Babylon 5: Season 4 [DVD]
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Contains all the episodes from Series 4:
- The Hour of the Wolf
- Whatever Happened To Mr Garibaldi?
- The Summoning
- Falling Toward Apotheosis
- The Long Night
- Into the Fire
- The Illusion of Truth
- Racing Mars
- Lines of Communication
- Conflicts of Interest
- Rumours, Bargains and Lies
- Moments of Transition
- No Surrender, No Retreat
- The Exercise of Vital Powers
- The Face of the Enemy
- Intersections in Real Time
- Between the Darkness and the Light
- Rising Star
- The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
- Whatever Happened To Mr Garibaldi?
The fourth series of Babylon 5 begins on a high point with Centauri Prime in the grip of the insane Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer) and a run of six shows leading to the climax of the war against the Shadows in "Into the Fire". If this colossal narrative is resolved a little too easily and the ultimate aim of the Shadows turns out to be a tad disappointing, it's still one of the most powerful slices of space opera ever to grace the small screen.
In the aftermath the sheer scale drops back a little but the pace never slows as the rest of the year plays out in one relentless cycle of conspiracy, betrayal and conflict, Babylon 5 siding with the rebel Mars colony against the totalitarian Earth regime. Meanwhile, Delenn finds herself increasingly in conflict with her own people and, paralleling her relationship with Sheridan, Garibaldi becomes involved with his ex-fiancée Lise Hampton (Denise Gentile); in addition, an intense platonic love grows between Ivanova and Marcus Cole. On an unstoppable wave fuelled by roller-coaster plot twists and spectacular action shows from "No Surrender, No Retreat"--when Sheridan avows to overthrow EarthGov--to "Rising Star"--when the aim is realised--this series of Babylon 5 achieved a consistent excellence rare in television.
Yet within that run "Intersections in Real Time" stands out as a bold experiment; essentially a two-hand drama taking place entirely within one dimly lit room. Then in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", a descendant of humanity one million years hence reviews excerpts from the history of Babylon 5. In one sequence set in 2762 a Brother is devoted to the preservation of history some time after the "Big Burn". In a homage to Walter M Miller's SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, Sheridan and Delenn have themselves become the stuff of legend. --Gary S Dalkin
On the DVD:
All 22 episodes of Season 4 of Babylon 5 are presented on six DVDs. Anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TV, the picture is significantly stronger than on the original TV broadcasts, if not up to blockbuster movie standards. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is punchy and richly impressive, if again not quite state-of-the-art. As with previous seasons the main extras are three commentaries. The first, by actors Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik and Patricia Tallman, finds these leading cast members having a great time joshing around on Falling Towards Apotheosis and failing to say anything very interesting. Series creator and writer J Michael Straczynski and director Michael Vejar discuss The Face of the Enemy, the conversation tending towards a technical scene-by-scene analysis, while by far the most interesting commentary is J Michael Straczynski alone on The Deconstruction of Falling Stars. JMS covers many aspects of the show, going into depth explaining both his ideas behind the series and the practicalities of realising his vision. Celestial Sounds is an interesting but too-short five-minute look at the scoring process with composer Christopher Franke, complemented by a powerful six-minute musical suite. The package also includes a six-minute introduction, a three-minute gag reel and video data files of characters, organisations and places. An Easter egg offers a comparison between untextured and completed CGI models of Babylon 5 itself. There is an optional French soundtrack, plus English, English for Hearing Impaired, French and Netherlands subtitles. --Gary S Dalkin
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The pace accelerates in series four, perhaps because the writer, fearing the dreaded spectre of cancellation, had to condense two series' worth of story arc into one.
The Shadow War reaches it conclusion and the crew of Babylon 5 must liberate Earth from the pernicious dictatorship which grips it and the sheer volume of foes the crew have to oppose compels a fast-moving series.
The scripts benefit from the continuity of having only a single writer and with up to three years of development behind them the characters are well portrayed.
The universe of Babylon 5 is much darker than that of Star Trek and the optimism and positive view of humanity which characterised Star Trek are far less in evidence. For those looking for science fiction drama which evolves over the course of several series, has some morally ambiguous characters (as well as those with clear affiliations to good or evil), political machinations and interstellar conflict, Babylon 5 is worth examination.
Morden: "So what are you going to do, Mollari? Blow up the Island?"
Mollari: "Actually, now that you mention it..." [Click]
This was such a unique show. It's deep characters still provide an incentive to watch the show, even if some of the special effects have not transferred well. (The live action scenes were filmed in widescreen (when only a fraction of TVs were widescreen), but the cgi/space effects were not. Thus, they are not of sufficient resolution when scaled up to fit the widescreen aspect ratio of the DVD format.)
For £11 you can't go wrong.
It's true that the packaging is different; it's also true that you can level some criticisms at the show and pick a few holes in it. In the end, though, it's just 18 hours of great entertainment at a pretty reasonable price.
A fantastic series - I have yet to encounter another sci-fi series that comes close - plot, storyline, characterisation & visualisation are 2nd to none. Someone else out there, please make something as good!!!
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