Not Even The Writers Knew The Cylons' Plan In Battlestar Galactica

Both iterations of "Battlestar Galactica" were based on the same premise: the last survivors of the Twelve Colonies are on the run from the Cylons, a race of cybernetic beings that want to destroy them. With the Galactica at its head, the Colonial Fleet does its best to stay ahead of the Cylons and find a new home. That home is the mythical Thirteenth Colony, a world known in fables as Earth.

It's a simple premise to build a story around. The original show was created by Glen A. Larson, and the premise allowed him and his team to craft a satisfying television show. You have an enemy, an ongoing conflict, and an overall goal; enough for a team to write their weekly adventures around.

The 2003 reboot mini-series and subsequent television series built heavily on this premise, albeit in a more serialized fashion. At the top of most episodes of the show, a title card reminded viewers of the stakes: "The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan."

The problem is that title card isn't entirely true. If the Cylons had a plan, the writing teams behind the show didn't, at least in the early days of the show.

One will be revealed

"There was no plan," Moore told the audience at a Q&A during the Austin Television Festival (via IGN): 

"It all came about when we were doing the main titles and we had to have what's called a 'precap' as opposed to a recap. So we had a precap before the main title. And David [Eick, executive producer] said we should have a punchy line there at the end ... 'and they have a plan.' And I was like 'What does that mean?' He said 'It doesn't matter, doesn't matter. It'll be great. The audience will love it.'"

Yep, there was no real endgame behind the Cylon plots. In fact, for much of the show, the Cylons are as clueless about what's going on as the humans they're trying to exterminate. "Battlestar Galactica" was focused primarily on the drama between the folks in the Colonial Fleet.

"I said 'But they don't have a plan, David.' He said 'Trust me, this is marketing. We'll figure it out later.' So for the next fourteen years of my life people have asked me 'So what was the plan?' There's no f****** plan!" added Moore.

This has all happened before, and it will happen again

In a later roundtable interview with Showbiz Junkies, Eick pushed back against the idea that the Cylons had no plan. He admits that while there was no plan early on, one came about when the team was breaking down season 3. Moore was tired of the workload and needed a change in the show, and the plan ultimately came from that shift in storytelling.

"The plan kept shifting; it's not that they didn't have a plan," said Eick: 

"Okay, here's the real story behind that. We get done with season two of 'Battlestar'. It's 20 episodes and season one was 13. 20 episodes mowed [Moore's] ass. Ron's just like, 'Look, I'm just not going to do it. I'm done. I can't do it anymore. It's 20 episodes again — I'm not doing it.' Then we start talking about, 'What if we went on the Cylon ships and did a whole season 3 from the Cylon perspective? What do their ships look like?' Another martini and before you know it..."

That spark of inspiration was the catalyst for the third season of "Battlestar Galactica." In that season, the show picks up on New Caprica, a new human world under occupation by the Cylons. The season brought a larger focus to the Cylons and finally gave them the shape of a plan. "We had season 3. So that's what I mean by there was a plan but we just didn't always know what it was," said Eick.

One was sacrificed

The reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" still remains one of the best sci-fi television series ever and a pillar of Peak TV in the early 2000s. David Eick followed the run with "Falling Skies" and "Beyond," two short-lived sci-fi series.

Ronald Moore would follow-up with "Outlander," a historical drama series about a woman who time travels back to 1743. Based on a series of novels by Diana Galbadan, "Outlander" is currently in the middle of its sixth season, with a forthcoming seventh season and prequel series. Moore also co-created "For All Mankind," an alternate history of the global space race on Apple TV+. The third season of that show is scheduled to premiere this June.

NBCUniversal has also been doing its best to get new "Battlestar Galactica" projects off the ground. "Mr. Robot" creator Sam Esmail was set to executive produce a new series on Peacock, but showrunner Mike Lesslie left that project in early 2021. There is also a connected film reboot, which is being written by former Fox "X-Men" producer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. Kinberg stated the movie and show were going to be connected, with the film potentially shooting at the beginning of next year. We'll see if anything comes of either project in the long run. And if they have a plan.