Director: Felix Enriquez Alcalá
Cast: Michelle Forbes (Admiral Helena Cain), Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen (Kendra Shaw), Graham Beckel (Jack Fisk), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Edward James Olmos (Adama), Jamie Bamber (Apollo), Tricia Helfer (Gina Inviere/Number Six), Mary McDonnell (Roslin), Grace Park (Sharon), Nico Cortez (Young William Adama), Matthew Bennett (Aaron Doral), Michael Hogan (Tigh), Vincent Gale (Peter Laird), Fulvio Cecere (Lt. Alastair Thorne), Steve Bacic (Colonel Jurgen Belzen) & John Heard (Commander Barry Garner)
As we await the final season of Battlestar Galactica, the feature-length prequel Razor will definitely satiate fans suffering withdrawal symptoms...
Written by Michael Taylor, Razor is a story of two flashbacks: one that's essentially a lost episode (set after the events of season 2's Pegasus Part II), and the other revealing what happened to the Battlestar Pegasus when the Cylons attacked...
The first half of Razor focuses on the Pegasus' history, as we're introduced to notorious ball-breaker Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes), through the eyes of new crewman Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen).
Moments after Kendra boards the Pegasus, gets lost, and has her ear chewed by Cain, the Cylons attack the Scorpion Shipyards where the Pegasus is docked. Fortunately, in the ensuing chaos, Pegasus manages to get its FTL drive online and makes a blind jump to safety -- to lick its wounds and debate retaliation.
The second half is mostly set 10 months after those events, with Kendra the only main character Pegasus survivor and engaged in a suicide mission alongside Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), masterminded by Caine's replacement Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber).
The storyline also finds time for a brief fan-pleasing flashback to the First Cylon War, where we meet a Young William Adama (the uncannily similar Nico Cortez), who discovers the Cylons' early experiments to make themselves appear human... just as the Armistice is signed and the original war between man and machine draws to an end. Well, okay, a half-time break.
As much as I enjoyed the Pegasus episodes in season 2, I don't think a prequel movie was really called for. We don't learn much that we didn't know, or have assumed – although the continuity afforded by jumping back in time is quite welcome. I particularly like how Cylon mole Gina (Tricia Helfer) is revealed to have a sexual relationship with Caine, making her eventual capture, torture and sexual abuse even more disturbing than it was before.
Michelle Forbes again impresses as Caine, a tough-as-nails character who totally avoids the cliché of having her icy heart slowly melted. In fact, she just becomes crazier as Razor progresses, culminating with an astonishing way to keep her crew loyal through fear. As genre fans have know for years, Forbes is excellent and Caine's a magnetic character to watch on-screen, despite being irredeemably callous.
The bulk of Razor is carried by Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen as Kendra, and she does a great job of making a brand new character seem like an old-hand almost immediately.
The regular actors are as dependable as always, particularly Jamie Bamber as Apollo, Edward James Olmos as Adama and Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck. The other characters only have minor roles (which is disappointing for fans of Mary McDonnell's Roslin, Michael Hogan's Tigh and Grace Park's Sharon), while fan-favourite Baltar is sadly absent.
If you view this is an unseen episode, Razor works very well, although for the majority of the audience, it's little more than a curiosity piece. An appetiser before the show restarts properly.
The special effects are beyond reproach for TV, and amongst the show's most spectacular. The Cylon attack of the Scorpion Shipyards are particularly stunning, while fans will get a kick out of seeing some retro Cylon design -- with CGI versions of the tin-heads from Glen Larson's original 70s series, one of whom utters the iconic line "by your command".
But, in the grand scheme of things, Razor could quite easily be skipped over and you wouldn't miss much. The only thing that provides new information to the up-to-date viewer, is a moment when Kendra discovers the first Cylon Hybrid aboard a Basestar muttering "all this has happened before, and will happen again..." over and over...
The cyclical nature of life has been a recurring theme on the show for awhile now; that we're all puppets acting out roles in life, which are changed after every "performance". Oh, and the Hybrid's thoughts on Starbuck's significance is very illuminating! Those moments are Razor's only significant baring on the regular series, and little gems for fans to dissect until season 4 rocks up...
Overall, Razor is great fun and very entertaining, but the fact it's a prequel robs it of dramatic impact -- because you always know who lives and who will die. Still, if you treat it as a "lost episode" with fan-pleasing nods to the original 70s series, it's very hard to hate.
Sadly, it's not essential viewing, but it's a fine companion piece to regular Battlestar Galactica, kept alive by fine performances from Forbes and Chaves-Jacobsen, the enjoyably sticky war crimes storyline, and truly epic visuals...
18 December 2007
Sky One, 9.00 pm