For this final season, the cast and crew filmed most of it before the writers strike and then sat and fretted that the labor dispute might sabotage the fragile plan to wrap up the show in 20 episodes. It's still not clear how the delayed production will affect the airdates of the final season -- the completed first 10 will air during this run. ("There was a moment where I thought we might not be able to finish the story at all," Olmos said in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. "That was a frightening thought. To leave all this unfinished would just be awful." He also said that the notion of a "Battlestar" film wasn't an option. "Glen Larson has the rights. If they make a 'Battlestar' film at some point, it won't be these actors and this story, I know that.")
"There are no lulls anymore," Bamber said on the Vancouver set last year. "In previous years, there had been sequences where you could kind of sense that we were in an eddy at the side of the stream and we were just exploring an angle of the fleet that we just had not considered yet. There's no available time for anything like that now."
There's something going on in pop culture right now with apocalyptic entertainments about the human race. "I Am Legend," "Children of Men," "28 Days Later" and "Doomsday" have all handled the end-times with degrees of grace and horror, and novelist Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" reaches the screen this year. And "Battlestar" now has a finish line.
"If anything, I think the show was a little too early," Olmos said. "But I also don't think it could be made again. The political topics have just been too touchy. This is the world we live in, though. We're an inch away from the edge. We feel it. We want to think about it and talk about it and watch it."
Genre fans, of course, want to talk about it more than anyone else, and "Battlestar" is one of their most beloved topics. Entire conventions are devoted to the show and its heavy religious themes and heartthrob stars. The fan attention can become a bit much. Grace Park, who plays a collective of Cylon characters (Sharon/Boomer/Athena), said she recently got "a box big enough to fit a golden retriever in" that was packed with intricately assembled scrapbooks. "This fan had clearly spent hours and hours putting this together, and every page was about me, all the places where my name has popped up in a story or on the Internet. This story will be in the next one, I'm sure of it. It's very nice, but it's also a little . . . much."
A 'Trek' not taken
OLMOS could have been sitting on the bridge of a different spaceship. "When they remade 'Star Trek' in the 1980s they called me about the lead," Olmos said, referring to the Enterprise command that went to Patrick Stewart. "I wasn't interested. Science fiction wasn't really where I wanted to be, not since 'Blade Runner.' "
Olmos was a key player in Ridley Scott's hugely influential 1982 film that inspired the modern, bleak branch of cinematic sci-fi with its core fascination with the slippery nature of identity and with noble machines that become more human than their compromised human creators. When he read the new "Battlestar," he saw that pessimistic science fiction.
" 'Blade Runner' was the mothership for all of this, several generations of science fiction films, but nothing has jumped on that world as much as this show," Olmos said.
"I think good science fiction is not optimistic," Bamber said. "You think of George Orwell or Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells, and they are pretty bleak. . . . The show is also not simple. We don't have heroes because we examine everyone too closely."
Helfer said she has been deeply struck by the close examination of Saul Tigh (the character played by Michael Hogan), the gruff executive officer of the Galactica, who has grappled with alcoholism and, over the course of the show, has seen his life fall apart in the struggle with the Cylons. He led a resistance effort in the colony of New Caprica, approved the use of suicide bombers against the enemy, was jailed and tortured as a terrorist (his right eye was ripped out during one session) and also reluctantly poisoned his own wife after she was revealed to have given information to the Cylons (which she did only to save his life).
"The nature of what has happened to him, the complexity of it and the emotional pain of it all, I think that says a lot about this show," Helfer said. There was shock among fans and the cast when Tigh was revealed to be one of the 12 Cylon agents in the midst of the human refugees. "Some of the actors aren't happy when they find out they are Cylon, believe me," McDonnell said. "It's turned out great for them, but I can understand it."
The cast is, of course, as eager as anyone to see how it will all end. "It's all we think about, really," Park said, "but I stopped believing the writers a while ago. The secrecy is so intense, and things change anyway."
Bamber said he and his fellow actors have played out in their minds the different possible finales -- a bang? a whimper? -- and there was quite a bit of discussion last summer about the ambiguous cut-to-black ending of "The Sopranos."
"I know Ron Moore said he really enjoyed that ending, but he's not going to go out that way here, not with 'Battlestar,' " Bamber said. "This is an epic show. This is more like 'The Iliad'; there are elements of epic poetry, Greek mythology, certainly, and the Bible. The issues are deep, and the stakes are high. You can't just serve onion rings at the end."