UPFRONT & CENTER: Sci Fi Green-Lights Battlestar Galactica Prequel, Caprica

Sci Fi Channel green-lit production on itsBattlestar Galacticaprequel, Caprica.

With the original about to begin its final season, the network is set to begin production on the two-hour prequel from its creators, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, this spring in Vancouver.

Sci Fi announced its plans at its annual upfront presentation to advertisers and press in New York Tuesday night. It originally announced its intention to do the show in April 2006.

Caprica is set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica and will follow two rival families and the backstabbing and passion involved as they evolve in the world of the 12 Colonies.

The show, from Universal Media Studios, is executive-produced by Moore and Eick and co-written by Moore and Remi Aubuchon.

“We couldn’t be more excited to see this long-anticipated project get off the ground,” Sci Fi executive vice president of original programming Mark Stern said. “It’s an amazing script and, though clearly inspired by the Battlestar mythology, it is not just a pale spinoff. This is a smart, thought-provoking, emotional and compelling character drama in its own right.”

At the upfront presentation, Sci Fi also announced that it signed deals with Rosario Dawson, Tracy Morgan and other big names to produce and host new shows.

Dawson, a well-known science-fiction fan, is developing two-hour backdoor pilot True Believer, a dramedy about a comic-book geek who teams up with a real-life superhero to save the world. She’s executive-producing and making the show in partnership with David Atchison, with whom she authored a comic book.

Also in the comic-book vein, Sci Fi is developing a two-hour pilot called The Stranded based on a comic book it has been producing through a wide-ranging partnership with Virgin Comics that began last year. The show, like the comic, will track five regular people who find out their entire lives have been lies.

Also on Sci Fi’s scripted-development slate are Deputized, a dramedy about a regular guy who gets special powers from an exoskeleton, and Alice, a six-hour miniseries retelling the classic, Alice in Wonderland. The latter is from RHI Entertainment, which made Tin Man, the network’s retelling of The Wizard of Oz that scored big ratings in December.

Morgan signed on to host a new season of the network’s unscripted show, Scare Tactics. The hidden-camera show ran for two successful seasons after premiering in 2003 and now the Saturday Night Live alum, who stars in NBC’s 30 Rock, will host its third.

Elsewhere on the unscripted front, Sci Fi green-lit second seasons of Mind Control with Darren Brown and Ghost Hunters International.

Unscripted pilots in development include Endemol USA’s Estate of Panic, a competition reality show that challenges seven contestants to find millions of dollars in a huge, haunted estate; Idiot Box’s Brain Trust, a reality show that tasks a bunch of geniuses with finding novel solutions to ordinary problems; and Mystery of the Crystal Skulls, a special with NBC News’ Lester Holt that debuts in May.

For complete coverage of the upfronts, click here.