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Old July 29 2012, 01:18 AM   #1
DigificWriter
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Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

Hi, all. I just picked up the first season of Babylon 5 on DVD and am therefore taking the opportunity to re-watch the series (I have to wait til Tuesday to pick up Seasons 2 through 5, though). I wanted a place where I could discuss the series as I commence my rewatch of it, and am starting this thread as a result. I also invite others to comment on and discuss the series along with me. Now, without further ado, here are my thoughts on each of the first four episodes of Babylon 5 Season 1.

Midnight on the Firing Line
Every other time I've attempted to rewatch the series (mainly through online sources), I've started with the original pilot, The Gathering, but I've come to the realization/conclusion that it really isn't needed, at least not so far as S1 and its story arc are concerned.

In fact, I'd make the argument that Midnight on the Firing Line is actually a much better way to have introduced the series and its world to audiences than The Gathering, not just in terms of its plot - which, while fairly simple in comparison to the plot of The Gathering - is also paced much better than The Gathering.

I'd also argue that MotFL handles several of the series' main characters a whole lot better than The Gathering does.

Soul Hunter
In doing a search to see if there was an existing Babylon 5 discussion thread I could resurrect rather than starting one of my own, I came across a link to a spoiler-free, wikipedia-style listing of those Babylon 5 episodes - by season - which are the most 'essential', as well as an accompanying article discussing things in all of their spoiler-filled detail. While I agree with many, if not all, of the episodes talked about in the article, there is one episode that was excluded from the S1 'essentials' list that I think ought to have been there, and that episode is Soul Hunter.

My reasons for marking Soul Hunter as an 'essential' episode are as follows:
1) It introduces the Minbari belief in the reincarnation of souls

2) It reveals to the audience - and Commander Sinclair - that Delenn bears the title of 'Satai' in addition to the title of Ambassador

3) It introduces us to the idea that souls are, for lack of a better description, 'living things' in a sense

Born to the Purple
Born to the Purple is hands-down my favorite individual episode of Season 1, and one of my favorite episodes of B5 as a whole. Although it isn't what I would consider to be one of the 'essential' episodes of S1, it's nevertheless a 'damn good tale' that gives us a much deeper look into the life of Londo Mollari than either the original pilot - The Gathering - or Midnight on the Firing Line did.

Infection
Several years ago, I picked up a 'behind-the-scenes' episode guide book for Season 1, and it says the following about Infection:
The episode doesn't quite do justice to the idea lying at its heart. Sinclair's confrontation with the Nelson Machine spells out the moral of the story and is, perhaps, a bit too-heavy handed.

"I tell you there was a lot of good writing in that, but the trouble is it doesn't really play as well as it might", says Michael O'Haire (Sinclair). "On the page, the writing is good, but in reality, with my experiences with physical danger, when you're involved chasing a madman who's trying to kill everybody, you don't have long epistemological discussions with him where you hold forth and philosophically try to ponder the error of his way. You just try to catch him."
After having rewatched the episode, though, I have to say that I have to disagree with the above sentiments. While it's not among the best episodes of the season, it's certainly not among the worst either, and actually, regardless of how logical Sinclair's confrontation with the Nelson Machine is, works rather well in helping to establish the setting and characters of the series (particularly Franklin and Sinclair) in ways that MotFL, SH, and BttP don't.

***

I'll be back later with an update covering episodes 5 through 8, but in the meantime, please join me in discussing the first four episodes.
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Old July 29 2012, 01:57 AM   #2
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

Why didn't you start with The Gathering? I know it's in the movie set (for reason I don't understand) but it's the pilot episode and takes place with (well most) of the first season cast.

Any way, I'm looking forward to following this thread.
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Old July 29 2012, 02:36 AM   #3
DigificWriter
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

^ I only have the S1 DVD set, which does not have The Gathering included. As I noted, though, I have seen the episode before (a couple of times at least), and have, as noted, generally started my B5 viewing with it in the past because it is the original pilot for the series. However, as I noted, I came to the realization upon watching MotFL again that, despite it being the original pilot, The Gathering is somewhat extraneous (although it should probably watched just for the sake of completeness) and that MotFL does a more than adequate job of introducing audiences to the world of B5 and its characters.
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Old July 29 2012, 02:50 AM   #4
Snatcher42
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

There's a cool re-watch/review of Babylon 5 going on at the Onion AV Club, too... just slightly ahead of you:

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/tvshow/babylon-5,355/
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Old July 29 2012, 02:55 AM   #5
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

Babylon 5 turns 20 years old next February and people still put spoiler warnings in the thread title.

Midnight on the Firing Line was great. I half expected to it be a little drab, being first out the gate, but the second half of the episode picks up really well. Impressive opener.

Soul Hunter I can't remember much about.

Born to the Purple was the first Babylon 5 experience I ever had, seeing it in Australia prior to New Zealand beginning to screen it. Thought it was ok.
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Old July 29 2012, 04:04 AM   #6
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

DigificWriter wrote: View Post
^ I only have the S1 DVD set, which does not have The Gathering included. As I noted, though, I have seen the episode before (a couple of times at least), and have, as noted, generally started my B5 viewing with it in the past because it is the original pilot for the series. However, as I noted, I came to the realization upon watching MotFL again that, despite it being the original pilot, The Gathering is somewhat extraneous (although it should probably watched just for the sake of completeness) and that MotFL does a more than adequate job of introducing audiences to the world of B5 and its characters.
Ah. Gotcha.

As I said though, I still don't understand why The Gathering was put on the movie set instead of the first season set. it's as much a first season episode as the rest of them. maybe someday somebody can explain this to me.

Anyhow, sorry for derailing your thread with my thoughts.
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Old July 29 2012, 05:12 AM   #7
DigificWriter
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

^ It's all good. I wanted people to join me in discussing both S1 and the series as a whole, and that's what's happened thus far.

In the interest of keeping discussion going, I was wondering what everyone's 'essentials' lists for S1 are. Mine is as follows:
MotFL
SH
Mind War
The War Prayer
And the Sky Full of Stars
Signs and Portents
Eyes
Legacies
A Voice in the Wilderness P1 & P2
Babylon Squared
Chrysalis

I already touched on why I think SH is an essential episode for S1, and will delve into my reasoning behind including TWP, Eyes, and Legacies in my list once I get to them.
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Old July 29 2012, 03:27 PM   #8
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

While I thoroughly loved Soul Hunter the story, my main impression of the Soul Hunter himself was "evil Popeye."
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Old July 29 2012, 06:48 PM   #9
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

I would have to disagree on The Gathering not being an essential place to start B5. It introduces so many key story ideas including the mystery behind Babylon 4's disappearance, Sinclair's history at the Battle of the Line, and the "You have a hole in your mind" line. I couldn't imagine introducing a person to the series anywhere else.
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Old July 29 2012, 09:10 PM   #10
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

Elemental wrote: View Post
I couldn't imagine introducing a person to the series anywhere else.
I saw the series three times, before I got the change to see the pilot, since WB goofballs thought including it in the entire DVD boxset was not nessecary.

My girlfriend saw the entire series without watching the Gathering. A few months after, we finally got a change to watch it, and really, as fun as it was..... it was pretty bad. The storypoints are picked up in the series so well, that's it's really not nessecary to view it first.
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Old July 29 2012, 09:32 PM   #11
DigificWriter
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

As I said earlier, The Gathering IS worth watching - if only for completeness' sake - but MotFL works just as well as an introduction, and the events of TG are talked about in TWP (which is one reason I think TWP is one of S1's essential episodes [I'll talk more about that later]).
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Old July 29 2012, 10:05 PM   #12
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

DigificWriter wrote: View Post
As I said earlier, The Gathering IS worth watching - if only for completeness' sake - but MotFL works just as well as an introduction, and the events of TG are talked about in TWP (which is one reason I think TWP is one of S1's essential episodes [I'll talk more about that later]).
Yea, I don't understand why, but, The Gathering seems to give many such a visceral reaction and bad taste in their mouth, that they aren't able to get into the series even with MotFL the other fine episodes of S1. There seems to be a much better success rate using MotFL as the introduction I saw The Gathering and S1 - S5 as they aired, and I enjoyed The Gathering
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Old July 29 2012, 11:02 PM   #13
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

I tend not to judge shows based on a pilot.
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Old July 30 2012, 12:30 AM   #14
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

DigificWriter wrote: View Post
Midnight on the Firing Line
Every other time I've attempted to rewatch the series (mainly through online sources), I've started with the original pilot, The Gathering, but I've come to the realization/conclusion that it really isn't needed, at least not so far as S1 and its story arc are concerned.
I don't mind "The Gathering." Honestly, if you're arguing for "Soul Hunter" because of the things it introduces, then "The Gathering" is important for some of its exposition (which, yes, is repeated later, but so is some of what is revealed in "Soul Hunter.").

A major revelation is the rise and fall of the Centauri Empire in "The Gathering." Londo's speech to Garibaldi rather nicely and succinctly sums up the heights the Centauri Empire had reached and the depths it has sunk into.

Londo Mollari wrote:
There was a time when this whole quadrant belonged to us! What are we now? Twelve worlds and a thousand monuments to past glories, living off memories and stories…selling trinkets! My god, man, we've become a tourist attraction! "See the great Centauri Republic, open nine to five…Earth time!"
It also begins the mystery of Kosh and we meet Lyta and see her interact with Kosh.

In fact, I'd make the argument that Midnight on the Firing Line is actually a much better way to have introduced the series and its world to audiences than The Gathering, not just in terms of its plot - which, while fairly simple in comparison to the plot of The Gathering - is also paced much better than The Gathering.

I'd also argue that MotFL handles several of the series' main characters a whole lot better than The Gathering does.
Despite my defense of "The Gathering," I will grant you "Midnight on the Firing Line" is a better story.

Soul Hunter
In doing a search to see if there was an existing Babylon 5 discussion thread I could resurrect rather than starting one of my own, I came across a link to a spoiler-free, wikipedia-style listing of those Babylon 5 episodes - by season - which are the most 'essential', as well as an accompanying article discussing things in all of their spoiler-filled detail. While I agree with many, if not all, of the episodes talked about in the article, there is one episode that was excluded from the S1 'essentials' list that I think ought to have been there, and that episode is Soul Hunter.
I also think it presents a controversial issue to deal with faith much better than "Believers" did, later in the season. At their heart, both are about the soul and how different cultures view it.

Born to the Purple
Born to the Purple is hands-down my favorite individual episode of Season 1, and one of my favorite episodes of B5 as a whole. Although it isn't what I would consider to be one of the 'essential' episodes of S1, it's nevertheless a 'damn good tale' that gives us a much deeper look into the life of Londo Mollari than either the original pilot - The Gathering - or Midnight on the Firing Line did.
It is a very good episode. It really highlights Londo as a character and, of course, presents a very important plot point which will be brought up in a major way in a few seasons.
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Old July 30 2012, 12:39 AM   #15
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Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

In the UK The Gathering wasn't shown until after season one as a Bank Holiday special. I don't think we especially missed it, but then it's understandable with the pilot being shown a whole before season one started in the States that the first episodes were designed to work for viewers who hadn't seen it.
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