Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babylon 5 - Episodes 1-4


A big improvement on the pilot already with the addition of Claudia Christian to the cast as well as the addition of Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters. Its interesting to see how cold Ivanova is towards Talia considering where their relationship ends up and I have to think this was also planned by JMS because it works so well. Its also interesting to see the fun-loving Londo Mollari who does wish for greater glory for the Centauri Republic but in the meantime spends his time partying, gambling and drinking heavily and generally being friendly to everyone even if he's obnoxious about it. While in contrast G'Kar is shown to be bitter, driven for revenge at nearly any cost and anti-social to not only Londo but everyone non-Narn as well. Only when he is trying to be a slime-ball con man does G'Kar show any sense of friendliness to outsiders. And G'Kar is shown again as he was in The Gathering to be the villain of the episode which I actually didn't remember him being so villainous when he was introduced. Again, a great contrast to how they both end up at the end of the series. We are also Introduced to Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto who is obviously at this point just there for comic relief...for now.

The attack on Ragesh 3 is something that continues to referenced and used as motivation for the hatred between G'Kar and Londo and spurs further events in the series but honestly, I didn't remember that this was the attack that had such an effect on the series. At the time, I wasn't used to serialized storytelling in my television shows so I wasn't paying as close attention. I assumed most events were self-contained as they were on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its great to watch these now and see the foundations being laid out.


This was an episode I didn't care for the first time I saw it, but watching it now I'm not sure why I didn't like it. Perhaps it was the out and out religious implications of a soul that I wasn't used to seeing in Science Fiction television. I'm not sure.

We are introduced to Dr. Stephen Franklin in this episode and Richard Biggs gives an very good performance right from the get go. And we also get a great performance from W. Morgan Sheppard as the Soul Hunter who played Blank Reg in Max Headroom.

Already there are references to Delenn being a part of the Grey Council which I didn't remember being revealed this early on as well as Sinclair finding out about it. And also the Soul Hunter reveals to Sinclair that he shouldn't trust Delenn and that the Minbari are using him.


This is the first episode not written by JMS but by Larry DiTillio. I really can't tell the difference which is probably a credity to JMS and Harlan Ellison for keeping the show consistant.

Basically this is a Londo love story which is actually very refreshing in that a man who is not your traditional romantic male lead has an actual romance on a television show. Londo is older, a bit overweight and not really good looking at all and yet here he is being shown as falling in love. Usually if male characters like this have a significant other at all, they are usually part of an old married couple and there's no real romance. Granted we later find out that Londo does already have 3 wives but they are loveless marriages.

We also learn why Ivanova is so cold sometimes with the death of her father and the already revealed suicide of her mother and now they also reveal her brother was killed in the Earth-Minbari War which we got to see in In the Beginning.


An old friend of Franklin played by David McCallum who played Steel in the British tv series Sapphire and Steel is part of the main plot of this episode. This is the beginning of the episodes that feel more like standard tv faire. Just filler really. The episode was a basic monster lose on the station epsiode and we had already seen Sinclair and Garibaldi in similar situations hunting somebody down on the station several times by this point. This story is basically a commentary on ethnic cleansing but honestly I've seen much better stories with this same subject matter. And this one was written by JMS surprisingly. It does give Franklin the spotlight and shows his tremendous moral fiber but its just not very good.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Babylon 5 In the Beginning & The Gathering

I've decided to rewatch all of Babylon 5 in chronological order since it had been a long time since I saw the episodes. And I figured I'd take a page from my friend Fer and review them here.

Spoiler Alert Warning!


You definitely only want to watch this first if you've already seen the series. It pretty much gives away all of the big reveals for the first 4 seasons which is the main story of Babylon 5. But having watched it already it was definitely interesting to see it from the beginning.

So many pieces of the puzzle that was the story of Babylon 5 were shown here in a very cohesive narrative. These were events that we found out about as the series went on but we actually got to see them in their entirety for the first time. Like Sheridan blowing up the Minabari ship Black Star and earning the nickname, "Starkiller" or the kidnapping and interrogation of Sinclair from the Minbari point of view.

It was a throughly enjoyable tv movie, its probably not essential to understand the series but as a fan its always nice to see these story flashbacks unfold and show that yes, JMS had planned the main story of Babylon 5 right from the get go.


The good thing about this movie is that the foundation for what is to come is very evident upon a second viewing and again shows the plan that JMS had from the start.

The bad thing is that it still really is a bit weak in many ways and its not up to the quality of the series proper. There's a fair amount of bad acting and even cheesy dialog in this tv movie and that is even more evident after watching In the Beginning right before it. But pilot episodes are rarely the best a series has to offer which is ironic because its the basis for which a series gets picked up for more. It is actually a bit surprising it got picked up for a full series after this but tv Sci-Fi was in its heyday in the 90's and that may have had something to do with it.

That's not to say its bad exactly, just weak compared to what was to follow. And it does its job of introducing the characters and resolving its plot in the 90 minutes it was given and there are some open ended questions you want to see resolved.

Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas are excellent right from the get go and are the high points of the movie. Mira Furlan does a good job also but unfortunately her makup was somewhat distracting to me because although her chin does look more alien than it does later on, it jutts out perhaps too much and doesn't look quite right.

Michael O' Hare is the real let down because he gives a mostly block of wood performance which is not good for the main character and hero.

Patricia Tallman is not as good as she was later in the series but she wasn't bad at all. I wonder sometimes if she was replaced because some executive wanted a hot blonde instead which is what we got with Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters. Tallman is gorgeous but she's not a traditional Barbie Doll type which Hollywood loves so much.

Tamlyn Tomita and Johnny Sekka are just not good in their performances. They just do not deliver the dialog convincingly at all and we can be thankful they were replaced by the wonderful Claudia Christian and Richard Biggs in the series proper.

I'll be back soon with my reviews of the first few episodes of the 1st season!