When the new vision of Battlestar Galactica premiered on Sci-Fi I was stunned. The mini-series completely blew away my preconceptions of what potential a remake could have. The dark, disheartening tone coupled with human strife and determination manufactured a cloud of energy around the series so dense that not even a Cylon nuke could penetrate. Following the mini-series the actual show got underway a short time later and offered a science fiction adventure like no other.
In case you are unfamiliar with the series at this point; let me fill you in. Because this new Battlestar Galactica is a re-imagining of the concept fans of the 1978 series will undoubtedly feel lost in the shuffle at first. There is homage paid to the original but in order to bring the franchise up to date several things were lost along the way. The original "toaster" Cylon models have been replaced by chrome-platted CGI badasses. Character names are mostly the same as well. Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, Baltar and Tigh are present, though there are some role reversals and overhauls. The designs of the ships remain relatively unscathed so the Galactica itself and the alert vipers are easily identifiable.
The changes for the new Battlestar Galactica go well beyond the cosmetic. As far as the plot goes the basic story is still intact. There is a long-running war between the artificially intelligent Cylons and their creator's, the humans. Finally after such a long fight a peace accord has come into play, but the Cylons aren't exactly about to play fair. With a little help from the mentally unstable and treacherous Dr. Gaius Baltar, newly designed Cylon models (that look like humans) unleash a surprise attack that obliterates the Twelve Colonies.
In an instant, humanity is tossed to the brink of extinction and though a handful have survived (the tune of about 50k), they find themselves on a desperate run from the Cylons. In the first season, and beginning half of the second, so much happens to the refugees of the colonies. To make a long story short they get it in their heads to look for a legendary Thirteenth Colony known as Earth and begin devoting their resources to finding its location. All the while the Cylons are on their heels and they face other problems including the many dark side of humanity.
You may be asking yourself why Universal chose to release the second season in the form of two DVD sets. While part of me feels that it was a marketing ploy to get more money out of the consumer, the logical part of me dictates that it had something to do with the way the show aired. There was roughly a three and a half month gap in between the "Pegasus" episode and "Resurrection Ship Part 1". That would have made a heck of a long wait to get our hands on more Galactica, and I don't know about you; but I didn't feel like waiting.
Now, you might be asking yourself if "Pegasus" was the end of the first half of season two and "Resurrection Ship" was the beginning of the second why is "Pegasus" again on this release. Well, it is technically the Extended Edition of the episode.
The basic story is the same if you have seen it (and I'm going to assume since you're reading this review that you have). The Battlestar Pegasus jumps right into the Colonial Fleet's airspace and brings a much needed ray of hope to Adama and company. At least at first. Once they realize how far Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) is willing to go to get her way they realize that they may have been better off without her in the first place. This new cut clocks in at around 60 minutes compared to 46 minutes that aired on Sci-Fi and was presented in the previous DVD release. Nothing too integral was removed from the original version but there are some more interactions between characters and moments that flesh out the world a little more.
Once you get past "Pegasus" and start digging into the actual meat of Season 2.5 there are quite a few great episodes in the set. Comparatively the second half of the season may have been the weaker of the two but it holds, at least for me, key moments that defined the show. The turning points in these episodes changed the roadmap of things to come, both in terms of character development and storytelling. If you've already seen the show while it was airing then you know what I mean. If you haven't quite yet I'll try to leave out as many spoilers as possible.
As far as the high points of this season are concerned; "Resurrection Ship Parts 1 & 2", "The Captain's Hand", "Downloaded" and "Lay Down Your Burdens Parts 1 & 2". If you did your math right then you'd realize that's 60% of this half of the second season. The other episodes "Sacrifice", "Black Market", "Epiphanies", and "Scar" aren't necessarily bad (the only one that I didn't care for was "Black Market"); they just aren't as good as the others.
As a way to get this half of the season started, the "Resurrection Ship" episodes really got the ball rolling. With the Pegasus and Galactica on the verge of blowing each other away the feud between Adama and Cain really heats up. In the midst of this infighting Cain and her crew mull over a mission that would involve taking out an interesting Cylon vessel. Starbuck takes the stealth ship in for a little recon and brings back some lovely photos of the Resurrection Ship. It would seem that this is the floating factory that pumps out Cylon copies any time they bite the dust. Put two and two together and that means when a Cylon dies out in this area of space they truly die for good.
The two Battlestars put their differences on hold for the time being and join forces to take out this key target. The friction between Adama and Cain could shake the already fragile state of humanity's future and things climax in a way that you just don't see coming. Oh, and in between all of this Baltar discovers a Number Six Cylon model (the one that he's infatuated with) aboard the Pegasus. The way each of these plots plays into future episodes provides a great deal of continuity and truly affects things to come.
"Downloaded" was my next favorite episode because it dealt with things of a different nature. The Sharon Valerii from Galactica and the Number Six that fell in love with Baltar are resurrected back on Caprica. While the other Cylon models around them desire to convert them to their way of thinking they both have a hard time letting go of the feelings from their former lives. The two refuse to give in to the fact that they are Cylon and use their influence as "war heroes" to do something that you wouldn't think. These two models are referenced in "Lay Down Your Burdens" so I'm definitely interested to see how their characters will be used in the third season.
As far as "Lay Down Your Burdens" is concerned, all I can really say is that Moore and his team have some frakking balls. The dynamic of the entire show changes in an instant and among the science fiction community it became one of the most talked about events since the show began. I will not get into anything that happens but let's just say that Galactica finds a habitable planet, Roslin and Baltar duke it out for the presidency, and Starbuck goes back to Caprica. It's not until the final moments of the second episode where things go haywire. When the episode aired on Sci-Fi I was left speechless and seeing it again on DVD I still feel the same way. As a fan of the show I am both excited and worried for the third season. I want to have faith in Moore's gutsy call but only time will tell if it was the right move or not.
When you look at the second season of Battlestar Galactica you truly have to look at the big picture in order to really appreciate the content. Splitting the season into two sets really created a rift in quality between both releases. The first half was fantastic and the second half was great, but not as good as the first. Since there are only 10 episodes featured in this set (not counting the re-edit of "Pegasus") the fact that each of them doesn't hit the ball out of the park hurts things a bit.
Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer like the prior sets. The image quality in this release is very solid and virtually identical to what you'd find on the sci-fi broadcast from what my research turned up. This is a series that uses many different styles and visual cues to tell a different story. Some scenes are spotted with grain stemming from the way they were filmed while others are crystal clear with either somber colors or a vibrant palette.
Once again Battlestar Galactica Season is presented on DVD with English 5.1 surround sound. The mix is fantastic with great attention paid to the rear channels. A lot of action and music filters through with dialogue mainly staying up front. Overall the balance is great and very comparable to the release of the first half of season two.
Just like the prior releases the majority of the supplemental features in Season 2.5 come straight from the Sci-fi website. If you've been a follower of the show and chimed in every week these episodes aired then you've already heard the Podcasts that are available. The audio quality is kind of poor but considering these weren't constructed for DVD it's not very surprising. The content is very rich and definitely worth listening to. Each of the episodes provides a great amount of information regarding the show and the banter is entertaining with a good amount of levity.
Another segment from the website is David Eick's video blogs. There are seven in total and each of them ranges in topics, though oddly enough not all of these blogs are featured in this set. Beyond the Podcasts these provide a visual aide for much of what's discussed. There are many behind the scene looks at the sets and candid moments with the crew.
A wealth of deleted scenes is featured on the third disc of this set. "Resurrection Ship Part 1", "Black Market", "Scar", "Sacrifice", "The Captain's Hand", "Downloaded" and "Lay Down your Burdens" are the episodes that offer up cut content to peruse. There's nothing too groundbreaking and it's easy to see why some of the clips were snipped, but they are still interesting all the same. Some of them were cut due to the fact that they referenced other axed scenes. Because of that entire sub-plots had to go for better or worse.
Rounding things out is an audio commentary made for the DVD set for the extended version of "Pegasus". In it Ron Moore and David Eick discuss the episode, what they had to take out for the airing, and the reasons behind it. The stuff that was added back in was pretty interesting and hearing the reasons behind the scenes in the first place helped flesh things out. Apart from these features there are some trailers and a collection of R&D Logos (which are those animated clips at the end of each episode). They are fun to have on there but don't really provide much beyond a few chuckles.
In the end this set is kind of difficult to review. Because it's the second half of a season it doesn't stand up as well on its own which makes it difficult in TV standards because you typically look at a season in its entirety. There are some great episodes here and some not so great ones, though there is a strong beginning and end. With only ten episodes (not counting the rehash of "Pegasus") though fans will probably not be able to shake the feeling that they just got the short of a bad marketing move. $50 (MSRP) is a hard pill to swallow for only half of a season when you're typically paying that much for a full one.
Based on the quality of the content and the presentation I'm going to recommend this set. I, like many of you, am not pleased with the way Universal handled releasing the season. Let's just hope that when it comes time for season three to hit store shelves they leave the entire thing intact.