Release Date: January 6, 2009
3 ½ ½ /
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber, Aaron Douglas, Michael Hogan, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, with appearances by Mark Sheppard, Lucy Lawless and Dean Stockwell
Executive Producers: Ronald D. Moore and David Eick
Written by: Various
Directed by: Various
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 is really a three disc DVD set compiling the first ten episodes of the Ronald D. Moore/David Eick series’ fourth and final season, along with a battery of extras and special features, and a fourth disc containing the Razor movie that preceded the opening of the season. By the end of the third season, the storylines had already progressed far past the point of introduction, so it may be difficult for new viewers to pick up the story here. (As I noted in my review of the third season, I would recommend watching the seasons in order, as many episodes refer back to past events from the first three years.) The season set here encompasses all that has aired to date of the final season, with the remaining episodes and the series finale scheduled to air starting at the end of next week. The second season was previously released in this fashion, although the layover between the halves of this season has been much longer. (This is due to the WGA strike of last year, which halted production on the series for over four months and has been discussed before in this forum on many threads.) As a person who has enjoyed this series since it began, I can say that the producers certainly didn’t try to play it safe with the final season. Within the first few episodes, several of the characters make radical changes from what we have seen before. Some of this is due to the revelation of four major characters as Cylons at the close of the third season. Some of it is due to the writers taking some odd side turns on the way to the series conclusion. This effectively jettisons the stand-alone episodes that popped up here and there over the past two years, but it also means that characters suddenly do things that would never have been conceivable before. (My own biggest “huh?” moment came when Tyrol suddenly began attending Baltar’s sermons. The idea of Baltar doing this was strange enough already, but it’s hard to believe that Tyrol would suddenly forget everything about the prior three years…) On the other hand, this half of the season concludes with “Revelations”, an episode that easily stands with the best of the series and contains a shattering conclusion.
The DVD set includes all of the episodes in anamorphic format and 5.1 sound, along with Ron Moore’s podcast commentaries from the Sci-Fi Channel website and varying amounts of deleted scenes for almost every episode. Some episodes receive additional commentaries as well. The set also includes all of David Eick’s video blogs from the Sci-Fi website, with the exception of “One More Photo Op”. The fourth disc includes two featurettes - “The Journey” and “Cylons: The Twelve”, two mock featurettes – “Season 4.5: The Untold Story – Untold” and “The Music of Battlestar Galactica” and a quick teaser for the upcoming Caprica series. The Razor disc is identical to the release I reviewed here over a year ago.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that matches the harsh docudrama look of the series. The episodes present multiple visual environments, although they are primarily based in cramped quarters on various spacecraft. As with the third season, some episodes have moments of extreme graininess, but this is an intentional effect by Director of Photography Steve McNutt, as he has discussed in the past. The closing of the final episode here is an especially thrilling visual moment, albeit in an image deliberately leached of almost all color values.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that mostly uses the front channels. There is a little atmospheric and directional use of the rear channels, particularly for gunfights or loudspeaker effects. But, as with the earlier seasons, the rear speakers are primarily used for music. There’s a little subwoofer work here, during the bigger moments, but the smaller scale of the series limits this.
DISC BY DISC:
As I did with the third season, I think it will work better here to account for what can be found on each disc, in order. Every episode features the original Ronald D. Moore podcast as provided on the Sci-Fi website. (The Razor story meetings from the website are not included here)
This disc is identical to the already released Battlestar Galactica: Razor disc of more than a year ago. As I have already reviewed that disc here, I point readers toward that review for more information. The inclusion of this disc is apparently due both to a wish for the viewers to see the whole story of the series, and because that movie is considered by the producers to be the first two episodes of the fourth season. It took me some time to understand why the crew and producers kept referring to the season half episode as number “twelve”, until I factored in the two hours from Razor.
He That Believeth in Me, with deleted scenes (7:52, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
Six of One, with deleted scenes (15:28, Non-anamoprhic) and podcast commentary (The Digital Bits is reporting that an additional deleted scene for this episode can be found at the Best Buy website. I’ve verified this, but the scenes discussed are reversed – Adama’s test flight of Kara’s Viper is in this episode…)
The Ties That Bind, with deleted scenes (1:03, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
Escape Velocity, with deleted scenes (3:34, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
When the disc is first put into the player, the viewer can see non-anamorphic trailers for DVDs of Heroes: Season Two, the upcoming individual releases of the Back to the Future trilogy, Death Race on both DVD and Blu-ray, and a teaser for the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
The Road Less Traveled, with deleted scenes (6:21, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
Faith, with deleted scenes (3:51, Non-anamorphic) and a new commentary by Ron Moore, Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. (The podcast commentary for this episode is not included here) (An additional deleted scene for this ep can be found at the Best Buy website, this one being a discussion between Anders and two Sharons.)
Guess What’s Coming to Dinner, with deleted scenes (5:59, Non-anamorphic), and a new commentary by Ron Moore and episode writer Michael Angeli. (No podcast commentary exists for this episode)
The disc also contains:
David Eick’s Video Blogs - (40:02 total, Non-anamorphic) – Ten video blogs from David Eick are included on this disc, although not the blog “One More Photo Op” from the website. The full list of blogs on this disc is “Love in Space”, “Why Hath David Forsaken Us?” (which plays off the idea that Eick was spending more time focusing on his other show at the time, The Bionic Woman), “So, This Is It”, “What Next? What Now?”, “Digital Pressure”, “Space Cowboys”, “Lucy’s Breakdown”, “Are You Frakkin’ Kidding Me?”, “I’m A Frakkin’ Cylon” and “Last Call”. There appears to be a glitch in the “Play All” function here – it cuts the playback after “I’m A Frakkin’ Cylon” unless the viewer can jump a moment later.
The disc also contains a PREVIEWS section, containing non-anamorphic previews for the DVD releases of the TV shows Columbo, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, House, Law & Order, Monk, The Office, psych and Quantum Leap.
Sine Qua Non, with deleted scenes (2:28, Non-anamorphic) and a new commentary by Ron Moore and episode writer Michael Taylor (No podcast commentary exists for this episode)
The Hub, with deleted scenes (10:18, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
Revelations, with deleted scenes (4:42, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary
The Journey (20:52, Anamorphic) – This featurette covers the cast and producers’ feelings about where the show is winding up, and what ground they’ve covered. It’s mostly the usual mutual compliments, but there’s some interesting material from a Comicon Q & A session with the cast and producers.
Cylons: The Twelve (15:55, Anamorphic) – This featurette focuses on the various Cylon models already shown to the viewers, with interviews with several of the cast playing them. Most of the focus is on the four people revealed as Cylons at the close of the third season. There’s more material from the Comicon Q & A session. Of course, inevitably, someone asks for a “clue” about who the final Cylon is. And gets the predictable response from Ron Moore: “Well, we’d have to lock all the doors and keep all of you here. I can tell you it’s someone you’ve seen.” And then, of course, “No, NO CLUES for the final Cylon.”
Season 4.5: The Untold Story - Untold (1:21, Non-anamorphic) – In all honesty, I have no idea why this was put on the DVD, other than as a cruel joke on the fans. They have to know that you’re going to click on this to see what it is, only to be told that they’re not going to tell you ANYTHING about the final episodes. Do they have a hidden camera in everyone’s home watching people get frustrated with this?
The Music of Battlestar Galactica (22:32, Non-anamorphic) – This is a mostly bogus featurette focusing on the efforts of composer Bear McReary to be noticed and appreciated by the cast and producers of the show. Much of it consists of James Callis taking a camcorder around the set and trailers and trying to get the other cast members to say nice things about McReary. The response by Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan is especially instructive.
Caprica Sneak Peek (1:32, Non-anamorphic) – This is a very brief glimpse at the upcoming series, with clips from the pilot film made last year. Viewers will not likely see the new show for another year – enough time for the final episodes of Galactica to have aired and come out on DVD in the interim.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the episodes and for the special features. Standard chapter menus are included for quick reference. Again, there was a glitch in the "Play All" function for the video blogs, but you can still access all the blogs individually.
IN THE END...
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 takes the show’s viewers down some very strange roads on the way to the final conclusion, but there are still many rewards to be enjoyed here. This is a no-brainer purchase for fans of the show, and a great way to whet the appetite for the final episodes, which are only a week and a half away.
January 6, 2009.