on February 7, 2008
DON'T BUY the mini series DVD if you are also planning on buying the season 1 DVD set. I made that mistake and wasted $$$. The mini series is the first DVD in the Season 1 set.
Not long ago, the SciFi Channel in America brought back an old series in a new format - the late 1970s series, 'Battlestar Galactica', born on television to attempt to ride the coattails of the popularity of 'Star Wars' in the cinemas. There are some similarities, but major differences. The SciFi Channel floated a four-hour miniseries of the new Battlestar Galactica to gauge reaction, and it came back favourably. The new series is in production (fortunately the network had the presence to sign the actors to continuation agreements should the series get picked up).
There won't be any spoilers here (there can't be, as the series isn't finished yet), but the stage is set from the miniseries, which now serves as the series pilot. However, first a brief description of the original series is in order.
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In the original series, the saga opens at a peace conference, ending the 1000-year war between the humans, congregated mostly on twelve planetary colonies, and the Cylons, a machine race bent on galactic domination. Due to treachery by one of the colonial leaders (Baltar, played by John Colicos), the peace conference is in fact a trap, and a Pearl Harbouresque attack destroys all but one of the primary warships (the Battlestar Galactica). Meanwhile, the undefended colonies are similarly ransacked, left indefensible and uninhabitable. The commander, Adama (Lorne Greene), assumes leadership of a ragtag fleet of several hundred ships that sets out for a distant world known only in legend - Earth. The series continues throughout the course of the year with adventures of the human fleet encountering minor human settlements and lots of Cylons along the way - lots of space battles feature the Viper pilots Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), who have relationship situations with Casseopia (Laurette Spang), Serena (Jane Seymour) and Athena (Maren Jensen).
The original series ended before the journey ended; there was an earlier attempt at resurrecting the series in 'Galactica 1980' which mercifully fell victim to well-deserved bad ratings rather quickly, and purists never considered a true continuation of the series. This, of course, sets the stage for the new series criticism.
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In this series, with a few nods to the original ideas, there are still humans on twelve planets who have an advanced civilisation, but an aging military fleet. They've been at peace for twenty years, since the Cylons (here the humans' own creation) departed, having never signed a formal peace treaty. There is no peace conference here - rather, the aging battlestar Galactica is about to be decommissioned, when an unexpected attack by dramatically more advanced Cylons takes place, incorporating not only direct military strikes but also computer internet/network hijacking, facilitated by the mentally unbalanced but ingenious Dr. Baltar. Adama takes the Galactica to a safe location while the rest of the colonies fall quickly to the Cylons; various ships in the interstellar routes survive, including one with a cabinet minister elevated to the presidency due to the emergency, Laura Roslin. The ragtag fleet assembles at a forgotten supply depot, and does a sort of light-speed jump to safety after fighting (and essentially losing) against a new Cylon death star.
There are small nods to the old series - on the Galactica preparing for decommissioning, a museum has been set up, which has models of old Cylon death stars (these are models from the original series). The specifications for Cylons show the old metallic storm-trooper, but we are also informed that no one has seen a Cylon in twenty years (they've outgrown their shiny metal armour). In one scene, the museum chatter about the history of the Galactica mentions a Commander Hatch as its first commander, an obvious nod to Richard Hatch, the star of the original series.
The character of Laura Roslin is new, and the figure of Adama is a very different one from the original. Perhaps the most shocking change is that Starbuck here, while still a cigar-chomping, swaggering, swearing, card-playing rogue of an ace pilot, is also a woman.
The pilot shows people to be very human - whereas in the original series, they were almost playing archetypes of hero, villain, father-figure, etc., in this new show the roles are nowhere as distinct. The characters have flaws, and not Persian-carpet flaws, but real, honest-to-goodness problems and personality quirks. Adama is adamant about keeping the Galactica safe but also in engaging the enemy; his clashes with the authority of Laura Roslin, a president essentially without a nation, promises to be an interesting one. Apollo is still the solid captain of the fighter squad, and Starbuck and Boomer his able lieutenants, but there are secrets lurking here, too. And then there is Dr. Baltar, in whom the line between genius and insanity is constantly being redrawn.
The fleet is assembled, and heading off toward Earth. Here, however, Earth is not the ancient migratory memory of Adama as in the original series as much as it a mythical invention to give people hope in the fleet - this could set up a very different character to their run from the Cylons. Also, the fact that the Cylons are ultimately the creation of the humans, and now look like the humans, will factor heavily into a revised story line.
Edward James Olmos .... Commander William Adama
Mary McDonnell .... Colonial President Laura Roslin
Jamie Bamber .... Captain. Lee Adama (Apollo)
Katee Sackhoff .... Lieutenant. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)
James Callis .... Dr. Gaius Baltar
Tricia Helfer .... Number 6
Grace Park .... Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)
Michael Hogan .... Col. Tigh
on July 22, 2005
The 2003 3-hour (minus commercials, that is) pilot/miniseries update of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was a very well-done, very good pilot. I say that because pilots generally aren't as good as the series they lead up to, they merely lay the groundwork you need for the show, and GALACTICA is no exception. While it is very good on its own, it lags at times, loses its focus every once in a while, and it is obvious that it is a pilot for a TV series.
Thankfully, we got that TV series.
It is nothing short of amazing. Far surpassing the already-great pilot, it is the best show on TV at the moment.
This miniseries DVD, however, is crap.
I say that not because the picture or audio quality is bad (they aren't), or the extras are lacking (they are), but because in the upcoming Season 1 set, they include this exact disc, plus all the extras on this one on a separate disc in that set. This entire $22 set is pointless to buy if you buy Season 1.
There is a catch, though, that lets me say that this disc does need to exist.
If you buy Season 1 from Best Buy before September 30th, it is the UK set modified for Region 1, so it DOES NOT have this disc anywhere in it. THE ONLY REASON YOU NEED THIS DISC IS IF YOU ARE BUYING THE UK VERSION FROM BEST BUY. The only reason you need the UK version is because it has alternate opening music, the music used for Season 2 in America.
But, I want to say this: DO NOT BUY THE BEST BUY VERSION JUST BECAUSE YOU OWN THIS. The Best Buy version has NONE of the features on it, like commentary, making-of, sketches and art, that the official US version will. The Best Buy version, available from July 26 through September 20, has only deleted scenes, and unless this has been changed from the UK version, not even chapter stops. On September 20, the official American version (with different cover art even) will be released with the deleted scenes AND all the other features, plus an extra disc for the pilot/miniseries.
So unless you plan on getting the Region 1 UK version of Season 1 with the alternate opening music (the one that is used now in Season 2), you don't need this disc. I own it, but I will be getting the US version that includes it, and selling my miniseries disc on eBay.
Just a fair warning.
on August 27, 2007
I fear change. I shy away from bleeding edge technology. I stay safe. There was no way I was going to install some commercial program that stays resident and runs in the background on my computer. (After all, it was probably written by cylons.)
But then 'they' got me. What a dirty trick: BSG3 would be released in England next month, but not in the US for the indefinite future. If I wanted to watch BSG (which is the greatest program on television, bar none), I would have to risk installing 'Unbox.' As an avowed conspiracy theorist, you know what I thought about that.
Grudgingly, I downloaded the Unbox Player and installed it. I had to turn the computer on and off a few more times than expected; but that's par for the course on most installations. Then I decided to splurge. I spent $1.99 to check out an episode. Seemed a safe risk for the money, and the software installation had gone so quickly I was left with time on my hands to monkey around with this 'Unbox' thing some more. So I logged in, spent my $1.99 and prayed. Just as I started to exhale, a little notice popped up in the bottom right-hand corner. Aha! I knew things were going too well. I peered at the little message window and it read, "Your video is now ready for viewing." Huh? This must be a trick. I opened the Videos section of the Unbox player, and there was BSG, begging to be played. So I just hit the button and prayed.
The Gods of Kobol answered. I spent the next hour watching my favorite cylons play havoc with their tormented human pets. Nothing makes me happier. As other reviewers have noted, BSG3 spends more time on character psychology, etc., etc. But it is still blessed with a sufficient amount of random violence, special effects, and surprising concepts to guarantee your satisfaction.
Needless to say, I downloaded the entire season, plugged in the S-video cable (everything looks better on a large screen), and stayed up late for a few nights.
The only downside of this 'Unbox' thing is that you need a megadrive to accomodate the video files unless you want to spend a lot of time shuttling videos to "backup" media, an experiment I will leave for another day. Thank you for reading my adventure. I wish you the same luck that I enjoyed.
on September 24, 2007
I bought this before I realized that it was INLCUDED in the Season 1 box set as well!! I wish I'd have spent more time researching and I'd have saved myself the $$$. GREAT series though (in the absence of more Firefly that is)!
Let me first state that I was very young when the original "Battlestar Galactica" was born on television. My fondest memories of that show are of reading the huge comic adaptation that my older brother was kind enough to let me have and of the "Starbuck" and "Cylon" action figures that I had. I have recently started watching the original series on SciFi Channel and completely fell back in love with it. For its time, it was an amazing and fun show. The special effects still hold up pretty good as well, considering how old the series is.
Now to the new, "re-imagined" version of "Battlestar Galactica." I really enjoyed this miniseries when it first played on SciFi Channel. It has a number of differences that make it just as good or better than the original in some aspects, but the original series will always hold a special place in my heart.
The characters may have the same names as the original ones, but that's about the only true similarities between them. As everybody already knows, Starbuck is now portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, a woman. I have no problem with this whatsoever. Yes, I loved Dirk Benedict as Starbuck and he will probably always be the true Starbuck to me, but Ms. Sackhoff does a pretty good job in this role. I'll agree with another reviewer that Sackhoff starts off too over-the-top, but sinks comfortably into the role as the movie plays out. Edward James Olmos is solid as Adama, and it will be interesting to see how often he and Mary McDonnell's character butt heads on decisions as the series starts its run. Apollo comes across as the perfect "son rebelling against father" type. Of course, along with the "Starbuck" scandal, the fact that Col. Tigh and Boomer are no longer black characters has also caused a stir. Grace Park does a good job as Boomer. She gives the character an innocence that wasn't present in the original character. Michael Hogan plays Col. Tigh. Col. Tigh is wishy-washy and nearly drunk most of the time, which is a nice change from the original Tigh. His character is full of emotion in this film, especially when Adama hands over a crucial decision to him to decide upon. The rest of the cast does extremely well. When compared to other SciFi Channel flicks, they would all win awards for their performances.
The Cylons have also been overhauled for this new series. In all, there are twelve different models, all serving a different purpose. The model with the most exposure(figuratively and literally) in this miniseries is the Number Six model. Number Six(played by a Victoria's Secret model, really) seduces Dr. Baltar and tricks him into giving her access to some very important information that aids the Cylon cause in destroying humanity. No. Six will not remind you of any of the old school Cylons out there. She's a very attractive, very evil humanoid-looking robot. Her character is given a few rather choice scenes, my favorite being when she encounters a newborn baby. I won't spoil anything, but just prepare yourself for some very wicked acts from her character. Homage is paid to the original Cylons if you look quickly during a scene in one of the Galactica's hangars, which is converted into a gift shop. We are given a glimpse of some of the other models in the movie as well, but hopefully they will play a larger role in the series as it develops.
As far as special effects are concerned, this is the best I've ever seen from SciFi Channel. They are nearly flawless. They are heavy on CGI, but are very enjoyable to watch. I also enjoyed the handheld camera scenes of the space battles. The Vipers, Raptors, and Cylon ships look very realistic and move more like a "real" starfighter would in my opinion. Sound is minimal during the dogfights, 'cause in space, no one can hear you scream.
The DVD is pretty thin on extras, so if that's your thing, you may just want to watch this when it's on SciFi Channel. If you're like me, however, you'll want this for your library because it is a very exceptional show. The highlight of few extras included is "The Lowdown," which goes a little in depth on the creation of the miniseries.
Look beyond the old "Galactica," and view this version as something completely different and new. I think that once you get beyond some of the major changes(Starbuck, sexy Cylons, etc.), you'll be able to see that this is really a good movie and if the series is anything like it, I'm sure it will be around for a very long time.
I won't review BSG's Season 3 here as it others have done so more conclusively elsewhere. Instead, a few thoughts if you're thinking of buying an episode or two of Season Three off of Unbox:
1. Video quality is a lot better than the Sci-Fi channel broadcasts. It's roughly equivalent to the DVDs for the previous years, which are some of the better mastered sets out there. An example: in Exodus part 2, I noticed details never seen in the broadcasts - like the underside of the Galactica glowing red while she was getting attacked by the Cylon fleet. Very pretty on a standard definition TV; decent but not spectacular when upconverted to an HD-capable set.
2. Audio quality is a disappointing push. As best as I can tell this is actually 2 channel, which is a shame considering it was filmed in DD 5.1 and the DVDs also have a 5.1 soundtrack. Better than the broadcasts, but not by much.
3. All in all, if you don't want to buy the full DVD set (or waste money on the HD-DVD versions since they're now obsolete) not a bad choice.
on September 15, 2005
I was blown away on how this current adaptation of a classic show can fit the constructs of what great drama and great sci-fi is supposed to be. There is no way you can watch this series and not feel compassion and curiousity for the journeys and struggles that lie ahead. My intrigue with the origin of Battlestar made me also purchase the original series from the 70's and my appreciation for the growth in the characters (and gender changes), the depth of the script grew with the distinct parrallel to the history and original settings still pretty much in place. It is a triumph for sci-fi lovers and must be held as such.
on March 15, 2006
Battlestar Galactica is a superb drama whether you love or hate Science Fiction. I can't recommend it highly enough.
However, unless you have seen everything except the Miniseries, buy Season 1 instead, because the Miniseries is included in season 1. If you buy both you will have two copies of the Miniseries.
on July 9, 2006
First things first: This is included in the first season DVD set, so, unless you are a collector or only interested in the miniseries version, get season 1 instead.
I won't get into too many details here, as I do not wish to spoil the story line for those who haven't seen this yet. Suffice to say, this one is very different from the original series. Realism was clearly the intent of the cast and crew, and is pulled off quite well. The ship has been redesigned to more clearly present itself as a warship, sort of along the lines of what I imagine a space based aircraft carrier might look like. The new fighters are also quite modern looking, but are eventually dropped in favor of the original fighters as part of the story line. Other ships are modernized as well for this series, making the story far more believable than the original series was.
Galactica's crew is also modernized, with both men and women fully integrated. Uniforms are far more militaristic, and weapons are clearly not toys. Interpersonal relationships are also more realistic, complete with fraternization, insubordination, and so forth. This series essentially kills the premise that men and women can't fight along side each other, at least within the fictional modern society.
The Cylons, as would be expected, are also far more modern. While the Centurions retain certain aspects from the original series, they also are modernized and far more threatening in appearance, I suspect largely due to such movies as Terminator. The effect is far more realistic, from the design to how they move and operate. However, this model will play only a small role in the series, as the truly modernized Cylon soldier appears very human not just in appearance, but in how they behave. Cylon base stars and fighters are also modernized as well, in ways I can't get into here without spoling future episodes for you.
Weapons systems for both sides of the conflict have much more in common with today's real world capabilities than, say, Star Trek. Gone are the laser cannons and phasers, and back are bullets, shells, missles, and nuclear warheads. The only unrealistic aspect of this change is the ability of Galactica to survive a direct hit from a nuke, which is never explained in the story.
All ships are also equipped with "FTL Drives," which allow Cylons and Colonials to "jump" between different locations to escape or attack one another. This is far more realistic, from a story line point of view, than the original series, which allowed slow moving ships to escape other slow moving ships that somehow magically seemed to catch up. To add to the realistic feel of this device, the story shows that careful planning and timing are necessary for the FTL drive to operate correctly.
Now for the story line...
Essentially, it is 40 years later. The Cylons and Colonials have a sort of armistice, in which the two sides have withdrawn from each other and have gone their separate ways. The existance of Cylons is finally explained. Seems humans created the Cylons as a sort of labor force, and as is inevitable in such stories, the Cylons had rebelled against their "masters" when they gained self-awareness. This provides a link to the previous series, not to mention a far more reasonable explaination for the origines of the conflict.
An outpost between the Colonies and the Cylons was established to allow the two sides to meet annually, should they choose to, to discuss issues of mutual interest. During the previous 40 years, the Cylons have never shown up. That changes, of course, and the war breaks out during that one meeting.
After that, the story line is very similar to the original, albeit with the twist of Cylons looking and acting very human. The Cylons destroy the colonies, and they go in search of a mythical thirteenth colony called Earth. The battles are spectacular and far more realistic for a space battle with conventional weapons, save for the effects of the nuclear weapons on the various ships. Colonials are polytheistic, significant in later episodes, while the Cylons are monotheistic, somewhat confusing given they acknowledge that humans created them. This aspect becomes very important in later episodes, although I suspect it will have religious extremist viewers coming unglued.
The casting is brilliant, as are the individual performances. Those who have objected to the casting of women in the roles of Starbuck and Boomer need to get over themselves, as the characters are very integral to future episodes.
The graphics and special effects are equally stunning, and the set designs are pure genius.
All in all, the series is brilliantly done. Even those who do not typically like the genre will enjoy this series, and will look forward to future episodes as well.