Battlestar Galactica/Galactica 1980: The Complete Original Series

  • Reviewed by: Jeff Kleist
  • Review Date: Feb 06, 2014
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Various

Release Date(s)

December 16, 2013

Studio(s)

Koch Media GmbH (Universal)

Review

[Editor’s Note: This set is REGION B LOCKED and features standard-definition extras in PAL format. Make sure that both your Blu-ray player and display are Region B (or All Region) and PAL compatible before purchasing!]

For more than five years prior to the release of Star Wars, producer Glen Larson had been pitching his version of “Exodus in Space.” The idea was to follow a band of Humans elsewhere in the Universe, as they fled through space in a ragtag fleet of ships from the persecution of the vile, mechanical Cylons. Unfortunately, the pitch held little appeal to TV networks executives at the time. However, all that quickly changed. Following the success of Star Wars in 1977, ABC jumped on the chance to cash in on the Sci-Fi craze.

Debuting in the fall of 1978, the original Battlestar Galactica became the highest rated and biggest-hyped TV premiere in history to that point. Originally conceived as a series of telefilms, ABC changed their minds, deciding instead to turn the property into a full-fledged series literally at the last minute. The result was a few decidedly sub-par episodes right off the bat. As with many TV series, interest began to wane over the course of the first season and, coupled with the long production schedule and falling ratings, ABC cancelled the series after only 24 episodes. That left Galactica as yet another Sci-Fi series that ended with a fan-frustrating cliff-hanger. Thousands of letters and phone calls poured in to ABC, but by the time the network realized their mistake, it was already too late – the sets had been struck and the cast had moved on. Desperation to keep the franchise alive (and perhaps the desire to cash in on the popularity of CHiPS) lead to a short-lived follow-up series, a monstrosity known as Galactica 1980 (which most fans would like to forget).

Like Star Trek before it, Battlestar Galactica enjoyed a healthy run in syndication, garnering a strong and loyal fan base. Over time, Universal released a dozen or so VHS videotapes of episodes and, in 2003, a Complete Series DVD set. Packed with a surprising amount of extras, the DVD release meant that all 24 episodes of Battlestar Galactica could finally be enjoyed in their original, uncut format. But with the recent trend of re-issuing classic TV shows in high-definition, fans have wondered when Universal would finally realize the value of releasing the original Battlestar on Blu-ray, especially after the studio delivered the original theatrical movie version of the show’s pilot on BD in May of 2013. (See our review of that disc here.) So imagine my surprise when I learned that Universal has, in fact, released not just classic Battlestar on Blu-ray but Galactica 1980 as well in the same package… but only in Germany (through Koch Media GmbH) as an Amazon Germany exclusive! Released to celebrate last year’s 35th anniversary of the original show, this new German set features 9 Blu-rays, containing all of the uncut episodes from both classic series in HD, as well as all of the original 2003 DVD extras (and those from the previous Galactica 1980 DVD set too).  On top of that, you also get a DVD full of brand new extras.

[Editor’s Note: Universal has informed us that they have no plans to release either series on Blu-ray here in the States at this time, which means the German release is as good as it gets for at least the foreseeable future.]

Before we begin, another warning to potential importers: This set is REGION B LOCKED, and will not play on most players available in the US without modification. All of the extras are presented in PAL video format, which again is incompatible with pretty much anything other than projectors and computers. Thankfully, all of the actual episodes are in 1080p/24fps HD video, just like every other Blu-ray you have. The episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio (pillarboxed with black bars on the sides), with the original English audio in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as German 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio, and optional subtitles in German and English.

After performing extensive comparisons, I’ve concluded that these Blu-ray discs are sourced from the same HD masters as the 2003 DVD set and, thankfully, that’s not a bad thing. Unlike the recent movie Blu-ray, these episodes have not been digitally scrubbed, their colors are more accurately rendered, and they generally look pretty amazing. Were Universal to rescan the episodes today with a similar philosophy, we’re probably talking about only a 5-10% gain in quality. Some fans who have this BD set have complained of a slight red push in the image, but I would chalk that up to the show not being filtered for the NTSC color space for the first time. The deep red of the bridge ‘alert’ scenes would be deadly to NTSC, and it’s not distracting at all once you make the mental adjustment. While the original episodes were likely sourced from new prints, or even the cut negative, the Galactica 1980 scans don’t fare as well. Most of them are taken from broadcast prints (featuring the generic “Battlestar Galactica” title card used when the two shows were combined for syndication), and while they certainly don’t look bad by any means, there’s definitely more dirt and fading present. And before anyone asks, no, more resolution doesn’t help make Galactica 1980 seem any better.

While the audio is here in DTS-HD MA format, the sound quality is true to 1970s TV – there’s a limit to what’s actually there in the source material. These tracks were engineered to be intelligible in bad broadcast reception, via the 3-inch overdriven speakers you’d find in a typical living room from the 70s, and that means no highs, no lows, and a dialog-centric middle. While the BD remix team has certainly done its best, don’t expect miracles. (It should be noted that Galactica 1980 has not be remixed, and is presented in 2-channel mono only.)

Virtually all of the previous DVD bonus material has carried over here, along with a brand new DVD disc full of video footage shot at the Galacticon convention in 2003. (See the full list of extras in the Set Breakdown below.) The quality of the original videotape is fairly poor, as this was seen on the projection screens at the event, and was never intended for use as a serious production for home video. Still, you get to see group and solo panels with the original cast members, including one by Noah Hathaway, who had only just started doing cons at the time, and the ever wonderful Terry Carter, who is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet. The one mystery appearance is by nuBattlestar producer Ron Moore, who gives very different answers here to questions about the original than he does in a more friendly room. Most entertaining is original series creator Glen Larson’s keynote speech at the con, which appears to be fueled by an abundance of ‘ambrosia’ that he and Dirk Benedict apparently consumed while waiting to go on. As such, this footage would never have made it past Universal’s lawyers in a thousand yahren, so it’s both surprising and awesome to see it on this German release. Viva la language barrier!

As some of you may know, X-Men and Transformers producer Tom DeSanto attempted a proper continuation of the series back in 2001 on the FOX network. It would have been a 4-hour TV miniseries directed by Bryan Singer. But just a scant few weeks away from shooting, with the bridge set and several full-size Vipers almost complete, Singer was required to leave the project due to a scheduling change in the production of X-Men 2. Without his name attached to the revival, FOX lost interest, and the production assets were bundled away to a storage facility. Sadly, as the search for a new home for the project continued, these sets were destroyed. But contained on the new DVD bonus disc here is a collection of photographs and production art from this lost revival.

The final new extras of note included here are the 30-minute Super-8 film edits of the Battlestar Galactica, Mission Galactica and The Night the Cylons Landed compilation films. As you older cinephiles will already know, it was common, before the advent of home video, to release single reel versions of popular films on Super-8 for enthusiasts to collect and screen at home. I haven’t personally seen any of these versions in years. So while the dialog is in German only, it’s great to have these obscure pieces of history preserved before the last of them crumble away.

It’s obvious that, while Universal here in the States doesn’t seem terribly interested, someone at Koch Media in Germany cares very much about classic Battlestar Galactica. The evidence is right here in this BD set. The quality is solid, the extras are good, and the packaging, while a little flimsy, is pretty cool. Given that I had to drop over $100 for the DVDs back in 2003, the fact that this BD set comes in way cheaper – even after having it shipped 6,000 miles – is a miracle. It’s too bad Universal dropped the ball on this BD release here in the States. But, thankfully, we’ll always have Germany.

- Jeff Kleist

 

Set Breakdown:

Disc 1 (BD – start Battlestar Galactica) – Episodes: Saga of a Star World, Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1, and Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2, Extras: audio commentary on episodes 1-3 by Herbert Jefferson, Jr., Dirk Benedict, and Richard Hatch, deleted scenes, German trailer for Battlestar Galactica theatrical film

Disc 2 (BD) – Episodes: The Lost Warrior, The Long Patrol, The Gun on Ice Planet Zero, Part 1, and The Gun on Ice Planet Zero, Part 2, Extras: deleted scenes

Disc 3 (BD) – Episodes: The Magnificent Warriors, The Young Lords, The Living Legend, Part 1, and The Living Legend, Part 2, Extras: deleted scenes, German trailers for Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack theatrical film and Super-8 release

Disc 4 (BD) – Episodes: Fire in Space, War of the Gods, Part 1, War of the Gods, Part 2, and The Man with Nine Lives, Extras: deleted scenes

Disc 5 (BD) – Episodes: Murder on the Rising Star, Greetings from Earth, and Baltar’s Escape, Extras: deleted scenes

Disc 6 (BD) – Episodes: Experiment in Terra, Take the Celestra, and The Hand of God, Extras: deleted scenes, German only Super-8 cuts (about 30 minutes each) for Battlestar Galactica, Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack, and Conquest of the Earth, 2003 DVD featurettes (Remembering Battlestar Galactica, Glen Larson on the Creation of Battlestar Galactica, Stu Phillips: Composing the Score, The Cylons, and Working with the Daggit)

Disc 7 (BD – start Galactica 1980) – Episodes: Galactica Discovers Earth, Part 1, Galactica Discovers Earth, Part 2, and Galactica Discovers Earth, Part 3, Extras: German trailer for Conquest of the Earth theatrical film, still gallery

Disc 8 (BD) – Episodes: The Super Scouts, Part 1, The Super Scouts, Part 2, Spaceball, and The Night the Cylons Landed, Part 1

Disc 9 (BD) – Episodes: The Night the Cylons Landed, Part 2, Space Croppers, and The Return of Starbuck

Disc 10 (DVD – PAL/Region Free) – Extras from Galacticon 2003 convention: Glen Larson Keynote, panel discussion videos (Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Ron Moore, Terry Carter, Noah Hathaway, Stu Phillips, and Various Actor Group), Tom DeSantos’ Galactica Gallery (featuring conceptual art and set photos from the failed 2001 Battlestar revival miniseries effort)

 

 

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