This review contains spoilers pertaining to events leading up to the third season. If you have not seen them be warned that some things will be ruined for you!
Well, it's about frakking time!
Being a Battlestar Galactica fan is frustrating business. It's been a very long time since the third season wrapped up on the Sci-Fi Channel and we're still waiting for the fourth season to start thanks to the writer's strike. The worst part about it is the drought we've gone through with regards to DVD releases. Battlestar Galactica: Razor hit DVD the day after it aired but the third season took an entire year to come out. The day has finally arrived and if you're anything like me then you can't wait to sink yourself back into the Galactica mythos.
So much has happened to the people of the 12 Colonies up to this point. I mean, their population was obliterated by the Cylons after a lengthy armistice and what's left of their culture has been on the run from complete annihilation. The Cylons are among them and their ultimate goal has yet to be determined. Both races seem to have their eyes focused on a little place called Earth and it's the journey there that makes up the backbone of the series. The end of the second year kind of changed that though.
When we left Adama and crew in the second season things had turned upside down to say the least. "One Year Later" took on a whole new meaning as the survivors of the Cylon attack settled down on a humble world that came to be known as New Caprica. The election of Baltar as President of the Colonies proved to be a rather large mistake as it was his own ineptitude that brought about the appearance of the Cylon fleet. The second season ended with the Cylons imprisoning mankind and the Adamas jumping away with both Battlestars. To say that the outlook was bleak would be an understatement and through much of the third season the show explores what life was like under Cylon rule.
When season three begins it's quite evident that this was a very different Battlestar Galactica. For one thing Admiral Adama had a killer moustache, Apollo got chunky presumably from eating too many Twinkies, and just about everyone else we cared about was stuck on the planet (aside from Helo and Dee, though we really don't care about Dee). I didn't think it was really possible considering the human race has been on the run from extinction but if the tone of Galactica could have gotten any more somber; New Caprica did the trick.
Starbuck, Tigh, Anders, Tyrol, Cally, Roslin, Gaeta, and yes, even Baltar were all stuck on the surface with the rest of the colonies. They became an encampment under Cylon supervision though they were still allowed to congregate and kind of, sort of live out a normal life. At least as normal as possible with an artificially intelligent gun pointed at your head. For some strange reason the Cylons chose to use their resources to keep humanity alive. Their goal was never truly made clear but it certainly seemed that they'd rather have humanity under their metallic boots than erased out of the food chain.
As the New Caprica storyline progresses there are some revelations that have resounding effects throughout the rest of the season. One of the biggest things to come about from all of this involves Gaius Baltar. As president of the colonies he has been forced into servitude by the Cylons and does all manner of unscrupulous things during his administration. The people loath him and they want him dead but little do they know that he did most of his devious acts at the wrong end of a pistol. He becomes a pariah before long and has found himself reluctantly siding with the Cylons.
To be quite honest, so much happens on New Caprica that it would be difficult to discuss everything here. I will say that as interesting, and I suppose necessary, as this aspect was it did change the dynamic of the show. It was no longer the show that people had come to expect thanks to it being landlocked. Sure the characters were still the same and it allowed a lot of room for development but there's no getting around the fact that it felt different, even if it only lasted for a couple of episodes. I guess it was designed that way so that the inevitable rescue of the colonies in "Exodus" was as climactic as it was. Trust me on this one, if you haven't seen it this was one of the best moments EVER in Galactica.
From there the show returns to some form of normalcy. The people are trying to fit into their old roles from over a year ago and they struggle on many personal levels to accept what happened. The characters are scarred from the past and it's enjoyable to watch as Galactica delves into that pain as the show moves forward. One episode that explores that is "Unfinished Business" which pits the crew of Galactica against each other in a boxing ring. This is essentially Battlestar's version of Fight Club but it works on so many levels. Likewise towards the end of the season the two-part "Crossroads" takes a look at Baltar and the crimes he orchestrated against humanity. Without giving away details I will say that this episode features one of the greatest monologues ever delivered in a science fiction series. I got goosebumps watching this particular scene the first time and every time after it was just as satisfying.
In between "Exodus" and "Crossroads" there are plenty of other episodes that stand out and explore interesting components of daily life aboard the colonies. "Hero" brings a figure from the past to light and delivers some interesting tidbits regarding Adama's actions prior to the Cylon attack. "The Eye of Jupiter" is fascinating as it delves deeper into the prophetic writings of the founding colony. "Dirty Hands" examines societal issues and class structure among the survivors in a very interesting way. And finally "Maelstrom" was definitely a great look at the character of Kara Thrace.
Now, as with the previous season of Galactica there are many storylines that run through these individual episodes. The aforementioned New Caprica angle is probably the most prominent but others that play a role include Sharon and Helo's child Hera, Roslin's struggle with cancer (again), and the ever frustrating Lee and Starbuck relationship.
As much as I didn't like Lee and Dee getting together, I must admit that the way Galactica played Lee and Starbuck got obnoxious after a while. Due to Kara's personal issues she closes up and becomes standoffish at all of the wrong moments. I suppose it's a testament to the writing that you'll feel the anger and frustrating that Lee does when this happens, but it's annoying just the same. "Unfinished Business" was definitely a nice way for these two to work out their issues and resolve some feelings. I particularly liked the way Anders responded to their fight as it basically mirrored what I was thinking at the time.
After the escape from New Caprica, the colonies and Cylons kind of go their separate ways. They are both still clamoring for Earth and seeking out clues of its existence and location but they spend a great deal of time away from each other. This kind of dulls the senses a bit and takes some of the core out of the series though some episodes towards the middle of the season and the end reunite these enemies gloriously. So much of the Cylon existence is called into question and you'll be left scratching your head trying to unravel the mystery. It stands as a testament to the writing of Battlestar Galactica that this clue searching never gets old.
That being said not every episode in this season stands out unfortunately. Some of the standalone tales such as "The Passage" and "A Day in the Life" falter at times and fail to delivery the familiar payoff we're used to with this show. "Woman King" also comes across as somewhat weaker than the others but it does give Helo's character a chance to shine. As with any show it's necessary at times to flesh out the secondary characters and though it slows the series down somewhat, these moments still hold some merit.
Right up until the end, the third season is one that will keep you guessing and that's a good thing. This is a series that makes you think and draws emotion out of you. There are many powerful moments scattered throughout these twenty episodes and to be quite honest when compared to the previous seasons, I feel that the third is the strongest. This is one of the finest science fiction productions ever to grace television and I applaud Ron Moore, David Eick, and the rest of the team for their creative vision. It's a shame that fans have had to endure some rough patches such as the split 2.0 and 2.5 releases and year long wait for this one, but with the fourth season right around the corner things are looking up. Go pick this series up now and you won't be disappointed!
Looking at the video quality of Battlestar Galactica evokes a couple of reactions. Stylistically speaking the show employs a heavy dose of grain and some shots that are out of focus. When viewing the DVD this leads to the initial impression of a very poor transfer but if you have ever watched the show on TV, you'd know that wasn't the case. This series is gritty and approaches its visuals with a unique hard-edge typically unseen in science fiction. Due to that the image on the DVD maintains that look.
The actual transfer for the third season turns out to be just as stunningly effective. Like the previous releases of the series on DVD the picture for Battlestar Galactica's third season is exemplary and captures the production team's vision perfectly. Like during the broadcast there are scenes that are crystal clear when they need to be and downright riddled with grain at other moments. This is a diverse looking show that uses several elements to create its appearance and thankfully the DVD brings each of them home quite nicely.
Once again Galactica delivers the goods in the presentation department as the English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track definitely fits the bill. The audio presented here is crystal clear with all of the sharp details being picked up by every channel. Dialogue is a tad on the soft side like it always has been with Battlestar Galactica but once the Cylons appear you'll be enveloped in the fray. The sense of immersion for the episodes found in the third season is just as strong and appropriately crafted as previous releases for this series.
When it comes to bonus material for Battlestar Galactica what you can expect to find varies greatly from release to release. Thankfully the third season hits store shelves packed with features that give a great amount of insight into the production of the show and allow you to delve into the genius (insanity) that is Moore and Eick.
For starters it's worth mentioning that every single episode on this boxed set includes a podcast commentary with Ron Moore. If you're familiar with Moore's commentaries then you'll undoubtedly come ready for his remarkable sense of humor and straightforwardness. Maybe it's his love for the project or just his love of scotch talking but Moore really gets into the nitty-gritty details about the series. I have always found his commentaries interesting and always look forward to sitting through them after watching an episode. Grace Park and Tahmoh Pinkett join Moore for the "Unfinished Business" commentary, David Eick chimes in for a separate one for "Hero", and actor Mark Sheppard and writer Michael Angeli sit down for "The Son Also Rises" and "Crossroads, Part 1 & 2".
You'll also want to pay attention to each episode as every single one here aside from "Exodus Part 1" and "Unfinished Business" includes deleted scenes. These range in quality and while some of them raise interesting questions others are easy enough to pass off. Along the lines of deleted footage, "Unfinished Business" gets some serious play here.
Similar to Season 2.5's "Pegasus", "Unfinished Business" gets the Ron Moore treatment. Essentially what that means is we get a DVD exclusive version of the episode which includes an addition 25 minutes worth of content. This version is a tad looser than the original but it does provide some nice background for Lee and Kara that wasn't there before. It's definitely worth watching the episode over again just to view everything that was added in. In the spirit of additional content the ten webisodes that aired on Sci-Fi named "Resistance" are available here. While these mini-episodes do not necessarily flesh out the story thus far they do provide some semblance of what life was like on New Caprica that wasn't explored in the actual show.
The final cluster of bonus material comes in the form of Video Blogs from David Eick. There are 22 of these in total and they cover a wide range of production. From behind the scenes shots, to tours of the set from the cast, and even some hilarious outtake-like tidbits these video blogs were fun to watch. I feel that a full-fledged documentary style feature would have given a better look at the show but I doubt that would have been as haphazard or as enjoyable as these. It's also worth noting that while most of these appeared on Sci-Fi's website there are seven included here that did not.
Well, it was certainly a long wait but Battlestar Galactica's third season has finally come out. Revisiting these 20 episodes was a blast and though I was beginning to grow impatient, I can honestly say this set was well-worth the wait. The episodes, commentaries, blogs, and deleted scenes make a very well-rounded experience that caters to fans. This is a solid show and these 20 episodes stand as some of the best science fiction ever put on TV. Hopefully once the fourth season gets underway we'll be able to say the same thing but until then take a trip back to New Caprica and see the road from there. Highly Recommended
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