Tony Lee Talks About Starbucks… Not The Coffee Place, The Space Pilot

Dirk Benedict’s cigar smoking rogue Starbuck was one of the things that stood out from the original Battlestar Galactica series. Dynamite Entertainment is highlighting the character with his own mini-series written by Tony Lee. Chris Roberson chatted with Tony about his favorite episodes, original vs. reboot and the amazing Fred Astaire.

CHRIS ROBERSON: Tony, if the internet is to be believed, you and I are the same age, both born in 1970. I was the PERFECT age for Battlestar Galactica when it first started airing in the States, and I was absolutely obsessed with it during its brief run. Was it something you were able to watch as a kid, or was it later in life that you first saw it?

TONY LEE: The first thing I ever saw was the movie version of SAGA OF A STAR WORLD, the edited ‘movie’ of the first couple of episodes. And then a few months later the series started up on, I believe BBC2, as back then we only had three channels. I had a family that was very sci-fi orientated, my brothers were both in their early twenties when I was ten so they would introduce me to shows like the Prisoner, Star Trek, the Avengers, so of course when Battlestar Galactica came on it was a no-brainer that I was going to enjoy it.

But of course the problem back then was there were no videos to record things on, no DVD box sets – so you’d scour the Radio Times every week seeing if there was an episode on somewhere – often as a filler when Wimbledon or the World Cup was delayed or running late – and the fact that you had to hunt for it I think made it more special when you found it.

CR: I love the fact that your story involves exploring more of the society that we only saw glimpsed on screen in the first episode of the original series. And yet everything you’re presenting seems to mesh perfect with what little we already knew. Was it difficult to maintain the balance between invention and consistency?

TL: The first issue was the hardest, as we jump from 6 year old Starbuck up to graduating Starbuck in about four or five scenes, whereas the remainder of the story is linked to this but set two years before the show. Because of this I was able to keep t the show as close as I could, looking at what happens at the start of the first episode and working back. As a writer I write most of my stories this way, finding that moment and asking myself ‘why’ this is happening this way, moving backards, the direction depending on every answer. I simply looked at the very beginning and asked myself why. Two years earlier, what would have Baltar’s game plan be? Where would Starbuck be and why? I’ve always been a fan of the original series and read a lot of the novels and comics that came out as a kid, so remembered the various colonies and politics. I tried not to move back into these but find my own path. And Starbuck as a character was one of those people that determined the situation anyway, so I was consistent in the invention!

CR: Obviously, this next is a potentially loaded question, but I feel I must ask: Original or Reboot? Which do you prefer?

TL: Yes. Seriously though, this is a question I get asked that goes up there with ‘who is your favourite Doctor from Doctor Who’, as there is no correct answer. I love the original series, was left cold by Galactica 80 (bar one particular Starbuck episode) and enjoyed the reboot. I think if Battlestar Galactica, the original one that is had managed to last several seasons like the reboot, there would never have been a question about it. But because we have so few, it never managed to show us the arc, the story it wanted to. That said, I always felt that the reboot lost it’s way by the final season, so maybe if it’d only had a season it’d have held up better too?

CR: Do you have a favorite Starbuck-centered episode or storyline from the original series? (A trick question, because the correct answer is “The Return of Starbuck” from the spinoff, Galactica 1980.)

TL: As I said above!

In the actual series, however I  have several. I like The Man With Nine Lives as it’s a Starbuck centric story, has his father in it and it’s FRED ASTAIRE! I mean, come on, Dirk Benedict and Fred Astaire? What could be better? I also loved the Living Legend, with Commander Cain and the Pegasus, which of course also appeared in the rebooted series. And of course War of the Gods and Iblis, who was one of those strange white – light angels who could bring people back from the dead. (My reboot theory is that it’s these who bring Starbuck back in the new series, but it was never explained.)

CR: Since reading this issue last night, I’ve had the theme song to the original series running in a constant loop in my head. Less of a question than a comment, I suppose.

TL: I had it as my ring tone. Funny enough I also had Baltars theme from the new series as my ringtone too.

CR: And finally, what other projects are you working on at the moment that the nice people at home might be interested in?

TL: Well, currently Starbuck’s edits are still ongoing, I’ve finished Doctor Who for IDW and next year I have a couple of books, Messenger: The legend Of Joan Of Arc and Evil Star out from Walker Books / Candlewick Press. Apart from that I have two creator owned series I’m putting together, the first, Omerta: Gods And Gangsters is with my Doctor Who / Star Trek artist J.K Woodward, and is a beautiful story of the five criminal families of New York fighting Elder Gods – and the other, Crash Landing is with Stefano Martino who I did Where Evils Dare for DC / Zuda with and who saved our asses when we did Doctor Who: The Forgotten all those years back – and it’s basically a pulp sci / fi horror with an Edwardian Monster hunter being sucked through a vortex into an alien world where all the creatures like Vampires and Werewolves come from. And, with the technologically advanced survivors from Atlantis (who are also there) he must strap on a jetpack and fight the King of the Vampires in a floating Rocket Base.

It’s Flash Gordon meets Warlord Of Mars via Doc Savage and Dracula. It’s insane and brilliant and has robotic Frankenstein werewolves and clone mutant muscled Dracs in loincloths. Currently both of these don’t have a publisher yet as we want to be quite far along before we pitch, but we’re looking at 2014 on both of these.

Apart from that, I’m doing a lot of TV and film work, and running a UK tour of schools aimed at getting reluctant readers to pick up a book.

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Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck #2 hits comic shops this week.

Chris Roberson is a science fiction author and comic book writer that is currently doing The Shadow and Codename: Action for Dynamite Entertainment.