Universal // 2007 // 953 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 24th, 2008
"We're not a civilization. We're a gang on the run."
OK kids, spool up the FTL drives and jump into a galaxy of thrills and chills! Season Three of the SciFi Channel's crown jewel is back for 20 more episodes worth of robot-killing and fat suits.
Note: I'll do my best to tread carefully with regard to spoilers, but if you haven't seen any of these episodes and consider yourself even moderately intrigued by the series, stop now and start from the beginning. Any hint of what's to come would be ruinous.
The last time we saw the remnants of the human race, they had voted Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) as their President, who promptly took them to ground on the planet New Caprica, leaving Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and his now-portly son Lee (Jamie Bamber) hovering overhead in their Battlestars, while the rest of the crew scratched out a meager existence on the planet.
Then along come the Cylons, who opt to occupy the new human settlement instead of blowing them into the space ether. And so begins the third run of episodes, where our heroes must overcome the oppression inflicted upon them by their sworn synthetic enemies, find a way off the rock and resume their search for Earth.
Before I even begin, I have to say that the third season of Battlestar Galactica officially sets the record for most sweaty-wake-ups-from-a-dream in television history. I'd wager than in nearly episode some character, human or Cyclon, pops out of bed with plate-sized eyes and shortness of breath and a sweaty brow, recently evicted from a nightmare or vision.
This is indicative of much of the tone of the season, which is laden with surreal imagery that feeds a hyper sense of mysticism, more so than we've seen in the previous two seasons. Earth is closer within reach and as the fates of the Cylons and humans become more and more intertwined, their stories sail into more supernatural waters. In short, prepare yourself for lots of talk of omens and destinies and purposes as the season winds down to its startling finale.
Me, I think executive producer Ronald Moore and his crack writing staff maybe got a little too out-there with some of their storytelling, especially with regards to Starbuck's (Katee Sackhoff) narrative and the "Final Five Cylon" angle. I have always been less interested in these metaphysical underpinnings, finding the tooth-and-nail struggle for survival against an overwhelming threat, and all that entails -- e.g., kick-ass space battles, tough moral choices, the thorny politics of recreating a civilization from scratch, guerilla warfare, kick-ass space battles and kick-ass space battles -- considerably more engrossing.
But this isn't my barbeque, and if I have to endure a handful of wacko hallucinations and over-stylized dream sequences, so be it. Because, if Battlestar Galactica is anything, it's a series with many, many facets that tells many, many different kinds of stories, character-, plot-, politics- and action-driven alike.
It's also, hands-down, one of the finest hour-longs on television.
And I am big into it.
Though maybe not as bleed-all-things-BSG into it as some of the show's most aggressive fan base, I still consider it a fantastic series. It's not flawless, plagued by problems that affect all television series: clunky storylines, plot contrivances, dumb episodes. This season isn't different, but when this show clicks, nothing will match it and even the jalopy episodes almost always have something worthwhile going down somewhere.
"Stuff going down" is a concise capsule review for Season Three. A lot of stuff goes down between the first and final episodes, game-changers that will govern the storylines of the forthcoming fourth -- and last -- season. There are politically-charged moments on New Caprica, where "insurrection, occupation, terrorism" make multiple appearances in the dialogue, and major changes affecting characters -- the Apollo/Starbuck dynamic undergoes intense metamorphosis as does Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Adam's relationship. With the startlingly revelatory final few minutes of the finale -- which includes one of the very best end shots of any season finale I've seen -- the groundwork has been laid for a complicated and compelling fourth round. Characters we've come to know over three years worth of adventures will be forced to completely reevaluate their, well, purpose.
As I've noted, not all is superlative, though even in the disappointing stories, cool stuff emerges. For instance, I wasn't terribly enamored with the New Caprica batch of episodes. Moore made it clear in his podcast commentary that these episodes were informed not solely by the situation in Iraq but the history of wartime occupation, though I still found the analogy distracting and occasionally clumsy. Thankfully, not much time is spent on the surface, and the endgame, "Exodus, Part 2" is one of the most action-packed and thrilling hours of television ever. From that point on, we're back into space, where the BSG game-plan is largely put into effect: compartmentalized shows that feed toward the larger plot arc, yet focus on a single character or issue for their stories.
Such stories include: healing from the wounds of the occupation (interesting), dealing with a labor stoppage (no thanks), replenishing the food supply (cool, because there's lots of flying and explosions), class warfare (blah) and, the capper to the season, culpability and treason, manifested in the trial of Dr. Baltar. The trial consumes the homestretch, and there are a few too many forced moments. On one hand we get the introduction of an awesome character, on the other we have to watch Lee play lawyer just to spite his father, which leads to a fallout that's too malicious to believe. The trial itself is a stretch, considering there's no precedent in the colonial fleet and the downside overwhelms the upshot, but...we get an awesome speech by Lee that acts as pointed, perfect summation to the major theme of the series -- a decimated people desperately trying to rebuild a civilization.
All of this leads, of course, to a cliffhanger, and it's a humdinger, though the credits won't roll before some truly wacky reveals. Despite the flaws in Season Three, I am absolutely ravenous for what's to come. Consider that an unequivocal recommendation.
The show looks good on DVD. Transferred in 1.78:1 anamorphic, picture quality is largely solid, save for occasional grain during some of the darker moments. Colors tend to be crazy, but this is a stylistic choice more than anything; scenes on the base ship tended to be more eye-straining than others because of the trippy décor the Cylons tend toward. The 5.1 audio is punchy, and the bass-heavy score will rattle your gums.
Episodes feature podcast commentaries by Moore; he's joined by actors Grace Park and Tahmoh Pinkett on "Hero." Executive producer David Eick delivers commentaries on "Hero" and actor Mark Sheppard has podcast commentaries for "The Son Also Rises" (joined by writer Michael Angeli) and "Crossroads Parts 1 and 2." The commentaries are all worth listening to, and Moore offers plenty of insight into the creative process. Each disc sports deleted scenes for the respective episodes and Eicks's candid behind-the-scenes video blogs show up on Discs Two, Three and Six. Finally, the "Resistance" webisodes that preceded the season are all available on Disc Two. Lots of interesting stuff, though fans have probably seen most of it already.
OK, spoilers ahead, but was anyone else really annoyed with "A Measure of Salvation?" Here, the humans discover a way to wipe out the Cylons forever using a biological weapon and -- of course -- it doesn't happen because of a) a conflicted moral compass and b) the show would have ended. Let me get this straight: there are just 40,000 people left in the human race, they could be ambushed and nuked out of existence at any time by the Cylons, and the Cylons are machines. Sorry, but this just seemed like an excuse to confront the "issue" of genocide. If I were a hapless person on, say, that cool ship with the spinning wheel, I'd be pretty f -- -- -- pissed off at my government. And the manner in which the plan didn't come about was a total cop-out.
It's got its warts and I'd listen to an argument that it's not the best of the series, but Season Three of this bodacious show is engaging and addictive and thought-provoking and chock full o' robot-stabbing coolness.
Not guilty. So say just me.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 953 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Podcast Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Blogs
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review - The Miniseries
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1 [HD DVD]
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 2.0
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 2.5
* DVD Verdict Review - Razor
* TV Verdict - Season 4 Promo
* TV Verdict - 8-min recap of Seasons 1-3