[WIW, extensive spoilers] Babylon 5, again

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
#1
B5 is probably my favorite show of all time, and I've probably watched it most of the way through 4 or 5 times. Sometimes I'll skip season 1, sometimes I'll skip season 5, but I always watch the middle 3 seasons no matter what. It's been about 3 years since I watched it last, and my wife had been wanting to see it again, so I thought I'd give it another run through. I also thought I'd do a WIW here on Other Media, this time through, because why not.

I haven't watched the pilot in quite some time, because it's not included with the first season DVDs, but it's now available on Amazon streaming, so I decided to start there. Weirdly, the version they have is the original that aired back in 1993 or so, not the recut version that came out towards the end of the series. So that's what I watched.

Episode 0, "The Gathering"
*** out of ****

This was a pretty good pilot, but in the manner of most pilots it's a bit rough around the edges. A lot of it is stuff that's just different, without necessarily being bad; the music, by Stewart Copeland, is very different from what Christopher Franke provides for the series proper. It's generally more rocky and discordant, and it works really well in a couple of scenes (like the one where Lyta reads Kosh's mind). As weird as it is watching B5 with different, I was actually generally impressed with it, and am a bit surprised they didn't stick with Copeland.

Likewise, the visuals are quite different. They decided, for some reason, that there basically wouldn't be any real overhead lighting on the spacestation, so everything is dark as hell, with a lot of shadows and very contrasty highlights. I was torn between enjoying it, because it looks a lot more interesting than the more conventional lighting and camerawork of the later show, and sort of rolling my eyes a bit and wondering why the Earth Alliance couldn't pay their electric bill. Rounding it out, the makeup and uniforms are also a bit different; Ambassador Delenn, in particular, looks more alien. Many of the aliens in the background are puppets, which allowed for a lot of them to avoid the rubber forehead look, and most of them looked decent. That didn't make it into the series proper, either, and I don't think a show really made good use of the approach until Farscape.

The characters aren't quite nailed down yet, and three of them--Dr. Kyle, Lt. Cmdr. Takeshima, and Lyta Alexander--would be replaced by the time the first season started in earnest. The only one of those characters who really makes an impression is Lyta, and she, of course, will be back before too long. There's a scene where G'kar tries to buy her "genetic background" so that the Narns can start breeding their own telepaths--something that will come up again and again throughout the show--and at a certain point the discusssion turns from the genetics to the, ah, mechanics of the genetic transfer. Lyta really makes the scene, because as G'kar waxes enthusiastic about the possibility of interspecies sex, she just looks more and more horrified. This was the one time where the humor of the episode really had us laughing.

Of the characters that do stay on, Londo is the most fully realized, and he completely steals the show, as is his wont, demonstrating, for the first time of many, his inability to transform a desire to do the right thing into action. He gets the opening narration[1], which is more than appropriate, as if there's a central character of the show, I think it's him. He's a classically flawed, tragic hero, and stands out against a cast of more conventional TV scifi characters, even in episodes like "The Gathering", where he doesn't have a hell of a lot to do.

The plot is a decent murder/intrigue deal, as Cmdr. Sinclair is framed for the attempted murder of the newly arrived Ambassador Kosh. It introduces enough of the background of the Earth-Minbari War, the bad blood between the Centauri and the Narn, and the extreme secrecy surrounding the Vorlons, and keeps the story going at a pretty good clip for most of the episode. The main issue is that they seem to arrive at the end just a little bit too early, and then they meander through three or four endings. Also, there's a fair amount of clunky expository dialogue--the bane of science fiction in all its forms. It was particularly strange that Lyta Alexander didn't know that there had been four other Babylon stations--that seems like the sort of thing that would make the news[2]. It's more than enough to make me want to watch more, though, just as it was enough to get me excited about the show back when I first saw when I was 15.

[1] Which, amusingly, refers to Jeffrey Sinclair as the "last commander" of Babylon 5.

[2] Or the newspapers. I remember thinking it added a neat sort of versimilitude to have people still reading newspapers when I first saw the show; now it just makes it look weirdly archaic.
 

Mataxes

Social Justice Troubadour
Validated User
#3
Posting a reply so that I'm subscribed. I've watched the series through a couple of times and enjoy the discussion that comes up whenever a "Where I Watch" of the series is done here.
 

Summer Solstice

Fire and sunlight
Validated User
#4
Doh, you beat me to it Pillsy, while I was busy with other IRL things and my Full Metal Panic! I've got another idea in mind though, although it won't be as awesome as B5.
 

Summer Solstice

Fire and sunlight
Validated User
#5
Do you want spoiiler tags on things for the people following at home, Pillsy, or just go ahead and make comments?


Edit: Tried to PM you, but your inbox is full!
 

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
#6
Strictly speaking, as I recall, Londo just says "under its final commander..." without actually giving a name. ^.^
True, but he says it over a shot of Sinclair. ;)
Do you want spoiiler tags on things for the people following at home, Pillsy, or just go ahead and make comments?
I've already got one pretty big, untagged spoiler in my first post, so I think it's OK.
Edit: Tried to PM you, but your inbox is full!
Fixed. Jeez, there were three year old messages in there.
 

RK_Striker_JK_5

Registered User
Validated User
#7
Consider me subscribed, too. I own the first two seasons on DVD and hopefully within the next two weeks I can get at least number three on my shelves. :D
 

Summer Solstice

Fire and sunlight
Validated User
#8
Lyta is much cooler than Talia anyway. Would they ever be able to work in the Vorlon super-telepath secret weapon stuff if they didn't change back again anyway?

I don't get how that poison almost killed Kosh in about 2 seconds flat. It took two Shadows to kill Kosh over several minutes, and that was when he wasn't defending himself and was in Sheridan's dreamscape. Or for that matter, how did that doctor manage to do any sort of analysis on him?
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
#10
Lyta is much cooler than Talia anyway. Would they ever be able to work in the Vorlon super-telepath secret weapon stuff if they didn't change back again anyway?
Talia might not have been touched by a Vorlon, but she was "gifted" by the transcendant black dude, remember. That's how, IMO, JMS would have explained her 'nuclear power. (Then again, who knows, maybe she was touched by a Vorlon in her youth and had her memory wiped. But I doubt it....)

I don't get how that poison almost killed Kosh in about 2 seconds flat. It took two Shadows to kill Kosh over several minutes, and that was when he wasn't defending himself and was in Sheridan's dreamscape. Or for that matter, how did that doctor manage to do any sort of analysis on him?
IIRC, the doctor returns in a one-shot later on(not sure).
ANd Kosh does seem to be at least partially physical.
 
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