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Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5

(2009) *** 1/2 Unrated
763 min. SciFi Channel. Cast: Michael Hogan, Edward James Olmos.

/content/films/3491/1.jpgThe post-milennial Battlestar Galactica is one of the oddest success stories in television. A free-thinking reimagining of ABC-TV's one-season cult flop, SciFi Channel's Battlestar Galactica launched with a manifesto by executive producer Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation) promising "naturalistic science fiction" that would steer around the traditonal TV sci-fi pitfalls of "stock characters, techno-double-talk, bumpy-headed aliens, thespian histrionics, and empty heroics." With the final ten episodes of the series, it can now be said: mission accomplished.

The second half of the fourth season deals with what may or may not be "humanity's final chapter," beginning with the crushing realization that the "Earth" they've been seeking has turned out to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland unsuitable for habitation. What follows involves a tentative truce between humans and cybernetic Cylon rebels that results in unrest among the population but, where it counts, surprisingly civil relations. Cancer-ridden President Laura Roslyn is using her final days to do everything in her power to secure humanity's future security. By damning the torpedoes (and an elected council) and going full steam ahead with her plans, the dying Roslyn comes across as something of a benevolent tyrant, while Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber)—now firmly entrenched in fleet politics himself—holds himself to a higher moral standard that makes him another brand of brave paragon.

Lee's father, fleet commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) remains typically tortured in constant make-or-break decisions made under increasingly maddening conditions. Like his beloved ship the Galactica, Adama is being pulled apart: his lover, Roslyn, is dying, and his lifelong best friend and first mate Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) has turned out to be a Cylon with divided loyalties. Much of the suspense of the run-up to the finale involves whether or not an in-denial Adama will be able to come to terms with the inevitable losses of his two loves: Roslyn and Galactica. Of course, the series' complex mythology also has a few mysteries left to solve, including the identity of the final Cylon and what the frak is going on with walking dead Starbuck.

When one dying Cylon croaks out the last words, "Too much confusion," even some fans will probably empathize, but the series will remain in rotation on TV and home video for people to cycle to the beginning and sort it all out. Aptly, Moore makes good use of the Peter Pan line "All this has happened before, and will happen again," especially in the divisive (but brilliant, in my opinion) finale. The last ten episodes of Battlestar Galactica deliver plenty of puzzles, prophecies and dreams; answer questions and raise others; and pay off characters in satisfying and usually surprising ways.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 7/28/2009

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Universal has simultaneously released to Blu-ray Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series and Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5. The latter is a three-disc set packed with bonus content, including three extended episodes. The picture quality is outstanding, capturing the series' HD cinematography in its every nuance of color, flaring light, and grain-infused detail. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks are among the best you'll ever hear for a TV show, especially when the stories explode into outer-space action.

Disc One includes Deleted Scenes for "Sometimes a Great Notion" (7:25, SD), "The Oath" (3:36), and "Blood on the Scales" (4:46) and commentaries for "A Disquiet Follows My Soul Unaired Extended Episode" (executive producer and episode director Ronald D. Moore), "Sometimes a Great Notion" (Moore), "A Disquiet Follows My Soul" (Moore), "The Oath" (Moore), and "Blood on the Scales" (Moore).

There are also a couple of U-Control options: The Oracle (an interactive pop-up guide to ships and characters) and Battlestar Actual (a glossary of BSG terms).

Beware of spoilers! If you're watching the series for the first time, don't click on "The Journey Ends: The Arrival" (12:47, HD) until you've finished watching the whole series (I know, I know: why put this on Disc One instead of Disc Three?). The behind-the-scenes doc features developer/executive producer Ronald D. Moore, Eick, writer/co-executive producer Michael Angeli, Michael Trucco, writer/co-executive producer Mark Verheiden, Edward James Olmos, writer/co-executive producer Jane Espenson, Richard Hatch, Michael Hogan, Jamie Bamber, Alessandro Juliani, Grace Park, James Callis, Bodie Olmos, Rekha Sharma, Kate Vernon, and director of photography Stephen McNutt.

"Evolution of a Cue" (23:14, SD) is a fascinating look at the discussions regarding a music cue, its composition, the production of 173 tracks, and their mixing back into a single piece of score. Interviewed are composer Bear McCreary, co-producer Paul M. Leonard, editor Michael O'Halloran, Moore, orchestrator Brandon Roberts, orchestration consultant James Hopkins,  co-producer/engineer Steve Kaplan, woodwind player Chris Bleth, percussionist M.B. Gordy, violinist Paul Cartwright, and music editor Michael Baber.

"What the Frak Is Going On With Battlestar Galactica?" (8:18, SD) is a recap montage of the series to date. For the record, the infamously snarky narrator (who gave the same treatment to Lost in the very similar eight-minute montage "Lost in 8:15″) is Mary O’Brien, senior writer/producer at Met|Hodder in Minneapolis.

Disc Two includes Deleted Scenes for "No Exit" (3:45, SD), "Deadlock" (13:09, SD), and "Someone to Watch Over Me" (4:37, SD); eleven of "David Eick's Video Blogs" (44:47 with "Play All" option, SD); and commentaries on "Islanded in a Stream of Stars Unaired Extended Episode" (star and director Edward James Olmos), "No Exit" (Moore), "Deadlock" (Moore), "Someone to Watch Over Me" (Moore), and "Islanded in a Stream of Stars" (Moore). U-Control returns with The Oracle and Battlestar Actual.

Disc Three includes Deleted Scenes from the finale (5:20, SD) and commentaries for "Daybreak Unaired Extended Episode" (director Michael Rymer, Eick, and Moore), "Daybreak, Part 1" (Moore) and "Daybreak, Part 2" (Moore).

In U-Control, you'll find Battlestar Actual and What the Frak Happened to You?, which branches out to brief summaries of key characters.

"A Look Back" (37:06, HD) concerns the personalities of executive producers Moore and Eick, how Moore's "manifesto" attracted the actors, the establishment of the series' style under the direction of Michael Rymer, Richard Hatch's conversion to the new series, the role of religion in the series, and a collection of very funny anecdotes offered by cast and crew. Participants include director Robert Young, Callis, Bamber, Trucco, Verheiden, Juliani, Sharma, Grace Park, Hatch, Moore, Eick, Olmos, Rymer, steadicam operator Tim Spencer, McNutt, Angeli, Hogan, and Vernon.

"...And They Have a Plan" (4:27, HD) effectively teases the upcoming standalone BSG movie The Plan with Moore, Trucco, Espenson, Tricia Helfer, and Vernon.

"The Musicians Behind 'Daybreak'" (30:29, SD) profiles the people and processes behind the finale's score. Interviewees include McCreary, Gordy, Cartwright, Bleth, guitarist Steve Bartek, bassist John Avila, bagpipes and irish whistle player Eric Rigler, biwa player Doctor Osamu Kitajima, shamisen player Greg Walsh, vocalist Raya Yarbrough, songwriter/vocalist Brendan McCreary, Juliani, and Bear's mom Laura McCreary.

Lastly, the set includes regular Universal features My Scenes and BD-Live.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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