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Old August 7 2012, 02:18 AM   #45
DigificWriter
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Location: West Haven, UT, USA
Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since cameras first rolled on B5. I didn't discover the show until around 2002, so it'll be interesting to get a glimpse at what the build-up to the shooting of the pilot was like.

I have a lot of reviews to catch up on, but wanted to post my list of 'essentials' for S3 because, up to this point, I hadn't yet done so:
Matters of Honor
Voices of Authority
Dust to Dust
Exogenesis (the first standalone ep to make one of my 'essentials' lists, although not the last)
Messages from Earth
Point of No Return
Severed Dreams
Ceremonies of Light and Dark
Sic Transit Vir
A Late Delivery from Avalon

Point of No Return
Past the point of no return
No backward glances
Our games of make-believe are at an end

Past the point of no return
The final threshold
What warm unspoken secrets
Will we learn
Beyond the point of no return?

The above comes from The Point of No Return, one of the pentultimate songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, and describes what JMS does with the ninth episode of Season 3 rather succinctly. The Point of No Return does indeed mark the 'final threshold' for Babylon 5 and its characters, although it is by no means the first threshold (which was crossed as early as last season [Season 2] for some characters and as recently as Dust to Dust for others).

Just as The Phantom (Erik) does in that lyric snippet above, JMS asks his characters - and us as an audience - 'what warm unspoken secrets will we learn past the point of no return' and proceeds to start giving us those answers both in this episode and in three of the four to come.

There's another lyric snippet from The Point of No Return that is particularly relevant and appropriate to the events of this episode and the ones to come, and it is sung by the character of Christine.

You have brought me
To that moment when words run dry
To that moment when speech disappears
Into silence
Silence.

I have come here,
Hardly knowing the reason why
In my mind I've already imagined
Our bodies entwining
Defenseless and silent,
Now I am here with you
No second thoughts
I've decided
Decided

Past the point of no return
No going back now
Our passion-play has now at last begun

The above refrain is, to me, a perfect descriptor of our characters' situation in this episode, particularly Sheridan (although it's not a perfect fit given the rather erotic and sensual nature of the lyrics).

In closing my thoughts on the ep, I'd like to use one more piece of lyric from The Point of No Return that I think perfectly describes both the episode itself and the storyline of Season 3.

What raging FIRE shall flood the soul
What rich desire unlocks it's door

Past the point of no return
The final threshold
The bridge is crossed
So stand and watch it burn
We've passed the point of no return

Severed Dreams
Severed Dreams is the third of a four-part narrative quartet that starts with Messages from Earth and doesn't truly reach a conclusion until Ceremonies of Light and Dark, and JMS uses the events of the episode to build on those of PoNR and set the stage for CoLaD, doing so in fine fashion. This is the episode that won the series its second Hugo Award, and the reasons show in spades. The action and drama present in this episode are some of the best to come out of a SciFi TV show in the past decade-plus, being on par with the best of BSG (such as 33 [which also won a Hugo], Exodus P1 and P2, and Daybreak P1 and P2) and Joss Whedon's Serenity, and JMS is also at his finest here, presenting our characters with a series of trials by fire through which they pass with remarkable aplomb. The episode also features some of his finest unintended humor in terms of the reaction of our characters - particularly Sheridan's - when Delenn and her Minbari cavalry come riding to the rescue. Speaking of Delenn, she is also at her finest when she tells the Earthforce ships in no uncertain terms to back off or suffer the consequences, and Mira Furlan delivers her best performance of the series.

Ceremonies of Light and Dark
Ceremonies of Light and Dark not only provides an excellent conclusion to the four-part arc started in Messages from Earth, it also serves as an excellent follow-up to Season 1's The Parliament of Dreams. It also provides a nice counterpoint to Season 3's Convictions.

The episode's final scenes, with each of our characters participating in Delenn's rebirth ceremony, not only provides an excellent glimpse into their characters and provides a rather poignant summary of where they have come and who they have been up to this point, it also sets the stage rather excellently for who they will become, particularly Sheridan, as his confession of his feelings for Delenn is brilliantly written and acted.

Sic Transit Vir
Vir has consistently been one of the best secondary characters in the series, and this episode once again allows him to shine, giving Stephen Furst the opportunity to prove that he's just as suited to handling drama as he is to handling comedy. The only mistake JMS makes in the way he handles and advances Vir's characterization is that he doesn't have Vir assert himself enough in the face of the way Londo tries to paint his noble and incredibly selfless actions in trying to, in some small way, atone for his people's mistakes by helping the Narns.

It is somewhat of a shame that JMS never brought back the character of Lyndisty, because it would've been rather neat to see Vir muster up the courage to more harshly condemn her attitude, although he does do a fairly good job of it as he and she going their separate ways at the end of the episode.

A Late Delivery from Avalon
I loved this episode. It doesn't push Convictions out of its place as the best standalone ep of Season 3, but comes awfully close with a combination of incredibly strong writing and a story that seems tailor-made for the B5 universe, using Arthurian legend to encapsulate and state what B5 - the series - is all about in about as fine a fashion as you possibly could.

The episode also serves as a nice counterpoint to Season 1's Grail, which is somewhat fitting as there is a bit of a resemblance, IMO, between David Warner and Michael York.

Ship of Tears
"War makes strange bedfellows". Whoever originally coined this phrase could not have been more right or crafted a better descriptor for Ship of Tears, an episode which not only starts to further Season 3's storyline, but also builds rather nicely on and correlates incredibly well with every single telepath-centric storyline that has been part of the series to date.

Walter Koenig delivers his most powerful performance as Alfred Bester to date, and the moment when he says 'your war is now my war' is one of the most poignant, well-written, and well-acted moments of the entire series. The best thing about that moment is that we, as an audience, know that this alliance is temporary at best and that Bester's going to eventually do something to screw Sheridan and Co. over, but we still can't help but inwardly cheer as he says the words.

The episode also marks a turning point for G'Kar as he is finally, formally, and officially brought into the 'Army of Light' that's been building since the beginning of the series, and also provides Andreas Katsulas and Mira Furlan with the opportunity to demonstrate some of the finest acting of the series to date. The scene in which Delenn confesses to G'Kar what she and others knew and why they chose not to use their knowledge to act in saving the Narn homeworld is heart-wrenching, and Andreas Katsulas' delivery of the line 'But not today' says so many things in so few words.

***

I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 15 through 19, but, in the meantime, I'd really like others to offer their own thoughts on what I've posted to this point, particularly my 'essentials' lists and my thoughts on the overall nature of the series' narrative.
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Last edited by DigificWriter; August 7 2012 at 02:49 AM.
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