Universal // 2005 // 448 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 9th, 2006
"Sometimes you have to roll a hard six."
I was privy to much hype about the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series that had created quite the supernova on the Sci-fi Channel: "You've gotta watch it!" "It's the best show on television!" "You've gotta watch it because it's the best show on television!" And so on and so forth. Well, when Season One was released, I scooped it up, immediately devoured it, and yearned for more. Season "2.0" has arrived, bringing with it the first 10 episodes of the 20-show order that makes up the second season. I'll warn you now: this will be a nauseating love-fest of a review.
(Before you plow on, know that it will be virtually impossible to avoid spoilers for the first season of this show. As such, if you've yet to see Season One and hold even the remotest interest in a kick-ass action-adventure series, populated by interesting characters, complex villains, the best visual effects ever produced for television, and top-shelf storytelling, go track down the first season and drink it up. Then report back here for duty.)
The story so far: The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. And they have a plan. More specifically, the Cylons are robots, and when they rose up against their human creators, a brutal war followed. Forty years after an armistice was reached, the Cylons launched a surprise attack, nearly exterminating the human species, forcing a ragtag fleet to hit the bricks and search for a new home.
The fleet is anchored by the lone remaining Battlestar, a giant space vessel/carrier that represents all that is left of the Colonial military, called Galactica. At the helm is Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos), aided by his Executive Officer Colonel Tigh (Michael Hogan), his son Lee (Jamie Bamber) and ace pilot Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff). Meanwhile, on the civilian end of things, President-Elect Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) works to calm the people and continue the existence of the human race while Vice President Gaius Baltar (James Callis) continues to go batty with his hallucinations (?) of the seductive Cylon agent Number Six (Tricia Helfer). The mission of the fleet: make their way to the mythical planet Earth, while avoiding the consistent menace of the Cylons (who have inserted human-looking models into the population).
Season One ended with a cliffhanger, as the government fractured, following a disagreement between Roslin and Adama. Convinced she is a religious prophet, Roslin undermined military authority to secure the "Arrow of Apollo," which she believes will point the way to Earth. Adama ordered her presidency terminated, and the fleet was suddenly thrown into divisive chaos. And while Roslin languished in the brig, and the civilian government fell apart, the Cylons launched a sneak attack when Boomer (Grace Park), a Cylon agent and Colonial pilot, shoots Adama. Season Two picks up from this cliffhanger, with Adama's life in the balance, his son jailed for mutiny, Starbuck trapped on Cylon-occupied Caprica, a Galactica crew shipwrecked on the legendary planet of Kobol, and the fleet's unity in ruins.
This DVD release of Season 2.0 features the first 10 episodes of the second season, with the next 10 rolling out on January 6. That means that you will likely see two Season Two sets eventually released: one set sporting the latter 10 shows, and another, super-sized edition with all 20. But that's just a prediction. All I know is, after inhaling the first batch of episodes from Season One, there was no way I was going to wait any longer than I had to for the next shipment. While this set doesn't have the bounty of special features its predecessor does, it is still a must-own: simply put, Battlestar Galactica is an amazing show and whether or not the idea of ship-to-ship interstellar combat with cyborg fighters appeals to you, you must give this superb hour-long at least one glance.
Adama lingers on the operating table, Tigh reluctantly assumes command, and civil war brews as his decisions resonate within the fleet. Roslin continues to hold fast to her destiny as prophet, despite her confinement to the brig. Apollo is granted limited duty to help fend off a marauding Cylons -- who have a surprise for the Galactica.
* "Valley of Darkness"
The Cylons send a crew of Centurions to assault the Galactica. Apollo leads a counter-assault, protecting the President, while Tigh coordinates. Meanwhile, on Kobol, the stranded Galactica crewmembers have their own Cylons to worry about.
Emotions flare as the military, under the control of Tigh, struggles to maintain order. Roslin, suffering from withdrawal effects from her cancer treatment, starts to go off the deep end. Things get messy on the surface of Kobol.
Back on Caprica, Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) and Starbuck connect with a pocket of surviving human resistance fighters. On Galactica Tigh becomes overwhelmed and institutes martial law, which adds a lit match to the political tinderbox. But Lee and Roslin have plans of their own, and mutiny may be the order of the day...
* "The Farm"
Recovering from a gunshot wound, Starbuck finds herself in a strange hospital that houses a terrible secret. The Old Man finally pulls through, and takes the Commander's chair again, determined to track down his defector son and the fugitive President.
* "Home (Part 1)"
One-third of the fleet splinters off to follow Roslin to Kobol, where she is set on finding the route to Earth. Also along for the journey is Lee, Starbuck -- returned with Helo, Cylon Sharon, and the Arrow of Apollo -- and Zarek (Richard Hatch, Apollo from the original series) the shady revolutionary, who has his own plan for a power grab.
* "Home (Part 2)"
Adama decides to reunite the fleet and personally head to Kobol to heal the wounds between himself and Roslin's faction. But when he sees Sharon, the Cylon whose copy shot him, his emotions boil to the surface.
* "Final Cut"
Reporter D'Anna Biers (Lucy Lawless) is granted full access to the crew of Galactica to document their daily goings-on. The fallout from a violent confrontation between Marines and civilians demands this PR move, though the crew of the Battlestar are far from thrilled to be intruded upon.
* "Flight of the Phoenix"
Determined to maintain his sanity, Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) embarks on an audacious side project: building another fighter from scratch. His endeavor soon gains the attention of the rest of the Galactica crew. However, no one may be left alive to see the results as the Cylons mount a major offensive, and Cylon Sharon is the only one who can save the ship.
Miraculously, another Battlestar, the Pegasus, shows up, bringing with it Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes). At first overjoyed for the support, Adama is soon put-off by Cain's strong-armed authoritative tactics, setting the stage for a potentially violent confrontation.
And of course all of it ends in a gigantic cliffhanger, which picks up three days from when I'm writing this. Oh, the dilemma! Do I find a way to tape these episodes on the Sci-Fi Channel (our household is cable-free) or wait for the next DVD to come out?! Honestly, it will probably be the latter choice, as I have become spoiled by this superb DVD treatment from Universal.
These shows are made for DVD viewing: they look fantastic in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and feature an aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. And since they are exceedingly well-made, it's like watching awesome little bite-sized feature films every time you cue up an episode.
That's what consistently wows me about this show -- its quality. Everything from the set design to the stunning space battles to the primo CGI to the performance and captivating writing, Battlestar Galactica is inarguable proof that some of the best, most imaginative visual entertainment can be found on the small screen.
Ronald Moore, who is responsible for the development and re-imagining of the series, has scored a homerun with this show. His deft touches with his characters (all have flaws and perform actions that will likely grate you, but you never doubt their sincerity, and they is almost always consistent with their arcs) and the inspired decision to create frightening, and sometimes sympathetic, villains separates Galactica from almost every other hour-long. You see, this go-round, our human protagonists are often at each other's throats, and some of the people who had been so devoted to one another during the first season sever ties. Is Roslin too flaky? Or Tigh too ham-fisted? Or Adama too short-sighted? Lots of questions + no easy answers = great television.
And how about those Cylons, with their monotheistic belief system -- versus the polytheism subscribed to by the Colonial humans -- and their mysterious "plan," which presumably includes finding a way to get each-other knocked up. What great antagonists! On one hand there are the fearsome "toaster" brand, the metallic Centurions who can slice and dice a cadre of humans easily and willingly, and the other you've got hotties like Sharon and Number Six who actually come across as moderately sympathetic. It's a great semi-balancing act (semi because, let's be honest, these mofos nuked billions of humans) that adds layering to these bullet-magnets. Plus, are there storylines out there as weird and unsettling as Helo and Sharon's bundle of joy or funny and confusing as Baltar's blonde, leggy imaginary friend?
Last thing I wanted to note about this show is -- actually, wait, I just want to pause and make abundantly clear that this is an awesome series, and these 10 episodes are some of the smartest most compelling television I've ever seen, you know, just in cased that slipped over the radar -- the fact that something interesting and vital to the narrative progression happens in every episode. Even in a seemingly experimental episode like "Final Cut," where it appeared the story took a breather to allow for a more innovative show, we get a major reveal at the end. Stuff happens frequently in the Galactica universe, and it's often drastic. Storylines aren't drawn out and the surprises hit fast and hard.
Folks, we're talking no-brainer here. Buy these discs, or, if you'd rather wait, buy the inevitable deluxe-o full Season Two box-set. Either way, make this show part of your collection.
This set is leaner with the extras, yes, but there's still good stuff to be had. A batch of deleted scenes is supplemented with excellent podcast episode commentary by Moore for seven episodes. The guy is eager to talk up his show and he is flush with information. A four-minute sneak peek for upcoming episodes almost made me call Comcast to get the cable turned on.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess I've never seen the original series. I have no residual loyalty to Lorne Greene or Dirk Benedict, so the whole "female Starbuck" vs. "male Starbuck" controversy is an argument I am unwilling and unable to participate in. However, while I like Katee Sackhoff's character, I have to admit I sometimes feel the writers try too hard to craft her into this bad-ass pilot, what with the cigar smoking and scowling and rough-and-tough attitude. She is still a woman after all; no need to completely eclipse her femininity. Thankfully, this hardened exterior is breached here and there in this season, especially during her stint on Caprica.
It's tons of fun to discover a killer show like Battlestar Galactica, and immerse myself in it with a glorious DVD. The show is top-notch, and so is the digital treatment. If you've already seen these episodes, you might want to wait for what is sure to be a bigger, more tricked out edition coming in the future. If, however, you've haven't seen these episodes, fire up you FTL drive and make haste to your video outlet of choice and do what's good for you.
Not guilty. Frackin'-A!
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 448 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Podcast Commentary from Ronald Moore
* Battlestar Galactica: Season One Review