Continuing to exhibit an inventive flair for marketing as well as storytelling, “Battlestar Galactica” jumps into the fall with this two-hour movie — teased by a string of two-minute “minisodes,” and due for a Nov. 12 theatrical premiere in selected cities — before the final season begins in earnest next year. As always, “Razor” excels at couching the grim sci-fi drama in present-day moral choices, from sacrificing innocents in time of war to the efficacy of torture. Prominently featuring supporting and guest players, the project deftly stands on its own while still weaving in the show’s dense “Who’s a Cylon?” mythology.
Indeed, “Razor” spans an especially ambitious span of time, jumping back to the initial Cylon attack and its impact on the Battlestar Pegasus as well as its Adm. Helena Cain and newly arrived officer Kendra Shaw (guests Michelle Forbes and Stephanie Jacobsen, respectively).
Back in the present, Pegasus has a new commander — Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), the son of Galactica chief William Adama (Edward James Olmos) — that taps the troubled, drug-using Shaw as his second in command. That leads to flashbacks regarding the brutal tactics that Cain employed with her ship under siege, building toward a new mission potentially offering the young officer — who has both struggled with those choices and internalized them — a shot at redemption.
As for that new mission, as intricately woven by writer Michael Taylor and director Felix Alcala, it’s rooted in an old threat, one that allows for a separate flashback presenting the young Adama (Nico Cortez) over 40 years ago, when the Cylons and humans first went at it.
Frankly, it’s around here that any casual viewer could easily throw up their hands, but the focal point of Shaw’s story — nicely played by Jacobsen — has the feel of one of those old-time “Star Trek” or even “Bonanza” episodes, where a guest star allowed much of the cast to take a bit of a siesta. That said, there are still knowing flourishes for the hard-core zombies, including the chance to see Cylon infiltrator No. Six (Tricia Helfer) sporting a nifty new hairdo.
“Galactica” has been a pleasant surprise from the get-go, reimagining the fluffy ’70s incarnation into a probing examination of ethics, mistrust and values that cleverly parallels a post-Sept. 11 age. With its innovative web components, minisodes and now “Razor’s” theatrical play, the efforts to capitalize on the zealous sci-fi fan base have been equally impressive — the ultimate corporate good soldier, quietly helping NBC Universal in the quest to navigate toward its own brave new world.