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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica Season Three - Recommended

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#1 of 6 Kevin EK

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Posted August 10 2010 - 11:06 AM

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BATTLESTAR

GALACTICA

SEASON THREE


Studio:  Universal

Original Airing: 2006-2007

Length:  15 hrs 55 mins

Genre: Science Fiction


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


BD Resolution: 1080p

BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ a variable average – from 15 mbps to 35 mbps)

Color/B&W: Color


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1  (@ an average 3.5 mbps)


Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Film Rating: Unrated (Some Sci-Fi Violence and Bloodshed, Language, Sexuality)


Release Date: July 27, 2010


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


Film Rating:    3 ½ /5



About 2 ½ years ago, I issued a review of the Season 3 standard definition DVD set of Battlestar Galactica.   I’ll be using sections of that review here where appropriate.  Essentially, we’re looking at a Blu-ray release of this season, using the same SD features from the original DVD release, coupled with the newer HD transfers from the Complete Series Blu-ray set.   So this release is designed to appeal to fans who would prefer to purchase the seasons on an individual basis rather than picking up the whole farm, so to speak.  It’s a fine release, but I must stress that there are no new features here.  The advantage here will really just be the HD transfers, to be perfectly honest.


Battlestar Galactica: Season Three on Blu-ray is a five disc set compiling all of the episodes of the Ronald D. Moore/David Eick series’ third season in HD, along with the established battery of extras and special features from the 2008 DVD set, and adding in a couple of U-Control features and a “Colonial Military Assessment Quiz.”   Looking back at the episodes, by this point in the series, the storylines have been fairly well developed and have progressed far past the point of introduction, so it may be difficult for new viewers to pick up the story here. (I would recommend watching the seasons in order, as many episodes in the third season refer back to past events from the first two years.) For viewers ready for the ride, this season is possibly the richest one yet. The story is constructed in five movements: the first completes the New Caprica storyline and gets everyone back to space, the second deals with the fallout from New Caprica and includes one standalone piece, the third brings the human and Cylon fleets to a distant algae planet that may hold a crucial clue for their search, the fourth provides the usual fleet and individual stories that tend to pop up in the second half of the season, and the final movement finds Baltar on trial and throws a lot of balls up in the air before the inevitable twist ending and cliffhanger. Not every episode succeeds, but the ones that do (the “Exodus” two parter, “The Passage”, “Maelstrom”) are not only good science fiction but also moving stories of humanity and its failings. By the end of the season, the groundwork has been laid for the next and final season (although you could reasonably argue that there were effectively TWO seasons after this one).

The Blu-ray set includes all of the episodes in VC-1 1080p and DTS-HD MA sound mixes, along with Ron Moore’s podcast commentaries from the Sci-Fi Channel website and a few minutes 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 SD DVD set. In addition, the set also includes the complete “Resistance” webisode series shown at the Sci-Fi website in the weeks before the Season Three premiere in the fall of 2006. As a special bonus, the set also includes a much longer cut of the episode "Unfinished Business", with 25 minutes of deleted scenes that didn't make it to the aired version, along with a new commentary by Ron Moore and the editor to explain what was going on.  For Blu-ray, two U-Control features have been added.  One is “The Oracle”, which pops up at times to provide character information about whoever is being featured onscreen at the moment.  The second is “Battlestar Blips”, which provides snippets of trivia at various points throughout the episodes.  The “Blips” feature is designed to feed into an interactive trivia test on Disc 5, the “Colonial Military Assessment Quiz”.  Essentially, if you read through the various Blips and then take the test, you should ace it.  I only managed to get to the rank of Colonel Tigh, which is truly depressing…



          

VIDEO QUALITY   4/5

Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.78:1 transfer that easily improves on the video quality from the SD set, but is a bit limited by the specific look of this series.  The bitrates vary wildly from episode to episode and from scene to scene.  As a stylistic choice, there are some scenes that show quite heavy grain, and other places where the color palette is quite limited.  But this is the choice of the producers and Director of Photography Steve McNutt.  So this is as good a visual presentation as you’re likely to see, and for a lower budget television series, it’s quite presentable.  I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.



AUDIO QUALITY   4/5

Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which adds a bit more subwoofer kick and clearer atmospherics than could be heard on the standard definition set.  The music comes through loud and clear through all the channels, but like almost all television series, much of the sound is in the front channels with the dialogue.


SPECIAL FEATURES      4/5

As per my usual procedure here, I’ll account for what can be found on each disc, in order.  To save time, I’ll say first that every episode features the original Ronald D. Moore podcast commentary from the Sci-Fi Channel website.  (As with the SD set, the Writer’s Roundtable and other bonus podcasts from the website are not included here)


All discs contain a Blu-ray U-Control feature on the episodes, which brings up Picture-in-Picture text about various subjects. There are two aspects to this. On all discs, there is a function called “The Oracle”, which provides character and ship background, as well as stats for the main characters of the episodes. There is also a series of “Battlestar Blips”, which are little bits of trivia about the series.   The purpose of the “Blips” is clearly to feed into a trivia game on the  5th disc called the “Colonial Military Assessment Quiz.”  If you pay close attention to the “Blips”, you’ll do better than I did on the quiz.



DISC BY DISC:



DISC ONE:

Episodes:

Occupation, with deleted scenes (2:11, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Precipice, with deleted scenes (1.23, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Exodus, Pt 1, with podcast commentary

Exodus, Pt 2, with deleted scenes (5:21, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Collaborators, with deleted scenes (3:14, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary



Disc 1 also has BD-Live functionality, allowing users to access the BD-Live site to download trailers, an online trivia game, and a character card game. The card and trivia games require users to log in to the Universal BD-Live community.




DISC TWO:

Episodes:


Torn, with deleted scenes (1:26, 480p, Non-anamoprhic) and podcast commentary

A Measure of Salvation, with deleted scenes (10:36, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Hero, with deleted scenes (5:38, 480p, Non-anamorphic), podcast commentary and an additional commentary with David Eick (who wrote the episode)

Unfinished Business (aired version), with podcast commentary by Ron Moore and cast members Grace Park and Tahmoh Penikett.

The disc also contains



“The Resistance” Webisodes- (26:25 total, 480p, Non-anamorphic) The complete ten-part website series is included here. The events of this story lead directly into the first episode of the third season. The photography and sound match that of the regular episodes. The story mostly follows minor characters who will become more important as things get going during the season.


David Eick’s Video Blogs- (15:38 total, 480p, Non-anamorphic) – Five video blogs from David Eick are included on this disc. Some are from the Sci-Fi website and some have not been seen before this release. I will indicate the new blogs in italics. The full list of blogs on this disc is “Testimonials”, “Who Dies?”, “Prosthetics”, “Lucy and David”, and “Introducing Bulldog”. There’s a lot of jokey material in the blogs, but there’s also some interesting material, including a look at the makeup work done on Jamie Bamber to make him appear to have gained a lot of weight for the early episodes.



DISC THREE:

Episodes:

Unfinished Business (uncut version), with commentary by Ron Moore
(The longer version contains 25 minutes of deleted material that had to be cut for the aired version)


The Passage, with deleted scenes (6:13, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary (As a side note, I have to admit this is my favorite episode of the 3rd Season.)

The Eye of Jupiter, with deleted scenes (2:55, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Rapture, with deleted scenes (2:59, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

The disc also contains:



David Eick’s Video Blogs- (20:53 total, Non-anamorphic) – Six video blogs from David Eick are included on this disc. I will indicate the one new blog with italics. The full list of blogs on this disc is “Characters”, “Adama on Adama”, “Episode 6 Read Through”, “On the Road”, “Steve McNutt Gets a Video Blog” and “The Soldier’s Code: Leave No Man Behind”. Three of the blogs here focus on the mid-season cliffhanger and the location shooting in Kamloops.



DISC FOUR:

Episodes:

Taking a Break from All Your Worries, with deleted scenes (3:53, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

The Woman King, with deleted scenes (2:18, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

A Day in the Life, with deleted scenes (1:33, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Dirty Hands, with deleted scenes (2:44, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary

Maelstrom, with deleted scenes (8:44, 480p, Non-anamorphic) and podcast commentary




DISC FIVE:

Episodes:

The Son Also Rises, with deleted scenes (2:19, 480p, Non-anamorphic), podcast commentary, and a commentary with Mark Sheppard and writer Michael Angeli

Crossroads, pt 1, with deleted scenes (2:33, 480p, Non-anamorphic), podcast commentary, and a commentary with Mark Sheppard

Crossroads, pt 2, with deleted scenes (3:26, 480p, Non-anamorphic), podcast commentary, and a commentary with Mark Sheppard. (THE DELETED SCENES INCLUDE AN ALTERNATE ENDING TO THE SEASON, WHICH IS INTERESTING ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT AS EFFECTIVE AS THE ONE THEY ACTUALLY USED)



The disc also contains:


David Eick’s Video Blogs(39:39 total, Non-anamorphic) – The final eleven of Eick’s blogs for Season Three are included here. I have indicated the two blogs new to viewers with italics. The full list of blogs is “Takin’ A Break From All Your Worries”, “On the Road pt 2”, “Some Guy Named Colin”, “Building a Better Show”, “Katee’s Scrapbook”, “Shooting”, “Mr. Eddie, If You Please”, “Oceans in the Desert”, “David Who?”, “Out of Control” and “Last Episode Blues”. There is some irony here in that the unaired blogs contain a lot of comments intended to promote the episodes, but are now effectively archival pieces.


Colonial Military Assessment Quiz– This is the interactive trivia game that pays off the “Battlestar Blips” trivia notes from the various episodes.  Get enough of the questions right, and you’ll get a higher rank in the fleet.


Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the episodes and for the special features.   Standard chapter menus are included for quick reference. The usual Blu-ray pop-up menus work fine. In the event that you pause the show for more than a few minutes, a Universal Logo will appear as a screensaver. For my PS3, I only need to hit the “Enter” button to get back into the episode in progress.  I need to also comment on the packaging here. As with the other Blu-ray BSG sets, there’s an odd setup here where four of the five discs are packed in a way that you must remove one disc to get to the other. I was okay with this, but I remember that other people were frustrated by this on the Season 4.5 set.



IN THE END...

Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is a nice high definition presentation of the third season of the award-winning series.  As I have noted before in my reviews of the DVDs of this series, it would likely be very confusing for someone unfamiliar with the show to start their journey with this set.  But for those who already know the show or have at least seen the first 2 seasons, this will be a moving and interesting experience.  Given that it hit the streets two weeks ago, I have a feeling that fans of the series have already picked this up, assuming they didn’t buy the Complete Series on Blu-ray when that debuted last year.  For anyone hasn’t seen this yet, however, I am happy to recommend it for purchase.


Kevin Koster

August 10, 2010. 



#2 of 6 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 10 2010 - 01:32 PM

Having recently completed the entire series on
Blu-ray I have a few comments.


First, a very good review, Kevin.  I am very happy

that you pointed out the stylistic choices that the

director made that makes some scenes look grainer

than others.


...however, I didn't find that to be a noticeable
problem in Season 3 as I did in Season One.
Season One was plagued with grain that you
could tell was not artistically intended.

...but enough about Season One.


Certainly no-one is going to pick up Season

Three and begin their BSG experience here.

And, those that already watched the first two

seasons on Blu-ray are certainly going to opt

to finish the story.


Unfortunately, Season Three goes into a
downward spiral soon after you get through

its first third.  I found the first two seasons

of BSG to be absolutely brilliant storytelling

that seemed to be highly inventive and well

planned out.  However, by the mid-end of

Season Three you get the feeling that the

writers just ran out of ideas.

Very happy I chose to wait to purchase and

experience this show on Blu-ray, though I do

agree with Kevin that because of the style they

chose to shoot this show, you never get the

feeling that you are getting the benefit of the

Blu-ray presentation. I would estimate, however,
that the DVD version pales in comparison.

For anyone that has never seen BSG, I implore

you to watch one of the greatest Science Fiction

series ever made.  For the first 2.5 seasons, the

show is remarkably fantastic.  Wish they could

have kept up that momentum through the very end.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#3 of 6 RickER

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Posted August 10 2010 - 02:01 PM

I agree with you completely Ron. The first 1/3 to 1/2 of season 3 was great!

As we talked about in your thread, and i think others, an important plot had been dropped the last 1/2 of season 3, and they lost some story momentum. I dont think they had any good ideas in the short term to replace the plot that was cut. And it shows, as this season has my most hated episode!

However, the first half of this season is so good, its still a keeper. Its THAT good.

I already own 4.5, and didnt care for the first half of season 4 either. So my Galactica Blu collection is now complete!



#4 of 6 Kevin EK

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Posted August 10 2010 - 04:52 PM

To be honest, I actually had a lot of issues with the 2nd half of Season 2 as well, after the Pegasus 3-parter, when they were doing a series of episodes that really didn't feel like things were moving forward much.  Things got better when they did "Downloaded", which was the first time in a while that I perked up at one of the eps, and then the finale was a jawdropper.


I agree that the first half of Season 3 is much stronger than the 2nd half.  For story strength, the first four hours is great.  And the f midseason 2-parter at the Algae planet is good stuff too.  But I still think the best ep of the year is "The Passage" - simply because the character scenes are the best of the year.


The second half of the year gets downright strange at times, and the choices that get made at the end lead to what felt truly odd in the 4th season.  But I do think things got paid off in an interesting way as they wound down to the close.


Looking back, my favorite ep may still be in Season 2:  "Home, Pt 2".  The ending inside the Temple was truly inspired.



#5 of 6 Southpaw

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Posted August 11 2010 - 01:57 AM

*slightly off topic*

I just recently finished up season 3 (Crossroads) of my complete series box set.
I have yet to fire up season 4 and I'm wondering if the first episode of that season should be the next one I watch. I've read things about Razor and didn't know if that should be what comes next. My readings of various reviews has me very confused to the ordering of these episodes.
I guess I'm asking if the blu-ray set does put them in the order in which they should be watched.



#6 of 6 TravisR

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Posted August 11 2010 - 02:35 AM

Originally Posted by Southpaw 

*slightly off topic*

I just recently finished up season 3 (Crossroads) of my complete series box set.
I have yet to fire up season 4 and I'm wondering if the first episode of that season should be the next one I watch.



The first episode of S4 picks up right where S3 ends. You could watch Razor (which takes place during S2) in between S3 and S4 if you wanted to though.