Battlestar Galactica's Edward James Olmos wasn't kidding when he said "the series is even better than the miniseries." As developed by sci-fi TV veteran Ronald D. Moore, the "reimagined" BG is exactly what it claims to be: a drama for grown-ups in a science-fiction setting. The mature intelligence of the series is its greatest asset, from the tenuous respect between Galactica's militarily principled commander Adama (Olmos) and politically astute President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) to the barely suppressed passion between ace Viper pilot "Apollo" (a.k.a. Adama's son Lee, played by Jamie Bamber) and the brashly insubordinate Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), whose multifaceted character is just one of many first-season highlights. Picking up where the miniseries ended (it's included here, sparing the need for separate purchase), season 1 opens with the riveting, Hugo Award-winning episode "33," in which Galactica and the "ragtag fleet" of colonial survivors begin their quest for the legendary 13th colony planet Earth, while being pursued with clockwork regularity by the Cylons, who've now occupied the colonial planet of Caprica. The fleet's hard-fought survival forms (1) the primary side of the series' three-part structure, shared with (2) the apparent psychosis of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) whose every thought and move are monitored by various incarnations of Number Six (Tricia Helfer), the seemingly omniscient Cylon ultravixen who follows a master plan somehow connected to (3) the Caprican survival ordeal of crash-landed pilots "Helo" (Tahmoh Penikett) and "Boomer" (Grace Park), whose simultaneous presence on Galactica is further evidence that 12 multicopied models of Cylons, in human form, are gathering their forces.
With remarkably consistent quality, each of these 13 episodes deepens the dynamics of these fascinating characters and suspenseful situations. While BG relies on finely nuanced performances, solid direction, and satisfying personal and political drama to build its strong emotional foundation, the action/adventure elements are equally impressive, especially in "The Hand of God," a pivotal episode in which the show's dazzling visual effects get a particularly impressive showcase. Original BG series star Richard Hatch appears in two politically charged episodes (he's a better actor now, too), and with the threat of civil war among the fleet, season 1 ends with an exceptional cliffhanger that's totally unexpected while connecting the plot threads of all preceding episodes. To the credit of everyone involved, this is frackin' good television.
The fifth disc in Battlestar Galactica's season 1 set is highlighted by eight comprehensive featurettes covering all aspects of the series, from its miniseries origins to standard surveys of production design, visual effects, and particulars of plot and character. For hardcore fans and anyone interested in TV production, nine out of 13 episodes, plus the disc 1 miniseries, are accompanied by intelligent and informative commentary originally provided as BG website podcasts, mostly by series developer and writer Ronald D. Moore, who provides tantalizing clues about developments in season 2. The "Series Lowdown" is a cast-and-crew promotional program originally broadcast to attract SciFi Channel viewers who were initially reluctant to embrace a "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica. The strategy worked: First-season ratings left no doubt that the new BG was as good as--and in many ways better than--the original. --Jeff Shannon
Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0
The first half of Battlestar Galactica's second season left no doubts about the continuing excellence of the best science fiction TV series of 2005. Beginning with the Colonial Fleet separated, Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) botching his temporary command, and Capt. Adama (Edward James Olmos) near death after a Cylon assassination attempt, series producer/developer Ronald D. Moore and his gifted writing staff packed more into these 10 episodes than most series manage in a full season. Maintaining its reputation as an adult drama, the series is compellingly anchored by the gravitas of Olmos and Mary McDonnell, whose role as Fleet President Laura Roslin grows more complex as she reveals her diagnosis of breast cancer and defies Adama, playing the "religious card" with her conviction that prophetic visions will lead the embattled fleet toward its legendary home planet Earth. As Adama's son Apollo (Jamie Bamber) wrestles with his role in Roslin's mutinous agenda, paranoia runs high as Cylon copies (or "avatars") of Boomer (Grace Park) complicate matters aboard Galactica and on Kobol, where a lost Raptor crew struggles to survive and Dr. Baltar (James Callis) endures the increasingly haunting and manipulative intrusions into his tormented psyche by Number Six (Tricia Helfer), the seductive Cylon who holds the secret to the Cylon master plan to destroy humankind.
Further action takes place on Cylon-occupied Caprica, where Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) and Helo (Tamoh Penikett) discover a group of human resistance fighters who survived the Cylons' nuclear attack in season 1. As all of these plot threads are expertly interwoven, the high-stakes conflict of BG 2.0 culminates in a suspenseful mid-season cliffhanger. Through all of this, Battlestar Galactica maintains consistently high standards of intelligent drama and well-justified, story-based use of spectacular special effects, while developing rich relationships across a broad spectrum of interesting supporting characters. The series' large and likable cast is well-used throughout (even smaller roles are given adequate dimension), and Moore's "podcast" commentaries provide a smart, thorough analysis of the show's writing process and conceptual evolution. Yes, it's undeniably true that this half-season DVD set is a blatantly commercial ploy to lure more and more viewers into the ongoing season (which resumed in January 2006), but you can hardly blame Universal for capitalizing on a high-quality series. With solid ratings, good scripts, and a devoted cast and crew, Battlestar Galactica showed every indication of thriving toward a third season and beyond. --Jeff Shannon
Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5
Battlestar Galactica's season 2.5 (i.e., the final 10 episodes of the second season, plus an extended version of episode 10) picks up where season 2.0 (the first 10 episodes) left off: Galactica's giddy reunion with the Pegasus had taken a sour turn when Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes) went back on her word to Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and decided to integrate the crews, moving Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) to Pegasus. The animosity, combined with an attack on Sharon (Grace Park), threatens to derail a golden opportunity for the fleet to strike the Cylons where they'll hurt, and stay hurt--their resurrection ship.
In many ways, Sharon is the central character. The attack lands Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) and the Chief (Aaron Douglas) in hot water; her impending baby remains the subject of heated debate among president Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), Commander Adama, and others; and a rebellious movement determined to force Galactica to give up the Cylon ends up threatening both Apollo and Starbuck and putting further strain on their already-shaky relationship. Dr. Baltar (James Callis) becomes even more intertwined with the Cylons when he discovers another version of Number Six (Tricia Helfer) on the Pegasus, but is also in line to take over the presidency as Roslin's cancer reaches a critical stage. Battlestar Galactica's inexorable dramatic arc sagged in a couple episodes during this run, but the terrific two-part season finale involving a presidential election, a glimmer of hope for humanity, and some unexpected turns of events makes for a thrilling springboard to season 3. Battlestar is often called the best sci-fi show on television, but that seems like damning it with faint praise; it's the best drama on television.
In addition to the 10 episodes, the three-DVD set has an extended version of the last episode of season 2.0, "Pegasus"; the extra 15 minutes include a longer conversation in which Cain reveals her plans to Adama. That episode has a commentary track by executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, Moore's podcast commentaries are on every other episode, Eick's "video blogs" serve as casual featurettes on series production, and there are numerous deleted scenes. --David Horiuchi
Battlestar Galactica: Season 3
The third season of Battlestar Galactica got off to a rip-roaring start on New Caprica, where the settlers had found themselves under Cylon occupation at the end of the previous season. Dr. Baltar (James Callis) had been elected President based on his intention to stop looking for Earth and settle on New Caprica, but is now a puppet of the Cylons, forced to sign execution orders for numerous humans, including former President Roslin (Mary McDonnell). A resistance movement is building, however, led by Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), and assisted by Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and Samuel Anders (Michael Trucco). Tigh's desperate tactics--including suicide bombers--raise interesting parallels to the U.S. war in Iraq, and he finds he has to make an even tougher choice. Thanks to Admiral Adama's (Edwards James Olmos) return and the unexpected help of Boomer (Grace Park), the colonists escape, then begin a series of trials in order to convict all of the Cylon collaborators, culminating in the explosive trial of Baltar himself. In a boxing-metaphor episode, Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) resume their mutual attraction with a surprising outcome. After the exciting beginning, Battlestar Galactica sagged a little in the middle of the third season (as it did in the second season) with its ship-bound episodes, but caught speed again at the end. The quest to find Earth, the unexpected loss of a major character, and the revealing of four of the final five Cylons kept viewers coming back to a series that blends action, drama, and universal questions of loyalty, faith, and justice in a way that transcends the science-fiction setting. With Dean Stockwell, Lucy Lawless, and Tricia Helfer as Cylons 1, 3, and 6, Mark Sheppard as defense attorney Romo Lampkin, Alessandro Juliani as Lt. Gaeta, Kandyse McClure as Petty Officer "Dee" Dualla, Nicki Clyne as Crewman Specialist Cally, Kate Vernon as Ellen Tigh, and Rekha Sharma as presidential aide Tory Foster.
Every episode on the DVD set has executive producer Ronald Moore's podcast commentaries (occasionally joined by others) and almost every episode has deleted scenes, including a different (and less effective) version of the season's final surprise. Also included are bonus commentaries, the Resistance webisodes (10 episodes, 26 minutes total) that provide more of life on occupied New Caprica, executive producer David Eicks' "video blog" featurettes, and an extended version of "Unfinished Business" (mostly adding non-Starbuck-Apollo material). --David Horiuchi
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 is the final 10 episodes of the Sci-Fi Channel's highly acclaimed reimagining of the 1970s show, including one of the more stirring and satisfying series finales in television history. Aired in January 2009 after a six-month hiatus, the half-season opens following the devastating revelation about Earth and with four of the final five Cylons revealed, including Tigh (Michael Hogan), Anders (Michael Trucco), Foster (Rekha Sharma), and Tyrol (Aaron Douglas). The uneasy alliance between humans and a pack of rebel Cylons, including Caprica 6 (Tricia Helfer) takes a quizzical turn when the former residents of Earth appear to be Cylon rather than human, and some of the final five begin to recall their past lives on Earth. Kara (Katee Sackhoff) has to call her own human status into question when she discovers a crashed Viper occupied by a corpse wearing her dog tags, and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) battle their own despair and struggle to lead an emotionally devastated fleet. Capitalizing on the turmoil, Vice President Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch) and Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) organize a mutiny aboard the Galactica and Zarek makes an unbelievable power move against the Quorum of Twelve. But before they can carry out their plans for execution, a commando raid led by Kara and Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) fighting side by side strikes back against the mutineers. That's the action high point of the half-season, as the show then seems to mark some time with such issues as babies and structural integrities until the three-part finale, which, despite a head-scratcher or two, manages to resolve its issues tidily. That viewers even get a rare glimpse of sunlight is kind of a reward for fans of this outstanding but relentlessly dark series. DVD features include extended versions of three episodes ("A Disquiet Follows My Soul," "Islanded in a Stream of Stars," and "Daybreak'), Ronald D. Moore's podcast commentaries for each episode, deleted scenes, David Eick's video blogs, and five behind-the-scenes featurettes. --David Horiuchi