The Babylon Project was the last best hope for peace. It failed.
In the year 2260, it becomes something greater - the last
best hope for victory against the Shadows and their many allies.
But Captain John Sheridan finds he has to take a stand against
the very government he has sworn to serve...
an unfortunate coincidence, the first series of Babylon
5 premiered at around the same time as the opening season
of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Thus the followers of
one show accused the other of ripping off the idea of a space-station
based series with its jump gate/wormhole transit point(s).
similar thing happened when both shows began their third seasons.
Deep Space Nine responded to viewers' demands for more
starship action by introducing the USS Defiant. Unfortunately,
B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski had already planned
to introduce a battleship to his own series: the Minbari/Vorlon-built
White Star. Its introduction in Matters of Honor
certainly helps to up the ante, and impressive CGI battles
against the Shadows' forces become more and more frequent
in action-packed episodes such as Messages From Earth,
Severed Dreams, War Without End, Walkabout,
Shadow Dancing and the season finale Z'Ha'Dum.
It's difficult to think of this series (curiously identified
as the "Third Season" on the outer carton and booklet but
as the "Third Series" on the inner container) in terms of
episodes. It works so well as a single, developing narrative.
This is largely due to the fact that Straczynski wrote every
single instalment of this series (and also the next one) himself.
his weaknesses do show through on occasion. Exogenesis
is not so good, featuring an alien creature that owes far
too much to the baddies in the Star Trek: The Next Generation
episode Conspiracy, the Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1,
and any other sentient sci-fi parasite you might care to mention.
Grey 17 is Missing is also rather dull - it is very
telling that the trailer to this episode focuses on its Minbari
elements rather than the Grey 17 angle.
Transit Vir is often mentioned in the same breath as
Grey 17 is Missing when fans discuss the weaker points
of Series Three, but in fact I think this instalment's lighter
moments, such as Ivanova's (Claudia Christian) naked nightmare
and Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Delenn's (Mira Furlan)
dinner date, come as welcome moments of relief after a spate
of grim episodes.
other occasions, strong instalments are marred by instances
of clumsy storytelling. In both Messages From Earth and
Point of No Return, G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) explains
the reason for his incarceration to Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle),
a character who, as security chief, already knows this perfectly
well. There are subtler ways to keep an audience up to speed!
Another of the season's plot arcs concerns Dr Franklin's (Richard
Biggs) addiction to stimulants. However, except in those episodes
that deal directly with his problem - A Day in the Strife,
Ceremonies of Light and Dark and Interludes and
Examinations - the subject is entirely overlooked, and
Franklin appears perfectly sound of mind and body. It's amazing
how Straczynski's writing can be so subtle in some respects
but so crude in others.
such nit-picking should not detract from the enjoyment of
classic episodes such as the moving Passing Through Gethsemane
(guest starring Brad Dourif); the rousing Point of
No Return, Severed Dreams (in which Sheridan stands
up to Earth) and Interludes and Examinations (in which
Sheridan stands up to Kosh); and the finely crafted two-parter
War Without End. The latter guest stars Michael O'Hare
as the station's original commander (in the first season)
Jeffrey Sinclair, who actually comes across as quite cool
this time around.
special features on disc 6 contain three documentaries: two
seven-minute featurettes on make-up effects and one ten-minute
documentary about set and costume design. There are also ten
30-second "data files" on various elements from the show and
a three-minute "dossier" on the Shadows. Three episodes -
Severed Dreams, Interludes and Examinations
and Z'Ha'Dum - are accompanied by audio commentaries
and there is a trailer for each of the 22 instalments.
One major criticism of this box set - indeed of several recent
Warner DVD packs - is that it doesn't hold the discs within
very securely. Several of the review DVDs came loose in transit
(sick transit discs, anyone?) and were very badly scratched
by the tough plastic spindles that are supposed to hold them
in place. Beware of this when purchasing such products by
mail order. If buying a box set from a regular store, give
it a good shake to see if it rattles! Come on, Warner, there
are better ways of packaging your product - get some tips
from Paramount or Touchstone.
aside, television science fiction doesn't get much better
than this. Oh, wait, yes it does - in Babylon 5 Series
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