Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5

Actors: Battlestar Galactica
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs:
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: July 28, 2009
Run Time: 763 minutes



A few detractors have long accused the 2003 Battlestar Galactica reimagining of "jumping the shark" as they say - veering into plot ridiculousness - probably from around the ending of either the second or third season onwards.

We've never subscribed to this point of view.

After all, the show was simply too fracking awesome to nitpick. This Battlestar Galactica may (ironically) have been inspired by a 'Seventies Star Wars rip-off, but it became so much more than that. It was everything that science fiction could be - that is, if it was intelligently handled and some time and effort was spent on characterization, the one aspect which both written and celluloid sci-fi often neglects in favor of action.

Battlestar Galactica may have a reputation for misery (how would you feel if all of humanity were wiped out by misanthropic robots who are now out to get you too?), but the show had loads of action too, plus the sort of special effects and production values usually found in big budget movies. Simply put, Battlestar Galactica was the best science fiction television series since Babylon 5. No argument there.

Take episode 4.11 with which this collection of the final ten episodes kicks off for example. It is titled Sometimes a Great Notion, which is the title of a novel by Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, one of episode co-writer David Weddle's favorite books. The title of Kesey's novel is in turn inspired by folk singer Lead Belly's song Goodnight Irene in which he sings that "Sometimes I get great notion / To jump in the river and drown."

Probably the bleakest ? but also the most powerful episode in the entire series ? the title cleverly ties into the theme of suicide and despair running throughout the episode in question, one which is notable for its particularly shocking suicide by a major character in the series. The point is though that more thought and intelligence goes into your average Battlestar Galactica episode than, let's say, your bog standard StarGate - Atlantis episode.

To our mind Battlestar Galactica has never jumped the shark ? that is, until the very last episode at least . .

The original 1979 Battlestar Galactica series ended its first - and only - season with an episode entitled The Hand of God. (The show was "followed" by Galactica 1980, which featured different actors and had the Galactica crew discovering 1970s Earth!) The 2000s Galactica ends with a three-parter (the final episode is double the running time of your average episode) titled Daybreak. Hand of God would however have been a far better title.

It is not because a whiff of deus ex machina permeates the proceedings. After all, everything that happens in the episode neatly ties in with what has happened before, all of which proves that the show's writers and producers pretty much had a good idea of how everything was going to play out in the end.

[PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD - Do not read any further if you haven't seen any of the episodes in question yet.] No, it should have been titled Hand of God because previously "unexplained" events are explained away as literally the work of a supernatural god and his angels!

Battlestar Galactica has always riffed on religion and it was intriguing in the sociological way that sci-fi fans find descriptions of faraway alien planets interesting. Sure, religion has always played a part in science fiction. Take the later works of Philip K. Dick and Walter M. Miller as examples.

But explaining away previous loose plot strands as, yes, literally the work of God and His Angels is like having the cast of Touched by an Angel stroll onto the set of an Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke movie adap.

It feels wrong and out of place in what is basically a piece of hard military SF. Come on! This is one of the few TV shows that actually feature Einsteinian relativism as a major plot point! More than that, it feels like a cop-out on the part of the writers (even though in fairness we have to admit that the final few frames - featuring Jimi Hendrix's cover of All Along the Watchtower - are pitch perfect).

Also to be fair we always thought that the original 1970s Battlestar Galactica should have ended on the same Erich von Daniken-lite vibe as the new series does here. (It turns out that the Galactica crew and the fleeing colonists ultimately find Earth and in fact turn out to be our ancestors.)

Yes, we're quite glad to be vindicated this way. The episode does however suffer from Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kings syndrome: the screenwriters never seemed sure on which final shot to conclude the episode and decided to include them all instead! [END PLOT SPOILERS!]

THE DISCS: The best way to view this disc would be to first check out the What the Frak's Going on with Battlestar Galactica? segment on the fourth bonus disc. It humorously sums up the events of the past three seasons and serves as an excellent refresher course. After this, check out episode 4.11 on disc one, but don't watch episode 4.12 (A Disquiet Follows My Soul) on the same disc.

Instead insert disc four again and watch the lengthier and unrated version of this episode. Now you can watch the rest of the episodes in their chronological order again.

WORTH IT? Yes. After the terrific build-up of the previous episodes it was only a given that the final episode was bound to be anticlimactic. This however shouldn't distract from the reality that this DVD box set contains some of the best episodes yet from the series.

One plot strand involving a mutiny aboard the Galactica is particularly action-packed and thrilling. Some genuine surprises are also in store. Still, it is a bittersweet goodbye to a fantastic series ? television viewers are truly fortunate that it got made in the first place! Sure, we thought that the pilot for the Battlestar prequel Caprica were promising in spite of what attention deficit types who liked Transformers 2 might think. Still, Battlestar Galactica will be sorely missed . . .

RECOMMENDATION: Fracking buy it!



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