Babylon 5
The complete third season: Point of No Return (region 1 edition)

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle & Mira Furlan
Warner Home Video
RRP $99.98
Certificate: 12
Available now

The story so far... Babylon 5 is the last of the neutral outposts, a five-mile long space station designed as a meeting place for diplomats, traders and entrepreneurs, and considered to be the last best hope for peace. Permanently based here are the ambassadors of four prominent races: Delenn of the Minbari, an old race consisting of warrior and religious casts (who also fought a major war with Earth, before mysteriously surrendering when they had the upper hand); Londo of the Centauri, an imperial Romanlike people steeped in blood; G'Kar of the Narn, the reptilian looking race (actually marsupials) which has long lived under the pressure of war; and Kosh of the Vorlons, an ancient race, the identity of which is concealed within encounter suits.

G'Kar extends a hand of friendship, but Londo authorises an attack on a Narn outpost, causing a terrible war. Londo's mysterious allies in the offensive come via a human called Morden. Delenn undergoes a metamorphosis which prophecy dictates will bring the Minbari and human races closer together, and aid in the struggle against the greater threat. Kosh, after revealing his true form (appearing differently to each witness) to save Sheridan from an act of terrorism, becomes even more illusive and somewhat sinister. The greater threat to all races is discovered to be the Shadows, oldest of the First Ones, last seen in local space by other races more than a thousand years ago...

In season three the stakes are raised, there is plenty of upheaval, and nothing ever feels comfortable again. Every event produces major consequences which reverberate through the storylines so that you never discount the possibility of a central character being killed or changed in such a significant way that they effectively become somebody else. Every episode makes for compelling viewing.

Matters of Honor kicks us off in fine style. Londo, realising at last who his dangerous benefactors are, tries to sever his ties with them, an act which proves practically impossible. In the same story, we see the arrival of new regular, Marcus Cole, a representative of the Rangers, a highly-trained unit created by Sinclair, Babylon 5's original commander (during season one) from the Mimbari homeworld - their mission to collect intelligence on the Shadows. Sheridan sets up a regular secret war council with Delenn; and we see the White Star for the first time, a beautiful Mimbari warship incorporating organic Vorlon technology, which can generate its own jump points between star systems. Sheridan is given command of the ship by Delenn.

In Voices of Authority, Susan Ivanova tries to enlist the aid of another race of First Ones in the fight against the Shadows, but receives only a noncommittal reply. In Messages From Earth, Sheridan attempts to prevent the re-activation of a dormant Shadow vessel. Point of No Return sees Earth's current martial law extended to the Earthforce-run Babylon 5, but Sheridan finds a way to combat the Night Watch enforcers. The follow-up, Severed Dreams, has Earthforce destroyers arriving to demand Sheridan's surrender. But Sheridan decides to fight. Sheridan forms a romantic as well as strong political alliance with Delenn, in Sic Transit Vir. In Interludes and Examinations, Sheridan asks Kosh for help in securing a morale-boosting small victory against the Shadows.

So, plenty going on. Television just doesn't get any better than Babylon 5. They say that the best special effects are those which you don't notice. This is never more true than in Babylon 5. This is not so much science fiction, as war, mind games and political intrigue within a science fiction setting.

The characters, stories and situations are so strong and gripping that you quickly forget someone is wearing prosthetics and make-up, and that the wonderfully realised sets are not on a five-mile long station but a huge series of warehouse spaces. And talking of the sets, these have escalated from 12 main sets in the pilot episode, to over 300 by the end of season three.

The computer generated imagery used for the Babylon 5 exteriors, assorted spacecraft and battles, and the jumpgates, was pretty much in its infancy but still looks superb and brilliantly understated today. Just watch the fighter craft being released downwards from the launchbays, or witness a Shadow craft materialising into real space to understand what I mean.

Extras in this case consist of three new documentaries: Behind the Mask: Creating the aliens of Babylon 5; Building a better Narn; and Designing Tomorrow: The look of Babylon 5. There is also The Universe of Babylon 5, containing video data files, personnel files, and a Shadow dossier. Commentaries for two episodes come from series creator J. Michael Straczynski, and a further one from four regular cast members.

Talk of synergy and juxtapositions; this is a series where every component was right, creating a balance you seldom, if ever, see elsewhere. J. Michael Straczynski was a genius to have come up with such a concept and five-year story arc, but he must also be counted fortunate to have assembled such a strong team, both in front of and behind camera.

Buy this to see what you've been missing, and wait with baited breath for the faultless perfection that is season 4. I was going to hold off my maximum points until that coveted season, but this is very nearly as good.

Ty Power


Buy this item online
We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal!
(Please note all prices exclude P&P - although Streets Online charge a flat £1 fee regardless of the number of items ordered). Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

$74.99 (Amazon.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.