Battlestar Galactica (Miniseries) (2003)
|Category||Science Fiction||Featurette-Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown|
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (94:06)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Michael Rymer|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Edward James Olmos
Callum Keith Rennie
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
You reap what you sow, and mankind is about to reap the fruits of its labour. 40 years after the end of the war between Man and his creation, the Cylons, mankind lives in a time of prosperity and security. When the Cylons rebelled against their human creators and fought for their freedom and the extinction of the hand that made them, it was a war that brought a huge toll of death and destruction. After years of war, an armistice was reached between the two warring races and an outpost was constructed to house regular meeting between Man and the Cylons. Each year a representative would be sent to the outpost to hold regular talks with the Cylon representative in hopes of holding the truce between the two parties, but each year sees a non-appearance of Man's former creation and foe. Still, dutifully, each year the representative goes to the meeting place and awaits the arrival of the Cylons. 40 years on and it's the same drill. The representative sits at his desk studying material on the Cylons as they were known in times past, only this time he won't be on his own, for it's the day when the Cylons have finally sent a diplomatic mission to the meeting place. As the human representative watches his counterpart arrive, he is stunned, for the last 40 years have brought on wholesale changes in the mechanized race. The representative has little time to take in what he sees as a massive attack rips apart the outpost, destroying everything. Humanity's children are returning home...today.
The Battlestar Galactica has had its time, and now after 50 years its time as a functioning battlestar is at an end. About to be de-commissioned, the Galactica is a hub of activity as the press and government officials descend on this once important ship for its decommissioning ceremony. After it has been officially withdrawn from service, the Galactica will become a museum piece that will serve as a tourist attraction with exhibits of some of the war's former weapons, ships and memorabilia. The ship's captain, Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos: Blade Runner, Miami Vice) is busy readying the ship for its final duty, but he has other things on his mind as his son, Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber) is coming on board for the ceremony, and the two haven't been on speaking terms for quite some time. Still, duty calls and he applies himself to the task. Other members of the crew busy themselves in various activities. Lieutenant Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) takes time to do a bit of exercise and join in a card game. The Galactica's second in command, Colonel Paul Tigh (Michael Hogan) is busy as well, yet he still always has a chance to have a drink or two, or more. Even during this time of peace, nerves can still be on edge as Colonel Tigh and Starbuck come to blows over comments made during a card game, landing the hot-headed pilot in the ship's brig. When Captain Adama lands on the Galactica, he isn't all that surprised to find Kara in the lock-up, but while he's happy to see his long time friend, he is less than happy to be on the ship under its commander, his father. While the father and son pose for the required press photos, the younger Adama makes it fairly plain that he is present in an official capacity only and the anger that Lee has towards his father because of the death of his brother Zak hasn't subsided. It is something that Lee Adama has blamed his father for and the two years that have passed have not diminished the anger that he feels. The two have little time to exchange pleasantries, however, as the ceremony is about to begin. In respect for their commander, the flight maintenance crews have restored Commander Adama's original Viper in time for the festivities and it will be the job of Captain Adama to fly it as the lead craft in a Viper fly-by during the decommissioning ceremony. While quite antiquated compared to the latest version of the Colonial defence's main weapon, the craft is still quite versatile and able to pack a punch. Of course this would all be academic with the lack of real threat anywhere to be seen and all the antique fighter needs to do is complete a ceremonial fly-over. Little do the crew of the Galactica know that new isn't always the best and progress isn't always for the better.
In the light of devastating personal news, member of the Council Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell: Dances with Wolves, Sneakers) is on the way to the Galactica to take part in the decommissioning ceremony. Diagnosed with cancer, Laura struggles with her own mortality while trying to maintain a calm exterior. This calm exterior is about to be put to the ultimate test. At first the Galactica receives news that contact with the Cylon / Human rendezvous outpost has been lost. This doesn't seem like too much of an important issue, but when news of devastating attacks on the home worlds of the colonies start to reach the Galactica, the ship is brought out of retirement and put at full alert. The news is made worse when Adama learns of the destruction of the Galactica's main fleet of new generation Vipers, leaving only the superseded collection of restored old series Vipers, on display near the Galactica's gift shop, available for combat. The battle is swift, the destruction is devastating. The Cylons have launched an all-out assault on the 12 colonies of man with a barrage of nuclear blasts bringing certain death to billions of people. Learning of the attacks, Councillor Roslin, 42nd down the line in the chain of command, is sworn in as the new President of the Council of the Twelve. At once she puts her transport ship into service and begins preparing to carry as many refugees as the craft can carry. When Captain Adama, having escaped the initial attack on his fleet of Vipers due to his being in an older style craft, lands on the President's ship, he is impressed with her ability to lead and sees her as being rightly in the role of President. Working as quickly as they can, the President begins to organize the fleet of fleeing ships into a convoy that can band together and hopefully evade the Cylon invasion long enough to make it to the safety of the Galactica and a chance at life. When the President's ship finally makes it to the Galactica some tough decisions have to be made as not all the ships in the convoy are able to reach light speed, yet a light speed jump is required to evade the inevitable attack by the Cylons.
When the convoy of ships finally makes its way to parts unknown, it gives the leaders some time to think. President Roslin wants to begin organizing the fleet, but Commander Adama knows that the fleet is in no way out of danger and preparations must be made for further conflict. Things are made worse by the news from a Caprican refugee, an expert in artificial intelligence, Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis: Bridget Jones's Diary), that the Cylons have developed to such an extent that they can exist in a human form, almost indistinguishable from a normal human. This means that anyone could in theory be a Cylon. Anyone. With this unnerving thought in mind, the Battlestar Galactica leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a quest for the planet Earth, which Commander Adama has described as the last colony of the tribes of man. It's hoped that this last human colony, long lost from contact with the other 12 colonies, might be a place of refuge from the certain destruction that awaits under the hand of the Cylons. Only Commander Adama holds a secret about the location and truth about Earth, a secret that could tear the fragile fleet to its very core.
From the moment this show was announced in the form that it takes, people knew that it would be divisive. To update a show isn't new. When Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced, many fans of the original series questioned whether the new show would be faithful to the original programme that inspired it. History would go on to prove that it indeed would be not only successful, but faithful to the storylines and ethos of the original programme and the Star Trek programmes in all their incarnations have been consistent (within reason as there were at times mistakes) to both the storylines and history. Sadly, this is not the case here. In an attempt to make the show relevant to a newer audience, the show's creators have done a terrible thing: they have disregarded the tone, character, storyline and intent of the original show. In an attempt to make it fresh and new, they have discarded the very things that made the show the cult success that it has become, and have discarded the loyal and evangelical fans of the programme in the process. As the statement from Edward James Olmos indicates, this is not your dad's Battlestar Galactica. All this said, this would have to be the finest filmed for television science fiction that I have ever seen. As a fan of the original series, part of me wishes that it wasn't.
Helmed by Australian director Michael Rymer (Angel Baby, Queen of the Damned) and written by Ronald Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Generations, First Contact, Deep Space 9, Voyager, Roswell), this programme was intended to make the transition from cult 70s sci-fi to 21st century cool. To my mind, I think it worked, albeit at the loss of the original show and its fans. This new 're-imagining' takes the core story from the original show and sends it all in a completely different direction. First of all, the show's main protagonists, the Cylons, are creations of man gone wrong. In the original show, it was established that the mechanical Cylons were created by a reptilian race. You can still see that in the original series with the reptilian Imperious Leaders that gave their commands from their giant thrones within the base stars. Here we have a completely different dynamic with a whole creation-gone-wrong scenario. In comparison to the original series, abandoned is the attempt to create a different culture that harks back to the dynasties of the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. Instead, this show goes in a totally different direction and instead makes the culture, characters and settings very much Earth-like. The people in the show have first and last names, and very normal names at that. Lee, William, Kara, Paul, Laura, Sharon, Aaron and so on. Completely different from the first where we had characters from worlds that had no relation to our own in terms of culture. Sure, not so different that we couldn't identify with them, but on the whole, the original show's creators intended there to be a complete otherworldly feel to the show. It's totally different here as this show reeks of Earth, and it shouldn't. Granted the lost 13th tribe of man was once in contact with the other 12 colonies, but I find it strange that much of the things I see in this series are too easily identifiable. Characters wearing suit and tie? Normal names like William and Paul? Normal animals such as chickens named in the show? While this whole look makes the show more accessible to a wider audience, it reduces the believability that what we are watching is removed from our own world. With the original show, we knew that there was some distant connection between the colonists and Earth due to the Greek and Egyptian references, but this was distant enough to give us an identifiable culture that still seemed alien.
We also have the original characters brought back...sort of. Many of the names have a familiar ring, but on closer examination it's all really quite different. The names of the pilots, such as Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer are now nicknames or call signs of the warriors (who are not called such in this series) so we get Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama and Kara "Starbuck" Thrace instead of Apollo and Starbuck. There are also the gender changes. Starbuck and Boomer are now women in this series. The relationships are also changed here. Commander Adama and his son Lee are at odds with each other over the death of Zak (Zachary Adama here), Paul Tigh is on the drink far, far too much and Dr. Gaius Baltar is more of a coward than a baddie, and although partly responsible for the destruction of man, he doesn't seek to achieve this. The ships ring slightly familiar here, but there are major differences. The Battlestar Galactica retains the original shape of that seen in the original series, but it has a far more armoured look here that lacks the menace of the original. The Vipers are quite good with a style that is very much in keeping with the original series while the Cylon ships have a totally different look to that seen in the first show, as do the Cylons themselves. Gone (apart from some initial shots in the new show) are the 'chrome toasters' of the original series and in this one we have the latest versions that are mostly indistinguishable from normal humans. Also different is the spiritual tone that was taken by the original show. Because of the LDS (Mormon) background of the show's creator, Glen A. Larson, the original show had a large religious feel to it. Commander Adama was a deeply religious man with an immense faith in the Lords of Kobol. While this show does feature some of the religious jargon of the original, it seems tacked-on here and as it isn't integral to the storyline as it was with the original. And lastly, the writers of this show can't seem to be able to use the word frak in its proper context. I always picked frak (or frack) to be a replacement for damn, not f*** as it is used in this new series. Indeed a quite different show from the original, but there are positives here.
Far from the 'flashy' style of the original show, this new show is very understated, almost minimalist at times, both in terms of it visual and audio content. The sets used are first rate and don't have that look of a set about them. Again, while looking just a bit too Earth-like, some of the sets are fantastic with a style that very much suits the mood and style of the show. Probably the greatest thing that we see in this show are the incredible dogfights. Gone are the irritating aspects that are always associated with the physics of science fiction. Everyone knows that there is no gravity in space, so for the first time we get a chance to see how ships might really act in a weightless, directionless environment. Being chased by a Cylon raider? Why try to bank around to get a shot at your foe from behind when you can turn around and face your enemy while being chased by him? Why did the explosions always stop after the ships were shot? Wouldn't the explosions keep moving? Of course they would, and for the first time you can see realistic space battles that look like they were really taking place. The soundtrack is also quite good with a minimalist style used in terms of the score. The sound effects are great and quite realistic in regards to a science fiction show. Sure, you can still hear the ship's motors, thrusters and gunfire while they are in space, but it is much subdued here and this adds to the overall realism that we see in this show. The programme's musical soundtrack is also quite complimentary with the use of a very percussive style that lacks the fanfare style of the original, but definitely works in terms of creating a tense feeling during the battles. I never got that during the original show and it stands out as a real plus here. For the most part, the performances here are quite good. While being removed from their original context, I found that within their roles the actors here did a great job. Probably the best here, and this will stand at odds coming from a fan of the original series, is Katee Sackhoff in the role of Starbuck. Of all the actors in this show, she has probably done the best job in bringing to this new series the feel of a character from the original. She may be more interested in doing some degree of exercise to combat her overconsumption of cigars and alcohol than the original character, but she embodies the 'seat-of-the-pants' action style that Starbuck was renowned for. Her attitude is in keeping with that of the original Starbuck and the one laugh I got during this very serious and mostly humourless show was because of her (at 119:07 for those who are interested). Katee nails the original spirit of the character perfectly.
So here it is. After a wait of 25 years, fans of Battlestar Galactica finally have something fresh to watch...and it isn't what they wanted. While many of the style cues and filming techniques could be used for the new series, to disregard so much from the original programme is a real shame. I would have thought that writer Ronald Moore, who has worked on many Star Trek projects, would understand the importance of working within the context of an established story framework. It would not have been hard to update the Battlestar Galactica story and make it both cutting edge and fresh while remaining true to what had come before. This so-called 're-imagining' has taken the lazy route by using the core of a story and the awareness of the original show and reshaping it into something that harks little to its ancestor while offering nothing to the show's original fans. If the makers of this show wanted to do something really different, then they should have started from scratch and made their own show, not b******ized an existing one to their own ends. While reading this, you might have come to the conclusion that I'm in two minds about this new show, and I have to say that I am. Part of me is riled and frankly p***** off that this one chance to continue a much loved storyline in the annals of science fiction television has been squandered away in the quest for a young hip audience, yet another part of me is amazed at the overall quality and attention to detail that this new show has taken. This overall level of quality prompts more anger at the fact that this could have been so much better had it remained faithful to the original. I've said this before and I'll say it here; you wouldn't dare do this to the Star Trek franchise, so why would you do it to Battlestar Galactica? Your guess is as good as mine. Conclusion: Watch it. Ignore Edward James Olmos and watch the thing. Fan of the original series? Watch it anyway. Yell at the screen. Scream at the bloodymindedness of the show's writer Ronald Moore for ripping the heart and soul out of the original programme and twisting it to his own wicked ends. Then, marvel at some of the best science fiction television ever produced...anywhere. This new mini-series has spawned a new series that is in production now with 13 episodes commissioned for its first season. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up the overall quality that this first mini-series has established. Great science fiction television. Damn, I wish it wasn't.
This programme is presented quite well with a transfer to DVD that does the material justice.
This programme is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio 1.78:1 with the appropriate 16x9 enhancement.
The level of sharpness and detail available is quite good considering how the show was produced. Whilst I was initially under the impression that this series was filmed on video and then committed to film (a technique used in the U.S. version of 60 Minutes), I've become aware that this first mini-series was filmed on 35mm film and the subsequent 13 episodes of Season 1 were all filmed with HD video cameras. The footage was then treated in post production to achieve the filmed grain look that matched the original pilot. This means that there is a noticeable level of film grain throughout and shadow detail is also affected, as can be seen at 109:21. I didn't have any issues with low level noise.
I found colour's use during this programme to be quite natural. While the original show was dominated by earthy tones, this was probably more to do with the era of production than anything else. Here we have the expected harsh grey steel look that is at times in contrast with some quite warm and soft colours, depending on the location and the mood that the film's producers were trying to achieve. The commitment of colour to this disc is quite good with no transfer issues of note and a look that complements the show well.
This disc features the main programme at a very stable MPEG compression rate of 5.65 Mb/s. There is little up and down movement and instead it sits fairly steady. This is still able to hold the full length of the show (175:06) while providing a good level of detail without any annoying MPEG nasties such as pixelization and macroblocking. Grain does affect the compression every now and again with the odd slight pixelization effect visible, but it isn't enough to be of any real concern. Aliasing isn't a huge problem with only the odd shimmer from time to time. As mentioned before, there is noticeable grain for most of the programme, but this is intended by the filmmakers and not a transfer flaw or technical flaw as such. I did find the grain particularly noticeable at 24:05 and 56:26, but it isn't a terrible problem and fairly consistent film stock looks to have been used.
I watched much of this show with its one subtitle option, that being English, enabled and found them to be quite accurate, almost (but not quite) word for word at times.
This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place at 94:04 within Chapter 14. It is a good place for a change and doesn't disrupt the flow of the film. Many modern players will render this change unnoticeable.
We have a decent audio transfer here that complements the material.
There is only one audio option here, that being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix running at a decent rate of 384 Kb/s.
There is quite a bit of dialogue here and so its quality is fairly important. For the most part I found the spoken word quite easily understandable, but at times it was a bit soft and hard to hear rather than hard to understand. This could have been intended but I still had to put up the volume at times. I had no problems with audio sync.
Music for this show comes from three directions. The main credit for the film's score goes to former Oingo Boingo member Richard Gibbs. Gibbs has worked on several film projects in recent years, such as 10 Things I Hate About You, Big Momma's House and Queen of the Damned. Richard's work with Jonathan Davis of Korn on Queen of the Damned work put him in contact with this film's director, Michael Rymer and he's done a good job here with this show. Bear McCreary also lends his talents to the musical soundtrack as does Kevin Kliesch, although he does not receive any credit. The original Battlestar Galactica fanfare, composed by Stu Phillips also features, but in a cameo fashion. The music for this show is very percussive with a huge use of drums that places more emphasis on rhythm and primal fear than the rousing traditional soundtrack of the original show. When I first heard that a modern soundtrack was going to be employed by this show, I was nervous as rock soundtracks tend to date poorly and prematurely age the show that uses them. This would prove to be an incorrect assumption on my part as it is modern music, not rock that the producers intended to use, and they have done it very well. A great use of a modern style soundtrack in a show.
We have just the one audio option here, giving us a full blown 5.1 mix to accompany the material. This is used to good effect with quite an atmospheric use of the rears. I would have thought that a more active use of the rear channels would have been appropriate as what we have here almost sounds like a derived 5.1 mix from an original 2.0 mix (this could have been the case), but that said what we do have, although front heavy, does work for the show.
There is appropriate supporting LFE used here with the deep bass of explosions and gunfire thumping through the subwoofer as it backs up the front mains.
|Surround Channel Use|
The cupboard is fairly bare here with only a short making-of featurette available.
After the usual distributor's logos and copyright warnings, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:
The menus are silent, static and are 16x9 enhanced.
Selecting the Bonus icon offers the disc's one extra, that being the Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown featurette.
Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown - 20:30
Produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, this short introduction to the show features most of the main players, including director Michael Rymer and series writer Ronald Moore. We also have interviews with some of the show's stars including
Produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, this short introduction to the show features most of the main players, including director Michael Rymer and series writer Ronald Moore. We also have interviews with some of the show's stars includingKatee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Jamie Bamber (Apollo) and Edward James Olmos (Commander Adama) among others. Here we see the cast and crew discussing the genesis of the show and its relation to the original series. Katee Sackhoff's introductory statement "Hi, I'm Katee Sackhoff. I play Starbuck. Deal with it" sets the tone as to how the show's creators approached the new show. While short and quite promotional, there are some interesting things talked about here. The one person that we see little of is director Michael Rymer as this show seems more of a project of Ronald Moore's than anyone else. In the absence of an audio commentary, this is as much as we're going to get. I would have liked to have seen some material on the design and creation of the space battles as they are some of the best that I've seen, but this short making-of will have to do. This short is presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release of this disc was on the 28th of December, 2004. Whilst we in Region 4 (and Region 2) got this package first, the Region 1 package has a few extras that we missed out on the first time.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:
We may get a better transfer here (I haven't got to see the Region 1 version yet for a direct comparison) as from some reports the Region 1 film is squished on one layer of the disc, whereas we get is spread over 2 layers. In contrast, the Region 1 will probably be one to get for the commentary, as we again miss out on a Battlestar Galactica commentary AGAIN as we did with the Original Series package. It will be interesting to see what form this new series takes here in Region 4. We can only hope that we finally get something comparable to that afforded our Region 1 cousins. If you're a fan of this series, then it looks like the Region 1 will be the one to get, particularly for the extras.
16 years was a long wait for the first new instalment in the Star Wars saga. Fans of Battlestar Galactica have had an even longer wait, only to be discarded in an attempt to make the show appeal to a wider audience. To my mind, what writer Ronald Moore has done was a mistake. Many of the innovations that he has made to the show could have been done within the context of the original programme. The Alien saga could serve as a prime example of this. Anyone can tell that the first Alien film, as directed by Ridley Scott, stands in stark contrast to its follow-up film Aliens as directed by James Cameron. Still, the different approaches were complementary rather than contradictory. You don't have to turn everything on its head to make a change or a break from the past. Ronald Moore seems to have forgotten this, or discounted it as an option. A pity, as a connection with the original series could have worked. All this said, this is some of the best science fiction television that I have ever seen. The production values are first rate with the space battles taking on a realism that hasn't been seen elsewhere. Some have complained about the 'NYPD Blue shaky-cam' approach of the film's producers, but I had less of a problem with it as what was being filmed looked so good. Performances here are good and while in complete contradiction to the characters established by the original show, they work within the context of this new programme. The performance of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck is quite good and despite the reservations of fans of the original series stands as probably the most accurate in terms of the original character. I find it hard to say, but this is a good show and I can't bring myself to despise it despite my being a huge fan of the original series. I know that this should have been a continuation of the original series, but it isn't and jumping up and down won't change that. Perhaps Richard Hatch can still get something going that will continue the storyline of the original, but in the meantime we have the start of a great science fiction show. I hope the new series, now in production, will live up to the standard that this mini-series has established. D*** you Ronald Moore. I'm not supposed to like this, but it's just too d*** good.
The video is good with a video image committed to film to create a cinematic look.
The audio is good with a front oriented soundtrack that serves the material well. The music is also different and complementary.
The extras are thin on the ground with only a short 20 minute featurette available.
|DVD||Panasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output|
|Display||Beko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Yamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Amplification||Yamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)|