Wednesday, March 12, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 13-16: Signs And Portents, TKO, Grail & Eyes

It's interesting to see a show that's aged. Babylon 5 is undeniably one of those shows. I guess the question is has it passed its sell-by-date or is this, as they say, like a fine wine?

I have now reached Disc 4, Episodes 13-16. Admittedly it was a bit bumpy getting to this point. I don't recall Stargate SG-1 being quite as awkward in its first handful of episodes, but that's debatable. I do clearly remember Stargate SG-1 Season 1 and it had its share of uneven moments. It too was clearly establishing its characters, its natural groove and how it wanted to navigate its mythology. Babylon 5 is no stranger to those growing pains. That being said, the cast's charms are winning me over very quickly.

Yet another brilliant performance by Jurasik set against a significant fore"shadow"ing of darker things to come.
Episode 13, Signs And Portents, receives my highest mark to date. The entry weaves into its fabric signs of the proberbial long-running story arc. With those ever cryptic words uttered by Delenn, "They're here," we are captivated. It is the first mention of The Shadows, and they are big, dark, powerful and nasty by all accounts from our first glimpse of them [see photo above]. They make bad guys looks silly. Further, Centauri prophetess Lady Ladira shares with Sinclair a vision of Babylon 5's fiery end. This is simply one possible end that may in fact be altered through ongoing events. She too is aware of The Shadows' arrival. Signs and portents of things to come indeed. A very solid entry for Season 1 and J. Michael Straczynski's best work to date.

The episode is heavy on CGI and either I'm becoming very forgiving or I'm actually starting to enjoy the effects. Is it because they look so different from today? Not sure, but either they are dismally bad and I'm accepting them or truth be told they are improving even if only slightly. My biggest bone of contention is how the exploding Starfury fighters or other ships break apart like legos. It's a minor gripe. The explosions [as noted by TFKOP], are simply caught up in the deadly silence of space. Joss Whedon employed many of the same quiet techniques for affect in Serenity. When the Reavers are attacking Mal and company in the firefly is a great example.

TKO, Grail and Eyes take us back to the stand alone storylines, which are clearly getting stronger. I found it refreshing to see religion portrayed so powerfully in TKO. It's so rare to see in today's politically correct climate. With Grail we learn peripherally of the curse of Babylon 5 and the fates of Babylon 1, 2, 3 & 4.

There was a funny retro moment for me with Grail that made me smile. As visitors arrive to Babylon 5 they are often greeted by one of the regular cast members in setting up the "guest" of the show. I was suddenly propelled back in time even further as visions of Love Boat in space came to mind. Not to worry though, no signs of Gopher or Julie to be found here.

Signs And Portents: B
Grail: C+ [William Sanderson, of Bladerunner as well as "This is my brother Larry, this is my other brother Larry," Newhart acclaim, guests.]
Eyes: C+
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.

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