Battlestar Galactica: 35th Anniversary Edition

  • Reviewed by: Jeff Kleist
  • Review Date: May 21, 2013
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Richard A. Colla

Release Date(s)

1978 (May 14, 2013)

Studio(s)

Universal

Review

If you believe in things like fate, you’d think that it was my destiny to be a science-fiction fan.  Between my parents’ three double-lined bookshelves of classic science-fiction by the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Sturgeon, the sci-fi TV triple header on Philadelphia’s Channel 17 that captivated my family’s attention every weeknight, and the fact that I was born on Star Trek’s birthday, science-fiction is practically embedded in my DNA.  But of all the sci-fi that permeated my childhood, Battlestar Galactica was the first show that was truly mine – discovered on my own, without my parents’ prodding.

Green-lit after years in production limbo following the success of Star WarsGalactica “borrowed” the same motion-control team and was a gigantic initial success.  (Unfortunately, ABC at the time had an ego problem, felt they could do no wrong, and no show was big enough to justify its existence – an arrogance that eventually killed Mork and Mindy and several other series including Battlestar.)  This Blu-ray represents the theatrical version of the first episode, shorter than the broadcast pilot and with a few alternate scenes.

The quality of the high-definition image on this disc is certainly the best Battlestar Galactica has ever looked, but with some issues.  This disc has obviously undergone an automated cleaning process, which leads to inconsistencies in the image.  For example, while Baltar is “Wormtongue-ing” to the President, his lips change color multiple times, from normal tones to bright red and back again.  Occasionally (especially in the first reel), there are scenes of highly boosted contrast and color – like when Zac is talking to Starbuck in the locker room.  I believe these restoration tools were tuned to pulling detail out of darkness, because those scenes tend to look fantastic – like Tigh talking to Adama in the Vipers, or the Casino scenes, which show greatly increased levels of fine detail over the more brightly lit scenes.  Interestingly enough, the model shots – particularly of the Galactica – have more horizontal details than vertical, and after comparing the Blu-ray to photographs of the models, consulting with members of the original VFX crew, and referencing stills from various publications, I am reasonably certain this is a byproduct of the noise reduction.  The good news is that (so far as I can tell) the thrust plumes, the glints on the Cylons, and the laser flashes appear to have all survived the process intact.  It’s lighting effects like these that often are the first to go awry using automated tools, but that does not appear to be the case here.

I’ve seen this movie projected on two occasions from 35mm, so I would say that I have a very good idea of what this footage is supposed to look like.  What I’m not sure of is the source of this material, whether the original negative was mounted, or they used a print or something in-between.  In 1978, they were still cutting and broadcasting on/from film, so I don’t know whether that original cut negative lies in the broadcast reels, or the movie version, which could change the equation away from noise reduction to generational or printing issues.

What I am happy to report is that the audio is uniformly excellent.  Like Star Trek before it, Universal’s excellent restoration takes the pillow off the speakers, and it sounds sharp, clean and brand new.  For this review, I compared the 1999 movie DVD, the 2003 TV DVDs and the new Blu-ray directly, and the previous iterations are not even in the same league.  As a bonus, a recreation of the original theatrical Sensurround mix is in full effect, now spread out to DTS-HS MA 2.1-channel mono instead of the 1.1 of the DVD.  Sure… what was earth-quaking in 1978 isn’t window-rattling by today’s standards, but it’s accurate to the source and that’s what counts.

Sadly, not even the still production notes survive from the original DVD release, nor is there even a trailer.  In terms of bonus features, this disc is as bare as bare can be.

Short of taking the show apart for a complete remastering and upgrading, as CBS has done with Star Trek: The Next Generation, this is likely the best that Galactica will ever look.  I’d love to see a re-composited and enhanced version, perhaps even with some new CG effects via seamless branching to break up the overused-by-necessity stock fighter footage.  Hopefully, sales of this disc will encourage Universal to invest the time and money to create a true archival and future-proofed master that will last another 35 years and beyond.

- Jeff Kleist

Additional Notes

Note this this Blu-ray Disc is initially exclusive to Best Buy stores, but is expected to go into wide retail release a few weeks after it’s initial Best Buy street date of 5/14/2013.

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