Friday, August 17, 2012

Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series Turns Out To Be The Biggest (Good) Surprise For Me On DVD This Summer!

The Good: Surprisingly well-written, Good serialized plots, Engaging concepts, Most of the characters, DVD bonus features.
The Bad: Melodramatic aspects, Some special effects and character issues.
The Basics: A surprisingly strong franchise in its own right, Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series makes for a very cool DVD set worth the attention of anyone who loves science fiction!

There are very few programs that I watch on television (or, more recently, right on DVD) that I do not already know what I am getting in for when I start them. It has been a long time since a show surprised me. In fact, the one that I am most frequently noting as a series that I discovered for the first time on DVD that was most worthy of attention was Veronica Mars (reviewed here!). The list, however, is getting longer with Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series!

I sat down and watched the 21 episode boxed set of Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series as preparation for my desired attempt to watch the reboot of Battlestar Galactica while my wife is gone for the summer. I figured that I would put it on, watch the pilot episode and then have it on while I was doing other things in order to get the gist of the series before I watched the science fiction show that has been unanimously recommended to me the past few years that I am actually interested in. From the first episode, Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series surprised me by its depth, scope and vision. After watching the first episode (a movie that I had seen as a child and forgotten), I started the next episode and found the heavily-serialized nature of the show to be right up my alley! Far from a cheap facsimile of Star Trek (reviewed here!), Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series created a surprisingly smart show that worked to create its own distinctive style and left me utterly unsurprised that it could be viably rebooted for a franchise.

Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series is the entire 1978-79 season television series that aired on ABC. A science fiction episode, Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series follows a fleet of some 220 human ships in a convoy. Following the destruction of the main colonies, specifically Caprica, the human Council of 12 evacuates the survivors and flees from the machine Cylons. Run by a mysterious Imperial leader and aided by a human, Baltar, the last surviving humans flee to the stars in search of the mythical ancient planet, Earth.

Following Baltar’s betrayal and the subsequent realization of the next target for a Cylon ambush of the convoy, the civilian leaders put Commander Adama, a military leader and captain of the last warship – the Battlestar Galactica – in charge of the convoy. Using ancient texts and rumors as a guide, he navigates the convoy to the edge of the galaxy in the hope of finding their salvation. Along the way, the convoy discovers lost colonies of humans, godlike creatures, other vessels, and a human enemy arguably more ruthless than the Cylons!

What really works for Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series is the combination of serialized storylines and the sense of distinction the Battlestar Galactica universe possesses. Aboard the Battlestar Galactica, the crew plays its own sports – a weird combination of basketball and wrestling that requires the men who play it to wear one of the oddest outfits in science fiction history! – they have their own language differences – “frack,” “felderkarb,” etc. – and values that occasionally differ from those of the modern United States. But above all, the show is smarter than I ever would have guessed.

First, in one of the early episodes of Battlestar Galactica, women aboard the ship are enlisted as fighter pilots. With it no longer pragmatic to have any form of gender discrimination, the women aboard the ship learn new trades and are useful and equal to their male counterparts. The show is equally pragmatic in some of the plots. Exploring the complexity of something as simple as putting out a fire aboard a ship, while preserving the lives of the people in the affected area, leads to one of the best episodes in Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series!

While the show is occasionally clunky and embodies some of the late 1970’s style and philosophical conceits, Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series actually seems less issue-oriented and dated than the original Star Trek!

The characters range from a mix of “types” to real individuals and part of the strength of Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series is the diversity of the characters in the series. The primary characters in Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series include:

Commander Adama – The military leader of the surviving humans that represent the former twelve colonies, he is a wizened man who tries to lead in a way that conserves the greatest number of people and ships. He has a strong spiritual component to him and it is he who sets the ships on their route for Earth, occasionally taking risks that put them closer to their goal, based on myth, speculation and rumor. He is primarily assisted by Colonel Tigh and his son, Apollo,

Captain Apollo – The son of Adama, he falls in love almost immediately with Serina, who has a young son, Boxey. However, when she is killed after learning to pilot a Viper, he is forced to raise Boxey on his own. A Viper pilot himself, he is the occasionally dim best friend of the charismatic Starbuck. He, however, serves as a conduit for higher forms of life when they make contact with the surviving humans,

Lieutenant Starbuck – A real player and a Viper pilot, he is a gambler who focuses his affections (mostly) on Cassiopia, though he has a passing flirtation with Apollo’s sister, Athena. He frequently risks his life for the convoy,

Lieutenant Boomer – A pragmatist and very observant Viper pilot, he often aids Apollo and Starbuck. He is one of the first pilots to volunteer to go back into space after the pilots are cut down by a mysterious illness. He works to save lives when the Battlestar Galactica catches fire,

Colonel Tigh – Highly ethical and calm, he is the right hand of Adama. He occasionally overlooks transgressions when it saves lives or furthers a just cause,

Athena – Adama’s daughter, she is smart and does not put up with Starbuck’s crap. In addition to working in flight control, she is seen teaching the surviving youngsters,

Boxey – A child who provides that perspective, he is accompanied by a mechanical recreation of the daggit he lost on the attack on Caprica. He loves and respects Apollo, who keeps him as if he were his own son after Serina dies. Known to stowaway on a shuttle for a chance at adventure,

and Baltar – The human who knows the most about the Cylons because he betrayed the humans to them! Given command over a squadron and his own Base Star (Cylon vessel more powerful than the Battlestars!) after the abrupt change in power in the Cylon leadership, he hunts the humans down on behalf of the Cylons, until his fortunes turn!

Like the characters themselves, the acting is all across the spectrum on Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series. Led by Lorne Greene (Adama) with some of the best supporting performances by Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh) and John Colicos (Baltar, who is often forced to work opposite the mechanized Cylons and thus does not have a lot to act off of!), Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series goes not give the women as much to play with, though Maren Jensen as Athena and Anne Lockhart as Sheba do a decent job with what they are given. Richard Hatch’s Apollo never truly pops, though, and Dirk Benedict plays the same one-note the entire time, the same type performance that he would later become famous for on The A-Team.

On DVD, Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series is impressive with a wide array of bonus features. Virtually every episode has deleted scenes. There are also commentary tracks and featurettes that make this a pretty incredible value. The special effects and picture quality have also been cleaned up for the boxed set, making Battlestar Galactica The Complete Epic Series a solid addition to the collection of anyone who loves science fiction!

For other television series' that made their debut on ABC, please check out my reviews of:
Happy Endings - Season 1
V - Season 2
Boston Legal
Once & Again - Season 2
Once & Again - Season 1
Sports Night
Spin City - Season 1
Twin Peaks
V - The Complete Series


For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Index Page on the subject for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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