Battlestar Galactica, Season 4.5, Blu-ray (2009)

by | Aug 14, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Battlestar Galactica, Season 4.5, Blu-ray (2009)

Created & Directed by: Ronald D. Moore
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Katee Sackhoff etc.
Studio: Sci-Fi Channel/Universal [Release date: July 28, 09]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color 1080i HD (3 discs)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Episodes: Sometimes a Great Notion, A Disquiet Follows My Soul, The Oath, Blood on the Scales, No Exit, Deadlock, Someone to Watch Over Me, Islanded in a Stream of Stars, Daybreak Parts 1, 2 & 3
Extras: “The Journey Ends: The Arrival,” Deleted scenes, Evolution of a Cue, What the Frak is Going On with Battlestar Galactica?, Extended version of A Disquiet episode with commentary by Moore, U-Control: The Oracle, Battlestar Actual, Ultimate Battle Card Game, What the Frak Happened to You?, David Eick’s video blogs, Extended version of Islanded in a Stream with commentary track by Edward James Olmos, Ronald Moore’s podcast commentaries, The Musicians behind “Daybreak,” Extended episode of “Daybreak” with commentary by Exec. Producers David Eick & Moore, A Look Back, …And Then Have a Plan, Other Online material via BD Live
Length:  763 minutes
Rating: *****

Well, one of highest-rated sci-fi series on TV is finally over and this is its last 11 or so episodes on Blu-ray.  Who would have thought that a resurrected series based on a pretty terrible 1978 TV series would end up winning a Peabody and being called by TIME “one of the best dramas on TV?”  For those who have been in a cave the last five years, the basic premise concerns a human civilization known as the 12 Colonies living on a planet similar to Earth (Caprica) in another galaxy, who have created sentient robots called Cylons. The Cylons eventually revolt and kill most of the inhabitants and the one remaining military spaceship, the Galactica, captained by supposedly-retired Commander Adama, takes off with a ragtag fleet of civilian spaceships, pursued by the Cylons, searching for the legendary 13th colony, Earth.

That may seem like a meagre plot on which to hang nearly five years of episodes, but wait…it gets more complicated.  Lots more complicated. There are about 39,000 human survivors, but slowly it is revealed that among them is a new type of Cylon that the machines have developed and made as exact analogs of humans. Some of the Cylons undergo emotional traumas and as a result pick up more human personalities than others. Then we learn that there are good Cylons and bad Cylons and a civil war occurs between them. The good Cylons join with the humans in the quest to discover Earth – though with much distrust from some of the humans, and even from Cylons who have not discovered yet that they are really Cylons.  There is also a plot line about the Cylons not being able to reproduce – they can only die and have their personalities downloaded into a new body at the Cylon Hub. A hybrid child, Hera, is born who becomes a savior of both races. Earth is finally reached, but it has been completely destroyed in a nuclear Armagedon thousands of years earlier.  Nevertheless, all the series’ themes are tied up in the final episode and a new life of the humans and Cylons starts on a planet with a nontechnological culture, trying to break the cycle of death and destruction that has occurred over and over.

This is a great deal of religious reference in the series, which has increased as it progressed. Creator Moore is a Mormon and originally thought of doing a sci-fi series depiction of Biblical stories. It is odd to find that the humans are mostly pantheistic while the Cylons believe in one God.  Probably the most villainous character in the series, Dr. Baltar, (who originally sold out  Caprica to the Cylons) ends up as a monotheistic spiritual leader of a cult of young women, but it is suggested his status is just a self-promoting ruse. Battlestar Galactica is known for its on-screen references to current event subjects such as terrorism, insurgency, prejudice, and so on. It was the first important sci-fi series obviously designed for thinking adults rather than teens, and not just for sci-fi fans either.  One becomes very involved with the fate of the various characters – if you can tell them apart since there are so many clones of some of the Cylon characters. (In addition, Baltar has a hallucination of his original Cylon spy-lover who follows him around but no one else can see or hear her.) It established some other standards as well.  In a statement in the extras, Olmos says if a bug-eyed monster ever showed up in any of the episodes, he would have walked off the set permanently.

This is not the complete end of the series. There will be a mini-series concerning life on Caprica prior to the Cylon revolt, and there will be a feature film titled The Plan.  The entire series was shot on hi-res video from the start, and mostly the visual quality on Blu-ray is excellent, but there are a few scenes where actors are definitely underlit and things take on an extremely grainy and washed-out appearance.  The surround soundtrack is excellent, and the music created for the series by composer Bear McCreary is most fascinating. A couple of the extras have him taking the viewer thru his process of creating the score for the series. He makes extensive use of various ethnic instruments, including Taiko drums, and there is a real orchestra – not just electronic samples.

I expected one of the many extras would give a quick summary of the entire series, since I hadn’t followed it, but the “What the Frak…” feature was far too short, too fast and not detailed enough to do that. I would suggest instead the five-page “Everything You Wanted to Know…” article at Salon.com.  After this ten-hour exposure, I plan to use Frak in substitution for that other ugly F-word the rest of my life.

– John Sunier

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