DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica: Season Three

Battlestar Galactica Season Three

Pardon me while I totally geek out. Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is finally available on DVD, and I am stoked.

I remember when the original Battlestar Galactica came out in the late 70s. Even then, as a seven-year-old, I recognized it as a cheap rip-off of Star Wars. Over the years, there were several attempts to jump-start the series in a new context, but it never really took off until this version hit the air in 2003. Now, it is getting set for its fourth season to air (hopefully in its full glory after the recent writer’s strike wrap-up).

But don’t watch season four on the SciFi Channel without doing your homework. As awesome as Battlestar Galactica is as a television show, it is entirely meant to be watched sequentially. Buy or rent the original television movie and watch the first two seasons before you jump into the third… or you’ll be completely confused.

With that said, here’s where we stand with season three. It picks up a year after the last 40,000 or so human survivors have settled on New Caprica. With Gaius Baltar (James Callis) as a decadent president, they are caught off-guard when the Cylons invade. The fleet of ships jump from orbit, leaving the population on the ground. President Baltar sees no choice but to surrender.

With the human survivors divided and the Cylons in charge, things are more complicated than they have been in other seasons. Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) wait to rescue the humans while the resistance on the planet fights against Cylon oppression.

Of all the science fiction television I’ve seen over the years, I am most impressed with what they’ve done with Battlestar Galactica. After all, when you consider how far it’s come from that failed Star Wars rip-off, it’s a feat of filmmaking.

Gone are the cheesy days of Starbuck and Apollo wise-cracking through space. This is a hard-nosed, grim look at an epic drama. And that means more than you’d think, considering the most popular science fiction franchises (e.g., Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate) all contain a healthy dose of humor.

The bottom line is that Battlestar Galactica isn’t just a great science fiction drama. It is one of the best dramas on television, period. The writing is crisp and delivers self-retrospective issues in a unique way. It doesn’t preach, but it presents contemporary arguments in a format that allows us to contemplate. What other series has tackled issues like abortion, genocide and religious freedom without cramming preconceived ideas down the audience’s throat?

Of all the shows I’ve seen over the years, Battlestar Galactica has some of the most human, realistic and down-to-earth characters ever written… and it’s not even on Earth yet. The third season presents the characters as real as they get. No one is completely good, and no one (not even the Cylons, who have all but wiped out the human race) is completely evil.

In fact, Season Three shines as one of the most interesting and deep seasons out there. While the first two seasons focused primarily on the humans, in season three, we get a look into the Cylons’ ships, their social structure, their relationships and their way of life. These aren’t just inhuman toasters blowing people up from afar.

The Cylons are also struggling with very real human issues of betrayal, trust, individuality and power. As a general race, this set of villains are more interesting than almost any bad guy I’ve seen in science fiction television. And be ready for one of the best surprises of the season when four of the final five Cylons are finally revealed.

The six-disc collection comes with all the episodes, including a feature-length extended episode of one of the key moments in the season. There are deleted scenes on every disc as well as the podcast commentaries on all episodes with a few bonus commentaries stuck in there as well. If you haven’t seen the webisodes of the Cylon occupation that are available on SciFi.com, you can catch them on the DVD without the download pixelation. Finally, all the season three producers video blogs are scattered throughout the discs.

Grade: A

The Upside: One of the best science fiction shows ever produced.

The Downside: Completely confusing if you haven’t seen the series up to this point.

On the Side: As a fan of both Battlestar Galactica and Stargate, I’m making my way through the entire SG-1 series. Where I stand now, half-way through season six of Stargate SG-1, there have been five Cylons that have shown up as guest stars on the show. Small world, huh?