Please take notice. This review contains spoilers regarding several key aspects of Battlestar Galactica, the series. The Plan is a release intended to be seen with full knowledge of the show and it can only be appreciated as such. If you're reading this review then I'm going to assume you know the show backwards and forwards. You have been frakking warned.
"The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. There are many copies and they have...a plan."
Before Battlestar Galactica went off the air it was announced that there would be a follow-up special called, "The Plan". As the internet rumor mill started to buzz it became clear that this additional episode was going to follow moments of the series through the eyes of the Cylons. Naturally, considering the focus of BSG was on humanity's struggle to survive the vision was skewed toward that angle. The thought of having another episode of BSG helped to stave off the feelings of despair that the show was coming to an end. After all, the fact that there was still something else to chew on months after the show wrapped up was a cause worth celebrating. Well, that time is upon us and the question remains, is The Plan really worth celebrating?
In all honesty, there are a couple of ways to answer that question. On one hand you do, in fact, have a nice, robust story depicting some of the events through the perspective of the Cylons. Unfortunately on the other there's really not much of a revelation in that story and The Plan is more or less strung together like a clip show.
In order to put The Plan into proper context the show is brought chronologically through the events that formed the series. Up through to season two's "Lay Down Your Burdens Part II", The Plan follows the story rather rigidly, yet it all feels disjointed somehow. For instance a conversation between Six and Baltar from the pilot sets that timeframe, which is then followed by clips from "33", "Water", "You Can't Go Home Again", "Litmus", "Six Degrees of Separation", and the arc that takes place back on Caprica with the rescue of Anders and his gang. In between each of these episodes and clips you'll be treated to new content that takes place behind the scenes or sets things up. To be fair, there's some really cool stuff here that makes it worth watching for fans, however, there's a lot of redundant material that doesn't shed any new light on anything.
Now, just what is new? Well, for all intents and purposes The Plan is a story about Cavil (not just any Cavil, but the Cavil we saw through to the end of the series pulling all the strings) and his plan. What is that plan? Why, the destruction of humanity silly! If you watched the show I guess you knew that already though, huh?
When The Plan begins we get to see some bits between the two Cavils (Dean Stockwell) we know before the attack on the Colonies. They are looking at the Final Five in their resurrection pods and talking about how they will die in the attack and awaken, giving them gooey hugs and praising their wisdom about how much humanity sucks. Again, this isn't anything you didn't already know if you watched the show. This particular storyline follows through onto the Galactica where one of the Cavils has become the ship's priest. There he orchestrates events such as sending the Six (Tricia Helfer) to discredit Baltar (James Callis), sending Doral (Matthew Bennett) to blow himself up and take down the ship, and convincing Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie) to kill Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff). Naturally all of these things failed, and that leads to some amusing moments for his character. Meanwhile back on Caprica with the resistance the other Cavil is following Anders (Michael Trucco) and seeing what makes the Final Five tick. He eventually comes to a different conclusion than his counterpart, but that's something that comes together towards the end and I'll leave it for you to see.
Aside from the focus on Cavil and the fleshing out of his character, there are some things that really stand out as "nice to see", but not necessary. For instance we basically get the inkling that God spoke to Leoben about how special Starbuck was, so that's how he became obsessed. There's some content with Boomer (Grace Park) as she struggles with her brainwashed persona and desires to stay oblivious. Another storyline here focuses on a Simon (Rick Worthy) model that breaks free of Cavil's rule and falls in love with a human, marries her, and helps raise her child as his own. It's a throwaway storyline really, though it's nice to see Worthy given something else to do with his character since there wasn't much for him in the series.
Aside from Worthy's performance, the rest of the Cylon cast (minus Lucy Lawless unfortunately) is present here. Each still proves they are comfortable with their parts, and I must say that Dean Stockwell really owns the role of Cavil. Otherwise there's really no discernable new content from the "human" side of the crew. Some brief stuff with Olmos is peppered into The Plan, but he was the director of the film, so he was already on set.
The lack of the entire cast, the fact that a major portion of the film is pulled from clips, and the realization that there's nothing groundbreaking added to the mix keeps The Plan firmly grounded. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed some of development Cavil and a couple of the other Cylon models receive, but it's like a collection of extended or deleted scenes from the TV series mashed together. That leaves me feeling shortchanged and thinking the hype was all for nothing. Fans of the show should add it to their collection at some point, but it's not a run-out-the-door-and-buy-this-now kind of release.
The Plan is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Much like the presentation of the series before it, Battlestar Galactica: The Plan is a visceral and vibrant experience. Shaky handheld cameras, copious amounts of film grain, sharp looking effects, and clear moments are all strewn together in a final product that is as varied as it is impressive. The new content presented in this film is quite solid, as is most of the material ported over from the series. The latter bits tend to feature heavier doses of grain and a softer image, and after watching the full series on Blu-ray I have to say the standard definition here looks downright muddy at times. Still, despite the fact that it's a mixed bag, The Plan is solid all around and fans will feel right at home watching it.
Even more impressive than the visual offering is the audio. The Plan hits DVD with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track as its only source of output, but it's as fantastic as always. Everything from Bear McCreary's rocking score to the sound of gunfire and explosions is immersive and booming the entire way through. The audio is clear, concise, and overall the production yields exactly what you'd want it to. BSG has always been a show with some outstanding sound direction and I'm pleased to say that trend continues here.
For bonus features there's actually quite a bit to dig through on this DVD release of The Plan.
For starters there's a selection of deleted scenes totaling roughly 14 minutes. When you click on the feature from the menu these play out back to back and are not available for individual viewing. What's here is interesting, but not earth-shattering really. It mostly has to do with Anders and some events on Caprica with "the heroes", though there are some additional bits with Ellen and Cavil in a topless bar.
Next on the list from the features menu is "From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos and The Plan" (6:40). This one includes some nice bits of conversation with Eddie towards the end of the series and moves on to focus on his role for The Plan. While much of this featurette feels like a fluff piece, I will admit that I enjoyed hearing from other cast and crew members what it's like working with Olmos on set. He really bought into BSG from the beginning and his strong vision and weight are definitely felt even when he's behind the camera.
"The Cylons of The Plan" (6:51) has a majority of the cast members for the film talking about what the plot and focus is. Some of the material is kind of matter of fact, but I appreciated the interviews and insight into what went on behind the scene from some of the cast members. Stockwell also plays a rather large role in this featurette considering The Plan is mostly about his character. "The Cylon Attack" (4:03) isn't quite what you'd think it is. This feature looks at the old explosive Pyamid ball thrown into the Cylon base trick and what it took to bring it all together. .
"Visual Effects: The Magic Behind The Plan" (19:01) is a nice, meaty look at the production of the show's special effects. From the destruction of the major cities of the Colonies to the formation of the Basestars and even simple Centurions walking around, there's a rather extensive discussion here full of technical mumbo-jumbo. And finally, we have an audio commentary with Director Edward James Olmos and Writer Jane Espenson. While some moments of this commentary provide some nice background into events of the show and The Plan, I have to say that it's all kind of droll. Olmos sounds like he's about to fall asleep while talking and Espenson doesn't bring much more to the table. Still, it's interesting to sit through even if it's not the most energetic and insightful commentary out there.
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan is an interesting project, even if it's not an entirely cohesive one. The story revolving around the Cavil's and the failed plan is fairly solid, but there are too few revelations to make it entirely relevant within the context of the show. You'll know, or have at least speculated, on several of the things brought up here. Much of the new content feels like an easy answer to a relatively loose question.
Despite that fact there are moments and subplots that stand out. The resistance on Caprica is pretty good, the bits with Boomer flesh her out, the Simon love story has some value (though not a lot), and the ultimate airlock conversation between the Cavils provides solid development for the character. It's just a shame that these nicely done inclusions are scattered throughout clips of the series, which do serve their purpose, but break up the pacing drastically. Ultimately, if you're a fan of Battlestar Galactica and you just want more of the show, The Plan has enough good bits to entice you. Just know that it's not fluid and that there are many flaws throughout.
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