Saturday, March 29, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 5-8: The Long Dark, Spider In The Web, Soul Mates & A Race Through Dark Places

A Few Good Men indeed.

It’s full steam ahead with Babylon 5 Season 2: The Coming Of Shadows Episodes 5-8.

My immediate reaction thus far is that Bruce Boxleitner was a fine choice to be sure. The man has quickly usurped any feelings I may have had in feeling bad that O’Hare got the boot. Boxleitner is simply terrific and a joy to watch. I have fallen in love with the man!

Season 2 has been a more enjoyable experience thus far.

The Long Dark continues to plunge us headlong toward the unknown forces that are the Shadows. The influence of that arc seemingly permeates each episode in some small way. Stories and plots unfold that not only stand alone but also impact and play into the relevance of the overarching Shadows thread. Each entry weaves beautifully into that longer arc whether it is through affected characters or deep space sightings.

In fact, The Long Dark played like a tip of the cap to the mood of Alien and its vessel the Nostromo [in this case the Copernicus]. The creature is now aboard B5 and on the loose. There is some terrific tension here, but the final battle with the “soldier of darkness” is anti-climatic and the weak effects portraying the creature don’t help. Again, while it plays as an exciting entry, this so-called "soldier" is also believed to be one of the forces making an effort to gather on the Rim at the Shadows' calling.

Interesting factoid: Jumpgate technology was a result of trade with the Centauri.

Spider In The Web continues to delve into the series' brilliant conspiracy politics. The ambiguity of the Earth agenda and the ongoing questions surrounding Psi Corps are influencing and affecting B5 neutrality. The political struggles within the show add yet another complexity to a maturing show. In fact, for me, the most intriguing and seemingly duplicitous moment comes by way of Talia Winters. An engaging backstory on her leads to the uncovering of a covert operation involving Psi Corps during a mind scan. When asked who she saw inside the scan she purposefully denies the truth to Commander Sheridan. Why? Loyalty to Psi Corps? Something else? What is Ms. Winters' subtext?

Sheridan adds additional questions to B5's growing mythology by confiding in Garibaldi information pertaining to a rogue agency dubbed Bureau 13. Tasty stuff!

The irony of Soul Mates is that past and present lovers rearrive that aren't exactly desired or wanted. The focus is on both Londo and Talia Winters. Londo’s three wives arrive on B5, while Winters’ former Psi Corps lover, Matthew Stoner, also looks for a re-entry of sorts in the hopes of retrieving her. Winters, of course, had a previous dalliance with former lover Jason Ironheart in Season 1 Mind War where he graced her with enhanced or heightened telepathic powers. About the only one not getting any action so far would be Delenn. Anyway, Londo's third arrival is an utter hottie, albeit an utter bald hottie [all Centauri women are bald]. I’m okay with that. The trio is informed that two will receive divorces and one will remain. You’ll need to guess which one Londo prefers stoke his fire.

Minor footnote: At least two of Londo's wives are not the same as those pictured and referenced lovingly as "Pestilence," "Famine" and "Death" way back in Season 1's The War Prayer. This installment is in full Love Boat affect? Where's Gopher or Doc when you need 'em.

Meanwhile, Winters is coaxed into believing she can escape the grip of Psi Corps and that Stoner can help her suppress or completely rid herself of that all-consuming telepathic albatross. Garibaldi does everything in his power to protect her. He has more than a passing interest in B5’s curvy blonde bombshell. In fact, as I've come to find out, Jeffrey Doyle married Andrea Thompson in real life.

The final entry, A Race Through Dark Places, sees economic pressures applied to Sheridan and Ivanova from Earth concerning their accomodations. The orders are either relocate to smaller quarters or pay more rent. WTF! The guy is the Captain of a major space station. Wow, loyal service isn’t what it used to be. No respect at all. Despite the ultimatum Sheridan is a bit of a master at allocating expenses as we come to find out. Bester of Psi Corps returns as Winters shines away her newfound powers. Meanwhile, Mira Furlan radiates pure sophistication and European beauty attending dinner with Sheridan [she still ain't gettin' any].

The Long Dark: B- [Dwight Schultz of The A-Team guests with a pretty fine performance]
Spider In The Web: C+ [Adrienne Barbeau of The Fog and Escape From New York guests; Jeff “Grease is the word” Conaway unfortunately makes his first appearance]
Soul Mates: C
A Race Through Dark Places: C

Classic quote from The Long Dark

Garibaldi: “Lousy way to die huh?” Sheridan: “Last I checked there weren’t too many good ways.”

Classic quote from Spider In The Web

Ivanova: “You got a plan?
Sheridan: “Let’s try not to get killed.”
Ivanova: “Brilliant.”

Sheridan to Garibaldi: “There is a spider in the web Mr. Garibaldi and I intend to find it and kill it.”

Classic quote from Soul Mates

Timov, wife of Londo, to Londo and his other two wives: “ Do you seriously expect me to become involved in your sexual Olympics?

Portentous Quote by unknown alien: “When the darkness was defeated long ago they scattered, hid themselves away in secret places and waited. Now the dark hand is reaching out and recalling them from their sleep.” Deliciously creepy stuff.

You just gotta love Garibaldi. They just don't cook food thoroughly anymore.

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-

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.

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!

The [Not So] Fabulous Life Of Mira Furlan

The creators of Lost had warned that people would die in the final episode of the first eight installments for Season 4, Meet Kevin Johnson. The casualty of Croatian actress Mira Furlan [Babylon 5] as Danielle Rousseau was unexpected, but unless the island has different plans for her recurring character that bullet she took to the back in the final minutes of the show is all she wrote. It was definitely a bit of a surprise and disappointing for the mere fact that I did enjoy her input. Still, the development of her character had become a bit static and thus not surprising she took one for the team. Not to mention she died heroically defending her daughter. I will miss the Croatian actress' presence on Lost just the same. R.I.P. Rousseau.

Footnote: Mira Furlan has actually had a pretty tough life. I recently read she escaped the civil war of former Yugoslavia before landing a part in Babylon 5. She left behind a successful career and had to literally reinvent herself, adjust to life and language in the US speaking English. Her transition was quite painful initially, but she persevered and overcame the adversity to make it. She's a survivor who has led a pretty remarkable life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 22: Chrysalis

The worm turns for Delenn.

The final episode of Babylon 5, Season One, Episode 22, Chrysalis, plays out like the harbinger it is. There are changes to come symbolized by the chrysalis or cocoon Delenn is encased within. The mysterious figure that is the herald for this formative crisis reappears and creates havoc by meddling between the Narn and Centauri Prime. The entire episode is a jumping off point for Season 2.

Key plot points that set the wheels of change in motion for next season:

  • Morden [agent of The Shadows] ensures the Narn outpost in Quadrant 37 is destroyed granting Londo's wish to 'handle the problem'. It isn't quite what Londo bargained for and he is visibly stunned and shaken by the exercise initially.

  • Ambassador Kosh feeds Delenn information that accelerates her need to cocoon.

  • The Earth President is assassinated.

  • Garibaldi is shot and left for dead by the conspirators involved in the President's assassination.
  • Upon learning of the attack on the Narn, Sinclair's fateful words, "nothing's the same anymore" reverberate into the next season. I wonder if he knew he was being replaced at this point. I suspect he did and it must have been difficult delivering those lines.

Au revoir for now Sinclair, we hardly knew ya.

Classic dialogue in the form of the ultimate man proposal from Sinclair to Catherine: "Look! Do ya wanna get married or don't you?" Romantic? Probably not, but it was completely in character.

Classic dialogue from Londo: "There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. Then you accept it or you kill yourself... or you stop looking into mirrors." Straczynski's wisdom shines in the writing and the actors continue to have better material to immerse their talents.


Chrysalis: B

Sunday, March 16, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 17-21: Legacies, A Voice In The Wilderness Part 1 & 2, Babylon Squared & The Quality Of Mercy

We're coming in for a landing. I have completed the next five episodes of Babylon 5 Season 1: Signs And Portents. Again, uneven overall, but moving in the right direction with one true standout entry.

Remembering it has been 10 years since the Earth-Minbari War, Legacies is an important installment. It continues to construct the B5 universe offering further insights into the races of the Minbari, Narn and Centauri. We specifically are enlightened to the two tier warrior versus religious caste systems of the Minbari. It is fascinating to see these races and their mostly mysterious histories inextricably woven together via the space station. Including the peoples of Earth, there are some complex and deep running rivalries at play here with each represented by their respective ambassador. This peace is a seemingly delicate and fragile one.

I reiterate from an earlier post that I continue to admire Sinclair's wisdom and patience. O'Hare, while imperfect as captain, is admirable indeed. Sinclair is also alerted to the mystery of the "chrysalis" for the first time here. The more information we receive regarding the cross-section of these races in question the more fascinating the world of B5 becomes.

A Voice In The Wilderness Part 1 & 2 exhibit some of the most impressive visuals to date, while still employing heavy doses of developing CGI. The art form is clearly a work in progress. Even more impressive is the set design and the lighting as Sinclair and Ivanova must rescue an alient sentient that is powering a planet [Epsilon 3, the planet in which Babylon 5 orbits]. One thing to be sure B5 has been carried by its strong supporting cast in Doyle, Jurasik, Furlan and Thompson to name a few. Funny thing is, ocassionally, a performer will arrive in a guest role for the show and serve up a laughable turkey of overacting. It's the most bizarre and uncomfortable thing to watch and it lands smack dab in the midst of the developing chemistry of the regulars.
Babylon Squared is impressive science fiction mixing ideas and action with character growth. This one was solid. There are a number of plot points at work. Delenn is asked to relieve herself as ambassador by her own Grey Council. She denies the request imploring that her mission to determine the course of human destiny is unfulfilled. It is this prophecy and mystery which led to the premature conclusion of the Earth-Minbari War. Delenn dubs it the calling of her heart. She is a puzzle. The Grey Council threatens exile for her from this council. Meanwhile Babylon 4, caught in some kind of strange time flux, has reappeared. Tim Choate delivers a terrific turn as Zathras warning the rescuing B5 of the stakes. He is an extreme ideologue devoted to 'The One'. The One turns out to be.... well, I won't give that away. You'll need to see it if you haven't watched it yet. Not unlike Delenn who alluded to Sinclair's purpose in A Voice In The Wilderness, Zathras informs him "you have a destiny."

The Quality Of Mercy was simply astounding for the mere fact we witness the normally reserved and seemingly dexter-like character of Lennier, played by Bill Mumy, go completely ballistic and all roadhouse smashing mouths at the casino in defense of Londo. Clearly, Lennier is the River Tam of the bunch. He would appear to be of the reglious caste of Minbar, but he clealry exhibits that of a genuine warrior. His past could be interesting. Some crazy physiological developments crop up via the always surprising Londo to boot. As I've learned, the Centauri has 6 sex organs. While gambling/ cheating a strange appendage was assisting Londo at the card table. Was that little package the Centauri equivalent of a penis? Nasty!
Legacies: C
A Voice In The Wilderness Part 1: C
A Voice In The Wilderness Part 2: C+
Babylon Squared: B
The Quality Of Mercy: C [June Lockhart of Lost In Space guests, but never actually shares screen time with her former son Will Robinson]
Tender Moments with Mike Garibaldi.

A foreshadowing from Babylon Squared. Minbari Grey Council member to Delenn: "These are curious times Delenn. I feel a great change in my bones. A new beginning- en end, I cannot say. We are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our backs." Chilling stuff.

Classic dialogue from Garibaldi mumbled to himself after learning his former love is married to a man named Franz: "Franz, what the hell kind of a name is Franz?"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Deep Thoughts By Mike Garibaldi

I thought this sequence from Babylon 5 was downright hysterical. I mean, I think of things like this all the time, like when I get out of the shower. Pull the curtain but don't step out of the shower until I dry and pat down the same way everytime. It's damn near robotic. My routine is just second nature. Every now and again, due to some complete mind fart, I can't recall the order. I start to think, do I begin with my arm, my leg, the little guy? I'm all out of sorts. I wonder how other people dry off after a shower and if they have a completely different way of doing things. Now, I don't discuss this type of thing with most people.

So it's nice to see I'm not a lunatic. Okay, maybe I am, but at least I now know there are at least two of us. This is exactly the type of thing that works for me on Babylon 5. I completely get this guy!

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.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 9-12: Deathwalker, Believers, Survivors & By Any Means Necessary

Babylon 5: Signs And Portents Season 1 Episodes 9-12 have been moving the characterizations along nicely among other heavenly bodies. I thought I would make mention of a few notable observations as the series continues to establish itself and players.

First, can we say Andrea Thompson as telepath Talia Winters is about as smokin' hot as blondes get? I think I can. I mean that girl has curves in all the right places. She is workin' it! So there you have it. It's been said. She's absolutely dee...lightful. By the way, not to demean, a fine actress to boot!

Second, Richard Biggs has been turning in some fine recurring character performances as Dr. Stephen Franklin. Clearly a fine actor, I've been enjoying his work, besides no science fiction show is complete without a good doctor [is this a rule somewhere?]. My affection for this cast should come as no surprise. As I have said before the cast is outstanding as a whole and makes the B5 experience an engaging one.

Third, Jeffrey Doyle as Garibaldi, the epitome of hot headed cool, sometimes reminds me of Bruce Willis in his affect, expression and overall look, not often just at times. It's quite funny. Also, while not a huge fan of O'Hare, he does generate some sympathy from me as commander. He has a thankless job in his efforts to maintain relations aboard Babylon 5, navigate political and social conflict and placate ties with councils of the Earth Defense Force. I think I have that right. Not to mention he is a necessary man of wisdom from time to time.

Writer David Gerrold steps in to pen Believers. Gerrold is most notable to science fiction fans as the man behind Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles from 1967. The episode makes mention of a problematic creature within the Babylon verse that is dreadfully problematic and would be so if imported onto Babylon 5, a clear nod to the Tribbles. Overall it's a pensive episode concerning God and one's belief system amidst competing belief systems and alien cultures.

Despite the weak production values on CGI I do enjoy Babylon 5's fighters, dubbed Starfury, and the station design is beginning to grow on me. With a bit of a budget those Starfury fighters could really look like something special. As it stands here they look dangerously close to the kind of clips extracted from a video game like Star Wars Rogue Squadron. The ships that float around Babylon 5 between scenes just look so damn silly. I think back to the modeling work and the care that went into shows like the original Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica and the detail that went into those sequences still holds up well today. At least those ships were more convincing than the computer dreck found here. Underdeveloped CGI is really a turn off for me, but there are glimpses that give me pause for hope and I'm only clearing the midway point of Season 1 afterall.

Deathwalker: C [English actress Sarah Douglas guests. She played Ursa in Superman and Superman II. She also appeared on Stargate SG-1 as one of the Tok'ra.]
Believers: C+
Survivors: C+
By Any Means Necessary: C

Classic dialogue from Survivors:
Sinclair: "You're more trouble than a toilet full of snakes, but I couldn't run this station without you." Garibaldi: "Commander, I sense a huge payraise coming my way."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Fabulous Life Of Mira Furlan

Bloody hell friends! I wasn't paying attention to the details and uncovered a minor revelation.

Furlan may play strange as Ambassador Delenn, but she's no stranger to mystery and intrigue.

Apart from some of the mysteries surrounding Minbari Ambassador Delenn, there was something about her that had been nagging at me. Her mannerisms, her mouth, her voice...things about her were gnawing at me as if I'd seen her somewhere before. You know that feeling you get. But all of that make-up the creators of Babylon 5 had given her character, compounded with the fact she's bald, her ears have been lowered and she has something on her head, had completely cloaked the truth from me [that make-up department is outstanding by the way]. I was thrown off the trail like it was some kind of unintended, certainly unrelated, red herring.

Now clearly, I don't like to dig up too much before watching a program. I like things to unfold before me without having too much information, which is why this astounding news unveiled itself to me by accident. Delenn is played by Mira Furlan. Furlan is the recurring character of Danielle Rousseau on our other favorite sci fi drama Lost. Wow! That is a very cool connection. It certainly won't come as a surprise to many, but it was a pleasant one for me.

How did I uncover this? I stumbled upon the connection while perusing Lost autograph cards on-line and there was one signed by Mira Furlan. BA-DING! LIGHTBULB!
Truth be told, it wasn't until the mid-way point of Season 1 that I realized Lennier was THEE Billy Mumy of Lost In Space fame. I mean, I saw Bill Mumy in the credits of the first episode and thought it must be him, but then for the longest time I thought it wasn't. I didn't see him on the show at least not the way I expected to see him. Of course my confusion makes sense because he's Delenn's little bald assistant Minbari buddy boy and I couldn't make him out underneath all the make-up deception once again. Damn make-up department! Damn Minbari!
Okay, back to Babylon 5.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bonnie Was A Big Ol' Bad Ass!

Who knew Bonnie was a big damn hero! I had no idea little, bitty Bonnie was some big ol' bad ass! If you've been watching Jericho you know what I'm talking about. Last night's episode, Oversight, had some of the most gripping moments of television I've seen since, okay well since last week's episode of Lost, The Constant.

Seriously, I have to be honest folks, I've been enjoying Jericho. It's been good, but it wasn't really grabbing me by the throat like aspects of Season 1 had done. I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's because the direction it took isn't quite what I expected. I have to give it the benfit of the doubt. Afterall the creators were forced to tell their story in a crammed 7 episodes, which is brutal.

That said, watching Bonnie Richmond [Shoshannah Stern] come alive at the Richmond ranch to defend her friend Mimi was some of the most exciting television I'd seen in recent days. She may be deaf, but she wasn't dumb or blind with that shotgun as she picked off Ravenwood cronies one by one like shooting clay pigeons at a skeet shoot. It was like watching River Tam [Firefly, Serenity] come to life and unleash unbridled whoopass [yeah I like that word]. Who knew she had it in her that sweet little Bonnie.

It seems ironic that Bonnie, of all the characters on Jericho, along with Mimi were the two to wake me up from my lethargy. I loved it! I loved the fact Bonnie went all Butch Cassidy and Sundance or better a new team of Bonnie and Mimi. It was an amazing finale to the episode. She gave her life and went out a hero up against the likes of that Cheyenne scum.

That was intense stuff!

Oh and one more thing, there gonna be hell to pay, because you see she's got a very protective and loving older brother in Stanley whose mission has been to look after her and now that she's gone... well, he is going to Kick Some Serious Ass! Said another way, there will be blood.

Monday, March 3, 2008

B5 S1 Ep 5-8: The Parliament Of Dreams, Mind War, The War Prayer & And The Sky Full Of Stars

As of this writing I'm happy to report Babylon 5 is beginning to win me over. I have cleared the first eight episodes of Season One: Signs & Portents. Episodes 5-8 have been most promising indeed.
I'm actually at a point where I'm looking forward to each new episode. Here is a great example why.

Episode 5, The Parliament Of Dreams, really proved to me that maybe J. Michael Straczynski had something here. At first, I felt the writing was mostly serviceable with an ocassional glimpse of something special. Episode 5 proved to me things were really coming together. His dialogue seemed sharper and more real tot he ear. Further, the humor is beginning to shine via the likes of Security Chief Michael Garibaldi [Jeffrey Doyle], Ambassador G'Kar [Andreas Katsulas] and Ambassador Londo Mollari [Peter Jurasik] [this place is crawling with ambassadors not to mention space scum as well]. These actors are thoroughly engaging in their performances. The hysterical Londo, as I mentioned earlier, is proof in the pudding you can never judge a book by its cover. He is a dignitary and a dog. He is the ultimate ladies' man. How could you not have noticed that handsome devil and his alluring peacock head?
Londo: Clearly, an alien's alien! What a guy!
I am still having trouble with Michael O'Hare. He is too wooden, too stiff and it's too bad. Still, he does have his moments. So, the improved writing with stellar performances all around is making for an out of this world sci-fi experience. There is still room to grow. Finally, I am starting to get the races and characters down.

I must admit the computer animated design of the Babylon 5 Project or Space Station isn't all that impressive and even a bit dull. I might've sent the builders straight out the airlock.

I leave you with Episode 8, And The Sky Full Of Stars, probably the most ambitious Babylon 5 installment to this point. It is an O'Hare-centric episode and while I am getting accustomed to his style, I can't help but feel he was miscast for the show. I keep thinking actors like Nathan Fillion [Firefly] in the role and how much more I would have enjoyed the character. And man, how about them eyebrows? Them there are the biggest, bushiest eyebrows I've ever seen in need of a trim. Why, they're almost alien. I digress. The thematic material is heavy here and it is astounding how closely it mirrors today's political climate and the illegal immigrant conundrum. Without trying it really did foreshadow a great many socio-political challenges that certainly dog our planet. There are also some terrific character twists here concerning Delenn.

All in all major "signs" of hope.

The Parliament Of Dreams: B-

Mind War: C+ [Walter Koenig [Star Trek] guests as a telepathic agent of Psi-Corp.]

The War Prayer: C+ [Australia's Tristan Rogers [General Hospital 'Scorpio' fame- I'm sorry and ashamed I know that] guests. You'll also spot the actress who played 'Winnie' in The Wonder Years here, but bald. This one is also written by D.C Fontana of Star Trek acclaim.]

And The Sky Full Of Stars: B-

I have to admit I am a bit baffled as to how a show like this can struggle, survive, get the greenlight and go forward while the Fireflys of the world fade away. A strange business to be certain.