The DVD release of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries came out end of December, giving a few weeks lead time to the series which starts this Friday, January 14th, at 9pm ET on the SCI FI Channel. As I never reviewed the miniseries, here is a combo review of the show and the DVD. Also, there are two specials airing in the coming week – at 8:30pm Friday before the series premiere will be Battlestar Galactica: The Series Lowedown. And 5:30am ET on Monday, 1/17 the SCI FI Channel will air something titled “Battlestar Galactica: Propaganda and War”, which appears to be a documentary about SF writers using war to disseminate propaganda and satire.
First off, a lot of fans of the original were probably cheezed off to here that the SCI FI Channel was going to remake Battlestar Galactica, as opposed to continuing the storyline (both original creator Glen Larson and star Richard Hatch had competing plans for reviving the show, but neither were considered). Star Edward James Olmos even urged purists not to watch.
If you fell in this category and watched anyways, lets here from you, as I’ve not really heard much from that camp in this first aired.
This is a complete remake, but not word-for-word – the situation is slightly changed, so here his some of the situational differences to get you prepped:
- Starbuck and Boomer are women – in the original, they were men. Although Starbuck does still gamble and smoke cigars.
- Cylons were created by man, and turned on their creators. In the original, the “Cylons”
were the robotic creations of the original Cylons, who died off.
- The Cylon War ended 40 years previously with the signing of an armistice, and the Cylons left for another planet – no one has seen them since. In the original, the armistice was in the process of being signed.
- The Galactica is the oldest Battlestar in a fleet of many, being decommissioned to become a museum of a decidedly low-tech approach to the war. In the original, the Galactica was one of only 5 Battlestars (or was it six or seven?)
- The vipers from the original show (slightly modified), called “Mark II” here, are also museum pieces (but fortunately fully functional).
- The character names in the original were all single word, mostly mythological in nature. Here, they all have typical english-style names, with some of the original names standing in as “callsigns”.
This shifting of situation allows for major nods to the original, without going out of its way. It’s as if the situation of the original series was the past of this series, except the Cylon attack never happened. Even the original Cylons make a “cameo” appearance at the beginning as a spec sheet for what they looked like when they were last seen. Also, some of the original “ragtag fleet” vessels also appear.
You could consider this as an “alternate universe” situation to the original.
Another major difference between the original and this version is in the campiness – the original had a campiness that made it enjoyable. This one is pure realism, no camp. However, I think that is its strength. This is like Midway in space. Very military-realistic dialog and situations using contemporary terminology. Also, no ray guns. Weaponry is kinetic- and nuclear-based. The producers tried to represent some level of realistic space combat and maneuvering. This, however, may also be its downfall – can such a show hold a broad enough audience to get the ratings (and thus advertisers)
The storyline was excellently executed. Edward James Olmos does an excellent job as Commander Adama, especially with the memorial speech (mostly improvised by Olmos). Some of the lesser characters were a bit weak, but should be able to work out with more time. I think my favorite performance among the lesser roles was CPO Tyrol, played by Aaron Douglas. Weakest? I’m not too sure – perhaps Boomer (played by Grace Park). Jamie Bamber as Apollo seemed to have invented a new “face” – he has a look of “incredulous amusement” in some scenes, like “I can’t believe you’d even ask that, its almost funny”.
Visually, again it was excellent. A bit disconcerting was the camera motions during the viper battle scenes, but they appear to be intended to provide a first-person view – as if you are searching for the Cylon raiders, finally spot them and then zoom in. The mushroom clouds on Caprica were a bit much – it seems there were too many in an area, and there were some new ones along with old ones – I would think a single area would be done at the same time.
The one nitpick I had was with the the human-looking Cylons. Apparently they had no way to detect if someone was or wasn’t a Cylon. Admittedly they didn’t know about them for long, but I would think they’d have some way – after all, they are artificial constructs with the ability to communicate with others.
There are a few wow points in the feature. I don’t want to spoil it, but one involves a baby, and other involves a young girl. One of those that elicit a “Did they just…no…” response from viewers.
How does the DVD fare? The case is a typical snap case with a decent cover. They did the typical “head” images on the cover with five of the actors, but where I think Olmos should be the primary image, Tricia Helfer (Number 6) is placed in the center position instead. This may have been to balance the male/female images, but I guess they feel it doesn’t hurt to have a model on the cover.
The DVD itself is a double-sided disc, with the feature along with a commentary track and some previous on side A, and Deleted Scenes and the Battlestar Galactica – The Lowdown special from SCI FI on side B. Without much to choose from, the menus are pretty simplistic and non-animated. The previews for upcoming SCI FI Pictures shows a number of shots from things I’m not even aware of. No sign of Ringworld though.
The Deleted Scenes were OK – nothing spectacular that make much of a difference (hence their being cut). Mostly extended FX shots that weren’t completed. Most important scene I could think of was the confrontation of Tyrol and Cally (Nicki Clyne), but it was difficult to understand what Cally was saying which is why it may have been trimmed. P.S. I think they should play up Cally as a young rookie caught in a war – she has the young innocent look.
The Lowdown special was good, but you may have already seen it.
The commentary track was pretty good, but tended to wander. At least they held my attention.
Overall, I think this new version was excellently done and deserving of the shot at a series that it did earn. Hopefully it will have the ratings to exceed the one-and-out fate of the original. As for the DVD – get it quick so you can be caught up, and certainly it earns a slot next to the original series on anyone SF fan’s DVD shelf. 4 out of 5 stars.