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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...

Jan June 14th 16 14:51

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

Originally Posted by Psi Cop (Post 456402)
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...

Because actual habitable planets belong to somebody. And they're valuable real estate. One doesn't simply give them away to a small splinter group.

As for our characters making 'grey' decisions - they've been doing that since season one but it seemed okay because there were supposedly good reasons for it. Lyta's illegal scan of the Centauri telepath in 'Passing through Gethsemane' comes to mind.

Jan

Springer June 14th 16 15:33

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

Originally Posted by Jan (Post 456406)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Psi Cop (Post 456402)
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...

Because actual habitable planets belong to somebody. And they're valuable real estate. One doesn't simply give them away to a small splinter group.

As for our characters making 'grey' decisions - they've been doing that since season one but it seemed okay because there were supposedly good reasons for it. Lyta's illegal scan of the Centauri telepath in 'Passing through Gethsemane' comes to mind.

Jan

I agree, and I like the characters making grey decisions, they are far more interesting that way. I do think there is a difference between grey decisions that might affect individuals, and grey decisions from people in a position of power that could affect billions. But my main criticism is that there is no acknowledgement that they are grey decisions. We don't see the characters weighing up these decisions, and indeed I feel they're making decisions that feel out of character.

Jan June 14th 16 16:23

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456407)
I agree, and I like the characters making grey decisions, they are far more interesting that way. I do think there is a difference between grey decisions that might affect individuals, and grey decisions from people in a position of power that could affect billions. But my main criticism is that there is no acknowledgement that they are grey decisions. We don't see the characters weighing up these decisions, and indeed I feel they're making decisions that feel out of character.

Given how early it was in the season, JMS may have still been trending toward the idea of having the Alliance becoming - or verging on - tyranical. It's clear throughout the season that this is on the job training for Sheridan.

Jan

vorlonlovechild June 15th 16 11:52

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

Originally Posted by Jan (Post 456408)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456407)
I agree, and I like the characters making grey decisions, they are far more interesting that way. I do think there is a difference between grey decisions that might affect individuals, and grey decisions from people in a position of power that could affect billions. But my main criticism is that there is no acknowledgement that they are grey decisions. We don't see the characters weighing up these decisions, and indeed I feel they're making decisions that feel out of character.

Given how early it was in the season, JMS may have still been trending toward the idea of having the Alliance becoming - or verging on - tyranical. It's clear throughout the season that this is on the job training for Sheridan.

Jan

there was a moment in a later episode, when Sheridan arrives on minbar, walks over to the balcony to look out at the vista, and there is a musical nudge that he's been there before... almost a z'ha'dum moment. He's lookng out at something that may appear beautiful but might become something terrible.

The alliance started out with good intentions, but as we see in S4 when the White star fleet do a fly over of earthgov (with the same musical cue i believe) not everything is black and white. You do get the sense that what is being created is not necesserily a good thing.

Springer June 16th 16 23:28

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

Originally Posted by vorlonlovechild (Post 456412)
You do get the sense that what is being created is not necesserily a good thing.

Except that the story told in The Deconstruction of Falling Stars implies that the Alliance became a good thing. But yeah, the birth of the Alliance has some peculiarly dark overtones. Given that Sheridan was devoted to getting rid of corruption and President Clark, it just seems odd.

Anyway, onto A View From the Gallery.

Now I know that this episode polarises opinion. It does seem a bit marmite, some love it, some don't. I used to like it, then went to hating it, having just watched it again I can see things to like and things not to like.

For me though, where it sits in season five, it doesn't advance the larger story in any way. In the DVD intro to the season, JMS talks about the importance of getting momentum back into the story after having wrapped up the civil war early. Yet these first four episodes have had very little momentum in them; this episode and The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari are standalones, while No Compromises and Paragon of Animals move fairly slowly and with no large stakes at risk. I know season 5 improves as we get to later episodes, and that a lot of fans blame Byron for not liking the first half of the season, but I think momentum is a problem too.

I do like the concept of the episode, which is in the same vein as the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Lower Decks' (actually one of the few TNG episodes that I've not seen, so, alas, I cannot make a direct comparison with A View From the Gallery). I think the main problem is that there's no inter-personal conflict. We get the opportunity for a different point of view on the main characters' decisions and actions, and it's wasted. Instead we're just told how great Lochley and Sheridan and Delenn are. We know how great Sheridan and Delenn are already and for Lochley's character to win over fans, she has to be seen to do great things, not just be told that she's great (and I think No Compromises introduced her to be a strong character, I didn't need any more convincing). As such, parts of the episode felt a little fanboy-ish, and not for the first time this season either. It's an unfortunate trait that's creeping in as it takes the edge of the characterisation in the show and makes everything feel too safe.

I think I've also figured out part of the problem with the music this season too - it's the sound mixing more than the music that is composed. It's too loud in parts and could do with being mixed lower, though Franke's music is unsubtle at times in this episode too. The scene where Sheridan and Lochley are talking in the corridor is an example - the music playing over it is too intrusive. That scene didn't even need music, in my opinion.

I do love Lochley's put-down to Garibaldi though: "Right now I'm not seeing a whole lot of intelligence, covert, overt or otherwise!"

And yikes - the special effects really have taken a huge downturn since season 4. The lighting, composition of shots, the movement of spacecraft, the camera angles, the textures, the explosions - they all just look wrong somehow. I know the reason why Ė junior animators were put on the show while the more experienced animators at Netter Digital worked on other things Ė but it's really a backward step in that the effects now are far worse than they were in the first season and it makes the show look cheap, or like a bad computer game. The scene where Bo and Mack watch the battle from the Sanctuary is nice though.

A few minor nitpicking details. Where have the Narn members of security gone? And does the station really have enough shelters for a quarter of a million people?

It's interesting that Byron's observations on death are completely at odds with Lyta's. I'd like to say this is highlighting how different he is to other telepaths, but instead I think it's just him talking codswallop again.

So, do I like this episode? Yes and no. The concept is nice but at the end of the day the characters of Mack and Bo weren't interesting enough (or acted well enough) to really hold my attention. If they had been presented as being a little smarter (which would have made them more relatable to the B5 audience, who are a pretty smart bunch in my experience), and if they'd been put into conflict with some of the main characters, it would have been better. I can't help but think that an episode centred around a day in the life of Lt Corwin instead would have been much more interesting and entertaining.

Season Five is stuttering along at the moment, struggling to find that momentum and failing to reignite the things that made previous seasons great. There have been moments, but nothing cohesive except for the second episode. Unfortunately I think it's about to get worse with Learning Curve before it gets better, but I'm getting ahead of myself - maybe my opinion of episode five will have changed since I last watched it!

Mororless June 17th 16 09:50

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

Originally Posted by Springer
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?

That was always a bit of a problem I had with Lochley, the nature of the character seems to have to be to detract from the competence of those around her. Obviously the main cast were always fallible but there seemed to be more of a balance were as a lot of her character seemed to be that she was simply better than those around her.

Springer June 17th 16 11:08

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

Originally Posted by Mororless (Post 456427)
That was always a bit of a problem I had with Lochley, the nature of the character seems to have to be to detract from the competence of those around her. Obviously the main cast were always fallible but there seemed to be more of a balance were as a lot of her character seemed to be that she was simply better than those around her.

So far the only person I've felt she's detracted from is Garibaldi, but frankly she's right about him - Garibaldi should never have been given that job in the first place.

Regarding her arrival on the station, she can say all those things but she has to learn she's not on a ship anymore, just like Sheridan had to learn. Corwin knows she's underestimating the place, and we know she is.

Mororless June 17th 16 13:48

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456428)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mororless (Post 456427)
That was always a bit of a problem I had with Lochley, the nature of the character seems to have to be to detract from the competence of those around her. Obviously the main cast were always fallible but there seemed to be more of a balance were as a lot of her character seemed to be that she was simply better than those around her.

So far the only person I've felt she's detracted from is Garibaldi, but frankly she's right about him - Garibaldi should never have been given that job in the first place.

Regarding her arrival on the station, she can say all those things but she has to learn she's not on a ship anymore, just like Sheridan had to learn. Corwin knows she's underestimating the place, and we know she is.

The difference between her and Sheridan for me makes the problem all the more obvious. The show sold the idea that he was a bit naÔve and had to learn to be much flexible vastly more than they did for her.

The problem I spose is really that JMS had to drop her in quickly as an Ivanova replacement so we couldn't get as much of that kind of thing or as much depth added to her character generally compared to the rest of the cast. In the relative absence of that I think the character has to fall back onto mere competence.

I do wonder whether it might have been a better idea to have someone a bit more openly antagonistic to B5 as a replacement. They hint at it a little with Lochley but ultimately beyond not turning in the war she tends to be very much on side even if she has a different view of how things should be carried out. Perhaps take that further and have her as someone more forced on Sheridan by earthgov to try and look after there interests who gradually comes more onside.

Farscape One June 18th 16 06:30

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
I really like the idea of rewatching the season almost 20 years later, particularly in this post 9/11 world.

I think a lot more things, and probably even more in seasons 1-4, would look VERY different under the new 21st century prism.

Mororless June 19th 16 22:08

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
As far as the alliance goes I doubt JMS had the intension of making in tyrannical. A lot of the point of it seems to be that its forged by people who have very direct experience of failed forms of leadership so are better able to avoid them. The issue really is I would say more confronting the reality of accountable politics where games have to be played and not all solutions are ideal because those at the top do not have supreme power that can easily be abused.

Springer June 21st 16 00:32

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

I originally had this episode down as the nadir of the series but in truth it’s not quite that bad. That’s not to say it’s not without its problems, mostly from the side of the Rangers.

I’ve talked recently about the dark side to the fledgling Alliance and we see more of it here. I’m really getting sick of hearing Delenn talking about inflicting terror. In the 21st Century it just feels unsavoury, and I’m not sure it sounded much better in 1997 either. The two elder Rangers are incredibly racist and condescending about the Pak’mara and Delenn just sits there and tolerates it. And these are the Rangers who are meant to be the saviour of the Galaxy, the police force that will look after everyone?

And where does due process fit into their modus operandi? Of course the terribly cliched gangster got what he deserved, but it was just vigilante action on the part of the Rangers, with no oversight from the law. Shouldn’t he get a trial before the punishment at the very least? These Rangers do not feel like the organisation that Sinclair commanded, or which produced Marcus Cole. When Lochley says she doesn’t believe that Sheridan would have agreed to this - she was damn right because I didn’t believe it either!

Which brings me to the other negative of the episode, which is the soap opera surrounding Sheridan and Lochley’s previous marriage. Why didn’t Garibaldi just ask Sheridan why he hired Lochley? As Head of Covert Intelligence can’t Garibaldi just pull the files anyway? And why wasn’t Sheridan simply honest with Delenn about it right from the start? There’s too much of people acting out of character or not doing the obvious thing just for JMS to create distrust between the characters. The breakfast confrontation between Lochley and Garibaldi in the officer’s mess is a good example. It felt horribly staged, and why did all the officers applaud Lochley after her little speech? The same officers who had done what they believed to be the right thing and risen up against President Clark, now applaud someone who failed to act in the same way? It’s just contrived in order to make Garibaldi look bad.

The whole marriage thing also raises questions about how and why Sheridan is hiring people. For the moment it just seems to be friends and (ex) family. Coupled with the use of teeps and the seemingly above-the-law Rangers, it feels like he’s creating a dynasty rather than a democratic alliance of worlds and then putting in place mechanisms to protect that dynasty. Do we know if his son ever became president?
.
Stuff I did like:
It was cool to see the Pak’mara Ranger, even if he was the butt of the Rangers’ cruel jibes, and the Abbai got another name check.
It was nice to see Turhan Bey again. A shame it couldn’t have been in a better episode.
We get a mention of Na’Grath and learn that some unfortunate fate befell him.
One of the gangster’s henchman has been in the show before, as a dust peddler when Ivanova met with some criminal underlords in season 4. Guess he’s gone back to his old habits.
It was cool to see Minbar again - this season has felt a little claustrophobic with it mostly being set on the station itself, so it’s always good to be reminded that there are other locations in the Galaxy.

Other stuff I didn’t like:
The slow motion action scenes when the gangsters attack the Ranger are dreadful. And when the Rangers get their revenge, the screams as the gangsters are taken out one by one sound way over the top and corny.
There seems to be a lot of music re-use from previous seasons, perhaps one of the signs of the smaller budget (I know there is original music this season too)
I would have liked to have seen more of Zack. At one point, when the gangsters plan to kill Zack, I thought that this could have quite easily become a Zack-centred episode, but nope, it wasn’t to be. Ever since the end of the Night Watch plot in season 3, I’ve felt Zack has been criminally underused.

I continue to find the dark and ugly undertones in the story concerning and it is making the show feel very different and not as enjoyable or relatable as the one we watched during the previous four seasons. Plus there’s still very little momentum so far this season, despite JMS highlighting that it was important to get the momentum back. However, next episode we have the return of Bester, and that’s bound to put a little oomph back into the storyline… isn’t it?

Springer June 26th 16 10:06

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

At last, six episodes in and we have some impetus! It takes the return of an arch villain – Bester – to provide that impetus. It’s not quite as explosive or tense as I’d like, but it does give the impression of an opening salvo being fired in the battle for the rogue telepaths and we’ve now got a countdown - 60 days - before it all gets really ugly.

The rogue teeps’ cause isn’t helped by the general characterisation of Byron. His little speech to Lyta about the willow was utterly self-indulgent, pretentious and so over-the-top that you can’t help but cringe. That said – given that we know what his fate is later, and what his origins are – you get the impression that all this twaddle that he spouts is an attempt to create a personality that obscures what he’s done in the past. For me, he would have been more interesting had that aspect been played up – that he’s blatantly developing this personality to hide something awful that he once did, leaving the viewers guessing what that might be. Alas, aside from a cryptic lie from Bester, that doesn’t really happen.

I am curious about the way politics is playing out in these stories. I remarked after watching No Compromises that I felt some of the attention to detail from previous stories was missing - the same attention to detail as in Point of No Return, when Sheridan realises that the order to hand over security to the Night Watch had not come down through the proper chain of command. B5 is Alliance territory, despite having an EarthForce governor. Surely Earth must first request extradition of the telepaths? And it is Sheridan’s prerogative to say no and there would be nothing Earth or the Psi Corps could do about it, especially if they have been officially granted asylum – I’m glad that Sheridan at least stood up to them and told Lochley to find a way around it. Yet those details are ignored for the sake of having a bit of drama and, maybe in the context of providing an hour’s worth of TV entertainment, that’s a valid thing to ignore, but it does detract from the telepath storyline in that it feels like it is being forced rather than being the natural outcome of a cleverly constructed storyline.

Lochley is beginning to grate a little bit at some points in this episode, as though she is going out of her way to be antagonistic. She may not have a personal beef with Bester, but she damn well knows that he is persona non gratis on B5, the least she could do to be diplomatic to the people she works with is to keep Bester at arm’s length, rather than sitting around drinking tea with him. At least she is able to foil his plans at the end. Bester takes it all remarkably well!

I haven’t spoken about the hole left by Ivanova this season yet. I’m not going to compare Lochley to Ivanova or expect Lochley to act like Ivanova – they are two different characters – but there is an energy and a irreverence and a charm missing to the show that Ivanova brought that the other command staff characters lack and it did feel missing in this episode, what with grumpy, suspicious Garibaldi, Bester the villain, Byron the weeping willow, and Lochley’s rigidity.

A couple of plot points that puzzled me. It can take weeks, months, for air-crash investigators to figure out why aeroplanes crash, yet they figure out why the Centauri cruiser explodes within five minutes, even finding a detonator amongst all that wreckage?! That seems unrealistic just to provide convenience to the story. Furthermore, hundreds of people just died on that ship, but nobody bats an eyelid. Maybe everyone has just seen it all before - by my counting, that’s the third Centauri cruiser to have been destroyed outside B5.

There was also the ship that crashed in the docking bay, in what seems to be a deliberate nod back to By Any Means Necessary, even to the point of giving Neeoma Connolly a shout-out. But did I miss its relevance to the plot line? Or was it just an excuse to get Lochley outside in a Starfury? But again, what’s the purpose of that?

The bloodhounds are an interesting addition - it would have been nice to have got a sense of how they work, rather than just leaving them to badly acted extras. Interesting that Bester is using them now, but didn’t bring them to the station to catch Ironheart or the underground railroad (the real reason, of course, is likely that JMS hadn’t thought of them at the time).

And is it me, or is some of the dialogue absolutely terrible this episode? Lines like “riding me since I got here” and “crawled up my butt” – does anybody talk like that (not to mention the sexual connotations that dialogue brings)?

I should say that one of the neat things about this season 5 rewatch is that I actually can’t remember all the episodes – the general story and some of the scenes, yes – but some scenes and dialogue I had completely forgotten about, so it feels fresher to watch as opposed to earlier seasons that I know inside out having watched them so much!

So in conclusion, this episode does bring some much-needed momentum so for that it is a welcome episode, but the care taken in the story-crafting (and by this I don’t just mean JMS’ writing, but overall acting, direction) feels rushed. I don’t feel like I’m watching something great or exciting yet – it feels like just another show and B5 never felt like that in earlier seasons, at least for not such a long run of episodes as these opening episodes of season 5. But we’re an an upward curve now, hopefully it will continue!

Jan June 27th 16 01:38

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456484)
Lochley is beginning to grate a little bit at some points in this episode, as though she is going out of her way to be antagonistic. She may not have a personal beef with Bester, but she damn well knows that he is persona non gratis on B5, the least she could do to be diplomatic to the people she works with is to keep Bester at armís length, rather than sitting around drinking tea with him. At least she is able to foil his plans at the end. Bester takes it all remarkably well!

I *loved* that Lochley didn't allow the prejudices of the previous command to color her relations with Bester! It's exactly what she should have done, IMO. As she said, he hadn't done anything to her personally and she was going to have to be the one dealing with him in the future.

Quote:

I havenít spoken about the hole left by Ivanova this season yet. Iím not going to compare Lochley to Ivanova or expect Lochley to act like Ivanova Ė they are two different characters Ė but there is an energy and a irreverence and a charm missing to the show that Ivanova brought that the other command staff characters lack and it did feel missing in this episode, what with grumpy, suspicious Garibaldi, Bester the villain, Byron the weeping willow, and Lochleyís rigidity.
Ivanova's sarcasm at times (What, doesn't anything com under warranty anymore?) was about the only thing I missed about her. I preferred that Lochley was a thinker and I'm sure that's how she managed to get through Clark's regime with her crew safe. I also loved her conflict with Garibaldi.

Jan

JoeD80 July 11th 16 18:22

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

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.
Part of the exploration is - will Sheridan make mistakes as well? Recall in the season two vision Sheridan is in a Psi Cop uniform; and he used the telepaths in the civil war. This is someone who says he hates what the Psi Corps stands for and does the same things. Good things like the Alliance can be created by those who have flaws. Sheridan isn't perfect.

Springer July 12th 16 11:31

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

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456548)
Quote:

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.
Part of the exploration is - will Sheridan make mistakes as well? Recall in the season two vision Sheridan is in a Psi Cop uniform; and he used the telepaths in the civil war. This is someone who says he hates what the Psi Corps stands for and does the same things. Good things like the Alliance can be created by those who have flaws. Sheridan isn't perfect.

Again, I have no problem with the principle of exploring this, it is the way it's being portrayed that's bothering me. It's the fact that as far as I recall, the show never indicates its a grey area and while there are repercussions involving the telepaths, for Sheridan and Delenn there's no pay-off later on in recognition of these dubious decisions they're making. I may be forgetting something, hence the reason I'm re-watching season 5 to refresh my opinion of it.

I guess the payoff might have been the storyline with their time-travelling son that never happened. But even so, it doesn't feel like a natural progression for their characters. If Sheridan is going to start to move towards becoming the thing he was fighting against, it's got to happen in a realistic way where it creeps up on him until one day he looks in the mirror and thinks, 'what happened to me? How did I become this person?' There's no angst, no tortured decision making, no slippery slope where he's forced to take certain dubious actions because he feels he has no choice. It's the same for Garibaldi and the others. They are decent people at heart so to see them casually make these choices doesn't seem true to who they are.

JoeD80 July 12th 16 19:08

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456555)
it's got to happen in a realistic way where it creeps up on him until one day he looks in the mirror and thinks, 'what happened to me? How did I become this person?' There's no angst, no tortured decision making, no slippery slope where he's forced to take certain dubious actions because he feels he has no choice.

I don't think a character needs to acknowledge his own flaw for it to exist. A lot of people never notice what they do wrong. This gets played out in more subtle ways with the way Lyta feels she is being treated; there is a scene later in the season with Franklin that exemplifies this. If Sheridan had taken a different approach from the beginning Lyta wouldn't have been as willing to accept Byron's message in the first place and the telepath situation wouldn't go the way it does.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456555)
It's the same for Garibaldi and the others. They are decent people at heart so to see them casually make these choices doesn't seem true to who they are.

For Garibaldi I don't see him as a character that would have a problem with using somebody if it gets him what he wants.

Springer July 13th 16 00:28

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

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456556)
I don't think a character needs to acknowledge his own flaw for it to exist. A lot of people never notice what they do wrong. This gets played out in more subtle ways with the way Lyta feels she is being treated; there is a scene later in the season with Franklin that exemplifies this. If Sheridan had taken a different approach from the beginning Lyta wouldn't have been as willing to accept Byron's message in the first place and the telepath situation wouldn't go the way it does.

Even if the character doesn't acknowledge their flaws (and I maintain these particular flaws are out of character for the way those characters behaved in earlier seasons) the *story* must acknowledge them. Let the viewers decide if they are right or wrong, fine, but at least present it as a dilemma. Decisions like using telepaths to spy on people aren't even presented as ethical dilemmas - Sheridan's just like, go for it. Even pious Byron doesn't seem to have a problem with it. That's where my problem lies – the show in season 5 is presenting these things as though there is no ethical debate to be had and we should just accept them.

Quote:

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456556)
For Garibaldi I don't see him as a character that would have a problem with using somebody if it gets him what he wants.

See, Garibaldi was never like that. He was the everyman, the regular joe, the guy who just wanted to try and do the best he could for the people around him. The Garibaldi in seasons 1 to 3 was never selfish, would never use people to do something dishonest and had a clear view of what was right or wrong according to the law. Season 4 Garibaldi, of course, was different. I'm ok with saying that experience changed him if it were acknowledged on the show, but it isn't. The show makes it clear that the consequence of what Garibaldi went through is his descent back into alcoholism, but it doesn't attribute a change in his ethics or morals to Bester screwing with his mind.

Anyway, onto the next episode.

Secrets of the Soul

I quite enjoyed this episode, it's possibly the best of the season so far. Amazingly, only three of the regular cast are featured – Franklin, Zack and Lyta. Is this the first episode that Sheridan has not been in since he arrived on the show? I think it is. Yet the limited cast manage to pull off a fairly engaging episode.

For the first time, the telepath storyline has become interesting. Yes, Bryon still has some awful dialogue, but I feel now we're getting to the meat of his storyline. The scene where he allows himself to be attacked clearly shows he's a martyr in waiting. Zack has realised this, he tries to protect Lyta but it's a shame he's not able to articulate himself fully to warn her.

We also see the vicious side to these apparently harmless rogue teeps. It's interesting that we find that Byron really has no control over them; he's set himself up as their saviour, the leader of their cult, but he's deceiving himself. The ending plays out a bit like the ending to All Alone in the Night, where we get a twist revelation that changes the game. I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember if it was acknowledged earlier in the series that the Vorlons created telepaths? Either way it's news to Byron and it pushes him over the deep end and he plans to lash out at the Alliance. It does feel like he's forgotten that the other races have their own telepaths - it wasn't human telepaths used exclusively in the war, mostly Minbar I think – but also it was Earth' telepaths that were in cahoot with the Shadows. So maybe he needs to get his own house in order before blaming mundanes. Plus, he talks like it was "their" war, but had the Vorlons come for Earth, they wouldn't have spared the telepaths. It was everyone's war.

The Franklin story is nice if inconsequential, but any excuse to learn more about the non-aligned aliens. We get quite a lot of them this season – Pak'Mara, the Hyach, as well as the Brakiri and the Drazi in upcoming episodes. The myriad alien races are one of B5's strongest points so it is nice to see them being fully utilised. Ironically, what the Hyach did to the Hyach-doh! (I'm sure that's not how its spelt, but I can not think their name without Homer Simpson's voice in my mind) is what the Centauri did to the Xon, the difference being the Centauri brag about it to this day and continue to commit atrocities just as bad.

So yeah, this episode gets a thumbs up from me.

JoeD80 July 13th 16 06:03

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456557)
Even if the character doesn't acknowledge their flaws (and I maintain these particular flaws are out of character for the way those characters behaved in earlier seasons) the *story* must acknowledge them. Let the viewers decide if they are right or wrong, fine, but at least present it as a dilemma.

I disagree that the story needs to be that explicit. It wasn't a dilemma to Sheridan at the time; but it ended up spinning out of his control. That is the story showing consequences.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456557)
Decisions like using telepaths to spy on people aren't even presented as ethical dilemmas - Sheridan's just like, go for it.

Yes which largely leads to Lyta feeling the way she does. This has been building in season four as well.

Springer July 15th 16 21:31

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

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456560)
I disagree that the story needs to be that explicit. It wasn't a dilemma to Sheridan at the time; but it ended up spinning out of his control. That is the story showing consequences.

You may be right, but I'll reply to this once I've watched In the Kingdom of the Blind/Tragedy of Telepaths/Phoenix Rising and I've been able to refresh my memory of what happens!

Next up: Day of the Dead

Another episode that I enjoyed more than I remembered. Like The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, it's a character exploration piece. Interestingly, despite all the returning characters, it was Lochley's experience with her dead friend - a new character - that was most engaging. It's the first time we've seen some vulnerability in her, and it definitely helps to round her character out and soften the edges - it's another step on the way to establishing her character as someone we should care about. There was also a degree more pathos to her story and to Tracy Scoggins' acting than we might have got had it been Ivanova in her place. It's the first time I've really been able to say, yep, the story definitely benefitted from having Lochley there instead of Ivanova.

It's a shame Marcus didn't come back to see Lennier Ė Marcus may have been able to help Lennier avoid his fate. Morden felt a bit wasted - he just muttered a few ominous things and read his newspaper. It was good to see Dodger and Adira one last time (and it's nice to see the show still referencing things from season 1).

I did like the ambiguity of the story Ė were the dead really coming back, or were our characters hallucinating? It reminded me of some of the very early X-Files when some of the stories were ambiguous, was Mulder's supernatural explanation right, or was Scully's more scientific, sceptical version the truth? Except the message from Kosh breaks that ambiguity with an unsubtle sledgehammer, since it implies it must have been real. That was a disappointing little detail.

As in previous episodes, we see more of one of the species from the League of Non Aligned Worlds (I guess the League doesn't exist at such anymore, replaced by the Alliance, but you know what I mean), this time the Brakiri. I'm really digging the exploration of some of the alien cultures that perhaps were just window dressing in previous seasons. (I'll ignore the fact that there being only one comet in the Brakiri system is patently nonsense). Other bits I liked were Garibaldi sleeping with a PPG beneath his pillow, Corwin trying the hat trick in C&C, and G'Kar coming to C&C to sleep Ė and his realisation that he missed something special afterwards. I can take or leave Rebo and Zooty/Penn and Teller.

So that's three decent episodes in a row and the season is now on the up after a rocky start. Can it maintain the momentum?

Mororless July 16th 16 22:20

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456484)
I havenít spoken about the hole left by Ivanova this season yet. Iím not going to compare Lochley to Ivanova or expect Lochley to act like Ivanova Ė they are two different characters Ė but there is an energy and a irreverence and a charm missing to the show that Ivanova brought that the other command staff characters lack and it did feel missing in this episode, what with grumpy, suspicious Garibaldi, Bester the villain, Byron the weeping willow, and Lochleyís rigidity.
!

Yeah I would agree with that, I think watching season 5 does rather bring out that Ivanova added alot of personality to the human side of the story, Londo and G'kar have that energy and irreverence to them but I think Ivanova really helps not just to bring it herself but also to in Sheridan, Galabali, Franklin, etc. Without her the human side of the story loses alot of this for me with the characters involved becoming less likable as a result, especially Sheridan.

I do agree with you though that Lochleys section of Day of the Dead is the most effective and one of the best things in the season. Again for me the problem is because the character is having to be dropped in she doesn't really get enough of this kind of buildup and have to fall back onto competence.

Springer July 22nd 16 19:15

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
In the Kingdom of the Blind

The thematic heart of this episode isn’t about telepaths or nefarious happenings on Centauri Prime – it’s about the legacy of the Shadow War and is just as much an ‘arc episode’ as those directly involving the First Ones. I love that everything boils down to the legacy of the actions of the Vorlons and Shadows – here we see the beginning of the downfall of Londo that comes as a result of his relationship with Morden and the Shadows, while on the station we see the consequences of the Vorlons creating human telepaths. The fact that we get to see that legacy on the show and in this episode is incredibly impressive, particularly during a season that has been quite light on ‘arc’ episodes.

However, while I do think this episode sums up the best of B5, it also highlights some of the worst things about this season. I’ll start off with the negative things so we can end on the high points.

After a couple of good episodes, the telepath story returns to the contrived storytelling we saw earlier in the season, with several characters acting without even a modicum of intelligence.

Let’s start with Byron. His feeling that the galaxy owes telepaths something for their services in the Shadow War is compromised by his homo-sapien only viewpoint. Alien telepaths seem well regarded by their individual civilisations, and aside from Lyta it seemed to be mostly Minbari telepaths that we saw employed during the war. Human telepaths barely took part (the human teeps handed over to the Shadows by the Psi Corps being the exception, but then Byron should then direct his ire at the Corps). Byron’s anger against the Alliance seems totally misplaced. Nor do I understand why he didn’t simply take his proposal for a telepath homeworld to Sheridan and Delenn. At least try a reasonable approach first, especially with people who are sympathetic to their cause. I’m mean, Sheridan’s the President of the Galaxy – he can pull strings if he wants to.

Instead, Byron takes the worst course of action, which results in everyone on the station turning against the teeps and Byron’s gang having to blockade themselves into Down Below. Byron even has the audacity to say that cooler heads might prevail in time and that alien races might rally around their cause when they hear about the teeps starving in their self-made blockade. These would be the same alien races you’ve just tried to black mail, Byron? Great plan.

On the Alliance side, we have Sheridan at his reactionary worst, Garibaldi’s continuing change in character to a completely unlikeable person and only Delenn talking sense. Why didn’t Sheridan just have Byron arrested there and then in the council chambers? There’s other story contrivances. Byron claims to have knowledge about the attacks on shipping lanes and Garibaldi allows him to present it to the council without first knowing what that information is or double checking it? For all Garibaldi knows Byron really does have information. What if Byron’s information was wrong? It could worsen the situation. That whole scene just screams contrived. I really hate how Garibaldi is just plain rude to Byron as well in that scene. I really don’t know what has happened to the writing of Garibaldi but I really don’t like his character this season. It feels like JMS is still writing the Garibaldi from season 4 who’d had his personality altered.

There’s also this issue of the telepaths being attacked every time they step out of their territory. To those Drazi, the human teeps just look like normal humans. How are they distinguishing them? And how do ordinary Drazi know about what is going on at a political level? Again, it’s contrived.

Zack’s mumbling on his PA announcement made me laugh.

Season 5 also seems to be plagued by slow-motion fight scenes that look really, really, really terrible and there’s another one this episode. Director David Eagle ain’t John Woo. I can’t tell if these slow motion fights are a deliberate but ill-advised style, or just trying to cover up crappy fight choreography, which I’ve never felt B5 was very good at.

But then we’ve got the events on Centauri Prime, which are much better. There’s intrigue, backstabbing and mystery – everything we’d hope for from a Centauri story! Ian Ogilvy is a touch of class in a season that has been distinctly lacking in good guest stars, while Damian London as the Regent continues to chew the scenery in delightful fashion – I love his range of bewildered and terrified expressions as he brings Lord Jano to his death. “I think we’re well beyond pastels now” is the best line of the season so far.

I do have some nitpicks. Budgetary reasons I’m sure, but why does Londo – the Prime Minister – stay in such a pokey little room in the Royal Palace? Surely he’d have a big, grandiose house! And is the way from his quarters to the Regent’s quarters really through a dimly lit, rocky tunnel? That made no sense. There’s also more overly dramatic and intrusive music – a common occurrence this season which I’ve mentioned before – when they find Jano’s body.

I did laugh at the Centauri women being attracted by G’Kar and his reptilian magnetism! :-) I also liked the transition from Londo wondering what they’re doing with the Centauri fleet to the battle scene in space – but that was a Brakiri battle cruiser, why did it have no weapons? And the dialogue there is so terribly trite, it felt like little thought had been put into it.

I apologise for such a long review of the episode, but the varying quality of the two halves is quite startling. As an aside, Byron describes the events of Secrets of the Soul as being “yesterday” so that confirms that Day of the Dead is in the wrong order (I know it aired out of order, perhaps it would have been better being moved to after Phoenix Rising on the DVDs).

Springer July 22nd 16 19:32

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

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456560)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456557)
Even if the character doesn't acknowledge their flaws (and I maintain these particular flaws are out of character for the way those characters behaved in earlier seasons) the *story* must acknowledge them. Let the viewers decide if they are right or wrong, fine, but at least present it as a dilemma.

I disagree that the story needs to be that explicit. It wasn't a dilemma to Sheridan at the time; but it ended up spinning out of his control. That is the story showing consequences.

Having now watched In the Kingdom of the Blind, I'm still unhappy with the ethical stance of Sheridan and company over this. Sure, using the telepaths backfired on them, but they seem more chagrined at being caught out by the black mail, rather than the ethical considerations of whether using telepaths to spy on people is an appropriate thing to do. The show has just presented that whole notion as though there's nothing ethically wrong about it and that viewers shouldn't think twice about it and that's what's wrong with it. Maybe it's because in the 21st century, after Snowden, we're a little more keyed up on notions of privacy, but I'd like to think ethical considerations of privacy weren't too much different in the 1990s or, indeed, in 2262.

Mororless July 24th 16 21:38

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

Originally Posted by Springer
Season 5 also seems to be plagued by slow-motion fight scenes that look really, really, really terrible and thereís another one this episode. Director David Eagle ainít John Woo. I canít tell if these slow motion fights are a deliberate but ill-advised style, or just trying to cover up crappy fight choreography, which Iíve never felt B5 was very good at.

B5 was never on the level of a high end Hong Kong actioner but I actually felt that a lot of the previous fight choreography could be pretty good, at least relative to Trek of the same era. The Narn and Centauri especially I think had some well done stuff with a strong sense of physicality to it that again I think Trek often lacked.

Springer July 25th 16 11:21

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

Originally Posted by Mororless (Post 456608)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer
Season 5 also seems to be plagued by slow-motion fight scenes that look really, really, really terrible and there’s another one this episode. Director David Eagle ain’t John Woo. I can’t tell if these slow motion fights are a deliberate but ill-advised style, or just trying to cover up crappy fight choreography, which I’ve never felt B5 was very good at.

B5 was never on the level of a high end Hong Kong actioner but I actually felt that a lot of the previous fight choreography could be pretty good, at least relative to Trek of the same era. The Narn and Centauri especially I think had some well done stuff with a strong sense of physicality to it that again I think Trek often lacked.

Actually you're right, and I'll take back some of what I said. Some of the smaller punch ups on the show were pretty good – Garibaldi and Sinclair vs the alien thugs in Survivors, Sinclair vs Neroon (always loved that Sinclair beat Neroon*), TKO, Marcus vs Neroon, G'Kar vs the Narn in Acts of Sacrifice. I just felt that a lot of the large riot scenes weren't filmed very well, for example the riots in The Long Twilight Struggle and Thirdspace, you see lots of punches that are nowhere near landing, and they looked a bit fake – but I was ok with that, it was a TV show shot on a weekly schedule, I accepted that simply for reasons of time and budget not everything was going to be perfect.

The slow-mo fights in season 5 though, in my opinion, just look a bit rubbish and I just wondered why they chose to do them like that. That's why I mentioned John Woo, as he's kind of the master of slow-mo fights.

* Sinclair may have been the most accomplished fighter on the show – I think it was in the novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows where he surprises the Minbari by being adept at the pike, I think because he was trained with the staff while he was learning under the Jesuits. Would have loved to have seen a Sinclair vs Neroon fight using the pikes, bet he wouldn't have been battered like Marcus was. Sinclair was awesome :-)

Mororless July 25th 16 13:23

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
The slowmo stuff was patchy I'd agree, Refa's death and G'kars capture were I think done very well but some of the latter fights it seemed like a bit of a cover.

One thing I always liked in the riots were those high kicking Centauri, they obviously got some well trained stuntmen there and I think it got across the idea that there was a dangerous side behind there outward foppishness very well.

Springer July 27th 16 20:11

Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?
 
Before I talk about the next episode, I just want to go back to the appearance of the Drakh in the previous episode, when the Drakh saves Londo’s life. The implication is that they are telekinetic (though I suppose they could have equally stopped the knife in mid air with some kind of technology). I wonder if their telekinetic abilities were originally created by the Vorlons? Maybe it was the knowledge that they’d been manipulated by the Vorlons that pushed them to side with the Shadows? It would have been an interesting counterpoint to play with this idea later in the season, comparing the Drakh to the reaction of Byron when he discovered telepaths had been created by the Vorlons. It would have been a nice way to unify the two halves of the season.

Anyway, onto A Tragedy of Telepaths.

Like Point of No Return was the midpoint in a trilogy also including Messages from Earth and Severed Dreams, A Tragedy of Telepaths is also the mid-point of a trilogy, except this one is even more serialised than the season three trio. As such, this episode features a continuation of storylines rather than being its own story, so viewing it in that context it works really well. The pace is good, there’s no contrivances like the previous episode, and the arrival of Bester in the second half of the episode sets up the finale in Phoenix Rising.

We’ve also got the Centauri plotline unfolding – and hey, there’s Na’Toth! A little worse for wear though. The scene with Londo smuggling her through the Royal Palace is glorious. That feels like another loose end in the show tied up. Londo’s parable about why things are done just because that’s the way they’ve always been done and nobody questions it could apply to a lot of things in real life. It’s also another indication that the Centauri really don’t have the adaptability to really develop their civilisation much further. As Kosh said, they are a lost species.

A few little notes/nitpicks:

Shouldn’t Lochley be wearing a white shirt beneath her jacket as part of her uniform? Or was it just an excuse to get her in a tight top? I thought B5 was above that kind of thing, though the sexualisation of Lochley in River of Souls suggests that perhaps it isn’t.

Surely Lochley requesting Bester’s help has to be as huge a mistake as the one she thinks Sheridan made in allowing the telepaths to stay on the station in the first place. Sheridan, Lochley and B5 security could have dealt with the telepaths – like Garibaldi says, the ones who have barricaded themselves in aren’t a problem, and those that got out would eventually be captured or negotiated with, so why call in Bester and the Psi Corps just to inflame the situation? Maybe as an Earth Force officer she was obliged to, but still, it was a poor decision on her part.

There’s yet more over the top, intrusive music in this episode - the music playing over when G’Kar gets angry in the cells stood out to me in particular. The music really wasn’t this intrusive in previous seasons; imdb says the editor for this episode was Kathie Burr, who only became editor in season 5, so I’m guessing it’s her choice?

What makes Brakiri metal unique to any other metal? We also get more background on the Brakiri, that they’re pack rats, who take or buy technology from other species rather than invent it themselves. I love the amount of info we’re learning about the different alien species this season, definitely one of the plus points of season 5.

Though you do wonder, given the attitude of the different ambassadors – Brakiri, Drazi etc – whether they wanted the Alliance in the first place, as they don’t seem to want it to work. It’s the old characterisation of the ambassadors as short-sighted, self-interested idiots.

Overall a terrific episode that really sets up Phoenix Rising – hopefully it can maintain the standards set by this one!

JoeD80 July 27th 16 20:22

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456638)
I wonder if their telekinetic abilities were originally created by the Vorlons? Maybe it was the knowledge that theyíd been manipulated by the Vorlons that pushed them to side with the Shadows? It would have been an interesting counterpoint to play with this idea later in the season, comparing the Drakh to the reaction of Byron when he discovered telepaths had been created by the Vorlons. It would have been a nice way to unify the two halves of the season.

Hm that's an interesting thought. The Drakh are a bit underdeveloped. Joe had a funny line in his script books saying he "created skeletor [from He-Man] as a species"

Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456638)
The music really wasnít this intrusive in previous seasons; imdb says the editor for this episode was Kathie Burr, who only became editor in season 5, so Iím guessing itís her choice?

The way the music worked in the show was that JMS would sit with Chris Franke and "spot" the episode - marking exactly where Joe wanted music and how long it would last and of what type (sad, fast, funny, etc.), and then Chris would compose it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456638)
Though you do wonder, given the attitude of the different ambassadors Ė Brakiri, Drazi etc Ė whether they wanted the Alliance in the first place, as they donít seem to want it to work.

Yep...

Springer July 27th 16 20:29

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

Originally Posted by JoeD80 (Post 456639)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456638)
The music really wasn’t this intrusive in previous seasons; imdb says the editor for this episode was Kathie Burr, who only became editor in season 5, so I’m guessing it’s her choice?

The way the music worked in the show was that JMS would sit with Chris Franke and "spot" the episode - marking exactly where Joe wanted music and how long it would last and of what type (sad, fast, funny, etc.), and then Chris would compose it.

While the spotting is part of the problem, as is the composition, it's also the audio level it is mixed in at. I don't recall there being this problem in the previous seasons but it seems quite prevalent in season 5.

And Skeletor as a species might have been quite fun... or quite grating. Hard to say really! Not sure we really got that with the Drakh though.

JoeD80 July 30th 16 00:22

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

Originally Posted by Springer (Post 456640)
And Skeletor as a species might have been quite fun... or quite grating. Hard to say really! Not sure we really got that with the Drakh though.

With the high-pitched voice and all? That would have been awesome! Ha.

Springer July 30th 16 17:08

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

It seems fitting after Jerry Doyle’s passing this week that Phoenix Rising has the best Garibaldi scenes of season 5 so far (and with The Ragged Edge coming up next, there’s more to come from his character). The final scene, with him returning to the bottle, is perhaps the most chilling ending to an episode since the door closed on G’Kar’s eye in Falling Towards Apotheosis.

So the Byron storyline is at an end. Byron is generally quite maligned by the fans, but his story wasn’t too bad over the last three or four episodes once it got going. Robin Atkin Downes was a solid addition to the cast, it’s just unfortunate that he was saddled with some weak dialogue and characterisation at times. The telepath storyline probably dragged on three or four episodes too long, and I wonder how the season might have looked and how the telepath story would have been received had the ending to the Earth Civil War been in season 5 as was the original plan, making for a tighter season.

As it stands, Phoenix Rising is a good episode, but I think to really make the telepath story worthwhile it needed to be a great episode and it’s just lacking. It feels anticlimactic, that its going through the motions. There’s no build up in tension that we might have expected from the build up to the climax. We should be biting our fingernails, but there’s just not the emotional content with the telepath characters for us to care enough. Sure there’s Byron and Lyta, but what about the other teeps, especially those that took hostages in Medlab? They felt very one-dimensional, unthinking, one-note characters. It would have helped the telepath storyline and Byron’s character immensely if a few of the others had been fleshed out, so Byron could interact with them on a more complex level.

I wasn’t particularly complimentary about David Eagle’s directing in In the Kingdom of the Blind, but he does a good job in this episode, I thought. I did like the camerawork in the scene between Sheridan, Lochley and Bester in Sheridan’s office – the floating camera gave it a sense of fluidity and immediacy, a bit like the camerawork in something like NYPD Blue. A shame it only appeared in just that scene, for some reason.

I’m a little confused about the legalities of who can claim jurisdiction over the rogue telepaths. They committed their crimes on Alliance territory (B5) against Alliance members, the ambassadors of alien governments. Shouldn’t the ambassadors be demanding their extradition, like they did for Deathwalker? Surely they wouldn’t want those telepaths, with whatever sensitive information they essentially stole from the ambassadors, going back to Earth where they could conceivably give that information to EarthGov, to potentially be used against the League worlds?

I do wonder whether Lochley is now regretting bringing in Bester, who basically inflamed the whole situation leading to Byron’s death. If she hadn’t made that call, Byron would likely still be alive, in Alliance hands and the situation would be resolved.

It’s striking how the rogue telepaths would rather die than go back to the Corps. Bester says he truly doesn’t understand it – I wanted Sheridan to tell him, that’s ultimately why this all occurred.

The best scene of the episode is the Asimov laws scene between Garibaldi and Bester. I like how both actors play it – Bester feigning concern before revealing his trump card, and Garibaldi’s initial frustration at himself while Bester makes himself comfortable was a nice touch to the scene. I love how Garibaldi really throws himself into the telepaths in Medlab and I’ve already discussed the conclusion to the episode. It’s also ironic that Bester uses the analogy of sending the nerve impulse to raise his hand as an example to explain what he’s done to Garibaldi – ironic in that Bester can’t actually open that hand because of his own mental block.

A couple of note/nitpicks:

Does Medlab not have any security?
Could a few flying objects (a scene reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back) really stop Zack’s security team armed with flak jackets and PPGs?

Lyta, searching for a way out, shows how powerful she is. I wonder how much hyperspace would amplify her powers?

When Bester goes to speak to Byron telepathically, why is Bester stood in a regular station corridor that looks nothing like Brown Sector, while on the other side of a sealed door there’s all the pipes and griminess that you normally find down there? Shouldn’t either side of the door look pretty much the same?

Do they really have hazardous, highly flammable chemicals running through exposed and easily damageable pipes? That seems like a health and safety failure right there!

Lyta seemed to be transferring the details of Byron’s contacts to the other rogue telepaths the same way we download apps. Can telepaths really have total recall of info and the ability to compartmentalise it into nice, ‘downloadable’ parcels? There’s never been any indication before that that’s how telepathy works

Now we’re halfway through season 5, it seems fair to take stock. There’s been some good stuff this season, some bad stuff, and a lot more average stuff than you’d expect from B5. It is startling how one-note the season has felt, and I really do feel that bringing in some outside writers would have helped add some much-needed colour and variety to the season, as they did in season 1. It seems to me that the extra emphasis on the various alien cultures, which I’ve noted on frequently in these reviews, would have been right up Larry DiTillio’s street (I know he was on Beast Wars by this time, but maybe they could have got him back for an episode or two?)

The most telling thing about the way I view season 5, at least the first half, is the colour I give it. I know that sounds a like a strange thing to do, but it’s a mixture of the cinematography and sets used that give a sense of colour, at least to me. I associate season 1 with the metallic blue-grey of C&C (it’s interesting that season 5 has spent hardly any time in C&C, I think just episode 4, and a bit in episodes 6 and 8?), season 2 the rosy colours of Earharts, and so on. The first half of season 5 is a murky brown in my mind, and I think that sums up how much of this season has felt so far.

(I’d be interested in finding out if anyone else does this crazy thing of giving the seasons colours!)


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