Friday, March 21, 2008

Babylon 5 The Complete First Season: Signs And Portents

You have to laugh at marketing. I mean that's what capitalism is all about right? Selling.

It's a bit comical to read the back of Babylon 5: The Complete First Season: Signs And Portents Box Set. You are passing the DVD isle looking for your latest science fiction fix when someone, perhaps unwittingly, stumbles upon Babylon 5. The box reads: "Babylon 5, a flashpoint for conflict located between five competing races, home to diplomats, smugglers, terrorists and dreamers."

That's pretty well said right, now the technical specs: "On DVD for the first time in a 6-disc, 22 episode set, the Hugo-and Emmy-winning series has been digitally remastered for superior presentation and includes Exclusive Extras. Combining action, adventure, drama and state-of-the-art effects, Babylon 5 has become a modern-day science-fiction classic popular around the world."

Okay, let's be clear, this could be one of the worst remasters you'll ever see. It's dirty and looks even like the lens has a filter on it at times. It's hardly the superior presentation described. Oh and those state-of-the-art effects, brilliant maybe circa 1994, but that was then. Those CGI visual effects are hard to take at first, but they do get better. And it is true they were pushing the envelope of CGI upon the show's inception, which aided in selling this show and getting it produced on budget in 1994.

That aside it's easy to see why this series would be considered a classic. While the first season was clearly uneven in its attempt to achieve footing, the assembled cast is charming and gifted and elevates the material beyond the technical imperfections. Further, there is a dark current that runs through this show. It is edgy and gritty within its imperfect station life. There's alot going on in the flawed lives of this lot. Real problems permeate this place: alcoholism, rivalries, deception, politics, secret agendas, religious extremism, lost loves, hidden, shameful and prideful pasts intermingle while everyone seeks a purpose. Yup! Sounds alot like another place we know. However roughly executed, some of the science fiction is solid and the everyday lives of B5 bring this space opera crashing back down to Earth time and again.

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There are some nice extras for those looking to revisit the series too. All in all, I liked parts of the first season of Babylon 5 despite reservations regarding Michael O'Hare as the series lead in the beginning.

Conclusion: As many have said to me, you need to give Babylon 5 a chance if you haven't already and you need to be patient as the cast and writers/ directors find their respective grooves through conductor J. Michael Straczynski. Undeniably, Season 1 is a bit like eating vegetables as a five year old. It doesn't taste great, but their necessary for you, so you plug your nose and eat. Same here, it's necessary in establishing the world, the characters and the setup for things to come. Season 2 up next!

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