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Old January 25 2010, 06:19 PM   #65
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Hyperspace05 wrote: View Post
So if you saw those episodes, where did you post the reviews? Or are you just going to post them when you finish the season?
No, I watched those four episodes two years ago and stopped. Now I'm starting from the beginning again.

Forbin wrote: View Post
A four page thread on B5 just since I last logged on this morning!?!?

I'm never gonna get a chance to read the whole thread.
Don't worry, things will die down once I post a review or two, then people will realise how crap I am at this and abandon the thread. Although I must admit that I'm a bit intimidated by the fact that there has been 1,000 views before I even reached the first episode, I almost feel as if I should try and make this thing good so as not to upset people.

The Gathering (**)

The epic series Babylon 5, from the epic genre writer J. Michael Straczynski, begins with an epic tale where the fate of ... a puppet is at stake.

The plot isn't that interesting, it's a typical whodunnit story involving shape-shifting and telepaths, the sort of safe, generic storytelling you'd see on Murder She Wrote. Okay, so maybe you're not going to see this sort of plot in Walker Texas Ranger, but for a science fiction show this episode feels very run of the mill. What sets the story apart is the political element involving the council deciding what to do with Sinclair, but even that is a bit simplistic for what is supposed to be a United Nations in space; it's just four people sitting at a desk voting in their own personal interests, they didn't even vote to create a committee to investigate whether they should hold a vote.

Despite some atrocious exposition during the show, I'm still very confused about the Earth Alliance. It seems like Earth might be a military dictatorship, which I have no problem with from a story-telling point of view, I'm just unsure if that's the intention. The Earth ambassador to the council is a military officer rather than a diplomat, and when he is temporarily removed from command his XO on the station is appointed to the council in his place. This makes little sense to me because it would be like the the chief security guard at the UN also being the United States ambassador. I've been told that Sinclair is on the council for a reason, and I'm guessing that reason has something to do with the 24 hours missing from his memories, but that doesn't explain why the XO in charge of shipping is put on the council in his place, and I'm assuming that once Sheridan comes along he'll hold that duel role as well.

I mentioned the exposition earlier and it comes in two forms: reasonable and terrible. Londo lamenting the fall of the once great Centauri empire is reasonable because he's emotional about it and in the context of that scene it made a modicum of sense. Lyta asking Sinclair why the station was called Babylon 5 is one of the most awful pieces of exposition I've ever heard. Am I supposed to believe that three UN's were sabotaged and a fourth disappeared and she never heard about it? And even if she uses the excuse that she was in college when it happened and she was too busy studying/partying to pay attention to the news, I'm supposed to believe that she didn't read up on the history of the Babylon project after being assigned there? Another example of awful dialogue is this:

Twiz TV: As per BABYLON 5 creator J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI's personal request all BABYLON 5 scripts have been removed off the site. You can however now order the COMPLETE BABYLON 5 SCRIPTS collection.
What?! Screw you, buddy! I hate writers, they either want to make you pay for their work, or they show up after 4 months of you taking the piss out of them to make you feel ashamed of yourself.

This is one of the things that I do, whenever I heard a particularly bad line in Voyager or Enterprise I'd check online for the script to make sure I have it right, then I'd take the piss out of it. But I can't find scripts for B5 online so I'm forced to get the DVD, find that scene, listen carefully and transcribe it myself. Well I'm too lazy to do that, so unless somebody knows of a shadowy site out of JMS's reach I'll be forced to work off my own memory, and after years of neglect my poor brain is struggling.

TAKASHIMA: There's a rumour that if a human sees the true form of a Vorlon they'll turn to stone.
SINCLAIR: Well it's probably just a rumour.
TAKASHIMA: Probably.
SINCLAIR: Probably.
I'm sorry, do you think I'm 8 years old? Because this sounds like something from a fairytale rather than something that people would actually say. There's another scene later where Dr Kyle explains that he is a changed man after seeing what Vorlons look like, and that only serves to make the earlier scene seem worse.

I guess I should talk about the characters. Sinclair is interesting enough, his back-story is compelling and his personality isn't repugnant, so he's already a step-up on Archer. G'Kar looks like he could be interesting, so does Londo, Delenn not so much, not even when she wears her one ring to rule them all. Garibaldi? Meh, I couldn't possibly say. Takashima and Kyle seem quite dull, I'm glad they'll be fired for planting the coffee bean tree against regulations. (Does anybody else find it amusing that Takashima goes on a long rant about how it has been a long time since she has broken the rules only a minute after explaining that she broke the rules with the coffee bean tree?) But the stand-out character in this episode was Kosh! Wow, what an amazing performance, and he did it all without saying a word!

There wasn't as much gorilla bartender as I would have liked, but there was more than there ever was on DS9, so that's a big plus in favour of this show.

The episode ends when a Vorlon fleet shows up and threatens to blow up the station if they don't hand over Sinclair, which reminds me of the time that China threatened to nuke Mathatten when the Dalai Lama gave a speech at the UN. Then there's some shootouts, a fist-fight, a man running down a corridor to escape an explosion... all things we've seen before on Jake and the Fat Man. Then Sinclair pretends that he slipped a location beacon into G'Kar's drink and it makes G'Kar's stomach grumble with worry, but then Sinclair lets Garibaldi in on the hilarious secret that there was no beacon! Why, this scene was so funny that it made my eyes roll round and round and round and...

Pilot episodes can be tricky, so I'm willing to cut this episode a little slack. It sets up the universe and introduces us to the characters, but it's a pity that it did all this with a boring story and some instances of what I consider to be bad writing. If this had been an episode from season three I would have been much harsher in scoring it.

I'm reneging on my decision not to have counters for this show. Does Sinclair often lead the charge in dangerous missions, as he did in this episode when he and Garibaldi went after the shape-shifting guy? Because I remember him doing something similar in Infection and it makes me want to bring the Captain Redshirt counter back. Does Sheridan do that sort of thing in the later seasons?

I used to believe the claims that DS9 stole elements from B5 were baloney spread by disgruntled B5 fans, but then I read on Wikipedia that JMS was pissed off by DS9 having a shape-shifter, a concept that he claims DS9 stole from B5. So I've decided to have a counter for all the things I find that DS9 stole from B5, starting with that one.

Deep Swindle Nine: 1

Here's another: The first officer is a woman. This coincidence is too amazing to have happened by accident, females only make up 49.76% of the world's population, the odds are clearly against it.

Deep Swindle Nine: 2

In a similar vein, the doctor character on DS9 is a man. After TNG had two female doctors, what are the chances that they'd suddenly make their next doctor a man? It's too unlikely to be anything other than a deliberate steal.

Deep Swindle Nine: 3

This one will blow your mind: Sinclair. Sisko. Both begin with an S. But wait, there's more! Sinclair was a company which famously made the ZX-Spectrum computer, while Cisco is a company which makes networking equipment. What uses networking equipment? Computers!

Deep Swindle Nine: 4

Both station names end with a number. I was wary of this one at first because I used to believe that station names often have numbers at the end of them in Star Trek, such as Starbase 74 or Deep Space K-7. But then I saw this:

9 is just 5 with an extra line! Coincidence? I think not.

Deep Swindle Nine: 5

Finally, when the Vorlons arrived we saw B5 deploy its weapons. DS9 did a similar thing in The Way of the Warrior and Call to Arms. Check and mate.

Deep Swindle Nine: 6

(Though I say these things in jest, a part of me fears that these "arguments" might have seriously been used at some point during the flame wars.)

Okay, I reckon I've scared about 50-65% of people away, so for those that stuck around I'll say thank you, and don't expect such a long review next time.
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"No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away." - The immortal Terry Pratchett
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