Saturday, April 25, 2009

B5 S5 Ep 1: No Compromises

Absolutely BABE-O-MATIC!

Here we are at the homestretch of Babylon 5. I have heard many things regarding Season Five, The Wheel Of Fire, some things good and some not-so-good. It is definitely the most maligned season of all the Babylon 5 seasons out there. I must admit that I am excited by the prospects of a reinvigorated new season with new blood just to watch some refreshing new chemistries.
Here we go headlong into Babylon 5: The Complete Fifth Season: The Wheel Of Fire, Episode 1, No Compromises. The most notable thing about the episode for me is our introduction to new station member, Captain Elizabeth Lochley, played by Tracy Scoggins. Why is it there is such a porn star, Heavy Metal chick quality about Claudia Christian and now Tracy Scoggins. Is it because they are both so bodaciously voluptous? I don't know, but I do like them. I like them alot. She's extrememly hot! So, my first impressions of Scoggins are good. She's attractive but definitely means business. Knowing everything Sheridan has been through the last three years and given his kind of "take it down a notch" attitude at times it will be interesting to see how they interact when we first see them together. She definitely has that early anal-Ivanova quality. She's tough, efficient and looking to make her mark. Still, I think Scoggins is a little more natural as an actress at first impression than Christian. I'm curious how J. Michael Straczynski decided upon her and landed her for the role. She apparently hails from experiences on TV series' Dynasty and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman to name just a few. She's been around a bit. I think she'd be on my wishlist too.

Here is the actual message.
Somewhere, a Ranger is being executed by an unknown assailant. He's sending Babylon 5 a message "Special Delivery." He asks the man if he has any last words. "We live for the one, we die for the one," he declares bravely. The killer responds "well one out of two ain't bad" and fires his PPG ending the Ranger's life. And so the latest mystery begins once again for a new season.

The introductory credits utilize a terrific montage of some of the most memorable audio and visual moments from the last four years. It's a nice way to catch people up and recap succintly. The music is rather stately for Season Five perhaps to complement the United Nation-like quality of the new alliances established in Season Four. I'll be curious to see what Michael Garibaldi is up to as well now that Zack is still officially the station Security Chief.

Jeesh! Get a room! Wait, that is their bedroom. Excuse me I should go.
As we begin it is clear Delenn and Sheridan are living together in wedded bliss. They appear to be enjoying domestic life. Apparently they are living lives together but separate, kind of, like two people living together but with separate checking accounts. There are plans to move to Minbar eventually together, but for now they are attempting to strike the necessary balance for their busy lives.
Sheridan and Lochley meet in his office and this is not their first introduction. They have met before. The station is under Captain Lochley's direct command. For political reasons a human has been selected to run Babylon 5 out of tradition, but also to heal the wounds of the civil war. Sheridan specifically requested Lochley. His reasoning is based solely upon the fact she has proven herself as a capable diplomat, but always ready to fight. I LOVE those eyes and lips on Lochley! She's beautiful. She is just melting me away. She sets the tone regarding her policy with Sheridan. She runs the station her way or not at all. She is not interested in being "micro-managed." Sheridan likes her fiery personality and is pleased she speaks her mind. His involvement is merely necessary when it involves the alliance or politics. Isn't politics apart of almost everything? We shall see. As she departs she is curious why Sheridan didn't ask her which side she was on back home. He indicates he doesn't need to know and he clearly trusts her instincts and decision-making abilities that will serve the station. He is not worried and yet we are left to wonder. She seems like a Clark girl, but I don't know. These things can be misleading in the world of J. Michael Straczynski.

The station is preparing for Sheridan's inauguration and Garibaldi is very much involved in assisting Zack with the proceedings. There are definitely things afoot as we see at least two scheming visitors aboard the station lurking in the shadows to begin the installment.
This is another actual official message.
Lochley reports to the bay where Lt. Corwin is waiting for her with the dead Ranger that has been taken aboard the station. She receives the special delivery sign. In the President's quarters he gets a special message too. He is a "dead man." I can only imagine it has something to do with some Earth loyalist/purist group. A man named Byron approaches Lochley. He wants her to meet him in Brown 3 in two hours. His people are coming.
Sheridan reports to G'Kar office and this is a terrific segment with more backstory on Narn and the life of a Narn plus the overall great exchange between the two leads.

They're here.

Dr. Franklin gives Lochley results on the dead Ranger. Lochley worries the dead Ranger may have something to do with Sheridan's inauguration. On Brown 3, Lochley meets with Byron and his "people." She knew he was a telepath and a potentially dangerous one so Lochley brings personnel to help handle his peeps. They are unarmed. They are looking for a home free of the Psi Corps. They are like a people without a land and an independent Babylon 5 is the place they feel they could begin to grow a colony necessary for establishing a world of their own. Lochley responds, "that's a tall order." Byron believes he and his teep peeps can work for the space as payment for sanctuary. I wonder how it will go if Psi Corps visits though. They often make pitstops on Babylon 5 especially that pesky Bester. I imagine Byron's appearance here could be considered the seed that leads to the infamous Telepath War.
Are you game? It is. He's a nasty looking fellow.
A Gaim ambassador heads into the alien sector followed by the man who killed the Ranger.

Sheridan returns to his quarters to find his threatening audio/visual message. He will "pay the price." In the alien sector we see the bug-like creature demask to unveil the Gaim's true appearance. It's quite cool. The make-up and costume is well done and Straczynski didn't even have to shake the camera or place a haze over the shot. The assassin kills the insect-like alien.

Dr, Franklin looks over the health of the telepathic refugees including a young man named Simon. He is a very powerful telepath who cannot speak. Franklin is allowed to see the only image Simon allows anyone to see. It is a visual of Simon holding a girl surrounded by flames. He is riddled with guilt over her loss.

Simon says ... well, actually, Simon says nothing.
Meanwhile, Garibaldi would very much like to see the ceremony postponed for Sheridan's safety. Sheridan refuses to live in a bubble as he calls it. Well, you are living in a tube that's a lot like a bubble so I think that might qualify. You are living in a bubble. Sheridan feels things need to change as far as how leadership presents itself, but everyone feels it is too dangerous to go forward light on security. Lochley feels the festivities should proceed forward and that her station can handle it agreeing with Sheridan. Obviously we are led to beg the question of trust from her or motivation and so do the characters that are meeting her for the first time here. Nobody is in agreement with Sheridan except Lochley.

It's been a long time since we've seen these four together unless I'm mistaken and not considering the final few episodes of Season Four. Garibaldi confronts Lochley. This is pure Garibaldi as we know and love him. This is classic rapid-fire Garibaldi. It's good to see him back in action. His words and actions are normal and completely in character compared to the unease we felt about him throughout Season Four.

Great scene! There could be a semi-combative relationship between these two as we go forward. We shall see. If it wasn't for Lise I would grab Lochley in my arms and kiss her. Lochley handles the exchange beautifully. For a first appearance in an episode she is really, really good. She stands her ground, she's tough, she's smart and holds her own big time against the whiplashing tongue-smashing of Michael Garibaldi.

Simon is trawling around the airshafts and sees the killer prepping in his room. He sees a visual of the future. The man plans on utilizing the Gaim breathing apparatus to gain access and get close enough to Sheridan to kill him. Boy, that boy has to be powerful. The boy is shaken by what he sees and bumps his noggin on the vent shaft nervously. The man acts gradually pointing his PPG into the airshafts and firing. Blood flows down the wall from the ceiling. The man packs quickly and leaves but the boy is not dead yet. He may be down but not out.

G'Kar is finalizing his work for Sheridan. G'Kar is so filled with pride over his role as a wordsmith. It's very sweet. Security is heavy. Garibaldi is analyzing Sheridan's voicemail. It's good to see him back in Sheridan's full trust and confidence. The always persistent gumshoe that is Garibaldi digs in his heels and looks for a match of voice records in the Earth dome files. The Gaim fella, who is not really the Gaim but the killer this time, is allowed entry into the ceremony. Garibaldi informs Zack he has the man. His name is John Clemens. He was a major who ran the Beta 7 prison systems for Clark. He's an assassin and he is now in the mix. Simon has just entered the room and blows his cover setting off a shoot out. Simon has died speaking the only word he could "NOOO!" He saves President Sheridan in a heroic, self-less act.

Clemens is making a break for it in a Starfury planning to blast the ceremony from the outside via a kamikaze attack. The ceremony begins. The Starfury appears at the window of the ceremony and allows everyone 10 seconds to leave. Garibaldi sneaks up behind him in another Starfury and fires the grappling hook onto his ass. The Babylon 5 defense grid activates. Garibaldi releases the nut and he is fired upon and destroyed. there you go. All in a day's work. Not quite as exciting as Battlestar Galactica. [Clinching teeth] sorry.

This is a great moment as G'Kar cuts through the pomp and circumstance, cuts to the chase and cuts through the crap to get to the heart of the matter. Hysterical.

Byron meets with Sheridan. Lochley has denied Byron's request to set up on the station. Since Byron and friends are like refugees, Sheridan gets involved from the political angle and gives them the okay superceding Lochley's authority. This must be the seeds to the Telepath War mythology. They are granted asylum and are permitted to house themselves in Brown sector. So it's been one day or at least one episode and Lochley's already been usurped of a decision. Should be interesting.

Garibaldi visits Lochley to try and get back on the right footing or so I thought. Garibaldi tells her of the President's plan for a covert intelligence division set up. He is the new head of Covert Intelligence for the Alliance and shakes her hand. The meeting/ exchange is semi-confrontational. It's a great ending and her response is perfect. Perhaps it will lead to some sexual fireworks. Battlestar Galactica definitely shows some skin.

Scoggins is a natural. I like her. "I was on the side of Earth Mr. Garibaldi. Weren't we all?" While semi-playful, semi-sarcastic, there is definitely an antagonisitc, immediate trust issue for Garibaldi regarding the new Captain. He should talk really. While maybe not of his free will, he wasn't exactly on the right side for most of the battle. It was a fairly serviceable episode to get things established despite a few good scenes. Not a single utterance of Ivanova as all ties have been severed and the show moves forward without compromise.

No Compromises: C [Could this title be a reference to Straczynski's uncompromising plans for the final season as well?] It's certainly not the best season opener of the five seasons.
Season Five Cast:
  • Bruce Boxleitner [President John Sheridan]
  • Jerry Doyle [Michael Garibaldi]
  • Mira Furlan [Delenn]
  • Richard Biggs [Dr. Stephen Franklin]
  • Bill Mumy [Lennier]
  • Tracy Scoggins [Captain Elizabeth Lochley]
  • Stephen Furst [Vir Cotto]
  • Jeff Conaway [Security Chief Zack Allan]
  • Patricia Tallman [Lyta Alexander]
  • Peter Jurasik [Londo Mollari]
  • Andreas Katsulas [G'Kar]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth To Sci-Fi Fanatic, Come In Fanatic

My Saul Tigh life!

Man! I have really checked out for awhile. It's been nice though not having to keep up with a writing schedule. Still, as much as I step away from this place the writing muse is always yearning, calling me back. Well, here I am. I hope to kick things into gear a bit more regularly.

So what the heck is going on? What have I been up to? Well, I started waxing nostalgic and began viewing Lost In Space. I was immediately enjoying the less than challenging entertainment value of that wonderful series. It was taking me back in time. I found myself amused by the inconsistencies and general lack of concern for detail that would get me laughing. I enjoyed it so much I had to begin writing about it so I suspended my Lost In Space viewing.
Beer and Bill Adama. This is the life! The High Life!
I turned my attention to other random, assorted items. Of course, as I mentioned, work and other things were certainly distracting me and I was definitely feeling a bit run down. I exercise too, but it wasn't helping me on that front. So I just figured I needed to rest a bit. Baseball is starting and my responsibilities as a coach are going to keep me busy until July, but I'll adapt.

So anyway I decided to plunge into Battlestar Galactica purely for escapist purposes. I was blown away. I am headlong into Season Three. Without having to write it's alot easier to plow through science fiction for fun and that was kind of where I wanted to be for awhile. Anyway, I really love that series. I know I listed a Top 100 science-fiction on the blog here not too long ago and it mentioned Battlestar Galactica as number two on that list behind Star Trek: The Original Series. Folks, now I know why. It's simply brilliant. It is a rush night after night. There is much excitement coupled with great writing. I wonder if the J. Michael Straczynski fans out there are also fans of Ronald Moore or if there is a divide out there. The One To Be Pitied finds them both rediculous. Poor thing. She simply doesn't understand. Still, watching Babylon 5 after watching Battlestar Galactica is a bit like watching science fiction in slow motion. I certain mean no offense, but it is just that much more exciting to watch the new Battlestar Galactica. I know it benefits from some of the new technologies, but I also love the camera work and style of that show. Babylon 5 is definitely a more literary work in approach.

So, that's where I have been. I'm still enjoying Battlestar Galactica but I'll be getting back to Babylon 5 soon. I also need to keep the different styles and the fact they were released at very different times with different ideas in perspective so I'm not too hard on Babylon 5 during my analysis of its final season. I also cannot bring myself to write about a different series without finishing Babylon 5. I owe it to you and myself to finish it.
I'm not sure what I'll look at next when it comes to writing, but I may need to approach something like Battlestar Galactica with a less extensive review and more of an analysis of my favorite moment per episode. It would certainly be far less daunting to write for the blog if I rethink how I will handle my approach on other topics.
Nevertheless, I do want to finish my Babylon 5 journey the way I began it and I will continue to write about each episode in a way reminiscent of the Jane Killick summaries but with audio/video accompaniment. I simply cannot change tactics. It was good stepping away for a bit though my friends. Perhaps I was suffering from Babylon 5 or writer's fatigue.
On a personal note, I went on a plane ride the other day. It was a seven-seater and my kids came with me and I actually flew the plane. That was an unforgettable experience. A good friend of mine pilots and asked us to join him and his kids and we had such a good time. It makes you appreciate life a bit stepping away from the routines and taking risks outside your comfort zone. It was an adventure. It was like flying a Colonial Viper and I was a young William Adama. : ) My sincere appreciation for having friends like that.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic is coming in for a landing friends. Clear the decks!