Reviews

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5

This series proved that action-filled entertainment and demanding, intelligent storytelling are not mutually exclusive.


Battlestar Galactica

Distributor: Universal
Cast: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff
Network: NBC
US release date: 2009-07-28
Amazon

Elation, sadness, satisfaction, disappointment, frustration, joy; the emotions that gather at the culmination of a long voyage are inherently contradictory. Your arrival at the end -- influenced, bewildered and burden by the journey’s progression -- has been confirmed but often times you are still unsure where the end really is.

After four seasons of absorbing, thrilling, perplexing, and engaging entertainment, the science fiction program Battlestar Galactica ended its celebrated run on television. The marketing tease of Season 4.5 was that in these final ten episodes of the series all will be revealed.

No matter how brilliant and talented the creative forces behind Battlestar Galactica may be there is little expectation on delivery of such a promise. Whilst explanatory details may be written into plotlines, motivations revealed and connections made the circle of narrative completion (and fulfillment) can never completely be drawn.

That is hardly the point though, is it? The arrival at the series finale of Battlestar Galactica is of less significance than the incredible journey fans have been allowed to enjoy over these last four seasons. Season 4.5 begins with the Battlestar crew and the newly allied Cylon faction having finally arrived on Earth.

Their dreams of finding a true home are quickly shattered as what remains of Earth is a toxic, ruined and apocalyptic memory of life. The fight for survival must carry on then and season 4.5 explores the final battles between the Cylons and humans, the internecine war among the Cylons and the internal struggles of Galactica’s fleet.

Season 4.5 seeks to tie up and link the remaining strands of the central Battlestar Galactica myth and much attention is placed on the genesis and importance of the original five Cylons. Other main storylines concern the unique role of Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), the fate of Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and the relationship between President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonald) and Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos) as she battles cancer.

Knowing that this was the final act of Battlestar Galactica the writers and producers seemed intent on leaving no back-story or plotline unturned. The plot and character revelations are often interesting but all of this history and knowledge has the unintended consequence of overstuffing the central narrative.

The audience knows it is being fed fantastic bits of information but we are left wondering and slightly worried if we can fully digest what has been given. Perhaps, though, with the recent release of season 4.5 on DVD, audiences will have the time to properly sit down and enjoy the feast.

Battlestar Galactica has been devotedly followed, critically praised and endlessly studied but what most distinguishes the show, and places it amongst the finest examples of television ever aired, is the very evolution of the series itself. Its rather hokey sci-fi premise would seem to have disadvantaged Battlestar Galactica from the beginning. However, the decision by the executive producer, Ronald D. Moore, to respect the show’s history without being beholden to it freed the series from its genre-specific limits.

As with any naturally evolving experiment the creative development of Battlestar Galactica has been marked by its share of awkward blunders, lazy oversights and missed connections. Yet, it is only now, with the series having completed its narrative trial, that we are able to see Battlestar Galactica’s greatest strength is not a result of predetermined moves, calculated plotting and elaborate set-ups but, rather, the organic progression and sheer determinacy of its vision.

The writer’s commitment to and belief in an expansive narrative environment created a richly textured universe where individual characters were allowed to react, participate, adapt and develop. While each character’s story was integral to the central and overall narrative framework of Battlestar Galactia they were never solely functionaries of the plot. It was this freedom to change that led to the show’s most rewarding discoveries and greatest depths.

Battlestar Galactica, as with most science fiction, can be too quickly overlooked, reduced and dismissed by general audiences because of its central, introductory premise. Intergalactic warfare and the near total extinction of the human race by a band of rogue robots, which humans had initially created to enslave, sounds absolutely preposterous when boiled down to such crude elements. However, much like a great symphony, the strength and brilliance of Battlestar Galactica lies not in specific moments or individual episodes but, rather, in the overall composition of its vision.

Battlestar Galactica’s producers have never been sparing when it comes to delivering a bounty of appetizing extras on which to sate the ravenous appetites of the show’s devoted following. Fans will surely not be disappointed with the DVD box set of season 4.5 as it comes loaded with a host of special features.

Packaged among the more than ten hours of supplemental material are: deleted scenes; unaired extended episodes, including the series finale, Daybreak; podcast commentaries from executive producer Ronald D. Moore; video blogs by writer and producer David Eick; audio commentaries by Mr. Moore, Mr. Eick and Edward James Olmos; a documentary spotlight on Battlestar Galactica ’s musical composer, Bear McCreary; cast and crew interviews; behind the scenes production features; and much, much more.

For a show that shattered many of the myths and prejudices surrounding science fiction programming it is only appropriate that in the course of its four season run Battlestar Galactica helped re-define the television landscape. This series proved that action-filled entertainment and demanding, intelligent storytelling are not mutually exclusive. With its skillful blending of science fiction, action, romance, drama and comedy Battlestar Galactica secured a high cultural standing unrestricted by genre.

Battlestar Galactica may have completed its course and arrived at its final destination but for the show’s many devoted fans this rewarding and enjoyable journey will continue, at least for little a while longer.

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