Archive for the 'Babylon5' Category

Tower of Babylon 013: By Any Means Necessary

September 18th, 2022

Union struggles come to SF. It’s nice to see the difficulties of actually running a space station, and the realities of a world where money requires hard choices between things and tight budgets. I’ve never liked the utopian money-free future of Star Trek, it just doesn’t feel like a real possible future.

There’s a bit more of the over dramatic characters, but less. And it’s nice to a short blonde woman as the union boss rather than the usual stereotype. The middle of the episode is padded with a bit too much interminable back and forwards between the parties, and the ending is a copout. But it’s still a fun episode to watch.

The B-plot was great fun, and showed just how well the Londo/G’Kar relationship has established itself. There’s also an opportunity for G’Kar to show wants and interests of his own, and to develop a more rounded character. Not sure I was a big fan of the whole ‘inventive theology’ thing from Sinclair, it felt disrespectful.

Tower of Babylon 012: Survivors

September 18th, 2022

This episode showed something of an ongoing flaw in the season to date. There are some good stories and good characters, but the characterisation is turned up to 11. So we get a lot of scenes of angry people shouting past each other, totally unwilling to engage in give or take. It’s ultimately a bit of a cheap way to tell a story, as everything is done as unsubtly as possible.

Still, the relationships involved all feel real and grounded. There are some strong stakes in driving the plot forward. And we finally ge to learn some more about Garibaldi and his past.

And at the same time there’s some further forward momentum on the big plots around Earth politics, the coming election, and the tensions between factions in play.

Tower of Babylon 011: Believers

September 18th, 2022

Finally an episode that really underperformed my memory. I remembered this as being quite a strong story about medical ethics, with a dark ending Trek would never touch. And while those are both true, I didn’t remember the terrible characterisation on Franklin required to get there, and a weakfish child actor.

Franklin is borderline irredeemable from this episode. He’s arrogant well past the point of fault, obsessed and unwilling to listen. The episode would have done better to turn all these traits down a little – could have got to the same conclusion, but with more of his character intact. Why would a character fascinated by different alien races be so unwilling to listen to their beliefs?

The best part of the episode is the sequence with visiting all the different ambassadors. There’s good writing and performance in all of these scenes, and while they don’t tell us anything new about the characters we at least get some good reinforcement of what we already know.

Tower of Babylon 010: Deathwalker

September 18th, 2022

One that from memory was quite weak, but surprised me for the most part. The story is a good example of the kind of SF concept that would be difficult or impossible to make work in Star Trek, but feels natural here. The various manoeuvring and compromises among the different races and factions is interesting and well produced.

My only criticism is that Jha’Dur is just too much of a comic book villain. If she’s a speciesist supremacist then it’s hard to imagine her caring very much about ‘they became me’ or sowing chaos. It would have been nice to try and grapple with the version of the character who sees herself as a tragic hero, rather than a villain taking revenge.

The B-plot if interminable – Talia and Kosh makes no sense, goes nowhere, and isn’t fun to watch. Just a bad use of screen time.

Tower of Babylon 009: And The Sky Full of Stars

September 18th, 2022

Just as great as I remembered it. The fist time Babylon 5 really shifts into a higher gear in terms of the big arc.

Michael O’Hare’s performance as haunted and scarred so far exceeds everything else that he does in this show. Knowing the back story that’s quite tragic. But he also brings a core to what is going on here that is essential. This episode relies on his reactions and his feelings, so it’s important that it works.

Production is also really great – the lighting through the interrogation sequence and the flashbacks works very well, and the music builds tension and feeling appropriately.

But – if you’re defending a 3-dimensional planet, is a ‘line’ really a great way to go?

Tower of Babylon 008: The War Prayer

September 18th, 2022

A confession – as is obvious from the date stamps I’ve been away from this project for a while. As a result I’ve been watching a largish batch of episodes before writing up the reviews. And when I sat down now to write about this episode I could barely recall what it was about or very much about it. Thankfully I did take some notes while watching, but it’s a fair indictment of the episode. Not that great, not that bad. Just middling and forgettable.

One thing I’ve noticed recurring a few times is that there is some very rough dialogue in exposition scenes – “I want these scum, I want them bad”. It’s a strange anomaly, as the rest of the dialogue is great.

A lot of the show is really starting to settle down. Relationships are becoming more clear, particularly Garibaldi/Ivanova in this episode. And Mira Furlan is getting a chance to try out a lot more of her range – she goes from the subtle companionship with her friend to full-on diplomatic warrior without losing the underlying character. The biggest rough spot is the music stings, which are at times very awkward.

(And as an aside – look at the sweater on screen at 09:30 – it is a masterpiece…)

Tower of Babylon 007: Mind War

September 18th, 2022

This was one of the ‘major’ episodes in my memory, and I was glad to see it stood up to scrutiny after all these years. It’s not quite as subtle as I remembered – George Takei as Bester must have put on quite a few kilos with all the chewed scenery. But it’s a combination of an interesting story, some great world development, and writing that (romantic dialogue aside) is really starting to find its footing.

There is a degree of a bit of undelivered promise in the episode – Talia’s developing abilities never show up again, and there’s not really much more on the idea of developing super telepaths. Some of that is a product of the actress leaving the show, but I think it’s also a reflection that these are stories that are hard to make work on screen.

(As an aside – Bester’s namesake, Alfred Bester, has an incredible novel called “The Demolished Man”. It’s a great story, but it’s unfilmable as so much of the story relies on telepathy and the complex way that telepaths communicate).

Tower of Babylon 006: Parliament of Dreams

September 18th, 2022

This is a fun but ultimately low calorie episode. None of the plot threads really do anything incredible in terms of moving things forward. And there are some bits that are a bit on the nose.

For instance, yes, it’s nice to see Earth has diversity of beliefs. But do none of the other aliens have similar diversity? It’s established in later episodes that there are different belief structures on Narn, for instance. It’s a cute message, but it relies on a very old trope of SF to get there.

The main redeeming features are a bit of progress in characterisation – despite the lousy romantic dialogue we end up with a bit more of a rounded picture of Sinclair. And G’Kar has a chance to be something other than a comic cartoon villain which is a welcome development.

Tower of Babylon 005: Infection

November 13th, 2021

Possibly the worst Babylon 5 episode? Certainly every bit as bad as I remembered, from the rough performances from the guest actors, the pointless action sequences, and a terrible ending.

The only positive to note is that there are good ‘bones’ to the story here – it moves along well, has good beats and could have been a better episode. But nearly everything else goes wrong. When the supposedly intelligent adversary just lumbers around shouting ‘Protect’ it’s hard to get a sense that it’s a major threat.

And then to top it all off we have a ‘expose the logical fallacy in the alien’s reasoning leading to a self destruct’ ending, which was terrible when Star Trek did it in the 60s, and it’s terrible here.

Well, at least it’s up from here.

Tower of Babylon 004: Born to the Purple

November 13th, 2021

For me a mixed episode (my brother liked it a lot more). I found the basic plot to be very by-the-numbers 1950s pulp, with very little in the way of surprises. But Londo’s performance across the episode is wonderful, and it’s the saving grace for the story. Sinclair, on the other hand, feels like he’s from another series entirely. There’s little character continuity with the Sinclair that we’ve seen to date, and little justification for the way he runs off or acts during his helping of Londo.

(As an aside – why does the Centauri Republic have an emperor? Seems like a strange mix of terms).

The B-story, with Ivanova secretly getting in touch with her father, is a very strange one. Surely an officer of her seniority can arrange something more formal for cases like this. And Garibaldi’s quest to nail down the anomaly was never very well justified either. Just seemed like a plot line that added little to the episode, and didn’t really advance characters notably.