Battlestar Galactica Season 3 (Blu-ray)

So say we all.

The last time we saw the remnants of the human race, they had voted Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) as their President; he promptly took them to ground on the planet New Caprica, leaving Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and his now-portly son Lee (Jamie Bamber) hovering overhead in their Battlestars, while the rest of the crew scratched out a meager existence on the planet.

Then along come the Cylons, who opt to occupy the new human settlement instead of blowing them into the space ether. And so begins the third run of episodes, where our heroes must overcome the oppression inflicted upon them by their sworn synthetic enemies, find a way off the rock and resume their search for Earth.

It’s interesting to revisit this section of the BSG saga, having known for some time how the whole thing resolves itself. Season Three has pivotal episodes of the series and marked a major turning point in its narrative approach. The days of chasing Raiders and nuking Basestars transitioned into the more cerebral, mythology-soaked storytelling that would come to define Season Four and, ultimately, drive the resolution of the show’s biggest mysteries — for good or ill.

I tend to be more on the “ill” side of that equation, enjoying stretches of the mysticism and magic that came to define the series, but largely lamenting the passing of more straight-arrow plotting about the human vs. Cylon war.

The scales tip in a big way in the guts of Season Three, starting in earnest with episode “The Eye of Jupiter,” a show that is dedicated to the story of The Final Five Cylons, the lost tribe of Kobol and how the two intersect; even now, I have to admit, I still haven’t hammered down the math. From that point on, it’s about fate and destiny and prophecies, with a few stopovers into the hard and fast nitty-gritty that make up the most interesting stuff about the series: the humans attempting to jump-start a civilization on the fly.

Season Three holds the best and worst moments of the series. The four episodes that take place on New Caprica make an interesting microcosm for the season. The first two shows are sluggish and the comparisons to the Iraq War (remember that?) are clumsy, though to be fair, Ronald Moore says in his podcast commentary that he was using an amalgam of the historical occupations to build this world. Still — suicide bombers? Insurgents? Come on. The latter two shows, which chronicle the humans’ escape, is a megaton blast and feature my favorite action moments of the entire series run. On Blu-ray, these moments are riveting, enveloping, and almost pay for the purchase themselves.

However, fast-forwarding a few shows brings us to my least favorite episode in the entire series: “A Measure of Salvation.” Here, the humans discover a way that would permanently eradicate the Cylons, and, wouldn’t you know it, we get some bleeding heart crowing that stops the plan in its tracks. I didn’t hear many people filing grievances when the Resurrection Ship was wiped out the season before, resulting in countless Cylon deaths. Oh, also the Cylons nuked the thirteen colonies and killed billions of humans. And they want to wipe out the survivors and bring the species to extinction. And they’re machines. What a moronic episode.

Then there’s the Lee/Kara dynamic. Lee, one of the more thinly developed characters up to this point, is given a ton to do and delivers the most important lines of dialogue of the series during his testimony on the stand at Baltar’s trial. (An excellent two-parter season finale, marred only by the big revelation at the end, which, as I now know, signals some clunky, obtuse scripting in the coming season.) His character morphs into something completely different and it’s a welcome change. Kara, however, suffers. Pretty much an unsympathetic nervous wreck the entire season, she begins the journey that ultimately renders the character of Starbuck distracting and confusing.

Like the other Blu-ray sets before it, Season Three is a stunner. The show was shot in HD, as Ronald Moore tells us in the exact same intro on all of these Blu-ray season sets, so the 1.78:1 treatment looks fantastic. Everything from the gray, gritty landscapes of New Caprica to the hyper-colorful decks of a Basestar to the epic space battles benefit from the boosted clarity. And usually, when a budget isn’t stratospheric, the visual effects wobble under the scrutiny of high definition. Not so here. Battlestar Galactica has yet to be eclipsed when it comes to visual effects quality on television, and the CGI-rendered mayhem — particularly the massive ship-to-ship encounters in “Exodus” — look even better. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is powerful and aggressive, those pounding drums that kick in during the action moments promising to shake your neighbors’ walls.

The DVD features — Moore’s podcast commentaries, a pair of audio commentaries on “Hero” and the extended “Unfinished Business” episode, Webisodes, deleted scenes and David Eick’s video blogs — make a return; joined by U-Control, Blu-ray specific extras “The Oracle,” an interactive text-based guide to characters, and “Battlestar Blips,” a laughably useless pop-up track that essentially recaps the scenes that you just watched. Finally, BD-Live brings a trivia challenge and a battle card game.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Season Three produced a neck-snapping mix of iconic moments and ridiculous set-ups.


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