Universal // 2009 // 763 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 28th, 2009
This has all happened before. And it will all happen again.
The second half of the final season of Battlestar Galactica has spooled up its FTL drive. If you have an even passing interest in this show, let me cut through the biological Cylon matter right now and say this: if Blu-ray is your bag, do not hesitate to secure this release. Seeing Centurion-on-Centurion violence in high-def is a revelation.
I'm going to keep this whole thing spoiler-free, so if you want my spoilery reactions to the ins and outs of what was a gobsmackingly complex mythology, I encourage you to track down my wrap-up on our sister site, TV Verdict.
Basically, this final stretch of episodes leading up to the massive three-hour finale concerns itself with the revelation of the fifth Cylon and the fallout that erupts from the shocking(ish) unveiling. As the remnants of humanity inch closer to Earth, having forged an uneasy alliance with the enemy, a political firestorm threatens to tear the fleet apart. All of that shooting and turncoating will soon enough be trumped by a lot of exposition, a toddler kidnapping, and the mother of all counter-offensives, before the destination of Galactica is finally reached.
I'm a fan, perhaps not as rabid as some of the show's more hardcore supporters, and there are plenty of deficiencies I can drone on and on about, but Ron Moore and his compatriots definitely got a whole lot more right than wrong with their ambitious re-imagining. And so, four seasons later, the journey ends, and these last ten episodes act as a nice, tidy microcosm for the series proper...
We were getting ladlefuls of these metaphysical, quasi-religious, almost certainly supernatural story elements dating back to the first season (hello Opera House!), but this angle of storytelling gets jacked to the ionosphere in Season 4.5, pushing the political and military storyline to the background, save for one kickass Crimson Tide two-parter. If you like BSG's brand of crypto-interstellar-theology, you'll be in Starbuck heaven with these episodes.
Awesome Space Action
Actually, my biggest complaint for this last batch is the conspicuous lack of awesome space action, but when you're wrapping up a show, the exposition needs to go somewhere. Alas, most of the talking and flashbacks crowded out the Viper/Raider battles we fans have come to adore. The saving grace: an astounding action sequence in the finale, when our heroes square off with the Cylons on their home turf, on all fronts. Seriously, this @#$% is thrilling.
It's more like uneven exposure of characters. With such a big slate of regulars and semi-regulars, the writers certainly have a challenge getting them screen time, but the pressure of belching out exposition didn't leave much for folks like Helo, Leoben, and (unforgivably) Baltar. The character who suffered the biggest casualty in the final season was Starbuck. Ever since that event happened, I never latched onto her purpose. Judging from interviews with Katee Sackhoff, neither did she.
What makes Battlestar so great, despite its up-and-down personality, is when it's up, the show is brilliant. I know this sounds like a Basestar's worth of poo-pooing, but really I liked this final run, especially the ending. There were a few contrivances I wasn't feeling (again, see my TV Verdict write-up), but overall the finale was satisfying.
Now about that Blu-ray. Cadets, this is how BSG needs to be viewed. The show was shot in high-def from the beginning, and the payoff in visual fidelity is astounding. Besides some grain during the darker scenes, this picture is virtually flawless. The details and colors are given new life, and no episode failed to wow me. Between the production design and the excellent visual effects, there is so much to discover in this high-definition transfer (1.78:1). Space battles are a face-full of fantastic, specifically that finale, which has so much going on I nearly passed out from vertigo. But the HD upgrade can handle it and every tiny detail, from the shine on the Centurion to the blood splatter on a broken Raptor windshield, pops. This is how much I loved the picture quality: I own the rest of the seasons on DVD and am now seriously considering taking out a second mortgage to pay for that mammoth complete series set on Blu. The DTS-HD Master Audio track performs well alongside the video, blasting out a clean, robust mix. The memorable soundtrack will reverberate with depth and punch, and the effects during the action scenes will engulf your surrounds, putting you in the middle of the firefight.
For extras, two U-Control items headline the set -- "The Oracle," which is essentially an interactive, text-based trivia balloon on characters, and "Battlestar Actual," a pop-up glossary on show terminology. If those sound half-assed, that's because they are; easily one of Universal's lamest implementations of the in-movie experience. Traditional bonuses fare better, kicking off with podcast commentaries from Ron Moore on each episode; three separate commentaries with Moore, Edward James Olmos, and producer David Eick; deleted scenes that are worth watching; David Eick's video blogs; behind-the-scenes featurettes on the music, the final episode, and the mythology; a promo for the upcoming movie BSG: The Plan; and, finally, "A Look Back," a great cast and crew retrospective. There's also a BD-Live card game you can play, if that's your thing.
A terrific show ends suitably, if a bit on the lack-of-space-robot-shooting side, and the Blu-ray tech treatment is outstanding. Extras aren't bad, but the in-movie experience was a missed opportunity.
Not Guilty. Frak yeah!
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 763 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Blogs
* Sneak Peek
* TV Verdict: BSG Series Finale