Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene, Herbert Jefferson, Jr., John Colicos, Maren Jensen, Noah Hathaway, Laurette Spang, Terry Carter, Anne Lockhart. Aspect ratio: 4:3. Dolby Digital 5.1 (English). Six discs. 19 hours 22 minutes. 1978–80. Universal 11049. NR. $119.98.
Picture ** 1/2
Sound *** 1/2
As I was working on my bachelor of music degree at California State University, Northridge, in the late 1970s, I remember getting ready for the school week on Sunday evenings. But everything would stop at 8pm so I could watch Battlestar Galactica. Ten years after Star Trek, I was jonesing for a good sci-fi series on television, and while BG wasn't what you'd call great literary material, it was fun to watch. Trying to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars, BG was not a huge success, and lasted only 24 episodes. Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for it, so when I learned that Universal was releasing the entire series in a DVD boxed set, I had to check it out.
The set includes six discs, four of which are double-sided. All 24 uncut episodes appear in their original airing sequence, which is important; BG is meant to be watched in sequence, much like Babylon 5. However, BG is not in B5's league in its story or production values.
I watched the DVDs on my bedroom system, with its Panasonic 36-inch, 4:3 analog TV and DVD player, using component connection. (Because the image is 4:3, I couldn't watch it in my main theater, which doesn't have a DVD player that compensates for the Loewe HDTV's inability to display 4:3 material in its native aspect ratio when fed a progressive signal.) I also watched one episode at Tom Norton's house on a Sony Qualia 004 SXRD projector, Marantz DV-8400 DVD player, and Stewart 80-inch-wide FireHawk screen.
The picture quality was highly variable, especially on a big screen. Close-up interior shots looked remarkably good, almost as if they were made today rather than 25 years ago. Midrange shots didn't look quite as good, and all exterior shots in space looked atrocious—very fuzzy, and obviously the product of rudimentary special-effects capabilities. Fortunately, this variance was much less noticeable on my small system compared with TJN's big display. Sound quality in general was quite good, with effective use of surround sound, especially in the musical score. In fact, the music is one of the best things about the series. Composed by Stu Phillips and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the score is powerful and broad in scope, from majestic to mysterious to tender.
Bonus materials are spread throughout the set rather than being collected on a single "bonus disc," as in many boxed sets. The bonus material consists mostly of deleted and alternate scenes (more than three hours of them), which are found on the same disc as the episode they belong to. There are also some featurettes, including "making of," interviews, behind the scenes, and audio commentary. There's also a promo for the new SciFi Channel miniseries remake.
Default navigation is excellent; the main menu lets you select an episode, then the episode menu gives a brief synopsis on the screen, along with the Play and Scene Select buttons. After an episode is finished, the disc takes you to the Deleted & Alternate Scenes menu, which is logical.
As I said before, this is not great literature; TJN calls it "Star Wars Lite," and I can't disagree. Some of the episodes are just plain silly, as are some of the costumes. The special effects are often cheesy, and many are used repeatedly, no doubt to save money. But if you were a fan when Battlestar Galactica originally aired, as I was, nothing can detract from the innocent joy of watching it now on this DVD set.—SW