BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE
For my money, BABYLON 5 is one of the best and most entertaining science fiction shows to ever grace broadcast television. Sure, it was always a challenge to tune into the show because of its continually shifting schedule in first run syndication. Of course, things did get betting when it moved to cable’s TNT, but I personally find watching BABYLON 5 on DVD to be the best way to take in this terrific series. In addition, not only do the DVDs provide the convenience of making the episodes available to fans at whenever they want, but the season box sets have also drawn a new audience to BABYLON 5. With both old and new fans purchasing the DVD sets, is it any wonder that the releases seem to be coming closer together? Warner Home Video has issued BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON: POINT OF NO RETURN ($100) on DVD in a six disc set containing all twenty-two year three episodes. As for season three itself, here is where everything that was set up in the first two years starts to pay off- with interest!
Disc one contains the episodes Matters Of Honor, Convictions, A Day In The Strife and Passing Through Gethsemane. Season three hits the ground running with Matters Of Honor, in which Ranger Marcus Cole (Jason Carter) becomes a series regular, Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) takes command of the White Star- a new ship to fight the shadows, and finally, Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) seeks to end his relationship with Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser) and his "associates." Convictions finds a group of monks taking up residence on B5, at the same time as terrorist bombings hit the station- gravely wounding Lennier (Bill Mumy). In A Day In The Strife, Sheridan has to deal with an alien probe that threatens the station, as well as the cargo pilots association that is complaining about tighter security restrictions at the station. Passing Through Gethsemane marks the return of Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman), who has been "altered" by the Vorlons.
Disc two contains the episodes Voices Of Authority, Dust To Dust, Exogenesis, and Messages From Earth. In Voices Of Authority, Commander Ivanova (Claudia Christian) takes the White Star out in an effort to make contact with some of the ancient races known as "First Ones," all in an effort to request their help in the coming Shadow War. Dust To Dust marks an appearance by PSI-Cop Bester (Walter Koenig), who comes to B5 to investigate smuggling of a telepathic drug known as dust. In Exogenesis, Marcus and Dr. Franklin (Richard Biggs) venture "down below" to investigate a symbiotic alien life form that has begun joining with the indigent population. Messages From Earth involves a startling revelation about a Shadow ship discovered on Mars and Ganymede, while the politically motivated Nightwatch begins to focus more attention on Sheridan.
Disc three contains the episodes Point Of No Return, Severed Dreams, Ceremonies Of Light And Dark and Sic Transit Vir. In Point Of No Return, martial law is declared on Earth and the Nightwatch tries to take over B5 security, while at the same time, the visiting Lady Morella (Majel Barrett) offers Londo and his former Attaché Vir Cotto (Stephen Furst) some startling revelation about their futures. Severed Dreams is another Hugo award winning episode in which the declaration of martial law leads to Earth colonies and Babylon 5 coming under attack- thus forcing their secession from the Earth Alliance; meanwhile on Minbar, Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) splits the Grey Council over the coming Shadow War. Ceremonies Of Light And Dark finds Sheridan facing an assassination attempt, while Londo takes steps to keep the Centauri people from the influence of Mr. Morden and his "associates." In Sic Transit Vir, favorable political fortunes stemming from his new position on Minbar, finds Vir becoming unexpectedly betrothed and in a position in which he can finally do some good for others.
Disc four contains the episodes A Late Delivery From Avalon, Ship Of Tears, Interludes And Examinations and War Without End, Part One. A Late Delivery From Avalon finds a man arriving on B5, claiming to be the legendary King Arthur, while Sheidan negotiates a treaty for Babylon 5 with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. In Ship Of Tears, Sheridan forms an uneasy alliance with Bester to prevent Psi-Corp from supplying the Shadows with telepaths, while Citizen G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) again requests to become part of the Army of Light. Interludes And Examinations finds that the Shadows have finally come out into open with their attacks, while Mr. Morden manipulates Londo into doing exactly what the Shadows want from him and the Centauri. War Without End, Part One marks the return of former station commander Jeffery Sinclair (Michael O'Hare), who arrives on B5 with an important mission that will fulfill destiny.
Disc five contains the episodes War Without End, Part Two, Walkabout, Grey 17 Is Missing and And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place. War Without End, Part Two finds Sheridan thrown seventeen years into the future, while Sinclair completes his mission- one that involves the ultimate fate of Babylon 4. Walkabout marks the appearance of a new Vorlon ambassador, while Dr. Franklin goes on a journey of self-discovery. Grey 17 Is Missing takes Security Chief Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) down below, where he searches for a missing worker, while Delenn finds herself challenged for the leadership of the Rangers. And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place has Londo put an end to a political rival, while Sheridan gains some insight into the Shadows’ strategy and finds a means to fight them.
Disc six contains the episodes Shadow Dancing and Z'ha'dum. Shadow Dancing marks the final leg of Franklin’s journey of self-discovery, while Sheridan’s wife Anna (Melissa Gilbert) shows up on Babylon 5- seemingly having returned from the dead. Z'ha'dum answers the questions as to what happened to Anna Sheridan, as she tries to convince her husband to make the return journey to the Shadows’ home world. In the end, and despite the warnings that he would die on Z'ha'dum, Sheridan makes the decision to accompany Anna back to the barren planet that spawned the creatures that started the Shadow War.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty two episodes from BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON: POINT OF NO RETURN 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 episodes do appear stronger than they did in the first two season sets, but some inherent problems remain. Owing to the fact that the CGI and other post production shots had to be reformatted from the 4:3 masters, there is some softness in this material; although, many instances of this do look better on this set than they did in the preceding releases. Sequences newly transferred from the original film elements usually appear very crisp and rather nicely defined. There seems to be fewer blemishes on the film elements from season three, than there were in the past, plus the picture seems a little better looking in this set. There are some issues with grain in places, but it is never excessive or particularly annoying. Colors appear strongly rendered in new transferred film sequences; however, they don’t exactly match the reformatted materials precisely, which can appear a bit less vivid. Blacks are usually accurate and the whites appear clean. Contrast and shadow detail are at the episodic television level, but are otherwise fine. The six dual layered DVDs don’t display any appreciable signs of digital compression artifacts, even with four episodes encoded onto a disc.
As with the first two seasons all of the episodes that comprise BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON: POINT OF NO RETURN have been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. Again, it would appear that these sound mixes comes from the pre-matrixed surround elements, therefore they maintain the character of the original television broadcasts. The forward soundstage tends to dominate the sound mixes, however the surround channels are used rather effectively, not only for ambient sounds and music, but also for active sound effects. BABYLON 5 was a well-recorded show and fidelity is quite good for a television production; thus, the music is especially well rendered and sound effects are generally very convincing. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always completely understandable. The bass channel is solid and reasonably deep, but it isn’t ground shaking. No other language tracks are provided for the episodes, although 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. Disc one includes a six-minute introduction by series creator/writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski, producer Douglas Netter and various cast & crewmembers. Additionally, J. Michael Straczynski provides commentaries on the episodes Severed Dreams and Z'ha'dum, while Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs and Ed Wasser are on hand to talk about Interludes And Examinations.
Behind The Mask: Creating The Aliens Of Babylon 5 is an eight-minute program featuring makeup effects creator John Vulich (and other crewmembers) that looks at the show’s alien character designs. Building A Better Narn runs seven minutes and focuses on the show’s Narn makeup effects, including a demonstration of a complete makeup application. Designing Tomorrow: The Look of Babylon 5 is a ten-minute peek at creating the show’s costumes and settings (which were built in warehouses away from the studio to maximize the show’s limited budget). The Universe Of Babylon 5 contains a number of text and video files on various aspects of the plotlines and characters. Biographies for J. Michael Straczynski and Douglas Netter close out the supplemental materials.
BABYLON 5 is one of the best science fiction television series to ever grace the airwaves. As I stated above, season three is where the seeds sown in the previous years really begin to bear fruit. If you are a fan or a recent initiate, you will want to add BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON: POINT OF NO RETURN to your collection. If you have never experienced the show, don’t hesitate to pick up the third season, be sure you pick up the first two as well, so that you can enjoy this marvelous series from the beginning.
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