Battlestar Galactica

DVD Review – Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 – Life, Death, and Political Intrigue in Space

When the Sci-Fi Channel first announced its plans for a revamped Battlestar Galactica, I was shocked. One way or another there have been rumors for years that this show, with a hard-core following from its first run back in the late 1970s (myself included), was going to be back on the air. When it finally happened, it was “modernized” or “re-imagined” and those words along with some of the changes, really turned some people off, myself included.

This was a shame because this new Battlestar Galactica is a damn good show. It took me a while to get past some of the changes – and I still struggle with Starbuck being a female – but the story it tells is much grittier, darker, and more realistic than the show aired in the family hour almost thirty years ago ever could be.

Many television shows recently have begun breaking up their seasons into half-season. From a DVD release standpoint, it’s a win-win situation as it creates a second set to get fans of the show to buy as well as putting less pressure on the production team. From the fans’ standpoint, it stinks because of the season being in two DVD boxed sets rather than one, as well as sometimes there is too much time between segments of a season instead of getting 22+ episodes straight through.

Season 2.5 picks up exactly where the first half left off, and I mean exactly. The first episode on the first disc is actually the final episode from the previous collection. It’s called the extended version, but I didn’t see much that I didn’t remember seeing previously.

The story involving the Battlestar Pegasus is a good one. It was thought lost but has reappeared with a very different way of doing things. Commander Cain (portrayed by Michelle Forbes) is quite ruthless. Forbes is a tremendous actress and it seems that this role is one she can really work with and suits her. The stand-off between which direction the fleet will take is handled really well as is the resolution and what it sparks many episodes down the line.

The series really takes a dark turn away from the family-friendly Sunday evening series I remember in the episode Black Market. There are all sorts of trading going on, including child prostitution. Lee Adama’s character (portrayed by Jamie Bamber) comes to a pivotal point and he does something even I never thought he was capable of.

The evolving relationship between Lee and his father, Commander Adama (portrayed by Edward James Olmos) is good as well, They are coming together as the Commander needs someone to trust and rely on. He naturally turns to his son. Lee gets pretty beat up this season, from nearly dying and having to be resuscitated after ejecting from his viper to being shot during a hostage crisis, he’s sure acquiring the scars of battle.

In addition, there’s an election going on. President Laura Roslin (portrayed by Mary McDonnell) starts out the set in the throes of breast cancer. How that situation ends up is startling, to say the least, and might be something of a political statement to certain segments of our own population. By the end of the season, she is in a much different place than where she began it. The evolution is natural, as even she does things no one would believe her capable of.

The cast is stellar throughout and the way they have kept the characters together and involved throughout is amazing. This is a great illustration of why ensemble casts work so well as the main characters don’t have to be the focus of everything that happens. Sometimes a background character will rise up and have a pivotal moment. Some episodes go by without one of the characters appearing. None of this takes away from the overall story and it flows better with a feeling of events occurring naturally, rather than it feeling forced when all the action and/or story happens mainly to two or three central characters. The cast is wonderful and it’s great to see them able (for the most part) to hang onto actors of this caliber, both those that were known before this series and who wasn’t. Kate Sackoff (Starbuck), Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh), Tricia Helfer (Six and others), Grace Park (Boomer and others), and many others in the cast do a tremendous job and are worthy of the praise heaped on them.

The story itself winds a natural course through events, as it shows the just-shy-of 50,000 survivors of the destruction of the Colonies growing tired of life confined to cramped quarters on ships traveling through space. People begin to get punchy; infighting occurs; and a longing for the life they once had led to decisions that may ultimately not be in their best interests.

The bonus features on the DVDs are very good. Most of the episodes have deleted scenes. Also included are podcasts Executive Producer Ronald Moore did for each episode. These commentaries are interesting if only to see just how many movies Ronald Moore has taken ideas from. Depending on your opinion of the man and his methods, he’s either greatly inspired by and paying homage to some great films, or ripping them off.

Moore also admits during one of the commentaries that he uses themes from the original Battlestar Galactica as jumping-off points to stories in this series. The case he cites is the storyline with Lee having a relationship with a hooker. It was inspired by the character of Cassiopea and the fact that the profession was legal in certain colonies.

During the podcasts, there was one point that bothered me. I understand Moore is doing these from his home and I guess some of the fans have complained on the various Internet boards about the external noise, such as his gardeners working, the phone ringing, etc. He has his wife come in and asks if he’s still doing the podcasts “because that’s the most important thing there is” or if she can un-muzzle the children, let the dogs out, etc. That bothered me a bit. I can comment about those noises being distracting and still appreciate the fact that he’s doing the podcasts – why show contempt for the very people who are keeping your show alive? Perhaps some fans take it to a ridiculous level, but the tone he has will offend all. It’s almost to the level of “be glad I’m doing it at all”.

The effects and production are top-notch and I have no complaints about how any of it was done. The CGI is good. it may be obvious at times, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story. Some of the shots are simply amazing, such as in the episode Resurrection Ship. This just couldn’t have been done thirty years ago and been done the right way.

If you haven’t seen this series yet, due to its serial-like nature of it, I would recommend starting at the beginning. It’s not easy to pick up on in the middle. I tried to view the third season while it was airing without watching these DVDs, and it was impossible to follow. This is a great continuation of the series and it doesn’t lose anything along the way. I know the series has a few more years on its run and I hope the season stays this strong, rather than getting the feeling that I wish they would just get to the end already.

Disc One

• Pegasus (extended version)
• Resurrection Ship – Part 1
• Resurrection Ship – Part 2
• Epiphanies

Special Features:

• Deleted Scenes from Resurrection Ship – Part 1
• Audio Commentary For Pegasus (Extended Version) with Executive Producer Ronald Moore and David Eick
• Podcast Commentaries by Ronald Moore for Resurrection Ship – Part 1, Resurrection Ship – Part 2, and Epiphanies

Disc Two:

• Black Market
• Scar
• Sacrifice
• The Captain’s Hand

Special Features:

• Deleted Scenes from Black Market, Scar, Sacrifice, The Captain’s Hand
• Podcast Commentaries by Executive Producer and Head Writer Ronald D. Moore for Black Market, Scar, Sacrifice, The Captain’s Hand

Disc Three:

• Downloaded
• Lay Down Your Burdens (Part 1)
• Lay Down Your Burdens (Part 2)

Special Features:

• Deleted Scenes from Downloaded, Lay Down Your Burdens Part 1, Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2
• Podcast Commentaries
• David Eick’s Videoblogs for Episode 205, Day 2; Episode 207, Day 4; On the Set of the “New” Pegasus; The “Magic” of Battlestar Galactica; Never Let the Inmates Run the Asylum; Scenes From the Videoblog Floor; Sex, Lies, and a Videotape
• R&D Logos