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-   -   Is it time to give season 5 another chance? (http://www.b5tv.com/showthread.php?t=45789)

Springer June 9th 16 23:30

Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
The last time I re-watched the show, I decided only to go up to season four - for whatever reason I couldnít find the motivation to watch season five. Was my impression of the fifth season biased by other peopleís opinions, or is it really as disappointing compared to the first four seasons as I remembered?

Since I bought the season five DVD boxset about 10 years ago, I think Iíve only watched it through once. So I figured Iíd give it another go, this time with an open but critical mind, and post my thoughts on each episode as I go and what I think of the season overall as I go along.

No Compromises

This isnít a bad opener, but there are a couple of things that hold it back, worrying signs for the season ahead. Little details that previously the show would have thought through more carefully. The staging of scenes for example - why is no one screaming or panicking when the assassin tries to shoot Sheridan, or destroy the sanctuary with his Starfury? Everyoneís just shrugs and gets on with things. The kid teep manages to get all the way to the entrance before security stops him - the assassin could have just stayed in the hallway and shot Sheridan from there! And that kid is a walking cliche that should have been excised from the script - or would have been perhaps if there was a script editor. How did he get up into the air conditioning from his bed on medlab? And in a five mile station he manages to just chance upon the assassinís quarters in five minutes? These might just be little things on there own, but add them together and it makes the episode feel like it hangs together very loosely and feels rushed.

Perhaps these issues are a result of JMS losing his notes on the season at Wolf 359, though I find it hard to believe all of his notes were on little scraps of paper and not on a computer and would have affected the series that much. Plus JMS isnít the only person making the show and you can place some of the responsibility on the director Janet Greek, or the editor.

Despite that, I said itís not a bad opener and there are good things worth highlighting. Tracy Scoggins puts in a strong performance as Lochley. Right from the beginning we see sheís not Ivanova; her arrival on the station reminds me a little of when Franklin arrives and is greeted by Ivanova in Soul Hunter. Franklin asks whether it is always this hectic and Ivanova replies that she likes it that way, whereas Lochley just sees disorder and a badly run station. Sheís her own character and distinct from Ivanova right from the start. Itís also kind of neat that the first character we see this season is Corwin, promising a larger role for him in season 5. But why hasnít he got a B5 uniform yet like Zack and Franklin?

Unfortunately, Lochley doesnít get enough to do this episode. In Points of Departure when Sheridan arrived, we immediately found out how he thinks and what his tactical mind is like when he figured out the Minbari werenít going to attack. In No Compromises, Lochley should have had an involvement in saving Sheridan, just to make her a more active participant in her introductory episode. (And another thing: shouldnít C&C have been aware of an unauthorised Starfury launch? They could have cleared the Sanctuary straight away. And Garibaldi couldnít have flown a Starfury without a pressure suit with the g-forces it would have been pulling by just dropping out of the cobra bays, never mind flying around.)

The other introduction is of course Byron, who right from the beginning is a bit creepy and weird. Itís really hard to be objective about Byron anymore! But I donít think his request for asylum on B5 is unreasonable. Lochley might be the governor there but itís not Earth territory and so shouldnít be subject to its laws. Itís no different than Alysa Beldon being allowed to go to Minbar in Legacies. I wonder why Franklinís underground railroad isnít mentioned? Having said that, Byron does tangentially allude to it.

As for Sheridan, he helps hold the episode together as he always does. I was intrigued with his scenes with Lochley, not for the soap opera drama of them previously being married, but more about relinquishing command of the station to her. Does that bother him? We see in the next scene Garibaldi trying to tell Zack how to do his job and itís clear Garibaldi hasnít let go yet. But Sheridan doesnít seem too fussed. I guess he gets to overrule Lochley when he wants to anyway.

On the DVD thereís an introductory piece where JMS talks about the need to try and find momentum again since season four finished most of the major plot lines. I donít see much of that in No Compromises though; itís quite standalone, at best just putting pieces into play for later storylines. In hindsight, I wonder if a real shake up the status quo wouldnít have been better in creating that momentum.

Iím also not a fan of the opening credits. Donít get me wrong, theyíre excellently put together, well edited, good music (even though the theme feels a little divorced from previous B5 themes). The lack of narration bothers me, since it is supposed to be a story told through the characters, but thereís also a focus on past glories, rather than whatís going to be great about season 5. Thatís a dangerous mindset to get into from a production point of view.

Next up is the Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, an episode Iím quite looking forward to.

Jan June 10th 16 12:15

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456384)
The staging of scenes for example - why is no one screaming or panicking when the assassin tries to shoot Sheridan, or destroy the sanctuary with his Starfury?

'Cause the majority would be military or ambassadors and trained to not panic?

Quote:

Perhaps these issues are a result of JMS losing his notes on the season at Wolf 359, though I find it hard to believe all of his notes were on little scraps of paper and not on a computer and would have affected the series that much.
The notes were on 3x5 inch cards because that's a visual way that JMS would plot out story beats and episodes. Why is that hard to believe - especially considering how comparatively primitive computers were in 1997? There was more done on legal pads and index cards back then for planning.

Quote:

Unfortunately, Lochley doesnít get enough to do this episode. In Points of Departure when Sheridan arrived, we immediately found out how he thinks and what his tactical mind is like when he figured out the Minbari werenít going to attack. In No Compromises, Lochley should have had an involvement in saving Sheridan, just to make her a more active participant in her introductory episode.
That was deliberate. At the time the episode was written, the part hadn't been cast. That's why she's not seen much in the first part of the season. It wasn't the same situation with Bruce/Sheridan.

Quote:

(And another thing: shouldnít C&C have been aware of an unauthorised Starfury launch? They could have cleared the Sanctuary straight away. And Garibaldi couldnít have flown a Starfury without a pressure suit with the g-forces it would have been pulling by just dropping out of the cobra bays, never mind flying around.)
Good point.

Quote:

Iím also not a fan of the opening credits. Donít get me wrong, theyíre excellently put together, well edited, good music (even though the theme feels a little divorced from previous B5 themes). The lack of narration bothers me, since it is supposed to be a story told through the characters, but thereís also a focus on past glories, rather than whatís going to be great about season 5. Thatís a dangerous mindset to get into from a production point of view.
The season 5 credits are probably my favorite! And you're right about the focus on the past. It had to do two jobs - Naturally, it had to introduce the season but it also had to let the new TNT viewers know that there was a pretty epic story that they might not have seen just waiting for them on the TNT reruns. Remember, TNT was showing season 5 at the same time they 'stripped; the first four seasons of reruns daily.

Quote:

Next up is the Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, an episode Iím quite looking forward to.
Love that episode! In fact I love most of the off-format episodes (as I'm sure I've said a million times here)

Jan

Springer June 10th 16 12:37

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jan (Post 456385)

'Cause the majority would be military or ambassadors and trained to not panic?

Londo and G'Kar and Delenn - sure. But all the other dignitaries? Everyone just acted as though there'd been a minor skirmish, not an attempt on the life of the president!

Quote:

The notes were on 3x5 inch cards because that's a visual way that JMS would plot out story beats and episodes. Why is that hard to believe - especially considering how comparatively primitive computers were in 1997? There was more done on legal pads and index cards back then for planning.
Fair enough - and I was at that convention by the way and if JMS had asked for all the convention goers to help search through the refuse for them, we'd have gladly done so!

Quote:

That was deliberate. At the time the episode was written, the part hadn't been cast. That's why she's not seen much in the first part of the season. It wasn't the same situation with Bruce/Sheridan.
Yeah, but I don't think that's an excuse because Lochley already has scenes in this episode. If we can have scenes with Lochley arguing with Garibaldi, or meeting with Byron or whatever, then there could have been a scene where she figures out who the assassin is - especially as she'd worked with the assassin before, so that connection is already there. Why would JMS have needed to know who the actress was to write that part of the script, but not needed to know it would be Tracy Scoggins to write the other parts featuring Lochley?

Quote:

The season 5 credits are probably my favorite! And you're right about the focus on the past. It had to do two jobs - Naturally, it had to introduce the season but it also had to let the new TNT viewers know that there was a pretty epic story that they might not have seen just waiting for them on the TNT reruns. Remember, TNT was showing season 5 at the same time they 'stripped; the first four seasons of reruns daily.
Certainly from an artistic point of view, they're fabulous. But the opening credits for each season set the tone for that season. Season five's didn't and it's quite noticeable to me watching it nearly 20 years later.

I should point out the aim of this re-watch isn't to deliberately bash season five - I'm genuinely trying to be objective about it since I love B5. There will be parts of it I like, and parts that I don't and if other people have different opinions, that's fine. But I do think that while there are extenuating circumstances to some of the off-colour things about the season, I do think we have to judge an episode based on what happens in those 43 minutes that are on-screen, regardless of which actress may have left or what notes were lost or how much the budget was cut by.

Jan June 10th 16 20:31

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456386)
I should point out the aim of this re-watch isn't to deliberately bash season five - I'm genuinely trying to be objective about it since I love B5. There will be parts of it I like, and parts that I don't and if other people have different opinions, that's fine. But I do think that while there are extenuating circumstances to some of the off-colour things about the season, I do think we have to judge an episode based on what happens in those 43 minutes that are on-screen, regardless of which actress may have left or what notes were lost or how much the budget was cut by.

To an extent, you're absolutely right. But part of the point of JMS posting as much as he did was to tear the veil away so that viewers would understand more about how TV is really made.

BTW, hoping I didn't come across as adversarial - I was in a hurry when I posted. :)

Jan

Springer June 11th 16 16:48

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari

No Compromises may have gone about its business at least with the best of intentions, but The Very Long Night of London Mollari is a step up in every department: dialogue, storytelling, direction, cinematography and acting. Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas are simply imperious in this and David Eagle directs them with panache. It feels like a stage play at times. No Compromises felt rushed, but here the dialogue, plot and characterisation all seems to be carefully considered. As much as No Compromises was about a new beginning, The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari depends very much on the events of the past four years.

It also feels like this episode could have appeared in a previous season. In parts it feels like the second season especially, from jovial Londo at the beginning, callbacks to The Long Twilight Struggle, and Vir and Lennier’s conversation in the Zocalo. This episode feels more like a familiar friend, more like the series we’d grown to love by this point. There’s a little bit of world-building too, with Centauri biology and culture, and it all builds on everything that has happened and his relationship with G’Kar, which for many is the crux of the entire series.

It has also been stated before that season five is less serial in nature than season 4 or even parts of season 3, furthering the comparisons with season 2: a new captain and more episodic stories. I’m aware that things will gradually become more serialised later on, however.

I have noticed in these first two episodes that Christopher Franke’s music feels a bit intrusive and over the top whereas before it had never been. It may just be a quirk of these two episodes, but as a fan of Franke’s music in general I’ll be listening out for this more in future episodes.

But overall this one is a winner and would grace any of the previous seasons. It feels very much like the good ol’ B5 of previous years.

chas1701 June 11th 16 20:04

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jan (Post 456385)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456384)
The staging of scenes for example - why is no one screaming or panicking when the assassin tries to shoot Sheridan, or destroy the sanctuary with his Starfury?

'Cause the majority would be military or ambassadors and trained to not panic?

Quote:

Perhaps these issues are a result of JMS losing his notes on the season at Wolf 359, though I find it hard to believe all of his notes were on little scraps of paper and not on a computer and would have affected the series that much.
The notes were on 3x5 inch cards because that's a visual way that JMS would plot out story beats and episodes. Why is that hard to believe - especially considering how comparatively primitive computers were in 1997? There was more done on legal pads and index cards back then for planning.



That was deliberate. At the time the episode was written, the part hadn't been cast. That's why she's not seen much in the first part of the season. It wasn't the same situation with Bruce/Sheridan.



Good point.

Quote:

Iím also not a fan of the opening credits. Donít get me wrong, theyíre excellently put together, well edited, good music (even though the theme feels a little divorced from previous B5 themes). The lack of narration bothers me, since it is supposed to be a story told through the characters, but thereís also a focus on past glories, rather than whatís going to be great about season 5. Thatís a dangerous mindset to get into from a production point of view.
The season 5 credits are probably my favorite! And you're right about the focus on the past. It had to do two jobs - Naturally, it had to introduce the season but it also had to let the new TNT viewers know that there was a pretty epic story that they might not have seen just waiting for them on the TNT reruns. Remember, TNT was showing season 5 at the same time they 'stripped; the first four seasons of reruns daily.

Quote:

Next up is the Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, an episode Iím quite looking forward to.
Love that episode! In fact I love most of the off-format episodes (as I'm sure I've said a million times here)

Jan

I would like to know if any of you are there Babylon 5 fans have noticed the wolf 359 coming up and other science fiction shows. I know that has come up in Star Trek and on Doctor Who and I know I seen it listen to other shows but cannot remember the names.

Springer June 11th 16 20:46

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by chas1701 (Post 456390)

I would like to know if any of you are there Babylon 5 fans have noticed the wolf 359 coming up and other science fiction shows. I know that has come up in Star Trek and on Doctor Who and I know I seen it listen to other shows but cannot remember the names.

Wolf 359 is a real star; it's the seventh closest star to our Solar System, just over 7 light years away, so it crops up a lot in fiction. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Starfleet famously fought the Borg and lost at Wolf 359 in the two-part episode The Best of Both Worlds. The name Wolf 359 was then taken from this episode for a series of Star Trek and general science fiction conventions in the UK, and eventually they started running Babylon 5 conventions too. The biggest of those was in Blackpool in 1997, during the hiatus between seasons 4 and 5, and it was at the convention that Claudia Christian left the show and JMS had most of his notes for season 5 accidentally thrown away by hotel cleaning staff. So it had quite an impact on season 5 of the show!

Psi Cop June 13th 16 12:46

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
The key to season 5 is the reconciliation between G'Kar and Londo. Also there's more Bester and he gets his own episode!

Springer June 13th 16 14:59

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jan (Post 456388)
BTW, hoping I didn't come across as adversarial - I was in a hurry when I posted. :)

Not at all! I was worried I was sounding too critical. :-)

Having said that....

The Paragon of Animals

This is a curious episode. It's a solid if unspectacular piece of television; there's no sense of things being rushed as there was with No Compromises, and Mike Vejar puts in his usual high standards of directing. The script mostly holds together too, but there's a worrying change in tone or, for want of a better word, the morality of some character's actions and I really don't see what JMS was aiming for. Perhaps its just the way the world has changed in 2016 compared to 1997, but given this weekend's awful, tragic events it does't sit right that Delenn can say things like "Terror is a form of communication too" as though it were a good thing. Then there's the whole spying on people with telepaths - shades of the revelations about our intelligence agencies that were leaked by Edward Snowden? I'm still not quite sure how, in the free and democratic society that the Alliance portrays, that Garibaldi, Delenn, Sheridan and JMS himself thought that spying with telepaths was an acceptable thing.

Now, I'm aware there was an abandoned plot line where Sheridan and Delenn's son was going to travel back in time to want them not to veer too much into dictatorship. While I think that would have been the highlight of the season, on the other hand I wouldn't have believed that the Sheridan and Delenn that we see in seasons 1 to 4 would need to be warned of that. But then here we have The Paragon of Animals and they are definitely making dubious decisions. Did JMS have the storyline with their son in mind when he wrote this episode? Because otherwise it doesn't paint a good picture of the new Alliance. No wonder the League didn't want to sign the declaration of principles Ė they hadn't had any say in the writing of the declaration! It was just being forced on them.

And it feels like a real clash in the scene near the beginning when they're talking about the declaration of principles and then about using the telepaths for spying. How can they possibly talk about the two things without feeling the slightest bit hypocritical? I'm guessing JMS is hoping that's how we will feel about it, but it's just presented as though it's all alright.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having your characters make dubious decisions Ė but the audience has to be allowed to then have the debate, are they right or are they wrong? Here, things are just presented as is, as though there is nothing wrong with the decisions they make. Sheridan might talk about a slippery slope but he's ignoring his own warnings. And lo and behold, it backfires on them later when the telepaths blackmail the Alliance Ė an event that is put into motion in this episode.

Of course, the telepaths are a whole other problem. First, why couldn't Garibaldi have used telepaths belonging to the Rangers, or another of the Alliance worlds? And is JMS deliberately writing Byron as a pious, smug and thoroughly unlikeable individual, or are we meant to like him and how clever he thinks he is? JMS, with his experiences of cults, should know how dangerous cults can be, and yet just like with the Alliance's dubious decisions, there is again no exploration of Byron's little cult and whether it is dangerous or whether they are good people we should be rooting for - it's all just presented as though we should like him.

Of course, Byron is just as racist as those who shun telepaths, claiming that telepaths are "not human beings, but better". I guess (I hope) that's meant to raise warning flags to the audience.

Lyta fares much better this episode. In fact, her scene in the Zocalo where she talks to Garibaldi about what it's like to be in the mind of someone dying is probably some of her best work on the series. What has happened to Garibaldi though? This isn't the blue-collar guy who sympathised with the docker's guild in season 1 or resigned when Sheridan went too far with Morden. Garibaldi doesn't trust telepaths, and now he wants to hire a bunch that he barely knows to start spying on people? I just can't see the Garibaldi of earlier seasons going along with that. Plus, aren't there people far more qualified to be Head of Covert Intelligence? Either it's Sheridan giving jobs to his mates (and on that point, surely the Alliance should have its own equivalent of the 'West Wing', yet we never see it, which is a shame as B5 used to be so good in showing how politics worked), or it's pandering to the fans to make Garibaldi something important. Plus, Garibaldi used to be able to charm anyone, think about the scene with Talia in the elevator in Spider in the Web. He seems to have lost all his charm this season, in particular when Garibaldi finds Lyta in the Zocalo and doesn't even bother asking how she is.


Other notables:
ē Good to hear the Abbai get name-checked. Is that the first time since season 1?
ē The aliens are a bit Star-Trekky, with just a few bumps on their forehead. Perhaps a sign of the smaller budget for season 5?
ē Londo has miraculously gotten better since his heart attack. How much time has passed since the last episode? It would have been nice continuity if maybe we'd just seen him taking medication.
ē How much is Garibaldi behind the idea of the Alliance? He keeps describing it to Sheridan as *your* empire, rather than 'ours'.
ē Was there just one Ranger on that damaged white star? And how on Earth did raiders manage to damage it? They should have had no chance against a white star. Same for the end where they were hoping to lure the white stars into a trap. The Drazi nor the raiders should have had a chance.
ē Byron says something about how horrible humans are, after 6,000 years of blood, murder and slavery. He's definitely a glass-half-empty person. Think about how Delenn saw things when she said in Babylon Squared (paraphrasing), "Humans have reached where they are despite 10,000 years of recorded history, of struggle and blood, that they are greater than they know". Delenn sees something in humans that not even Byron can.

To sum up, it's a competent episode but with an underlying dark tone that I know runs through the fifth season and for me taints some of the characters and JMS' writing. I'll address how I see this more in future episodes.

Psi Cop June 14th 16 08:10

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
The problem with the telepath storyline in Season 5 is that I can think of no reason why the telepaths cannot have a homeworld. The universe is a big place there must be a planet/habitable moon somewhere...


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