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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
f you’re not already into the Sci Fi Channel’s revival of “Battlestar Galactica,” Season Three is probably not a good place to start – unless you don’t mind being utterly confused and left feeling like you’ve arrived late to a very intense party. The season begins more or less where the second left off: The majority of the human survivors had settled on a habitable planet they dubbed “New Caprica,” and within a matter of months found themselves enslaved by the Cylons and living in less than humane conditions. At the top of the conflicted heap is the newly elected President Gaius Baltar (James Callis), who’s forced to aid the Cylons in their takeover for fear of his life. Meanwhile, somewhere out in space resides Galactica, with a patient Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) at the helm, strategically devising a plan to rescue the New Capricans from their dire situation.
Galactica eventually does just that, and the season then returns to a sort of “business as usual” template, with the broken-spirited humans once again on the run from the Cylons, while at the same time getting seemingly closer to the fabled 13th colony, Earth. The first half of the season also spends a fair amount of time on board the Cylon base ship, which has an organic, water-based system of operation that defies written description and must be experienced to be understood. The base ship sequences are a season high point, as they present a truly nonhuman environment, and are examples of why this series is a stellar sci-fi offering.
The season taken as whole is a bit all over the place. The first half is largely excellent, with tensions building from one episode to the next. The second half has a major tendency to meander, much of which stems from two plot points that are promised around mid-season, but take seemingly forever to come to fruition: The trial of Gaius Baltar, and the revelation of the final five Cylon models. Both are eventually explored, but not until the two-part finale, “Crossroads,” which is some of the most engaging material the series has yet unveiled. It may take its time getting there, but once it does it’ll leave you with a jaw-dropping, Keanu Reeves-esque, “Whoa!”
When all is said and done and the series is over, Season Three of “Battlestar Galactica” will likely be thought of as the transitional season – the material that bridged the setup to the conclusion. It can be a frustrating season to wade through, only because the stakes are so high and you just want the show to get on with it and deliver the goods. (One offering, “The Woman King (3.14),” diverges so heavily from the ongoing plot that it can’t help but feel like a useless exercise.) But the goods are eventually delivered – well, all except for one: The identity of the final Cylon model, which is being saved for the fourth and final season of this groundbreaking series.
Special Features: It should come as no surprise to the faithful that this set is loaded with extras. The most noteworthy is the “Ron Moore Version” of “Unfinished Business (3.9).” This take has an extra 25 minutes of material, but whether or not it’s going to mean anything to you will be wholly dependent on whether or not you liked the episode in the first place. Since the episode is entirely character-driven and features a fair amount of melodrama, it’s an offering that many viewers had little patience for. The extra 25 minutes simply fleshes out what was presented to begin with, and goes into further character detail. The set also includes the original TV version as well, which is nice for those who don’t care to partake in more than an hour’s worth of Lee and Starbuck declaring their love for one another (that’s an obvious exaggeration, but you get the point).
Speaking of Ron Moore, his podcast commentaries are again included on every episode, and several episodes even include additional commentary tracks from various stars and behind-the-camera talent. There’s certainly no shortage of insight from the creative team here. Producer David Eick’s Video Blogs are also presented on several discs – some of them are great fun, others tend to ramble. There are loads of deleted scenes – so many, in fact, one wonders how much time is spent on this series filming material that ends up on the cutting room floor. Finally, there’s the entire 10-webisode series entitled, “The Resistance,” created for SciFi.com to bridge the gap between Seasons Two and Three.