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Old July 30th 16, 17:08   #40
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 412
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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