The recent Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 DVD collection features the much-discussed extended cut of last year’s mid-season cliffhanger, Pegasus. The broadcast episode did seem overstuffed, so the news of substantial cut footage was unsurprising. Instead of offering the footage as an extra, the producers have returned to director Michael Rymer’s original cut and delivered a much more satisfying and nuanced episode.
The most discussed change for the broadcast cut was revealed by Ron Moore last year: originally, the brutal attempted sexual assault of Sharon by the Pegasus’s Cylon interrogator actually took place before Helo and the Chief rescued her. This was a broadcast standards concern rather than a time factor, which Moore and David Eick tried to avoid by requesting a special 90-minute episode (which they eventually received, thankfully, for the season finale). I assumed that this would significantly alter the narrative, that reshoots of subsequent scenes took place. Not to belittle the bravery of the content, but the change is actually quite small, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but one that undoubtedly ratchets up the sinister danger that the Pegasus poses and more courageously confronts the shocking subject matter, firmly contributing to Galactica’s ongoing willingness to engage with dark but very real issues. It’s a camera shot that puts the Pegasus saga’s money where its mouth is, delineating the differences between Galactica and Pegasus, Adama and Cain, all the more clearly, and I’m glad that it’s there despite naturally being distressing to watch.
The other additional footage is separate to this change, and it’s all solid material that adds a great deal of texture to what was a highly plot-driven episode. The arrival of the Pegasus is now more insidious with a greater sense of dread as the discovery of their transgressions is delayed a little more (for the record, there is 15 minutes extra footage, but it feels like more, in a great way). Key additions include a new opening where Starbuck tries to convince Adama and Roslin to send a rescue mission to Caprica that enhances Cain’s impact on her in the Resurrection Ship two-parter, and a scene between Baltar, Cain, and Sharon, where Cain’s loathing of the Cylons becomes apparent. Nearly every other scene features new dialogue and minor extensions, restoring Galactica’s usual subtlety and richness to Pegasus. While watching this cut, the word ‘texture’ came to me as an appropriate encapsulation of what differentiates this show from all other science fiction programmes: a determination to dwell in the quiet moments and silent implications between characters. So it was a nice surprise to listen to Moore and Eick’s audio commentary and their description of the ‘texture’ that has been returned to the episode. It’s a hallmark of Battlestar Galactica, and thus means that this extended version is no fanwank indulgence, but a significant improvement that makes the conflict between battlestars more organic and gripping.
[Side note: the most bizarre inclusion is Cally saying “bullshit” – why was this even filmed? It would never get on the air. What a fun bonus though.]