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'Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive & The Remastered Collections' Blu-ray Review: Blood, chrome and a whole lotta bad '70s hair

May 21, 2015Ben MK

"Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest — a shining planet known as Earth."

Feature Rating:  

For the current generation of sci-fi television fans, the mere mention of "Battlestar Galactica" might conjure up images of Ronald D. Moore's dark and gritty SyFy series. When that show debuted back in 2003, however, the name was associated with an entirely different kind of TV programming, one that owed as much to campy sci-fi fare like Logan's Run as it did to Star Trek and Star Wars. There's no doubt, the original 1970s Battlestar Galactica — created by Glen A. Larson, the man behind such '80s TV classics as Knight Rider and The Fall Guy, and starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Herbert Jefferson Jr. and Maren Jensen — seems totally hokey in comparison. Yet, its influence on more contemporary sci-fi franchises is still felt to this day.

Enter Universal Studios Home Entertainment's 18-disc "Definitive Collection" and 8-disc "Remastered Collection" of Battlestar Galactica, which collect all twenty-four episodes of the 1978-1979 original series, as well as all ten episodes of the 1980 followup series, Galactica: 1980.

Both sets include every episode of Battlestar Galactica, spread across six discs:

  • "Saga of a Star World (3-Part Pilot Episode)" - When the Twelve Colonies of Man are destroyed by their enemies, the Cylons, a surviving military starship, the battlestar Galactica, leads a handful of survivors to safety amongst the stars. The Galactica's commander, Adama, intends to search for a lost Thirteenth Tribe on a planet called Earth, but the Colonials face pursuit by the Cylons and the traitor who helped orchestrate the holocaust: Baltar.
  • "Lost Planet of the Gods (Part 1 & 2)" - A mysterious disease brought on board by pilots infects all of those gathered for Apollo and Serina's wedding celebration. Apollo and Starbuck, who escaped contamination, must now rely on a group of inexperienced shuttle pilots to help them defend the Galactica against a surprise Cylon attack.
  • "The Lost Warrior" - Leading a Cylon attack force away from the fleet, Apollo lands on a remote farming world where he finds danger at the hands of a terrorizing thug — and his malfunctioning Cylon henchman named "Red Eye."
  • "The Long Patrol" - While pursuing a convict who stole an experimental Viper, Starbuck is mistaken for the thief and captured by officials. When he is taken to a prison planet, he uncovers the secrets of the people imprisoned there long ago.
  • "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero (Part 1 & 2)" - Baltar's Cylon forces herd the Colonial fleet towards a Cylon-controlled ice planet where a powerful weapon is pointed directly at their path. When he realizes the plot, Adama sends Apollo and Starbuck to the icy planet, where they must join forces with a dangerous band of criminal demolition experts to destroy the weapon.
  • "The Magnificent Warriors" - A Cylon assault causes a food shortage that threatens the Galactica's very survival. To secure food, Adama leads a mission to the planet Sectar, where he re-unites with an old flame who possesses the means for their survival.
  • "The Young Lords" - Starbuck crashes onto a planet where the Cylons have destroyed most of the adult population. Rescued by a tribe of children, he soon realizes that they intend to trade him to the Cylons in exchange for their imprisoned father.
  • "The Living Legend (Part 1 & 2)" - Apollo and Starbuck encounter the legendary military leader Cain, who commands the battlestar Pegasus, a ship everyone had assumed was destroyed. When Adama questions Cain's suicidal plan to launch an attack against a Cylon base, his own leadership comes into question.
  • "Fire in Space" - A Cylon attack engulfs the Galactica in flames, trapping crew members and critically injuring Adama. With Adama's life hanging in the balance and the fire spreading, it is up to Muffit, the mechanical daggit, to lead firefighters to the rescue.
  • "War of the Gods (Part 1 & 2)" - When a squadron of Viper pilots vanishes, Starbuck, Apollo, and Sheba go on a mission to find them and instead find the mysteriously charismatic Count Iblis. But once on board the Galactica, Count Iblis' true nature begins to reveal itself, putting all lives aboard the battlestar at risk.
  • "The Man With Nine Lives" - Legendary Fred Astaire guest stars as Chameleon, a con man who masquerades as Starbuck's long-lost father to escape a band of blood-thirsty Borellian Nomens. As the two men grow closer, Starbuck struggles with what suddenly having a father will mean for his future.
  • "Murder on the Rising Star" - When his archrival, Ortega, ends up dead after a public confrontation during a Triad game, Starbuck finds himself accused of his murder. Convinced of his friend's innocence, Apollo must work with the only man who can clear his name: Baltar.
  • "Greetings from Earth (Special 2-Hour Presentation)" - Starbuck and Apollo discover a space craft containing six human fugitives in suspended animation — possibly from the planet Earth — causing tension amongst the fleet. In time, they are revealed to be from Terra, a Colonial-like world, journeying to a nearby colony to escape the Eastern Alliance, a ruthless Terran faction. Starbuck, Cassiopeia, and Apollo journey with them, hoping to find clues to the location of Earth, but are met with trouble.
  • "Baltar's Escape" - Baltar, with the help of the Alliance Enforcers and the Borellian Nomen, plans a prison break. To preserve the fleet, Adama must bend to Baltar's pressure, leaving Apollo and Starbuck to embark on a dangerous rescue mission.
  • "Experiment in Terra" - Apollo is chosen by the Beings of Light to perform a mission to save the planet Terra from the Eastern Alliance. After being sent down to the planet disguised as a Terran astronaut, Apollo must find a way to stop a war that will affect them all.
  • "Take the Celestra" - While on board the Colonial vessel Celestra for a special ceremony, Starbuck discovers his long-lost love Aurora and enlists Apollo's help to win back her affections, only to find that they are in for more than they bargained for.
  • "The Hand of God" - Adama and his crew choose to strike rather than run when an enemy Cylon basestar is discovered nearby. Their only chance of prevailing is to have Apollo and Starbuck embark on a dangerous mission that could prove to be the only thing standing between the Galactica and its final destination: Earth.

And every episode of Galactica: 1980, spread across two discs:

  • "Galactica Discovers Earth" - As the Galactica nears Earth, the threat of a Cylon attack forces Commander Adama to dispatch two pilots to the planet with a mission to speed up Earth's defense technology.
  • "Galactica Discovers Earth (Part II)" - When treacherous Xavier disappears through time, Troy and Dillon must race to capture him before space-age technology falls into the hands of the Nazis.
  • "Galactica Discovers Earth (Part III)" - Xavier appears on Earth before the arrival of the Galactica, and it is up to Troy and Dillon to stop his schemes before all hope for a future colony is lost.
  • "The Super Scouts" - The future of Galactica is at stake when a Cylon attack on a freighter forces Troy and Dillon to take some of the young survivors to Earth, where they soon contract a mysterious illness.
  • "The Super Scouts (Part II)" - Commander Adama and Dr. Zee use a special aircraft to reach the children on Earth, but the kids are also being followed by an Air Force colonel who suspects their extraterrestrial origins.
  • "Spaceball" - Xavier sends Troy and Dillon on a phony space mission so he can kidnap the earthbound Galactican children, but before he can reach them, they become participants in an out-of-this-world game.
  • "The Night the Cylons Landed" - On Adama's orders, Troy and Dillon rendezvous with a downed Colonial aircraft on the East Coast, but its occupants hold a grave secret.
  • "The Night the Cylons Landed (Part II)" - Earth's future hangs in the balance as Troy and Dillon attempt to intercept two Cylons who are trying to take over a New York broadcasting facility.
  • "Space Croppers" - Desperation drives Troy and Dillon to seek food sources on Earth after the fleet's farm ship is destroyed during a devastating attack by the Cylons.
  • "The Return of Starbuck" - The fate of Lt. Starbuck and his final dealings with the Cylons are revealed in the dream of teenage genius Dr. Zee.

Unlike Star Wars or Star Trek, however, the years haven't been as kind to Battlestar Galactica or its cousin, Galactica: 1980. From the costumes, to the hairstyles, to the special effects and the set design, almost everything about the show is steeped in that 1970s aesthetic; and the result feels painfully dated by now. Still, if you can manage to look beyond its surface qualities, there is some quality storytelling here. If you're a fan of the original show, the Definitive Collection is the way to go, as it includes widescreen and full frame versions of all thirty-four episodes, plus the original Battlestar Galactica movie (a re-edit of the series' three-part pilot episode). Otherwise, if you only know Battlestar Galactic from SyFy's more modern revamp, the less-expensive Remastered Collection will suffice.

Audio/Visual Rating:  

Both Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection and Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection present the series in newly-minted 16x9, whereas the Definitive Collection also includes the episodes in their original 1.33:1 broadcast ratio. Color timing differences aside, the audiovisual presentation of both the widescreen and the full screen versions of the shows are comparable; and Galactica fans should be pleased no matter which version they choose. Image quality is fairly sharp and clear, with the exception of some inherently soft effects shots; colors are nicely saturated, whether it be the browns of the Galactica's crew uniforms or the ominous red glow of the Cylons' scanners; blacks and contrast levels are stable and generally quite good; and there are no visible image defects, the occasional instance of print damage nothwithstanding. As for the audio quality, all episodes of Battlestar Galactica — plus the standalone original movie, which is also included in the Definitive Collection — are presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, whereas Galactica: 1980 earns a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Either way, the show's dialogue and theme music are rendered with impressive clarity, not to mention familiar effects like the sound of laser fire, explosions and the Cylons' robotic voices.

Extras Rating:  

Both the Definitive and the Remastered Collection share the same Blu-ray extras. Unfortunately, all of these special features — save for a 6-minute piece that briefly details the efforts spent restoring the show — have been recycled from the series' previous 2003 DVD release:

  • Deleted Scenes (3:28:30) - Deleted scenes from "Saga of a Star World," "Lost Planet of the Gods," "The Lost Warrior," "The Long Patrol," "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero," "The Young Lords," "The Living Legend," "Fire in Space," "War of the Gods," "The Man with Nine Lives," "Murder on the Rising Star," "Greetings from Earth," "Baltar's Escape," "Experiment in Terra" and "The Hand of God", presented in 480i workprint quality, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
  • "Saga of a Star World" Commentary with Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson, Jr. - The actors who played Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer reunite for this 2003 commentary focusing on the show's pilot episode, in which they reminisce about their fellow actors and provide numerous anecdotes along the way (concerning such things as props, the show's original title, etc.).
  • Battlestar Galactica: Remastered (5:44) - Digital Mastering Supervisor Vishal Chathle and the technicians involved in the show's restoration discuss the process of remastering Battlestar Galactica for high definition, touching on the common problems they encountered and talking about such topics as how a frame is cleaned and how the zoom-in for 16x9 is achieved.
  • Remembering Battlestar Galactica (44:58) - A 480i retrospective piece from 2003, in which the cast look back on the show, recalling everything from the hectic production schedule, to the visual effects, to the prop-work.
  • Glen Larson on the Creation of Battlestar Galactica (5:47) - Another 480i piece from 2003, in which series creator/producer Glen Larson talks about his influences, his ideas behind the show, the show's general storyline and comparisons with elements of mythology, history and religion.
  • Inside Battlestar Galactica (10:00) - Yet another pair of 480i featurettes from 2003; the first focuses on The Cylons, in which the various cast members and directors Alan Levi and Richard A. Colla talk about the series' villains (their reflective suits and stories about the stuntmen who wore them); and the second deals with Working with the Daggit, in which the various cast members and directors Richard A. Colla and Christian Nyby, Jr. recall working with the 3-year-old Chimpanzee named Evie who wore the Daggit costume.
  • Stu Phillips: Composing the Score (5:02) - One final 480i featurette from 2003, in which series composer Stu Phillips discusses his work on the show, from recording the score with the L.A Philharmonic Orchestra to the show's primary musical themes.

Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection and Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection are available from Universal Studios Home Entertainment as of May 12th, 2015. The 18 and 8-disc Blu-ray box sets feature DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (for Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series) and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 audio (for Galactica: 1980: The Complete Series). Battlestar Galactica: The Original Movie features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, replacing the previously-issued DTS-HD Master Audio 2.1 Sensurround track. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French. Total runtime for the Definitive Colection is 57 Hrs. 7 Mins. Total runtime for the Remastered Collection is 27 Hrs. 31 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Episode synopses above provided courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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