You may remember quite a while back I mentioned that Sharon and I were working our way through Season 1 of Babylon 5. We finished it up a few months back, I just haven't gotten around to posting up the little mini-reviews. I'm going to break the season in half, since reading even short reviews of 22 stories can get a little mind-numbing.
So here, in lieu of real content, are my brief thoughts on the first 11 episodes of the first season.
1.01 Midnight on the Firing Line by J. Michael Straczynski
Not a bad start, needing as it does to set up the universe of B5. G'Kar is set up early on as the near comedic villain, while Londo is the more typical comedy relief. It's interesting to note that even as far back as this first episode, those characters in particular show additional layers.
People complain about Michael O'Hare's acting being wooden in the role of Jeffrey Sinclair, but he's very much a classic hero, with little depth given beyond being a hero, brave and wise.
I was particularly impressed by the sheer amount of background aliens and extras to help pad out the station. More than a few of the aliens aren't to be found in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. All up not a bad start. Many pilots suffer for being pilots, and this is no better or worse than many that were around at the time.
1.02 Soul Hunter by J. Michael Straczynski
Big improvement. The universe is further padded out with the introduction of W. Morgan Sheppard's wonderfully distant and slightly creepy titular Soul Hunter.
As the story unfolds, we get more concepts and ideas, not to mention hints of the broader stories that are to be told.
There are aspects of it that are clunky, but overall a good watch.
1.03 Born to the Purple by Larry DiTillio
A reasonable story but the ending is predictable and weak. A good performance by Peter Jurasik as Londo, with the Andreas Katsulas doing a wonderful job with variable material.
The sequence where Sinclair goes undercover in his own station is laughable and non-sensical, thanks both to the way the part is written and played, and to the fact he's not recognised. He's the bloody Commander of the station, and one of the better placed criminals doesn't recognise him?
The B story is good, but still clunky in its handling.
1.04 Infection by J. Michael Straczynski
And so we have the first real dud of the season. It's a story that feels like it needed another couple of edits to get the best out of it. That combined with some sloppy editing really leaves it lacking. Feels like an idea from one of the weaker Star Treks, completely predictable, right down to the finale.
The worst thing is, the finale works as an idea, but for television, we have seen this so many, many times before. It's still better than simply blowing the creature away, but if you're not going to do that you need to make the pivotal sequence sing. This one burps. Oh, and it manages the "It's taken a long time to transform someone into this creature, but two seconds to turn them back" trick. Which I have always hated.
This was the first one written for the series and Straczynski was always unhappy with it. Seeing it again, I know why.
It gains a point for the nice little speech on the end as to why we have to go to the stars, but only because I'm feeling generous.
1.05 Parliament of Dreams by J. Michael Straczynski
So, Sinclair's old flame arrives back on the station and they both preceed to show a total lack of chemistry. We get to see a few of the dominant religions, and G'Kar has to deal with an assassin. It's an entertaining episode in many ways, and is certainly saved by Katsulas having an absolute ball. Jurasik does too, and the scene of Centuri celebration is fun. And worth keeping an eye out for Claudia Christian in the background - if she's not genuinely corpsing, then she's a fine actress.
It's a filler episode, but that's okay, because it's an entertaining filler episode.
1.06 Mind War by J. Michael Straczynski
Things kick up a level with this story. Not because of the background we're given, though that's great, but just because it's well written. It also sees the introduction of Bester the PsiCop, played wonderfully by Walter Koenig.
The characters work, the ideas are good, and even the B-story is well handled and hints at the future of the series. G'Kar again stands out and is given great material to work with, as he becomes solidly 3 dimensional.
1.07 The War Prayer by D.C. Fontana
A poet, an old flame, two Centuri youths and anti-alien sentiments all come into play in this episode - which unfortunately is a bit by the numbers. It's not a bad watch by any stretch, but it's easy to call the shots. Peter Jurasik's performance helps elevate things as he muses on what the old Centuri tradition of arranged marriages has cost him.
1.08 And the Sky full of Stars by J. Michael Straczynski
A good episode, featuring some nice surreal touches and plenty of backstory as two men interrogate Sinclair to try and find out about his missing 24 hours on the Battle of the Line. The drama works well enough as an arc episode and a stand alone, the viewer getting enough info through to make it watchable regardless.
1.09 Deathwalker by Larry DiTillio
Great story! Politics, an alien war criminal, and Kosh the Vorlon all giving the viewer plenty to keep an eye on. Very well written and acted, especially the part of Jha'Dur, the Dilgar criminal played by Sarah Douglas.
The B story is a little weak, but strange enough to help keep the viewer wondering about Vorlon intentions.
1.10 Believers by David Gerrold
Good stand alone story about a boy who is dying but his parents won't allow Dr. Franklin to operate because it is against their belief system. One of the things that makes this story work is the way their beliefs are weaved through the story, and their interactions with each other and the regulars. It helps give the feel that these are real people with real beliefs that will mean the death of the child they love.
1.11 Survivors by Marc Scott Zicree
Another good stand alone, one that gives a bit more background to Garabaldi, as he is framed as a sabateur. My one main criticism is that, for someone who is so good at his job, Garabaldi doesn't seem to be running the sorts of rings around security I would have thought. And he needs a hell of a lot of help. But that's a minor complaint, all up it's not a bad ep.