Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by DigificWriter, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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:
    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.
     
  2. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ 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.
     
  4. Snatcher42

    Snatcher42 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  5. Candlelight

    Candlelight Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  6. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  7. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ 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.
     
  8. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    While I thoroughly loved Soul Hunter the story, my main impression of the Soul Hunter himself was "evil Popeye." :lol:
     
  9. Elemental

    Elemental Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  10. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  11. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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]).
     
  12. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    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 :confused: I saw The Gathering and S1 - S5 as they aired, and I enjoyed The Gathering
     
  13. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    I tend not to judge shows based on a pilot.
     
  14. shivkala

    shivkala Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.

    It also begins the mystery of Kosh and we meet Lyta and see her interact with Kosh.

    Despite my defense of "The Gathering," I will grant you "Midnight on the Firing Line" is a better story.

    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.

    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.
     
  15. inflatabledalek

    inflatabledalek Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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.
     
  16. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm back with thoughts on episodes 5 through 8. I'll also be addressing shivkala's comments. First, my thoughts on The Parliament of Dreams through And the Sky Full of Stars.

    The Parliament of Dreams
    I didn't include this episode in my list of S1 'essentials', but, after watching it in its entirety, I realized that I should have, primarily because of two things: 1) the conversation between Delenn and Lennier; and 2) it marks the first appearance of Catherine Sakai.

    Even were it not an 'essential', though, the episode would still be worth watching because it gives us some major insight into G'Kar's character as well as into the mindset of the Narn Regime as a whole, since three of the major characters featured in it are of that race. It is also neat to see a bit more of Centauri and Minbari culture, and the 'rebirth'/'marriage' ritual that Delenn leads reminds me very much of a similar scenario from the Firefly episode 'Our Mrs. Reynolds'.

    Mind War
    Every once in a while, a series will introduce a character who sticks in your consciousness and won't go away, even if they're not a particularly pleasant individual. Alfred Bester - as brought to delicious life by Walter Koenig - is one such character, and is one of the reasons that Mind War is such a fantastic episode. Koenig's performance makes you want to both hate Bester and secretly root for him at the same time, and it's very easy to see why JMS and Co. continually brought him back from time to time. Another reason that Mind War is so fantastic is because of its focus on Talia Winters. Rewatching this episode made me realize that, of the two main telepath characters introduced over the course of the series, she is by far my favorite. It is a bit of a shame that the plot thread introduced in the episode concerning her telekenetic abilities was dropped when Andrea Thompson left the series, but that's life sometimes. The episode's 'B' plot involving Catherine Sakai is also really great, and gives us a lot of insight into G'Kar's character, showing that there's much more to him than meets the eye.

    The War Prayer
    I said that I'd talk about why I consider this episode to be one of the S1 'essentials', and so I will. On the surface, this episode seems to be a bit of a standalone episode, but when you look at it in the long run, it does a number of things that ultimately prove to be rather crucial not only to the rest of S1, but also to the rest of the series. The first thing it does is establish Home Guard and the growing anti-alien sentiment on Earth (which ties in rather well with the events of the next episode [more on that in a bit]; the second thing it does is establish Londo's more sentimental side, which is something that comes back into play much later on. The episode also allows Vir to really shine for the first time by giving him a chance to stand up to Londo and speak his mind.

    And the Sky Full of Stars
    I just mentioned that The War Prayer's introduction of the Home Guard and the anti-alien sentiments breaking out on Earth and elsewhere serves as a pretty neat lead-in to this episode, and the reason I say that is because the anti-alien rhetoric spewed by Knight Two while he's interrogating Sinclair is very similar, if not identical, to the rhetoric that Malcom Biggs uses, to the point that the two characters use very similar terminology when talking about how aliens have screwed things up for Earth.

    Beyond the similarities in terms of what Malcom Biggs and Knight Two espouse, the episode gives us a tremendous amount of insight into the characters of both Sinclair and Delenn, giving the viewer much of the information concerning Sinclair's actions at the Battle of the Line that is featured in The Gathering, but in a much more succint and concise fashion.

    Now, to address shivkala's comments.

    I actually like and appreciate The Gathering's story, but the execution of that story pales in comparison to what was done in Midnight on the Firing Line. Despite its importance to the overall story of B5, The Gathering is not a very well-produced episode due to things that were ultimately out of anyone's control.

    I hadn't thought about the similarities between Soul Hunter and Believers before, but, now that you've pointed things out, I can definitely see the correlation. I also think there's a neat parallel to be drawn between Soul Hunter's storyline and the religious beliefs portions of The Parliament of Dreams.

    Londo is by far my favorite Babylon 5 character, and BttP is a big reason why.

    BTW, my memory is fuzzy on what exactly it is that BttP introduces and that is followed up on later, so could you give me a refresher? (don't worry about spoilers)

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of/thoughts on episodes 9 through 12.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  17. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    Mind War is another early episode I really enjoyed, that I've heard alot of dislike for, that I don't understand.

    And The Sky Full of Stars is the first episode that showed me this series was really going to be something special with lots of mythological depth and payoff. I enjoyed the Series up to this point, but, this is the one that cemented my ongoing love for it

    Born to the Purple introduces Adira, who's return later really sets some things in motion.
     
  18. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ Thanks, Sindatur. I feel sheepish, because, despite my love for BttP, I had completely forgotten that Adira makes another appearance, and had to go and refresh my memory concerning that re-appearance.

    I'm still watching the next batch of eps (I've got to finish Episode 12), but wanted to make a few brief comments on episodes 9, 10, and 11.

    I've always felt like Talia (which is to say extremely confused) when it comes to the 'B' plot of Deathwalker, but just read a fanfic a few days ago that made it make a little more sense.

    I'll cover this more once I do my full reviews, but Believers really isn't my cup of tea, although watching it did give me justification for something I'd been mulling with regards to re-assessing the Babylon 5 reboot project I started a while back.

    I can't decide whether or not Survivors should be added to my list of S1 'essentials', but it's definitely one of those episodes that demonstrates the series' strengths when it comes to characters.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  19. shivkala

    shivkala Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is most definitely an essential episode and a damned good one ("Midnight on the Firing Line" is a solid episode, but "The Parliament of Dreams" might be the first great Babylon 5 episode).

    This insight, I think, allows us to see the motivation that lead to G'Kar becoming Londo's bodyguard in Season 5.

    Bester really symbolizes a major theme of Babylon 5, which is how doing what you think is right can end up being very costly. Bester really fits as a great villain because he never views himself as such. He truly thinks everything he does is for some greater good and can justify any heinous act he does.

    Interesting, because overall, (even considering her choice in early Season 5 to support Byron), I prefer Lyta.

    I love the "B" plot so much. After episodes showing G'Kar to be violent, greedy (especially the scene between him and Delenn in "The Gathering"), and swarmy, we get our first glimpse of a more spiritual and cooperative G'Kar. What he does in this episode may be the first real action we see that doesn't appear to be a part of a grander plan to further his cause. It also sets him up as more aware of what's going on in the greater universe than pretty much anyone else (though we later find out that Kosh and Delenn know more, they were just hiding what they knew).

    I can't quite see the Centauri coming to Catherine's aid, for some reason. And I can see both Kosh and Delenn letting Catherine die to continue hiding their true knowledge. Kosh couldn't act to save her because of the message it would send to the Walkers of Sigma-957 of a Vorlon getting involved in the plight of a single human. Delenn, also would not want to reveal her hand, either.


    I think it also sets up Londo. "My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance" really sums him up, nicely, though the events in "Born to the Purple," show that every once in a while, his shoes loosen and he remembers a few steps. ;)


    These episodes really sum up nicely the Minbari beliefs and lead into the reveal in the beginning of season 2 about how Minbari souls seem to diminish each generation and how the lost souls may be going to the humans.

    That Adira plans to come back, which leads to Morden poisoning her, which leads to Mollari going back to Morden after breaking things off in the beginning of season 3. This leads to Lord Refa's death in a plot where we see Londo and G'Kar working together, which, of course leads to G'Kar becoming his bodyguard in season 5. It also leads to the revelation that it was Morden and not Refa who killed Adira, which leads to Londo's decision to kill Morden (allowing Vir's wish to be fulfilled). That, of course, leads, in part, to Centauri Prime being spared destruction at the hands of the Vorlons, but also seals its fate as the Drakh come to exact revenge.
     
  20. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I can't remember which one exactly, but one of the B5 movies has a framing device where an aged Londo tells a story to two children, and his behaviour very much dovetails with and correlates to his behavior in TWP.