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In the waning days of Laserdisc, Image Entertainment/Warner Home Video began releasing BABYLON 5 episodes on the big disc format. Initially, sales for the BABYLON 5 Laserdiscs were pretty good… Then came the terrible rumor that BABYLON 5 episodes were coming to DVD. As quick as you could say "I want those DVDs" sales for the BABYLON 5 episodes on both Laserdisc and VHS dried up- this is something that I didn’t find terribly surprising. Unfortunately, the rumor about BABYLON 5 episodes was untrue and the poor sales figures of Laserdisc and VHS convinced the marketing people at Warner that there would be no point in releasing the series on DVD. Talk about comparing apples to oranges.

After numerous requests for BABYLON 5 episodes on DVD, Warner finally relented and is offering two television movies as a "test case" to garner interest in releasing the entire series. In the timeline of BABYLON 5, both THE GATHERING and IN THE BEGINNING take place before the events that occurred in the actual series. THE GATHERING served as the series pilot, while IN THE BEGINNING came several years later and served to explain much of the back-story in BABYLON 5 universe. For those unfamiliar with BABYLON 5, the series takes place in the middle of the twenty third century on a space station named Babylon 5. Series creator/writer J. Michael Stracznski envisioned the series’ impressive five-year story arc that involved the coming together of humans, with various alien races, to stand against a common enemy in a great war. The cast of the two TV movies featured the following series regulars: Michael O'Hare, Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas and Pat Tallman.

Warner Home Video has made both of the BABYLON 5 television movies available on DVD in their appropriate aspect ratios, with THE GATHERING being formatted for 4:3 full screen and IN THE BEGINNING being formatted for a 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation. The image quality on both films is rather variable, with some shots appearing rather soft, while others are crisp and better defined. There is a marked improvement in the video quality of IN THE BEGINNING over THE GATHERING, but neither program shows off the capabilities of the DVD format. I would imagine that the production techniques utilized for both films are responsible for the limitations encountered on the DVD.  Colors are pretty solid, but can be changeable due to the very different lighting utilized for various scenes. Blacks tend to be solid, although shadow detail has the limited quality of episodic television. Digital compression artifacts are rarely bothersome on either film, each of which is presented on separate side of the DVD. 

Both films are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks that decode to standard surround. The sound mixes are pretty typical for television fare, a good deal of ambience, but not an overwhelming amount of directional or surround sound effects. Music is the only sound element that seems to make consistent use of the outlying channels. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, with excellent intelligibility. English and Spanish subtitle are present for both programs. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as cast listings.

While this first release of BABYLON 5 isn’t as good as it could have been, I have to strongly recommend that fans purchase copies of the disc, as insurance that the entire series finds its way to DVD. If this first BABYLON 5 disc tanks, then Warner’s marketing department isn’t going to green light the rest of the series for release on DVD. If BABYLON 5 does get the green light, hopefully Warner will follow the lead of other major studios and release the series in entire season sets.


Babylon 5 - The Gathering (Pilot) / In The Beginning


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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