Wrapping up a beloved TV series with an enormous cult following is no easy task. Sci-Fi devotees like me can be tough to please since we're deeply invested in the characters and the final trajectories their lives take. Fortunately, thanks to the Gods (plus executive producers David Eick, Ronald D. Moore, and a top-notch cadre of actors, writers, directors, and production staff), ardent followers of the outstanding series, Battlestar Galactica, are provided satisfying closure with the must-see release of Season 4.5.
Based on the original series, created by Glen Larson and first aired in 1978, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (abbreviated as BSG or Galactica) began as a three-hour miniseries in 2003 and ran for four seasons ending in 2009. Its premise: a civilization of humans, who inhabit the Twelve Colonies, develop a cybernetic race (Cylons) to serve as workers and soldiers. The Cylons, who become sentient and monotheistic, eventually rebel, opening a can of nuclear-style whoop-ass on their sinful creators. With billions of people annihilated, the remaining 50,000 or so survivors are on the run, led by the last remaining warship, the battlestar Galactica. Humanity's hope is to reach the fabled Thirteenth Colony (Earth) before the Cylons wipe them out.
In Season 4.5, the wounds of New Caprica (a would-be refuge overrun by the Cylons at the end of Season 2) fester among humans and Cylons alike. Trust and betrayal take center stage for both sides as new, tenuous alliances are formed and mutinous elements take hold. As with previous seasons, it's evident that Larson's Mormon beliefs, the post-9/11 War on Terror, and Moore's agnostic, humanist views influence Season 4.5's, context, characters, and events. The result is thought-provoking stories that make this sometimes passive viewer sit up, take notice, and consider how the show's religious, political, and ethical issues are critically relevant today.
For folks who prefer not to delve too deeply into the storytelling - no worries. The visuals (both actual and CGI) are frakkin' amazing. The menacing, mechanical, chrome Cylons send shivers up my spine and several of the human-looking, "skin-jobs" are, well... really HOT! Throw in some heart-stopping CGI space battles and its hands down the best looking show I've ever seen.
Not to be outdone by the special effects are the stellar performances. Edward James Olmos (Galactica's Commander William Adama) and Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), both 2009 Saturn Award winners, are outstanding in their respective roles as strong but flawed leaders who support and deeply love one another. With all the May - December romances depicted in film and television, it's refreshing to see a strong, yet tender relationship between age/power-equivalent adults over 50.
Katee Sackhoff (Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace) is terrific as the hot-headed, ace viper-pilot who's grappling with her past familial dysfunction and current romantic and identity crises. Sackhoff effectively and realistically balances the opposing sides to her character: the confident feminist action heroine and the abandoned, damaged woman. Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama), James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar), and Tricia Helfer (Number Six) all give remarkable performances as well. Also, since the series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was pleasantly surprised to see other standout Canadian actors added to the Season 4.5 cast; especially Darcie Laurie (who played the chief lieutenant and down-to-earth henchman Bob in the series Intelligence).
Battlestar Galactica expertly tells the tales of complex, flawed characters; however, Season 4.5 is not without its own faults. For example, I found the flashbacks in the two-part series finale, "Daybreak" to be needlessly slow and irrelevant in advancing the plot. The purpose might have been to further round-out the characters, but the few added details given are misplaced at a time when viewers are seeking answers to larger questions. In addition, some may be frustrated that Season 4.5 doesn't solve all of BSG's mysteries. But life rarely reveals all its secrets, and the closure that's provided will likely be sufficiently satisfying to most.
Superb to look at, Season 4.5 is presented anamorphically in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. BSG's visual style is eclectic (grainy and soft v. clear and sharp; dark and washed out v. flashes of color; shaky hand-held camera movements v. static shots) but always effective. Especially noteworthy is the CGI; kudos to the Emmy Award winning special visual effects team!
Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
Buckle up, because the English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound coupled with Bear McCreary's music will blow you away. I felt completely immersed in the battles and firefights, and got goose bumps every time I heard the Cylon Centurions or Raiders hunt their prey. Except for the dialogue, which is a bit soft at times, the sound is sharp, clear, and aggressively dynamic.
Season 4.5 is chock-full of great extras. Each disc comes with deleted scenes and at least one Behind the Scenes Featurette, including:
o Evolution of a Cue: Bear McCreary (Composer), Paul M. Leonard (Co-Producer), Michael O'Halloran (Editor), Brandon Roberts (Orchestrator), James Hopkins (Orchestration Consultant), Steve Kaplan (Co-Producer/Engineer), Chris Bleth (Multi-Instrumentalist), M.B. Gordy (Percussionist), and Paul Cartwright (Violinist) carry us through the complex process of developing musical cues.
o And They Have A Plan: Executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, Jane Espenson (Writer/Co-Executive Producer), actors Edward James Olmos, Tricia Helfer, Michael Trucco (resistance fighter Samuel Anders) and Kate Vernon (flirtatious Ellen Tigh) discuss the film The Plan, which explains what the frak the Cylons were thinking! (Expected release on DVD October 27, 2009 and scheduled to air on Syfy November 2009.)
o The Journey Ends: The Arrival: Over a dozen cast and crew members share their thoughts about the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica.
o A Look Back: Numerous cast and crew discuss the synergy of Eick and Moore, origins of the two-page series 'Manifesto', the look and feel of Galactica, Richard Hatch's dedication to the Battlestar Galactica franchise, the faith and the cultural clash between monotheistic Cylons and their polytheistic creators, and insights into how actors approached their characters, sets, and technobabble.
o * What the Frak is Going on With Battlestar Galactica? : If you don't have time to view all the Featurettes or if you're new to the series, consider checking out this amusing eight minute synopsis of the first three seasons.
There are also unaired extended episodes of "A Disquiet Follows My Soul", "Islanded in a Stream of Stars", and "Daybreak", along with three commentaries featuring variously David Eick, Ronald Moore, and Edward James Olmos (who directed "Islanded in a Stream of Stars"), and video blogs from David Eick highlighting the collaborative nature of the show through interviews with the cast and crew.
What I especially love about the extras is the evidenced commitment to give voice and props to the artists both in front and behind the camera.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 couples spectacular visuals and sound with great storytelling and strong performances. If you've purchased this series' DVDs as they were released, then Season 4.5 is Highly Recommended. If you've been sitting on the consumer sidelines until now, consider splurging on The Complete Series; you won't be disappointed.