October 22, 2009

Battlestar Galactica The Plan image.jpg

I have a lot of enthusiasm for Battlestar Galactica. I was a latecomer to the series, but once I discovered it, the show quickly became a personal obsession. Every night I would burn through two, three or four episodes at a time, until I was too tired to keep my eyes open. Now fans have received, as a sort of epilogue to the series, The Plan. Admiral Adama himself, Edward James Olmos, directed this high-definition widescreen digital extravaganza. The Plan refers back to the text that glowed over the opening credits of all four seasons of the series: “The cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. They look and feel human. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.” The makers of Battlestar Galactica even joked in the DVD extras of Season 4.5: “So, what the frack was the plan?” This is the attempt at an answer. My review after the jump:

Battlestar Galactica The Plan Blu-ray.jpgExecutive Producer Jane Espenson jokingly says in the extras of this Blu-Ray: “The Plan didn’t work.” Obviously, the plan was for the cylons to annihilate all humankind. The Plan tries to explain what went wrong from the cylon agents’ point of view, before the “final five” were revealed. Like many postscripts, The Plan is a fragment of the whole story. Even to a dedicated fan like me, this new material was confusing and difficult to follow. The Plan recaps almost the entire series, showing in-depth moments from cylon agents’ point of view. I found myself struggling to recall plot points, to discern when I was seeing moments from the old show or viewing new material, and to get over my general ennui about the whole frakkin’ thing. But hey, did I mention that there is a lot of nudity in The Plan? The problem with the boobs and butts is that it felt gratuitous, like a last-ditch effort to make this addition “grittier.” To me, it was more startling than titillating.

The most glaring problem with the story is that the focus is on the sub-plot of the series only, without the drive of the main story: escaping the murderous and conniving cylons! Viewers also suffer from the lack of main characters such as Apollo, Starbuck, and the excellent President Roslin. In addition, I can’t really say that anyone would be clamoring for more of Brother Cavil’s story, as played by Dean Stockwell. Unfortunately, Brother Cavil is pretty much the main character of the story here, which doesn’t really add any sense of real danger or tension. Cavil’s character was always sort of like a grouchy old uncle in the series; you suffered through his parts to get to the good stuff. And a Six having sex with him? It’s just plain icky. A few new characters are introduced, but none that are compelling enough to really add spice or dimension to the memory of the original series.

battlestar_galactica_season_4_image.jpgThis is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of love put into the making of The Plan. Director Olmos in particular shows an endearing amount of affection for the series, and it is nice to see his fondness for its legacy, and for the other actors in the show. And there really are a few great moments in The Plan: the destruction of Caprica, several grisly scenes showing death by expulsion from the airlock, and a murder committed by Brother Cavil that is truly heartless. I won’t mention who is murdered, but if you care to, do see it and surprise yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

The Plan is really only for Galactica fans that are familiar with the entire series. Any first-time viewers of Battlestar Galactica will be spectacularly confounded by this material, which is too peripheral to the kick-ass main story to inspire a viewing of the actual series. The extra features are slim at best: “From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos and The Plan” is a fun visit with Olmos, but is way too brief, only about six minutes long. I mean, this is the last gasp of the series, all of the props and costumes were sold at auction in 2008 and early 2009, couldn’t someone have simply followed the guy around a bit more? “The Cylons of The Plan” and “The Cylons Attack” show the filming of a sequence, and “Visual Effects: The Magic Behind The Plan” is just okay, if you are really into the technical aspects of creating the show. There are also a few deleted scenes and feature commentary with Olmos and Executive Producer and Writer Jane Espenson, which is entertaining.

All in all, I was disappointed that the extras weren’t, like, Lord of The Rings-style long. If The Plan is for the die-hards, the extras should have been, too. I guess it’s like I used to say about new Star Trek sequels or Indiana Jones parts 3 and 4: “Even bad pizza is good pizza.” If you love a franchise, you are willing to watch any new material with a glad heart…except that this is very nearly inedible pizza, bless its heart.

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