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Blu-ray Review: Battlestar Galactica – Razor

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During the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were these slightly-shady full-length features specials that would air on television from time to time. Essentially, these so-called “movies” were often nothing more than two one-hour episodes of a certain series that were played back-to-back and re-titled and frequently advertised as being “All New.” My first encounter with one of these compilation movies was 1981’s Farewell To The Planet Of The Apes, which was just two random episodes of the short-lived Planet Of The Apes TV series from the mid-’70s slapped together like a bologna sandwich (with extra bologna). After that first hour had passed-by, I — probably like many other television viewers — suddenly began to realize that I had been duped.

But some people were lucky enough to pay to see compilation movies. The feature-length TV pilots for both Buck Rogers In The 25th Century and the original Battlestar Galactica TV series (also short-lived) were released theatrically in the US before being aired on the boob tube. Additionally, our brethren in Europe were privileged enough to pay to see an assemblage of the premiere episodes of Galactica 1980 (which was the oh-so-bad Battlestar Galactica spin-off, in case you have succeeded in blocking it out of your memory), entitled Conquest Of The Earth.

And, although the standalone feature-length TV-movie special Battlestar Galactica: Razor is hardly a compilation movie by definition, it still has a certain familiar “patchwork factory” odor about it.

Originally aired between the third and fourth seasons of the Sci-Fi (or “SyFy,” as they now call it) Channel reboot (or “re-imagining,” as they insist on calling it), Battlestar Galactica: Razor does what so many US-based conglomerates do so well: it outsources itself to another party. Meet Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen), crewmember of the Battlestar Pegasus and main character for this, her one-and-only appearance in the entire Battlestar Galactica universe. That in itself is a bit odd, considering the Pegasus and her crew were featured prominently in the finale of the show’s third season; you’d think we’d have caught at least a fleeting glimpse of her in that time. Sadly, such is not the case. No, instead, Ms. Shaw serves as the glue that holds this TV-special together.

Basically, the whole project gives me that compilation movie feel because of its constant tendency to flaunt some flashbacks at us. The “main” story here (if there is one) only interjects itself every now and again, to wit the regular Battlestar Galactica (Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Barber, et al) appear. In-between those moments, we are treated to Shaw’s flashback and her interactions with the crew of the Pegasus — mainly that ship’s commander, Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes). In fact, Shaw’s flashbacks contain some of Cain’s flashbacks. Argh! Flashbacks, flashbacks, flashbacks! There are more flashbacks in this one TV-movie than there are usages of the word “frak” in the entire series! And, when you stop to think that this TV-movie was preceded by several Internet webisodes entitled Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashbacks, it’s enough to make you want to watch Galactica 1980.

Speaking of the “original” Battlestar Galactica series, Battlestar Galactica: Razor does manage to make any of the “old-school” fans grin a bit: one of the flashbacks (#642, if my math is correct) features a working of the original show’s theme during a battle between a young William Adama (Nico Cortez, who will reportedly revisit the part in an upcoming prequel series). Additionally, that flashback (as well as one of Cain’s) and the show’s main “plot” occasionally set focus on the first-generation series of Cylons — giving us a peek at what the old clunker robots John Colicos used to boss around would have looked like had they had modern CGI in the ‘70s. Why, they even had to dig up the old vocoder used in the old TV series just to make the classic line “By your command” sound all the more authentic.

Frankly, those “retro” moments were the only ones that really did anything for me; and no amount of dramatic “oh-oh-ah-ah” vocalizing on the soundtrack could erase the feeling that Battlestar Galactica: Razor was nothing more than a throwaway episode.

But wait, there’s more! Like the Standard DVD version issued in 2007, the 2010 Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica: Razor gives you the option of watching the original broadcast version of the made-for-TV movie, or the Unrated Extended Version which includes even more flashbacks (such as the aforementioned Adama/Cylon battle; you can tell it’s part of the Extended version since the word “cocksucker” slips through instead of “motherfrakker”). The difference here is that now you can see both versions in High-Def. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of the 1.78:1 widescreen TV special is pretty impressive (which is expected, since the series was filmed in HD), and is only really marred by some grain in the darker scenes. Colors are rich, contrast is deep, and those space battles really look super-cool (especially if you’re a fan of the show to begin with).

Also of note here is the 50GB disc’s English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack. Although the story itself didn’t rub me the right way, the sound definitely managed to capture my attention at times, from the aforementioned dramatic “oh-oh-ah-ah” vocalizing from the show’s incidental music score to the vast array of sound effects. Also housed on the disc are three subtitle selections: English (SDH), French, and Spanish.

Special Features for this disc appear to include everything found in the 2007 SD-DVD, with the exception of an intro from writer/producer Ronald D. Moore (which, incidentally, was produced for the Blu-ray release of the complete series and probably tagged on here). Moore and co-writer Michael Taylor also deliver an audio commentary for the Unrated Extended Version of the episode. Next up are several SD bonus items: a couple of Deleted Scenes, the Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashbacks webisodes (dear God, no!), two brief featurettes entitled “The Look Of Battlestar Galactica” and “My Favorite Episodes So Far,” and a couple of looks at Season Four (the last couple of features really tell you that these bonus goodies were carried over wholesale from the DVD, since the Fourth Season of the series was also the last).

In short: Battlestar Galactica: Razor is probably best recommended for diehard fans and purists only.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.