By now, you've heard the fraktacular news that Sci Fi has ordered a fourth season of Battlestar Galactica. Well, what you may not have heard is that producers have already lined up a big-name guest star for said fourth season that's so freakin' fraktabulus that Toasters everywhere are already Strudeling on themselves in anticipation. The high-profile casting is one of several scoopy tidbits that executive producer David Eick spilled to me in this exclusive interview.

Ausiello: Clear something up for me: Will the fourth season consist of 13 or 22 episodes?
David Eick:
At this point, I'm so confused about what I can say and what I can't say, I don't even know what to tell you. I would just ask [Sci Fi] that question, because it seems like there are so many moving parts to the answer to that question. [A Sci Fi rep says the exact number of episodes is still "under negotiation."]

Ausiello: Were you on pins and needles waiting for the pickup?
Eick:
I was not on pins and needles. I don't know if I'd say it was a foregone conclusion, but I was not on pins and needles because the network has always used as much time as they had to weigh the decision very carefully, not just in terms of whether they wanted it, but in terms of how to make sure we maintain the quality both economically and from a marketing standpoint. And those are big questions. It's a basic cable show that costs a great deal of money to produce. So those aren't slam-dunk answers. I'm actually glad we took the time to figure it out, 'cause what you don't want is for someone to come tell you, "OK, you're renewed. But the bad news is, we don't have the money to make your show." Or, "We don't have the money to market your show." Or, "You have to make the show differently." And, fortunately, because they took that time, we're gonna continue making the show just as we have, and I believe the marketing support will also be as strong.

Ausiello: In light of the renewal, is it safe to assume that the BSG movie is a go?
Eick:
Its green light was predicated on this fourth season order, so that means we're making it. They're calling it a "bonus episode." It'll come between the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4.

Ausiello: Which is the bigger episode, the one airing Mar. 4 or the season finale on Mar. 25?
Eick:
I would say it's two sides of the same coin. What happens in the Mar. 4 episode will greatly influence and inform what happens in the cliff-hanger. The last four episodes all kind of tie together as a piece. But I would say that Episode 16 and Episode 19 are the two tentpoles, and are really the most shocking and revelatory.

Ausiello: And what about 17 and 18?
Eick:
That's where we continue the story line [surrounding] Baltar's trial - establishing who is going to defend him and who is going to prosecute him, what the nature of the case will involve, how the judging works. We're trying to piece together some judiciary system amidst what are basically 12 disparate colonial points of view with different sets of laws, and that in and of itself presents a lot of problems. I can tell you that Adama's gonna find himself in what he believes at first will be a greatly advantageous position when it comes to the prosecution of Baltar. And we'll later realize he may've wished he hadn't.

Ausiello: Can you confirm that a major character will be revealed as a Cylon before the end of the season
Eick:
Yes. And I wouldn't limit it to just that revelation; there are other revelations as well. But that's certainly one of them.

Ausiello: What are the others?
Eick:
Well, I can't tell you 'cause then they wouldn't be revelations.

Ausiello: And what about the other four Cylons?
Eick:
[Answer appears in tomorrow's Ask Ausiello. Sorry, a guy's gotta cross-promote where he can.]

Ausiello: Will there be any movement in the Starbuck/Apollo romance in this last batch of episodes?
Eick:
I would say the events of Episodes 16 and 19 will greatly impact the nature of their romance.

Ausiello: Sci Fi is teasing a major death on the show; rumor has it that it's Starbuck. I know you can't confirm that, but can you tell me that a series regular won't be returning for the fourth season?
Eick:
It's fair to say that there will definitely be changes to the cast in Season 4.

Ausiello: Are you viewing the fourth season as a possible wrap-up to the series?
Eick:
I'm not sure about that yet. That's always a possibility, but no more or less than it was a possibility at the end of Season 3.

Ausiello: What's the status of the BSG spin-off, Caprica?
Eick:
We're due to hear back from the network in March about whether they plan to go forward with that as a filmed pilot. We're very hopeful that this pickup will give us some wind at Caprica's back.

Ausiello: What's your gut telling you?
Eick:
I would say it's pretty positive, because of the support for Battlestar, but also because it represents a pretty strident departure from the kind of show Battlestar is. Not that Sci Fi doesn't like the kind of show that Battlestar is, but I think if you're going to do a spin-off, you can do Xena or Stargate Atlantis, which are sort of variations on the same theme as their predecessors', or you can say, "OK, you had M*A*S*H, and then you had Trapper John, MD. Or you had Mary Tyler Moore and then Lou Grant. So I think this is more in the spirit of taking a portion of the mythos, the backstory of Battlestar Galactica, and then advancing it in a completely new direction with a different style and tone and just an overall different kind of show than Battlestar Galactica.

Ausiello: OK, last question: As you know, the BSG movie wasn't the only thing that hinged on that fourth season order. I'm refering, of course, to my guest appearance.
Eick:
Someone just reminded me of that.

Ausiello: It's probably a little premature, but have you and Ron Moore been batting around ideas for my character?
Eick:
Yes. We definitely talked a great deal about how that character's untimely demise would be one of the more exciting aspects of your journey.