This really does have the feel of going to the well just one time too many. I quite like the idea of what The Plan attempts to do but I'm afraid it does feel like the staff writers sat down and decided to do an anal ret-conning to much of the series just in case fans out there were still scratching their heads over minor plot points even though much of it falls into the 'it was bleedin' obvious at the time' category. Just in case you were wondering why such and such happened in such a way you've now got Jane Espenson whispering, well...actually more like shouting, down your ear to help you connect the dots.
So what exactly do we get for nearly two hours (the Blu Ray is the extended cut and a 90 minute version is going out on Syfy in 2010) of running time? At its heart, the story centres on the Cylons and their leader, Brother Cavil, played rather superbly by Dean Stockwell. He really is the major reason for watching this and he outlines and punctuates the differences in the character with great skill. Well, actually it's the Brothers Cavil because as we all know there are copies of the human looking Cylons. So, it's a tale of the two Cavils both of whom infiltrate the remaining groups of humans on Galactica and on Caprica. We get to see many of the main plot threads that ran from The Mini-Series up to Lay Down Your Burdens (the end of Season 2) through the eyes of Cavil and the other Cylon models on the planet surface and ship. The behind the scenes machinations affecting the plot to blow up the Galactica's water supply, the attempted assassination of Adama, the ambushing of the resistance on Caprica are interwoven here with a great deal of previously transmitted footage from the series itself. Sometimes this is done very cleverly and subtly and sometimes it really feels gratuitously forced into shape.
The philosophical discussion here is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The two Cavils develop very opposing views about humanity. The Galactica Cavil is bent on their complete annihilation whereas the Caprica Cavil is awed by the human capacity for love. This extends to a humanising of the Cylons themselves - Leoben's obsession with Kara Thrace, the sub-plot between Boomer and Chief Tyrol - and it's given its ultimate expression here via a very welcome fleshing out of the Simon character, played by Rick Worthy. He barely gets any development in the series itself but here Espenson provides him with a human wife and step-child and, most importantly, a conscience. We also get much more development for Sam Anders, prior to his hooking up with Kara Thrace, and his journey begins on Caprica before the Cylon attack and takes him to the formation of the resistance. Boomer, the ever wonderful Grace Park, and her own inner conflict with her Cylon identity, is also well highlighted and provides fresh impetus for her decision to follow Cavil's assassination attempt on Adama.
What you don't get is anything focusing on the main characters. Adama, Tigh, Starbuck, Baltar, Ellen, Tory are there in very brief sequences, more often than not in footage culled from the main series itself, but there is no sign of Laura Roslin or Helo Agathon and blink and you'll miss Apollo. The whole show relies on Cavil, the Six models and various other supporting characters to develop the story. Stockwell is provided with good support from Tricia Helfer and both of them hold this together for the main part but quite honestly in the end I did wonder what exactly the point of it all was. Good to have some of the background filled in but there isn't enough dynamic plot movement here to sustain such a long running time unlike the previous spin-off Razor. This is strictly for fans only and if you haven't seen the series at all then avoid this until you have because it gives away the entire game.
Knowing who the Final Five are also gives The Plan an interesting mood and you'll spot lots of little references to events that will happen later in the main series itself such as the reinforcement of the connection between Leoben and Thrace when he paints the same image as the mandala in the Temple of Five and the paintings in Starbuck's apartment. We also get a barrage of CGI effects at the top of the film, depicting in greater detail the attack on the Colonies and offering a round trip of each world where there's a 'before and after' comparison expressing the utter destruction unleashed on each planet. The effects are for the most part exceptional but some are perhaps a little too glossy and self-indulgent. There's very little of that twitchy reportage feel that the main series adds to its space bound effects sequences and that rather diminishes the sense of chaos that made the parent series feel so realistic. Don't get me wrong, the expanded attack on the Colonies is technically superb but it does lack an edge.
It's a glorified bottle show with some intriguing background material, good and bad visual effects, a huge marshaling effort from Edward Olmos as director in trying to make Espenson's choppy script interesting and vital with great performances from Stockwell, Helfer and Michael Trucco. For some odd reason the producers have seen fit to throw in some very gratuitous nudity. It's out of place, is simply there to titillate and ultimately distract. It betrays a distinct lack of confidence in the final product. Bear McCreary provides yet another beautiful score which helps immeasurably to hold the disparate elements together and there is a gloriously lovely version of the main theme over the end credits. Unfortunately, I felt that at 112 minutes this did outlast its welcome and although there is some compensation in seeing just how the Cylon plan slotted into the major events leading to the end of Season Two, the end of the story is an underwhelmingly foregone conclusion because we've already seen it, and much of the footage here, in the main series. The difference of opinion about the qualities of humanity between the two Cavils is a slender thread on which to hang all of it and The Plan just about manages to get away with it. The best thing it succeeds in doing is to encourage you to go back to the original series and watch it again.
The Blu Ray picture quality is clean, crisp and bold. The transfer displays good contrast and detail and a use of grain and blur that is commensurate with the style of the series and its previous presentation on Blu Ray. The series has always been a melange of lighting, photographic and editorial styles and it's the same here and the transfer copes very well with the jagged visual style that we've come to know and admire from Battlestar Galactica. If anything, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track surpasses the video quality here. This soundscape will give your system a vigorous workout, capturing the thundering LFE from explosions and spaceships without smothering dialogue. It's a very involving sound mix and Bear McCreary's music gives it all a pounding boost. Very pleasing indeed.
Audio Commentary: Eddie Olmos discusses The Plan with writer Jane Espenson and its worth listening to just to find out about certain visual, directional and performance choices made for the film. There is a lot of back-slapping for everyone involved but get past that and you'll find out about Olmos' approach to editing, the way the old footage has been integrated into the new and an analysis of the script and plotting. There are moments of empty air but it is worth a listen.
From Admiral to Director (HD, 7 minutes): A brief look at Olmos directing the cast
Deleted Scenes (SD, 14 minutes): Some very obvious cutting room floor stuff but one or two scenes should probably have stayed in the final cut.
The Cylons of The Plan (HD, 7 minutes): Very short look at Cavil and the Cylons with behind the scenes footage.
The Magic Behind The Plan (HD, 19 minutes): A very good analysis of the visual effects of The Plan that shows the development of some of the film's best sequences.
The Cylon Attack (HD, 4 minutes): Blink and you'll miss it glance at an action sequence
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Universal Blu Ray - 025192032592 - Region Free - Not Rated - Released October 27th, 2009)