Tuesday, March 25, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 1-4: Points Of Departure, Revelations, The Geometry Of Shadows & A Distant Star

Double 0 Boxleitner!

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.

Well, I'm happy to say the Babylon 5 project is rolling headlong into Season 2. The minor changes have streamlined its direction remarkably well even in these first few episodes. As much as I'm pleased to put the uneven Season 1: Signs & Portents behind me, it was essential viewing I'm sure. You can't do it any other way. Now, Season 1 had its moments, but there is some relief in getting beyond it.
It was, despite my optimism for the future of the series, a difficult viewing experience. Still, suffering through the uneven affair sold me on the show through its characters. All aspects of the show: dialogue, acting and effects, were essentially quite rough in spots. My family loved taking shots at me. It was like a Shadows' assault! As much as I enjoyed the core cast I still had my reservations about moving forward. Fortunately some of you have written and reassured me to soldier on.

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.

Episodes 1-4 of Season 2 holds even more promise.

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.
The Season 2 cast includes:
  • 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+

Revelations: B+

The Geometry Of Shadows: B

A Distant Star: B-


Anonymous said...

Well, I still don't really care, but am of so happy that you have a place in which to chat with other who do. BTW, there is laundry that needs to be brought up from the laundry room. In case you're interested in clean underware that is...


TFKoP said...

I should be arriving around 5pm'ish on Friday at your neighbors house. Assuming my "new" used car makes it....

see yah soon. And please...
PLEASE...make sure you're wearing clean underwear when I see yah.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I thought we were talking about Babylon 5... : )
Can we leave my underwear out of this? Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Out of the laundry? Now that's just gross...