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Battlestar Galactica: Season Four(TV) (2004-2009)
Deep in the universe, cybernetic Cylons have all but wiped out the human race, laying waste to the Twelve Colonies of Man. Cast out, the few survivors aboard the Battlestar Galactica search for a so-called 13th colony: the mythical planet Earth.
For more about Battlestar Galactica: Season Four and the Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray release, see the Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Edward James Olmos, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber
This Blu-ray release includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray Review
"All this has happened before. All this will happen again."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 26, 2010
Final seasons are notoriously impossible beasts of burden. Give fans too much and they'll despise your convoluted denouement; give them too little and they'll hate you for it. The X-Files exited with bizarre ambiguity, The Sopranos signed off with a mean-spirited cliff-hanger, and Quantum Leap closed with the shocking revelation that Sam Beckett never found his way home. And don't get me started on Seinfeld's misguided farewell. Creative sinkholes in every sense, final seasons tend to leave viewers disillusioned and disheartened, shocked by the resentment they suddenly feel for a once beloved show. It's for that reason, and that reason alone, that I was absolutely terrified of watching Battlestar Galactica's highly anticipated endgame unfold. Even though each one of series creator Ron Moore's risky season and mid-season finales had proven to be brilliant game-changers, I was worried his critically acclaimed science fiction tour de force would be brought to a vague and underwhelming close. Thankfully, Moore's story ends just as it began: with the strength, certainty and style of an unforgettable television classic.
Forgive me for skipping the usual synopsis, but my every attempt to outline the fourth season's sprawling plot spoiled far too many of its best-kept secrets. As it stands, almost every episode either poses a grand question worth answering, every problem presents a solution worth pondering, every revelation unwinds some mystery, and every development deals with the thematic threads Moore has planted from the very beginning. Even a traditional overview of the characters involved in his tragic endgame would undermine the twists and tantalizing resurrections that await fans who have yet to take the plunge. Suffice to say, four mainstays struggle to adjust to the realization that they're Cylons, an old friend returns from the dead only to be greeted by accusations and suspicion, civil war splits the Cylon ranks, a devastating discovery leaves the crew of the Galactica paralyzed, a once-meek crewman mounts a fleet-wide coup, a manipulative politician takes advantage of the situation, death's hand looms every the entire season, unbreakable bonds and lifelong relationships are put to the test, the final human-model Cylon is revealed, an old enemy makes one last attempt to steal the fleet's most precious asset, the humans and Cylons have to come to terms with their future... and the hits just keep on coming. The first third of Season Four is a slowburn stunner; the second third a jarring thriller packed with pulse-pounding action and unnerving suspense; the final third is a tightly wound, incredibly effective tragedy in which every survivor, human and Cylon, faces judgement.
Amidst all the madness, Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos, serving up a phenomenal, career-crystallizing performance) and Colonel Saul Tigh (an equally impressive Michael Hogan) weather an unexpected storm, Apollo (Jamie Bamber) has to choose between his political aspirations and his father's path, Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) has to find answers to her own identity and convince the crew that she knows the way to Earth, President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) fights to maintain control of the fleet and her own cancer-ridden body, and Baltar (James Callis) deals with the consequences of his self-imposed Messianic calling. At the same time, the Final Five have to decide whether they'll ally themselves with the humans or the machines, a baseship is added to the fleet, a group of defecting Cylons have to prove their worth, and many a weary traveler doesn't make it to the series finale. With so many storylines and subplots converging over the course of twenty episodes, the fourth season could have devolved into a convoluted mess. Instead, Moore pulls the reigns of the series even tighter, providing closure where it's needed, gravitas where it's required, and heart-wrenching gut-punches wherever and whenever they're least expected.
For three mesmerizing seasons, Battlestar Galactica has held its audience captive with unrivaled pacing, plotting and performances, and the same can be said of Season Four. Olmos leads a cast anointed by the gods; a Hollywood-caliber ensemble whose deft and effortless embrace of their troubled characters have made the series one of the finest performance-driven dramas in recent memory. Galactica is one of the few television shows that have managed to leave me in an emotional heap by the time the credits roll. The finale alone, I'm unashamed to say, elicited a steady trickle of man-tears that made me feel as weak and vulnerable as Adama's fleet. Whether you credit the gifted men and women in the writers room or simply attribute everything to the cast's collective control over their characters, it's impossible to deny that Olmos and company sink their all into each and every scene. Bit players rise to the occasion (Alessandro Juliani comes out of nowhere to steal episode after episode in Season Four's middle stretch), key actors push well past their previously established limits (Hogan, Callis, Aaron Douglas, Tahmoh Penikett, Michael Trucco, and Tricia Helfer, among many others, are fantastic), and venerable industry veterans deliver the performances of their lives (Olmos and McDonnell will forever be Adama and Roslin to me). I challenge anyone, fan or detractor, to sit through the fourth season of Moore's sci-fi masterpiece and criticize the cast's vitality or commitment to their craft.
And the series' climactic final act? Let's be clear: with so much riding on every minute, Moore couldn't possibly please everyone. Some complained about the finale's use of the supernatural and the divine to answer several looming questions. Me? I think anyone who watched more than two minutes of the show shouldn't have been surprised to see such a fundamental aspect of the series in full force as the story neared its conclusion. Others disapproved of the fates Moore dealt their favorite characters. I thought the writers brought the humans and Cylons full circle, unraveling the disheveled survivors and providing a telling glimpse into their souls; after being adrift in space -- oft-times from their own humanity even -- it was refreshing to see each one reconnect with their individual purpose and calling. Still other critics barked about the last half hour of the finale, accusing it of cheap sleight-of-hand and rampant sentimentality. I seem to recall The Return of the King receiving the same criticism. Personally, having reached the end of four long seasons, and an even longer trek across the universe, I was ecstatic to simply sit with the characters and watch them evaluate their futures. Regardless of their sins, I realized I felt a genuine connection to them all. Even Baltar -- the man inadvertently responsible for the destruction of the Twelve Colonies, the man who weaseled his way to the presidency and a Cylon occupation, the man who declared himself Messiah amongst a band of rabid cultists -- won my affection and sympathies with a single, heartbreaking line.
It's possible the last six years have turned me into a Battlestar apologist, but I was invested in the journey, not my preconceived notions of how it would end. In that regard, Season Four and, more importantly, the series finale fully exceeded my expectations. I developed my own shortlist of nagging nitpicks -- the death of the series' central villain is a tad underwhelming, explanations for Starbuck's visions occasionally fall flat, Anders is mishandled a bit in several episodes, and Sackhoff's delivery of "there must be some kind of way out of here" will never, never sound natural to me -- but, more often than not, I was enthralled by the series' last season. Moore and company have proven themselves to be master storytellers, the cast members have proven themselves to be masterful performers, and Battlestar Galactica, more than any other science fiction television show I've followed to hell and back, has proven itself to be an indelible masterwork I'll revisit again and again for years to come.
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica accurately preserves the artistic intentions of the creators. The stylized visual elements within certain scenes are intentional and faithful to the broadcast presentation of the television show.
Battlestar Galactica will never be -- nor was it ever meant to be -- a flashy, hyper-polished series ripe for Blu-ray consumption. Executive producer Ron Moore always intended to submerse his vision of Galactica in the grimy, rough fringes of space; to achieve a harmony of atmosphere and photography befitting a series as bleak and desolate as his creation. To that end, Universal's 1080p/VC-1 encoded presentation is worthy of high praise, if for no other reason than it pays tremendous respect to Moore's every intention. Colors are at the mercy of overblown contrast, absorbing shadows, and rampant noise, yet skintones remain relatively natural, primaries remain strong and stable, and blacks remain inky throughout. Likewise, detail soars and plummets with each lighting and scenery change, but nevertheless delivers an unexpectedly consistent experience. While it can be disconcerting at first, anyone who spends the smallest amount of time with Galactica will quickly realize how immersive and affecting Moore's aesthetic choices actually are.
The aforementioned noise is trickier to evaluate. At times, it's an unobtrusive and welcome filmic addition, lingering atop the image without interfering with the integrity of Stephen McNutt's cinematography. At other times, it's brash and unsettling, flooding the picture with detail-sapping grain (scenes involving the Cylon baseships tend to be the most distracting). That being said, Moore's use of noise isn't an issue per se, but it does make digital anomalies more difficult to identify. Look closely and you'll notice that the studio's technical presentation isn't perfection incarnate. Faint artifacting, minor banding, and crush leave their mark on several scenes, and edge enhancement (most noticeably in the last half hour of the series finale) makes its fair share of appearances. All things considered though, I remain quite pleased with the results. I'm confident anyone approaching Battlestar Galactica with realistic expectations will be just as satisfied with the overall presentation.
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four features a magnificent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that will attack, eviscerate and obliterate your home theater. The ominous rumble of colliding ships, the heavy kick-kack of gunfire, the recurrent bah-dah-dah-dah of composer Bear McCreary's version of "All Along the Watchtower," the thunder of a nuclear blast... each one erupts as powerfully and precisely as any BSG zealot could hope for. LFE output is robust and convincing, dipping deep to come up with some sternum-rattling bass. The shrill sheen of an FTL jump is crisp and clean, the desperate cries of fallen heroes are crystal clear, and the shunk-shunk-shunk of approaching toasters is strong enough to make an audiophile mutter, "fraaaak." Rear speaker activity is just as impressive, filling panicked hallways and shuddering bridges with the same rich ambient atmosphere that graces planetary surfaces and Cylon basestars. Pans are silky smooth, directionality is spot on, and dynamics are appropriately rowdy.
If I have any complaint it's that dialogue, while sharp and intelligible, sometimes sounds a bit too hollow. Lines occasionally sit above the soundscape instead of dwelling within it, leading to a few instances of pinched voices and shallow conversations. Even so, the track's attributes far outweigh such minor (and infrequent) annoyances, leaving little for astute listeners to whine about. Fans will be enraptured by the experience, newcomers will nod their heads in approval, and ardent audiophiles will give this lossless powerhouse their blessing.
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four arrives with an enormous supplemental package spread across each of its six BD-50 discs. Regardless of how you feel about the series final episodes, twenty-three full-length commentaries, three extended episodes, an extended version of Razor (with 16-minutes of additional material), several hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentaries, two hours of deleted scenes, and multiple U-Control tracks is quite a hefty addition to a 20-episode run of a show. The only thing I would have liked to see tacked on is "The Face of the Enemy," a 10-episode, Gaeta-centric online miniseries that, for all intents and purposes, amounts to an additional episode (one that takes place shortly before the events of "Sometimes a Great Notion"). Unfortunately, the webisodes don't appear on this release or, surprisingly, the Complete Series box set.
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Plugging along season by season? This release is for you. Looking for the most affordable, complete path to Battlestar happiness? Use the holiday money you accumulated to plunk down for the Complete Series box set. Either way, Season Four ends as wonderfully as it began, and Universal's final standalone BSG release looks and sounds every bit as good as previous seasons (with well over twenty-four hours of special features to boot). What more are you waiting for? Television's greatest sci-fi epic isn't getting any younger...
Battlestar Galactica: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Battlestar Galactica: Season Four (2 bundles)
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Battlestar Galactica Razor and Season 4 Blu-ray Coming Up - September 29, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced two BSG titles for Blu-ray release: Battlestar Galactica: Razor for December 28 and Battlestar Galactica: Season Four for a week later. Disc contents will be the same as for the relevant discs on Battlestar Galactica: ...
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