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The Spin Sheet

DVD review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0

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Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0
2008 (2009) - Sci-Fi Channel (Universal)
Released on DVD on January 6th, 2009.

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Program Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B

As the final season of Battlestar Galactica opens, four familiar faces have just learned a terrible secret about themselves - a secret that could change the fate of both Humans and Cylons alike. Upon discovering the existence of this secret, the Cylons suspend their all-out attack against the defenseless Galactica and her ragtag fleet, and soon begin fighting a civil war of their own, pitting Cylon vs. Cylon. Meanwhile, Adama and his crew struggle to understand the mysterious return of Starbuck, who Apollo saw die months before.

Even more surprising, Starbuck says she's been to Earth and wants to lead them all home. But can Adama trust her, or is she a Cylon agent as President Roslin believes? Before these ten episodes are over, conflicts of trust and loyalty will lead to shocking discoveries and unlikely alliances... and, just possibly, the way to Earth. As always, nothing is ever what it seems.

It's satisfying to finally have these discs in hand, comfortable with the knowledge that they are not, in fact, the end of the series. As many of you are aware, the Writer's Guild strike of 2007-2008 threatened for a time to derail series creator Ron Moore's plans to end this series properly. Production was shut down for months after the filming of the final episode in this set (Revelations), leaving cast, crew and fans alike in limbo. Fortunately, the strike was resolved in time to allow the final ten episodes of the season to move ahead, and word is that the delay forced the writers and producers to re-evaluate their plans for the show's resolution in a good way... actually giving them new ideas and reportedly making the soon-to-be-broadcast end of the series even better that it might otherwise have been.

Universal's DVD release is a 4-disc set. Disc One (though it isn't labeled as such) is the exact same Battlestar Galactica: Razor DVD that was released in late 2007 (see our review here). It's identical to that disc in every respect, which is a little frustrating, as most Battlestar fans will already have purchased this disc. Also unfortunate is the fact that this version doesn't include the Bonus Disc that was available with Razor at Best Buy stores for a limited time. This featured an excellent 20-minute featurette, The Making of Battlestar Galactica: Razor. Hopefully, the studio will include this with a future Blu-ray Disc release. Still, the Razor disc does include the uncut, extended version of the film, the audio commentary with Ron Moore and Michael Taylor, all the deleted scenes, 3 featurettes (The Look of Battlestar Galactica, My Favorite Episode So Far and Season 4 Sneak Peek) and all of the Sci-Fi Channel Flashbacks/Minisodes. All of which is pretty great.

Discs Two, Three and Four of this set contain all 10 episodes that compose the first half of Battlestar's final season. Each is presented in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. The presentation quality is good overall, comparable to the previous full season DVD releases (read those reviews here: Season One, 2.0, 2.5 and Three - the original miniseries, included in the Season One set was also reviewed separately here).

Extras on these discs include (nearly) all of Ron Moore's podcast commentaries (originally available for download from the show's Sci-Fi website), along with newly recorded commentaries for episodes that never received podcast treatment (specifically, Guess What's Coming to Dinner and Sine Qua Non). There's one exception: Fans will recall that Moore's original podcast for the episode Faith was "technically challenged" to the point of being unlistenable, so that was cast aside and a completely new track was recorded with Moore and producers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. The result is that all 10 episodes now have commentary. (The only thing that's missing are the four Razor story meeting recordings - maybe they'll make the Blu-ray.) There are deleted scenes for every episode (4x3 letterbox), including some really great character moments - a little over an hour's worth in all. I won't spoil them, as they're fun to discover on your own. Next up are ten of David Eick's Video Blogs (3-4 mins each, 4x3 letterbox), totaling about 40 minutes of material. Some are better than others, but all of them offer an interesting look at behind-the- scenes life on the set. Then you get four new featurettes, two of which in particular are excellent. The first is The Journey (16x9) which runs 21 minutes and features each of the various cast members talking about the evolution of their characters over the course of the series. The other fun piece is The Music of Battlestar Galactica... or rather, Inside the Secrets of the Behind the Making of the Music of Battlestar Galactica Revealed. This runs another 23 minutes (also 16x9), and offers an obviously lighthearted look at composer Bear McCreary's score work for the series. It's pretty funny stuff. Again, I don't want to spoil it for you. The other two featurettes are Cylons: The Twelve (16 mins, 16x9), which looks at each of the Cylon models known so far, and Season 4.5: The Untold Story - Untold (2 mins, 16x9) which is cute, but truly leaves nothing whatsoever told. (It does, however, show a few interesting glimpses of the filming of the upcoming episodes.) Finally, the 2-minute preview for the Caprica pilot film is here, and Disc Two also includes (as the last of the trailers that open the disc prior to the main menu) the preview for the Season 4.5. I still wish one of these DVD sets would include a feature-length documentary on the making of the show, but still... these are pretty fun extras, all in all.

I don't know how many times I can keep saying how great Battlestar Galactica is, and how you should all be watching it, but I'm sure I'll find a few more ways to do so over the next few months. If you're a fan of this show, you already know that this set is the perfect way to rev yourself up for the final 10 episodes of the series (debuting on Sci-Fi starting on 1/16). Oh my Gods, there's only TEN EPISODES LEFT!! I can already feel the withdrawal symptoms coming on. At least they're going to be expanded episodes, or so we hear tell. And there's The Face of the Enemy webisode series in the meantime. And when it's all done, there'll still be the movie The Plan to enjoy next year. And Sci-Fi DID just finally greenlight the Caprica prequel series for 2010. And word is, next year will finally see Battlestar hit Blu-ray Disc too. Whatever. Bring it, baby! Bring it all on!

To the cast and crew (and I know some of you do read this site): I thank you all for the best show on television, bar none. It's been a true pleasure. And to Battlestar fans everywhere: Here's to a great Final Ten. SO SAY WE ALL!

Bill Hunt
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