Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Well, for us Earthlings, we hadn't heard from the Cylons for over 20 years until producers Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek – TNG, DS9, Voyager) and David Eick decided to reimagine Glen A. Larson's 1978 series Battlestar Galactica with 21st-century flair. The original was knee-deep in camp, but this modern version is a serious drama with lifelike realism, compelling storylines, and great performances.
It all started in 2003, when the mini-series aired on the Sci-Fi Channel to critical acclaim and commercial success, which convinced the parent company (NBC) to pick it up as a series for the cable network. The premise is almost identical to the originalthe Twelve Colonies of Kobal are annihilated by a series of surprise attacks from the Cylons, a race of robotic beings. The lone surviving military vessel is the Battlestar Galactica, led by Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), who assembles the roughly 50,000 survivors into a ragtag fleet in search of a hospitable planet with the "toasters" in hot pursuit.
The highest-ranking government official to survive is Education Secretary Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who's sworn in as President and begins to have strange dreams about the fabled Thirteenth Colony who settled on a distant planet called Earth. There are many who doubt the validity of this legend, but the President is firm in her belief and must convince Adama to follow her lead.
Another survivor, Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis), is one of the greatest scientists of the Twelve Colonies who's tasked with creating a test to identify "skinjobs"Cylons who look and act like humans. While Baltar is certainly a genius, his lust for women made him an unsuspecting accomplice to the destruction of the Colonies. He begins to question his own sanity when Six (Tricia Helfer), the sexy Cylon who duped him into betraying his race, appears to him in visions offering him advice. Is his guilt causing these illusions, or has Six somehow infiltrated his mind?
Other military personnel from the Galactica include Adama's closest friend and confidant, Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), whose gruff demeanor and addiction to the bottle rubs many of the crew the wrong way, especially Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katie Sackhoff) yes, Starbuck's a girl in this version of the tale. Additional crewmembers are the Commander's son, Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber), Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Grace Park), who carries a whopper of a secret, and Chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglass), the "Scotty" of Galactica.
The first three seasons feature phenomenal writing, but I think the fourth and final seasonspread over two long yearslost its steam with too many "been there, done that" episodes leading up to the thrilling yet tidy conclusion. But throughout the series, the writers explore many of the issues facing our own societywar, politics, terrorism, torture, religion, mythology, and technology's influence on humanity. The fresh character-driven storylines don't rely on spiffy special effects and sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to get the point across, which allows a more mainstream audience to connect with the show.
Maybe I'm biased toward the sci-fi genre, but I consider this to be one of the best shows of the new century, and I'm not alone. It's garnered numerous awards, including two Emmys and a George Foster Peabody Award, and it was recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the most outstanding television programs in both 2005 and 2006.
The video quality is inconsistent between episodes, but according to Moore, this was intentional. Exterior daylight shots are sharp and detailed, and they provide ample color saturation. Unfortunately, most of the shots on Galactica and other spaceships have variable lighting, elevated black levels, and obscured shadows. One of my biggest complaints with the compressed cable feed was pixilation on camera pans, which are thankfully absent on the improved VC-1 1080p encode. All things considered, the gritty look sought by the producers comes through on Blu-ray, and it's the best the series has ever looked.
Audio quality is a big improvement compared to the broadcasts I watched on cable. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack serves up improved dynamics, additional ambience in the surround speakers, and cleaner dialog. Even though the series is deeply rooted in sci-fi with some intense action, most of the time it's a dialog-driven drama, so the audio experience is all over the map.
The soundtrack offers some demo-worthy moments, especially during "Daybreak, Part 1" in the fourth season, when Galactica mounts an offensive charge into a Cylon stronghold to rescue a missing crewmember. The sound design kicks it up a notch or two with discrete effects flying around the room, improved bass response, and superior dynamics.
The packaging of The Complete Series is unique, but not very shelf friendly for collectors due to its unusual size. Universal describes it as a "Limited Edition Telescoping Box Set" that includes a collectable Cylon figurine. Although it's an improvement over the HD DVD release of season one, it has its own flaws. The four seasons are encased in a sturdy cardboard box, which lifts up to allow access to each individual season's box. Each box has the discs arranged in an accordion-like cardboard casing, which makes it nearly impossible to remove the discs without putting fingerprints on themthank goodness for Blu-ray's protective coating!
Even worse, there are no episode descriptions on any of the boxes or discs (with the exception of "Razor," a special Battlestar Galactica movie included in the fourth season box). Finding a particular episode or supplement is a crapshoot without some type of episode guide. Is this too much to ask in a $350 collector's set?
The 20-disc set includes all 74 episodes plus "Razor," which aired between seasons three and four. As one would expect, there are a load of supplements, including audio commentaries, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, video blogs from producer David Eick, podcast commentaries from Ronald D. Moore, and extended versions of select episodes including an additional 30 minutes in the series finale.
Interactive features include a PIP in the pilot, which was on the previously released HD DVD; "The Oracle," an interactive guide to the ships and characters (all seasons); "Battlestar Blips," with onscreen trivia and facts (season 3); and "Battlestar Actual," a glossary of all of the unique terminology in the series (on "Razor" and season4).
Also included are a couple of BD-Java games—"Are you a Cylon?" in the first season and "Colonial Military Assignment Quiz" in season three, which unlocks additional deleted scenes if you answer the questions correctly. BD-Live features include online access to some trailers and a card came, "Battlestar Galactica: Ultimate Battle," where players can battle their friends as Colonials or Cylons using strategy and luck to achieve victory.
The series will set you back a few hundred dollars, but given the plethora of bonus material, superior audio and video, and the cool Cylon figurine, it's hard not to recommend this set to diehard fanslike me. If you're casually interested, be sure to place it in your Netflix queue and experience one of the best science-fiction shows of all time from beginning to end without commercial interruption. Highly recommended.
Release Date: July 28, 2009
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