Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thoughts on the Mini-Series

First, a disclaimer: Okay, I will try my best not to make any comments that spoil this for people who haven’t seen it, but I can’t make any promises. If I drop teasing hints here and there, bear with me! If I full out reveal something you didn’t know, sorry! You have been warned.

It’s amazing what a combination of fresh eyes and 20/20 hindsight will bring. No matter how many times I have seen the Mini-Series, I am always drawn in and surprised. There is always some little thing – a look, a bit of dialogue, a seemingly insignificant person in the background – which I didn’t pick up on previously. The interaction between Head Six and Gaius is much more interesting than it had been before I knew the nature of their relationship. Kara’s run through the ship serves a fascinating introduction to characters both integral and seemingly unimportant. And boy do Michael Hogan’s acting chops ever shine! Only Clint Eastwood has perfected the growl better.

Watching with people who have not seen any of the show before was also a treat: a friend’s comment about Head Six (“I am going to find her really annoying”), the surprised look on their faces when they realized that three full hours has passed, our friend’s passionate belief that Chief Tyrol will certainly be revealed as a Cylon!

What I love about the Mini-Series is its ability to immediately draw you in to an entire universe; it quickly introduces a whole fleet (in fact, a whole creation!) worth of characters – good, bad, evil, angelic or something completely different and unknown - who you just can’t wait to learn more about. It brings you hints of deep religion, fascinating colonial politics, and a history as fraught with excitement, war, drama and tragedy as our own. The Mini-Series is the perfect setup for telling these stories, setting up this history, and fighting a terrifying (and sometimes quite familiar) war in an amazing and character-driven way.

I remember back to the first time we watched BSG - a friend had convinced us against our protesting that we should watch the Mini-Series with him, and so we did. And we didn't - couldn't - stop there! I think we watched another six episodes straight. Addictive doesn't describe it.

We have since watched the first season three times; the full series up to the end of season 3 twice; 4 and 4.5 once on TV only; and the Mini-Series 33 and Water another time again. Repeated screenings really do make this show better. And it is not just knowing how the characters turn out and what events transpire that enriches the experience (though it does, oh how it does!), but it is marvelling at the depth and breadth of the writing, acting and directing, the attention to detail - BSG has a very rich and complex mythological canon, and sci-fi fans are unforgiving! – and the absolute story-telling of it all.

On to the technicalities. The last time I watched the Mini-Series was on HD-DVD (yes, we are that obsessed that we have multiple formats!), and I have a few comments about that.

Point 1: I was relieved that they had managed to sync up the audio. My two biggest pet peeves when it comes to audio-visual entertainment are when the aspect ratio is wrong and when the audio and video are out of sync. Both irritate me tothe point that I would rather not watch something. Usually the aspect ratio is something that can be fixed with tweaking of settings, and usually the audio-sync issue is something you only see on TV channels (A&E HD is notoriously bad for it). But when it is on a high-definition release of something, I will not stand for it! You’d think that with the high-def release of a sci-fi TV show you could take the time to do some QA and make sure your audio and video are synced. Anyways, now we have Blu-Ray, and our beloved Starbuck is saying the words as her mouth moves, and I will stop ranting.

Point 2: The video cut is as good as can be expected. There are still a few scenes that are grainy – grittier than the overall feel of the show, that is. I’ve read that the quality of the video presented in the Mini-Series, while impressive, is less than we should come to expect throughout the rest of the series. If this is the case, than I am truly excited about what’s to come. There are some very impressive battle scenes in the Mini-Series and they looked better than ever in Blu.

The Blu-Ray release is THE definitive way to enjoy BSG.

The Mini-Series is introduced by none other than Ron Moore (RDM) himself- for those less obsessed; RDM is the brainchild behind the reimagining. RDM’s introduction primarily served to congratulate us on purchasing the show on Blu-Ray, and that it is the ONLY way to see it as he originally intended.

When watching, I’ve kept in mind that the intended presentation of the show is to make you feel that your part of the action- which certainly leads to a rather gritty production. Battlestar Galactica will never look like a George Lucas production- (Thank the Lords of Kobol). As a result, some grit and picture grain are to be expected – and embraced.

The audio track also sounded better than ever. I am fortunate enough to have a sound system that is able to take advantage of the DTS-HD Master audio. Each explosion shook the condo and the Anti-Aircraft guns on the Galactica fired a particularly satisfying “thud.” Maybe the neighbours didn’t like it, but we sure did!

I will say that the default setting that I normally use for my centre channel was not sufficient and I found myself turning this up a few points in order to fully catch all of the dialogue. After some adjustment the centre channel was crisp and clear as one would expect. The dialogue is still a bit too “bass-y” for my preferences.


In the spirit of BSG, we are changing our rating system to toasters.


Video and Audio:

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