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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
Universal // Unrated // October 21, 2003
List Price: $119.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted January 13, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
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A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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There are those who believe DVD reviews here began out there…far across the Internet with tribes of reviewers who may have been the forefathers of the Beierles, or the Ordways, or the Bovbergs. That they may have been the architects of The Aisle View, or the lost civilizations of Cinema Gotham and CineSchlock-O-Rama. Some believe that there may yet be reviewers of DVDs who even now fight to sit through hours of episodic television on disc…far, far away in cyberspace.

THE EPISODES

Oh, if Battlestar Galactica had only been produced by anyone but Universal! Then I could be here telling you about a great DVD boxed set! Instead we have one that only qualifies as "pretty good", containing six discs - four of which are "flippers", two of which are not…with some discs cramming as many as three shows on one side of the disc, and others featuring only one show on a side.


The result is about as inconsistent as the design. Some of my episodes had serious pixilation problems; while others seemed perfectly fine. There's also a huge problem with the transfers (which I'll get into more in the "Video" section) – with big differences in sharpness and clarity…not just between episodes, but within the same episodes!

Fortunately, even these problems can't take away from the fact that Battlestar Galactica was a pretty good television show. Aside from the pilot, the early shows were terribly cheesy and obviously geared toward kids – but a decision seems to have been made about halfway through the season (I'll point out below exactly where) to keep the family values of the program but start telling more adult-themed stories. The result of this was a program that really came into its own by the end of Season One – only to be cancelled unceremoniously by those lovely folks at ABC. It did continue, in a manner, in a horrible show called Galactica: 1980, in which most of the main cast was abandoned…but the less said about that program the better, and it was also (this time mercifully) cancelled after only 10 episodes.

Here's a rundown of Battlestar Galactica's episodes, with my own reaction to each.

"Saga of a Star World" - This was the three hour pilot for Battlestar Galactica, which was also edited down and released theatrically (the shorter, theatrical version is also available on DVD). I believe at the time this was produced that it was the most expensive television pilot ever made…and it shows in the results. While many of the special effects are outdated today, some are still quite impressive – especially considering this was made in the 1970's. By the way, should you miss any of the really cool effects, don't worry about hitting rewind…due to budget constraints, many effects shots were used again and again (and again!) during the run of the show. Overall though, this is a very strong pilot for a television show.


"Lost Planet of the Gods, Parts 1 & 2" - Galactica may have had more 2-part shows in its first season than any other TV show in history, and we get the first of many here. Entering a starless void in space, the Galactica discovers what may be the lost planet of Kobol, where civilization begun. There are some nice visuals here, including some actual shots of the pyramids in Egypt…but overall, the storyline is rather silly and a trend begins here (quite different from the style set in the pilot) of "dumbing" down the show for kids with corny dialogue and childish storylines.

"The Lost Warrior" - Apollo (Richard Hatch) gets stranded on a remote planet where the residents live like the are in the Old West, and Apollo must have a showdown with "Red Eye", a Cylon warrior with a quick trigger finger. While star Richard Hatch has claimed this was one of his favorite shows, this was my least favorite episode – not only a rip-off of High Noon, but terribly corny and childish in context.

"The Long Patrol" - This time, it's Starbuck's (Dirk Benedict) turn to get stranded on a remote world – where he's accused of being a thief and locked up in jail. This is another silly and not very well written early episode of the series.

"The Gun On Ice Planet Zero, Parts 1 & 2" – Putting a twist on both The Guns of Navarone and Ice Station Zebra, this episode finds Apollo, Starbuck and the gang on an ice planet trying to destroy a powerful laser that the Cylons plan to use on the Galactica and its fleet. This show is probably the best-looking visually since the pilot episode, but it still is clearly geared towards kids…most noticeably when Boxey (Noah Hathaway), Apollo's young adopted son, stows away and winds up on the ice planet with the Colonial warriors.

"The Magnificent Warriors" - Having embarrassed the Apollo character in "The Lost Warrior" and the Starbuck character in "The Long Patrol", it's time to embarrass Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) himself with a lame attempt at romantic comedy co-starring The Match Game's Brett Somers as a love interest for Adama. It's times like these that I wish Charles Neilson Reilly would show up to kick these episode writers right in the BLANK!

"The Young Lords" - I've got good news and I've got bad news. The bad news is that this is another horrible episode of Galactica, ranking very close to "The Lost Warrior" as the series worst. The good news is that Galactica was about to get a big kick start and turn into a totally different kind of TV series with the very next show.


"The Living Legend, Parts 1 & 2" - The missing Battlestar Pegasus resurfaces, and the legendary Commander Cain (Lloyd Bridges) brings new hope to the fleet. But unlike Adama, Cain is a man of action – and wants to take on the Cylon empire instead of running from it. This episode also brings Anne Lockhart (daughter of Lost In Space's June Lockhart) to the cast as Sheba. "The Living Legend" marked a turning point to the series. While the show still remained "wholesome" in dialogue and content, it ditched the geared-for-children stories for real sci-fi adventure and serious storytelling, which is what we get here.

"Fire In Space" - A Cylon fighter crashes into the Galactica, trapping members of the crew and threatening their lives. Apollo and Starbuck must head outside the ship in spacesuits to try and set off some explosives that will expose a section of the vessel to the harshness of space, thus killing off the oxygen and putting out the fire. While not the best of stories, there's some nice bits here about the friendship between Apollo and Starbuck that helps advance both of their character arcs.

"War of the Gods, Parts 1 & 2" – In this two parter – which happen to be my two favorite Galactica episodes – pilots keep disappearing on patrols, and Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba investigate a strange planet where they meet up with Count Iblis (Patrick Macnee), a man (or is he?!) with seeming godly powers. He promises to deliver the fleet in exchange for servitude to him…but both Apollo and Adama suspect that there may be more to their "deliverer" than meets the eye. Science fiction and religion rarely make good bedfellows, but these episodes (which were written by series creator Glen A. Larson) really pose some great questions about who we are, where we came from, and what we might one day become.

"The Man With Nine Lives" - Fred Astaire guest stars as a man who may be…or may not be…Starbuck's father. Dirk Benedict really gets to shine in this show, and Astaire makes one of his last great television appearances here.

"Murder On The Rising Star" - In yet another show in which Benedict gets to show off his acting talent, Starbuck is accused of killing another crew member with whom he's been arguing with. Apollo is assigned to defend Starbuck, and while not heavy on special effects, this is another nice show that helps develop Galactica's two main characters further.

"Greetings From Earth" - The Galactica recovers a ship that has humans in hibernated sleep inside. Many aboard the Galactica believe that the ship may be from Earth, since those aboard the vessel claim they have fled from a planet named "Terra". Apollo, Starbuck and Cassiopeia (Laurette Sprang) take the humans to the planet they were heading for, but they soon meet up with the evil "Eastern Alliance", a Nazi-like military group that threatens their survival. This is a so-so episode. Obviously, the writers were looking to create a new threat to the Galactica that would be different from the Cylons (who haven't been seen or heard of in a few episodes), but it just doesn't work.

"Baltar's Escape" - Baltar (John Colicos), the man who betrayed the Colonies and joined the Cylons in the pilot episode, plots his escape from the Galactica's prison ship. This is a pleasant enough show to watch…although it seems like mostly "filler" – a stand alone episode that doesn't further the overall story much.

"Experiment In Terra" - Perhaps the only below-average show since before "The Living Legend", this one finds Apollo visiting Terra on a mission (assigned by aliens that were introduced in "War of the Gods") to save the planet from the Eastern Alliance. This episode answers the question of whether Terra is actually Earth and (thank goodness) pretty much wraps up the Eastern Alliance storyline, who were proving to be lackluster villains for the series.

"Take The Celestra" - The show begins with a ceremony celebrating the career of Kronus, who takes command of a vessel called The Celestra. Meanwhile, Starbuck runs into an old love, Aurora (Ana Alecia) who is a member of The Celestra's crew…but turns out to be part of a terrorist group looking to take command of the vessel away from Kronus. But it turns out that it may be Kronus who is the real terrorist once Apollo and Starbuck are able to unravel what is going on. This is an average episode, that scores some points not because of the main story, but because of the secondary one involving Starbuck's old feelings for Aurora and his current ones for Cassiopeia.


"The Hand of God" - The Galactica picks up a faint signal that Apollo believes may be coming from Earth. Before further investigation can be made, however, the crew discovers that a Cylon Basestar is in the vicinity and Adama decides it is time to attack instead of continuing to run. Apollo and Starbuck go on a mission to secretly board the Basestar and disable its scanning abilities so the Galactica will be able to leave the area unseen. I'm sure that at the time this episode was filmed, no one felt that it would be the last…however, "The Hand of God" makes for a solid and somewhat satisfying closure to the series.

THE DVD

Video:
Each episode is presented in the 1.33: 1 full-frame format, although the quality of the picture has some problems. Some episodes look great, while others appear dark and grainy…and actually worse than VHS! But even more odd than this is the fact that scenes within the same episode vary, with one scene looking razor sharp and the very next looking horrible.

It's obvious that Universal just transferred what was available and made no effort to enhance or sharpen up scenes that weren't in the best of shape. It's really a shame, because at the price that Universal is asking for this boxed set, one would expect the kind of job that other studios do on equally-expensive TV season sets.

Audio

Fortunately, the audio is much better in quality than the video. Universal has remastered each episode with a new 5.1 Dolby track, and while the audio isn't tremendously aggressive, these shows do sound better than I've ever heard them before. On this aspect of the DVD production, I can honestly say "a job well done".


Extras:
For me, the most enjoyable extra was an episode-length Commentary Track for the 3-hour pilot with stars Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson, Jr. (who played Boomer). I was worried that the stars might show some bitterness toward ABC or the studio, but they were generally kind in their comments and gave some great stories about the show. Benedict is the most entertaining of the three…and why this guy hasn't become a superstar is anyone's guess – he's a good actor and seems like a great guy.

All of the discs contain Deleted Scenes for each of the episodes, that aren't impressive in their video/audio quality, but are a lot of fun to watch. These deleted scenes aren't just scenes edited out of the episodes…they also include alternate versions of scenes, as well as bloopers and outtakes.


Additional bonus material includes two short featurettes on Disc One, the first on The Creation of Battlestar Galactica with comments from creator Glen A. Larson; and the second being Composing The Score, with comments from composer Stu Phillips.

Side two of Disc Three brings viewers two Inside Battlestar Galactica segments, the first about the Cylons and the second about "Muffit", the robot dog of the series. Also on this side of Disc Three is a short Trailer for Battlestar Galactica: The Mini-Series and a featurette that takes us Behind The Scenes of the Battlestar Galactica Interactive Game.

Finally, Side two of Disc Six offers up Remembering Battlestar Galactica, the longest featurette on the DVDs which takes a look back at the series through the comments of its stars and creators.

It's also worth noting that the boxed set (with oversized Cylon head to scare the bejesus out of your neighbors!) also contains a nice 8 x 9 ½ color booklet with 20 pages of color photos and episode information.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The problems with the video and the fact that the first half of the season is rather weak prevent me from placing this set in the "DVD Talk Collector's Series". But there's more than enough here to highly recommend this set to both die-hard fans and those that are new to the show. What could have been a great box set is only a good one, but it's still worth adding to your collection, as most viewers will find themselves getting hours of enjoyment from these discs.

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