Sci Fi Channel has greenlit Caprica, the much-touted prequel to the hit series Battlestar Galactica.

According to Variety, Caprica will star Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson and Polly Walker, and will be set 50 years prior to Battlestar Galactica's seminal attack on human civilization by those dreaded 'droids the Cylons. The family-drama-themed series will focus on the Earthlike planet of Caprica as two rival families deal with, among other topical issues, the broader implications of their society's emerging artificial intelligence technology sector.

Having already produced a two-hour backdoor pilot, Sci Fi is aiming for an early 2010 bow for the series, with production starting around the middle of next year, probably in Vancouver, where both Battlestar Galactica and the spinoff's pilot were shot.

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" 'Battlestar Galactica' was absolutely our flagship show. It put us on the map and helped transform the perception of the network," said Sci Fi prexy Dave Howe, noting that the cabler hopes to draw a broader audience to a series it sees as more compelling family drama than "space opera."

"We want people to come to this who have never heard of 'Battlestar Galactica,' " he added. "I think, because ('Galactica's') backdrop was space and spaceships, there was a barrier to entry for some viewers. 'Caprica' has none of that. It's an intense family drama set on an Earthlike planet, in the near future, speaking to a lot of the ethical dilemmas that we as a human race are going to have to face very shortly."