Friday, February 29, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 1-4: Midnight On The Firing Line, Soul Hunter, Born To The Purple & Infection

"That! That! Dude looks like a" peacock!

I know, it's hard to take this guy seriously, but never judge a book by its cover as they say.

Rule of thumb: Give anything at least 1 year. Certainly TV executives don't do it, but fortunately they did it for Babylon 5, which lasted 5 Seasons and 7 films [including the non-cannon film The Legend Of The Rangers and the 2007 release The Lost Tales] and by all accounts gets better and better aging like a fine wine or so I've been led to believe.

Folks. I'm checking out Babylon 5 Season 1: Signs & Portents for the first time. My initial reactions to episode 1 [Midnight On The Firing Line]; not necessarily good. Dodgy special effects and a so-so musical score [if you want to call it that] by Christopher Franke combined with crazee hairdoos have all been a bit of a turn off. Of course this was fairly ambitious in 1994 and like anything else, keep in mind, I have been evaluating the first show out of the gate for the series. I look forward to improvements with each passing episode. I do plan on staying with it. Still, that early computer animation closely resembles that of early Star Wars gaming a la Shadows Of The Empire or worse- rough to say the least. I will say that the dude with the black Japanese fan for hair started to grow on me by episode 3. I promise to do my best in learning the character names so that I may refrain from calling him the "dude with crazy hair."

The DVD transfer is a fairly dirty print, but the DVD gives the presentation its best shot sans any remastering. Looking past the technical imperfections and some minor complaints my own eyes are telling me there's potential in here.

The thing that struck me and most impressed me was the scope of its vision and the concept of a "port of call." "Two million Five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal." It's 2258 and the space station that is Babylon 5 is the last hope for peace.

The solid performances from the assembled cast have me paying attention. Getting to know the players and the races will take some getting used to, but then again hearing "Goa'uld" in Stargate was weird the first time and took some getting used to. Leader Michael O'Hare comes across the most wooden to me. It's plain to see why he would later be replaced for Season 2 by Bruce Boxleitner, a much more adept actor with much greater range. Security Chief Michael Garibaldi and Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova were the most natural for me. I was drawn into the show through them as they attempt to maintain order on this galactic version of the United Nations [the politics on board Babylon 5 are almost as nasty with aliens of all kinds attempting to live in harmony - sounds familiar]. Finally, the costume design and make-up is really phenomenal. The special effects may be abysmal, but the prosthetics and costumes are truly striking.

The Season 1 cast includes:
  • Michael O'Hare [Commander Jeffrey Sinclair]
  • 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 Furst [Vir]
  • Bill Mumy [Lennier]
  • Caitlin Brown [Na'Toth]
  • Andreas Katsulas [G' Kar]

Despite my unenthusiastic introduction, because I wouldn't necessarily say I have reservations, I can easily see the promise of the show and I do realize this was a first go at something seemingly untested outside of Star Trek. Not to be too harsh as I suspect my perceptions may change as I move forward in the series.

Midnight On The Firing Line: C+

Soul Hunter: C

Born To The Purple: C+

Infection: C

Aliens may look funny but they can act!

Update: I have since watched the first four episodes and the production values are certainly not what I'm accustomed to, but the acting continues to drive my interest keeping me in the game despite comments over my shoulder from the peanut gallery to the cry of "those graphics are terrible!" or "sounds like science fiction porn." Nice, real nice. Okay so the music is a little retro in style perhaps, but that's severe. However, all in all, it has reinforced my love for Stargate that much more. But, with lines like "you moon-faced assassin of joy" I remain steadfast in giving it a chance.

It will get better right?


Blakey UK said...

Absolutely give it a chance. Season 1 really picks up towards the end, and seasons 2-4 are powerhouses in quality writing. Yes, it looks dated now - even I think so, and I'm a big fan. But the quality of the acting from Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas (Londo Mollari and G'Kar respectively) make it a sublime piece of TV.

Hope you grow to love it as much as I did,


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks Blakey. I'm hangining in there. I appreciate the assurances. I can look past the effects, but, like you said, I am hoping the writing gets stronger from J. Michael Straczynski. My gut says it will especially based on input from folks like you. Thanks

TFKoP said...

Babylon 5 is a great series.

Couple of things to remember in reference to the "special effects" issue: This series started in the early 90s, and not a lot of money was put into TV effects at that time.

One of the things JMS wanted to keep true was that there is no noise in space, so you don't have big explosions when ships blow up. That throws a lot of people off because they've gotten used to Star Wars space explosions.

This show, Babylon 5, actually won an Emmy for effects, so they are recognized as being good.

G'Kar is one of the best written characters (and acted) from the SciFi universe. The only things I had to work through when I started watching this series way back in 1993 was the "hair as status" of the Centauri. Of course, being bald I may have just had twinges of jealously at the ability of the Londo and his bretheren to grow hair. haha!

Season 3 and 4 are rockin' awesome.

Don't give up on this series. It continues to get better, and ends up being a great series.

It's too bad that TNT gave up on it when they got the rights to it for Season 5, and then TNT gave up on the short lived, but awesome, spin-off show called "Crusade".


PS I'll be across the street from you on Friday, March 28 for a visit with your neighbors. See you then.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I do appreciate the fact that the show is significantly dated by today's tech-heavy standards. I do keep that in mind which is why I am beginning to look past it. I do have no doubt it was cutting edge back in the day. I loved your point about noise in space. Interesting. And I do agree completely, G'kar, Londo, Garibaldi and others are really a huge draw for me back to each episode. I look forward to Crusade and the Babylon movies as well. More B5 to come and I can't wait to write about it. Thanks TFKOP!