This is a difficult review to write. The problem is approaching this miniseries and the subsequent new Sci-Fi Channel series without personal prejudice. I am a huge fan of the original Battlestar Galactica. While this incarnation has many redeeming qualities, I find it hard to consider it the same animal. The f/x are unquestionably some of the best yet seen on television. The action is ramped up many degrees from the original. The stories are, for the most part, more complex. So why do I hesitate in declaring this “reimagined” edition as superior? I don’t believe it was necessary to take steps that appear to me intended only to aggravate followers of the original. Making Starbuck a woman is probably the most egregious of these moves. I have a lot of respect for producer Ron Moore. His work on many of the Star Trek reinventions is top notch. Here he is unwilling to pay proper respect to what came before. Edward James Olmos, the new Adama, has made it clear that this show will anger fans of the original. I have continually preached in these reviews the importance of characters and the chemistry between them. The original Galactica had something special in the original Starbuck/Apollo relationship. While I’m willing to admit that my opinion could be colored, I find it hard to care about these characters. There is too much political correctness and romance.
The miniseries does pretty much follow the original pilot story. In this version the Galactica is about to be decommissioned. The focus becomes not only the last surviving military vessel, but one so old that it was slated to become a museum piece. There is great tension in the Apollo/Adama relationship that centers on the death of Zak, Apollo’s brother. The Colonial Vipers are true to the original design with far more detail, not possible 30 years ago on a television budget. The Cylons are human looking, and in the tradition of The Thing, could be anyone anywhere. The politics of the Colonies is explored much further here with the creation of a President, succeeded from the Education Secretary as the sole survivor of the Cylon attack. Finally the Baltar character is not so cut and dried evil. Seduced by an attractive Cylon into his betrayal, he seems to struggle at times with his part in the destruction of the 12 Colonies.
“Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag fleet of survivors in search of a mythical planet called Earth.” This old tag line from the original Galactica still fits as a series description. The new Galactica is less about the search for Earth than it is about the society and culture of the 12 colonies on the journey.
Give Sci-Fi Pictures credit for mastering a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Surrounds are used masterfully almost universally throughout the miniseries. Space battles come alive like never before. Your experience will come alive as you’ll hear ships and laser blasts pan all around you. This mix literally puts you in the cockpit of a viper. The dialogue is always clear and very well centered. Subs dominate during the show’s many dogfights.
There is a commentary track that features Ron Moore, David Eick (producers) and Michael Rymer (director). They each provide a wealth of information about every aspect of the show’s production. I was glad to hear them confront the controversial changes from the original. While I do not agree with their assessment, I was pleased they did not ignore the issue.
Battlestar Galactica is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The wide screen transfer does add an element the original was unable to provide. The epic nature of the story plays better with the wider canvas. The transfer is flawless. There aren’t any specks or blemishes evident even with the closest scrutiny. The major problem is the compression artifacts. There’s a lot of blackness; this is a space opera after all. The compression problems show themselves most notably during these space battles. It might have been wiser to split the 2 parts over 2 discs. The bit rate often falls below 2mbps.
“Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown” is a 45 minute feature that also originally aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. For those who haven’t seen the “Lowdown” series, they are intended as an introduction to the show. You are pretty much expected to know little about the program when the Lowdown bits air. You’ll find the standard interviews and behind the scenes elements mixed in with a very large number of clips from the show itself. These can be tedious when viewed right after watching the miniseries. You’ll be happy to find participation by Richard Hatch (original Apollo) and Dirk Benedict (original Starbuck) in this feature. There is an amusing bit between the two Starbuck actors.
There are over 20 minutes of deleted scenes provided here. Many of them were obviously deleted early on as the production is unfinished. None of it really stands out. Most are merely extensions of already included scenes.
It should be mentioned that there are 2 releases out there. Most contain a single double-sided disc. There are a few sets which contain 2 single-sided discs. I have the 1 disc set but would have preferred they stayed with 2 discs. I find double-sided discs to be more fragile and cumbersome to use.
With all of my prejudice laid bare, I will admit that the new Galactica has potential; I just wished it had been presented as a totally new and original show carrying a different name. This way we original fans could hold out hope for some kind of reunion of our beloved show and still enjoy a brand new space opera even if it had similar ideas. If you’re not sure where you stand with all of these changes, this disc makes a far better rental than buy. There’s nothing outside of the deleted scenes you couldn’t have gotten off the Sci-Fi Channel. I think we can all agree that Battlestar Galactica deserves to live on in some form or another. “So say we all.”