Original Airing: 2007
Length: 1 hour 27 mins (Broadcast Version), 1 hour 43 mins (Extended Version)
Genre: Science Fiction
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: AVC (@ 28+ mbps)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (@ an average 3.8 mbps)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: Unrated (Some Sci-Fi Violence and Bloodshed, Sexuality)
Release Date: December 28, 2010
Starring: Stephanie Jacobsen, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber and Michelle Forbes
Executive Producers: Ronald D. Moore and David Eick
Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed by: Felix Alcala
Film Rating: 3 ½/5
About 3 years ago, I issued a review of the standard definition DVD of Battlestar Galactica: Razor. I’ll be using sections of that review here where appropriate. Essentially, we’re looking at a Blu-ray release of that disc, using the same SD features from the original DVD release, coupled with newer HD transfers of the picture and sound. The only difference here will really just be the HD transfers, to be perfectly honest.
Battlestar Galactica: Razor on Blu-ray contains both versions of the TV movie in HD, along with the established battery of extras and special features from the 2007 DVD, and adding in a couple of U-Control features. This telefilm is not so much a bridge between the show’s 3rd and 4th seasons as it is a revisiting of themes the series is fond of exploring. The primary story centers on a new character, Kendra Shaw, played by Stephanie Jacobsen, who rises to prominence on the infamous Battlestar Pegasus under the command of fan favourite Michelle Forbes as the ruthless Admiral Cain. The story flashes backwards and forwards, all the way from a war fought 40 years earlier to a time near the end of the series’ 2nd season, as the son of Admiral Adama takes command of the Pegasus. The plot follows a mission that reveals facets not only of Shaw but of several more familiar characters, especially the elder Adama and Cain. This film makes the most of its budget, showing us large-scale battles and mayhem not normally shown on a regular basis during the series. But the show still focuses on the real strength of the series – the feeling that all of these characters are haunted by their actions, a feeling of almost impending doom. As a younger man, I once saw a stage production that was described in the director’s notes as a depiction of “the last five minutes of a civilization.” That description is quite appropriate for the new Battlestar series, and it is borne out by the events of this telefilm as well. That said, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, both in some clever references to the earlier series and in a sly reference to ALIENS that is present not only in dialogue but also in one very clever sound effect. There’s also a reference to Unforgiven if you listen for it, but it’s a real quick one.
SPOILER WARNING HERE: I won’t spoil the details of the story for you here, but I will give one bit of advice. As with the series, the telefilm features an oracle of sorts – you’ll know who and what that is when you see it. As with all oracles, it’s a good idea to listen to everything this one says. If the viewer hasn’t actually seen the television series before, it is still possible to enjoy this telefilm, but it’s likely to be a lot more entertaining for someone who has a full knowledge of the show.
The Blu-ray edition of the telefilm includes HD transfers of both the broadcast version, and an extended version that includes just over 15 minutes of additional footage. Much of this footage consists of more extensive flashbacks of a younger Adama’s exploits, as already seen in the “minisodes” presented on the Sci-Fi Channel’s website. There’s a little further footage, including an earlier flashback to Shaw on Caprica and a flashback to Admiral Cain as a young girl, but the bulk of the telefilm is identical between the versions.
The Blu-ray contains AVC 1080p picture transfers and DTS-HD MA sound mixes for the two cuts, along with Ron Moore and Michael Taylor’s commentary from the earlier DVD. In addition, the discc also includes the complete “Minisode” series shown at the Sci-Fi website in the weeks before this telefilm originally aired. For Blu-ray, two U-Control features have been added. One is “The Oracle”, which pops up at times to provide character or vessel information about whoever is being featured onscreen at the moment. The second is “Battlestar Actual”, which provides snippets of trivia and definitions of jargon at various points throughout the movie.
VIDEO QUALITY 4/5
Battlestar Galactica: Razor is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.78:1 transfer that easily improves on the video quality from the SD set, and showcases the extensive CGI created for this TV movie. That said, the interior dialogue scenes show intentionally heavy grain and limit the color palette available.. 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: Razor is presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which adds more subwoofer kick to what was already a fairly good mix with many opportunities for the subwoofer to play even in the standard definition edition. There’s a bit more atmospheric sound in the surrounds on the Blu-ray than I recall hearing on the standard definition edition.
SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5
The Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica: Razor essentially ports over all the extras from the prior standard definition DVD, all in 480p. Thedisc also contains 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. First, 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 “Battlestar Actual” function, which displays bits of trivia and jargon from the series.
I should also note that the Blu-ray playback begins with the same video introduction by Ronald D. Moore that presages all other Blu-ray releases of this series.
Commentary for the Unrated Extended Edition with Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor- The extended edition of the telefilm has a commentary option with producer/writers Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor. For those who’ve been following these guys for a while, they’ve actually been working together since Star Trek: DS9, so it’s no surprise that Moore pulled Taylor into this project as of its 3rd season. (Taylor previously wrote several episodes of this series, including the first part of last season’s ending opus). Moore and Taylor have a lot of fun discussing the various ideas they had for this telefilm, and sound quite pleased with the project, particularly the sequences where they are able to bring back elements from the original series through the magic of CGI. I should note that this commentary is not the one available via podcast from the Sci-Fi website. That podcast is actually a writers’ meeting, and not a scene-specific commentary, as this one is.
Deleted Scenes- (3:38 total, 480p, Non-anamorphic) – Two deleted scenes are included here in non-anamorphic format. Both feature the character of Lee Adama. One is an extended introduction to Kendra Shaw’s earliest flashback, this time showing Lee Adama just before the start of the original miniseries for this edition of the show. The second flashback concerns both Lee Adama and Starbuck dealing with the consequences of their actions from the first season episode “33”. (The point of the flashback – that Lee and Starbuck are both haunted by their actions just as Shaw and the others are – is an interesting one, but it isn’t needed to tell this story, and it isn’t missed in the flow of the story.)
The Look of Battlestar Galactica- (7:59, 480p, Anamorphic) - This anamorphic featurette covers the pseudo-documentary look of the series and this telefilm. Footage from the series is mixed with some on-set video of the making of the telefilm, along with interviews with not only execs Ron Moore and David Eick and the cast, but also, crucially, production designer Richard Hudolin and DP Steve McNutt.
My Favorite Episode So Far- (10:27, 480p, Anamorphic) – This featurette mixes interviews with the cast and producers with some of their favourite segments from the series. Most of the choices are pretty clear. Edward James Olmos, of course, stands out by making a typically individual choice.
Season 4 Sneak Peek- (2:33, 480p, Anamorphic) - This anamorphic featurette is really just a clarification of how this telefilm relates to the upcoming fourth and final season of the series. SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS FEATURETTE – DO NOT WATCH IT UNTIL YOU HAVE ALREADY WATCHED THE TELEFILM.
Season 4 Trailer- (:47, 480p, Non-anamorphic) – This is just a brief trailer for the then-upcoming season, with a few tantalizing glimpses of what viewers could not see until April 2008.
Minisodes (19:18 Total, Anamorphic) – This is a collection of the “minisode” adventures of the young Bill Adama, as seen on the Sci-Fi Channel website. They are presented in anamorphic format. The first two episodes (roughly 5 minutes) and the final episode featuring Olmos as the older Adama (roughly 3 minutes) are footage that was not used in any version of the telefilm.
U-Control– This is the PIP character information/trivia feature mentioned earlier, under the banners “The Oracle” and “Battlestar Actual”.
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.
IN THE END...
Battlestar Galactica: Razor gets a nice high definition presentation for versions on this disc. 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 disc. 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. Watching it again showed me that the movie still has plenty of charms and compelling moments.
January 1, 2011.