction programs. According to McCreary, the show's producers wanted to distance the series from the "orchestral bombast" of movies such as the Star Wars films.

McCreary says Battlestar Galactica differs from other shows in part because its producers encouraged him to keep changing the score.

"That was an extremely exciting creative prospect to me, because it allowed me to evolve as an artist," he says.


Plus, Bear wants you to help design a website for his BSG Orchestra. Find all the details here.

BSG Trek



Created by aliotsy

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spoiler Policy



via College Humor

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mojo Recommends


FX artist Mojo reports on an old school BSG event happening tonight in Santa Monica:

This coming Saturday (June 20, 2009) the American Cinemateque’s Aero Theater in Santa Monica will be screening the single greatest night of filmed entertainment in motion picture history: for this first time ever in this country, not one, not two, but all three old school Battlestar Galactica feature films will be shown. What’s that? You knew the original pilot was shown in theaters in Sensurround but what the hell is all this gibberish about three feature films? Read on, old friend…


Mojo also recently explored the anatomy and evolution of the breed of ancient Cylons found on Cylon Earth in Revelations/Sometimes A Great Notion.

Bear's Concert Highlights


Bear McCreary blogged about the California Plaza Grand Performances free concert last weekend in Los Angeles. A ton of video highlights on his his site for your enjoyment. Katee Sackhoff joined Bear on the piano for “Kara Remembers,” “Heeding the Call” and “All Along the Watchtower”.

PopCultureGeek reports on the scene.

Those of you planning to see Bear's BSG concerts in San Diego are in for a treat.









Here's the full set list:

CA PLAZA 6/13/09
SET LIST:

A Distant Sadness
Precipice
Fight Night
Gina Escapes
Caprica
Gaeta’s Lament
Roslin and Adama
Wander My Friends
Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1
Baltar’s Dream
Dirty Hands
Lords of Kobol
Prelude to War
Kara Remembers / Heeding the Call
All Along the Watchtower

Encore:
Black Market




Bear also revealed the track listing and album art for the Season 4 Double CD coming out July 21st. (His music for Caprica is available now.)

Bear also reported today:
I forgot to mention that I’m being interviewed tomorrow night (Sunday, June 21) on NPR’s “ALL THINGS CONSIDERED,” discussing my score for “Battlestar Galactica.” The show airs between 5:30 and 6:00pm, although that can change depending on time zone. Check local listings. Also, it will be on the NPR website starting at 7pm ET.


Bear is also now on Twitter.

New trailer for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN

LA Times blog The Hero Complex had the honor of premiering online the new trailer that was shown earlier this month in LA. Naturally it got premiered on a Friday Night -- embrace the death slot, knuckledraggers.


This is such fun:

 

I'm very much looking forward to finding out more about this particular version of Number Six...

Monday, June 15, 2009

12 Minutes of Clips from VIRTUALITY

Fox has released a clip reel that proves what the pilot script suggested last year; VIRTUALITY has much in common with the human culture on view in the films ALIEN, SILENT RUNNING, or SUNSHINE. "Edge of Never," the reality TV show-within-a-show, is a clever new aspect to a familiar genre. This feels very different from BSG...different but promising.

VIRTUALITY airs 8-10pm on Fox, Friday June 26th.




Especially enjoying that landscape-painting scene. That is exactly what I would be doing in my own virtworld...

(via The Live Feed)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Music Under the Stars of L.A.



Come hear Bear McCreary and band perform music from BSG under the stars at California Plaza in Downtown L.A. The event is free. Bear is encouraging folks to film and share the videos with him. Read all about it on Bear's blog:

What a week! I’ve been in final rehearsals for tomorrow’s big free concert in Downtown LA. If you’re in the area, don’t miss this incredible event under the stars. There will be some VERY EXCITING surprises that I wish I could spoil for you now, but it’s only a day away… might as well save it for tomorrow.

You are all welcome to bring a video camera or take photos at tomorrow’s concert. If you get some video or stills, I’d be grateful if you could share them with me: the higher quality the better. After the concert, just leave a comment [at Bear's blog] and we’ll coordinate with you.
UPDATED: Photography is fine, but DO NOT USE A FLASH! Thanks!


Tickets are now available for Bear's upcoming concerts at the House of Blues in San Diego during Comic Con, July 23, 24, and 25th.

Cyborgs on the Horizon: A Reportback from the 92nd Street Y

Cyborgs on the Horizon:
A Sitrep Reportback

Friday night, I crowded into the 92nd Street Y with hundreds of other BSG fans for the World Science Festival event "Battlestar Galactica: Cyborgs on the Horizon." In the lead-up to the event I had conducted interviews with panel participants Hod Lipson , Kevin Warwick , and Mary McDonnell, so I was prepared for a lot of the topics of discussions... and it was still shocking and eye-opening and exciting to be so close to these marvelous people and hear about the work that they're doing, and their perspectives on these issues.

Please see below for a list of a bunch of my favorite moments. I know there were other Sitrep readers in attendance, so I hope people will post their additional favorite moments in the Comments field! All photos used in this post are © Dawn Garizzo for World Science Festival. For a full slideshow of official photographs, click here.


Event highlights included:

Nick Bostrom saying that the definition of human-level artificial intelligence is "sort of a moving target," and that "we keep moving the goalposts." "Many things that were once considered paradigmatically human, and evidence of our superior intelligence - like playing chess - we stopped considering them signs of intelligence once a computer could master them."

Michael Hogan saying that "During the miniseries, I said to myself a number of times 'man, am I glad I'm not playing a cylon!'"

Mary McDonnell saying "NOBODY gets a bigger trailer than Eddie."

Kevin Warwick telling us about a robot brain that he built out of rat brain cells, and how he hooked it up to a machine and it was able to control it, and ultimately learn not to bump into walls, and as it learned they could observe the growth of pathways among the brain cells, which is how learning happens in human brains.

Michael Hogan saying that the research for Saul Tigh was a lot of fun because it just involved "drinking a lot, which I'm good at," and Mary McDonnell saying "He really is."


Mary McDonnell saying of the episode "Epiphanies" (in which fetal stem cells from Hera save Roslin's life): "part of the reason for writing it was to address the resistance to stem cell research in this country."

Michael Hogan saying that he initially "vehemently disagreed with the idea that Tigh would go down to live on New Caprica at the end of Season Two," but "look at the arc they wrote for me in Season Three as a result - I am so proud of the work that we did, and so honored."

Hod Lipson showing a scary video of a robot that he built, teaching itself to walk, and my friend Manny turning to me and saying "this is the beginning of the end."

Mary's shock and excitement mirroring our own as we all learned about the work that Prof's Lipson and Warwick are doing.

Kevin Warwick scoffing at the idea that we would be able to control robots once they achieve super-intelligence: "Do we really think they're going to say 'I'm more intelligent than you, but I'm going to do what you tell me to do?' I mean, how stupid are humans?" And that "People tend to say 'oh, we can just switch it off if it gets too scary...' but think of the internet. It's just not possible to switch off the internet."

Mary saying that Ron Moore was "wise enough to realize that there was a co-creative aspect to the show, in his interactions with the fans. A lot of these hearts and minds (here she gestured to the audience) were very engaged in the direction the show took."

Nick Bostrom saying that once we had developed truly sentient robots, we would have to extend human rights to them, because "It ultimately doesn't matter if you're a carbon-based intelligence or a silicon-based intelligence. It makes no more difference than the color of your skin."

Kevin Warwick telling about his experience becoming a cyborg - a chip was implanted into his nervous system in his arm, and then hooked up to the internet, and he was able to control a robot hand on an entirely different continent. "I could feel that I was gripping something." "Your brain can adapt to perceive new stimuli. If we want new senses, we've got the technology to do it."


When asked what BSG taught her about being human, Mary said "If we can begin to think our way into a place that's more creative and less fearful, so many of these things we want to do can be done. I no longer suffer from the illusion that we have a lot of time. On a spiritual and political plane, I'd like to be of better and more efficient service, because it really feels like we're running out of time." And we all got chills.

When asked whether AI should be regulated by the government, Hod Lipson said it should be "something open, and not regulated, but the discussion cannot just be scientists publishing jargony articles in scientific journals no one reads - it needs to be an open discussion among everyone. This can't be something that only scientists - or anyone - has control over."

But when asked the same question, Kevin Warwick said that "The goal in military circles is 'no bodybags by 2020.' I'm personally scared by that scenario. We're developing these machines that are programmed to destroy something, usually something human, and I do feel that with that kind of destructive potential the people - whether or not it's through their governments - should have some say in how it's developed."
And finally, an audience member asked Mary if she was surprised to find out she wasn't a cylon. She said she wasn't. "It could have been an interesting cruel joke, seeing as how I'd killed so many... But I was pretty sure that Laura Roslin had to remain on the human, fearful plane - her karma was about completion of some kind of responsibility, a very blood-and-guts, cancer-ridden experience, and I just couldn't imagine that they'd want to throw all of that out."

New clips from THE PLAN

Last night BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fans were treated to two different sneak peaks at the upcoming telefilm THE PLAN, which promises to revisit the events of the BSG timeline from the cylon perspective.

SciFi previewed a new clip of Cavil talking to Ellen last night on air, and we at the Sitrep are not against aiming the frakkin' Flipcam at the TeeVee now and then for your pleasure:



ETA Sunday: SciFi has posted the official clip now:



Meanwhile, at the World Science Festival panel last night in New York City another exclusive clip, of Cavil with Boomer, was screened for the audience. Uberfangrrl and friend of the blog prolix_allie was nice enough to write up a description of it for us. In honor of our more spirginal readers, we are putting that info in the comment section of this post.

For a bit more footage of THE PLAN, here's the trailer released a few months ago:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dave Howe talks CAPRICA, THE PLAN, and Comic Con

Chicago Tribune writer Maureen Ryan is interviewing Sci Fi (SyFy?) exec Dave Howe today and has twittered a few important factoids:

Sci Fi prez Dave Howe says debut of Caprica, BSG prequel series, is likely to be in January. (tweet)

Sci Fi panels at Comic-Con: Stargate Universe, Caprica, Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Eureka. BSG movie The Plan "likely" to be there too. (tweet)

The Plan, BSG film, airs in Nov. Also, there *may* be a Battlestar theatrical film in 3-5 years. Not for sure, but possible, sez Dave Howe. (tweet)


Two Comic Con panels? Huzzah! As for a BSG movie, my excitement over that will depend on what sort of movie we are talkin' about. To be continued.

Keep an eye out for a full feature by Ryan over on her site The Watcher...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"The Heart of the Female Warrior" - A Sitrep Interview with Mary McDonnell

For the third in the Sitrep's exclusive series of interviews with the participants in this Friday's panel Battlestar Galactica: Cyborgs on the Horizon, I had the opportunity to speak with the brilliant Mary McDonnell. By way of introduction, all I'll say is this: Mary McDonnell is President Roslin. She really is that wise and wonderful and thoughtful. At the end of Season 3's episode "Dirty Hands," the Chief sits down with Roslin in her office on Colonial One and basks in her warmth and brilliance. In an interview, Aaron Douglas talked about what a marvelous and moving experience it was to sit down and shoot that scene with Mary McDonnell. That's how I felt.


Can you give us a sneak peek at what you'll be talking about this Friday, at the panel Battlestar Galactica: Cyborgs on the Horizon?

The event at the 92nd Street Y is going to be attended by some really remarkable scientists and thinkers – there's a man named Nick Bostrom, and he's co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association at Oxford; there's a man named Hod Lipson, who works in evolutionary robotics, and his research is focused primarily on biologically-inspired approaches to engineering, machine self-replication—my point is that Michael Hogan and I have been invited to sit on a panel of people who are on the cutting edge of science and physics and futuristic ideas and some of the themes that Battlestar Galactica touched on with cylon technology and its evolution – I believe are the reasons we are asked to sit on this panel. What we will end up speaking about, what our contribution will be, is yet unknown, because what we're there for, I believe, is to provide a bridge between the common man and the scientists who are speaking on such a level that sometimes people shy away from it—discussion of metaphysics or whatever. When you put some actors in the mix, sometimes it helps bridge the gap. And I feel honored, actually, and I'm sure Michael Hogan does too, if you haven't talked to him already – that we get to be that bridge. Battlestar Galactica has opened many interesting doors for us to participate in, help support, help bring audience to—everything from human rights to cybernetics.


Are you up on the current state of robotics?

No, but I'm going to be reading a lot about it this week, and I'm going to be learning about it while I'm there - are you?


I'm not, but I just interviewed Professor Warwick and Professor Lipson, and it's totally astonishing work they're doing. Amazing amazing stuff.

Oh, I'd love to read your interviews.


Well, they're up on the Sitrep.

I'll read them.


Do you have a favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica?

Someone asked me that at the UN event too, and I really don't. I do have favorite moments where we were all on the set, where the entire ensemble was collected, for example, when we landed on the first Earth... (laughs)... the disastrous Earth...we were all there that day, we were all working together, so this sort of collective consciousness of Battlestar Galactica was assembled on a beach on a cloudy day in Canada. There was something so remarkable about actually being in the presence of everyone who had worked on the show – even a lot of people from LA had come up for that particular event. I remember those moments more vividly than some of the others because I was always so respectfully in awe of the ensemble, and quite often didn't get to work with a lot of the people who were on the show. As an actress you kind of relish those moments where everyone's in the same place and you get to observe the ensemble at work. It was really quite exciting. I have many moments like that – I can't really name one episode.

The finale of Battlestar Galactica was very polarizing. Lots of fans loved it; lots of fans hated it. Were you satisfied with the finale?

I loved it. I was very satisfied with it. I loved the sort of simplicity of the ending, to be honest with you, it seemed very simple to me, it seemed very right, that ultimately the simplicity of existence comes from a deep respect for the land and the projection of a peaceful future... and that seems to be what was on their minds, as they finally completed their journey. It seemed to me that each character had acquired that aspiration towards simplicity and peace, and I feel that that was a huge statement to make, after four years of pretty sophisticated battles. And also I was pretty pleased that my character was able to die peacefully, and quite happy, oddly enough – she was happier in the last few episodes on some very deep level than she was at the beginning. What did you think, Sam? Where do you fall?


When I saw it, I was actually really unhappy. For me, the moment of finding the first, devastated Earth was so powerful and so amazing, and so speaks to what I love about the show - and that scene on the beach that you were just describing is my favorite moment in the series - so it felt like a betrayal to find this second earth that's a beautiful paradise. The show had been so gutsy in going after these dark dark things. I guess after going through all that stuff y'all did deserve a happy ending, but it wasn't what I was prepared for.

You were prepared for a more apocalyptic ending.


Yeah...

I understand that.

But the more distance I get from the episode, the more right it feels. I think what I am feeling is mostly just grief at the end of the series.

Also, I think that what you're saying is mostly right on target, because I do think that to a certain extent it's more uncomfortable for us to have happy endings. When you're trying to look at life on this planet honestly, and you're trying to not shy away from the darkness, which Battlestar did not shy away from, to suddenly be led into some kind of very simple light – it is a bit threatening, I think. You do have to get used to it. And because we played it, we were prepared. I do understand how it would make one... initially a bit circumspect.


In popular culture, we always imagine that the robots will want to exterminate us. There’s a real fear that as soon as machines become intelligent, they become a threat to us. Why do you think people have that knee-jerk reaction?

Because I think that we're still trying to struggle beyond fear-based culture. I don't think we're quite there yet, but I do think we're on the brink of it. A lot of what I learned on Battlestar, both through playing Laura Roslin and through being brought out into the culture a bit, through conventions and things like the World Science Festival, is that people are on the brink of giving up their fear. And if we can give up our fear, then the whole concept of the Other as alien starts to dissipate a bit. And if we're willing to risk perhaps giving up our fear of death at the core of all of this, and we start to see life as an ongoing process, that our nominal death is just a little part of the ongoing process, then we won't perhaps continue to project, culturally, artificial intelligence as coming to kill us, or something we have to eliminate at our first glance. I think that's part of where we grew a little bit in Battlestar – the absorption of the alien as the self, rather than the Other or the enemy.


That's a very optimistic and exciting way to look at it!

But don't you think that that is it, though?

I do. I think it's about fear - and guilt, almost, that our own history of oppression is what we see coming back to us.

Yes! That's exactly – I absolutely agree with you, Sam. And I don't think about guilt a lot in relation to this but you're absolutely right, we begin to feel guilty, it's sort of like moving away from tribal thought or clan mentality.. and starting to individuate. Even in my own ethnic background, this sort of very clannish emotional attachment in being Irish, which brings such absolutely beautiful things into my DNA, but there's also things that in order to evolve as a human being I have to almost separate a little bit from - whatever clan impulses are still in my DNA. Which is a long-winded way of saying that you said something I related to.


One thing that I loved throughout the show, from the miniseries to the moment of Laura Roslin's death, is the use of her eyeglasses... I even wrote an article about it. Did that mean anything to you - were you developing the use of the character's glasses to have a specific meaning?

Immediately, Ron Moore recognized them in a certain way, and he pointed out to me that he saw something in the way I used my glasses. And we didn't get too deeply into what he saw, because I didn't want to get self-conscious about it, but they became inseparable from what Laura Roslin needed to get done. I read once in a Buddhist text, and it's something I really responded to, that there's a defensive way and an open way of perceiving life, or meeting life. In an open way, the image is straight back, open front – open heart. In a defensive way, the back is bent and the front is closed. I think the glasses were Laura Roslin's attempt to keep the front open but protect it. It's hard for me now because I'm currently playing a character on The Closer, and I have a new pair of glasses (laughs).


Does it change everything?

As a woman being asked to push the envelope a little bit, in positions of power, I am finding that they've become kind of an important part of my process. There's something so naked about a middle-aged woman's face РI really believe this, and take pride in it, that women communicate the life that they've lived on their countenance. Men absorb the life that they've lived in a different way, it matures on them in a different way. Women's history is more visible on their countenance, so stepping into playing roles that are more traditionally in the male power structure, I find that a pair of glasses, as clich̩ as it sounds, helps me and the character mask the more feminine response to life, which may or may not be useful in that situation. I've been noticing it Рyou see more and more female characters in the movies and on television who are in positions of power wearing glasses. And of course we had Sarah Palin. I think it's sort of a collective response, and I think women are feeling it together. I think it's fascinating.

Maybe that's your cultural influence -

Oh, I dont know if it's my influence. I would love to believe that we had that much power, and sometimes I think that we do. I'll tell you I have been to certain conventions with a lot of really beautiful young women showing up in their horn-rim glasses. I always get so tickled by it. So there is something going on.


BSG has this important theme of looking at our history of oppression, owning up to what we have done – as Adama says, “We can't wash our hands of the things that we've done.” I see a similar theme in Dances With Wolves, and this idea of looking at our history in its less flattering light... is that something that's important to you as an artist?

It actually is. And it's become more clear to me through Battlestar that it's been a kind of driving influence. I think as artists we carry different elements inside our talent that are spiritual elements, that we feel consciously or unconsciously as a form of duty. I've met very few true artists in my life who are blithely enjoying the fact that they're artists. Artists really grapple, in general, with a sense of purpose and a sense of responsibility. So what I've noticed over the years in my career now that I've had this very long one (laughs), I've noticed that there is a sort of a pattern, and that my talent seems to spring to life more readily when it's being asked to serve a story that tries to honestly reflect what we really are as humankind, and what we might be, and tries to take responsibility for some of the past, and stand squarely in it. Somehow, whatever talent I have seems to come to life inside of that. And I've had many experiences where I've been asked to play something in other territories that was a bit more entertaining and perhaps a bit more frivolous, and unless it's a flat-out comedy I often don't know how to place myself. So, somehow yes, I think that is important to me.


Are there other lessons from Battlestar Galactica, that the show has to offer us or that it offered to you?

Quite often the viewers of Battlestar, and people such as yourself, would teach us more about the implications of the show than we understood when we were making it. I think that what I have learned as a recipient of all of this discussion and real debate and praise – all kinds of things have come back at us in relation to show, and what it's really put at the center of my being at this point is that if one commits to an artistic endeavor that truly does want to ask the difficult questions, one can become directly connected to the culture in a way that perhaps increases the collective way of thinking that could be very positive. That's what I learned from Battlestar – it kind of strengthened a belief in me that people are really very very excited and willing to change. There's something about pop culture, if used correctly, that can gather all those forces out there, and then bring them to the same place, and the change can maybe be made together. And I've always suspected that that is why we do it, but Battlestar taught me that it truly is an important part and is going to continue to be an important part of the process. I think that starting with cable television and moving into new media, we're entering a whole new age of possibilities. Communications technology is changing what all artists are going to be capable of doing, and the instantaneous access to the audience is becoming very exciting. I also learned that we're entering an age where things are going to move very quickly, so it's really important to get the most correct idea with the most integrity, out there as quickly as possible.


In the episode "Blood on the Scales," in Season 4.5, you deliver this astonishing speech - the one that climaxes with “I'm coming for all of you.” Pulses skyrocketed all across Galactica fandom - it's just the most amazing and effective moment. What was your motivation in delivering and acting that scene?

When I read it, I was so astonished by the bravery of Michael [Angeli] to write that. And I was so astonished that the show and the minds of the show decided to allow Laura Roslin a moment where all her other considerations - the survival of the human race, which was always her driving force, whatever layers that might have grown up underneath that, that might have been political - everything else disappeared for one moment. And the emotional and passionate warrior, the woman who was falling in love, was able to come to the forefront. And threaten to take action that she wouldn't hesitate to do, and she wouldn't look back. And there was nothing intellectual about it and there was absolutely no negotiating. It was like the heart of the female warrior was able to come to the forefront, and all the other layers of Laura Roslin were able to go away. And the thing that motivated me was simply the thought that someone had killed Adama! It was pretty simple. This woman had been fighting a war since the miniseries. So the female warrior had been growing in her. But she was in a political position and she had to – to the best of her ability – be very level. I think the only other time she really lost her temper was with Baltar (laughs), but it wasn't on that level. So I guess, once again, if I can give a simple answer – her motivation was love. The female maternal side, when one of your loved ones is threatened, and in this case it was stated that his life had been taken, the maternal loving aspect of the feminine comes out full force. In this instance it was allowed to. I thought it was written perfectly. That was Michael Angeli – I remember hugging him.



Are you a sci-fi fan in general?

Sci fi the form, or SciFi the channel?


The form. Good qualifier.

When you're living in the channel's world for years and someone says “Sci fi” you think of these wonderful executives (laughs). Am I fan of the form – I am, to a certain extent. I was not a fan of the form, but I wasn't particularly educated in the form. I am beginning to understand life more specifically through the lens of science fiction the more I am exposed to it. And I have to say in all honesty that the people I've met through this experience, who are devoted to the perspective or the lens of science fiction have been some of the most profoundly bright and moving and dedicated that I've met through my life, and I've had a pretty amazing life through my work, I've had the opportunity to meet many creative and really smart thinkers... there's something about the sci fi devotee that is so interested and interesting and willing to grapple and keep the mind sharp. It's not your normal fare. To me it's been really lovely to be brought into connection with people who are thinking about life on that level, and I'm finding myself more and more comfortable with it, and drawn to it, and stimulated by that perspective.


- Sam J. Miller


Monday, June 08, 2009

Robot Uprising


Tying in with all the build up toward Friday's 92nd St. Y events, Mojo talked to Daniel H. Wilson, the author of How To Survive A Robot Uprising about how to survive a Cylon uprising:

Sure, Wilson’s book is an invaluable tool for teaching us how to cope with a generic, run-of-the-mill robot revolution, but what do we do when the world of Battlestar Galactica becomes reality and the Cylons rebel? How do we defend ourselves against chrome-plated, red-eyed monstrosities, enemy fighters that think and robots that look like us? Luckily for Darth Mojo readers, the good doctor put on his thinking cap, sharpened his pencil and scribbled down some must-have notes for the day when the phrase “By Your Command” makes the transition from fantasy to fact…


A bit from Dr. Wilson's essay:
BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL

Most robots are misunderstood and do not start out as innately violent beings. Before they decide to attack, they must first judge humankind as unworthy. So, as a sentient being, try to set a good example. Don’t hit your servant robot, call it names, or force it to wear silly outfits. In many ways, Cylons are like gullible, rosy-cheeked little children – except with lethal cannon-arms and cold emotionless hearts of battle-hardened steel.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE ROBOTS, FOR THE GODS’ SAKE!!

If a rapidly evolving race of aggressive robotic creatures rebel and disappear into space for forty years, be sure to assign a person to follow them. This way, you can ensure that they aren’t lurking in the empty wastes of the interstellar void, building a massive, glinting robot army bent on the complete eradication of humankind. Heck, go ahead and assign two people.

IDENTIFY YOUR CYLON

Cylon robots come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Identifying the correct Cylon can greatly affect your chances of survival (or of getting laid). Typically, they come in three forms:

1) Humanoids: These thousands of robots look and act just like people, although they are all inexplicably copied from only a handful of likenesses. (I mean c’mon, nobody decides to get a tattoo?)

2) Centurions: Hulking, shiny robotic bipeds who clank like steam engines when they walk. Watch for the blinding reflection of the sun on metal and for empty cases of armor polish.

3) Raiders:Living space fighters form the Cylon fleet. A characteristic curved wing and pulsing red visor make these robots easy to spot. Also, they’ll be shooting at you and you will be in outer space.


For the rest of Dr. Wilson's excellent advice, visit Darth Mojo for all the info you'll ever need.

Be on the lookout for disturbing omens of the looming robot rebellion:

Katee on 24


Michael Ausiello broke the news:

Sources confirm to me exclusively that the Battlestar Galactica heroine has been tapped to play the series regular role of Dana Walsh, a highly respected and down-to-earth data analyst at the new and improved New York branch of CTU...

Here's more scoop on Sackhoff's character...

She's in a relationship with fellow agent Davis Cole (played by the just-cast Freddie Prinze. Jr.), and she apparently has a skeleton in her closet she's trying desperately to keep hidden.

As I previously reported, 24's eighth season -- which premieres Jan. 17, 2010 -- will be set in the Big Apple and center on an assassination plot against a visiting foreign leader (Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor). In addition to Sackhoff and Prinze, new Day 8 blood includes Forrest Gump's Mykelti Williamson, Kissing Jessica Stein's Jennifer Westfeldt (as a journalist with ties to Kapoor's diplomat), and The Starter Wife's Chris Diamantopoulos (as President Taylor's Chief of Staff).

92nd St Y Tickets


Hey, Galactica Sitrep readers... I've always thought we have the best readership in all of BSG fandom. And now, you finally get rewarded for reading this little website. This just in from our friends at the 92nd St. Y:

We want to offer a discount ticket to your readers - 20% off. Tell them to use the code "SI20" when they order.


So, when you order tickets at this link, to get your discount enter "SI20" into the coupon code box.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I'm getting that tingly feeling again...must be time for Comic Con rumors!

RDM playing nice in the halls of Comic Con 2008...


First bits and pieces of Comic Con 2009 panel info, both rumored and officially announced, have begun to trickle onto the blogosphere this past week for some of the TV and film projects. I'll be tracking a lot of both over on FanGrrl Magnet if you are curious.

But to the question that you dear readers most want here at Sitrep...what about BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and CAPRICA?

Nothing has been announced by Sci Fi/NBCU yet, but Seat42F says all nets and studios have had their Comic Con meetings and made their decisions. I've been poking some sources hoping for more info. It's a bit soon to do a CAPRICA panel, given production is starting next month, the cast and crew will be busy, and there wouldn't be any new footage in time for the Con.

My money is on a panel for THE PLAN, which airs this September November on SciFi.

Watch this space...



[Speaking of cons and plans, did you know Ron Moore is the announced Guest Of Honor at this year's London MCM Expo? And that Olmos recently said this about THE PLAN?]

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Coming to the Sitrep: Mary McDonnell


Earlier Saturday, Galactica Sitrep co-editor Sam J. Miller interviewed Mary McDonnell, president Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica, about a variety of topics in the lead up to her appearance next week at the 92nd St. Y as part of the World Science Festival panel discussion: "Cyborgs on the Horizon". (Read Sam's recent interviews with other panelists Hod Lipson and Kevin Warwick.)

Sam is in the process of transcribing his talk with Mary McDonnell, and we'll post the exclusive interview with her here on Tuesday.

Buy tickets for the BSG panel here.