Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the Blu-ray release of the final chapter of the Battlestar saga
The opening moments of The Plan occur just prior to the events in the original Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Humanoid Cylon John Cavil (Dean Stockwell) is depicted masterminding the 'boxing' of the 'Final Five' and inserting them into the Twelve Colonies some time before the Cylons' genocidal attack. What follows is a non-linear look at events spanning roughly the first two seasons of the show, shown from the alternate perspective of the Cylons. It fleshes out certain characters' back-stories, shows alternate takes of existing scenes, and adds a lot of new CGI elements (such as the destruction of the Twelve Colonies themselves). To say any more would spoil not only this feature-length episode, but the series as a whole, and as there are plenty of people still working their way through Battlestar Galactica I won't elaborate.
The episode was designed to serve as a sort of 'last hurrah' for the series, with the intention of tying up some of the loose ends (the main one being what the Cylons' much talked about 'plan' actually was). On the whole I think it delivers, but it's not full of the sort of shocking revelations that I had expected. Instead it simply fleshes out certain characters, providing motivation for their actions in the series. We get to see more of Boomer's double life, there's a lot more screen time for Simon, and we finally learn who Six was talking to on Caprica right before the fall. Of course we also get to see how the Final Five ended up among the fleet and the destruction of the Twelve Colonies in all its horrifying glory, the latter of which ranks among the best of the visual effects sequences in the show's entire run.
As per the episode's original television outing, Universal provide a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p VC-1) for The Plan's UK Blu-ray début. Assessing the quality of The Plan's visual transfer is somewhat tricky, due in no small part to the choices made by the filmmakers. As with the series The Plan can be very grainy and bleached out, and often has less than inky black levels during the exterior space scenes, but this is an accurate representation of the show's visual style and something you quickly learn to accept (although that didn't stop Universal putting a disclaimer on all of their Battlestar releases). Colour rendition is strong, even if the palette isn't what I'd describe as 'natural', and the image is impressively detailed for the most part.
However, the image isn't totally without fault. There was at least one scene near the beginning where the quality took a bit of a nosedive, so much so that it stood out like a sore thumb. There's also some slight posterisation to be found throughout, but it's nothing too bad. Another issue I noticed something that numerous people have reported seeing in certain episodes of the full series. A number of scenes appear to contain an odd 'pulsing' effect, which is actually quite distracting, and unfortunately I'm unable to confirm whether or not it was present in the broadcast version. Even so, this is still a good effort.
As with the rest of the series on Blu-ray, The Plan arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that does a superb job of immersing the viewer in the world of Battlestar Galactica. There's plenty of directionality throughout, be it the Cylon Raiders swooping out of the sky in attack formation, nuclear explosions washing away entire cities, or a hail of gunfire as the resistance fighters take on the toasters. There's also some pretty decent bass during the meatier explosions, and the multiple nuclear holocausts provide a few of those. That's no to say that the track ignores the subtleties; be it the eerie sounds a now-deserted Caprica or the general hubbub of life aboard a busy Battlestar, this is a tremendously atmospheric track.
Dialogue is generally well-rendered, but there are a couple of moments where the quality wavers. This is most likely due to the fact that a lot of the footage was culled from the miniseries and juxtaposed with the newer stuff, so it sounds a little different. Of course Bear McCreary's score was one of the highlights of the Battlestar series, and it's no different here. McCreary builds on the themes that made the series' music so great and lays a rock-solid foundation for the rest of the elements. While it's true that you'll hear better soundtracks on the format, for a TV movie this is pretty impressive stuff.
Audio Commentary with Director/Star Edward James Olmos and Writer Jane Espenson: Edward James Olmos and Jane Espenson provide a down-to-earth commentary track that deals with their reasons for wanting to make The Plan. It's a pretty low-key affair, with the first thirty minutes or so spent complimenting everyone involved in the production, but they do cover all of the bases even if there are a few lengthy gaps. I wouldn't say that this is the most exciting commentary track I've ever listened to, but it does have its moments.
Deleted Scenes (13:57 SD): The deleted scenes represent the only standard definition content on the disc. Many of the scenes have incomplete effects shots, instead providing text overlays to describe what we should be seeing. Again, to say too much about the deleted scenes would compromise the story for the uninitiated, but there are some nice moments here even if most of them are actually just scene extensions.
From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos & The Plan (06:48 HD): In this short featurette actor turned director Eddie Olmos talks about the different disciplines that come with working both in front of and behind the camera. It a bit of a love-fest, with many of the cast and crew appearing to extol Olmos' virtues, but it's worth watching to see his interactions with everyone from extras to co-stars.
The Cylons of The Plan (06:52 HD): This is another short featurette that features Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park and Rock Worthy discussing their roles. As with The Plan itself, the featurette is dominated by Stockwell as he discusses his character's motivations. It's a bit short to offer any real insight, but it was quite entertaining while it lasted.
The Cylon Attack (04:03 HD): If you've ever wondered what goes into shooting an action scene on Battlestar Galactica, here's your chance to find out. This is basically a very short behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the Caprican resistance's attack on the Cylon depot. It's amazing to think that a short on-screen sequence can be so complicated to shoot.
Visual Effects: The Magic Behind 'The Plan' (19:03 HD): The longest featurette on the disc focuses on the various digital effects and how they were created. It includes interviews with the effects crew who talk us through numerous pre-viz sequences and discuss their relationship with the writers and creators. I was actually surprised to learn that the writers had a fairly 'hands-off' approach to the effects scenes, instead allowing the VFX guys to do what they do best.
BD-Live: If you go online you'll have access to a Battlestar trivia quiz. However, Universal is yet another company that forces you to sign up to their BD-Live service before you can use it. Here's a short message for them and evey other company that forces you to do it: for the love of Christ, stop! I don't want to have to use a clumsy user interface to provide you with my email address and a ton of personal details just to play a bloody quiz!
BD-Live Ticker: This is an online news ticker with information about Universal promos and the like. Obviously it requires an active Internet connection and it can be turned off if you so desire.
My Scenes: Can't say I've ever used the bookmarking feature of any disc, and I didn't start with The Plan.
D-Box Motion Code: The disc is D-Box Motion Controller enabled for those of you with the necessary hardware.
Oh, before I forget, if your player is connected to the Internet the disc will load a selection of random trailers for Universal titles at start-up. Thankfully these can be skipped, but I'd have liked the option to skip directly to the main menu without the disc eating my Internet bandwidth without consent, thank you very much.
To be brutally honest I have to concede that The Plan isn't essential viewing. One can quite easily go through the entire series without any knowledge of this episode and find the experience no less intelligible. However, The Plan does offer a fascinating take on familiar events that die-hard fans of the series should find most rewarding. It's really one for the completists out there, who have devoured everything Battlestar related and still crave more.
As is usual for the franchise, Universal has provided a solid audio-visual experience and a collection of interesting supplemental material. The extras aren't quite as comprehensive as those that accompany the complete series, but they do cover most of the bases and should appease most fans. If like me you're a Battlestar nut then this is a pretty essential purchase, but just make sure that you're finished with the series first to avoid major spoilers!
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 10th May 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, BD-Live
Easter Egg: Yes
Director: Edward James Olmos
Cast: Edward James Olmos, Dean Stockwell, Michael Trucco, Grace Park, Michael Hogan, Aaron Douglas, Callum Keith Rennie, Kate Vernon, Rick Worthy, Lymari Nadal, Matthew Bennett, Rekha Sharma, Tricia Helfer
Length: 111 minutes
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