BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE
After the brisk sales of the season one boxed set, Warner Home Video has stepped up to the plate again and have issued BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON: THE COMING OF SHADOWS ($100) on DVD in a six disc set containing all twenty-six year two episodes. This, of course, is great news for fans of this terrific science fiction television series (myself included) and if the Internet rumors are to be believed, Warner was so encouraged by the sales of the first season that they’ve revved up production on the future DVD sets- to get the rest of the series released in a more timely fashion. While season one of BABYLON 5 laid the groundwork for the series five-year story arc, season two is where things really begin to get interesting.
Disc one contains the episodes Points Of Departure, Revelations, The Geometry Of Shadows and A Distant Star. In the season two opener, Points Of Departure, things are in turmoil on Babylon 5 due to the events that played out in the season one finale. Newly arrived Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) has taken command of the B5 Station, Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) is comatose as result of the attempt made on his life and Ambassador Delenn remains cocooned- undergoing some sort of transformation, while at the same time a renegade Minbari Warship arrives at the station. In Revelations, Abassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) has an encounter with a deadly prophecy that sends the Narns to investigate a dead world on the rim of known space called Z’Ha’Dum, and Delenn finally emerges from the chrysalis. The Geometry Of Shadows finds newly promoted Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) having to deal with her first diplomatic assignment and Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) finds that his political fortunes are beginning to change back on his home world of Centauri Prime. A Distant Star finds scientific vessel captained by an old friend of Sheridan’s in need of rescue, while Delenn’s fellow Minbari question her transformation.
Disc two contains the episodes The Long Dark, A Spider In The Web, Soul Mates and A Race Through Dark Places. In The Long Dark, the B5 crew retrieves a hundred year old sleeper ship and revives its cryogenically frozen occupant, as well as something unexpected and deadly. A Spider In The Web finds commercial telepath Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) made a killer's next target, after her former mentor is murdered. In Soul Mates, Londo has the option of ridding himself of two of his three wives, while Delenn finds difficulty in dealing with the results of becoming half human. A Race Through Dark Places marks the return of PSI-Cop Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig), who traces an underground railroad for telepaths to Babylon 5.
Disc three contains the episodes The Coming Of Shadows, GROPOS, All Alone In The Night and Acts Of Sacrifice. Political machinations dominate The Coming Of Shadows, a Hugo award-winning episode, in which plots are launched to change the dynamics of the Narn Régime and the Centauri Republic. GROPOS finds twenty five thousand marines temporarily stations on B5, while Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) has to deal with his disapproving father- the general in command of the ground pounders. In All Alone In The Night, aliens capture Sheridan, while Delenn faces the judgment of the Gray Council for her decision to undergo her unapproved metamorphosis. Acts Of Sacrifice finds Sheridan asked to take sides in the Narn-Centauri war, while Ivanova’s latest diplomatic efforts will require her to have sex with an alien to close the deal.
Disc four contains the episodes Hunter, Prey, There All The Honor Lies, And Now For A Word and In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum. Hunter, Prey requires that Garibaldi and Franklin go undercover to protect the man who has evidence of a Presidential assassination. In There All The Honor Lies, Sheridan is forced to kill a Minbari in self-defense, while Earth tries to create a revenue stream with "Official Babylon 5" merchandise. And Now For A Word finds the Narn-Centauri war arriving on the doorstep of Babylon 5, which comes under the scrutiny of a network news program. In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum finds Sheridan making a shocking discovery about the mysterious Mr. Morden, plus Ambassadors Kosh and Delenn inform Sheridan about the dark forces that are gathering at Z’Ha’Dum.
Disc five contains the episodes Knives, Confessions And Lamentations, Divided Loyalties and The Long, Twilight Struggle. Knives finds Londo betrayed by political allies back home, while Sheridan becomes an unwilling host to an alien life form. In Confessions And Lamentations, Delenn and Lennier (Bill Mumy) give aid and comfort to members of the alien race known as the Markab, all of who appear to be dying of a plague. Divided Loyalties finds telepath Lyta Alexander returning to B5 with a shocking revelation- someone in their midst is a spy and doesn’t even know it. In The Long, Twilight Struggle, the Narn-Centauri war ends with a new occupation of the Narn home world, leaving G’Kar seeking political asylum on Babylon 5.
Disc six contains the episodes Comes The Inquisitor and The Fall Of Night. In Comes The Inquisitor, the Vorlons summon an Inquisitor to Babylon 5 to test Delenn’s worthiness to lead the forces of light against the shadows in the coming war. The Fall Of Night finds the Centauri emboldened by their victory over the Narns and begins an aggressive campaign to expand their empire, while at the same time Sheridan gives a Narn warship sanctuary at B5, much to the dismay of Londo and Earth’s government, which has just made a deal with the Centauri.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty two episodes from BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON: THE COMING OF SHADOWS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. For the most part, the appearance of the episodes is very similar to season one, although there are some mild improvements in the look of the CGI special effects work being modified to the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film segments, which have been newly transferred look the best, usually appearing sharp and well defined, although there are segments that do appear a bit grainy and dark, as well as displaying occasional blemishes. The reformatted CGI and special effects sequences tend to appear soft in comparison to the filmed sequences, but as I stated above, they seem a bit better than those in season one. Colors tend to be nicely saturated, although those in the special effects sequences seem a bit subdued. Blacks appear solid and contrast is good on the newly transferred film sequences. The six dual layered DVDs don’t display any appreciable signs of digital compression artifacts.
As with the previous set all of the episodes have been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. It would appear that the sound mix comes from the pre-matrixed surround elements and maintain the character of the original television broadcasts. While the tracks do sound great, they tend to favor the forward soundstage and utilize the surround channels for ambient and musical fill, as well as a few active effects. Fidelity is very good for a television production, with the musical scores coming across rather well. Dialogue is always cleanly rendered and maintains full intelligibility. The bass channel is solid and reasonably deep, but it isn’t going to rock anyone’s world. A French language track is also present for the episodes, while subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a number of fine supplemental features. A five-minute introduction to season two- The Coming Of Shadows features series creator/producer J. Michael Straczynski and various cast members is included on disc one, as is brief bios for the series creator and its producer Douglas Netter. The DVD set also includes episode commentaries with J. Michael Straczynski for In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum and The Fall Of Night, while cast members Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian and Jerry Doyle are on hand to talk about The Geometry Of Shadows. Disc six includes two features, Building Babylon: Blueprint Of An Episode (thirteen minutes) Shadows And Dreams: Honors Of Babylon (eight minute), which looks the Hugo Award winning episode The Coming Of Shadows. Other supplements include The Universe Of Babylon 5 that contain a number of text files on various aspects of the plotlines and characters, a Babylon 5 Timeline that lays out the events of the series in chronological order and a Gag Reel, which is a hidden Easter egg.
BABYLON 5 is a great science fiction series that only gets better in season two. This DVD presentation is as good as it can be considering that the show's CGI effects could not be redone for the 16:9 format. Fans will definitely want to add BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON: THE COMING OF SHADOWS to their collections. Lastly, I remain glad that Warner is continuing to release the series on DVD and hope that the rumors are true that production on the remaining seasons is being stepped up.
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