The Battlestar universe continues to expand, not only with the spin-off series Caprica recently started on TV, but also with this straight-to-DVD movie featuring the cast of the massively popular rebirth of the 1970s series. While a previous Battlestar movie, Razor, moved things across to the Pegasus, as a sort of introduction to the fourth season, this one does something far more ambitious but also potentially more disastrous.
Instead of carrying on events past the contentious conclusion of the final season, it goes back and tells a parallel tale to the beginning of the show, largely explaining certain things from the first two seasons, but also taking in later events. The Plan is essential the story of the attack on humanity from the cylons point of view, explaining why they’d turn of the race that initially created then.
This largely involves two Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) units, one of Earth and one on Galactica. Although both start out disliking humans, it’s the one on Earth who spearheads ‘the plan’, which is basically to wipe out all humans. However after the destruction of Caprica doesn’t completely succeed and some humans escape, it becomes about destroying what is left of mankind. As fans will know, this involves several undercover cylons, some who have full knowledge of what they’re doing, and some who truly believe they are humans. There are also some cylons who come to question what they’re doing. It uncovers more about not only the original eight models but also the final five, but much of it is about the duality of the Brother Cavils, exploring how these two cylons can eventually come to think two such very different things about their creators.
The Plan is an awkward release, because while it presents itself as a stand-alone film, in reality you have to have been pretty devoted to the series to really get the most from it. About 40% of the film is recycled footage from the show, and then shows what surrounded it, revealing what was going on from the cylons point of view. It clears up a few questions that fans have wondered, but to be honest, there’s little that most people wouldn’t have realised on their own, and the use of old and new footage does slightly give the feel of it being some deleted scene string together, even if it isn’t. However the main problem is that in trying to cleave close to the first two seasons while telling a story the creators didn’t originally plan to tell, it does feel a little disjointed.
When it’s focussing on the motivation of the cylons it’s very good, with the writer look deep into the complicated emotions of both why you might want to destroy your creators, and also the desire to save them. However because it keeps having to dip in and out of the series it tends to lack coherence and feels slightly laboured.
True fans probably won’t mind as they’ll just enjoy being back in the Battlestar world and finding out some extra things about the much love first couple of seasons, but less dedicated Battlestar watchers are likely to find it incredibly tedious.
However whatever the quality of the actual film, it looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, with good picture quality, which makes the attack on Earth look particularly spectacular (even if the comparatively low budget doesn’t allow for the full-on battle you might hope for). There is some grain, particularly on older footage, and there’s even a disclaimer saying that any sub-par visuals are the filmmaker’s choice. Whether that’s true or not, most of it looks wonderful, with a great surround sound audio track to back it up.
There are also plenty of decent features, including a commentary and several featurettes, including a look at the special effects, as well as the initial cylon attack. With some deleted scenes also thrown in it’s all well presented and interesting, ensuring the extras are well worth searching through.
Overall Verdict: Fun for devotees, but there’s little new that people couldn’t have figured out for themselves, and it feels rather disjointed.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes
Commentary with Director/Actor Edward James Olmos and Executive Producer/Writer Jane Espenson
Reviewer: Tim Isaac