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Old June 21st 16, 00:32   #21
Springer
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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?

Last edited by Springer; June 21st 16 at 00:35.
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Old June 26th 16, 10:06   #22
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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!
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Old June 27th 16, 01:38   #23
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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 *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 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.
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.

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Old July 11th 16, 18:22   #24
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.
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Old July 12th 16, 11:31   #25
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.
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Old July 12th 16, 19:08   #26
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.

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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.
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Old July 13th 16, 00:28   #27
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.

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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.
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Old July 13th 16, 06:03   #28
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.

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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.
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Old July 15th 16, 21:31   #29
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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 – 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 – 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 – 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?
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Old July 16th 16, 22:20   #30
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Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

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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.
!
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.
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