Saturday, March 29, 2008
It’s full steam ahead with Babylon 5 Season 2: The Coming Of Shadows Episodes 5-8.
My immediate reaction thus far is that Bruce Boxleitner was a fine choice to be sure. The man has quickly usurped any feelings I may have had in feeling bad that O’Hare got the boot. Boxleitner is simply terrific and a joy to watch. I have fallen in love with the man!
Season 2 has been a more enjoyable experience thus far.
The Long Dark continues to plunge us headlong toward the unknown forces that are the Shadows. The influence of that arc seemingly permeates each episode in some small way. Stories and plots unfold that not only stand alone but also impact and play into the relevance of the overarching Shadows thread. Each entry weaves beautifully into that longer arc whether it is through affected characters or deep space sightings.
In fact, The Long Dark played like a tip of the cap to the mood of Alien and its vessel the Nostromo [in this case the Copernicus]. The creature is now aboard B5 and on the loose. There is some terrific tension here, but the final battle with the “soldier of darkness” is anti-climatic and the weak effects portraying the creature don’t help. Again, while it plays as an exciting entry, this so-called "soldier" is also believed to be one of the forces making an effort to gather on the Rim at the Shadows' calling.
Interesting factoid: Jumpgate technology was a result of trade with the Centauri.
Spider In The Web continues to delve into the series' brilliant conspiracy politics. The ambiguity of the Earth agenda and the ongoing questions surrounding Psi Corps are influencing and affecting B5 neutrality. The political struggles within the show add yet another complexity to a maturing show. In fact, for me, the most intriguing and seemingly duplicitous moment comes by way of Talia Winters. An engaging backstory on her leads to the uncovering of a covert operation involving Psi Corps during a mind scan. When asked who she saw inside the scan she purposefully denies the truth to Commander Sheridan. Why? Loyalty to Psi Corps? Something else? What is Ms. Winters' subtext?
Sheridan adds additional questions to B5's growing mythology by confiding in Garibaldi information pertaining to a rogue agency dubbed Bureau 13. Tasty stuff!
The irony of Soul Mates is that past and present lovers rearrive that aren't exactly desired or wanted. The focus is on both Londo and Talia Winters. Londo’s three wives arrive on B5, while Winters’ former Psi Corps lover, Matthew Stoner, also looks for a re-entry of sorts in the hopes of retrieving her. Winters, of course, had a previous dalliance with former lover Jason Ironheart in Season 1 Mind War where he graced her with enhanced or heightened telepathic powers. About the only one not getting any action so far would be Delenn. Anyway, Londo's third arrival is an utter hottie, albeit an utter bald hottie [all Centauri women are bald]. I’m okay with that. The trio is informed that two will receive divorces and one will remain. You’ll need to guess which one Londo prefers stoke his fire.
Minor footnote: At least two of Londo's wives are not the same as those pictured and referenced lovingly as "Pestilence," "Famine" and "Death" way back in Season 1's The War Prayer. This installment is in full Love Boat affect? Where's Gopher or Doc when you need 'em.
Meanwhile, Winters is coaxed into believing she can escape the grip of Psi Corps and that Stoner can help her suppress or completely rid herself of that all-consuming telepathic albatross. Garibaldi does everything in his power to protect her. He has more than a passing interest in B5’s curvy blonde bombshell. In fact, as I've come to find out, Jeffrey Doyle married Andrea Thompson in real life.
The final entry, A Race Through Dark Places, sees economic pressures applied to Sheridan and Ivanova from Earth concerning their accomodations. The orders are either relocate to smaller quarters or pay more rent. WTF! The guy is the Captain of a major space station. Wow, loyal service isn’t what it used to be. No respect at all. Despite the ultimatum Sheridan is a bit of a master at allocating expenses as we come to find out. Bester of Psi Corps returns as Winters shines away her newfound powers. Meanwhile, Mira Furlan radiates pure sophistication and European beauty attending dinner with Sheridan [she still ain't gettin' any].
The Long Dark: B- [Dwight Schultz of The A-Team guests with a pretty fine performance]
Spider In The Web: C+ [Adrienne Barbeau of The Fog and Escape From New York guests; Jeff “Grease is the word” Conaway unfortunately makes his first appearance]
Soul Mates: C
A Race Through Dark Places: C
Classic quote from The Long Dark
Garibaldi: “Lousy way to die huh?” Sheridan: “Last I checked there weren’t too many good ways.”
Classic quote from Spider In The Web
Ivanova: “You got a plan?”
Sheridan: “Let’s try not to get killed.”
Sheridan to Garibaldi: “There is a spider in the web Mr. Garibaldi and I intend to find it and kill it.”
Classic quote from Soul Mates
Timov, wife of Londo, to Londo and his other two wives: “ Do you seriously expect me to become involved in your sexual Olympics?”
Portentous Quote by unknown alien: “When the darkness was defeated long ago they scattered, hid themselves away in secret places and waited. Now the dark hand is reaching out and recalling them from their sleep.” Deliciously creepy stuff.
You just gotta love Garibaldi. They just don't cook food thoroughly anymore.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
So I try to strike up a little conversation with "the one to be pitied" who is often in the room while I absorb my science fiction gamma rays. I mention I'm beginning my journey into Babylon 5 Season 2: The Coming Of Shadows. I inform her there is a major new development forthcoming. Michael O'Hare is going to be replaced by...I am rudely interrupted with "Mr. Who the Butt f@#! cares." Nice, real nice. That's the kind of loving support we have here folks. I continue undaunted... "NOoo, he is being replaced by Bruce Boxleitner of Tron and Scarecrow And Mrs. King [with Kate Jackson] infamy". The silence is golden and yes I continue my lonely journey into deep hyperspace my spirits undampened.
I recently read an article by J. Michael Straczynski emphasizing his intention to novelize his concepts over the course of five seasons [“this is a full-worked-out novel”]. He clearly had a gameplan and I cannot help but be intrigued at seeing the evolution of his vision. There is unquestionably a literary and more naturally dramatic feel and flow to the story as I enter Season 2. Season 1 must be viewed to appreciate the characters and intergalactic setup and reveal the diverse race histories.
The biggest development is the obvious one. Sinclair [Michael O’Hare] has been reassigned to the Minbari homeworld as the first Earth ambassador. Bruce Boxleitner replaces him as Babylon 5 Commander John Sheridan. It is revealed Sheridan has a much more combative history with the Minbari than the seemingly more diplomatic Sinclair and to my surprise Boxleitner was more heated than I expected. The Minbari are displeased with Sheridan’s assignment. His character is a much riskier proposition to be sure. As much as I grew to like aspects of O’Hare’s personality, it is clear to me Boxleitner is a much more fluid performer. It was a command decision to replace O'Hare and I think the right one.
Watching the season opener, Points Of Departure, it was a pleasure to see Boxleitner play foil against the often career-minded, militarily professional and sometimes stiff Lt Commander Ivanova [Claudia Christian]. Granted she is softening her rigid, steely grip as well and she's the better for it. The biggest piece of new information, which I found to be a bit of a stretch, was the reason for the end of the Earth-Minbari War. Apparently, according to the Minbari Grey Council, Minbari souls were being reborn in human bodies. Okay. This secret, super-sensitive information was erased from Sinclair’s mind and kept from the Minbari population. Poor execution left me scratching my head on that one. Finally, Lennier also alludes to the prophecy of a great enemy returning and that it will require the combined might of Earth and the Minbari to stop these forces. He also refers to this enemy as their “mistake.” There are plenty of nods to the overarching story arc throughout these first four episodes.
Revelations continues by revealing some of the best effects to date as might be expected. We discover Sheridan’s former love Anna, died two years ago in an explosion. G’Kar returns from his mission evading near death to inform, “weep for the future Na’Toth, weep for us all.” G’Kar alerts us that an enemy of darkness has returned after 1,000 years. Katsulas as G'Kar continues to amaze in much the same way Jurasik as Londo impresses. He commands the camera and delivers the drama note perfect. By the way the red lighting in his bedroom seems a bit kinky for my taste, but the lassies seem to like it. Na’Toth is now played by a new actress. I think I preferred the fiery persona of the former. Let's put it this way, I doubt you'll see actress Mary Kay Adams force a Deathwalker smackdown.
Londo continues to cozy up to the enemy [Morden of The Shadows] despite his reservations. He is playing a very dangerous game and his character's motives are transforming before our very eyes. He alerts Morden to the Narn presence on the Rim and the Narn are attacked swiftly.
The drama of Revelations flows smoother than any to date. Garibaldi returns. Delenn has exited her cocoon in her beautiful, near human form. She is now a bridge between the Minbari and Earth. Meanwhile, Sheridan smells something rotten with the new Earth presidency.
The Geometry Of Shadows rounds out Season 2's Straczynski-led, solid start.
Some key developments include the promotion of Ivanova to Commander. Garibaldi has a crisis of conscience on his role with B5 as he feels the effects of his friend Sinclair’s removal as well as his near death experience. We meet the Drazi, a most ridiculous race that battles for supremacy based on their association with color. “Green must fight purple, purple must fight green.” I’d be like, please, by all means, go kill yourselves. I know, not very diplomatic. It does illustrate the rediculous adherence to and absurdity of extremism of any kind. Straczynski is clearly unafraid to inject political commentary into his space opera.
The key link to the Shadows’ arc is the rare appearance of beings dubbed the Techno-Mage. They are emigrating to the stars to preserve the secrets they possess from the “storm coming, a black and terrible storm.” The final exchange between Techno-Mage and Londo is downright cautionary.
A Distant Star [penned by D.C. Fontana], is the season's fourth installment. At this point the most notable development for me has been Season 2’s flow. The chemistry of performances, writing and dialogue are more natural and relaxed than ever.
The continued build on the Shadows’ arc is teasing my anticipation with noted sightings of unusual objects in hyperspace.
Finally, it's worth noting that Andrea Thompson as Ms. Talia Winters isn't the only hottie, as Mira Furlan, now returned from cocoon status, is one of those strange, foreign beauties. She’s quite a sexy alien in her own weird right. Perhaps the term 'butterfly' might be appropriate here. I would have enjoyed being Captain Kirk.
- Bruce Boxleitner [Commander John Sheridan]
- Claudia Christian [Lt Commander Susan Ivanova]
- Jeffrey Doyle [Security Chief Michael Garibaldi]
- Peter Jurasik [Londo Mollari]
- Mira Furlan [Delenn]
- Richard Biggs [Dr. Stephen Franklin]
- Andrea Thompson [Talia Winters]
- Stephen Furstas [Vir Cotto]
- Bill Mumy [Lennier]
- Andreas Katsulas [G' Kar]
- Mary Kay Adams [Na'Toth]
- Robert Rusler [Warren Keffer]
Points Of Departure: C+
The Geometry Of Shadows: B
Friday, March 21, 2008
Conclusion: As many have said to me, you need to give Babylon 5 a chance if you haven't already and you need to be patient as the cast and writers/ directors find their respective grooves through conductor J. Michael Straczynski. Undeniably, Season 1 is a bit like eating vegetables as a five year old. It doesn't taste great, but their necessary for you, so you plug your nose and eat. Same here, it's necessary in establishing the world, the characters and the setup for things to come. Season 2 up next!
Footnote: Mira Furlan has actually had a pretty tough life. I recently read she escaped the civil war of former Yugoslavia before landing a part in Babylon 5. She left behind a successful career and had to literally reinvent herself, adjust to life and language in the US speaking English. Her transition was quite painful initially, but she persevered and overcame the adversity to make it. She's a survivor who has led a pretty remarkable life.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The final episode of Babylon 5, Season One, Episode 22, Chrysalis, plays out like the harbinger it is. There are changes to come symbolized by the chrysalis or cocoon Delenn is encased within. The mysterious figure that is the herald for this formative crisis reappears and creates havoc by meddling between the Narn and Centauri Prime. The entire episode is a jumping off point for Season 2.
Key plot points that set the wheels of change in motion for next season:
- Morden [agent of The Shadows] ensures the Narn outpost in Quadrant 37 is destroyed granting Londo's wish to 'handle the problem'. It isn't quite what Londo bargained for and he is visibly stunned and shaken by the exercise initially.
- Ambassador Kosh feeds Delenn information that accelerates her need to cocoon.
- The Earth President is assassinated.
- Garibaldi is shot and left for dead by the conspirators involved in the President's assassination.
- Upon learning of the attack on the Narn, Sinclair's fateful words, "nothing's the same anymore" reverberate into the next season. I wonder if he knew he was being replaced at this point. I suspect he did and it must have been difficult delivering those lines.
Au revoir for now Sinclair, we hardly knew ya.
Classic dialogue in the form of the ultimate man proposal from Sinclair to Catherine: "Look! Do ya wanna get married or don't you?" Romantic? Probably not, but it was completely in character.
Classic dialogue from Londo: "There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. Then you accept it or you kill yourself... or you stop looking into mirrors." Straczynski's wisdom shines in the writing and the actors continue to have better material to immerse their talents.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
B5 S1 Ep 17-21: Legacies, A Voice In The Wilderness Part 1 & 2, Babylon Squared & The Quality Of Mercy
Remembering it has been 10 years since the Earth-Minbari War, Legacies is an important installment. It continues to construct the B5 universe offering further insights into the races of the Minbari, Narn and Centauri. We specifically are enlightened to the two tier warrior versus religious caste systems of the Minbari. It is fascinating to see these races and their mostly mysterious histories inextricably woven together via the space station. Including the peoples of Earth, there are some complex and deep running rivalries at play here with each represented by their respective ambassador. This peace is a seemingly delicate and fragile one.
The Quality Of Mercy was simply astounding for the mere fact we witness the normally reserved and seemingly dexter-like character of Lennier, played by Bill Mumy, go completely ballistic and all roadhouse smashing mouths at the casino in defense of Londo. Clearly, Lennier is the River Tam of the bunch. He would appear to be of the reglious caste of Minbar, but he clealry exhibits that of a genuine warrior. His past could be interesting. Some crazy physiological developments crop up via the always surprising Londo to boot. As I've learned, the Centauri has 6 sex organs. While gambling/ cheating a strange appendage was assisting Londo at the card table. Was that little package the Centauri equivalent of a penis? Nasty!
A foreshadowing from Babylon Squared. Minbari Grey Council member to Delenn: "These are curious times Delenn. I feel a great change in my bones. A new beginning- en end, I cannot say. We are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our backs." Chilling stuff.
Classic dialogue from Garibaldi mumbled to himself after learning his former love is married to a man named Franz: "Franz, what the hell kind of a name is Franz?"
Saturday, March 15, 2008
So it's nice to see I'm not a lunatic. Okay, maybe I am, but at least I now know there are at least two of us. This is exactly the type of thing that works for me on Babylon 5. I completely get this guy!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Yet another brilliant performance by Jurasik set against a significant fore"shadow"ing of darker things to come.
I have to admit as much as I initially scoffed at the first four episodes of this series it's coming into its own. As I view each new episode I'm faced with new reactions and I'm enjoying the show's ability to meet my expectations. There are three points that keep changing for me. First, that blue rotating cylindrical station that is Babylon 5 is beginning to take shape for me. Actually, the shots of the station are becoming more varied and more detailed, which may be aiding in that view. Second, the quality of the special effects are improving with each episode. I also like the use of color. Finally, Sinclair, played by O'Hare, is a character I'm beginning to admire and dare I say even like. Each time I write this show has me eating my words. I feel I've not been too judgemental and I've kept an open mind. Babylon 5 continues to be, like a fine wine, getting better with age. Strange, this show.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Furlan may play strange as Ambassador Delenn, but she's no stranger to mystery and intrigue.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
I must admit the computer animated design of the Babylon 5 Project or Space Station isn't all that impressive and even a bit dull. I might've sent the builders straight out the airlock.
I leave you with Episode 8, And The Sky Full Of Stars, probably the most ambitious Babylon 5 installment to this point. It is an O'Hare-centric episode and while I am getting accustomed to his style, I can't help but feel he was miscast for the show. I keep thinking actors like Nathan Fillion [Firefly] in the role and how much more I would have enjoyed the character. And man, how about them eyebrows? Them there are the biggest, bushiest eyebrows I've ever seen in need of a trim. Why, they're almost alien. I digress. The thematic material is heavy here and it is astounding how closely it mirrors today's political climate and the illegal immigrant conundrum. Without trying it really did foreshadow a great many socio-political challenges that certainly dog our planet. There are also some terrific character twists here concerning Delenn.
All in all major "signs" of hope.
Mind War: C+ [Walter Koenig [Star Trek] guests as a telepathic agent of Psi-Corp.]
The War Prayer: C+ [Australia's Tristan Rogers [General Hospital 'Scorpio' fame- I'm sorry and ashamed I know that] guests. You'll also spot the actress who played 'Winnie' in The Wonder Years here, but bald. This one is also written by D.C Fontana of Star Trek acclaim.]