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The Plan is a bit of a funny one. It purports to tell the story of Battlestar Galactica from the Cylons' point of view, and it does that to a point. What it does even better is to tell the story of one particular Cylon model that got short shrift in the show - the "Simon" who generally appeared in the role of a doctor throughout the show but never really developed as a character in the same way as the Sixes, Leobens or Cavils.
The movie begins just before Battlestar the show does, and ends around about where season 2 ended, so it doesn't really give us the whole story from the Cylon perspective. It sheds a little light on why the Cylons destroyed humanity, and why some Cylons then wanted to call a truce a while later, and hints at why that truce never really came to pass.
There's a lot of old footage reused here, intercut with new stuff. I didn't mind this too much because the old stuff provides the context for the new and it's nice to be reminded of little moments from the early shows that might otherwise have been forgotten.
The cgi is more elaborate than that seen in the show proper, but whether this is a good thing is open to debate. I personally liked the relatively subtle use of cgi in the show, and while it's nice to actually see the destruction of the 12 colonies first hand, you can tell it's been done on a TV movie budget.
The main reason to watch this is because it sheds some light on the Simon model, while simultaneously casting doubt about whether the Cylons are evil at all. You probably won't be any more clued in about "The Plan" by the end of this than you were before, but you may well be asking more questions about the nature of good Vs evil and where man and machine begin and end.
I don't want to say anymore about the plot, it's best enjoyed without too much foreknowledge but I will say to watch out for the gratuitous nudity! If you imagine what Battlestar would have been like if it were a HBO show you'll be in the ballpark.
When Battlestar galactica was remade something amazing happened, not only did they create an original show from a remake, they surpassed the original concept as well. Although I was quite content with the ending provided by the TV show, there were a couple of questions left unanswered, that's where "The Plan" comes in.
The concept is to show the other side of the entire story told by the TV show. The Cylons point of view answers many questions left unanswered and also gives a rationale of some of their more questionable decisions.
The best part of watching "The Plan" is seeing scenes from the TV show from a different perspective, either a different camera angle or extended scenes which divulge unknown bits of subplots which help round out the Battlestar mythology.
The story at times jumps around through time a bit too much but it is well acted and directed. They use some stock footage from the series as well as new scenes during the film but apart from the problem mentioned it flows well.
Although this isn't essential viewing for fans I would suggest getting it to complete your collection. The disc contains the film a behind the scenes featurette a few commentaries and deleted scenes.
Ronald D. Moore's acclaimed 'reimagining' of the Battlestar Galactica sci-fi franchise in 2003 brought a lot more to the table than just swearing and improved CGI effects (though it has those too), carving a separate identity from the well-loved original and grabbing the attention of critics as well as teetering precariously on the edge of mainstream acceptance for its frank and unapologetic presentation of such pertinent contemporary issues as the war on terror, suicide bombings and government corruption - all veiled slightly by being set in space and centring on a human civilisation with subtle differences from our own, as if that was fooling anybody.
Despite the main plot heading down some slightly bizarre avenues over its four-and-a-bit-year run, Battlestar Galactica still stands as one of the strongest, most consistent and most thoughtful TV series I've ever had the pleasure of watching. It's really good. So good, in fact, that I couldn't bring myself to review the series proper, for fear of failing to adequately express just how good it is. So fortunately, if only for that reason, the powers-that-be commissioned this follow-up story to tie up some loose ends, give fans a little more of the BSG universe, and attempt to give a newfound coherence to some of the show mythology's more incoherent asides by taking a revisionist approach.
In satisfying the first two criteria, Battlestar Galactica - The Plan exceeds admirably. Unfortunately, it never really succeeds in trying too hard to graft the illusion of a grand scheme of things onto a series that essentially, and very understandably, tended to evolve according to the whims and changing focuses of its writers over four years. It's sort of like a full-length version of those 'webisodes' they released between the second and third seasons of Lost, attempting to fill in some of the gaps but doomed to be ultimately extraneous.
To avoid making this review even more alienating to non-fans than this TV movie already does quite well by itself, I'll give a brief overview of what it's about. The Plan is a part-nostalgic, part-revisionist, part-original retelling of the first two years of the series, beginning chronologically with the events in the original three-hour miniseries that saw the 12 colonies of humanity wiped out in an unprovoked attack by the Cylons, a race of robots and humanoid clones that were created by humans several decades earlier to be their servants, only to rebel and eventually go their separate ways following a bloody war.
Over the next two years, the surviving 50,000 or so humans wandered through the universe in a debilitated fleet of spacecraft led by the mighty Battlestar Galactica, occasionally getting into scrapes with the Cylons while also dealing with humanoid Cylons who had infiltrated the fleet, some in key positions of power.
This TV movie opens and closes with a conversation between two of the Cylon models known as Number One, played by science fiction veteran Dean Stockwell (probably best known as Al from Quantum Leap), in which they debate whether the Cylon attack on humanity was really the correct 'plan' of action. One of the major plot threads that runs through this film, which re-contextualises a number of events that happened over the first two seasons of the show from the Cylon perspective, is seeing how the two different copies of Number One are affected by their experiences of living among humans to reach such different verdicts. Unfortunately, the other sub-plots introduced for the film don't work as well, and largely feel like re-workings of old ideas from episodes.
By featuring an abundance of stock footage from relevant episodes of the series, The Plan is partly a good excuse for a money-saving clip show, though to its credit the use of old material never feels gratuitous. That's more than can be said for the several instances of full frontal female nudity, as the producers seem intent on showing off the loosened restrictions of the made-for-DVD format with juvenile abandon. If I was about 16, these wouldn't count against the film (they'd probably add a star or two to be honest), but it does feel quite pointless. And it's not as if any of the main stars get their kit off - well, no more than they usually do - so there's nothing to get excited about in a 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me' way.
My main problem with The Plan is that it doesn't truly satisfy any target audience. While it's nice for the fans to see the connections between some events that were previously left up in the air, some of these revelations are actually a little disappointing, and the whole thing smacks far too much of George Lucas-style revisionist TV history, even tactfully re-editing iconic scenes from the series or adding snippets of new dialogue (the television equivalent of bending jigsaw pieces so they fit any shape) to try to make sense of a story that already made adequate sense if they'd just left it alone.
New fans will be put off by the jumping around and assumptions of existing knowledge, while existing fans may be left wishing they could see more original footage of the actors, only a select few of whom appear in new material, the rest only being seen in archive footage. By taking place in season two of the show, back when the status quo was as relatively uncomplicated as it could hope to be, The Plan is at least less alienating to newcomers than it would be if set in season four, but it still makes enough references to later events in the series' continuity - including spoiling what is probably the series' biggest mystery, the identity of the Cylons - to potentially ruin things if a newcomer saw this first and then decided to track down the rest of the series.
Maybe I'm complaining too much; Battlestar Galactica finished its final season with a definitive ending, and this is a bonus chance to hang out with the characters for another couple of hours. If the unsanctioned comments of director/star Edward James Olmos are to be believed, this is likely to be the first of several TV/DVD movies expanding the Battlestar Galactica franchise, along with the new spin-off Caprica which I've yet to be interested enough to watch.
I don't know if the mediocrity of The Plan necessarily indicates that the series' achievements are all firmly lodged in the past, but I still wouldn't consider it essential viewing even for casual fans of the show. As for the four main seasons and 2003 mini-series, well, you should own those on DVD already.