BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE
After the climatic fourth season of BABYLON 5, the fifth and final season of the show is genuine denouement that ties up all the loose ends and allows it to wind down to an inevitable conclusion. Of course, this is not to say that BABYLON 5 goes out with a whimper, only that the majority of the fifth season lacks the continuous firepower of the preceding year. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the show’s uncertain future beyond its fourth season, which tried to wrap up all of the major story arcs, in the face of cancellation at the end of year four. Still, there are plenty of excellent character-driven episodes in season five, the best of which come in the series’ final few hours. BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON: THE WHEEL OF FIRE arrives on DVD via Warner Home Video in a six disc set containing all twenty-two year five episodes.
Disc one contains the episodes No Compromises, The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari, The Paragon Of Animals and A View From The Gallery. In No Compromises, Captain Elizabeth Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) takes command of Babylon 5, as Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) prepares to assume the presidency of the newly formed Interstellar Alliance; meanwhile, a group of rogue telepaths seeks to form a colony on the station. The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari finds future Centauri Emperor Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) suffering a heart attack, while Delenn (Mira Furlan) learns that her aid Lennier (Bill Mumy) is leaving her service to join The Rangers. In The Paragon Of Animals, members of the new Interstellar Alliance refuse to sign a Declaration of Principals; a small colony world finds itself under attack by raiders; Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) tries to convince rogue telepath leader Byron (Robin Atkin Downes) to aid the Alliance in covert intelligence gathering. A View From The Gallery witnesses an attack on Babylon 5 from the point of view of two maintenance workers.
Disc two contains the episodes Learning Curve, Strange Relations, Secrets Of The Soul and Day Of The Dead. Learning Curve finds a Minbari trainee Ranger colliding a new criminal syndicate that tries to take over all illegal activities on the station, while Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) tries to figure out which side Captain Lochley was during the recent civil war. Strange Relations marks an appearance of PSI-Cop Bester (Walter Koenig), who wants to take all of the rogue telepaths into custody; additionally, an assassination attempt on the future Centauri Emperor’s life leads to the ironic twist of G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) being appointed as Londo’s bodyguard. In Secrets Of The Soul, Dr. Franklin (Richard Biggs) uncovers a horrifying truth about a member race of the Alliance, while conducting a xenobiological survey. Day Of The Dead finds a number of dearly departed friends and acquaintances returning to Babylon 5, after Lochley sells part of the station to an alien race for a single evening’s religious festivities.
Disc three contains the episodes In The Kingdom Of The Blind, A Tragedy Of Telepaths, Phoenix Rising and The Ragged Edge. In The Kingdom Of The Blind finds Byron demanding a telepath home world from the Interstellar Alliance, after he learns that the Vorlons were responsible for creating human telepaths as cannon fodder for the Shadow War; Londo and G'Kar return to Centauri Prime to discover things are not well with the Regent. In A Tragedy Of Telepaths, the rogue telepaths begin a protest that turns violent; while on Centauri Prime, Londo and G'Kar discover that a single Narn prisoner remains captive inside the palace dungeons. Phoenix Rising brings the escalating rogue telepath situation on B5 to a climax, with Bester leading a new assault; also Garibaldi has his own confrontation with Bester that literally drives the recovering alcoholic to drink. In The Ragged Edge, G'Kar returns to B5 to discover that a book he was in the process of writing has been has been published, thus bringing him throngs of followers seeking wisdom.
Disc four contains the episodes The Corps Is Mother, The Corps Is Father, Meditations On The Abyss, Darkness Ascending, And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder. The Corps Is Mother, The Corps Is Father brings Bester back to B5 to capture a homicidal telepath. Meditations On The Abyss finds Lennier undertaking an undercover assignment with the rangers at the behest of Delenn, while Vir Cotto (Stephen Furst) learns that he will become the new Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5, when Londo is officially elevated to Emperor. In Darkness Ascending, it is discovered that the Centauri are behind a series of attacks on other races, which leads to the possibility of war. And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder brings a shooting war between the Centauri and the member worlds of Interstellar Alliance, which leads Londo to return to Centauri Prime, where he feels he may be able to do some good.
Disc five contains the episodes Movements Of Fire And Shadow, The Fall Of Centauri Prime, Wheel Of Fire and Objects In Motion. Movements Of Fire And Shadow finds hostilities escalating into an all out war against the Centauri, however evidence is uncovered of Shadow technology on the Centauri ships, leading Sheridan to suspect that the Centauri are not directly responsible for the war; meanwhile back on the home world, aliens perform a medical procedure on Londo, unbeknownst to the future Emperor. The Fall Of Centauri Prime finds the planet under serious bombardment by several Alliance worlds before the White Star fleet can arrive to stop it; the war ends with The Centauri required to pay reparations; Londo becomes Emperor upon the death of the regent and withdraws his world from the Interstellar Alliance. Wheel Of Fire leaves G’Kar facing the options of returning to Narn to lead the government or remaining of B5, where scores of followers arrive everyday; Delenn discovers an unexpected medical condition; Garibaldi decides to return to Mars with his fiancée; Lyta is arrested for funding terrorist bombings against the PSI-Corps. Objects In Motion brings an assassination attempt against Garibaldi’s fiancée; G’Kar decides to see more of the Universe and offers to take Lyta with him.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty two episodes from BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON: THE WHEEL OF FIRE available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Similar in appearance to the preceding four seasons, all of the episodes have their strong points and their weak points. Keeping in mind that the CGI and other postproduction shots had to be reformatted from the original 4:3 video masters, things do appear soft and occasionally murky in these instances, although seemingly stronger here, than on previous releases. Sequences that are newly transferred from the show’s original film elements usually appear very crisp and well defined. The film elements themselves are in very good shape, as they display very few blemishes or other anomalies. In general, colors appear fairly well saturated; however, sequences that have been reformatted from the 4:3 masters are less vivid. With minor variations, the blacks appear accurate, as do the whites. Contrast and shadow detail remain 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 preceding four seasons, all of the episodes that comprise BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON: THE WHEEL OF FIRE have been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. Not surprisingly, the sound would appear to be derived from the pre-matrixed surround elements, and therefore, the tracks pretty much maintain the character of the original television broadcasts. Still, the sound mixes are quite good for a television caliber production, with the episodes featuring space battles coming across in a rather invigorating manner. As expected, the forward soundstage tends to dominate the sound mixes; however, when the surround channels are engaged, they are used rather effectively, not only for ambient sounds and music, but also for occasional active sound effects. For its era, BABYLON 5 was a well-recorded show, with good fidelity, nicely rendered music and generally convincing sound effects. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always completely understandable. The bass channel is solid and surprisingly effective for a television production. 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 features a seven-minute introduction by series creator/writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski, as well as producers Douglas Netter and John Copeland, plus actors Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik, Richard Biggs, Tracy Scoggins, Robin Atkin Downes, Patricia Tallman and Walter Koenig. Three episodes include audio commentaries, with actors Bruce Boxleitner, Peter Jurasik, Patricia Tallman and Tracy Scoggins on hand for Movements Of Fire And Shadow, while J. Michael Straczynski offers his thoughts on The Fall Of Centauri Prime and Sleeping In Light.
On disc six, one will find these additional supplemental programs. Digital Tomorrow is a nearly six-minute look at the shows CGI visual effects and postproduction work. Beyond Babylon 5 runs an additional six minutes and features various members of the cast and crew talking about such extracurricular items as merchandising, novels and conventions. The Universe Of Babylon 5 contains a number of text and video files on various aspects of the plotlines and characters. A blooper reel is also featured in this section of supplements. Deleted/extended scenes for the episode Sleeping In Light are also provided. Biographies for J. Michael Straczynski and Douglas Netter close out the supplemental materials.
As I’ve stated repeatedly, BABYLON 5 is certainly one of the best science fiction television series to ever grace the broadcast medium. Season five may not have been the show’s strongest, but it does bring closure by tying up the remaining major story arcs, as well as supplying some really great character moments. If you are a fan, BABYLON 5- THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON: THE WHEEL OF FIRE is a must have DVD set. Highly recommended.
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