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[WIW, extensive spoilers] Babylon 5, again

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
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....)
Well, I don't have much doubt about the memory wipe part. :p

The show has definitely got its hooks in us. We went on to watch the first two episodes of season 1.

Episode 1.1, "Midnight on the Firing Line"
*** out of ****

I had pretty negative memories of this episode, but watching it again, I couldn't remember what about it I didn't like. This episode is almost like a second pilot; it spends a lot of time laying out the setting and the characters, just like "The Gathering" did, but a couple of the characters have changed. Talia replaces Lyta, and Ivanova replaces Takeshima. Talia isn't quite as interesting or as likeable as Lyta, but Ivanova is a huge improvement over the really wooden and boring Takeshima. She's prickly and funny from pretty much her first minute on the show.

The episode itself replaces the murder mystery approach of "The Gathering" with a mix of politics (and the Earth election going on in the background) and space action. The space battle is pretty good, and the episode establishes the dynamic that will carry through a lot of the first season, as Sinclair struggles to keep things running while dealing with constant interference from home. The show is pretty cynical about the politics of the Earth Alliance, but in this episode it's just ordinary, even sensible, reluctance on the part of the EarthGov to get dragged into the conflict between the Narn and the Centauri. I think this was the first SF show to really pay attention to the nature of the civilian politics behind the scenes.

There was obly one scene that really didn't work for me, and maybe the issue was that the one scene was pretty pivotal--it was the confrontation between Londo and G'kar immediately after Londo figures out that the Narns were behind the attack on Rhagesh III. The dialog is kind of lousy, and Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik just don't really carry it very well. It's weird, because the characters and the actors are IMO the high point of the series, and Londo is fantastic in the rest of his scenes. In both of these episodes, though, G'kar is just played like too much of a villain to really work right. He starts getting more complex characterization soon, but he isn't there yet.

They also have all the lights on, which is an arguable improvement over the pilot. On the one hand, I'm no longer wondering why everyone is standing around in the dark. On the other hand, I'm wondering why everything looks so damned cheap.
 

Mythos

Barking Mad
Validated User
Just chiming in here so that I will be subscribed to this thread.
B5 has to be one of my all time favorite sci-fi programs. While not perfect by any means, I still believe it set a standard that nothing has come close to since.
 

dkellis

Registered User
Validated User
The show is pretty cynical about the politics of the Earth Alliance, but in this episode it's just ordinary, even sensible, reluctance on the part of the EarthGov to get dragged into the conflict between the Narn and the Centauri. I think this was the first SF show to really pay attention to the nature of the civilian politics behind the scenes.
I remember feeling that B5 had the right idea in showing civilian politics apart from the quasi-military setting of the main characters, but it got ridiculously and laughably heavy-handed very quickly, particularly when the plot starts ramping up.
 

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
So, after watching and enjoying "Midnight on the Firing Line", I found myself wondering why I'm always tempted to skip the first season. That's where the next episode (aptly enough, number 2) comes in:

Episode 1.2, "Soul Hunter"
* 1/2 out of ****

This episode is not good. I think the idea of a Soul Hunter is one they could have done something interesting with, but by making the guy a crazy-even-by-Soul-Hunter-standards would-be murderer, they take the episode into incredibly cliched "wandering villain of the week" territory. It's probably inevitable that some episodes about a space station are going to involve villains showing up and turning everything upside-down, but my willingness to forgive that is further strained by the ridiculous, annoying characterization of the Soul Hunter himself, and his penchant for nonsensical chanting[1]. Before the Soul Hunter wakes up, the episode is mildly interesting, with another space FX sequence that, like all B5 space FX sequences, looks dated as hell now but may have seemed pretty cool in the early '90s when everyone else was doing model work.

The episode gets half a star for a a couple of reasons. One is that it shows some actual characterization of Sinclair, and because Garibaldi is his usual, entertaining self. Over the course of the first season, I think Sinclair goes from being wooden because Michael O'Hare is wooden to being wooden because he's maintaining a very rigid sort of self-control over his emotions, especially his anger. His final conversation with the not-so-crazy Soul Hunter works better than just about any scene he's been in so far[2]. All is not well on the characterization front, though, because the scene where Delenn loses her shit and starts waving a gun fails to have much impact because we just haven't seen enough of Delenn and the Minbari to recognize it as really unusual. If we'd seen that behavior later on in the season, it probably would have worked a lot better[3].

The other thing that helps this episode stay avoid being the Worst Ever is the hints they drop about the Minbari and their beliefs about reincarnation. It's one of the first times that something that seems almost like a throwaway is actually foreshadowing one of the most important developments later on in the series. We also get some information about the causes of the Earth-Minbari War, and Sinclair gets another clue, from the Soul Hunter, about his frustratingly mysterious relationship with the Minbari.

Next up, it looks like we've got "Born to the Purple", which I remember as being a watchable Londo outing, but nothing special, and "Infection", which is even worse than "Soul Hunter", and may just be the worst episode of the whole damn series. They really did frontload the crap.

[1] I think the being is obsessed not only with collecting souls, but also with snack foods: "Frito, Cheeto, Dorito!" over and over again.

[2] Also, "There are a lot of mysteries in the universe. Consider this one of them," is a pretty good line that deserves to be in a much better episode.

[3] Next season, Delenn breaks down sobbing at the end of "Confessions and Lamentations". We know Delenn well enough for it to be very effective.
 
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Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
Yeah, this episode would have been improved greatly by simply airing it much later in the season.
 

Snoopy

can't quite believe all this.
Validated User
Thanks for this - my family and I are just starting a concerted effort to watch B5 in the "right" order rather than the fragmented bits and pieces at least I had when younger and it was first coming out.

However, could we keep the open spoilers to those about in each episode? I know bits and pieces of the future plot, but not loads, and would prefer to not know, but am happy with full and frank discussions of the episodes in order. With sblocks available, this should be none-too-arduous, please?
 

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
Not all WIW threads are meant to be appropriate for the unspoiled.
Yes. One of the fun things about rewatching B5 is that you can see little things in early episodes that set up more significant setting and plot elements later on.
 

RK_Striker_JK_5

Registered User
Validated User
The special effects... I don't see them as 'dated' or 'bad'. I dunno, it's probably just me, but I take them in the context of the time they were made in. Of course they'll look bad now... but back then they were pretty cool. And heck, I still like them today.
 

Pillsy

Social Justice Worrier
Validated User
The special effects... I don't see them as 'dated' or 'bad'. I dunno, it's probably just me, but I take them in the context of the time they were made in. Of course they'll look bad now... but back then they were pretty cool. And heck, I still like them today.
Well, I think the effects are dated, but in a lot of instances it just doesn't matter. The space battle in "Midnight" looked at least as dated as the grappling hook scene in "Soul Hunter", because how could it not? It's twenty years old and a $200 game console could do something better-looking in real time. But it's actually a really good space battle, and it shows the action in a way that I don't think a TV show had ever shown the action before. The took tachnology that was really pitiful and did really impressive things with it. And by the standards of what comes later on, it's not even that great. I don't know if any show has equalled the way "Severed Dreams" uses its space FX, despite vastly better resources to do it with.

It's like how some episodes of the old Doctor Who manage to make ridiculous piles of bubble wrap and styrofoam actually scary, despite the fact that it's obvious they cost about 7 dollars to make. 3 pounds. Whatever.

Compare that to the makeup effects. Once they get the hang of it, the alien makeup effects don't look bad or dated at all. The makeup for the Narn, in particular, is amazingly well-done and lifelike. Or there's those times they used CGI to try to composit in monsters and aliens that didn't look like dudes with rubber foreheads, which I remember almost always looked awful even at that time.
 
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