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Battlestar Galactica reboot will have an experimental episode release strategy

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How’s this for a coincidence? Just yesterday I was hovering over Battlestar Galactica on Amazon Prime Video, pondering a rewatch of Ronald D. Moore’s fan-favourtie early-2000s sci-fi show. While I didn’t click play, I did recall that back in 2019 it was announced that Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail was developing a new reboot of the franchise (the 2000s show was already a reboot of the original cheesy 1970s show) but we’ve practically heard nothing since then. So what was happening?

Well, as I found out with a quick search, Esmail actually spoke to Collider just four days ago about the show, which is being developed for NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock. And it looks like Peacock is looking to shake things up on the streaming scene with this reboot when it comes to how episodes are released.

When I spoke to Peacock about it, and Mike Lesslie who’s an amazing writer – he’s the one who’s showrunning and writing the pilot – the one thing we got excited by is do we release an episode a week, or [release all at once]? For me, it was like let’s get in there and tell the right story and it will tell us how many episodes. We may dump three episodes in a row because it’s a three-episode-long battle sequence that needs to be dropped in a row even though they’re three signifying chapters, and maybe each chapter is switching a point of view within that battle sequence. There may be a 20-minute episode that’s the backstory of one of the characters that gets dropped right after that.

Netflix really pioneered and popularized the binge-ready release model by dropping full seasons at once, as opposed to traditional broadcast television’s weekly scheduled episodes. While other streaming services initially all copied Netflix in this regard as they tried to compete against the big red N, that has been changing the last year or so. Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video have recently started doing maybe a two- or three-episode premiere and then doing weekly from there on out.

While we’ve seen statements from the likes of The Boys creator Eric Kripke saying that it was their choice to go with weekly releases as it allows for fans to digest and dissect episodes together, some have theorized that this is not a decision driven by creators at all. Instead, this could be a corporate push to stop people from subscribing, binging everything, then cancelling again at the end of the month.

But as Esmail continued to explain, Peacock may be taking this a step further and letting the creators do whatever the story requires. Including how many episodes to release and in what order they come out.

So we’re gonna really experiment with form on this one because Battlestar, again given the rich mythology that’s in there already, we want to hit every nook and cranny and because of the format, because of Peacock and streaming – and they’ve been such great partners with us in trying to experiment – we want to get in the writers room and let the story tell us how it wants to be released.

So I can’t tell you the number of episodes, but it’s also kind of a little meaningless because I think we’re gonna look at it as sort of like a spider web where we can plot and point and say, ‘Well this isn’t chronologically after Episode 1 or Episode 2, it’s the backstory of someone, but let’s release that so audiences can check that out if they want or they can just jump into the battle sequence’. We’re really gonna experiment with form in that way, and again I think with a property like Battlestar it lends to that.

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I do kind of like this approach of having the story determine the release strategy (basically just an evolution of streaming services already ditching standardized episode runtimes), but nothing like this has been done before. We simply don’t know how audiences will respond. If it works though, this could be a massive gamechanger.

Esmail and co will have a decent amount of time to figure all of this out though, as the show is still very early in development.

We’re still working on the pilot. Look, it’s a big universe, it’s a big world, I want to respect the Ronald Moore Battlestar. I spoke to him before I even took on the project to make sure that it’s all kosher with him, because the last thing I want to do is step on his toes, and the one thing we both agreed on is that it won’t be a reboot of what he did. Which I think we both wanted.

[So] it’s still in the early phases of trying to figure out the world via the pilot. I think we’ve got the basic construction of the type of story we want to tell, the part of mythology that we’re gonna explore – because Battlestar does have a rich mythology and again I have to give Ron a lot of credit for that – and so now we’re sort of closing in on what that pilot’s gonna look like.

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Esmail went on to say that he is pushing to start production in 2021, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic raging on worldwide, that may be tricky.

I want to shoot later this year. Again a lot of that is up in the air given COVID and just the lay of the land in terms of where the world is and where we can even shoot it. The other thing is this is gonna require a big production just to even start up production and build the sets and start getting the VFX fine-tuned. One of the things I always attribute to the Ron Moore Battlestar is the VFX is just outstanding and pretty groundbreaking… it will be tough to get it off the ground this year, but that’s my goal. I’m pretty impatient, again I’m a fan of this show so I want to see it as soon as possible, so I’m gonna push for 2021.

Peacock will obviously be a bit impatient as the fledgling streaming service will need a big ticket drawcard, similar to how Disney+ had The Mandalorian lead the charge and pull in subscriptions. But as a gigantic fan of Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, I really hope that they rather take their time and get this one right rather than rushing it out to just to have something released. So say we all.

Last Updated: January 19, 2021

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