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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 [Blu-ray]

 

(Created, Written & Produced by Ronald D. Moore, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: David Eick

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 763 min

Chapters: 11

Size: 50 GB

Case: Expanded Blu-ray Case w/ slipcover

Release date: July 28, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentaries by Ronald D. Moore, David Eick and Edward James Olmos

• 3 Extended Episodes (unaired): A Disquiet Follows My Soul: Islanded in a Stream of Stars; Daybreak.

• A Look Back – HD (37:05)

• David Eick's Video Blogs – in SD (44:47)

• The Journey Ends: The Arrival – HD (12:47)

• What the Frak is Going On?: A recap of the first three seasons in 8 minutes (why not 8:15?) – SD (8:18)

• . . . And They Have a Plan? – HD (4:27)

• Ronald D. Moore's Podcast Commentaries

• Evolution of a Cue – with composer Bear McCreary – SD (23:14)

• Deleted Scenes

 

 

The Film:

The story arc of Battlestar Galactica is set in a distant part of the galaxy, where a civilization of humans live on a series of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. In the past, the Colonies have been at war with a cybernetic race known as the Cylons. With the unwitting help of a human named Gaius Baltar, the Cylons launch a sudden ambush on the Colonies, laying waste to the planets and devastating their populations. The handful of human survivors flee into space aboard any spacecraft they can reach. Of all the Colonial Fleet, the Battlestar Galactica appears to be the only military capital ship that survived the attack.

The survivors are led by President Laura Roslin and Commander William Adama in a ragtag fleet of ships with the Battlestar Galactica, an old but powerful warship, as its command ship. Pursued by Cylons intent on wiping out the remnants of the human race, the survivors travel across the galaxy looking for the fabled and long-lost thirteenth colony: Earth. Unlike most space opera series, Battlestar Galactica has no aliens (the antagonists are man-made Cylon robots) and intentionally avoids technobabble. Instead, most of the stories deal with the apocalyptic fall-out of the destruction of the twelve colonies upon the survivors and the moral choices the survivors must make in dealing with the survival of the human race, as well as their war with the Cylons. Stories also deal with the concept of perpetuated cycles of hate and violence driving the human/Cylon conflict, and religious issues, with the implication of an active God whose angelic agents intervene on behalf of the main characters, most notably Gaius Baltar.

Over the course of the show's four seasons, the war between the colonists and the Cylons takes many twists and turns. Despite the animosity on both sides, the Cylons and humans slowly turn away from their hatred for each other. Part of this is due to a growing schism within the humanoid Cylons, led by the villainous Cylon Number One, Brother John Cavil. Cavil's obsession with hiding the true genesis of the humanoid Cylons (created by members of the Galactica Crew, who themselves are humanoid Cylons from "Earth" who had their memories erased by Cavil) leads to a civil war among the Cylons, with a faction of the robot race forming an alliance with the humans. - Wikipedia

The Season: 8
The original Battlestar Gallactica began as a series of three made-for TV movies (a 3-hour pilot and two 2-hour episodes). A TV series lasting scarcely a single season followed on its heels. This was between 1978-79. Fast forward to 2004 when a regular TV series, with much better funding, began what would be a four-season run, ending in 2009.

As we join the series midway into the final season following a writing hiatus (thus the "4.5") the survivors have arrived at what they believe to be Earth, which doesn't look at all hospitable. Meanwhile Gallactica itself is falling apart and Herculean efforts are applied to prevent it from disintegrating in space.

Excerpt of review from Wikipedia located HERE

 


 

Image: 7/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

A good deal of the series is spent off-ship and out of the current time line - in its way, not unlike the various Star Trek series. Production design choices are altered dramatically with time and venue. I'm thinking the final episodes have a disproportinate amount of such displacements. I mention this as it makes for watching this season out of sequence all the more problematic at a number of levels. My main concern in this respect is the image and audio.

Without the earlier season present for review – I both envy and do not envy those reviewers who are tackling the entire series on Blu-ray – I cannot even guess as to how this season stacks up against the earlier shows, but from what I can intuit and glean from the various commentaries and extra features, it has evolved with funding. The image, so often thin and grainy, is so all over the map in terms of contrast, saturation, brightness and the degree of post-processing (there is always some, often a great deal), that it is impossible to know how it is intended to look. One can only go on one's memory of broadcast (1080i, I believe) and the apparent lack of distracting artifacts (I'm not at all sure I could spot them anyhow in this soup.) My score of "7" is therefore a compromise between an absolute number, which is probably closer to "4" and the probable faithfulness to source, which is probably "10." I hope my caps will give you an idea of some of the breadth of possibility here.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8
There is a good deal of shipboard ambiance that the uncompressed DTS-HD MA mix is able to convey. These environmental noises plus various militant commotions on ship and the occasional Cylon attack, which can be fairly ferocious at times, make the Blu-ray a must. Dialogue is always crisp, which is good, since it is not always declaimed. There is a good deal of faux-whispering going on.
 

Operations: 7
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point. And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite and delight.

 

 

 

Extras: 9
By the clock, there are more extra features on this set than there are episode minutes, since just about all the episodes have commentaries by Ronald Moore and others, and there are several considerable bonus features that discuss the series arc and these final episodes in particular. There are three extended director's cuts if you will – at least one is over 20 minutes about the broadcast version. In an evident homage to the series, Lost, "What the Frak is Going On?" the first three seasons are recapped in 8 minutes, 18 seconds. And that voice, that voice. The features are about 4:3 SD to HD, but all of them are in very watchable quality, even on the big screen. What with all the commentaries and such, U-Control seems content with a pop-up glossary and detailed accounts of characters and ships.
 

 

 

Bottom line: 6/9
I don't quite get the point of the purchase of parts of a series like Battlestar Gallactica. If it were seven or eight seasons and more episodic, then maybe. On the other hand, there will be many fans who have been buying the seasons as they come out on DVD. I think that as peculiarly processed as the image is, it has to be more agreeable on Blu-ray, so I fear the pull to get the entire series in HD is strong, especially as the price right now is well discounted. Given what I see on this season, I would not be surprised if the entire series gets a "Best Series on Blu-ray" nomination from other reviewers for this year.

Leonard Norwitz
August 8th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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