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Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection
Blu-ray | Box Set
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The ultimate collection for the classic series that launched one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time, enjoy Battlestar Galactica in both its original television format and in widescreen format for the first time – all in high-definition! Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series: Hopeful for lasting peace following centuries of intense warfare, the Twelve Colonies gather to sign a treaty with their dreaded enemies, the Cylons. But after an act of treachery on the eve of the ceremony, the Cylons launch a devastating surprise attack, destroying the Colonies' home planets and most of their military strength. A lone flagship battlestar, the Galactica, remains to aid the surviving colonists on their epic journey for a new home to a far-off legendary planet—Earth. Galactica 1980: The Complete Series: 30 years after the events of Battlestar Galactica, the original crew finally makes the long-anticipated descent to Earth. With time running out and the Cylons closing in on their trail, Commander Adama and the Galactica must work harder than ever before to help Earth create the technology necessary for battle. Battlestar Galactica: The Original Movie: The original movie that started it all, this theatrical version of the pilot episode includes several alternate scenes different from the televised version.
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***CRITICAL UPDATE ON REPLACEMENT DISC FOR WIDESCREEN VERSION: multiple web sites are issuing replacement disc notices for disc 3 of the widescreen version due to missing content on the episode The Magnificent Warriors (first episode on the disc). The announcements gerenrally read the same. Email to USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com ---- include the following in your title line: "Battlestar Galactica Classic Collection: BD'" --- and state the following in your email body: I would like to receive a replacement disc for (Disc 3, Episode "The Magnificent Warriors") --- They will respond with an email within 24-48 hrs asking for your mailing information and shortly after that with a postage paid envelope. They state it takes 2-3 weeks for the replacement disc to arrive. ***
***SEE NOTES ON THE REMASTER AND CROPPING NEAR END OF THIS REVIEW***
WHICH BLU RAY VERSION IS FOR YOU?: Major fans will have already hashed and rehashed this. However, here is the very simple perspective. If you want to see the program mainly as it aired, in Full Screen (older square-ish format), that is only in "The Definitive Collection" which has both Widescreen and Full Frame versions and includes the 1979 movie theater edit of the TV pilot episode called "Saga of a Star World" (slightly different edit with more final ending). However, if you don't mind some slight cropping at top and bottom and you don't need the additional Theater edit of the pilot, then the cheaper The Remastered Collection is all you need. ***Note that though the Widescreen version has minor cropping top and bottom, it also gains some picture width on each side (not viewable in the original Full Frame) as they take advantage of overshoot on film stock to widen the frame. So it's a give and take either way. ***More on the cropping below.*** ---Both sets include Galactica 1980
REVIEW INTRO: Shortly after Star Wars ushered in a new era of special effects, there was a rush to get new space sagas onto the small screen. As a result, Battlestar Galactica is one of our great milestones in TV Sci Fi. It was made in the 70's, so of course there's a little 70's acting shmultz. But, the 70's bent is part of its charm in a way. This show ages surprisingly well because of the quality of story and character development. The mythology speaks to a deeper part of the human soul and captivates our imagination. As a young boy, I was obsessed!
BASIC STORY (no spoilers): From the pyramid skyscrapers of home world Caprica, to the undiscovered worlds of space, this is one of our seminal tales of space saga. -- Humans in a system of planets with twelve colonies have been enemies for a thousand years with a cybernetic race called Cylons. These Cylons have now sued for peace and celebrations are planned throughout the planetary systems. However, this peace accord is only a ruse (aided by the human traitor Baltar) to mask an approaching invasion force bent on their annihilation. The war vessel Battlestar Galactica catches the attack early and manages to survive the holocaust along with a ragtag fleet of 220+ civilian vessels filled with survivors from all twelve colonies. Together they will travel throughout the universe in search of a fabled Thirteenth Colony on a planet called Earth. This so they can bolster their numbers and survive as the human race. They seem to be guided by the Lords of Kobol themselves and thwarted by a force darker than the Cylons. Along the way, they will find countless worlds holding clues to where the Thirteenth Colony went many millennia ago. They will also encounter many species and learn more of the Lords of Kobol, who are god-like and associated with the mother race for all humans.
CHARACTERS: One of the things that make this show so durable are its outstanding characters. Yes, the acting can be a little shmultzy, but that is normal for the 70's and a prime-time series viewed by a wider age group. Loren Green leads the cast as the elder statesman and commander of the remaining Battlestar. It is a tale of his family with son Apollo rising in his footsteps. Starbuck is the lovable rake that everyone seems to love best despite his mischief. Jane Seymour plays beautiful Serina, who becomes Apollo's love interest. Lucifer is the envious and impetuous robot who plays second fiddle to the human traitor Baltar. Sheeba is the kick butt female fighter pilot. And of course, the now mythical cylons themselves with that monotone voice, eerie cyclops eye that burns red and waves from side to side with that warbling sound!
THE MYTHOLOGY: The show has a very strong mythology borrowed from many ancient religions and cultures, as well as from some relatively new ones. This is not a religious program and no one against that should be put off. However, the use of these mythologies is brilliant because it speaks to such a primal part of the human consciousness. The twelve colonies (tribes) are clearly Israelite inferences while Egyptian and Greek images and dress and architecture are copied immensely. The Counsel of the Twelve - very Christian. Still, it's done in a way to create structure and story. It is wholesome for a family show, but not preachy in any way. It is first and foremost Sci-Fi.
REMASTER AND BLU-RAY REVIEW: Keep in mind this is all in context of a show over 35 years old so one can't expect it to be exactly like releases of new Sci-Fi. This is also a remaster and not a full restoration and cleaning. That said, this is a clear improvement over the older releases with crisper details and brighter colors that are still reasonably natural tone. For a program with so many dark scenes on ship bridges or deep space, I actually felt lucky that the dark scenes still looked as good as they did. Deep space shots of nebula (in special effects) can still look a little fuzzy but certainly better than before. When actually looking at real objects even in dark scenes, there is way less grain than there could have been. I still saw a little more grain looking at a few shots of Galactica from the outside in space, but it was not bad given the dark scene and the age of the film. Luckily they didn't do too much DNR in my opinion and I can still see pores on people's faces if reasonably close. I did notice there are still many small film artifacts and an occasional hair thin yellow streak now and then. The artifacts are definitely on both Widescreen and Full Frame, but are more noticeable on the Widescreen version. A few of the more harsh artifacts I saw on the Widescreen were not in the Full Frame version (again, frame by frame comparison), which was a little strange. Also, the larger your TV, the more noticeable it will be. The sound is also a great improvement and there is separation. But again, it's an old source so it won't be just like a new Sci-Fi movie. It's much better than before, but it's not going to be reference quality. Overall I am very happy and breathing a sigh of relief. I have seen much worse restorations that were from shows a decade later than this. I have seen dark scenes in other movie restorations that look like bad VHS (not the case here). It is also important to note that despite some obscure rumors, there is no CGI enhancement of special effects.
ABOUT THE CROPPING ON THE WIDESCREEN VERSION: I ran frame by frame comparisons and there is cropping on the widescreen to get that length though they also take advantage of the overshoot on original film stock to get even more length and minimize the amount of cropping necessary top and bottom. It's not going to make a huge deal, but it could make a difference to more particular fans. In really close scenes when viewing a pilot in the cockpit, the frame can cut off higher parts of the helmet design of the pilot. When the camera pans to show screen readouts that the pilot see's, some detail might be cut off. In one scene for example, I could see an entire freighter on the cockpit diagram in full screen mode, but in widescreen it cut a noticeable part of the bottom off. Conversely, the width you gain in Widescreen from overshoot will show side details not in the Full Frame version. The opening scene with the council around a table will show the outer wall layers creating a natural picture frame effect (you do see the whole room and characters though). This would not be viewable in the original TV broadcast or the Full Frame version Blu Ray. As I said, it's a trade off and a matter of personal preference. I will post more on this later. If you really prefer watching in widescreen and don't mind a little snipping top and bottom, the other package I mentioned is a cheaper option.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Though the special affects will seem dated to new viewers, they were part of that groundbreaking revolution in their day. Be forgiving of the ticky-tac stuff and appreciate this show for the milestone and accomplishment that it was. From the dark regions of space, the engaging mysticism, to the fighter jocks with gunslinger like laser pistols on their hips, this show has so many elements to entertain and captivate.
When I first heard they were remastering this to fit current widescreen TV's, I have to admit I was intrigued. But I also had fond memories of the original format, so I chose to purchase the Definitive Edition for an extra $20. So......is it worth the extra expense??? Before I answer that, let me start with the packaging. The outer slipcase is quite nice. It's a sturdy cardboard with a metallic look to the outer artwork. The lettering of the title is raised, and the cylon head is slightly raised from the surface. The reflective nature of the artwork is really nice to look at. Inside the box are 5 hard shell blu-ray cases. One for the original series in widescreen, one of the same in full frame, one of the 1980 series in widescreen, and one of the same in full frame, and finally one with the single disc of the theatrical release of the pilot episode.
Now let's get to what's on the discs. The first one I watched was the remastered widescreen version. Right off from the title screen I thought that something looked....off. It wasn't the crisp image I was expecting. I immediately thought of the glorious remastered version of Space 1999 (see my Amazon review of that classic set), and how fantastic it looks on blu-ray. With BG being a newer show, I expected similar results. There is noticeable scratches and scuffs that pop across the screen, and the colors look somewhat washed out. There is also a lack of crispness that you would expect from high definition. I wasn't sure if it was due to the zoom in that was necessary to create a widescreen image from the original full screen element. To check that out, I popped in the same episode from the full frame set. As soon as the titles came on, there was a noticeable difference. The starry backgrounds have a much nicer blackness to them with the stars popping off the background. There is also no denying that the special effects look much better on the full frame versions. One thing that was very noticeable in the widescreen was the "matting" around the ships as they travel around the screen. When you watch the full frame version, it is just not that evident. The effects are much clearer, and the colors are much more crisp in the full frame versions. Another very noticeable difference is the skin tones. In the widescreen versions, there is a waxy look to the skin, but in the full frame versions, the skin tones are much more natural. One final thing I have to point out is that in the cropping of the original format, you really do lose a lot of screen information.
While I was so excited about the widescreen version, after viewing it, I am surprised that I prefer the original full frame episodes. The sound quality on them seem to be identical, but there is no way you could watch both and not realize that the widescreen version is inferior to the full frame. If you're a true BG fan, do yourself a favor and spend the extra few dollars to get the original series in the best looking version I have ever seen it, the full frame version. It is truly the most ideal way to see this fantastic series in high definition.