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The Spin Sheet

DVD review by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits

Battlestar Galactica: Season Three

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Battlestar Galactica
Season Three - 2006-2007 (2008) - Sci-Fi Channel (Universal)

Program Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/A-


Is there another show on television right now that's remained as consistently good, surprising and relevant as Ron Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica? If there is, I haven't seen it. Science fiction though it may be, week after week, Battlestar continues to earn its place among the very best dramatic series TV has ever delivered.

As fans of the series already know, Season Three picks up about a year after the cliff-hanger finale of Season Two (or more specifically, Season 2.5). The human survivors of the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies, weary of endlessly fleeing through space in search of the mythical planet Earth, chose to settle instead on New Caprica, where they've managed to remain hidden from the Cylons for nearly a year. But just as the colonists began to hope their troubles were over for good, the Cylons arrived and occupied the planet. Adama and Lee, outgunned and outmanned, were forced to flee in the Battlestars Galactica and Pegasus, leaving everyone they loved behind. In short, the situation was dire.


As the season begins, we learn that life has indeed been difficult for the colonists under Cylon rule. Certain people have disappeared. Others have decided to collaborate with their oppressors. Still more have organized an underground resistance movement. Nearly all of them have given up hope of salvation. But Adama and Lee aren't about to abandon them, and now they're about to hatch a desperate, all-or-nothing gamble to free the people of New Caprica, or die trying.

Battlestar Galactica: Season Three contains more than its fair share of terrific episodes, beginning with the four-part story of Adama and Lee's return. Exodus, Parts 1 and 2 in particular are outstanding, depicting one of the most ballsy and audacious action/rescue sequences this or any other science fiction show has ever attempted. The sight of the Galactica "jumping" into the atmosphere and falling like a flaming rock is the last thing I ever expected to see, and I'm sure mine wasn't the only jaw to hit the ground during this episode. The season continues as the fleet (minus several thousand casualties) resumes the search for Earth... and the Cylons begin to take a serious interest in their quest. A Measure of Salvation sees Adam and Roslin debating the use of a biological weapon to wipe out the Cylons. In Unfinished Business, we learn exactly what happened during that year we missed on New Caprica, and why Kara and Lee in particular had grown to resent each other so much. The Passage, Eye of Jupiter and Rapture depict the discovery of the final major clue to the location of Earth, and the lengths to which both human and Cylon will go in order to find it first. Then, in Maelstrom, Kara learns that her ultimate destiny may have serious implications for the fate of humanity. And as the season closes, Baltar finds himself on trial for his actions on New Caprica, Lee is forced to make a difficult choice, and some favorite characters uncover a terrible secret that will change EVERYTHING.

In terms of A/V quality, all 20 episodes on this 6-disc set are presented in very good looking anamorphic widescreen video. Color and contrast are just as intended by the show's creators, and image detail is first-rate for standard definition, with only minor compression artifacting and no other visible defects. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mixes here are nicely immersive, with the surrounds well used for general ambience. They're quite lively during action and effects sequences, and there's good bass too. Those of you who have the previous Galactica DVDs will know exactly what to expect in terms of presentation quality here. There's definitely nothing to complain about. FYI, subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish.

One of the nice things about having this series released in DVD in full - as opposed to half - seasons, is that you tend to get more bonus material. Season Three proves this nicely. First of all, EVERY SINGLE EPISODE includes one of producer Ron Moore's podcast audio commentaries (that were previously available for download on Sci-Fi.com). These have been routinely excellent, so be sure to check at least a few of them out. You also get several bonus commentaries. Hero includes a second commentary with producer David Eick that hasn't previously been available. The season's last three episodes, The Son Also Rises and Crossroads, Part 1 and 2, also feature additional commentaries by actor Mark Sheppard, who plays Romo Lampkin (these were available on Sci-Fi.com as well).

This set includes two versions of the episode Unfinished Business - the original broadcast version AND a new "Ron Moore" version that's some 25 minutes longer. The new version isn't necessarily better. The broadcast version is tighter and has more dramatic impact, I think. BUT... the new version does fill in a lot more blanks. For example, the conflict between Lee and Kara is MUCH more personal in the longer version. Kara's actions are more sympathetic in some ways, in that you see that they're motivated by fear, but there are nastier moments too. Kara basically outs what happened right in front of Dee, and you definitely feel Lee's rage. On the other hand, you also learn that Dee knew what she was getting into from the very beginning, and married Lee knowing that it probably wasn't going to last. While all this new material does weigh down the narrative momentum, it also undeniably adds depth to these characters. You'll appreciate having the chance to see it. I should add that this longer version has its own new commentary by Moore as well.

There's plenty more extras to enjoy, including I would guess around an hour's worth of deleted scenes (presented non-anamorphic) from the season's many episodes. These include some really terrific moments: Kara attempting to kill herself in Cylon captivity, Baltar telling Roslin that the Cylon heart doesn't feel like a human's (breaking Six's heart as she listens), Lee giving up his Commander rank to take over as Galactica CAG, Athena confronting Cally, hints that Baltar could be a Cylon and MUCH more.

Nearly ALL of producer David Eick's video blogs from Sci-Fi.com are included here, save for one (Peabody Madness, probably because it would have required paying Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who appear in it). However, you also get 7 more blogs that have never been available online (there are 22 in all in this set). Finally, you get all 10 of The Resistance "webisodes" that were shown online to tease the start of Season Three. These video extras are all non-anamorphic widescreen (I wish they were 16x9, but it's a small complaint). The webisodes are all on Disc Two of the set, while the blogs are scattered around the other discs. All told, this is a great assortment of bonus content, including both new and previously seen material. If you're a fan, you'll enjoy every bit of it.

One thing I would love to see, that we haven't gotten yet for this series, is a great, in-depth documentary on the inner workings of the show. The video blogs are cool, but they're not nearly enough. What fans want is something that would run 2 or 3 hours, and really cover every aspect of the production. I also wish Universal would include the other bonus podcasts that have appeared on Sci-Fi.com (the cast and crew roundtable, the writer's meetings, etc). And it wouldn't hurt to have galleries of production and design artwork either. Hey... there's still one season left to go. Maybe when Universal delivers the Blu-ray versions - who knows? Speaking of which, let's hope the Blu-ray versions are coming sooner rather than later (and PLEASE in better packaging than the Season One HD-DVDs).

Any way you slice it up, Battlestar Galactica delivers the goods. This show has NEVER been afraid to take risks and turn everything you think you know on end. It dares to be bold and original, even to the point of changing its tone and characters in absolutely fundamental ways. It's just been a true delight to watch thus far. If you're new to Battlestar, I highly recommend that you go back and start watching from the beginning on DVD (click the links to read my reviews of Season One, 2.0, 2.5 and the recent Razor TV movie) - this is not a show you can truly appreciate if you start in the middle. The first half of Season Four (the show's final season) debuts on the Sci-Fi Channel on 4/4/08, with around ten episodes. Because of the recent writer's strike, the remainder of the season (which resumes production next week, as it happens) probably won't air until early 2009. In any case, you can bet that Ron Moore, David Eick and the writers are cooking up a real rollercoaster finish for this series. I, for one, absolutely can't wait to take the ride. Bring it on!

In case you hadn't guessed, Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is very highly recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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