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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
t this point in its timeline, “Battlestar Galactica” simply works better on DVD. This batch of episodes, which makes up the first half of the show’s final season, was incredibly frustrating to watch upon broadcast. Of course, the commercial breaks are a given annoyance, but the cinematic flow of the series wasn’t helped by the seven-day breaks between installments. Furthermore, the episodes contained in this set are almost entirely character-driven. At the close of the third season, viewers were left with two big developments that would drive the fourth and final season: the revelation of the identity of the twelfth and final Cylon, and whether or not Earth would finally be reached. One of these is seemingly addressed in the final moments of 4.10, “Revelations,” but it’s a torturous road getting there.
Since the plot is being driven by these two questions, the episodes spend most of their time skirting the issues by, paradoxically, constantly addressing them. Much of the half season is spent with the four “new” Cylons – Tigh (Michael Hogan), Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), Sam (Michael Trucco) and Tory (Rekha Sharma) – each of who are responding to their newfound identities in very different ways. Tigh, for instance, wants to fight it every step of the way, while Tory seems the most open to the revelation. Meanwhile, Gaius Baltar (James Callis) has become something of a reluctant prophet for an underground group of followers that view him as a savior, and the voice of God. Kara (Katee Sackhoff) has seemingly returned from the dead, insisting that she’s been to Earth and can lead the humans there. Lee (Jamie Bamber) leaves behind his military career for one in politics. Roslin (Mary McDonnell) finds that her cancer has returned, and Adama (Edward James Olmos) strangely doesn’t have a whole lot to do except react to everything going on around him. If there’s a major fault to be found in this section of the series, it’s that the characters have become so bull-headed in their beliefs that it’s often difficult to root or care for anyone anymore.
Like I said, it’s almost all character-driven material, and even the murder of a series regular about halfway through the half-season serves the characters more than it does the plot. There isn’t anything wrong with this, except that it seems increasingly evident that the show really is running out of things to do, and there’s almost a sort of “hamster spinning on his wheel” feel to the whole thing. Most of what’s in these ten episodes seems designed to get your hopes up even while the showrunners are busy dashing them, and perhaps most noticeable is the fact that the show has become more depressing and fatalistic than ever. It’s almost impossible to imagine a happy ending for anyone at this point, but if, like me, you’ve come this far, you are going to see it through to the end. Thankfully, that end is right around the corner and this maddeningly complex saga will hopefully reach a satisfactory conclusion here in the next few months.
Special Features: Anyone who’s been buying these sets along the way will not be surprised by all the goodies here, as it’s the usual type of bonus material fans have come to expect. The big “extra” is Disc One itself, which is the TV movie, “Razor,” although hardcore fans likely already own it. It seems mostly as if it has been added to justify the price tag, which as I understand it via Amazon, is something that has many a fan in an uproar. It seems many fans would rather purchase Season Four in one big box, which makes sense, but unfortunately, the nearly one-year gap between the two halves of the season has made that impractical. These episodes needed to be made available to the general public before the airing of the final batch, in the event that some viewers missed them, or simply wanted a “BSG” refresher course.
There’s also a surplus of deleted scenes, and it’s worth wondering, once again, why it’s so difficult for the people who makes this show to craft episodes with exactly the right amount of material. The deleted scenes are often quite illuminating, and this show would probably be a whole different animal if a massive re-edit of the entire series was undertaken. Not that I’m advocating such a process. There are five behind-the-scenes featurettes, including sneak peeks at the final batch of episodes, as well as the spin-off, “Caprica.” Finally, there are podcasts for every episode, as well as a hefty selection of Producer’s Video Blogs. Nobody can ever say the “Galactica” sets don’t offer plenty of bang for your (star)buck.