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Battlestar Galactica: Season One Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
Image"Battlestar Galactica: Season One" presents Ronald D. Moore’s reimagined miniseries and the 13 episodes of the first season. While using the 1970’s version as a template, there are a lot of great changes to the update making it superior to the original. It’s been given a much more serious and dramatic tone and deals with modern-day events in the War on Terror. Aside from the changes of gender and nationality to some of the characters, the show’s most important distinction from the past is that Man created the Cylons.

The miniseries opens with titles informing us of the Cylon War between human beings and the Cylons, evidently robots. After the armistice was signed, yearly summits were scheduled between the two groups but the Cylons didn’t appear until the 40th year. It is revealed to the viewer that Cylons can take human form; the War is relaunched as the space station holding the summit is destroyed. The human beings live on 12 colonies that soon come under fierce attack. They are completely defenseless because one human-appearing Cylon, Number Six (Tricia Helfer), began an affair with Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and used her relationship to gain access to all the colonies’ defense systems.

Most of the fleet is destroyed, leaving Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) the highest-ranking officer. His ship, "Galactica", was in the process of being decommissioned and turned into a museum, so it is not part of the computer network. The capitol of the colonies, Caprica City, is nuked, resulting in Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the 43rd in line of succession, to be sworn in as President. Adama and Roslin have different philosophies and are constantly battling with each other as with the remaining 50,000 survivors they head for a mythical 13th colony known as Earth. What makes the journey so difficult is not only that Cylons have assumed human form in 12 different models, but as the audience learns out before the characters, some are “sleepers” who don’t even realize their true identity like Boomer (Grace Park).
The first season had some outstanding episodes. In “33,” the Cylon force appears every 33 minutes after the Colonial fleet makes a faster-than-light jump through space. This goes on for almost five straight days, exhausting the crew. During one jump, the civilian ship "Olympic Carrier" is left behind and the Cylons don’t arrive. When it finally arrives, it is unscathed. This arouses suspicion, especially when 33 minutes after its arrival, the Cylons return.

Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) commandeers a Cylon Raider in “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It appears to be a cyborg and comes in useful in later episodes. Number Six appears on "Galactica" with proof that Baltar is a Cylon conspirator in “Six Degrees of Separation.” This coincides with Boomer thinking she herself might be a “sleeper.” In “Flesh and Bone,” A Cylon is tortured against the President’s orders because he claimed a nuke was hidden amongst the fleet. Adama is implicated as a Cylon and his behavior from here on out begins to get suspicious.

Fans of the original series had to be pleased when Richard Hatch, Apollo in the original, appeared in “Bastille Day” as Tom Zarek, a freedom fighter or terrorist depending on your viewpoint. He becomes a recurring character and is voted a representative of Sagittaron (one of the colonies) when a quorum of the colonies is reconvened.

The season concludes with a two-part episode cliffhanger. Prophecies begin to reveal a newly discovered planet may be Kobol, the planet where mankind originated. Roslin sends Starbuck on a mission back to Caprica in search of a religious artifact against Adama’s orders. He stages a coup and has her arrested.

There are a number of interesting storylines running through the series. Roslin is dying of cancer. Baltar appears to be in communication with Number Six through his mind, assisting him at times and trying to convince him there is one God. Officer Helo has been trapped on Caprica since the attack and is under surveillance the whole time. Adama and his son Lee (Jamie Bamber), a captain who serves under him, have a rift in their relationship because Adama’s other son, Zak, died in his first solo flight. Lee feels that Adama pressured Zak to take part in the military when he wasn’t suited. What makes the situation more complex is the eventual revelation that Zak’s flight instructor Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace passed him because they were secretly engaged even though he failed the test. The guilt of Zak’s loss weighs heavy on all three throughout the season.

As stated in the packaging, the video has stylized visual elements that “accurately preserves the artistic intentions of the filmmakers.” This means that the grain in the images is intentional, and that the CGI sequences in space have more clarity and definition than the live action. It’s hard to imagine there’s much difference in the look of these scenes compared to standard DVDs. It will turn off the very particular viewers, but it’s what the creators want.

One artistic intention that turns me off is the terrible camerawork. Way too often floating handheld shots are used that are completely unmotivated. It’s a horrible group delusion by cameraman and cinematographers that the viewer will feel like they are there in the moment as if we are going to forget we are sitting on our living room couches. Instead, it reminds me I am watching a television show that employs people

Also, while the visual effects in space look fantastic, they look terrible when the mechanical Cylons interact with humans. Their movements are jerky, unnatural, and dispel the illusion. If this was the best they could do, costumes and animatronics would have been a better decision.

The audio sounds good, especially when the sound system gets put to use during the battle sequences as the ships fly passed or explosions. The score is just the right mix, noticeable enough to do its job, but not overbearing.

The extras include deleted scenes from every episode but “Bastille Day,” commentary tracks for the miniseries and nine of the episodes, and a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes that were available for the Standard DVD release. U Control only pertains to the miniseries and offers Picture in Picture, which is basically the behind-the-scenes material already available, and Encyclopedia Galactica, a selection of trivia about characters and equipment.

"Battlestar Galactica: Season One" stands out because it is a well-written drama performed by a talented cast. Normal expectations of HD users might not be met, so I would suggest a rental or preview first, before buying the set.

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