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Old 12-30-2012, 02:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Welcome to a different kind of journal. As the title implies, this one will be concentrating on television shows, with perhaps a few movies thrown in. This will NOT be a spoiler-free zone, so be warned: if I ruin a series you're watching then you only have yourself to blame.

Some series I will be reviewing episode-by-episode. Some, longer-running ones I will encapsulate by season. Within these reviews may be everything from character profiles to best quotes, from plot arc moments to best or worst episode, or perhaps even worst dressed character. I haven't really decided yet. My main sphere of interest lies in science-fiction and fantasy, so most of the reviews will be drawn from that genre, though I do watch plenty of other stuff too. I intend this to be a long term project, hopefully spanning out over years or even decades, depending on how long I live, how tolerated I am here and whether or not the world surprises us all by imploding after 2012.

I therefore won't be rushing through anything. Synopses will be long and detailed, with not only the plot of the episode/season but my own thoughts as well. If I can get clips I may feature some, though there will be nothing like the amount of videos you usually see in my own journal. So as to try to cater to most people, and not bore myself too much, I'll focus on three or four series at a time, writing maybe a synopsis of an episode for one, a profile of another, a quote list for a third, and so on. Look, I haven't really figured it all out yet, okay, so bear with me.

The main thing to keep in mind is that while these may indeed be seen as recommendations to try this or that series, I will be writing the reviews in a manner consistent with those who have already seen them, so as I say no important parts, plot strands, revelations or surprises will be kept from the reader. That's you. If you decide to read. Should you not have seen a series I feature, and decide to try it, stop after the main introduction or the chances are it'll be ruined for you. Of course you can read further, but you're taking the chance the series may end up being spoiled for you.

Comment and discussion is as always invited, though I've learned to accept this will be sporadic at best and non-existent at worst. It doesn't matter: I'm just doing this in order to try something a little different and satisfy an old and longtime desire of mine to review my favourite TV programmes somewhere. If a featured series is still running somewhere (in Ireland/UK) I'll mention that, in case anyone wants to try it.

With that in mind, the first three series I will be reviewing are three of my favourites, all with a sci-fi or fantasy component, some more than others.


Babylon 5, my second-all-time favourite drama series ever, and one of the most thoughtful, groundbreaking and influential science fiction TV dramas ever to hit the small screen.


Red Dwarf, one of the BBC's finest. Sharp, satirical, at times side-splittingly funny comedy based in space, that made stars out of Craig Charles and Chris Barrie among others, and set the bar for sci-fi comedy, a standard that has never to my knowledge come close to being reached.

Supernatural, just quite plainly and simply one of the very best ever dramas to come out of the US, originally a horror/monster series but developed into so much more.
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Old 01-04-2013, 04:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Our last, best hope for peace: the genesis of Babylon 5

Probably the only TV drama, certainly the only science-fiction TV drama, to be conceived and laid out as a five-year story, a TV novel which was intended to span five full seasons of the show, and in the end did, Babylon 5 was the creation of Joe Micheal Straczynski, usually known as "J. Michael Straczynski" or more often just "JMS". Aficionados of the programme, like me and probably millions of others, as well as critics, will tell you that "JMS" was as instrumental to not only the creation but the development of Babylon 5 as Gene Roddenberry was to Star Trek. In fact, early in its inception JMS was heard to remark at a science-fiction convention that he believed his new series could end up "giving Star Trek a run for its money", to which an unimpressed reporter quipped "Yeah, and Bill Clinton will be in the White House!" Well, we all know how that turned out, don't we?

But the above serves to illustrate how tough an arena television sci-fi was in the early nineties. The Star Trek franchise had pretty much a stranglehold on TV sci-fi, while the world of cinema had really not come up with anything substantial at the time, leaving "Star Wars" as the main moneyspinner and seen therefore as the way forward. Cinema had mostly whimsical tales like the "Back to the future" series, Arnie in the "Predator" movies and Gremlins all over the place. Of course there was "Terminator 2" and "Alien 3", and later on "Stargate" brought a measure of respectability to sf movies, but up to even the end of the 90s the main movers in terms of sci-fi cinema were still those that trod Roddenberry's somewhat tired and hackneyed stories of all humanity living together in semi-Utopian peace.
(Joe Michael Straczynski, known as JMS, creator and driving force behind Babylon 5)
It wouldn't be till really the tail-end of the 90s, when "The Matix" burst upon our cinema screens like an avenging angel and slapped us all upside the head, that science-fiction would really achieve its rebirth on the big screen, and as for the small, well. Nothing could and did touch Star Trek for over thirty years, with series like "Logan's run", "Lost in space", "V" and though the UK did well to fly the sf flag with series like "Blake's Seven" and "Doctor Who", darker, more adult sort of programmes than their mostly light, fluffy, almost comedic in ways US counterparts, Star Trek was still seen really as the epitome of sci-fi, resulting in much ribbing for those the media came to dub "Trekkies". Sure, Doctor Who is now more aimed at a family-friendly market, but back in the sixties, seventies and eighties it was dark and disturbing, and we all hid behind the sofa when the Daleks came onscreen! Exterminate!


The problem was that most television networks didn't really take sci-fi seriously. It was the pervue of the geek, the loner, the misfit. Families would not watch it, so any programmes commissioned --- or most, at any rate --- in the US had to be "made family friendly", by adding in cute characters or comic relief elements, and having everyone back on the starbase in time for tea, as it were. Only the British ones dared to do things like kill off characters, see the aforementioned "Blake's Seven" and indeed "Space: 1999", some of the darkest sci-fi you will ever come across. Okay, so the sets were wonky and the acting wooden --- should that be the other way round? Er, no --- but the stories were often top-notch, and occasionally the stuff of nightmares.

Which is how it should have been, anyway. Space is a frightening place. Films like "Alien" and "2001: A space odyssey" showed us that, as did "Event horizon" decades later, though that was really more a horror movie set in space (then again, you could probably level that same charge at "Alien"...) The happy, jolly, everyone-gets-along-fine-whether-they-have-legs-or-tentacles idea was a nice one, but ultimately fatally flawed. After all, humans can't even get on with each other without trying to blow each other up or exterminate (!) one another, so what makes us think we'd get on with aliens? Or that they'd get on with us? Maybe they're the badasses of that sector of the galaxy. Either way, they're unlikely to just drop in for a cup of proto-tea and a mega-biscuit now are they?

So with Star Trek portaying its general idea of "humans are great and want to save everyone and don't you wish you were like us though if you're not that's ok because we're so tolerant of other cultures and lifeforms" all across our televisions and film screens, and movies like "The Matrix", "Dark City" and "Inception" years or even decades away, what serious science-fiction was there on the box? Although Ronald D. Moore later revamped it into a tough, dark, gritty and realistic portrayal of Man's struggle to survive against an implacable enemy, "Battlestar Galactica" in its original incarnation was little more than a shoot-em-up adventure buddy movie in space, on TV. "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" was much worse, and although Star Trek would grow up with the third and fourth seasons and the newly-born Deep Space 9 would go on, after its second season, to redefine what mature, dark, intelligent televisual science-fiction could and would be, the airwaves were jammed with half-serious, half-comedic, in some cases downright awful attempts at sci-fi programs, as everyone tried to jump on the Star Wars/Star Trek bandwagon, making the fatal flaw of trying to be just like them.

Straczynski, seeing all this, did not want to go that route. He had come up watching the likes of "Hill Street Blues" reshape and change what was perceived as the general cop show, and he wanted to do the same for sci-fi with his own new show. This would be a heavily character-driven series, where people's decisions would weigh on future events, where one road taken might lead to war whereas the other might lead to peace, or something as simple as a chance meeting or offhand remark might have huge ramifications down the line. Most importantly, JMS decided to introduce, or at least expand on, the idea of a story arc. This was seen almost as television suicide by the networks: the idea that people would follow a series, noting all the little "clues" to future events, and that they would have to see almost every episode or risk missing a big piece of the puzzle and thereby end up being confused or missing a vital point, seemed to the execs beyond the American people's capabilities. More, it was not, they believed, what the audience wanted. They didn't dedicate their lives to a TV show. They watched and flipped between channels, and a series like Star Trek or Buck Rogers could certainly be watched one week and not for the next three, and then if they liked pick up after that without fearing they had missed some vital developments. By and large, sci-fi shows --- and this included Roddenberry's behemoth --- did not attach huge significance to events that transpired from week to week. The story arc would of course eventually prove to be the way to go, with later series like "Lost" and even "24", two of the most successful shows ever on US TV, requiring constant, regular viewing.

The first to do so of that franchise was Deep Space 9, where once it got into the main plot, there were standalone episodes, but even then something might happen in one of them that would reflect back in future ones. But the series followed a basic storyline, and like reading a novel, you couldn't just pick it up again three chapters in and know what was going on. Of all the series at the time on TV, sci-fi or otherwise, DS9 was the closest in terms of structure to what Babylon 5 would become.

And there was some controversy surrounding both series, as they hit the air around the same time. Not only that, Paramount --- who produced the Star Trek franchise --- had been offered the chance to back Babylon 5 but passed, and then mere months later announced the debut of their new Star Trek series. Both were set on space stations --- the first time any sf TV show had been located such a place --- and both would have major, galaxy-spanning wars and draw on elements of ideologies and religious themes throughout their run. Both would allow for major characters to be killed off, and of course as already mentioned both would follow a series arc. The similarities have been a topic od contention and hot debate between opposing fans of the series, but I'm not going to concern myself with them here, as I don't feel they're relevant to this article.

And so, on February 22 1993, the lead-in pilot movie for the series, originally just called "Babylon 5" but later changed to "The Gathering", aired on Warner Bros PTEN channel, although I have a personal story about that. Living as I do in Ireland I of course had and have no access to the US networks, and happened to stumble across the movie in a video (look it up) rental shop and thought it looked good. Taking it home and watching it I was rapt, and thought my god how can someone not make a series out of this? It seemed to be setup for at least a sequel, with its closing line "Babylon 5 is open for business!" and I just thought damn it, another great movie that could have led to a series, and left it at that. Well, I didn't. When I brought the video back I asked the guy behind the counter if he knew if there were any more movies, or a series even, and he grunted (no doubt very interested in my query as he carefully polished the slipcase on "Vampire serial killer babes IV: Fangs Baby" or some such nonsense) that he didn't know. Substitute the word know for the word care and I think we had a better and more honest answer to my question.

So home I went, dejected but not surprised. Surprise was, however, to the nth degree when some months later Channel 4 announced a brilliant new science-fiction series coming soon, called, yeah, "Babylon 5"! I could not believe it, and quickly set about making sure I had enough blank tapes (I said, look it up! What do you think Wiki is for?) to ensure I recorded every episode, as through some cruel caprice of the gods it was airing at something like 5pm, while I was still at work. Ah, but with a video recorder (look, I'm getting really tired of you...) there was no reason I should miss a moment of what I felt sure would be my new favourite science-fiction programme!

As, of course, it proved to be.
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Pilot episode/movie: "The Gathering"

I explained in the introduction that when it came to, well, mostly US series, where a season can consist of twenty or more episodes, I wouldn't be treating each episode separately, unlike the shorter, UK series like Red Dwarf, Life on Mars, Being Human etc, and so I won't. When the series has that many episodes it just isn't practical to synopsise every single episode, and would take far too long, dragging out each series to lengths I'd prefer not to go to. But this one is special, so I will be doing a reasonably in-depth analysis of it.

The pilot movie that would lead-in the series, should it be commissioned, "The Gathering" (originally just called "Babylon 5" before it was clear there would even be a series) is important in many ways. Its plot sets up the backdrop to the series, and introduces us to many of its characters, even if some of those would not last beyond this film. It hints at the very beginnings of a deeper story, and even from this standalone movie you can see the depth and intricacy of JMS's writing, so that it woudl have been a shame --- indeed, a crime --- had the series not been taken up. But happily it was, and the rest is television history.

CHARACTER AND CAST FOR "THE GATHERING" (Characters/actors who were changed after this are italicised, with notes on who replaced them)

Michael O'Hare (RIP) as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair
Jerry Doyle as Chief Michael Garibaldi
Mira Furlan as Ambassador Delenn
Tamlyn Tomita as Lieutenant Laurel Takashima (Replaced by Claudia Christian, playing Lieutenant-Commander and later Commander Susan Ivanova)
Andreas Katsulas (RIP) as Ambassador G'Kar
Johnny Sekka as Doctor Benjamin Kyle (Replaced by Richard Biggs (RIP) playing Doctor Stephen Franklin)
Peter Jurasik as Ambassador Londo Mollari
Blaire Baron as Carolyn Sykes (Replaced by Julia Nickon-Soul, playing Catherine Sakai)
John Fleck as Del Varner (Never seen again)
Peter Hampton as the Senator (Never seen again)
Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander (Replaced for seasons 1 and 2 by Andrea Thompson as Babylon 5's onsite telepath, but Lyta returns from the end of season 2 and features quite prominently, if sporadically, during the third fourth and fifth seasons)

The year is 2257. Mankind has made contact with alien races and moved out into the galaxy, mostly by way of "jumpgates", technology shared with them by the Centauri, a much advanced race, and have built a space station, which they call Babylon 5, in neutral space. Here, all races are welcome. It's a trading post, jumping-off point, conference centre, diplomatic post and holiday destination for humans and aliens, and an important factor in keeping the uneasy peace between the various races. Babylons 1 through 4 have all suffered various untimely demises, with the final station prior to this, Babylon 4, actually vanishing twenty-four hours after going online. This small snippet of information is an example of a seemingly-offhand remark that will turn out to have massive importance as both season one and three come to a close.

There are five main races in this part of the galaxy, including humans, and they are the "superpowers" that run things. They are vastly different, each with their own idelology, traditions, history and outlook, and while some are content to live in peace there are old wounds that are festering between others, wounds which will not heal and which will all too soon plunge this sector of the galaxy into war. For now though, a quick look at each of these aliens.

Minbari: without question the most logical, spiritual and coldly clinical race, the Minbari revere life and peace but are nevertheless divided into three classes, or castes: Worker, Warrior and Religious. They have just come off the back of a vicious war with humankind, during which Earth itself was almost overwhelmed, but for the fact that the Minbari, with victory within their grasp and all opposition to them smashed, mysteriously surrendered at what came to be known as The Battle of the Line, Earth's last stand against the implacable enemy. The reason they halted hostilities will become clear, and again have a huge and profound effect on the story arc, later on. When we meet them in "The Gathering", they seem more observational than confrontational, almost monklike, as if they're waiting for some great event to unfold.

Narn: Looking like reptilian humanoids, the Narn are a proud race of mighty warriors, but not so long ago were subjugated by their old enemy, the Centauri, who enslaved them for years, raping their planet and stripping it of all its resources, leaving the Narns far behind in terms of technology. Due to their treatment at the hands of the Centauri, the Narns are out for revenge and will side with anyone against their old oppressors. They are also trying to gain any technological or military advantage that would allow them to wipe out the Centauri.

Centauri: An ancient race of people whose lifestyle and traditions seem to be based on that of the Roman Empire of antiquity, the Centauri are a fallen people. They still have power, but used to command a vast empire which has shrunk as their influence in the galaxy has waned. They long for "the old days", and keep an abiding hatred and contempt of the Narn in their hearts, their other desire being the elimination of the whole race, which they consider inferior. The Centauri were the ones who sold jumpgate tech to the humans, and so are essentially their oldest and closest allies among the Five Races. They see the humans as less evolved, younger versions of themselves when they were at the height of their power.

Vorlons: A mysterious race cloaked in secrecy and rumour, no-one has ever seen a Vorlon. They leave their home planet but seldom and when they do, always wear a bulky encounter suit, as the atmosphere of other planets is lethal to them. At the time this takes place, hardly anything is known about the Vorlons, and legends about them include one which holds that if anyone sees a Vorlon without his encounter suit they will turn to stone.

As the movie opens, station commander Jeffrey Sinclair is waiting to welcome a Vorlon as the fourth ambassador to Babylon 5. The first race we meet however is one of the Narn, a man called G'Kar (jyih-kar) who is in fact the Narn ambassador to the station. He comes across as belligerent and pushy, a thoroughly nasty fellow. The station's resident telepath arrives and greets Sinclair. Her name is Lyta Alexander (lee-ta) and through her induction to the station we learn various things, such as that the aliens resident on the station have their own sector (Green) where their quarters can be maintained with the correct mix of atmosphere and gravity to allow them live safely. Sinclair's security chief, Michael Garibaldi, opines that he does not trust telepaths. This will become a recurring theme throughout the series.

The arrival of the ambassador from Vorlon (like some of the races here, their homeworld is the same name as their race) occurs unexpectedly, as his ship comes through the jumpgate early, and Sinclair goes to meet him alone. However, before he can get to greet the ambassador, a klaxon blares around the station advising an emergency, and on reachiing the alien Sinclair sees that he has fallen ill and he is rushed to medlab. Fearing that the ambassador may die, thus provoking a lethal response from his government, Dr. Benjamin Kyle, Chief Medical Officer on the station, asks Lyta to scan the Vorlon's mind telepathically. She is reluctant, as firstly scanning without the person's permission or consent is against the law, and she could be thrown out of Psi Corps, the body which regulates, trains and employs all telepaths; and secondly, this could conceivably be seen as a hostile act, the invasion of the privacy of an alien ambassador's mind, the breaking of diplomatic immunity in its most literal sense.

However, when the alternatives are put to her she has no choice but to agree, and is shocked to see in Ambassador Kosh's mind the picture of Sinclair poisoning him by attaching a small disc to his exposed hand. With such irrefutable evidence, a trial is convened and Sinclair is relieved of duty. Unconvinced, however, Garibaldi, who is his friend and served with him on the Mars colonies, and who got the job here from the commander, investigates to see if there is another answer. Meanwhile, the politics and powerplays that drive and characterise Babylon 5 come to the fore, as representatives jockey for position, eventually voting to allow Sinclair to be extradited to Vorlon to stand trial for murder.

But Garibaldi is interested in a traveller who came aboard about the same time as Lyta, a man called Del Varner, who is a petty thief and smuggler wanted in several systems. He breaks into the man's quarters but is shocked --- and annoyed --- to find Varner dead. So much for that lead! However, as he tries to figure out a new strategy, it seems that Lyta is in medlab trying to finish Kosh off by turning off his life-support, before Dr. Kyle catches her. As she runs off though, she walks in the door and it's obvious there is an imposter on the station.

More or less confined to quarters, Sinclair tells Carolyn, his girlfriend, about the Battle of the Line, and his part in it. He tells her that as the battle reached its height he decided to ram one of the Minbari cruisers, determined to take one of them with him, but he blacked out and when he came to it was twenty-four hours later, and the war was over. The Minbari had unaccountably surrendered, and no-one has ever been able to say why.


Looking further into the dead smuggler's records, Garibaldi discovers that he had been trafficking in specialised items, and his last run had taken him to the Antares sector, where he had got his hands on a changeling net, a portable force-field that allows one to bend images around it, essentially enabling them to take on any shape or form they wish. Including that of the commander! So it wasn't Sinclair who had poisoned Kosh --- as Garibaldi had been sure anyway --- but Varner, using the changeling net to look like him! But... Varner is dead, so who killed him, and why? Had he an accomplice? A second suspect, who even now is running around the station, probably at this point trying to get off it?

He has Takashima use the station's scanners to pinpoint the huge energy signature the changeling net woudl put out, and they discover that there is indeed a second man, or rather alien. An assassin from a Minbari warrior caste, who once they have overpowered him tells Sinclair "You have a hole in your mind!" That cryptic remark resonates with the commander, as he knows that there is a twenty-four hour period that he can't account for during the Battle of the Line. It's a phrase that will come back to haunt him, and lead to a massive development and finally revelation as the series progresses.

Once Sinclair's innocence is established then, everything, for now, goes back to normal, and the massive station, with the recovered Ambassador Kosh installed as its final representative, is opened for business.

Important plot arc points:
This is where I will refer to scenes, people, quotes, occurences, anything that will later have a large impact on future episodes/seasons. I'll rate them from Green through Orange to Red, which will correspond to their importance and how they influence the series and the plot as a whole. If, in later seasons, they tie in to a previous plot point, I'll reference that.

The Battle of the Line
Arc Level: Orange
Note: the final defence of Earth from the attacking Minbari warfleet, the Battle of the Line was the last stand against the invasion fleet. It has gone down in human (and Minbar, and other) history as one of the bravest and yet most futile actions ever, and yet it worked (or seemed to) as the attacking fleet stopped short of destroying Earth, and in fact surrendered. Many who were there at the time believe something else happened: they know they were outmanned and outgunned, and were losing, had lost the war. There was no reason why an enemy vastly superior, on the very cusp of victory, would suddenly decide to end hostilities. Sinclair would later say "Maybe God blinked!" but the truth will turn out to be very much more stunning and unbelievable than that.

Narn vs Centauri
Arc Level: Red
Note: The enmity between the Narn and the Centauri, the oppressed against the oppressor, the conquered for the conquerors, is an old wound that is still fresh. It means no Narn would ever trust a Centauri, and very much vice versa. The Centauri see the Narn as vile, backward, subhuman beings who are only good as slaves, and though they were eventually forced off Narn in a war of attrition, they still consider the planet theirs. They do not accept that they were defeated, merely that it became "too expensive to be worth staying". The relationship between the two races will form a pivotal strand of the plot, and in a tremendous piece of writing our attitudes towards and opinion of each race will change radically as the seasons progress.

Vorlons
Arc Level: Red
Note: Though having almost a peripheral role in this pilot movie, the mysterious and enigmatic Vorlons will become the puppet masters of the second and third seasons, leading into the fourth, and will become more entangled in and important to the fates of not only humans, but all races.

Lyta Alexander/Telepaths/Psi Corps
Arc Level: Red
Note: Although Lyta is replaced for seasons one and two by another telepath, the role of their parent organisation, the dark and shadowy, Orwellian Psi Corps, will become more pronounced and deep as it insinuates itself into the life of the station and makes its own plans for using certain members of its staff, resulting in a massive power struggle that will have cataclysmic consequences down the line.

"You have a hole in your mind".
Arc Level: Red
Note: This seemingly incomprehensible and unimportant remark will impact hugely on the truth behind the Battle of the Line, why the Minbari surrendered and why Commander Jeffrey Sinclair is key not only to the fate of humans but also to the rest of the galaxy. However, we will not find out exactly why until close to the end of season three, in an explosive revelation.

Best lines:

Commander Sinclair to tourist, about to make an, ahem, assignation with a female alien: "I wouldn't. You know the rules about crossing species. Stick with the list."
Tourist: "What are you, a bigot or something?
Sinclair: "No, but you've obviously never met an Arnassian before. After they're finished, they eat their mate!"

Ambassador Londo Mollari to Garibaldi: "You make very good sharks, Mister Garibaldi. We were pretty good sharks too once, but somehow, along the way, we forgot how to bite."

Londo (after Garibaldi has departed): "See the great Centauri Republic! Open nine to five, Earth time!"


Generic business man to Lyta Alexander: "Some day I'm gonna find the guy who thought up the idea of renting telepaths to businessmen, and I'm gonna kill him!"

Ambassador G'Kar to Lyta, on the subject of creating a race of Narn telepaths: "Would you prefer to be conscious or unconscious during the mating? I would prefer conscious but I don't know what your... pleasure threshold is."

Londo to Garibaldi: "I suppose there will be a war now? All that running around and shooting at one another: you'd think that sooner or later it would have gone out of fashion!"

Dr. Kyle: "There are moments in your life when everything crystallises, and the whole world reshapes itself, right down to its component molecules, and everything changes. I have looked upon the face of a Vorlon, and nothing is the same anymore."

QUESTIONS????
Why does Delenn abstain from the vote to extradite Sinclair to the Vorlon homeworld? When she says she is here merely to observe, what is she watching?

What was the Minbari assassin's involvement with G'Kar? Why does he meet him in the Alien Sector (disguised as Lyta Alexander) where he tells the killer "there's been a complication"? What has he to gain from the assassination of Ambassador Kosh?

Was there a connection between the fact that the poison used on Kosh can only be found in the one sector from which Carolyn had returned? Was it merely coincidence that she arrived at the station twenty minutes before the assassination attempt?

What really happened to Sinclair at the Battle of the Line?

What did Dr. Kyle see under Kosh's encounter suit?



Next post I'll be looking at season one, though not in as much detail episode-wise, giving an overall synopsis of the season and also some pointers as to where the five-year story is going. Season one of Babylon 5 --- or at least, part one of season one, depending on how long I make it --- "Signs and portents", next.
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Old 01-07-2013, 02:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I was actually thinking of watching the Babylon 5 series again. I'd seen a couple of seasons of it before and so seeing this has now given me the the desire to watch it again.

I haven't read your review yet, as always they're long and in-depth meaning I need to concentrate But what I do remember about Babylon 5 is that the series was very original in some ways and dealt with several diverse topics quite well, I thought the concept of the world was good and the main space station seemed a damn site more impressive than that of Deep Space Nine. On the negative side though, I do remember it being a series that had some really bad actors and acting. I also remember that Bruce Boxleitner was a damn sight more charasmatic than the dull Michael O'Hare in the lead role.
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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First, thanks for being the first comment in my new journal! Yay!
Second, let's first (huh?) remember that Michael O'Hare, who played Commander Sinclair, died last year, so respect for the dead first.

As to the role he played, yes he was slagged off as being stiff, wooden etc but then that is the way the character was written, and how it was supposed to be played. Possibly to give all the more effect to the later change of leadership at the station: I mean, you couldn't really come up with two more opposing leaders than Sinclair and Sheridan, could you?

But as I mentioned in the intro, B5 was the first show to really explore the story arc idea, and it did this tremendously well, in effect laying down a blueprint for many shows that were to follow. The CGI was pretty impressive too, for the time, and of course the music, courtesy of Christopher Franke from Tangerine Dream, was beautiful, sumptuous, exciting, dramatic ... everything you want in a space show, as it were.

It's sad to see how many of its stars passed away, but at least the show came to a real and logical and finite conclusion, meaning any talk of a reunion would have been unlikely. "Crusade", the spinoff, I didnt like much, though I like Gary Cole, and sadly the planned series of followups, "The lost tales", only got the one outing, which I thought was unfortunate as I really enjoyed them, and it was great to see the station again after all that time. Oh well, maybe someday we'll see a Babylon 5 movie eh?
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Red Dwarf stands as something of a rarity: a show that is set in space but is essentially a comedy series, while at the same time taking an (almost) serious approach to science-fiction. I don't know of any series, before or even since, that has so successfully melded the two genres into something which is so much more than the sum of its parts. Almost unique, it's certainly never been bettered, and unless you count Douglas Adams' "Hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy", nothing has even tried. And it's not because the concept was shown to be flawed, was unsuccessful or failed at what it atttemped, as Red Dwarf has gone down as both a cult sci-fi series and a cult comedy series, though in fairness the balance does tend to be heavily on the latter.

Because of its uniqueness then, it's hard to judge it, as there's no yardstick against which to measure. Most sci-fi series can be compared to the greats, like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, or Babylon 5 even, while there are certainly hundreds of classic comedies you can put up against any newcomer to see if they measure up. But no show has ever straddled both genres so successfully, or indeed ever, and managed not to piss off the fans of either side. Spaced comes closest, probably, but even then that's not a sci-fi series, just references popular geek culture. Red Dwarf is set IN space, on a spaceship, and though the writers were proud to proclaim that the crew never met any aliens (which they didn't, through frankly amazingly inventive storylines) or used lasers or phasers, they manage to have the same kind of adventures as Captain Picard or Buck Rogers, albeit usually with a hilarious twist.

At its core, Red Dwarf is a story about characters, indeed one man, Dave Lister, the last human left alive. As the series gets going he surrounds himself with, well, let's not call them friends, eh? He wouldn't accept that. Let's just say they're, um, people he met. If you know the series that line will carry a little more weight than it would otherwise. Through a series of unlikely mishaps, Lister has ended up three million years in the future and light-years away from Earth, and must assume that by now either the planet is toast or at least that Man has died off or destroyed himself. His only companions, as the terrible truth begins to sink in about his isolation and what he can look forward to, are a hologrammatic simulation of perhaps the man he would least have wanted to spend the rest of his life with, a creature which was once a cat but has, over millions of years, evolved into a humanoid being, though still with the intrinsic characteristics of the household moggy and who, with trademark deadpan humour and lack of inspiration Lister names Cat, and the ship's computer.

Clear so far? Well perhaps you'll begin to understand better as the series develops. Being a typical BBC programme, Red Dwarf ran in six-episode seasons, or series, so unlike the other two series I'm tackling here at the moment there are just enough episodes and not too many for me to go into each in detail. But first, the cast:

Dave Lister, Technician Third Class, played by Craig Charles


Arnold Judas Rimmer, Technician Second Class, played by Chris Barrie


The Cat, played by Danny-John Jules


Holly, the ship's computer, seventh-generation A1


Season 1: Three million years from Earth...

Episode 1: The End

It's typical of the sort of humour we would see in this series that the first episode is titled "The end", though in many ways it is. The end of Lister's old life, the end of the crew, the end of Earth. In many more ways, of course, it's the beginning. We meet Lister and Rimmer, two lowly technicians aboard the Jupiter Mining Corporation ship "Red Dwarf", whose mission is to mine planets for minerals. Lister and Rimmer have a very important role onboard the ship: they must ensure that never, on any occasion and under any circumstances, do the chicken soup vending machines run out. Rimmer is a Technician Second Class, and so slightly above Lister in the pecking order, and he makes sure to pull rank on him every opportunity he gets. Lister, a lazy, bored, lackadaisical layabout who would much rather be back in his quarters knocking back cans of beer and eating five-alarm curries, is distinctly unimpressed by his "superior", and never misses a chance to wind him up.

After a particularly heated exchange during which Rimmer puts Lister on report (for about the 8,000th time) Dave is summoned to the captain's office, where it is put to him that he has a cat, contrary ot ship's regulations and quarantine rules, which he has smuggled onboard. When he denies this, Captain Hollister (played in brilliant deadpan mode by the wonderful Mac MacDonald) produces a photograph of Lister with the cat. Lister is then told he can hand over the cat or go into stasis, forfeiting a month's pay. Loyal to his pet, Lister chooses imprisonment, and is led to the suspended animation booth, where he is locked in.

A moment later he is released and asks the computer how is it that he has been let out so quickly? Surely a month has not already elapsed? The computer, Holly, does not reply at once but directs him to decontamination procedures, after which Lister asks where everyone is, and is informed by Holly that they are all dead. Shocked, he asks what happened and the computer tells him that a radiation leak developed, killing all the crew but preserving the ship. Lister is now the only human left alive on the ship. Holly tells him he had to wait until the radiation levels had reduced to a safe point before he could let Lister out, and advises him that he was not actually in the booth for a month, but rather longer. Three million years in fact!

Lister is gobsmacked, but even more so when he realises that although he may be the last human alive on the ship, there is someone there who is not alive. Arnold Rimmer, his bunkmate and erstwhile superior, has been brought back to life by Holly as one of the ship's holograms. All members of the crew when signing onboard the ship have their identities, personalities and physical characteristics etched on a tiny microchip, which, in emergency cases, the computer is able to use to effectively bring the person back to life. It's meant to be used in situations where, for instance, the captain has been killed. He can be brought back to life and still run the ship. Or perhaps his voiceprint or handprint is needed to activate or deactivate something, and the regenerated hologram can perform this function.

Left basically in charge of the ship, Holly sees his main role (other than flying and maintaining Red Dwarf) as keeping Lister, as the last representative of humankind, alive and sane. He has deduced that the best person to do this is Rimmer, a notion Lister not surprisingly disagrees with. Rimmer is quick to accuse his subordinate of being responsible for the accident, as the drive plate that blew, therby causing the radiation leak, was supposed to have been worked on by the two of them, but as Lister was in stasis Rimmer had to attend to it himself, and did not do a very good job. Whether in truth Lister's help would have prevented this disaster is highly debatable, but Rimmer is livid a) that he is dead b) that it was Lister's fault (as he sees it) and finally c) that he has been brought back purely at Lister's behest. Dave is quick to point out that Rimmer is the last person he would want to see, three milllion years of isolation or not, but before they can get into too much of an argument they are joined by a strange creature...

Having never given up his cat, Lister ensured that the animal lived on and thrived, breeding (although with what we're not told, as it's supposed to have been the only cat onboard!) and raising a whole colony of cats, who over the passage of millennia and without human intervention have now evolved to an upright, homo sapiens creature. They retain the basic mannerisms and idiosyncasies of the domestic cat though: they drink milk, clean themselves with their tongues, are exceedingly fastidious and highly arrogant and self-centred, and have the quick reflexes of their feline ancestors. Amazed at the creature, Lister calls it Cat and they become friends, in time allies of a sort against Rimmer.

Having come out of a three-million-year sleep, which was supposed to have only lasted one month, and found everyone he cared about dead, the human race in all likelihodo extinct and his only real friend a walking, talking descendant of his cat, Lister tells Holly to set a course for Earth, to see if he can make it back home.

And with that, a TV legend is born!

Best lines/quotes/scenes:
Note: Much of this is from memory, but some has been taken verbatim from the Red Dwarf Scripts at Pattycakes' Home Page, to whom I offer thanks.


Lister and Rimmer in the first scene. Lister is smoking a cigarette.
Rimmer: "Lister, is that a cigarette?" Lister: "No, it's a chicken!"

The Cat, on discovering there is a crease in his flash suit, produces a tiny iron and treats it with the exclamation "Whoa! Crease!"

On being released from stasis, Dave is told by Holly that all the crew are dead. The conversation runs like this:
Lister: "So where is everyone, Holly?"
Holly: "They're dead, Dave."
Lister: "Who is?"
Holly: "Everybody, Dave."
Lister: "What? Captain Hollister?"
Holly: "Everybody's dead Dave."
Lister: "Toddhunter?"
Holly: "Everybody's dead, Dave."
Lister: "What, Selby?"
Holly: "They're all dead Dave. Everybody's dead, Dave."
Lister: "Peterson isn't, is he?"
Holly: "Everybody's dead, Dave!"
Lister: "Not Chen?"
Holly: "Gordon Bennet! Yes, Chen. Everybody. Everybody's dead, Dave!"
Lister: "Rimmer?"
Holly: "He's dead Dave. Everybody is dead. Everybody is dead, Dave."
Lister: "Wait. Are you tryin' to tell me everyone is dead?"
Holly: "Should never have let him out!"

Lister is called to the captain's office:
Captain Hollister: "Lister, where's the cat?"
Lister: "What cat?"
Hollister: "Lister, not only are you stupid enough you bring an unquarantined animal on board, and jeopardise every man and woman on this ship, but you take a photograph of yourself with the cat, and send it to be developed in the ship's labs! Now I ask you one more time, have you got a cat?"
Lister: No.
Hollister (displaying a photo of a smiling Lister with a black cat in his arms) "Have you got a cat?"
Lister: "Oh yeah, that one. Sir, just suppose I had a cat --- just suppose! --- what would you do with Frankenstein?"
Hollister: "I would send it down to the medical centre and have it cut up and tests run on it."
Lister: "Would you put it back together when you'd finished?"
Hollister: "Lister! The cat would be dead!"
Lister: "So with respect Sir, what's in it for the cat?"

Lister's plan is just hilarious. He and Rimmer are discussing their career options in their quarters, where much of the best banter of the first and second season will take place. Rimmer wants to become an officer, rise up through the ranks, though he has a snowball's chance in Hell of even coming close to this ambition as he can't even pass the flight navigation exam, and he's taken it nine times. Lister, however, is more sanguine.

Lister: "I've got me plan."
Rimmer: "What's that, the plan to be the slobbiest entity in the entire universe?"
Lister: "No. Me five-year plan. You see, I'm going to do two more trips. And I've been saving up all me pay--"
Rimmer: "Since when?"
Lister: "Since always. That's why I never buy any soap or deodorant or socks or anything like that, you know. Anyway, I'm going to buy meself a little farm on Fiji. And I'm going to get a sheep and a cow, and breed horses."
Rimmer: "With a sheep and a cow?"
Lister: "No, with horses and horses!"
Rimmer: "On Fiji?"
Lister: "Yeah! The prices there are unbelievable!"
Rimmer: "Yes, because they had a volcanic eruption and now most of Fiji's three feet below sea level!"
Lister: "It's only three feet. They can wade. That's why the animals are gonna have to be quite tall..."
Rimmer: "Nice plan, Lister. Excellent plan! Brilliant plan, Lister! What about the sheep? What are you going to do, buy them water-wings? Fit them with stilts? Better still, you could cross-breed them with dolphins and have leaping mutton. (Gesturing with his pen to represent a woolly dolphin leaping out of the water) Baa, splash, baa, splash!"
Lister: "You can get a drainage grant these days."
Rimmer: "Why bother, Lister? You could be the first man to produce wet-look knitwear."
Lister: "Look, this is why I never ever said anything to you, 'cause I knew you'd say something like this."
Rimmer: "Lister, you've got the brain of a cheese sandwich. (Miming a swimmer and putting on a country farmer's voice) "Mornin', Farmer Lister! I'm just poppin' down to the shops in my submarine. Can I buy you anything?"


Just having been released from stasis, Lister is sitting at the com deck, idly fiddling with some pools of what appears to be baking soda. "And why is it so dirty around here Hol? What is this stuff", he asks Holly, "It's all over the place. " Holly replies "That is Catering Officer Olaf Peterson." Lister jumps back, having been tasting the stuff on his tongue; he spits the powder out. "Urgh! I've been eating half the crew! And what about Krissie? What about Krissie Kochanski?" Holly tells him she's also dead (a fact Lister seems to be having trouble accepting). Lister is devastated. "Oh hey no. She was part of my plan" he says morosely. "I never actually got around to telling her, but she was going to come with me to Fiji. She was going to wear a white dress and ride the horses, and I was gonna take care of everything else. I was me plan. I planned it." Holly shrugs. He has no shoulders, being just the representation of a giant bald head, but you get the idea. "Well," he says philosophically, "she won't be much use to you on Fiji now. Not unless it snows and you need something to grit the path with!"

Rimmer studies... something...
Rimmer is studying for his astro-navigation exam, and is not confident. In fact, he knows bugger-all. The last time he took the exam, according to Lister, he write "I am a fish" five hundred times on the paper, did a funny little dance and fainted. To counteract this, he has written all the relevant information on his hands, arms, legs, and any spare scrap of skin he can write on. He is now reading it as Lister sleeps.

Rimmer: "Right. They're bound to ask the right thigh, which is 10 per cent. They must ask the left thigh, which is 20 per cent. They've got to ask one of the forearms. Which means I've passed already! Anything on the left shin's a bonus!
(Looking at one arm) Right. CUTIE: Current under tension is ... what's this? Current under tension is equal? Current under tension is expandable? Current under tension is expensive? What does this mean? (Beginning to panic) What does any of it mean? I've covered my body in complete and utter and total absolute nonsense gibberish! Aaaargh!
Just relax, relax, relax, relax--"

Lister, sleeping in the top bunk, is woken up by Rimmer's raving. Rimmer
notices and makes an effort to appear calm.

Rimmer: "Er, plus 20 per cent of the ship's course minus the Pythagoras theorem multiplied by two over the X axis minus one equals the total velocity of Red Dwarf, which means I know everything about astro-engineering. Good morning, Lister, for probably the last time."
Lister: "You've got it all down, have you, Rimmer?"
Rimmer: "Couple of blanks, (slapping his buttocks) but I think we're there."
Lister: "So you can't remember anything?"
Rimmer: "Think what you will, Lister."
Lister: "Rimmer, F-I-S-H, that's how you spell "fish." Then you just keel over. I'm sure it'll all come flooding back to you."
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Second, let's first (huh?) remember that Michael O'Hare, who played Commander Sinclair, died last year, so respect for the dead first.

As to the role he played, yes he was slagged off as being stiff, wooden etc but then that is the way the character was written, and how it was supposed to be played. Possibly to give all the more effect to the later change of leadership at the station: I mean, you couldn't really come up with two more opposing leaders than Sinclair and Sheridan, could you?

But as I mentioned in the intro, B5 was the first show to really explore the story arc idea, and it did this tremendously well, in effect laying down a blueprint for many shows that were to follow. The CGI was pretty impressive too, for the time, and of course the music, courtesy of Christopher Franke from Tangerine Dream, was beautiful, sumptuous, exciting, dramatic ... everything you want in a space show, as it were.

It's sad to see how many of its stars passed away, but at least the show came to a real and logical and finite conclusion, meaning any talk of a reunion would have been unlikely. "Crusade", the spinoff, I didnt like much, though I like Gary Cole, and sadly the planned series of followups, "The lost tales", only got the one outing, which I thought was unfortunate as I really enjoyed them, and it was great to see the station again after all that time. Oh well, maybe someday we'll see a Babylon 5 movie eh?
Guess what I had no idea that Michael O'Hare had died until I saw this He wasn't very old at all.
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Guess what I had no idea that Michael O'Hare had died until I saw this He wasn't very old at all.
No, sadly it was a heart attack that took him. Richard Biggs (Dr Franklin) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) also RIP.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Season One: "Signs and portents" (Part one)

It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind, ten years after the Earth/Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace.

This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258, the name of the place is Babylon 5.


As I mentioned in the introduction, Babylon 5 was conceived as a five-year story arc, both in the show's fictional universe, and in the real world. The series would run over five seasons from 1993 to 1998, and each of the five season was subtitled, with a tagline that gave some clue as to the part it would play in the overall story arc. Season one, with its title of "Signs and portents", alluded strongly to the placing of the pieces on the chessboard, as it were; the drawing of battlelines, the arrangement of characters and plot elements, and hidden and not so hidden clues within the episodes that would point to a greater, overall truth which would come to drive the whole plot. Not every episode in every season advances or even contributes to the main story arc, and season one more than most, as it was here that the very skeleton of the plot was being built. But the signs are there, if you know where to look for them. Or have someone to point them out to you.

But first, there have been some character changes, as mentioned in the intro to "The Gathering". Let's take a look at the important ones.

Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova (played by Claudia Christian)
Replacing the (I thought) somewhat wooden and one-dimensional Laurel Takashima from the film, Ivanova is the new second-in-command on the station. She is of Russian descent, and as such can be seen to be quite cold and clinical as she goes about her duties. She has a softer side, though she hardly ever lets anyone see it. She will become indispensable as the commander's right hand throughout most of the series.


Doctor Stephen Franklin (played by Richard Biggs, RIP)
Having seen what lies beneath a Vorlon's encounter suit in the movie, Dr. Kyle is recalled to Earth, and Franklin is sent as his replacement to Babylon 5, where he assumes the post of Chief Medical Officer. His outspoken ways and often arrogant belief in himself and in his abilities tends to land him in trouble with the commander, but he's fiercely loyal and dedicated to his vocation.


Talia Winters (played by Andrea Thompson)
As the second resident commercial telepath on the station, Talia replaces Lyta Alexander, whose fate we learn some time later on, and which will have another big effect on the storyline. Talia, too, will impact on the plot, though her part will end, coming to critical mass as it were, near the end of season two. After that, there will be no third telepath, at least, not officially.

Vir Kotto (usually known only as Vir, and played by Stephen Furst)
Attache to Ambassador Mollari, Vir is a young, impressionable Centauri with a great sense of duty, and eager to please his new employer. He sees his posting to Babylon 5 as a great honour, though Londo tells him it is the joke job handed out to those among their people the Court can't find a proper place for. Vir will soon lose his childlike wonder though, and become both a staunch ally and later a vehement opponent of Londo, while carving his own name in Centauri history.

Lennier (played by Bill Mumy)
A man those who watched the sixties sci-fi classic show "Lost in space" will know as Will Robinson, Mumy plays attache to Delenn, the Minbari ambassador. But just as Vir's fate will take him places he could never have guessed at, Lennier's place in galactic history is also assured. He is devoted to Delenn, later revealing that he is in fact in love with her.

Na'Toth (played by Julie Caitlin Brown, later Mary Kay Adams)
And just as the other two ambassadors have attaches, so must G'Kar. His aide comes in the form of Na'Toth, a determined, fierce female Narn who initially makes no secret of her dislike of her new employer, but whom she eventually becomes fast friends with.

1.1 "Midnight on the firing line"

Season one opens on "Midnight on the firing line", with a "Bay of Pigs"-style standoff as Ragesh 3, a Centauri agricultural colony is attacked by persons unknown and destroyed, persons who later turn out to Narns, reigniting the still simmering enmity between the two races' ambassadors on Babylon 5. Londo Mollari accuses his opposite number of attacking a defenceless station, while G'Kar sneers that during the war against them Londo's people had no such qualms, and subjugated whoever and whatever they saw fit. Londo warns that if his nephew, who was stationed at the colony, is harmed, there will be war between the two races.

This is a key element of the show, as in later sf series: war is always looming, seemingly imminent and unavoidable. Man's lust for power and territory and his taste for combat (when I say "man" I refer to all races, obviously, not just humans: the aliens have sadly just as little control over their emotions and their desires as we often have) drives him to fight his neighbour, take his lands --- or in this case, his planet(s) and/or system(s), and it seems there will never truly be a lasting peace. Old grievances are harboured, old hatreds merely pushed down, never forgotten, never forgiven, and everyone puts on the face of the diplomat. But behind that cheerful, often bland and dishonest mask hides the true nationalist, who is ready to avenge past wrongs and bring down bloody retribution on his old enemy.

Other plot strands begin to develop here too: we see the new station telepath, Talia Winters, who reports to the new station second-in-command, Russian-born Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova, but is brushed off rudely by the officer. There doesn't seem to be any real reason for this; perhaps Ivanova is just naturally rude? As the series develops, we come to see that yes, in general she is short and curt with people, intolerant of incompetence and unforgiving to those who break the rules, but there is a deeper reason behind her dislike for Winters. It goes to the heart of who and what Talia is, and will be part of a major revelation later. What we do learn here is that at the end of the episode, when Talia speaks to Susan off-duty, Ivanova reveals that her mother was a telepath, but refused to join the Psi Corps, as all telepaths are required to do. Her only other two choices were to go to prison or to take inhibitory drugs, which she did. The drugs however had a terrible effect on her and led to her taking her own life. Ivanova has always therefore blamed Psi Corps for her mother's death.

Then there's the presidential race back on Earth. The incumbent, Luis Santiago, is being challenged by Marie Crane, whom some give a better chance than she's expected to have. Sinclair is watching the election campaign from Babylon 5, mindful that Earthgov, the seat of authority on the home planet, pay the bills and keep the lights on at the station. Without its continued support Babylon 5 can no longer function and would have to be shut down, so it's important to him that whoever occupies the position of power looks upon the station favourably. He seems disappointed at the end of the episode when it's clear the incumbent has won the election. This may seem odd in the light of later events.

Important plot arc points:

Londo vs G'Kar/Centauri vs Narn
Arc level: Red
This is an ongoing struggle between the two races which will have a massive effect on both of them in the future, and also on the wider galaxy. The argument between the two ambassadors over the taking of Ragesh 3 escalates to a point where they have to be separated, and later Londo plots to kills G'Kar, but more than that, Londo has had a dream. He tells Sinclair that the Centauri are able to see their own death in dreams, and he has seen himself, many years hence, squeezing the life out of G'Kar as the Narn strangles him back, and he knows the two will eventually kill each other. This, too, will turn out to be so much more than it seems on the surface. Also, as the series progresses, there will be no clear good or bad guy, loyalties and sympathies will shift like desert sands, and it will become hard to know who is in the right, for a long time.

Kosh:
Arc Level: Red
The enigmatic Ambassador Kosh is the first Vorlon to venture beyond his home planet, and like the Minbari in the pilot movie, he seems more inclined to hold a watching brief than get involved in any of the politics of the station. When Sinclair asks for his help in sanctioning the Narns for invading Ragesh 3, his reply is "They are a dying people. We should let them pass," to which Sinclair, confused, asks "Who? The Narn or the Centauri?" Kosh's answer is one that will become typically ambiguous and mysterious: "Yes", he says.

Telepaths and Psi Corps:
Arc Level: Orange
The revelation that Ivanova's mother was a telepath is a relatively minor one, considering what is to come, and Talia Winters has a huge role to play that will only become clear near the end of season two. Psi Corps itself will become more involved and entangled with the affairs of the station, proving themselves at times a deadly enemy, not only to Babylon 5, but to all races.

The presidential race:
Arc Level: Red
Although merely a footnote to the story here, the leadership on Earth will turn out to be a pivotal point which will run through the end of season two and right into season four, laying down some totally jaw-dropping moments on the way. The end of this season will see the beginning of that seachange, and it will not be for the better!

1.2 "Soul hunter"

In episode two we meet the alien race known as "soul hunters", in fact the episode is titled for them. They are a mysterious cadre of beings who can sense death, and travel to where the great and the good pass on, to harvest their souls by ways shrouded in ancient mystery and myth. One comes to the station but his ship was on a collision course as he had passed out. When the ship is taken inside and the pilot transferred to Medlab, Delenn comes in and sees the creature, shrinks back and advises Sinclair to send the Soul Hunter back where it came from.

This turns out to be good advice, because it's Delenn the alien has come for, and he manages to abduct her and hooks her up to a machine which will suck out her life-essence and transfer her soul to his keeping. Sinclair however rescues her and the Soul Hunter's comrades, who have come looking for him, believing him deranged, take him back with them.

This is the first time we meet the new Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Franklin. He and Sinclair will butt heads many times, over many issues, but will remain good friends. He will remain on the station until the last episode, and will play a large part in the overall story arc.

Important plot arc points
This episode does not have too many, but there are a few that will link into the main arc.

Satai Delenn:
Arc Level: Green
Sinclair hears the Soul Hunter call Delenn this, and wonders what it means. He asks the computer to look it up and finds it to be an honorific used in the Minbari tongue which refers to a member of the Grey Council, the ruling body of their people. He is surprised, as Delenn has never mentioned, nor made any allusions towards being a member of the Grey Council. As far as he knows, she is simply a government functionary, an ambassador assigned to Babylon 5. Could she have a dark secret?

Also, linked to this:
"They are using you!"
Arc Level: Red
The Soul Hunter tells Sinclair this, and asks why he is fighting for the ambassador? How can he know such a thing, and if by "they" he means the Minbari, what are they allegedly using him for? And why? To what end?

"We were right":
Arc Level: Red
When Sinclair rescues her at the last moment, Delenn breathes "I knew you would come. We were right about you." Sinclair wonders what she meant, but this will all be tied in to the revelation as to what happened at the Battle of the Line, and why the Minbari surrendered on the eve of their victory.

1.3 "Born to the Purple"

In episode three we learn a little more about the workings of the Centauri court. Londo has fallen in love with a dancer, Adira, who is a Centauri, but it turns out she is a slave, being used by an alien who has a grudge against Mollari and wants to discredit him and bring his house down. When he realises he has been played, Londo is more anguished than angry, as he had really fallen for the girl. After the slavemaster is defeated and arrested, and Londo's sensitive files (Purple Files) are recovered, Mollari arranges for Adira to be freed of her slave contract. She is now a free woman, and he sends her on her way, hoping she will one day return to him.

In a subplot, Garibaldi traces unauthorised communications which lead him to inadvertently eavesdrop on the final converation between Ivanova and her dying father back on Earth. As he watches on helplessly, the man dies and Ivanova cries. He switches the channel off, knowing that it will not be compromised again, but feeling terrible for the stricken woman.

Best lines:
With a dog of a hangover, Londo is "unwell" and sends Vir to be his representative in the negotiations with G'Kar and Sinclair. Excited and honoured, Vir says he will do Londo proud. Mollari's groaning retort is "Just don't give away the homeworld!" When Vir enters the chamber and G'Kar sees Londo is not coming, he takes umbrage and nominates Ko'Dath, his new head of security, as his representative. Equally honoured, she declares she will endeavour to do well, to which G'Kar laconically replies "Just don't give away the homeworld!"

Important Arc Plot Points:
Although there is really only the one in this episode, it's quite important.
Adira Tyree:
Arc Level: Red
The relationship between Londo and Adira will later be exploited to tragic effect, in order to manipulate the Centauri ambassador and push him into making a decision he will forever regret, and which will have dire consequences for every living being in that part of the galaxy.

1.4 "Infection"

Next up is "Infection", and there's nothing to say about it. It's a throwaway episode, hardly worthy of JMS's writing, in fact it's so bad you'd be fooled into thnking he didn't write it. But he did. It's worse than the worst Star Trek episode you've ever seen, almost B-movie material about an alien device that attaches itself to a host body and becomes a weapon. Yawn! Even the presence of the magnificent David McCallum ("Man from UNCLE", "The invisible man", "Sapphire and Steel") can't drag this out of the cesspool it inhabits. JMS has even been quoted as saying "What was I thinking?" It's just that bad.

The only real point of interest in it is the first mention is ISN, the InterStellar Network, the news channel who will become both a friend and a foe of the crew of Babylon 5 as the series runs on. Other than that, if you're watching for the first time and want to skip it, you'll miss nothing by doing so. Even Sinclair's speech at the end, about why mankind must go to the stars, seems stilted and forced. Awful episode, but in fairness, one of the very few bad eggs.

Important Plot Arc Points:
None.

I wanted to go ahead to the next episode but it will take me over the maximum allowed characters per post, so that will have to wait for part two of season one. If this has whetted your appetite for the series and you intend now watching it, you can get by without any major shocks coming from this article, nor probably the next, but after that you need to stop if you don't want to ruin the surprises, twists and revelations yet to come.

Remember, you have been warned!
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Last edited by Trollheart; 10-05-2013 at 05:21 AM.
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Old 01-10-2013, 04:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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No, sadly it was a heart attack that took him. Richard Biggs (Dr Franklin) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) also RIP.
I never realized that so many stars from the series had passed away. Richard Biggs was only 44! Also Andreas Katsulas I didn't know about and he was certainly the best known of the actors that passed away as he had a lot of good supporting credits over the years both in cinema and TV.

I've just watched "The Gathering" and read your review afterwards. All I will say is that your review is superb and serves as a perfect intro for anybody wanting to get into the series but without spoiling anything. As I said before I'd seen the first three seasons but had forgotten a lot of the stuff. I should be going through the first season very soon.

This is a superb journal, keep it up.....which I know you will of course.

There is a certain amount of corniness and even a dated feel about Babylon 5and it has some poor script work and acting BUT the concept is great, there are some smart and funny lines and most importantly it all hangs together very well.
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