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Old June 9th 16, 23:30   #1
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 416
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.
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