Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
In 1977, a low budget science fiction motion picture caused quite a stir. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It was called Star Wars. When it exploded into a huge mega-hit, it was inevitable that the sci-fi genre had been reinvigorated and rediscovered. Hoping to tap into the sci-fi craze, ABC television commissioned a big-budget weekly science fiction television series, Battlestar Galactica, and the results were mixed. While the show was supported by what was then (and even now) a huge budget (at $14 million for the pilot alone), after a strong opening episode, the show failed to really garner the support it needed, and, in my opinion, deserved.

The Series
The set is called the “Complete Epic Series”, and it truly is an epic. It is important to realize that one of the main attractions of Battlestar Galactica is it’s mythic qualities. The characters, settings and overall feel are smattered with a blending of many different religious and mythological references. The premise is one of extreme spirituality. The core storyline is basically that of the biblical tale of the Exodus. Many of the major characters names are taken right from Greek mythology: Apollo, Athena, Cassiopeia and the evil Cylons (a derivation of the Greek “Cyclops”). The planets of the 12 colonies are each named for the symbols of the Zodiac, and the fighter pilot’s helmets are fashioned after the headdress of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The main theme, skillfully performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, gives the listener the same majestic feelings that the great Olympic themes evoke.

The story begins as the members of the Council of 12 (one from each of the colonies) is discussing recent peace overtures by the Cylons, a group of robotic warriors whose sole mission had been the extermination of the human race. Although the Council is tired of war, there are those in the group, most notably Commander Adama (portrayed in an almost kingly manner by Lorne Greene), who are wary of the Cylons intentions. As plans are being made for peace, a fighter reconnaissance group discovers that the Cylons are in fact planning a massive strike at each of the 12 colonies and at the group of battlestars assembled for the peace conference. Too late to prevent the attack, only Adama and the Galactica, who leave the battlestar group to try and protect their homeworld, are spared in the ensuing battle. Every one of the remaining battlestars is destroyed, and the 12 colonies are decimated. All that remains of the colonies are the Galactica and it’s group of ships.  

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
After it is learned that the attack was made possible by a traitor on the Council of 12, Adama decides that he can not take on the Cylons by himself and instead sets out in search for the home of the legendary 13th tribe, a planet called Earth. He hopes to return there and ally themselves with their long lost brethren against the Cylons, but he is pursued at every turn by the Cylons and the traitor (Baltar) who is now a leader in the Cylon hierarchy.

Adama’s son Apollo (Richard Hatch) is the leader of the fighter squadrons protecting the convoy and battling the Cylons. He is aided by Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), a womanizing, cigar smoking joker, who also just happens to be an excellent pilot. Also along is Lt. Boomer (Herb Jefferson, Jr.) and a host of other characters, including a “daggit” which is actually a mechanized dog (but in 1978 was actually a chimpanzee in a dog suit).

All 23 episodes of the first and only season are presented here. There are some hits and misses among the group. Originally intended as a group of tele-films, when it became a weekly series some of the storylines were altered or abandoned and the quality of some of the episodes declined. The show truly shines when it deals with the main storyline of the Galactica’s search for Earth, and tends to falter when it deviates to other situations. Make no mistake though, most of the stories are top notch science fiction, helping to further the overall story of the Galactica’s search for clues to Earth’s location and how some of the ancient Earth cultures may in fact be related to the members of the 12 colonies.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
Video
Shot entirely on film, the video quality of the transfer both suffers and gains from it. It suffers because there is a fair amount of grain and dust noticeable in many of the scenes. However, the prints themselves were fairly well preserved when one talks about the deepness of the colors. The blues and browns in the uniforms are vibrant, and the reds in the lighting during the battle scenes are crisp and relay a feeling of emergency. Flesh tones are right on, and the black levels are done to near perfection. Although presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen (there was not the furor over widescreen then as there is now), the space scenes are very powerful and believable. This lends itself most to the outstanding work done by the Special Effects Coordinator, John Dykstra. Dykstra worked on the first Star Wars movie and what he has done here is every bit as good, considering it’s 1978. When the convoy is moving through space, you can actually make out the small fighters escorting the ships. Although much of the effects scenes from the pilot are reused later in the season, this still does not detract from their effectiveness.

Audio
The audio track on the set is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English, and it is a fairly good presentation.  Most striking is the score for the series. The theme, as created by Stu Phillips and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic is grand in its scope and regal in it’s feel. It gives one the impression of a feature film, and not a series, which is exactly what the producers were going for in the entire look and feel of the series. The dialogue is always crisp and clear, and the bass of the spaceships is deep. Turn up your speakers during the pilot and your home theater room will literally vibrate as you watch the Galactica fly through space. The laser blasts of both the individual weapons and the fighters are loud and distinct, and put you in the middle of the action. The surround effects are especially noticeable during the space battles, with Cylon and Colonial fighters flying from all channels. Although there is not the movement from one channel to another or from left to right, the audio is about as good as could be expected with what the producers had to work with.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
Extras
Presenting a series which is now 25 years old can provide some logistical problems when it comes to supplemental material. Fortunately, Universal has done an outstanding job.  There are several features and commentary (more on those in a second), but the true gem of the set is what seems to be a great amount of deleted, alternate or outtake footage which has somehow miraculously been retained for a quarter of a century. For the first episode alone (which is actually the first three episodes cut together as the pilot episode) there is well over 30 minutes of footage which was deleted, redone or turned into a blooper, and it is all presented here. All but two of the episodes in the set contain this extra footage (of varying lengths depending upon which episode), and it gives an insight into some of the storylines which weren’t included or how some scenes were cut for length or altered to reflect a different take on the scene. I’m a sucker for deleted scenes, and the sheer amount included here puts almost every other TV series DVD to shame. When one thinks what little quantity of deleted scenes are often included on series sets, to have a show which is 25 years old be so packed with deleted scenes is a pleasure to behold.    

Also of interest is the commentary by Hatch, Benedict and Jefferson on the pilot episode. It is clear from the interaction that there was (and remains) genuine affection for each other among the major stars of the series. There are many stories of the hardships with the Cylons costumes, and how difficult it was for the actors to move about in the costumes. Many of the anecdotes are extremely funny and enhance the overall enjoyment of the set.

The other extras, although somewhat brief in length, offer an interesting glimpse into the making of the series. There are several short featurettes-the first of which spotlights Glen Larson, the creator of the series. He talks to just how the series came to be and the difficulties of producing the show on a weekly basis. Stu Phillips is showcased next. Phillips both composed the score and conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic which performed it. In addition, features on the Cylons, a photo gallery of not only the cast and crew but also concept sketches and models is included. Finally, there are previews of both the upcoming Sci-Fi channel miniseries and Battlestar Galactica video game.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
The longest supplement in the set is a 45 minute documentary “Remembering Battlestar Galactica". It is a very well done comprehensive look of the series, with current interviews of many of the actors from the series. Each has their own story to tell what made the series unique for them, and they also take time to speak to many of the well-known guest stars who crossed their way. Actors like Fred Astaire, Ray Bolger, Lloyd Bridges and Patrick Macnee all made guest appearances on the series. They all served to further the allure of the series, and are fondly remembered by the cast.

Although not really an extra, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the unique case in which the series is contained. Universal thought it would be cute to place the series in a silver box in the shape of a Cylon head. The eyeplate of the Cylon is a lenticular surface which is supposed to simulate a red eye moving from left to right, just as the Cylons in the series do. To me, the effect is weak, at best. I would rather they had put the series into a regular box and cut off a few dollars from the price. My biggest complaint: what I consider to almost be false advertising. Virtually all of the promotional material (including the sheet attached to the back of the set) showed artwork on the discs. In fact, there is absolutely no artwork on any of the discs. 4 of the 6 discs are double-sided, and even though the other two only utilize one side, there still is no artwork. If you were buying the set for the disc artwork (and if you are, it is for the entirely wrong reason) you'll be disappointed. Luckily, the false advetising doesn't in any way impair the enjoyment of the material.

Overall
Battlestar Galactica is unique among science fiction stories. Most sci-fi tales tell one of two types of adventures-either Earth inhabitants exploring the universe, or several different races interacting with absolutely no mention of an “Earth”. Here is where Battlestar Galactica differs, and even turns the normal sci-fi formulas on their collective ear. It’s story involves it’s main characters are actually searching FOR Earth….looking to return, and not because they have become lost somehow, but because they are searching for their ancestors. Although the hair cuts are outdated and the special effects, when compared with today’s world of CGI, are somewhat lacking, the series did break new ground and helped keep the sci-fi genre moving forward. Battlestar Galactica is a refreshing take on what is a hugely popular genre, and, a quarter of a century later, still boasts a loyal and rabid following. Universal has done right by the series with this set, one of the finest representations of TV shows on DVD to come along in a while.



Links: