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Battlestar Galactica prequel shuns space, spaceships

Kinder, gentler Cylons

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Battlestar Galactica, the hit sci-fi thriller about humans searching the galaxy for a planet to call home, will be spun off into a prequel that is set 50 years before androids rebelled against their makers and destroyed civilization as it was known.

Caprica, which is scheduled to air in early 2010, will focus on the events leading up to the great robotic uprising and promises to explore themes involved in designing and using artificial intelligence. Producers say the show will draw a broader set of viewers as it focuses on two rival families who live on Caprica, a planet very much like Earth.

That's a significantly more accessible tone than the decidedly dark and dystopic vision portrayed in Battlestar. Over the course of four seasons and two miniseries, the remake of the 1970s series plotted the near destruction of the human race at the hands of Cylons, androids that were supposed to serve man until they visited nuclear war on their makers.

Commander Adama, President Roslin, and the few thousand remaining human beings then travel through space in search of a planet called Earth, while trying to evade the Cylons who are in hot pursuit.

"We want people to come to this who have never heard of Battlestar Galactica," Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi channel, told Variety. "I think, because (Galactica's) backdrop was space and spaceships, there was a barrier to entry for some viewers. Caprica has none of that."

The prequel will star Eric Stoltz (Pulp Fiction), Esai Morales (Lt. Tony Rodriguez on NYPD Blue), Paula Malcomson (Trixie on HBO's brilliant Deadwood), and Polly Walker (Atia on Rome, another HBO series that suffered a premature demise). It will air on the Sci Fi channel in the US. The UK rights to the show have been bought by Sky1, according to The Guardian.

For those too eager to wait (or skeptical about a sci fi show being described as "family themed"), Galactica will be back in January with an additional 10 episodes that will make up the second half of its fourth and final season. A two-hour movie adaptation is scheduled for this summer. ®

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