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Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series(TV) (2003-2009)
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: The Complete Series and the Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray release, see Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 29, 2009 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
Directors: Michael Rymer, Michael Nankin, Rod Hardy, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Robert M. Young
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
An absolutely thrilling, magnificent, must-own television series. So say we all...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 29, 2009
I'm usually not at a loss for words, but I've been staring at my laptop for twenty minutes now, writing and deleting dozens of sentences in an effort to properly introduce one of the finest television series I've ever encountered. As you can tell, I've settled on brutal honesty, a trait executive producer Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica exudes in every season, episode, scene, and frame. It's impossible to write anything about Moore's critically acclaimed, award-winning series that countless others before me haven't already expressed over the last six years. Television critics have hailed its prevailing storylines and commanding performances. Bloggers have waxed poetic over its chilling cliffhangers, intricate twists and turns, and complex characters. Fans have spread word of its genre-defying nature and unpredictable season to season evolution. Even its cast and crew have joined the discerning fray, following its plot threads and developments with as much curiosity as the viewers watching it all unfold. Make no mistake, if you haven't taken the plunge, if you haven't put aside your preconceived notions, if you simply can't imagine a science fiction series could be so exceedingly relevant, if you haven't considered the possibility that the hype -- just this once -- is well deserved, there is simply no better time to sink into the desolate worlds and savage arena of Battlestar Galactica.
Loosely based on the short-lived 1978 television series of the same name, Battlestar Galactica stunned critics and sci-fi fans alike with its powerful, oft-times resonant account of a small, space-faring fleet -- the surviving remnants of a devastated human civilization -- fleeing an armada of relentless machines called Cylons. Boasting a distinctly different vision and tone than its cheesy, flash-bang predecessor, Moore's reimagining was darker, sharper, and more challenging than anyone expected, offering more serious social satire and biting political commentary than most television series dared. More to the point, the show's scathing portrait of mankind at its best and worst tackled post-9/11 issues and events other more traditional dramatic series avoided at all costs. Those who expected endless dogfights and laserfire were met with disquieting character exchanges and meticulous plotting, those searching for lofty action and alien worlds found gritty conflicts and vacant space, those longing for light-hearted humor and digestible drama were handed bleak betrayals and ugly glimpses into our darkest fears. Battlestar Galactica has never been a typical sci-fi series... for that matter, it's never been a typical series.
So what makes BSG stand apart from its genre ilk? What makes it stand atop the vast majority of dramas the major networks offer us year after year? As it turns out, a great many things. The story at the heart of the series is startlingly pertinent to the trials and tribulations of our own perilous times; its at-times callous disregard for genre convention is disarming and unexpected, its challenging themes and prickly political quandaries feel raw and dangerous. From the fleet's earliest struggles with starvation, desperation, exhaustion, and the uncompromising advances of a tireless enemy, to humanity's inevitable cannibalization of its own ethics and moral fortitude, Battlestar Galactica forces its viewers to ask difficult questions, to consider every side of a debate, and to apply their newfound perspective to the world they see on CNN and MSNBC. That's not to say the series is a wholly academic endeavor -- the show's ongoing mythos is as intricate, ambiguous, and absorbing as anything shows like Lost dish out -- but it is to say viewers are required to *gasp* think during and long after an episode has delivered its payload.
It may strike the cynical among you as a stretch -- particularly since I'm referring to a television series that occasionally serves up enough action to rival a Hollywood blockbuster -- but Galactica fans (at least those of us who were barely able to contain our excitement from week to week when it was on the air) understand all too well how piercing and invasive each season tends to be. Perhaps that's why the show is able to weave its magic so effectively. With so many intriguing characters, show-stopping performances, gut-punching reveals, jaw-dropping storylines, and unforgettable exchanges, it's simple to overlook all of the series' subtleties, only to realize days later that you're still thinking about a specific subplot or a single line of dialogue. Perhaps that's why Moore's sci-fi epic is so riveting. While distracting viewers with explosions and dense mythology in one hand, it hurls psychological barbs and philosophical darts with the other. Perhaps that's the exact reason Battlestar Galactica continues to haunt my brain, long after its fourth season brought Adama's fleet to the end of their journey.
The final episodes were bound to upset some. With so much riding on every minute, Moore couldn't possibly please everyone. Some complained about the series' use of the supernatural and the divine to answer several looming questions. Me? I think anyone who watched more than two episodes of the show shouldn't be surprised to see the culmination of such a fundamental theme. Others whined about the fates of their favorite characters, but I thought the writers brought nearly all of them full circle; reuniting each disheveled survivor with the very core of their being. After being adrift in space -- oft-times from their own humanity -- it was refreshing to see the humans and Cylons reconnect with their individual purposes and callings. Still others 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. At the end of four long seasons, and an even longer trip across the universe, I was ecstatic to simply sit with the characters and watch them reevaluate their lives. Regardless of their sins, I realized I loved them all and wanted the best for them. Even the series' most wily weasel won my affection and sympathies with a single, heartbreaking line.
Still, the most engrossing story and engaging characters would be wasted without strong performances to support it. To that end, Moore has assembled 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 Edward James Olmos and company sink their all into each and every scene. Bit players rise to the occasion (first season regulars meet grisly ends, leaving secondary character actors to successfully fill any sudden vacuum), the series' stars continually push past their limits (Jamie Barber, Michael Hogan, James Callis, Aaron Douglas, Grace Park, Katee Sackhoff, Tahmoh Penikett, Michael Trucco, and Tricia Helfer, among many others, are utterly fantastic), and venerable industry veterans deliver the performances of their lives (Olmos and McDonnell will forever be Adama and Roslin to me). It may sound like hyperbole, but I challenge anyone to sit through four seasons of Moore's sci-fi stunner and criticize the cast's vitality or commitment to their craft.
I'm afraid I've reached the end of my review with the same feelings I had when I began. It's impossible to convey the impact of such an ingenious series; impossible to describe everything that makes it the timeless classic I consider it to be. If you're nodding your head, you've no doubt invested plenty of time and money into Moore's masterpiece. If you're shaking your head, I can't say anything more to convince you to sample Galactica's wares. But, if your eyebrows are raised and you're considering the possibilities, let me make one last push: give Battlestar Galactica a chance. If you can make it to the end of its first season without feeling the tug of Season Two, you're a stronger man than I. If you can stop after its second season finale, you have the willpower of a god. But if you plow through to the end, if you lap up its every episode as if it were your last, I can assure you that you'll have watched a series you'll never forget. You may not scream its praises like I have, but, chances are, you'll be a fan.
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
While longtime fans won't bat an eye at the faithful 1080p transfers spread across The Complete Series' twenty BD-50 discs -- the first and third seasons utilize VC-1 encodes, the second and fourth seasons employ comparable AVC encodes -- others may be taken aback by the presentation's grainy picture, soft scenery, and gritty aesthetics. To be clear, 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 version of Galactica in the grimy, grim 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 high definition presentation is worthy of 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 (more on that in a moment), 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 over the course of The Complete Series's seventy-plus episodes.
It can be disconcerting at first, but anyone who spends the smallest amount of time with Galactica will soon realize how immersive the effect actually is. Sure, delineation is poor and shadows are overly aggressive (particularly when it comes to swallowing the backgrounds), but it becomes clear with every passing shot that Moore wouldn't have it any other way (he says just as much in a brief video introduction that accompanies each season). Universal has also gone to great lengths to ensure viewers aren't confused by the series' appearance. As each disc loads, a message states: "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." Message overkill? Perhaps, but it should help keep disappointment at bay for any newcomers to the series.
Anyone watching the episodes in quick succession will notice some discrepancies between the first four discs and the other sixteen. The original miniseries pales in comparison to the rest of the series' episodes (contrast is duller, fine detail is middling, and blacks aren't as fully resolved), and Season One is a bit rough around the edges compared to the three seasons that follow it. However, any weaknesses associated with these episodes should be attributed to the fledgling production values of Battlestar's humble beginnings. Budgets were tighter and network support wasn't as robust as it became in later years. Moreover, the special effects weren't as refined, the sets weren't as impressive, and the costumes weren't as elaborate. Thankfully, even in the face of more problematic source material, Universal's technical presentations remain resilient and proficient.
The aforementioned noise on each transfer 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 on the Cylon basestars tend to be the most distracting). That being said, Moore's use of noise doesn't bother me 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 perfect -- faint artifacting, minor banding, and crush leave their mark on several scenes, and edge enhancement makes its fair share of appearances. Mind you, none of these issues are nearly as annoying as they were in the HD DVD release of Season One (which suffered from more frequent macroblocking, more noticeable banding, and other technical mishaps), but they still pop up (again, to a lesser extent) on several occasions.
All things considered, I'm quite pleased with the results. Even a quick comparison to the standard DVDs reveal a variety of obvious improvements, making the Blu-ray edition of each season well worth the upgrade. I'm confident anyone approaching Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series with appropriate expectations will be just as satisfied with the overall presentation.
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Complete Series' bold and bombastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks are even more impressive, packing enough nuclear blasts and ship-to-ship combat to thoroughly demolish your home theater. The thundering rumble of colliding basestars, the heavy kick-kack of gunfire, and the recurrent bah-dah-dah-dah of composer Bear McCreary's infectious version of "All Along the Watchtower" (among many other memorable musical cues) erupt as powerfully and precisely as any uber-fan like myself could hope for. LFE output is vigorous and convincing, dipping deep to come up with some sternum-rattling bass. I grinned every time an explosion jarred the crew on the Galactica bridge, and marveled at the immediate rush of sound that accompanied the Battlestar's sudden, low-atmosphere appearance. By the time the crew prepared for their last stand and final assault, I was enthralled by every clanking hunk of metal, every tick-tack-tock of Raptor fire, and every upbeat and beatdown of McCreary's phenomenal score.
Better still, the shrill sheen of every FTL jump is crisp and clean, the desperate cries of fallen heroes are crystal clear, and the shunk-shunk-shunk of approaching toasters is unnerving enough to make an audiophile mutter, "fraaak." Rear speaker activity is just as potent, filling panicked hallways and shuddering officers' quarters with the same rich ambient atmosphere that graces planetary surfaces and Cylon complexes. Simon the Cylon's baby factory is filled with eerie echoes, the inside of a hijacked Raider pulses with the strange biomechanic rhythm of the machine's integrated guts, the advanced operating systems of the Pegasus hum and quiver with life, angry winds meander across the desolate surface of an enslaved New Caprica, and the stony confines of an ancient temple sound just as vast as they should. I couldn't get over how easily effects panned across the soundfield or how accurate their placement was (especially for a television show). Dynamics hit me just as hard, leaving little to the imagination and even less to grumble about.
If I have any complaint it's that dialogue, while exceedingly sharp and intelligible for the most part, sometimes (once or twice an episode, tops) sounds a bit hollow. Lines occasionally sit above the soundscape instead of dwelling within it, leading to a few instances of pinched voices and shallow conversations. It's more apparent on the original miniseries and several first season episodes -- more often than not, something I'd attribute to production values -- but the issue also rears its head, strangely enough, in the series finale. Even so, the attributes of the Complete Series audio presentation far outweighs such minor (and infrequent) oddities, 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: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series boasts a daunting collection of special features spread across twenty -- that's right, twenty -- BD-50 discs. You'll find 22 full-length commentaries, 57 full-length podcast commentaries, five extended episodes (six if you count the Unrated Extended version of Razor), five hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentaries, nearly seven hours of deleted scenes, more than two hours of executive producer David Eick's behind-the-scenes Video Blogs, and a variety of U-Control options spread across the box set's discs. As it stands, the veritable cornucopia of supplemental material on hand easily justifies the box set's price and should keep any Galactica enthusiast busy for weeks.
It should be mentioned that the "complete" in The Complete Series is a slight misnomer. MIA are a handful of minor features that appeared on the DVD sets (most notably two "Lowdown" mini-docs from Season One), a Razor documentary (exclusive to the Best Buy release of the film), and some SciFi Network specials and SciFi.com content that didn't appear on any previously released DVDs, but would have been nice to have nonetheless. The most obvious and disappointing omission though is "The Face of the Enemy," a 10-episode, Gaeta-centric online miniseries that, simply put, reveals aspects of our favorite mutineer that weren't explored in the series proper. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if the webisodes appear on the upcoming Blu-ray release of The Plan, a feature-length BSG movie (in the vein of Razor) due this October.
The set itself comes bundled in an oversized, multi-tiered box (7.5 inches wide, 7.5 inches in length, and 8.5 inches high) that extends vertically to reveal four smaller packages inside. Each of the inner-packages house a full season, and their discs sit inside glossy paper sleeves. Season One is spread across four discs, Season Two across five, Season Three across another five (one is reserved specifically for Razor), and Season Four across five more (the finale is comfortably housed on a single disc). Last but not least, a bonus Cylon Centurion action figure is included, housed in the top of the box inside a transparent plastic... erm, coffin of sorts. For more detailed pictures of this release, simply click on the Amazon link above and view the many photos that accompany the product listing.
It's a decent set, but I do have a few complaints. First and foremost, the oversized box is great for collectors with plenty of room on their shelves, but it would have been better had the individual season releases been packaged in standardized Blu-ray cases. Fans with limited shelf space could have simply removed the cases and discarded the box. Instead, consumers are forced to choose between displaying a giant block o' Battlestar or sliding four narrow cardboard cases (that look odd and malnourished next to other Blu-ray releases) alongside the rest of their collection. Second, the discs aren't held in place by plastic hubs of any sort... they simply sit inside removable, accordion-esque cardboard sleeves. While the glossy surface of the sleeves helps prevent scratches, the open sides and slippery nature of the sleeves means you still need to be extremely careful when removing discs from their cases. Finally, there isn't any room for the Blu-ray release of The Plan. I tried sliding a standard Blu-ray case (and later an extra Blu-ray disc) into the box set, but the only solution I could come up with was to insert a disc in a paper DVD sleeve and tuck it in with one of the seasons. It isn't ideal (to say the least).
Ultimately, I'm pretty happy with the box set. Granted, I'm not entirely sold on the packaging -- in the future, Universal should seek the help of actual Blu-ray consumers to help the studio build more secure, practical, and functional box sets -- but you definitely get ample bang for your high definition buck. Had the box been safer and "The Face of the Enemy" miniseries been included, this set would have earned a perfect supplemental score. Sadly, despite an endless deluge of commentaries and special features, I have to shave a half-point off this one for its shortcomings.
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series includes:
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I'm sure I could pound out another sixteen paragraphs, but I'll save you the trouble of reading more unabashed praise. To cut to the chase, Battlestar Galactica is, without a doubt, one of the finest television series I've ever encountered and one that I'll revisit again and again for years to come. Universal's Complete Series box set may be missing a few relatively minor supplements (and have a few problems with its packaging), but its faithful video transfers, powerful DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and neverending parade of special features and audio commentaries make it a must-own release. As one forum member so astutely put it, it's "the best $209 dollars plus tax I've spent." I couldn't agree more.
Battlestar Galactica: Other Seasons
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Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray, News and Updates
• One-Day Sale on Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Blu-ray... - June 8, 2011
For today only (June 8th, 2011), save 62% on Universal's "Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series" Blu-ray collection at Amazon. This 21-disc box set, which includes both the miniseries that kicked off the series in 2004 and the unrated & extended version of ...
• Battlestar Galactica Season Two Blu-ray Announced - January 14, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of 'Battlestar Galactica: Season Two', which is set to hit store shelves on April 6. This box set will consist of five discs, identical to those included on 'Battlestar Galactica: The Complete ...
• Battlestar Galactica Blu-ray Extras Detailed - May 22, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has detailed the extensive special features for the Blu-ray edition of 'Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series', which will hit store shelves on July 28, day-and-date with the DVD release, in a "Limited Edition Telescopic ...
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