BATTLESTAR GALACTICA S4.0
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
Edward James Olmos
What's it about
After a short prelude back to the second season (with the Battlestar Galactica: Razor movie focusing on the tragedy and drama aboard Battlestar Pegasus), the fourth season kicks off with Starbuck (Sackhoff) back from the dead claiming to have been to Earth, a civil war among the Cylon models culminating with an alliance with the humans and dealing with their own newfound mortality after the Resurrection Hub is destroyed, and the plight of four of the Final Five Cylons, who are all part of the Galactica crew and just might know the way to a permanant home for both human and Cylon: the lost colony of Earth!
Is it good movie?
If any of what I said above makes any bit of sense, then like me, you're a fan of Ronald Moore's "reimagining" of the campy 70's space jock show. Galactica, in it's newest incarnation, managed to erase all of my memories of cheesy scifi days gone by, and from the 2003 miniseries right up to now it had me firmly by the balls with deep, flawed characters, engaging stories and plot twists, and some of my favorite scifi effects aside from Firefly. Die hard fans of the old series love to shit all over this one and its gritty, realistic hopelessness, but in a TV wasteland that is becomming more and more sterile in terms of well written, lasting shows, Galactica is a constant example of TV done right for a change.
As the show enters it's final season, we are shown some twists that really amp up the drama aboard the Colonial Fleet. The president is dying from cancer again, Kara "Starbuck" Thrace is gone off all half cocked looking for Earth, four of the crew are revealed to be of the fabled Final Five Cylon models, Lee "Apollo" Adama has traded command for politics, and old Giaus Baltar is getting treated like the messiah with his own cult following. Things are wild and wacky, and as always, heavy on the emotion! There are a lot of tense space battles, some even more tense personal clashes, and as a whole this first half of the fourth season continues to be well written, nicely paced. evenly acted and just plain awesome TV. This half-season was a great set up for what is to come in 2009, when it all gets wrapped up, well, not exactly nice and tidy, that's not the show's style. But there is a lot played out here that will pay off in the second half of the season, much like what happened with the hiatus during the second season (resulting in the best damn season of any TV show, hands down!).
Admittedly, there is often quite a lot going on in the course of this show, and juggling all of the personalities, jargon and history will be hard for the uninitiated (a few people around my periphery were laughing at the overuse of the word "frak" in the show, but seriously, listen to The Sopranos or any other contemporary show and you'll hear just as many uses of the word f*ck, if not more). And I did have some problems with the show, but those were mostly due to my own peculiar tastes than through any fault of the show itself. From the start I've hated the character of President Roslin (played with Melanie Griffith like autism by Mary McDonnell), and I wanted her to seriously hurry up and die already. The show focussed too much on politics (as it often does), and when you combine that with the whole Baltar religion subplot, some episodes got bogged down with their own self importance and melodrama. Frankly, there were a lot of scenes that I just tuned out for. And while the whole Cylon major subplot was nicely played out, the whole mystery of the final Cylon model was a little tedious (which became a serious letdown when we discovered who it actually was as the second half of the final season started up on January 16). Now that was some wasted story potential there! They could have made it at least be a character we gave a flying frak about!
For the most part, the performances were consistant and stellar as usual, with Sackhoff and Olmos especially showing their usual dynamic range and no small amount of talent. I've got nothing bad to say about Katee anyway, she had me hooked since day one. The writing was mostly even (despite the religiopolitical crap and the serious drop in narrative that was the Razor movie opening the season), and the effects were still shaky and gorgeous. I won't delve into individual episodes, mostly because the show is meant to be watched at length by season, but also because the really good stories that are the strength of the show are the arcing ones mentioned above, and not the individual little tales. They do some nifty things story wise (with time, character and expectations) that will have fans of the show chomping to find out how it all ends.
But I'm a fan, so I seriously recommend this to other fans of the show. To newbies, you should probably start from the beginning, cause it does all take some getting used to. I won't give away any secrets other than to say that when they do reach their desired destination of Earth, well, that's just the beginning of the final Galactica shitstorm!
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.78:1. The show looks awesome as always, shaky handheld camera and everything.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) with English, French and Spanish Subtitles. For some reason the English subs kept failing on the Razor movie, but other than that, great sound job.
Like previous Galactica boxed sets, this one does not skimp on the features. First off we have the Unrated Extended Version of Razor with 13 additional minutes of footage, as well as the televised cut. This was the same disc that was already released on DVD, so Universal be doing a little double dip on fans here. Then we have Audio Commentaries on Faith, Guess What's Coming to Dinner and Sine Qua Non with Moore and various producers and writers. Moore's podcasts were actually a much more interesting listen.
We are then treated to six Featurettes:
The Music of Battlestar Galactica: is exactly what it looks like, a short peek at the stirring music from the show. Lots and lots of strange languages and tribal drums. This show loves the drums.
Season 4.5: The Untold Story: A deeper look into the connections, motivations and twists of the season, with more clues as to where it might all be going.
Cylons: The Twelve: A great recap of the ever confusing Cylon models, mostly for newcomers to try and wrap their brains around. Good watch!
The Journey: The best feature so far, outlining the previous seasons and the whole epic story as a whole. This really is some of the best "thinking" scifi out there.
My Favorite Episode So Far: A fun cast and crew quick trip through their favourite episodes.
The Look of Battlestar Galactica: Not only was this a fascinating look at the art direction and gritty set design, but also a detailed glimpse into the style of the effects (hey, it was the same guys who did Firefly!) and the look/feel of the handheld shooting.
All of this is finished off by some of the web promotion for the season, with Ronald Moore's Podcast Commentaries, which are fascinating and immediate commentaries that went live when the episodes were aired, David Eick's Video Blogs concerning the actual production, a smattering of mostly unneeded Deleted Scenes, and 7 Bonus Minisodes (the Razor: Flashbacks that are flashback bits from the movie about Adama during the first Cylon War). These guys run an aggressive and creative marketing campaign that continues until well after the season finished airing, showing just how much they love the show they make.
Despite a few flaws, this first half of the final season is not only consistant with previous seasons, but finds a way to make the show fresh in several ways. We have to get to know old favourites among the cast all over again, and everything that we've come to know about the history behind the action is called into question yet again. The acting and effects are all top notch, as usual, and the twist ending is a real tragic blow to the gonads for long time fans. There are some twists and turns, both upsetting and surprising, and it will be awesome to see how the last half of the season pays off all that gets set up in this DVD boxset. With only a few episodes left, now I have to find something else to be addicted to, damnit!