Battlestar Galactica: Season One

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One of the best shows on television looks better than ever as Battlestar Galactica: Season One arrives on Blu-ray™ Hi-Def. Relive all 13 thrilling episodes plus the four-hour miniseries that started it all in this four-disc set. When a surprise Cylon attack scatters the remnants of humanity throughout the galaxy, it’s up to steely President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and battle-hardened Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) to unite the desperate survivors … More >>

Battlestar Galactica: Season One

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  1. Fifty years ago, humanity’s robotic servant Cylons suddenly turned on their masters. After a nasty war, the Cylons retreated into far space and a tense truce was maintained.

    But of course the story doesn’t stop — and it turned out to be a rare case of a remake becoming spectacularly better than the source material. “Battlestar Galactica Season” is a grimy, dark sci-fi/adventure saga that isn’t afraid to dip into philosophical and theological matters — and it’s also well-acted (mostly) and emotionally powerful.

    Forty years after the war’s end, the Cylons unexpectedly return to the Twelve Colonies and start wiping out ships and cities. The Battlestar Galactica (an aging warship about to be turned into a museum) is forced to flee the world of Caprica with a collection of refugee-crammed ships, under the command of Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Secretary of Education-turned-President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell).

    Now the people of the Twelve Colonies must find a new home — and their new goal is Earth, a legendary planet with other humans on it. Unfortunately, they have been infiltrated by the treacherous scientist Gaius Baltar (James Callis), and a group of Cylons who are almost indistinguishable from human beings.

    But the journey is the real test — the ragtag fleet must deal with sabotage, shortages of water and fuel, Starbuck’s stranding on a deadly planet, treachery among their numbers, attacks on Cylon-held asteroids, political crises and captured Cylons. What’s more, someone on the Galactica is actually a Cylon — leading to a terrible confrontation….

    Anyone expecting “Battlestar Galactica” to be a copy of its predecessor is going to be horribly disappointed. This is sci-fi at its most compelling and transcendent — a gritty, bleak, sexual, dark story of war and desperate escapes, and there are plenty of moral dilemmas (leaving behind slower ships to the Cylons). And it knows how to chill you — the premiere miniseries has a ghastly scene where Six quietly snaps a tiny baby’s neck… and she’s trying to be merciful.

    The writers also do a solid job in here, emphasizing the hard sci-fi but starting to add some mystical threads near the end. The writing is solid with some bleakly humorous moments (“Why can’t we use the starboard launch tube?” “It’s a gift shop now”). They even manage to pull off dramatic and powerful dialogue without being cheesy (“You were born to a woman who believed suffering was good for the soul, so you suffered. Your life is a testament to pain. Injuries. Accidents. Some inflicted upon others, others inflicted upon yourself”).

    Olmos and McDonnell are the powerful leaders in this story, and both actors do a brilliant job — especially Mcdonnell with Roslin’s terminal breast cancer, and Olmos with his tragic past. Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck comes across as annoyingly more-macho-than-thou in many episodes, but the actress does a fine job in the deeper, more powerful moments — Tricia Helfer is excellent as the ethereal humanoid-Cylon Number Six.

    Other standouts: Callis as the ever-changing Baltar, an enigmatic man with charisma and incredible smarts; Michael Hogan as the unlikeable Saul Tigh; and Grace Park as a woman who may be a Cylon without even being fully aware of it.

    The blu-ray edition of this series seems to have pretty much the same extras as the original DVDs — most of the episodes have official commentaries by directors and producers (including for the miniseries), a Cylon personality quiz, deleted scenes, sketches and art, several behind-the-scenes specials and featurettes, and something called “BD Live Download Center.”

    “Battlestar Galactica Season One” is the start of a strong, powerful sci-fi epic, and definitely deserves to be seen. Not for kids, though.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a series that represents television about as good as it gets. It is a show that can be praised and assessed on so many levels that it difficult to know where to start. Let’s start with narrative. One of the great developments in television in the late 1990s and continuing to the present–and the development that finally enabled a number of television series to surpass the majority movies as a thinking person’s form of entertainment–was the complete embrace of the long narrative format. While HILL STREET BLUES had introduced the multiple arc format, working through the serial rather than the episodic form, the nineties saw a further and major development in television narrative. Beginning with TWIN PEAKS and continuing with THE X-FILES (at least in the mythology episodes) and finding completion in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, shows more and more ceased telling shorter stories and focused on telling a single story, either during a full season or over several seasons. In their wake we have seen a number of series that try to tell a primary story over the course of time, including shows like FARSCAPE, ALIAS, THE SHIELD, LOST, and VERONICA MARS. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is an outstanding representative of this comparatively new form of extended narrative. When it ended, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA had told a single story. No other SF series that I know of remained so focused on the main story, not even FIREFLY or FARSCAPE or BABYLON 5 (though in the case of the latter it was hurt by its sudden cancellation at the end of its fourth season, only to be renewed after it had rushed to wrap up the main story in far fewer episodes than they anticipated).

    One could also focus on the show’s visuals. Although a SF series on the grand scale, much of the camera and sound technique derives more from police procedurals such as HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE, which in turn were heavily influenced by Robert Altman’s work. Almost all of the camerawork involves hand-held cameras, frequently the center of the action is left slightly to the side of the shots, and the camera frequently uses its zoom function. The scenes in outer space are similarly unique, with the earlier series FIREFLY as a major inspiration. That series had developed the use of zoom in CGI and even allowed shots to be slightly out of focus. The same group that did FIREFLY’s special effects worked on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA in its first season and obviously brought some aesthetic ideas along with them (the spaceship Serenity even made a brief appearance in the miniseries).

    Or one could focus on character. More than spaceships or planetary travel or politics, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is about people. One of the truisms about SF in written form is that compared to mainstream literature it tends to be weak on character, a truism that is acknowledged by the very best writers and scholars (many SF fans even complain when books have realistic characters, feeling that the books should focus on ideas instead). The reason that is usually given is that the setting and world necessarily tends to overwhelm individual characters, since novels are more about visions than anything. With some exceptions, I think this holds true of SF novels and short stories, but is not always true of television SF. There is significant character development in both FARSCAPE and FIREFLY, and especially in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. For all the action in the series, every episode without exception spends considerable time getting very, very close to a number of individuals, learning what makes them tick, exploring their fears and predilections, exploring their psyches. For all the big sets and space ships and CGI and robots, the show continuously foregrounds individuals.

    Or one could focus on the writing. This is a superbly written series. The show’s creator Ronald Moore rewrites all of the episodes. As a result, it doesn’t feel like a show written by committee, but the product of a single imagination. Most of the elements of the series came, of course, from the 1978 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series. I don’t want to offend fans of that series, but debates about which of the two is better are simply silly. On every level the newer series vastly outstrips the original, not just in the quality of special effects and production quality, but in acting, writing, or whatever. Primarily this is because it is so much better and more tightly written than the original. Speaking of the cast, how many series can boast not one but two Oscar nominated actors? Edward James Olmos, in addition to having won an Emmy for his work on MIAMI VICE, was nominated for his great performance in STAND AND DELIVER, while Mary McDonnell has been nominated twice, for PASSION FISH and for DANCES WITH WOLVES.

    Finally, one could focus on the tone of the series. This is a very, very dark show. Everyone on the show makes mistakes, everyone on the show is fallible, and some make very serious errors of judgment. Very bad things happen to people and things can often go from bad to worse. There is both moral and metaphysical complexity running throughout the show. From the moment that Jenny Calendar was murdered by Angel on BUFFY, I decided that the best TV always goes for the hurt, an opinion that I have had reaffirmed on many occasions. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA definitely goes for the hurt, and the first season ends with nearly every major character in a very nasty place.

    This is a major achievement in television art. Not just fans of SF but also devotees of quality television really need to see this series. Entertainment only rarely gets this good.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Battlestar Galactica is science fiction at its best, it explores human nature from the best to the worst it has to offer, the acting is top notch, the music is beyond words and the story keeps you at the edge of your seat. This is memorable and dense science fiction for grownups, and if you haven’t given a chance to this great series, please try it… you absolutely won’t regret it.

    Unfortunately, the previous releases in High Definition have been a disappointment. I’m not complaining about the image quality of this series, which is documentary style with some grain (the artistic license of the creators), but about the horrible presentation. The Complete Series Package comes with a horrible and bulky box that contains even cheaper boxes to hold the discs. There is no episode guide (so it’s up to you to guess where in the 25 discs is the episode you want), the discs are not as protected as they should be and the whole package is too expensive (200+ dollars in one go).

    I’ve been waiting for the individual seasons to be released (on Blu-Ray) in proper sets, and I know I’m not the only one.

    The content of this series is a true work of art that looks and sounds amazing in High Def and hopefully, Universal will release all seasons (COMPLETE seasons please, no “season 4.0 – season 4.5” rip offs!!) on Blu-Ray with episode guide for the discs and all the special features released earlier on DVD (and the cherished webisodes if possible).

    Rating: 5 / 5

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