This review contains spoilers pertaining to events prior to this season.
The final episodes of Battlestar Galactica are on the horizon, all will be revealed, and the march towards the conclusion of one of the most celebrated science fiction TV shows from the past decade gets underway on January 16th. Until then it's as good a time as any to revisit the show and check out what happened before, because after all, it will all happen again.
Considering this is a review for the fourth season of the show I'm going to assume that if you're checking it out then you have at least familiarity with the series. Therefore I will dispense with the summary of what the show is, who the characters are, and cut right to the chase. If you want a review of what has come before it DVDTalk has reviews covering:
Season 1: SD Review / HD DVD Review
For the Season 4.0, Universal has included the ten episodes that made up the first half of the final season: "He That Believeth in Me", "Six of One", "The Ties That Bind", "Escape Velocity", "The Road Less Traveled", "Faith", "Guess What's coming to Dinner", "Sine Qua Non", "The Hub", and "Revelations". Those episodes are presented across three discs, but for some reason they have also included the unrated extended edition of Razor in this set as well. Its position in the boxed set promotes itself as the first disc, though in all frankness Razor doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to do with these episodes. It feels out of place with regards to the continuity of the series and in all honesty, Battlestar fans probably already have it in their collections. I get that the episode was released in between seasons three and four, but even so it's already on the market. Thanks for the forced double-dip Universal!
Regardless of Razor's inclusion, it's worth noting that it's a damn fine episode. In case you're unfamiliar with it, Razor takes place during season two with a story revolving around the Battlestar Pegasus and Admiral Cain. It's a compelling episode that brings about the Cylon hybrid in a way the series hasn't quite presented it yet. It also brings us some nice flashbacks with a younger Adama on a recon mission during the first Cylon War. For a full review and description of the episode please follow this link. In the meantime let's get on to what's actually a part of season four, shall we?
Battlestar's fourth year has several themes that run through its ten episodes, but four big ones emerge during the course of the season. Of course there is still the quest for Earth, the hatred between Cylons and humans continues, Roslin is still dying of cancer, and all around there is talk of prophecy and religious visions. There are many familiar elements in this season, but there are some unfamiliar ones as well. Some startling revelations come about in these ten episodes as humanity and the Cylons march towards annihilation on the way to Earth.
One of the first things introduced in the opening episode "He That Believeth in Me" actually comes from the final moments of "Crossroads Part II" from the third season. Starbuck has returned from the dead and Lee soon realizes that it's not just a hallucination. It seems to actually be her, but naturally since she's been presumed deceased for months everyone thinks it's a Cylon trick. She arrives on the Galactica spouting about how she found Earth and she knows the way, however, everyone on board thinks she's not who she says she is and the fact that her ship seems brand new doesn't help matters. This is compounded by her behavior because with every jump away from their previous location she screams and whimpers that they're going the wrong way. She's eventually given a ship with her own dysfunctional command and ordered to go find Earth. They don't find exactly what they were looking for, but let's just say it's almost as interesting as their objective.
Probably the biggest event to come about in the fourth season is the Cylon Civil War. The skin-job models are split right down the center, with the Ones, Fours, and Fives wanting to lobotomize the Raiders and the Sixes, Sevens, and Eights wanting to keep them the way they are. There are also some debates between them regarding the Final Five and what they should do with the D'Anna model. The shots fired are the sparks that ignites all-out war and it brings the power of the Cylons down a peg.
The splintered Cylon faction winds up coming into contact with humanity's fleet and naturally there is a lot of distrust between them. Toss in the reactivation of the D'Anna models, a mission to destroy their resurrection hub, and Starbuck hanging out with Leoben again and you have one heck of a situation. Things only get worse with Tigh, Tyrol, Tory, and Sanders exploring what it means for them to be Cylons. Their relationships suffer, they are having a crisis of identity, and they also fear what they will become. Tory gets power hungry, Tyrol deals with a tragic loss, Sanders is confused, and Tigh struggles with his sense of duty, friendship, and who he is. These four are starkly different from the known Cylon models and it's fascinating how the show portrays their emergence.
And of course let us not forget about Gaius Baltar. In this season he finds himself a new little home with a cult of mostly women who want to follow his teachings about the one god. His visions allow for some near prophetic moments and he becomes an emissary of sorts to the cult which grows over the course of the season. Gaius still has some interesting roles to play in the show and I'm definitely interested in the path they are bringing his character down.
Those are the major events that shape things to come, but even so there are plenty of little snippets of life among the Colonial Fleet. Each episode is packed with plot exposition yet the writers still found time to add in some solid character development as well. I won't divulge the nitty-gritty details of what transpires here, but let's just say that the writing and acting is every bit as solid as you'd expect it would be. Battlestar's cast is one of the best on television and whether you're a lover of drama or science fiction you're going to be on the edge of your seat.
Each episode of this season is seamlessly weaved together as the show begins a breakneck sprint towards the finale. All roads lead to Earth and each episode in the fourth season is full of climaxes and building pressure. Sitting through all ten episodes is an exhausting, yet rewarding, experience that will leave you salivating for January 16th and the beginning of the final episodes. Hopefully all of our unanswered questions will be resolved, but that seems like kind of a tall order to fill. Battlestar Galactica is a show that constantly raises the bar for itself and let's just say that by the end of this boxed set that bar is pretty damn high. Consider this set highly recommended.
Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0 and Razor are presented on DVD with their original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratios. If you're at all familiar with Battlestar then you're already aware of how great the series looks. Universal continues to offer quality transfers for the show and the fourth season looks every bit as good as what came before it. The picture is crystal clear and sharp with solid black levels that maintain an appropriate amount of depth.
I've brought the style of the series up in just about every review I have written, but it's definitely worthy of reiterating. Battlestar Galactica employs a dynamic visual style full of shaky camera movements, gritty parts full of grain, and stark contrast with its use of colors. This is purely a designed aspect of the series and by no means is a byproduct of a poor DVD transfer. This is a hard-edged series that knows what it is and does what it intends to do, and it gets the point across that things aren't always so clean cut.
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. Once again I felt that the dialogue was a tad softer than it should have been, but the music, sound effects, and ambient noise all fit the bill perfectly. The sense of immersion for this series is strong and as is the case with previous seasons you'll feel like you're right in the thick of things at times. The fourth season is a solid production all around.
Kicking things off with the Razor disc, Universal carried over all of the bonus features available on the unrated extended edition. That means there is a sneak peek for the fourth season (which is kind of redundant), a montage of cast members talking about their favorite episodes, and an eight minute documentary called "The Look of Battlestar Galactica". Like you'd expect this feature is all about the visual nature of BSG and it goes into some great detail as far as what decisions were made for what reasons. There were also some nice behind the scenes shots tossed in with clips from Razor and from the show itself.
Three minutes worth of deleted scenes also make the cut here along with an audio commentary with Creator Ronald Moore and Writer Michael Taylor. As I previously stated in the individual review for Razor, these bonus features are quite solid all around and I enjoyed them thoroughly. Considering this material is simply present for Razor itself, it's worth noting that the rest of the content for the fourth season is equally as impressive.
All ten episodes on the three discs that follow contain some interesting audio commentaries. Most of these are the podcast commentaries with just Moore that were available after each episode aired, but there are a few commentaries for this release with additional members of the production team. Each commentary has something to offer and whether or not you have listened to the podcast ones or are coming to one of the fuller feeling commentaries, you'll definitely want to sit through each one after watching the season.
Not only do all ten episodes of the fourth season include commentary tracks, but they also packed in a slew of deleted scenes. Nearly an hour of deleted content is packed into the set and there are some worthwhile inclusions all around. Like the commentaries, once you finish an episode you're going to want to see what didn't make its way through the cutting room floor.
The third disc in the boxed set includes ten video blogs from David Eick. Each blog covers a different topic and in total you're looking at over forty minutes worth of behind the scenes material. The first one was actually kind of cool since it shows some newlyweds who were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the set, meet the cast, and have lunch with the crew. As Ron Moore says himself, this will never happen again, but it definitely speaks volumes about the kind of people who are making this show. The rest of the video blogs include material such as everyone riffing on Eick for working on Bionic Woman, Lucy Lawless being a diva, and the crew freezing on a beach in November for the final scene of the season.
The final disc in this set houses the remaining extra features and there's quite a bit to talk about.
"The Journey" (20:54) is a documentary-like feature which has each of the cast members offering a retrospective of sorts on their time with the show. They offer opinions about the direction of their characters as well as what they enjoyed and what they didn't. There are also clips from Comic Con tossed into the mix with fans asking questions during a panel. This is a series that has always provided loads of behind the scenes material and this is simply another fine example of that.
"Cylons: The Twelve" (15:56) is another feature that delves into the characters of the show. This one focuses on the twelve known Cylon models and examines the species as a whole as well. Their evolution is well-catalogued during the course of the program so if you've been following the show to this point there isn't really going to be any startling revelations regarding who is who, but this is an enjoyable feature just the same. The next feature on the roster clocks in at just under a minute and a half, but it is merely a weak teaser for the conclusion of the show.
Up next is "The Music of Battlestar Galactica" (22:34) which is rather similar to the video blogs with some candid moments with the cast, but instead of talking specifically about the show they are discussing the music. Everyone picks on the composer and it's not entirely meaty compared to the rest of the material but all around it's entertaining nonetheless. Closing out the rest of the bonus content is a teaser for Caprica, which looks interesting even though it reveals very little.
Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0 was one hell of a ride and after watching these ten episodes I simply cannot wait for 4.5 to get underway. While the other seasons that have come before have all maintained a certain level of quality, there were moments here which really pushed the envelope. Battlestar is one of the most well written shows on television and the acting is a cut above what you'd expect from a science fiction series. There are so many truly powerful moments in this season that it will leave you wondering how they could possibly improve upon things.
It's impressive how Battlestar continuously gets better from year to year and I think that's because the writers aren't afraid to take chances. So many cliffhangers have left the impression that the show could have jumped the shark (the end of season two anyone?), but the series continues to come back and leave your jaw hanging. Consider this series a must for lovers of sci-fi or anyone looking for solid drama and great character development. Battlestar Galactica has everything you could want and it comes highly recommended.
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