Blu-ray Review: Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5

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Battlestar Galactica forms, in my mind, the triumvirate of shows that shaped our decade. The West Wing was first, starting in 1999, righteous and courageous idealists facing off in a political arena determined to crush their spirit. That show begat The Wire, a five season arc that encapsulated the very real tearing away of our culture’s lower class and the almost hopeless task of keeping Baltimore propped up. Finally we’ve got Battlestar Galactica, a sci-fi story that makes us question the world we live in, the loyalties we keep, and what the precise definition of humanity is. And season 4.5? Whoo boy, you’d better believe it ends with a corker. And questions. Lots and lots of questions.

However, while I still have questions about the series storyline itself, I must concurrently salute the Blu-ray transfer. The show looks very solid in high definition, I’d suggest all your future viewings occur in this format. Caprica 6’s red dress really pops, the Dradius radar actually shows off a tinge of vibrant green, and Starbuck’s flaxen hair… well I guess it still looks pale. Sorry to disappoint you there. But the show looks great, and I’m now in the unenviable position of considering purchasing previous seasons in Blu-ray.

As far as storyline, Season 4.5 picks up with episode 11, “Sometimes a Great Nation”, where the fleet finds themselves investigating a newly-found Earth to determine living conditions. Eleven episodes are reeled off from there, but the real business of BSG begins with the final five (ha!) episodes. It’s here that the questions you’ve had all along about Battlestar Galactica are answered, and in many cases, not answered… just as emphatically. It’s an interesting bit of storytelling given the mystery the series wove throughout its airing, but somehow the methods employed near the end don’t feel like a bail-out. In some weird way Battlestar does exactly what it meant to – presenting deeper questions of faith and loyalty. Most of all the series puts its characters in a position where choices have to be made, tough choices, terrible choices, and that’s really the most you can ask from a group of storytellers. Alliances shift, motivations change, but throughout the tumult realistic and balanced portraits emerge. You’ll just as easily pull for a Cylon as you do a human, a credit to the strength of the writing. Sure, season three got a bit melodramatic, but the culmination of season four definitely ends with a few smacks to the face. In a good way.

The Blu-ray edition has three extended episodes (“A Disquiet Follows My Soul” “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” and “Daybreak”) and each of these features a commentary too. The graphical presentation is also far smoother and sleeker, yet another reason to switch to Blu, once and for all. I didn’t get much out of the “Evolution of a Cue” which breaks down the music of Battlestar but I did quite enjoy “What the Frak is Going On with Battlestar Galactica?” as even those who loved the series probably scratched their head a few times. This featurette of the dizzying revelations shows that we weren’t alone in that estimation.

The final verdict on this show must be a positive one. It took on huge concepts and somehow emerged with a baseline logic intact. Torture, occupation, human rights, friendship, cloning, resurrection, the whole of religion, faith, God, trust, loyalty… I mean, the list just goes on and on. Battlestar Galactica is also that rare chameleon that allows you to take what you want out of it while discarding the rest. Not a fan of the religious? Take the overtones of sacrifice, life after death, and redemptive children at face value and move on. A big proponent of the end justifying the means? Take satisfaction in the “good guys” trying their best and occasionally making choices that punish the innocent for the greater good. Like a diamond, whichever way you turn this series leads to another view, and I have little doubt that many saw different things than I did.

The relationships were the strength to me – how it doesn’t really matter what or where someone (or something?) comes from. Friends stand together due to mutual interest mixed with occasional obstinacy and disregard for their own well-being. Love is love, faith is faith, and sometimes you’ve got to stand together when you’re on the wrong side of a shooting match. People can be redemptive, the bad guy can turn good, and we may all be on a path towards something better. Or not. That’s the thing BSG did better than any other show from 2004-2009 and it’s the reason the show should stand the test of time with a loyal cadre of fans. If you’ve not seen an episode of the series I’d recommend picking up season one posthaste. If you’ve made it through 4.0 I don’t see any chance you’re getting talked out of skipping the finale. And that’s the way it should be, the show earned its adoration honestly, so get out there and give it a watch. So say we all, one last time.

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