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DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica – Season 4.5

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Battlestar Galactica is a re-imagining of the 1970s science fiction series of the same name, and this new version is enjoying a far greater success than its predecessor. While the original series only lasted one season, the new series lasted for four seasons.

The story behind Battlestar Galactica is fairly simple. The story takes place in a distant part of the universe, where a civilization of humans live on planets that are known as the Twelve Colonies. For 40 years, the colonies have had an armistice with the Cylons, a cybernetic race that, at the beginning of the series, launches a sneak attack on the colonies, wiping out most of the populations of each planet.

The Galactica is the only military ship to survive the attacks because it was considered past its prime and was in the process of being decommissioned when the Cylons launched their strikes. Under the leadership of Commander Adama the Galactica takes up the task of leading a fugitive fleet of survivors to a legendary refuge known as Earth.

The Sci-Fi Channel premiered its initial take on the original story in a mini-series that premiered in December 2003, with Edward James Olmos playing Adama. In the four seasons since, we’ve seen the fleet evade the Cylons while searching for Earth. There are 12 humanoid Cylon models and we’ve known for some time what seven of them look like. In the waning moments of the season three finale we learn who four of the remaining five models are and the revelation was shocking considering some of them are key characters and two of them lead the resistance against the Cylons during part of season three.

When we last left the crew of the Galactica, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace had led them to what they thought was Earth, but in actuality was a bombed-out planet that looked like Earth. During season 4.5 we find Starbuck's charred corpse leading her and the viewers to ponder “What the frak is Starbuck?” We finally also learn who the final Cylon is, we learn something of their origins, and an uneasy alliance forms between the survivors of the sneak attack and the Cylons as they try to find the real Earth. Because of this alliance some of the crew led a rebellion which leads to some executions. There's also a final showdown with the more devious Cylon models, and we learn the final fate of the Galactica and its quest to find the 13th colony aka Earth.

Battlestar Galactica 4.5 has over 15 hours of extras including commentaries, either a podcast or commentary recorded for the DVD. All the commentaries have executive producer Ronald Moore telling behind-the-scenes stories. The podcast commentaries were originally available on the Sci-Fi Channel’s Web site for download after each episode aired.

There are also un-aired extended versions of three of the episodes, "A Disquiet Follows My Soul," "Islanded in a Stream of Stars," and the finale (either one or two episodes depending on who you talk to) “Daybreak." Each comes with commentary. “Disquiet” has Ronald Moore, who admits that the aired version is better than the extended, “Islanded” is with Edward James Olmos who directed the last episodic story since the finale wraps the saga up and he thanks everyone and tells stories of his time on the series. “Disquiet” runs about seven minutes longer, “Islanded” runs over 25 minutes longer and then there’s the controversial (among fans) finale “Daybreak,” which was meant to be one long episode, but was broken up into two episodes of varying length. Now you can watch the extended episode not only the way it was meant to be viewed, but with an additional 30 minutes of story which adds more to the overall story and is better than what was aired.

There’s a great tongue-in-cheek featurette, "What the Frak is Going On with Battlestar Galactica?” which recaps the past three and a half seasons in eight minutes.

"Evolution of a Cue" has composer Bear McCreary talking about creating a specific underscore for a scene.

"The Journey Ends" has the cast and crew reflect on what the show has meant to them, while “A Look Back” has six small segments about the production of the series.

"Deleted Scenes" are all really good, but were cut for time. Thankfully the DVD offers the viewers the option to see them here, and in all there’s almost enough scenes for an episode in itself.

"David Eick’s Video Blogs" has more behind-the-scenes goodness videos just like the previous DVD release that fans of the show will truly enjoy.

There is a sneak peek at the upcoming TV movie The Plan which shows the storyline from the mini-series from the Cylon point of view coming to DVD in October.

“Season 4.5: The Untold Story” is under two minutes of the cast talking about their feelings about these last ten episodes and “Caprica Sneak Peek” is about a minute showing what the upcoming prequel series that leads to the creation of the Cylons and the first Cylon war 40 years before the current series. Both whet the appetite to see more and while Galactica is ending we have Caprica to look forward to.

I have one small complaint, between Season 4.0 and 4.5 was a series of webisodes called The Face of the Enemy that chronicled a story of Felix Gaeta and (SPOLIER ALERT) even outed him. These webisodes aren’t included on this release, the blu-ray edition or even the complete series. The webisodes aren’t anything new to the fans of Galactica, a series ran between Seasons 2 and 3 and Seasons 3 and 4 and were included on past DVD’s, the question is where is this final set of webisodes?

Over the past five years and four seasons, Battlestar Galactica has won numerous awards, landed on many "top-10 series of the year" lists, and has been great TV to watch. While it was good to see the Galactica and its crew reach its goal, it’s sad to see the series end. However not only is there the prequel series Caprica coming (which Syfy has announced will start in January 2010) there is the TV movie The Plan (directed by Edward James Olmos who has gone on record that this will not be last story of the Galactica) to look forward to. But the series needed to answer all of its questions and wrap the storylines and it will be missed.

So say we all!

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