Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica - Season Three - The Best Drama on TV Takes Care of "Unfinished Business"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica - Season Three - The Best Drama on TV Takes Care of "Unfinished Business"

by Tony Dayoub

In the 2nd season finale of Battlestar Galactica, the humans had finally outrun their Cylon pursuers. The remains of the human race found a habitable world, which they called New Caprica (after their now-dead homeworld), on which to settle. The story then took a leap forward of approximately one year. Most of the humans had moved to the new planet, leaving the battlestars, Galactica and Pegasus, circling high above, with skeleton crews, in case the Cylons returned. Return they did, but not with violence as expected. Instead, they preached coexistence. But our crew knew that this was really a Cylon occupation that would control almost the entire human race. The crews on the undermanned battlestars knew they must retreat. And on the planet below, in the final moments of the finale, a resistance was born.

The third season of Battlestar Galactica, which picked up right where season two left off, would prove to be quite uneven. While the opening arc involving the occupation and liberation was successful, an attempt to introduce stand-alone episodes into what is largely a serial-format show did not meet expectations. Episodes such as "Hero" and "The Woman King", had little impact on the central story arc. Two favorite characters left the show in the latter half of season three, in ways that seemed to be designed to elicit maximum shock value.

Too much time during season three was spent away from our crew, focusing instead on the behind-the-scenes happenings in the Cylons' world. D'Anna (Lucy Lawless), Cylon Number Three, investigated who the final five yet-to-be-seen Cylons were and paid the price for her curiosity. By season's end, four of those five stood revealed, but the audience was still unsure if the overall story had lost its way.

But Season 3 had its high points as well. "Unfinished Business" is one of the best episodes of the series. A new extended cut of this episode is the centerpiece of Battlestar Galactica - Season Three, new on DVD this week. In his commentary for the episode, executive producer Ronald Moore reveals his original plan to revisit the lost year in flashbacks throughout the season. These flashbacks would follow various storylines that would be hinted at in the present-day storyline. I assume he abandoned that concept because of what would be the obvious comparisons to another hit genre show, Lost. He did, however, compress all the storylines he planned on exploring into this one, atypical, episode.

Directed by Robert Young (Extremities), the episode, as it aired, is a romantic memory-based one. It is set at "the dance", an unofficially sanctioned set of boxing matches in which officers can settle old scores among themselves without repercussions. While many of the characters take their turn in the ring, the flashbacks are really building up to the climactic bout, in which Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) and Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), shipmates and unrequited lovers, can settle their feud once and for all. The episode is clearly structured as a memory piece, with the framework of the match cutting to flashbacks of each character's relatively idyllic time in that year on New Caprica. The beautiful flashbacks describe their brief fling on the night before Kara marries another man. Bear McCreary's touching musical cues over these flashbacks further evoke the passion of the love story.

Now, as Moore and his editor admit in the commentary, the extended version is more of a rough cut. It includes more of the other storylines, with Lee and Kara's plot taking less of an important role. We see what brought about Chief Tyrol's decision to move planetside. We get more glimpses into the elder Commander Adama's (Edward James Olmos) burgeoning romance with President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell). We even get to see the two leaders get high on some of the local "weed". Gone are the flashes of white that denote these flashbacks as the characters' memories. This new cut plays more like a novel, jumping around from present to past indiscriminately to inform the events in each timeline with their history or their outcome.

Unlike the extended cut of "Pegasus" in last year's Season 2.5 boxed set, the aired version of "Unfinished Business" is far superior to the its extended cut. The streamlined episode really highlights the underrated Jamie Bamber's gut-wrenching performance. And this episode serves as a brief out-of-the-ordinary interlude in a series that is otherwise a dark Iraq War allegory. Example: there are no Cylons in this one!

The extended version is interesting from two standpoints. It gives an intriguing look at how a story can change drastically by editing and scoring it differently. It also serves as a love letter to the fans who are invested in these characters. Brief touches abound that further illuminate many fan favorites. For example, Kara is much more sympathetic in this version, expressing regret regarding the dilemma she's created by sleeping with Lee.

Ultimately, the inclusion of this extended version of the episode is but one of many additional features that make this DVD set one of the most well thought out sets put out for a TV show. It also includes all of creator Ron Moore's original episode podcasts, producer David Eick's original online video blogs, and 10 webisodes that bridge the gap between last season and this one.

The fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica starts on April 4th, and I can't wait to see how the show heads towards its conclusion.

This entry first appeared on Blogcritics on 3/19/2008.

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