Fascinating, sometimes maddening mix of wonderful and silly,
intelligent and dumb, insightful and obvious.
At it's best it's the 'Wire' of science fiction, challenging
'Battlestar Galactica' for intelligence and emotional depth. At it's
worst, it's like an OK episode of 'Lost in Space'.
Generally far more intelligent than most TV sci-fi (or recent sci-fi
films for that matter), with stories based more on ideas than laser
battles. In that, it's a little reminiscent of the original 'Star Trek'
The most interesting thing; this was an early case of a series having a
pre-planned multi-year arc, so throughout there are sometimes seemingly
throwaway details that suddenly return to be finally explained as
having great importance a season or two or three later. On the other
hand, because this preceded the acceptance of truly serial cable shows,
each episode is more self contained than more recent shows in a
sometimes annoyingly neat way.
The show is also full of allusions; Shakespeare, the Bible, Buddhism,
King Arthur, the Koran. Certainly the writing is grounded in pretty
heady stuff. Of course, sometimes it's dealt with in a pretty heavy
The setting is a space station that's sort of an intergalactic United
Nations. In season 1, some of the acting is so stiff, that it brings
the series down. Also, the effects, production design, etc. all reflect
a budget that's clearly way too low, giving it all an amateurish air.
None-the-less, I found myself caught up in a number of the episodes,
both emotionally and intellectually. One even brought tears to my eyes.
And the layering in of deep mysteries only slowly solved gives it a
sense of deeper meaning and arc.
One running problem of the series, the villains tended to be a little
'Snidely Whiplash', complete with black costumes and deep scary voices.
It got a little better as the series went along, but I wish the 'bad
guys' were a little less cartoony.
I wish the series was even more consistently great, but - in the end - it was
more than good enough.
on December 25, 2002
Well, maybe not but this is a terrific box set anyhow. Launched during a time when it was believed that Trek defined science fiction on television, Babylon 5 made other series such as Farscape possible with its 5 year story arc. Season one is hampered with setting up all of the characters and conflicts that were to follow in future episodes. It also features strong character development and, without setting the stage, there wouldn't be anything left follow.
Although the writing is a bit stiffer here than on future episodes (Michael O'Hare gets the bulk of the awkward dialog as his character isn't clearly defined early on), there are a number of episodes that sparkle with the quality of writing seen later in the series. The appearence of the shadows by episode 16 sets the stage for the major conflict during the third and fourth season when the Shadow war breaks out.
All the cast dose a great job with the strongest performances by Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasik, Andrea Thompson and Jerry Doyle. Why Thompson gave up her acting for television news reporting is beyond me (maybe she saw something in her future she didn't like for example NYPD Blue) Perhaps it's because the line between truth and fiction was finally crossed.
The DVD features commentary by J. Michael Straczynski on three of the key episodes during the first season (something that should have been done with the Star Trek box sets). Alternately funny and informative, Straczynski's comments provide an interesting backdrop to the action unfolding in the respective episodes. There's also two documentaries with the first made during the first season and the second a look back with interviews with Straczynski, producer Copeland and Jerry Doyle (among others)providing a candid assessment of the obstacles they can into bringing the show to the screen.
The packaging is less awkward than the Trek accordian fold out box set with a 12 page booklet giving a credits for individual episodes and a brief synopsis of the plot. Warner has done a great job of packaging Babylon 5 season one. The DVD, on the other hand, is a mixed bag.
The good stuff first. The sound is terrific and has been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix is crisp, clear and sounds really really good. The live action portion of the show has numerous analog artifacts including scratches and imperfections in the print. While it isn't horrible, it can be a bit distracting given the quality of progressive scan DVD players and a big screen television. This could have been cleaned up more in digital post-production during the transfer (look at the marvelous job done with the last three Star Trek: TNG box sets for an example of how it should be done). There isn't much in the way of problems due to digital compression despite the fact that these are all on single layer discs. The optical effects look sharp and the fact that they are digitally created is a bit more obivious 8 years on. There's occasional picture crawl when you see ships in the distance or an interior show with any sort of grating. Again, it's not a problem just a distraction.
All in all, I'm happy to have Babylon 5 finally available on DVD. I just hope that Warner takes a bit more care with the next set of transfers. Again, the picture quality is quite good--it's just noticable that these are digital transfers from an imperfect analog source. While some folks claim that season one isn't their fav, without it the ground work for the remaining four seasons wouldn't have been possible. Looked at in retrospect, it's amazing at the quality of the writing given that this was the first season. It's also amazing that from the very first episode there is a reference to episodes in seasons 2, 3, 4 & 5. I'd highly recommend this box set.
on May 25, 2004
When it first came out, I was put off by the cheesy early episodes. But this series has wonderful character actors and a long story arc that builds and unfolds and interconnects. The best science fiction on television.
on November 6, 2002
Just picked it up last night, and am very impressed. I am in B5 heaven, after putting up with poor quality video and audio from the broadcasts, now we are treated to a digital widescreen transfer, and remixed 5.1 digital sound. Faith manages!
One negative note... whoever edited the included booklet should be fired.. I counted 3 glaring spelling errors on a quick skim through...
If you want to hook someone on the series, show them Chrysalis, the season 1 finale. It's head and shoulders above the rest from first season, no question. Do NOT show them Infection or TKO. The best episodes from season 1 are: Mind War, And The Sky Full Of Stars, Signs and Portents (this one still gives me shivers... "I want us to reach out and command the stars!"), A Voice In The Wilderness I/II, Babylon Squared, and Chrysalis. Parliament of Dreams and Survivors are pretty good too.
This season is easily the weakest of the series, but that doesn't mean it's bad.. just that there are a few lame episodes, probably born out of early studio pressure to make the series more "mass-appealing" and "Star Trekky". (ie, disposable, recycled plots, and cheesy action) But it's a crucial chapter of the overall Babylon saga, introducing an unforgettable cast of characters.. the sly, vengeful patriot G'Kar, the disheveled outcast politician Londo Mollari, the cynical and tough Lt. Susan Ivanova, the questionable past Security Chief Garibaldi, the guarded but resourceful Delenn, the ruthless Psi-Cop Bester, the impenetrable and enigmatic Kosh.. and so many more. It's so incredible to see the characters grow, change, and even die over the five year span. Season 1 is good. Season 2 is great. Seasons 3 & 4 are pure solid gold.. absolutely breathtaking. Season 5 doesn't quite capture the highs of 3 & 4, but it's right up there, a worthy conclusion, and the most powerfully moving final episode I've ever seen.
ARGH! I want Season 2 NOW!
Unfortunately, The Gathering which serves as the pilot for Babylon 5 is NOT included in this First Season Boxed set, which I guess is fair, as The Gathering did originally air over a year before Babylon 5 found a home on TV.
The Gathering pilot, while not essential viewing to understand the plot, it does held to fill in the blanks and it is recommended to watch it before watching Babylon 5 Season I especially on the first viewing of the show.
The first season features interesting plot developments and introduces the key players to the Babylon 5 Story: G'Kar, Londo Mollari, Delenn, Susan Ivanova, Garibaldi and Jeffery Sinclair.
Considering the show is in it's second decade the special effects on the most part hold up fairly well, but unfortunately this is NOT true on composite shots and sometimes you can clearly see flaws in the original source film.
Babylon 5 is best viewed as a novel for Television and as such the first season can be viewed as the Introduction.
on February 9, 2013
I am not going to repeat everything about the bad quality picture and the artifacts. that's already been covered. My biggest complaint is the english subtitling. For certain reasons i have to turn it on sometimes even though i can still hear it and i noticed instantly that different words were used then what was spoken and half the dialogue was cut out in some of the the scenes. It was like the ones typing it out were too lazy to type out the harder to spell words or just didn't feel like typing out everything said. i can understand small changes but these changes were so huge it made me angry that those who sometimes have to read the dialogue didn't get the full experience of what was being said.
I am first to admit some of the acting wasn't that great, the overacting was plentiful and i look at the show with an eye that has been spoiled by 2013 CGI. What was on the show was cool for it's time so i just step back and enjoy the fun of it.i was not a fan of the actor who played sinclair thinking that sometimes his acting was quite wooden and somewhat forced although he did improve later in the season.I look forward to season 2 with boxleitner of who i have been a fan since i was a wee one and scarecrow and mrs. king was on.
This is coming from a non sci-fi person, i did enjoy watching it on t.v and i am still enjoying rewatching it on dvd.so there has to be good stuff in it to keep my interest.
on May 12, 2004
Let me start by affirming that I am an avid sci-fi fan with a very high tolerance for the genre's quirks and foibles. This boxed set, however, tested my patience to its very limit. In fact, it was an extreme act of discipline and loyalty to keep watching...until the last 3 episodes that is, which represented a marked improvement over their predecessors.
The most irritating problem with the show is the writing itself. The dialogue is so stiff and cliched that I physically winced on several occasions. (example: "Let's get this show on the road!") Dialogue is used to spoonfeed the viewer ("As you already know, Commander...") which adds to the sense of This-is-12-year-old-superhero-comic-book. The intro is a weak attempt to duplicate the power of "To boldly go where no man has gone before." Alas, "The name of the place is Babylon 5!!!" doesn't exactly give one cold chills. The lame attempts at humor usually fall quite flat and the characters never really mesh. The effects are distracting rather than special--it's tough to concentrate on the storyline when one is busy noticing how obviously superimposed the actors are against an animated background. The frequent explosions resemble hand-held sparklers that kids waive around on the 4th of July.
Having said all that, I did find some redemption in the final episodes, during which time the promised story arc begins to appear, some characters begin to come alive, and the writing improves significantly. In fact, it was towards the end that I realized that several of the actors are actually quite talented. In particular, Peter Jurasik (Londo) does an outstanding job of presenting a character that is all at once brash and subtle. Poor Peter was initially handicapped by the aforementioned inferior writing and an unconvincing costume complete with sideways mohawk (someone should tell S.E.T.I. that in order to find alien life, all they need is a bottle of Elmer's glue) but he is the one who is ultimately most convincing in his role. Also, the story absolutely succeeds in establishing a complex and interesting socio-political environment as well as a humdinger of a finale upon which to base future episodes.
All in all, the show was mournfully lacking. But, just perhaps, the show had to suffer some growing pains. Enough of interest occured in the final hours to give me hope, and I actually (*deep breath, fingers crossed*) ordered the second season! We shall see...
on March 29, 2004
There isn't much point in writing a Babylon 5 review. The show developed a rabid fan base over the years, the members of which will buy the box sets regardless of any amateur or professional reviews. Others never quite saw what all the fuss was about.
For people with any interest in science fiction television who haven't yet seen the show, it's definitely something to check out. Some of the actors really give standout performances, Jerry Doyle in particular. The Babylon 5 mythology is interesting, even if it does take a painfully long time for the overall story to advance. Babylon 5 broke ground in using CGI effects in science fiction television, blazing a trail many would follow later.
However, the individual episodes are hit and miss. Throughout the series, there is perhaps one good episode for every six. The dialogue tends toward stilted, with occasional ventures into the awful. And while a story arc is a nice thing to have, the series often drags in order to fit individual episodes into an artificially-long overarching plan.
Those new to Babylon 5 may wish to rent this before buying it.
on March 10, 2004
Okay, we all know how TV shows on DVD work... if you're here looking at it, chances are you're familiar with the show. Maybe you've only seen the show a couple times, but it really needs no introduction.
I won't spend much time on the show's content here. There are obvious weak spots in some of the acting, and the effects/costuming are definitely right out of the '90s, but you can't hold that against the show, or against this set. When you're starting a *very* ambitious project, and you have real-world constraints (budgets, time, casting restrictions), you've gotta expect to not get a perfect "10" on every point. Babylon 5 -- on the whole -- came very close. And while the first season is arguably the weakest of the five (season 5 gives it a run for its money on that front), it blew away my expectations for the show.
So, why only 4 stars? Nothing against Babylon 5, but more against Warner Brothers' packaging and special features. The box is by no means terrible, but definitely could have been better. Special features are nice, but they do not abound. In fact, there are disks that don't have any features, which is a pretty major bummer when you're trying to waste an entire afternoon with beer and B5.
But hey, if you're looking to kill an afternoon with B5, this is the season to do it with. The story arc is in place, but all the episodes stand alone well enough for lots of casual, repeated viewing.
on February 23, 2004
I remember once my local TV Station aired a few episodes of Babylon 5. It never complete all 5 seasons but rather just skip a few episodes here and there. I watch a few, wasn't much interested then.
Few years later, couple of friends of mine who were fans of Babylon 5 had asked me to get it on DVD. The first thing they said was start with Season 2. I was hesistated for a moment and then finally, find the courage to get Season 1 instead of 2 (I don't enjoy jumping in the middle for nothing).
So I got it, watched all 22 episodes, watched the extras and once its done... I realize that this series is worth watching.
At first, I notice the backdrop and special effects were rather dull at the beginning. But after few episodes and right in the middle of Season 1, everything starts off. I realize there is a story to be told here. A space epic saga that is big it takes 5 seasons to complete (or so I heard from the creator).
And at the end of Season 1, I know the finale is so good, I had to get Season 2 to know more.
It has a good story to begin with in Season 1. But what pulls it down are the scenes and special effects. The cast on the other hand were great. Michael O'Hare had the leadership power in this series (and its sad after Season 1 he had to go). Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, Richard Biggs, Claudia Christian & the rest of the cast were great.
After season 1, its the script and the cast that create a beginning for Babylon 5 and had earn a fan. On to Season 2...