Sci Fi keeps fight going with 'Battlestar' prequel

Pilots, mini unveiled at upfront

Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" will live on with "Caprica."

At its upfront presentation Tuesday in New York, the cable channel said that it has greenlighted a two-hour backdoor pilot for the prequel, which had been in development for two years.

"It's been a long time coming," Sci Fi general manager Dave Howe told ad buyers and journalists at the presentation at the Morgan Library in Midtown Manhattan.

Production on "Caprica" will begin in the spring in Vancouver with a scheduled fall air date, Sci Fi senior vp Mark Stern said Tuesday night.

Sci Fi also has given the go-ahead to "True Believer," a two-hour backdoor pilot created by Rosario Dawson and David Atchinson — who co-wrote the comic book series "Occult Crimes Task Force" — about a comic book enthusiast who hires a former superhero to teach him about crime-fighting. It joins "The Stranded," a two-hour pilot of a Sci Fi/Virgin Comics joint venture.

The network also plans an "Alice in Wonderland"-based six-hour miniseries titled "Alice," from RHI Entertainment. A two-hour comedy-drama pilot, "Deputized," follows a man who fights crime around the galaxy after getting superpowers.

"Caprica," which is set 50 years before the events in "Battlestar" on a home world of Caprica, hails from "Battlestar" masterminds Ronald D. Moore and David Eick.

"It's a whole different corner of the 'Galactica' universe," Moore said. No decision has been made on whether any current "Battlestar" actors will be in the new pilot. Any decision on whether to go to series with "Caprica" will wait until at least the summer and perhaps longer.

As for "Battlestar," the series' final-season premiere will debut online nine hours before it airs on TV.

At a news conference before the upfront presentation, "Battlestar" creators said the departing series won't go the big-screen route that other sci-fi franchises have gone before.

"I think the series works best as an ensemble TV drama," Moore said. "If it translated into a feature it would be a different animal."

Sci Fi's reality slate includes "Estate of Panic," an Endemol USA series about seven people who compete to find millions of dollars at an estate, and Idiot Box Prods.' "Brain Trust," in which a group of geniuses bands together to solve problems. The channel also announced new seasons of "Scare Tactics," now hosted by "30 Rock's" Tracy Morgan; "Mind Control With Derren Brown"; and "Ghost Hunters International." And a May 18 special by NBC News correspondent Lester Holt will feature "Mystery of the Crystal Skulls," about the real-life search for what the latest "Indiana Jones" movie is based upon.

The channel also will expand its digital offerings with a game site launching in mid-April as well as "Battlestar" webisodes and a social game based on the show. An original Web series, "Starcrossed," produced by Universal Media Studios and Jane Loughman and John Lenic, is planned to debut in the fourth quarter.