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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    I'm back to update my 'essentials' list, finish off my reviews for S2, and offer some overall thoughts on the season.

    First, an update on my 'essentials' list:
    Points of Departure
    Revelations
    A Distant Star
    The Long Dark
    Spider in the Web
    A Race through Dark Places
    The Coming of Shadows
    All Alone in the Night
    Acts of Sacrifice
    Hunter, Prey
    There All the Honor Lies
    And Now for a Word
    In the Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum
    Knives
    The Long Twilight Struggle
    The Fall of Night

    Now, my reviews.

    Knives
    This episode proves that, even after 35 (37) episodes, there are still new layers of character to be peeled away. In contrast to his actions in TCoS, Londo does what is right rather than what is easy, and you can see how difficult it is for him. The episode also offers a nice callback to B2 with its 'b' plot, which is a nice counterpoint to the Centauri and Londo
    -focused 'a' plot.

    Confessions and Lamentations
    With the exception of TGoS, this season's previous standalone episodes have dealt with some pretty weighty material, and this ep continues the trend, bringing about a major change in the fabric of the B5 universe and doing it in fine fashion. The episode also really succeeds in upping the ante on the evolving relationship between Delenn and Sheridan, providing both with some great character development.

    Divided Loyalties
    I really thought going into it that I'd be putting DL on my 'essentials' list and am really disappointed that I can't. The episode's content ought to have been pivotal, but not enough is ultimately dine with its various parts to make the whole work as well as it ought. We aren't shown Ivanova and Talisman making the decision to go to bed together, which robs the later reveal of Talisman being the 'Control' spy of the maximum amount of power it might've had, and the same thing can be said of the reveal's effect on Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Franklin as well.

    Like TGoS, DL is a standalone that shouldn't have been a standalone, and ends up falling far short of its potential. It's still a good episode, but isn't as good as it could've been if things had been done just a little differently.

    The Long, Twilight Struggle
    If Divided Loyalties falls short of its potential, TLTS more than succeeds in avoiding the same fate, offering a fitting and incredibly tense 'pentultimate' exclamation point to the season and once again drawing in numerous past story threads and weaving them into a glorious whole that more than adequately sets the table for things to come and significantly disrupts the status quo of the season and series, doing so in fine fashion.

    Comes the Inquisitor
    Comes the Inquisitor, like TGoS and DL, is a standalone that ought not to have been a standalone, but where those other eps are standalones either because of their content or the execution of their content, CtI ends up as a standalone because of its placement. The episode really ought to have occurred much earlier in the season, and its placement as the pentultimate ep of the season ends up robbing its content of some of its oomph and strength, which is unfortunate.

    One interesting thing about the episode is that, for me, it evoked strong parallels to And the Sky Full of Stars, striking me as being very much for Delenn and Sheridan what the events of AtSFoS were for Sinclair.

    The Fall of Night
    The Fall of Night felt very much like a direct continuation of TLTS and ought to have directly followed it, but it doesn't suffer in the least from the separation caused by the airing of CtI in between.

    As with TLTS, JMS manages to flawlessly and adroitly provide some significant alterations to the status quo of the B5 universe while also tightening the proverbial noose and bringing all of the seasons ongoing story threads together into a single whole just as he did with Chrysalis. However, the one thing that differentiated TFoN from Chrysalis is that TFoN ends with a sense of the main story arc for the season being resolved, whereas Chrysalis ended on a cliffhanger.

    Finally, my overall thoughts on the season.

    Overall thoughts on S2
    Like the second season of BSG, S2 of B5 starts out by resolving story threads that were either set up or left over from the previous season, but also sets up the new story arc for the season. However, after starting out with a lot of momentum, the season stumbles a bit with a standalone ep that should not have been a standalone in The Geometry of Shadows. Fortunately, it quickly regains steam and doesn't stumble again until Divided Loyalties, but again regains steam and finishes incredibly strong despite the misplaced decision to air CtI between TLTS and TFoN.

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of the first four eps of S3.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  2. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I again apologize for the double-posting, but when you're not feeling good, the only thing you can really do besides sleep is watch TV. This post will, as mentioned earlier, cover my reviews of S3 episodes 1 through 4, as well as some observations I had on the structure of B5 as a whole based on the end of S2 - as outlined in my last post - and the start of S3.

    I figured I'd start out with said observations, since they sort of inform my reviews of/thoughts on the first four eps of S3.

    I've heard B5 the series described as a SINGLE 'novel for television', but I think it is better described as a pair of 'novels for TV', with the S2 finale The Fall of Night being the end of the first 'novel' and S3 marking the beginning of the second 'novel'.

    Now, my reviews.

    Matters of Honor
    I mentioned above that I thought B5 was better described as being a pair of 'novels for TV', and Matters of Honor is the primary reason I came to that conclusion. I mentioned in my review of The Fall of Night that I felt it wrapped up the S2 storyline rather succinctly, which effectively makes Matters of Honor a 'new beginning' for the series as well as the start of the third season and, as I mentioned, makes it feel very much like the start of a new 'novel' that follows on from events in the previous 'novel' but is also very much its own thing. The introduction of Marcus Cole and the White Star contribute to this sense, and the episode's ending, with Morden being on Earth, sort of cements it.

    Convictions
    With Matters of Honor marking the start of a new story for the series as well as S3, JMS bought himself the storytelling capitol to do a 'slow build', and he is therefore able to justify Convictions being a standalone episode that further builds on the show's existing characters as well as bringing new characters - or old characters come back - into the mix. He more than takes advantage of the opportunity afforded to him, providing what I would consider to be the best standalone episode of the series.

    A Day in the Strife
    Although largely standalone, A Day in the Strife takes character threads from both Seasons 1 and 2 and uses them to start building towards the future. Its 'b' story also does this with regards to Dr. Franklin, and also gives us some great moments for other characters as well, particularly Ivanova and Sheridan.

    Passing through Gethsemane
    JMS packs a LOT of symbolism into this episode, and also gives us a unique opportunity to see more of the way religion works in the B5 universe. Brad Dourif is fantastic, making Brother Edward one of the best one-off characters to appear on the series to date, and the episode's ending not only provides an excellent character moment for Sheridan, but a bit of mystery as well insofar as it concerns Lyta and her relationship to and with Kosh.

    Edit: In order to avoid triple-posting, I am adding reviews for episodes 5 through 8 to this post.

    Voices of Authority
    And so it begins in earnest. After a 'slow build' with standalones for episodes 2, 3, and 4 of the season, JMS kicks the next chapter of the series' story - and that of the season - into high gear with an episode that rivals the best work by other prolific writer-creators such as Joss Whedon and Ronald D. Moore.

    There are so many callbacks to earlier story threads and seeds that are planted for the future in this episode that it's hard to know what to focus on, so I'll just mention two things:
    1) Zack Allan has really gotten himself into an untenable situation, and the question of whether or not he can get himself out of it makes for supreme drama.
    2) The Sigma 957 First Ones' reaction to Ivanova 'name-dropping' the Vorlons provides excellent subtle humor while also letting Ivanova do what she does best.

    Dust to Dust
    There was so much going on in S2's A Race through Dark Places that I didn't even mention Alfred Bester in my review of that ep, but he was a lot more subdued in that ep than he was in his first appearance in Mind War, and certainly more than he is here.

    Even having been injected with sleeper drugs, the man is a smarmy bastard, and the way he tries to bait nearly every character he interacts with only process just how incredible Walter Koenig is as an actor because it takes someone of incredible skill and charisma to make you hate Bester but want to root for him at the same time. In fact, this ep is where Bester truly becomes the Tom Zarek of the B5 universe, cementing himself as one of the series' most memorable yet hated characters.

    Sticking with the comparisons to BSG characters for a moment, this ep is the place where G'Kar becomes the Gaius Baltar of B5, setting the stage for a transformation into something far more than just a simple antagonist character.

    Exogenesis
    After two incredibly great arc episodes, we're back to what is nominally a standalone, albeit one that also provides a fair number of arc-centric character moments due to its significant focus on Marcus and its 'b' plot concerning Ivanova subtly scouting Lt. Corwin.

    The episode also struck me as having a very Star Trek-like vibe to it in terms of the Vindrazi parasites, which struck me as being what the parasite alienns from the TNG episode Conspiracy might've been had they been non-hostile.

    Messages from Earth
    JMS really knows how to up the ante. He did it with The Coming of Shadows and In the Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum in S2, and he does it again here, finally tightening the noose around our characters and forcing them into a situation where desperate measures have to be taken, thereby setting the stage for what I would consider to be one of the best cliffhangers in TV history (I would rank it up there with Angel transforming back into Angelus and the Cylons invading New Caprica) in President Clark's declaration of martial law.

    The episode also features some great character moments for Sheridan, Delenn, Marcus, and Ivanova, significantly advancing both of the eventual relationships involving the four characters and providing a bit of 'breathing room' to balance out the game-changing events with which the rest of the episode's plot deals.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
  3. Jan

    Jan Commodore Commodore

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    ...is insane. --JMS
    Thought this might be of interest to some of the folks here. This week (Fri., Aug. 10, to be exact) marks the 20th anniversary of the start of filming Babylon 5: The Gathering. (Yikes!)

    Long-time fan Lee Whiteside has begun a blog which will be highlighting some of the interesting posts from back then as well as any news of celebrations that may come along. So for those interested,

    http://www.azsf.net/b520/?p=13

    Lee's very knowlegable so I expect this to be fun.

    Jan
     
  4. Candlelight

    Candlelight Admiral Admiral

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    New Zealand
    Grail has minor details thrown in; ripping from Wikipedia here :):

    • Jinxo's explanation of his "curse" clarifies the circumstances of the destruction of the first three previous Babylon Stations, and indicates that the disappearance of Babylon 4 was particularly sudden and uncanny. (-> Babylon Squared)

    • While talking with Gajic, Delenn and Lennier indicate for the first time that the warrior and religious castes of Minbari are often at odds. (-> Points of Departure, Severed Dreams, the Minbari Civil War, etc)

    • Kosh's reply of "good" when told that the mystery of the Vorlon's true appearance has been misused to provoke fear among the population of the station hints at the deliberate manipulation he is engaged in. (-> The Fall of Night)
     
  5. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  6. Jeff O'Connor

    Jeff O'Connor Commodore Commodore

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    These are fantastic write-ups. :techman: I really enjoy reading them; I'm sorry I'm not well-versed enough to offer anything in return. But please, carry on. You really nail things.

    Seasons 3 and 4 of B5 are absolutely stellar. Two of my favorite seasons in television history, and you're reminding why.

    Also, thanks for the link, Jan.
     
  7. Jeff O'Connor

    Jeff O'Connor Commodore Commodore

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    Actually, I want to comment on one thing in particular.

    Oh god, yes.

    I watched G'Kar's scene like ten times when I rewatched the series.
     
  8. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Even though I said I was only going to review through episode 19, I changed my mind and decided to review episode 20 as well.

    Interludes and Examinations
    Just when it seems as if JMS can't possibly shake things up any further, he turns around and shakes things up further. As much as the Messages from Earth arc (MfE, PoNR, SD, and CoLaD) marked a turning point for both the season and series, so too does Interludes and Examinations, and the changes it brings are just as monumental. Not only does Kosh willingly condemn himself to death to give Sheridan what he needs, Franklin's stim addiction story also comes to a head, launching him on a new journey.

    JMS once again proves his prowess as a writer by also bringing things to a head as it concerns Londo and Refa, setting the stage for what is ultimately one of the smoothest, if not entirely moral, schemes ever to appear in fiction (and which occurs in episode 20), one which, if you think about it, dovetails incredibly well with something that is shown in episode 17 but that was mentioned all the way back in the very first episode of the series, MotFL.

    War without End, Parts 1 and 2
    I'm going to talk about both of these episodes as a single whole for the sake of simplicity.

    It is the mark of a truly gifted writer to be able to take a story that you think you already know and completely redefine it while at the same time ostensibly continuing it, and that is exactly what JMS does with the two-part War without End.

    Over the course of two incredible hours, he not only completely redefines what we thought we knew about the mystery and circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Babylon 4, but also completely redefines not only the nature of an event first described, as I mentioned above, in MotFL, but also the character of Londo Mollari and his relationship with G'Kar. He also plays completely with audience expectations by finally giving us the first kiss between Sheridan and Delenn, but under circumstances and in a context that is completely unexpected.

    He also brilliantly sets the table for future storylines by teasing us with a few details of what is yet to come but without telling us quite how what is yet to happen will happen.

    Walkabout
    Walkabout is another one of those episodes that is both simultaneously arc-centric and standalone. It is arc-centric in that it introduces us to Kosh's replacement, Ulkesh, and furthers the plot thread introduced in Ship of Tears, and standalone in terms of its 'b' plot involving Franklin.

    Cailyn James is an interesting one-off guest character, and her interaction with Franklin offers an opportunity to delve into his character in new ways, while the plot involving Sheridan, Lyta, G'Kar, and the Minbari telepaths helps provide crucial advancement of the season's overall storyline while also advancing the development of character for all three.

    Grey 17 is Missing
    Like Walkabout, Grey 17 is Missing is an episode that is simultaneously standalone and arc-centric, and brings just as much to the table in terms of story advancement and character development.

    The episode's 'a' plot not only resolves a lingering plot thread from War without End, it also provides new character development for Delenn, Marcus, Lennier, and a returning Neroon. Neroon and Lennier in particular stand out because their actions and confessions in this ep shine bold new light on their characters.

    I have to confess that I do not recall having previously been aware of the dissolution of the Grey Council and wads thus caught off guard by said mention in this episode, but having it no longer exist creates the perfect opportunity and excuse to give Delenn a new set of responsibilities by having her succeed Sinclair as the head of the Rangers, and also provides an opportunity for Marcus to once again prove his nobility and all-around awesomeness. I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but Marcus happens to be my second favorite B5 character behind Londo, and this ep once again lets him shine. Jason Carter's delivery of the character's parting shot at Neroon is pure gold, and perfectly encapsulates who Marcus is.

    And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
    Londo Mollari is one smooth criminal. His actions in this episode represent, as I said earlier, one of the smoothest schemes I think I have ever seen in all of fiction, bringing his rivalry with Lord Refa to glorious conclusion and, I believe, sowing the seeds for the circumstances of Londo's own death as seen in War without End and first alluded to, as previously mentioned, in MotFL.

    The rest of the episode also provides an opportunity to revisit both the character of Brother Theo and touch on and remind the audience of the civil unrest and chaos back on Earth, but also furthers the growing romance between Sheridan and Delenn and sets the stage for one of the most satisfying yet completely untelegraphed moments of the series in Delenn's first proper liplock on Sheridan, which serves as and is a great counterpoint to their kiss in WwE.

    ***

    As I close this post, I figured I ought to update my 'essentials' list:
    Matters of Honor
    Voices of Authority
    Dust to Dust
    Exogenesis
    Messages from Earth
    Point of No Return
    Severed Dreams
    Ceremonies of Light and Dark
    A Late Delivery from Avalon
    Ship of Tears (which I mistakenly forgot to include before)
    Interludes and Examinations
    War without End, Part One
    War without End, Part Two
    Walkabout
    Grey 17 is Missing
    And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  9. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    I said out, dammit!
    20 Years? Oy. Guess that means it's been (almost?) 20 years since I sat in on an Amiga computer user's group and they showed us some Video Toaster effects tests of the station, and we sat there going "OOOooooooooooo!" :)
     
  10. Candlelight

    Candlelight Admiral Admiral

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    I always hated the Franklin stims storyline. It was almost as if the story was written simply to give the actor to do while the war was going on. Then again it always seems to be the curse of anyone in the role of medical officer to be given lame arcs.
     
  11. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm back to finish off my comments on Season 3.

    For starters, I figured I'd update my 'essentials' list:
    Matters of Honor
    Voices of Authority
    Dust to Dust
    Exogenesis
    Messages from Earth
    Point of No Return
    Severed Dreams
    Ceremonies of Light and Dark
    A Late Delivery from Avalon
    Ship of Tears
    Interludes and Examinations
    War without End, Part One
    War without End, Part Two
    Walkabout
    Grey 17 is Missing
    And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
    Shadow Dancing
    Z'Ha'Dum

    Now, my reviews of/thoughts on Shadow Dancing and Z'Ha'Dum.

    Shadow Dancing
    Shadow Dancing struck me as one of those episodes that could've used a bit more setup than it ultimately got, but that still functions well enough as-is that it's hard to really complain and say that the lack of a bit more setup was truly a detriment. Both the 'a' story and 'b' story work well together, bringing Dr. Franklin's 'walkabout' storyline to its conclusion and bringing things to a head with regards to the larger Shadow War arc of the season as well, but not completely resolving them, which sets up things nicely for the season finale.

    One thing that I didn't see coming but probably should've - given that the commentary tracks that accompany certain episodes aren't shy about spoilers and also given that, as JMS talks about in his commentary for Z'Ha'Dum, he's not shy about putting his cards on the table and still managing to surprise you anyway - was the repetition and extension of Delenn's 'flash-foward' scene from War without End (I forget which part, exactly) and the return of Anna Sheridan. I usually have a problem with shows recasting a prominent role, but in this case I think there's enough of a resemblance between the original Anna Sheridan actress, Beth Toussaint, and Melissa Gilbert that the recasting doesn't feel jarring and actually ends up working, particularly given that there is a period of five years between when we see Beth Toussaint's Anna Sheridan and when we see Melissa Gilbert's Anna Sheridan.

    I also really enjoyed the banter in this episode between Marcus and Susan, as it gives JMS and the actors an opportunity to once again play the dynamic between the characters and put Marcus' attraction to Ivanova out there in the open in a way that they hadn't really done in any of the other episodes of the season besides Matters of Honor and Exogenesis, and that certainly hadn't been done since Exogenesis.

    Z'Ha'Dum
    One of the things that makes JMS such an incredible writer-creator is his ability to consciously and deliberately draw on story and character threads that have been building throughout the course of a season and pay them off to the 'nth degree, even drawing in stuff that an audience might've forgotten about. He was able to do this in all 3 of the season finales for B5, but particularly succeeded in Chrysalis - which ended in a cliffhanger - and again in Z'Ha'Dum, which also ends on a cliffhanger.

    I didn't quite understand the significance of what Franklin was doing in comparing the skeletal schematic of Anna Sheridan and Bester's lover Carolyn (whose last name I didn't recognize) until later on in the episode when Sheridan is on Z'Ha'Dum and the Shadow agents Anna, Morden, and Justin are laying everything out on the table for him, but it works nonetheless in emphasizing and explaining why Sheridan makes the decision he does in actually going to Z'Ha'Dum despite having been told not to go both implicitely (by Kosh) and explicitely (by Delenn).

    Giving G'Kar the chance to serve as the narrator of the final scenes of the episode also helps to convey a sense of foreboding and plays into the cliffhanger nature of the episode, and was, I think, a most inspired choice not only because of how good Andreas Katsulas is in the role of G'Kar, but also because it helps to further emphasize and encapsulate the character's journey over the course of the season and emphasize his place in the 'Army of Light'.

    Now, my overall thoughts on the season.

    Overall thoughts on Season Three
    I mentioned earlier that I'd always heard and seen Babylon 5 described as a single 'novel for television' but that I felt, based on the conclusion of Season 2 and the beginning and overall structure of Season 3, that it was better described as a pair of 'novels for television', and I stand by that observation, which was only strengthened as I progressed through the season and is even further strengthened by the events of Z'Ha'Dum. Time will tell, though, whether or not there's a 'final resolution' to the arcs set up in this season and that will be continued into Season 4 and I end up having to revise my observations for Season 5, but, for now, S3's ending definitely does feel like the 'middle point' of a second story that builds upon the story told in Seasons 1 and 2 but is ultimately its own separate thing.

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of/comments on the first four episodes of Season 4, but, in the meantime, I'd again like to ask other people to comment on my comments and offer their own thoughts on Season 3 and on the previous two seasons as well.
     
  12. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Location:
    I said out, dammit!
    Z'Ha'Dum wasn't a cliffhanger, it was a cliff-jumper! :)Andreas' closing monolog STILL gives me chills, no matter how many times I've heard it. The man was brilliant.
     
  13. Jeff O'Connor

    Jeff O'Connor Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2010
    Location:
    Tampa, FL
    Not enough good things to say about JMS' writing and Katsulas' delivery in that closing monologue. They coalesce, man. Big time.
     
  14. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 20, 2001
    Location:
    West Haven, UT, USA
    I'm back with reviews of/comments on episodes 1 through 4 of Season 4.

    The Hour of the Wolf
    My first thought when I finished watching this episode was just how strong of a resemblance it has to the Battlestar Galactica episodes Scattered (from Season 2) and Sine Qua Non (from Season 4). Like Scattered, it picks up on events from the previous season's finale (which, in the case of BSG, was Kobol's Last Gleaming Part 2) and, like Sine Qua Non, it forms the first portion of a multi-part 'aftermath' story.

    However, where it sets itself apart from either Scattered or Sine Qua Non is that it also does a tremendous amount of setup in and of itself in terms of the new storyline for the upcoming season (which Scattered didn't, being fairly standalone).

    There's one final aspect to the episode, though, that also sets it apart from either Scattered or Sine Qua Non, and that is due to it being a 'payoff' episode in addition to a setup episode by making manifest what I believe is the final part of Londo's dream/vision from The Coming of Shadows (and doing so brilliantly, I might add) and also answering the mystery surrounding the final scene of last season's Passing through Gethsemane (not to mention the other instances in which said scene was repeated during S3).

    Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
    I said above that The Hour of the Wolf forms the first portion of an aftermath story similar to Sin Qua Non and The Hub, and WHtMG? forms the second portion of that story, serving as the B5 equivalent to The Hub in the same way that THotW serves as the B5 equivalent to Sine Qua Non.

    However, what WHtMG? does that The Hub does not is leave things unresolved, because, where The Hub served to tie up the aftermath story from Guess What's Coming to Dinner, WHtMG? doesn't really resolve any of the leftover story threads from Z'Ha'Dum, but only prolongs and stretches them out a bit, instead becoming a vehicle for further setup insofar as it concerns the ongoing storyline for the season while also revisiting and building towards the circumstances surrounding Londo's eventual death as mentioned in Midnight on the Firing Line and as seen in War without End Part 2.

    The Summoning
    The Summoning, like The Hour of the Wolf and Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?, forms part of the B5 equivalent to Sin Qua Non and The Hub, and more or less is the equivalent of what might've happened if The Hub had been a two-part episode, since it's primarily about not only resolving the lingering story threads from Z'Ha'Dum, but also resolving the story threads from The Hour of the Wolf and Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?

    However, what JMS does here that RDM didn't is that he doesn't actually telegraph The Summoning's status as a 'resolution' episode in any fashion, instead playing it as another 'setup' episode and only bringing in the resolution at the last second and springing it on us with both Sheridan and Garibaldi's returns (particularly Sheridan's). It is a brilliant storytelling strategy and once again demonstrates JMS' prowess as a storyteller.

    Falling towards Apotheosis
    Falling towards Apotheosis struck me as being the Season 4 equivalent to Season 3's Messages from Earth arc (Messages from Earth, Point of No Return, Severed Dreams, and Ceremonies of Light and Dark), but done in microcosm, because it effectively compresses the turning points represented by those four episodes into the course of a single episode, but does so without any of the turning point moments it deals with losing any of their potency or impact.

    There were, for me, three 'turning point moments' in particular that stand out. The first is the episode's beginning, with Ivanova doing her best impression of a newscaster; the second is Londo being backed into a corner in terms of the Shadows being sheltered on Centauri Prime and Cartagia's madness causing him to deviate from what the Shadows want to see done in terms of protecting Centauri Prime and their ships from the Vorlons; and the third is the episode's ending, with Sheridan taking a stand against Ulkesh, Delenn finding out how and why he is alive, and his proposing to her in his quarters. The latter moment in particular stands out as not only a highlight of the episode, but also of the season and series, with the moment being brilliantly played by both Mira Furlan and Bruce Boxleitner.

    I also want to mention how glad I am that JMS chose to leave the actual physical act of G'Kar being maimed to the audience's imagination, because to do otherwise would have been incredibly gratuitous. I think the fact that we don't actually see G'Kar lose an eye, or find out which eye he loses, makes things more tragic and poignant for the character, but without making the act of maiming him seem over-the-top.

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of/thoughts on episodes 5 through 8.
     
  15. Kosh Naranek

    Kosh Naranek Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 25, 2009
    Location:
    Elwood P. Dowd's House
    Gah - Going to have to pull out my B5 DVDs and give them a watch.

    :)

    I loved Marcus...
     
  16. Sakrysta

    Sakrysta Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2001
    Location:
    Sakrysta
    ^As did we all. *sigh*

    B5's 4th season is just so crammed full of goodness. Make sure when you finish to watch the musical suite in the DVD special features. It never fails for me that watching it causes a sense of awe at just how much happened in that single year. :techman:
     
  17. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 20, 2001
    Location:
    West Haven, UT, USA
    I'm back.

    The Long Night
    I've kept bringing up comparisons to Battlestar Galactica in some of my reviews, and it's a trend that's going to continue with this next batch of episodes.

    As I watched this episode, I kept having flashbacks to the second half of BSG's 4th season, which is effectively one single narrative spread out over the course of 11 episodes. The Long Night (and the very next episode, Into the Fire) really brings home the idea that JMS is telling one continuous story and bringing it to its conclusion over the course of several episodes, ramping things up consistently and building towards a definitive end. This episode also reminded me very much of the 'present-day' portions of the BSG S4/series finale Daybreak.

    Beyond the sense of things 'coming to an end' that permeates this episode and begins to draw in everything that's happened since Z'Ha'Dum, what makes this episode shine is its moments of character. From Sheridan knowingly and tragically sending Ericcson and his crew to their deaths to Londo and Vir ramping up their plot to kill Cartagia (with Vir ultimately having to do the deed after Cartagia surprises Londo and grabs him by the throat) to G'Kar's newfound ability to perceive the unperceivable, this episode encompasses and encapsulates every aspect of JMS' philosophy that good story comes from character (IOW, you deal with the characters first, and the story comes along).

    Into the Fire
    Along with the previous episode, this episode really reminded me very much of the BSG S4/series finale Daybreak; it also reminded me of the conclusion of the first season of Caprica.

    Like The Long Night, this episode succeeded not only because it continued to convey a sense of things coming to a close, but also because of its character development. In drawing both the Shadows and Vorlons into one area and forcing a confrontation of words as well as a confrontation of force, Sheridan truly demonstrates for the first time the leadership qualities that will later come to define his character and truly lets him shine as an equal to Delenn and Lorien.

    Speaking of Lorien, I absolutely loved his attempt to convince Ivanova to open her heart again, primarily because you get the distinct impression that he knows about Marcus' undisguised affection for her and senses that she returns those feelings even if she's not yet ready to admit them to anyone, least of all herself.

    Another highlight of the episode for me is the scene where Londo confronts Morden. There is this sense that Londo recognizes, at least subconsciously, that he's ultimately responsible for getting his people into this mess and that the first thing he needs to do is deal with the most tangible evidence of his complicity, that of course being Morden. The scene also leads rather nicely into the scene in the courtyard where the Vorlons are on approach and Vir helps Londo see, consciously if not subconsciously, that, even in getting rid of Morden and the Shadow vessels he brought with him, he hasn't gotten Centauri Prime out of danger quite yet because he himself is still present and still represents a rather significant threat to the Vorlons. The scene not only serves as a great counterpoint to the earlier scene where Londo confronts Morden, but also serves as a rather poignant foreshadowing of what ultimately ends up happening as per the final scene of Epiphanies and the future flash sequences of War without End P2 where an older Londo tells Sheridan and Delenn about what happened to Centauri Prime as an unintended consequence of the Shadow War.

    Epiphanies
    As I watched this episode, I got the distinct sense that it is in a number of ways the Babylon 5 equivalent to the BSG episodes Sometimes a Great Notion and A Disquiet Follows My Soul, both of which were centered around the aftermath of the events of the episode Revelations and which were very much about 'wrapping things up' in a sense, since there's this sense of things starting over in both of those episodes and here in Epiphanies.

    The three episodes do serve as a bit of a counterpoint to each other, though, because, despite President Clark's manipulating of the situation to make Babylon 5 perceived as a threat once again and Bester showing up on Babyon 5 to stir things up, Epiphanies very much conveys a sense of things being peaceful, which is fitting given how much crap is about to start coming our characters' way in the next episode.

    The only complaint I have about the episode is that, for the first time, it feels as if JMS is trying overly hard to make Bester an integral part of every bad or ominous thing that ends up happening to our characters on Babylon 5, which does the character a bit of disservice. The coda of Bester talking to the cryogenically frozen Carolyn really wasn't needed and sort of undermined the episode for me because it seemed to be a bit too 'on the nose' in terms of saying 'Bester is once again playing our crew'.

    The Illusion of Truth
    As I was watching this episode, I realized something that probably shoud've occurred to me much earlier, which is that it is as much the antithesis of And Now for a Word as it is a follow-up to that episode and a combination of both that episode and the BSG episode Final Cut and the next piece in an evolving tapestry of episodes (which also includes The Deconstruction of Falling Stars and Sleeping in Light) that, when looked at in context of one another, form a crucial piece of the Babylon 5 narrative that is ultimately unrelated to anything else that happens as part of said narrative.

    If there's an area where this episode ultimately falls short, it is in not showing us Sheridan's response to his misguided attempt to play fair with ISN, underestimating the extent of their corruption to the point that it ends up imperiling and sullying the one pure thing he had in his life, that being his relationship with Delenn. It would've strengthened his character very much if we'd seen his reaction, and not showing it somewhat ruins what I think the entire point of the episode was in terms of imperiling that relationship.

    Prior to watching this episode, I had been questioning whether or not it made sense for JMS to end the season with The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, but, as I watched this episode, it became crystal clear to me that there ultimately wasn't any other way to end the season except with an episode like TDoFS, especially not after I realized that that episode is both a follow-up to this episode as well as part of JMS' attempt to shape the B5 narrative as a retrospective on and, in some ways, reshaping of, history, not just as it occurred, but as certain individuals would like others to believe that it occurred.

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of/comments on episodes 9 through 12.
     
  18. Candlelight

    Candlelight Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2000
    Location:
    New Zealand
    My only real gripe with the fourth season is much of the story telling just seems to run into each other, and it's not very well defined by episode. That said, it's only a minor grizzle, and not enough to ruin what is one of the best seasons of television in the last 20 years.
     
  19. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 20, 2001
    Location:
    West Haven, UT, USA
    ^ I said this in another thread, but I don't personally think there's ultimately anything wrong with the storytelling and pacing decisions JMS made for Season 4, primarily because said decisions follow the precedent he set in Seasons 2 and 3 where he completely wrapped up one set of storylines (Season 2) and started a brand-new set of storylines (Season 3). The only difference is that, for Season 4, he expanded things so that he ended up wrapping up two sets of storylines within the course of Season 4 rather than the single set of storylines he wrapped up in Season 2.

    Anyway, let's get to my next set of reviews.

    Atonement
    There's a rather famous catchphrase used by a professional wrestler named Rowdy Roddy Piper that goes "Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions", and this quote is just as apt a descriptor of what JMS does with this episode. Just when we think we know everything there is to know about the Minbari, Sinclair/Valen, and the relationship between humans and Minbari, JMS comes along and changes everything we thought we knew.

    My favorite aspect of this episode was the way that it explored the relationship between Dukhat and Delenn and expanded on what we knew of the latter's involvement in starting the Earth-Minbari War. I also liked how the episode ends up answering the question of 'why did Delenn become half-human?' by telling us that she was already partly human - thanks to carrying part of Sinclair/Valen's DNA - and that the Chrysalis transformation brought the part of her that was already human to the forefront.

    The best part of the episode aside from the stuff involving Delenn and Dukhat was by far the tiny nod to the Season 2 episode The Geometry of Shadows. I wasn't expecting to ever see Susan's 'Green Leader' sash again, or her cane, for that matter, and therefore couldn't help but smile when both of those items popped up in this episode. The look on Sheridan's face when she comes hobbling out of the transport tube is great, and her response of 'Don't. Even. Ask.' is almost as priceless.

    I also got a big kick out of G'Kar's undisguised glee at finding out that his new prosthetic eye can operate independently of his body. It was nice to see G'Kar truly giddy about something, since it's a rather rare occurrance, and Andreas Katsulas' acting really sells the moment.

    Racing Mars
    Racing Mars is really the first episode of B5 that I felt had more than two plots, with an 'a' plot (Marcus and Franklin's journey to Mars to meet with the Resistance), a 'b' plot (Ivanova negotiating to get black market smugglers to help supply the station), a 'c' plot (Sheridan's forced vacation and everything - from confronting Garibaldi to undergoing the shan'fal with Delenn - that happens during it), and a 'd' plot (Garibaldi being recruited by Wade and his shady associates).

    I didn't really much care for the character of Captain Jack, who I feel came across as being a too over-the-top annoying to really make his actions as dictated by the Keeper parasite work the way they were intended to, so, for me, the highlight of the Mars Resistance 'a' plot - at least insofar as this episode is concerned - was very much the introduction of the Resistance leader Number One. I swear I've seen the actress who played the character somewhere before, but cannot for the life of me figure out where.

    This episode really gave Ivanova another chance to show off her diplomatic chops - something we hadn't seen that much of since Season 2 - and I really liked the scenes of her negotiating with the smugglers.

    This episode really allowed Bruce Boxleitner to demonstrate his skills as an actor, first in his confrontation with Garibaldi - particularly after Garibaldi punches him (you can really tell from the look on Sheridan's face that he wants to punch Garibaldi back but decides to take the higher road) - and then in the scene where he comes to Delenn's quarters and is caught completely off guard by the presence of Lennier and others. You can really tell that he wants to tell them to go away but, because of his respect and love for Delenn, holds his tongue and simply accepts what she tells him regarding the shan'fal ritual even though you can tell that he'd rather they were just able to do things in a much more straightforward manner.

    Lines of Communication
    As I was watching this episode, I couldn't help but think about what the Drakh are eventually going to do to Earth in A Call to Arms, which made me want to scream 'they can't be trusted' at the screen when Forell revealed his true agenda and had the Drakh emmisary come aboard Delenn's White Star to meet with her. Knowing what they were eventually going to do to Earth did make it particularly satisfying, though, when she made the decision to destroy their ships in retaliation for their attacks on civilian targets and the destruction of one of her White Star companion ships.

    I really liked Sheridan's arc in this episode as it concerned his attempt to find a way to counter ISN's blatant lies and propaganda. I particularly got a kick out of the scene where he finally has his epiphany about what to do and comes to Ivanova's quarters in the middle of the night to talk to her. The scene had just enough humor to let Bruce and Claudia's natural onscreen chemistry manifest itself, but without undermining the true intent of the scene and its followup in the war room where he explains his plan to her.

    I was a much bigger fan of the Mars Resistance stuff in this episode than I was of what happened in Racing Mars. It once again gave Franklin and Marcus some great character development, and there was some definite chemistry between Franklin and Number One (I still can't figure out where I've seen the actress who played her, Marjorie Monaghan, before). It's nice to see Franklin with some more romance in his life because it gives him more facets than just being the 'doctor', and I can't help but wonder if we'll see this thread revisited later on down the line.

    Conflicts of Interest
    I haven't really talked much about Garibaldi's new character arc for the season that was introduced in Epiphanies, mainly because I wasn't quite sure where things were going with it, but I did like the role he had to play in this episode. The episode seemed to me to very much be a sequel of sorts to Season 1's Survivors, which is really the last time we got to see Garibaldi getting his hands dirty with a bunch of 'cloak-and-dagger' stuff. I also liked that the episode brought back Lise Hampton, although I was surprised that Garibaldi didn't end up listening to the message she left for him. I wasn't expecting him to get a message from her husband, though, which instantly made me more interested in where his storyline might be going than I had been.

    The scene between Sheridan, Londo, and G'Kar didn't really have as much impact as it probably could've with a bit of setup (it sort of comes out of nowhere) and resolution, but I really liked the acting in it from Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas.

    Ivanova's interactions down on Epsilon 3 with the 'new' Zathras were funny, and Claudia Christian played them perfectly. It was also neat to see the Voice of the Resistance finally go LIVE at the end of the episode because it was a nice callback of sorts to the ISN broadcast from And Now for a Word, and to the 'newscaster Ivanova' bits from Falling towards Apotheosis, especially since it was the latter stuff that got Ivanova the job as the host of the VotR broadcasts in the first place.

    ***

    I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 13 through 16.
     
  20. Candlelight

    Candlelight Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2000
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Doubt it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marjorie_Monaghan

    She hasn't really done much.
     

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