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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries (2004)

"Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore."
- Cmdr. William Adama (Edward James Olmos)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: February 07, 2005

Stars: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer
Other Stars: Callum Keith Rennie, Grace Park, Michael Hogan, Matthew Bennett, Paul Campbell, Aaron Douglas, Lorena Gale, Barclay Hope, Kandyse McClure, Connor Widdows, Michael Eklund, Alessandro Juliani
Director: Michael Rymer

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, adult themes)
Run Time: 03h:02m:25s
Release Date: December 28, 2004
UPC: 025192446627
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-A C+

DVD Review

If you are looking for a way to gain the instant wrath of legions of devoted fans, all you need to do is take their prized property and make changes to it. Such has been the case with this "reimagining" of Battlestar Galactica by producer Ron Moore. For decades, fans of the original 1978 television series had been dreaming of the day when someone would pick up the gauntlet and create a proper and faithful continuation of the series, a wish that nearly came true.

Galactica had been born in the wake of the Star Wars phenomena that swept the world in the mid nineteen seventies, as the networks were looking for a show that would draw on that audience. Producer Glen Larson delivered a story in which humanity, existing on twelve colonies named for the signs of the Zodiac, suffer near annihilation at the hands of the robotic Cylons. The lone surviving Battlestar, Galactica, led the last remnants of humanity across the stars, with the evil Cylons on their trail, aided by the traitor Baltar. Despite high ratings, the show was pulled after only a single season, with a disasterous attempt at reviving it in the form of Galactica 1980.

The new version uses the same basic premise and character names, but like any remake, changes abound, the most dramatic being changing the gender of two of the principle cast. The Cylons in the new story were created by man as their robot servants, but the machines evolved and launched an uprising, but there has been an uneasy peace for years. There is also a new threat with the Cylons—they can appear human—allowing them to integrate covertly with their enemies.

As this series opens, the Galactica is about to be decommissioned and turned into a museum, and Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) is set to retire, before an unprovoked attack puts both back into action. Their worlds destroyed, the survivors are faced with limited options for bringing their people to safety. Adama is ready to return to the fight, but the newly appointed president, Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), insists that the course of action is to salvage what they can and run. There are many hard choices and sacrifices to make, but the fate of mankind hangs in the balance against a relentless and remorseless enemy.

Many of the characters have had their personalities altered. The once upstanding Apollo, Galactica's model warrior and Adama's son, is now a bit of a jerk, with a huge chip on his shoulder, blaming his father for his brother, Zac's, death. Baltar, who in the original was a self-serving villian with no compassion for his race—as long as his life was spared—is much younger and weaker, and his aid to the Cylons is unintended, spurned by the sexual attention lavished on him by Cylon hotty, Number 6 (Tricia Helfer). The swank, womanizing Starbuck of old is replaced by an equally rebellious Lt. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), and sidekick Boomer is now Lt. Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii (Grace Park). The once stalwart Colonel Tigh is now an alcoholic with marital problems.

The classic ship designs have also undergone an overhaul. The Viper has had only modest revisions, while the Galactica herself is quite different in appearance. The Cylon ships and Base Stations are completely new—I prefered the old versions myself. The maneuverability of the ships is also changed fairly dramatically, and for the better, which allows for some interesting battle footage.

As a fan of the original series, this Galactica took some getting used to, as it has a completely different atmosphere and look. The character and design changes aside, the show is also much darker and grittier. The production style utilises hand-held work extensively, which while adding a more documentary feel, also tends to get old quickly. There is also a lot more sexuality on display than the reserved 1970s version afforded. The one area that this mini series does have problems with is pacing. Trying to introduce and establish the large ensemble cast and all the setup to a TV series creates a barrage of disjointed information, which will especially confuse newcomers. The many relationships that the series is exposing makes it feel slow, as the action is set aside for character development.

If one can set aside all the bickering that has developed between Galactica afficianados and Moore's team, the show isn't all that bad, and like its predecessor, the good points outweigh the bad. The character changes allow room for growth and tension, and are more realistic. I was especially impressed by Olmos, who, while taking a far different perspective than Lorne Greene had in the role, holds up very well in the Commander's chair. Baltar's situation is a lot more intriguing, and less the stereotypical bad guy, and the ability for Cylons to appear human also adds another layer of possibilities. The change of Starbuck and Boomer's sex also opens up new avenues, some of which I hope don't get explored (like a love interest between Starbuck and Apollo). However the TV series winds up unfolding, this mini series provides an entertaining introduction, which hopefully won't alienate too many fans of the classic version.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is very good, with a near flawless source element. Due to the production design, colors are muted, but well rendered, and contrast looks fine. There is a moderate amount of natural grain. The image isn't overly crisp, and is sometimes on the soft side, and occasionally there is some minor shimmer, but overall this looks great.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in both English and French 5.1 surround, and Spanish stereo, but the overall quality is consistent between them. The 5.1 tracks don't abuse the rear channels with gimmicky effects, but use them to add dimension and depth. Technically, there is nothing to complain about—dialogue is clear and concise, and the ambience is well presented. A fine sounding release.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Battlestar Galactica (1978), Quantum Leap, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Battlestar Galactica
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Michael Rymer, executive producers David Eick and Ron Moore
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Deleted scenes
Extras Review: There are three principle extras available. The first is a feature length commentary by director Michael Rymer and executive producers David Eick and Ron Moore. The tone of the commentary is somewhat defensive in places given the backlash the production faced, but overall outlines the reasons behind the decisions that created this contemporary version of the Galactica story, and covers many of the behind the scenes aspects. There is lots of interesting information here.

A making-of featurette, Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown, (41m:41s) visits with the producers, cast and crew who share their views on the new series. Included in these interview segments are original stars Richard Hatch (Apollo), whose comments are tempered by the fact that his own extensive campaign to relaunch the series was hijacked, and Dirk Benedict (Starbuck), who gives pointers to his made-over character replacement, Katee Sackhoff, appropriately at a Starbucks cafe. Somewhat cocky, and with the usual adornment of platitudes for their coworkers, this serves as a decent introduction to the series.

A sizeable collection of deleted scenes (20m:01s) rounds out the extras. There is a good selection of scenes, some of which include unfinished effects shots.

Forced (but skippable) trailers for Battlestar Galactica (1978), Quantum Leap season 2, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and previews for Battlestar Galactica the TV series and SciFi original programming are also included.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This "re-imagined" version of the classic Battlestar Galactica got off to a controversial start with this mini-series, but manages to hold its own despite the many changes from the original. The show is distinct in its approach, and aside from some minor complaints, provides an engaging watch.


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